The Hidden Knowing – a thank you to my subscribers

the hidden knowing - a thank you to all my subscribers

If you’d like a little taster of what to expect from my novel, Haven Wakes, you can now download a free short story – The Hidden Knowing – by subscribing to my mailing list to receive emails from me and my regular newsletter.

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Progress, a chat with my muse, and much much walking the dog

Progress, a chat with my muse, and much much walking the dog

When I started this blog, it was with the honest intention to post on here a couple of times a month. So what happened to my June posts? Well, I’ll tell you.

Progress on my novel

Do you know what a developmental edit is? I didn’t until the lovely folks at my publisher, Burning Chair, let me in on the secret.

A developmental edit is what happens when your publisher/editor takes your manuscript and scours it for improvement opportunities. In essence, they make it better, on a line by line basis and also from a godly overview perspective.

June was spent applying the findings of my developmental edit to Haven Wakes. Here’s what I learned:

  • Where it’s relatively easy to rejig a manuscript in the making (move the order of chapters around, change a character’s motivation, send the cast to the beach rather than the city), making changes to a manuscript that you have fixed in your brain because, in your mind, it’s finished, can seriously chafe your aura. It means mentally retracing your steps, if only just a few, to make the necessary changes.
  • I am exceedingly protective of my baby, I mean, manuscript.
  • A second pair of eyes is always useful. I thought Haven Wakes was already a fully formed being, but 98% of the changes that my editor suggested will produce a much more polished, pacy and intuitive read (sorry, couldn’t think of a third ‘p’).

I finally emailed the edited version to my publisher this week, with some re-ordering of events, and a couple of completely new sections too. Fingers crossed they like it.

A chat with my muse

You know how avid readers have a tendency to buy new books even though they’re not only mid-read of one book but also have a humongously long to-be-read list? Well, writers are similar in that we are prone to coming up with brilliant ideas for new stories long before we’ve finished the one we’re working on.

My muse keeps doing that to me. “Yes, I know you’re editing your manuscript but if you could just stop for a moment, I’d like to tell you about the next book. I have this wonderful idea to…”

I tried to ignore her but, in the end, she won. She’s good, my muse, very imaginative, but also a touch random. I have pages of ideas for book two (including some cross-continental travel for my main characters) but it’ll take a massive sorting session to put them in order.

Much much walking the dog

Working on my novel this month has meant taking a ‘bigger picture’ view. For me, this requires a bit of open space and a lot of sky.

I’ve spent much of this month out walking the dog and envisioning the bigger picture for Haven Wakes and its follow-up novels.

If I let this character live, what do I do with them in book 2?

If this character intervenes here, how does this other character get away so they can do what needs to be done?

How could I bring this character back in future books?

What clues do I need to seed in book 1 for the rest of the series?

That’s the kind of question I’ve been considering on my dog walks.

What else can I tell you?

The book cover for Haven Wakes is still in the works but it’s coming along nicely. For me personally, and maybe for all writers, seeing my book cover come together is one of those giggly moments when you realise that your dream is becoming a reality.

My short story is at the editing stage and should provide a lovely taster for the world of Haven Wakes. I’m hoping that it’ll be the first of many related short stories.

We’re still on target to release Haven Wakes later this year. You’ll be the first to know when there’s a definite launch date.

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There’s a lot of lovely blue sky out there today so I’m off to walk the dog for some of that bigger picture thinking. Talk soon.

Inspiration: My top 5 World Builders

I love a good novel, but as a reader the thing that elevates a novel to the next level for me is when that story isn’t alone. It stands as merely one of many paths into a world created by the author.

There are some real writerly experts out there who are adept at crafting worlds that pull us back in time and time again.

Here are my top 5:

Stephen King

Prolific. I think that’s one of the most fitting words for the writer Stephen King. The prolific-ness (is that a word?) is down to not only the number of novels he’s written, but also the many genres he’s crossed and writing forms he’s successfully tackled.

