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So here’s what I’ve been counting down to. *silly grin*

Low-Fantasy-Dodo-Banner-400x200I am beyond excited to announce that on 31 May 2018 my first novel, The Beast’s Heart, will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. (If you click on the image above, it will take you to the announcement on the Hodderscape website.) Here’s a little snippet of what they say about it to whet your appetite:

Set in seventeenth-century France, it is a luxuriously magical retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale – from the point of view of the Beast. Both the writing and story-telling are lush and evocative, rich and achingly exquisite; this novel is the epitome of psychological depth and descriptive beauty.

*Blushes*

The Beast’s Heart (formerly known as Novel Project #1) was my way of immersing myself in one of my favourite fairy tales, and in my very own fairy-tale-come-true was picked up by Hodder & Stoughton out of the open submissions process they (bravely) ran in 2015. (Bravely: they got 1445 submissions! That is a LOT of reading!)

There is a bit of celebrating going on in my house tonight.

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Re-stringing

I’m hardly going to be the first writer ever to find myself tantalisingly close to the end of a first draft (115,000 words), only to discover my plot isn’t working for me the way I need it to. How can I explain it? It’s like I’ve spaced out my tent poles too widely, and now I don’t have enough canvas to cover them.

I’ve now worked out what I need to do to fix it (and hopefully make it easier to find my way down the rest of the long, dark tunnel to that tantalisingly blinking neon The End sign). But it kinda means unstringing my plot and stringing it back together in a slightly different configuration. With some new bits added in.

So that’s today’s task. Reconfigure the synopsis until I have a plot that’s going to work for me. Wish me luck.

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Browser history

This week I’ve been back at work after a lovely two weeks off in which I got a huge amount of work done on the WIP (but didn’t finish it – boo.) One of the pleasures of writing is all the bits and bobs of interesting research I get to do. This can vary from a quick check on Google images to make sure I’ve got a thing right in my mind’s eye, to a two hour rabbit hole from which I emerge blinking and cursing myself. Research topics over the last week have included:

  • Interior decoration of 18th Century upmarket London brothels (see my post on floor coverings)
  • Greek myths, particularly in relation to the Trojan War
  • Medieval herbal remedies (now I know what dragon’s blood is)
  • The history of medical treatment for certain ailments (did you know incubus started out as a digestive complaint? Not a demon in sight.)
  • Baths in the Georgian/Regency era (thank you, Mr Darcy)
  • 18th Century architecture in Clerkenwell, London
  • 18th Century firearms
  • Christ’s temptation in the desert
  • The effect of varying degrees of blood loss on the human body.

And now, this :

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What a handy little chart.

Some kind of milestone

I just hit 100,000 words on the current WIP tonight. Still got a bit to go, but that’s some kind of milestone, right?

Here’s a snippet of tonight’s inspiration:

The Sick Rose

By William Blake

O Rose thou art sick.

The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
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Progress

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for the last couple of days.

I love the bluesy guitar, and the lyrics of the chorus are just perfect for channelling one of the POV characters in my current WIP at the moment.

Take me to church

I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies

I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife

Offer me that deathless death

Good God, let me give you my life

This WIP is sitting on about 94,000 words and I’m pretty much committed to getting it done by the end of the year. Wish me luck. I’m almost there.

On endings and how to get to them

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So, to deal with my stuckness (which hasn’t yet been dealt with), my good friend and writing buddy Robert Porteous asked me how my story ended. I kinda have an idea about that, but it’s vague. Bare bones. I have the pre-ending climax all sorted and have done for a while, but the actual key story climax? Sigh. So he suggested I work on that. It seemed sensible: if I know how it ends, I’ll know what I have to get to. So I did a bit of brainstorming and created a few seeds of ideas that if I water carefully enough will produce shoots (and maybe, hopefully grow into something interesting and fulfilling).

But it’s hard.

So, as a tried and true avoidance technique, I thought “Maybe I’ll go and do some story planning work on one of my other novel WIPs and get into the story planning mood by doing something a bit fresh and different and revitalise my imagination.”

And guess what. No ending on that one. Pre-ending climax sorted. Major story climax? Vaguety-vague-vague-vague. I did a bit of a mental riffle through my other novel projects and, yep, this is something of a pattern for me.

“I wonder why this is?” I wondered. Wonderingly.

As usual, it’s all to do with emotional peaks and troughs. All these minor climaxes are (in standard 3-Act plot terms) the Darkest Hour. It’s the moment of highest and most drawn out emotional tension in the story. Think the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi; Rapunzel thinking Eugene has chosen the looted crown over her; Henri telling Danielle she’s a fraud and publicly withdrawing his heart; Elizabeth Bennet confessing to Mr Darcy that her youngest sister has eloped with the villain that almost ruined his sister’s life.

If you think about most of these story examples, the Darkest Hour packs a whole lot more emotional punch than the final climax. It’s when the protagonist has lost everything – or the thing that means most to them – and it almost doesn’t matter what else happens to them at that point because their heart has been ripped in two and everything else is trivial.

The exception out of these four (all faves of mine) is Tangled. Much as it hurts to see poor Rapunzel watching Eugene sail off with the crown, it is nothing, nothing, to the blubbering mess I become at the actual climax of the film when he does what he does – not to save her, because he can’t do that at that point – but to stop her giving up on saving herself. *Deep shuddery breath*

And therein lies the lesson. If I’m going to get interested in this part of the story and motivate myself to write it, somehow I’ve got to find a way to make my ending deliver as much, or more, emotional punch as the Darkest Hour.

Simple. Right?

Right.

Writing minds-eye candy

Today has been a good day. Today I have been working on a couple of scenes in my WIP involving a handsome 18th century man in various states of deshabille. It’s always important to get the details right, so here are a few helpful images I’ve been using for research and inspiration.

Firstly, you’ve got to get the clothes right. That gap at the neck of the shirt is very important. (We’ll get to what’s under it in a minute.)

Then you have to ensure you understand just how it sits. How far down does that gap go? Exactly what can you see? Some images are more helpful than others. Some are just pure distraction. *fans self*

From there, I’m afraid, we move straight to the pics of Aidan Turner and Sam Heughan shirtless. Because getting anatomy right is important. It is.