more whingeing

…about how long it’s taking me to get this blasted novel done.

It’s lost the spark, and added to that I have two new stories rattling around in my brain.

Write me, they whisper. Come on, come and write me. You know you want to.

Would people stop with saying things that spark new stories in my head? On Podcastle (old episode) someone was talking about a book that gets back to the myths about elves, how they were universally regarded as evil. It’s our relatively modern mythologising that has made them the postive role models they are in LOTR and elsewhere. And that triggered a whole story, about an evil elven society where humans are the slave class, about an elven man who buys a female slave. He seems all right as an owner, until she breaks a plate (that had huge emotional value to him) and he beats her until she is close to death. The meat of the story is in how they rebuild some kind of relationship; her despairing and suicidal, him freaked out by the realisation of how violent he can be. There’s room for a meditation on slavery – she chooses not to be involved in a slave revolt, because the freedom on offer doesn’t look particularly enticing. He has always regarded himself as a progressive, until he’s forced to confront the fact that he’s absorbed beliefs about slaves that run counter to what he knows to be true…

Anyway, there’s enough there for a longish short, and I desperately want to write it, but I can’t. I have enough unfinished stories to keep me busy for a year.

And then there’s Confluence, an idea for a SF multi-part short story series, which links in to the 200 000 word novel I wrote back in the 90s. Species wars and AIs and interdimensional gates and Intelligences aaannnd it’s all getting immensely complex and interesting.

Sometimes, when people tell me they couldn’t create a story themselves, I feel like Sherlock, and have to stop myself from saying Can’t you see? Dear god, how boring it must be to exist in your heads.

Anyway.

The First Time They Met, Season of Singing and Pride and Precipitation are all creeping towards the finish line, but dear FSM, it’s like pulling teeth. And when I’ve finished those, I have the rest of Stormwatcher 3 to write, currently standing at (only) 49,000 words. TFTTM has a cover already done, as does Stormwatcher, but I’ve tried three covers for Season of Singing, and they all scream ‘self-published!’

Oh, well. Nose to the grindstone.

[cross posted to Lyssa and Me]

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Excerpt: A Season of Singing

‘Well,’ the bishop said, sinking into an armchair, ‘how have they been looking after you at St Cuthbert’s?’
The grizzled hair at his temples and his small brown eyes gave him the air of a badger, though the only badgers Mark had ever seen had been dead on the verges of the B485.
‘They’ve been very kind to me.’
‘Too kind, perhaps?’
He shifted, trying to find a comfortable position on the overstuffed seat. The last two times he’d spoken, albeit briefly, to the bishop, he’d been in pyjamas. It didn’t help. And the question was dangerous. Agree, hoping to flatter the man’s insight, or disagree and avoid a trap. His thoughts were sluggish, and he couldn’t be sure that they hadn’t always been that way. ‘I needed to start doing things for myself. I hope they don’t feel I’m ungrateful.’
‘I don’t think so.’ The bishop smiled and Mark relaxed, the trap avoided. ‘But people are apt to get their feathers a bit ruffled when their good offices are declined.’
Mark bowed his head. ‘I’ll try and behave with more…grace.’
‘I hope that won’t be necessary.’ He picked up another file. ‘I understand the medical board has passed you as fit to return to ministry?’
Don’t show any uncertainty. ‘They have.’
‘They’ve also made some recommendations.’ There was a pause while the bishop read. He let the paper drop back onto the table at his side with a breath of irritation. ‘I think the medical profession—may the Lord guide them—has little belief in our ability to see what is known colloquially as the bleeding obvious.’
‘Perhaps they just didn’t want there to be any misunderstandings.’
‘Ever the peacemaker, Mark?’ The words were mild, but somehow it didn’t sound like a compliment. ‘Still, there is a benefice just become vacant which should fulfil their recommendations.’ He lavished irony on the final word. ‘It’s rural, two churches, no more than three services a week. I sent someone to have a look at the rectory, as it’s one of the old ones. A couple of minor alterations, and you should be able to manage.’
‘Two churches? I can’t drive.’
‘I’m sure we can find someone on the parish council to help there. You could,’ he added with ponderous humour, ‘get yourself a donkey.’
The interview concluded, Mark hauled himself to his feet, grateful to escape the embrace of a chair that appeared designed to inflict maximum discomfort. He forced a brisk pace while he was still in sight of the bishop; hearing the door close behind him he stopped and leaned against the nearest wall. Somewhere two floors down was the young ordinand assigned to escorting him, as if left to his own devices he’d either fall on his face or throw his walking stick away and make a run for it. In reality he’d probably achieve both simultaneously.
But only another week and he’d leave St Cuthbert’s for ever. He could endure another week. The board had been amused by his eagerness to take up his ministry again. Sometimes he was able to admit to himself that it was closer to desperation.
Ever the peacemaker. Was I? Was that how I was seen? He could remember the past, but much of it was a silent film, emotionless, an unknown actor hijacking his memories.
Wincing, he straightened and made his slow way to the stairs.
Halfway down the second flight the ordinand rushed up and took his arm. Resisting the desire to snap at him, Mark allowed himself to be helped down the last few steps and out to the St Cuthbert’s minibus. The loathing of this innocent vehicle had become automatic; the disabled stickers in its windows, the boxes of latex gloves and tissues always to hand, the lift at the back for wheelchairs, in and out of which he’d been ignominiously carted for months. And always, at the same time, the apologetic internal litany of how this hate didn’t extend to the disabled, that his compassion for them was clear and absolute, that he would be honoured to minister to them.
He settled into his seat, and before he could object, the ordinand reached across and belted him in.
‘There,’ the young man said, smiling benignly. ‘All ready to go?’
‘Yes, thank you.’
Grace, Lord, please give me grace.

Publishing update

So.

The Painting is up on Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu, and is selling at a steady rate. All ebooks so far, no paperbacks, although I think the paperback royalties take longer to appear on the statement.

Stormwatcher 1 is up in both ppb and ebook versions, and Stormwatcher 2 as an ebook (just finishing the adjustments to the proof – more on that later)

Sense and Celebrity is up in ebook and ppb.

I’m back to working on A Season of Singing. I’m on the last few thousand words, wriggle room I leave myself in the final edits as I tend to underwrite and have to go back and do a lot of filling in between events, foreshadowing, making sure motivations are realistic, that kind of thing.

I never really thought about how much I write about disability until now. I assumed it was because I’m a doctor, but now I no longer think that’s the reason. I suppose it’s that firstly, I prefer to write about people who are disenfranchised in some way – gay men in Nazi Germany, for instance. In Pride and Precipitation (spoilers!) Stephen Rowan ends up the most seriously injured among a small group of people; not a role he has ever envisaged himself in, nor one he’s particularly well equipped to cope with.

Season of Singing follows a deeply religious man who’s the victim of a vicious, mistakenly homophobic attack, from which it has taken him a year and a half to return to independent living. He believes everything that happens has a purpose, but cannot square this with what he’s experienced.

And lastly, The First Time They Met, the most challenging (for me) book I’ve yet written. One character has a lifelong disability, the other has acquired permanent spinal injuries as a result of his own recklessness. One has had it all, and thrown it away, while the other has struggled to be normal, struggled to achieve and yet is still the outsider in her own life.

I’ve suddenly realised that I would find it hard to write without tackling these kinds of issues. I can’t imagine writing a book where all the characters are healthy, privileged people. I’ve often felt guilty about not including more POC, but maybe that’s just not my bag. And if any group of people needs a fictional voice that speaks of them as being fully human, then we certainly do.