He’s known mainly as a horror writer, but his stories have spanned fantasy, science fiction, and thriller too. He writes novels and short stories, stand-alone novels and series, and has even been involved in screenplays.

You might think that because he’s written across so many genres that it would be impossible to build a world to contain them all, but you’d be wrong.

In his Dark Tower series, Stephen King creates a hub that links to all the outlying worlds where his stories take place. If you’re a long time reader and fan, you suddenly see exactly how the stories work together.

I’m not sure if Stephen King had the Dark Tower hub in mind when he began writing his books, but for me, it works incredibly well.

Clive Barker

For me, Clive Barker has always written books that are both horror and fantasy. Two of his books – Weaveworld and Cabal – are linked, taking certain species and their culture from Weaveworld and turning them on their heads by locating them in our own world in Cabal.

In Weaveworld, a magical world is hidden away inside a tapestry to keep it safe from mankind and those who would harm and abuse it. In Cabal, a disturbed young man who is apparently guilty of murder finds his way to a sanctuary for supposed monsters called the Nightbreed.

I loved this dark mirror effect of taking individuals who are seen as good and talented in one book and presenting them in the other book as monsters when seen from the perspective of those who are ignorant to their culture and intent.

J K Rowling

I couldn’t talk about world building and not mention J K Rowling. Her take on the world of witches and wizards, the related culture, and all the magical beasties imaginable, has been a game-changer in the fantasy genre.

The Harry Potter books, and slightly later the films, became a phenomenon in themselves. You only have to look at the amount of merchandise available all over the world and the massive range of fan fiction to see how much the Harry Potter monster still has us in its clutches.

It was reintroduced, or maybe just strengthened, in the Fantastic Beasts films and books, adding a past and even more rich layers to J K Rowling’s magical world.

However you approach it, be it from the Harry Potter books, the stage play or the Fantastic Beasts films, it feels like a tightly-woven world with a colourfully imagined culture.

Derek Landy

‘Buffy meets Dr Who meets Ghostbusters’ is how the Skulduggery Pleasant website describes this series of fantasy novels.

A dead, sorcerer detective (that’s Skulduggery) and a normal teenage girl who is pulled into the dangerous and magical life of her late uncle are our guides in this dark, exciting and multi-faceted world.

I found Skulduggery Pleasant in our local library as a book to read to my son. I can’t say who enjoyed it most, me or him, but this series has been a favourite of my family (me, my son and my daughter) ever since.

Cressida Cowell

My daughter began to read the How To Train Your Dragon series of books long before there was a film (or three). She was fascinated from the first book and even now, as a teenager about to leave school, the HTTYD books are still a treasure to her.

The world of Hiccup, his Viking tribe, and the dragons he comes to love, paint a heartfelt picture of a place I’m sure most children (and many adults) would love to visit.

What inspires me most about these books is the fact that there is a level of familiarity that most people can connect with. There’s a boy who feels he’s an outcast and not living up to his family’s expectations. Then, there’s Cressida Cowell’s take on the Viking culture too.

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What about you? Which fictional worlds do you love?

The books that made me the writer I am today

For many writers, probably all, the starting point to becoming a writer is the act of reading.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was an only child brought up in a house of books. There were no siblings to amuse, distract or terrorise me. My parents were attentive but busy. I was therefore encouraged to become comfortable with my own company.

I was especially encouraged to read because, let’s be realistic, a child reading is a lot less disruptive than a child lining up her toys on the stairs to watch an imaginary theatre production (yes, I did that).

I read hungrily and constantly, devouring whatever books were in the house and the local library, and begging my parents to buy more. I have probably read and forgotten more books than I can remember. To house all those books, assuming I had never let any of them go, would require a dedicated library (still working on that dream).

There are a handful of books, though, that inspired my imagination and started me writing. Thankfully, I still have the original or a replaced copy of each title.

Fairytales

One of my first books, long before I was given Ladybird books or picture books, was a massive, hardback collection of fairytales.

What I loved about the fairytales – be they Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, or The Little Mermaid – was that along with the magical adventures, kingdoms and beasties, there was always an element of danger.

And danger didn’t necessarily come in an obviously wicked package. Sometimes, there were gingerbread houses and seemingly kind saviours who showed you how to weave gold.

The phrases ‘once upon a time’ and ‘happily ever after’ were code for ‘Here there be monsters’.

The plays of Shakespeare

My parents each brought a tome of Shakespeare’s plays to their marital home. As a child, I would leaf through both books, choosing a role to play and casting the other parts from my favourite filmstars or childhood friends.

I read the plays in the same way as I would read a story. I suppose it’s no surprise that, as an adult, I earned a living as playwright for a number of years.

I learned three things from Mr Shakespeare:

  • Pacing – You can’t have periods of low energy on-stage or your audience will switch off. It’s just the same with a novel.
  • Purpose – every piece of dialogue or stage direction had to be there for a reason.
  • Character consistency – characters may develop through the journey of a story but they will always act within the rules of their personality.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

When I was in hospital as a child, my primary school bought this book for me. I had never read anything by Roald Dahl and my first reaction was to be offended. A school friend of mine was in the same hospital ward briefly. The school bought The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for her. I wanted that.

I couldn’t have been more wrong though. Charlie’s adventure in the chocolate factory was a modern day fairytale. There might not have been magic spells but there were lessons to be learned, danger to be faced, and tests to pass.

I was instantly hooked by Dahl’s lyrical writing and dark imagination. None of it was predictable. All of it was exciting.

Thankfully, one of my father’s colleagues bought me the follow-up novel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator when I eventually went home, and every Christmas or birthday wish list after that included a new book by Roald Dahl.

Frankenstein

Frankenstein is one of those novels that everyone has heard of but I didn’t actually read it until I was an adult.

In 1816, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who would become Mary Shelley), Percy Bysshe Shelley, their son, and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont spent the summer near Geneva in Switzerland, holidaying with the poet Lord Byron and his doctor John William Polidori. Bad weather kept them indoors and conversation turned to Erasmus Darin’s experiments to re-animate dead matter, and ghost stories. At the suggestion of Lord Byron, each of them wrote their own supernatural tale. Mary’s short story came to be the novel we now know.

There are many things that I love about the novel. The structure of the book – a story within a story within a story – always struck me, and still does, as a wonderful way to get at, and point to, the heart of the tale. It’s even inspired me to write a stand-alone fantasy novel using the same structure after the Haven series has been finished.

The novel also questions the idea of ‘monster’. Does a monster have to look monstrous? Is a monster created by the monstrous deeds they commit? Can a monster ever change? The novel Frankenstein stares darkness in the face and says, ‘what are you?’.

The True Game

This collection of three novels by Sheri S Tepper, at first glance, is a traditional fantasy novel. There’s a chart of lineage, maps showing the lands of the novel, warriors, sorcerers and healers.

The further you delve into The True Game, however, the more you come to realise that this is far from the Tolkien-esque kind of adventure it might seem.

The story is actually set in the future, there really is a game being played, and gradually technology makes itself known and then prevalent.

This mixture of magic and technology, and the hiding of this duality behind a curtain of genre expectation, made me wonder how I could play those two factors off against each other in my own writing.

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Those are my five inspirational reads. What books have inspired you?

Welcome to my world

The World of Fi is a curious place, full of magic, and challenging muses, and words that refuse to keep their feet off the page. It’s been around for a long, long time, but this website is a brand new open gateway.

So what will you find here?

Firstly, I tell you a little about me. There’s a short version, a bullet pointed version, and a long version too.

There’s a Books page for news on my debut novel, Haven Wakes, due for release later this year, and my future books too (fingers crossed).

I share all the ways you can contact me, including my social media platforms, and how to subscribe to my Newsletter too.

For those of you who are writers like me, there’s a free resource page which I hope will inspire you.

Finally, there’s this blog – my place to talk to you all on a regular basis.

Here’s a little insider info to start you off. The robots and magic image on my home page was created by my daughter.

So, hi. Welcome to my world. It’s great to see you. Come back soon.