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]

Excerpt: The First Time They Met

April 17th

Jack wandered through to the crew room. Roger was on the sofa with Selina, poring over the rota, Hots, in an armchair with his feet on the coffee table and a tea towel over his face, appeared to be asleep. Lyssa sat at the table, writing.
‘Anyone else want a coffee?’ he said.
Selina and Roger indicated half-full mugs. Hots didn’t reply, but Lyssa glanced over her shoulder, said, ‘Yes, if you’re making one. Milk, no sugar, thanks.’ She went back to her writing.
It was only instant; Jack had put up with it for a couple of months then, a few days ago, he’d found a plunger in a cupboard. He’d widened his search, thinking that even three-month-old ground coffee would be better than the dusty-tasting sludge that came in one-kilo tins. But he’d come up empty, and that afternoon he’d ordered an espresso machine online, with a couple of kilos of beans.
The tin was empty; he should have had the machine couriered over.
‘I’ve got some more in my locker.’ Lyssa got up from the table. ‘Emergency supply. Put that tin in the recycling bin.’ She hurried out.
As soon as the door had shut behind her, Roger got to his feet.
‘Watch this,’ he said with a sly grin.
He stepped across to the work surface, unplugged the toaster and kettle, and swapped them round. Then, as Lyssa’s footsteps became audible in the corridor again, he trotted back to the armchair, sat down and opened a newspaper, but not far enough that he couldn’t still catch Jack’s eye.
Lyssa walked back in, a bag of coffee in one hand, a pack of biscuits in the other. She put both down on the work surface, reached for the kettle.
‘Oh.’
She stared at the toaster, as if it were some alien being, squatting, ready to leap at her. She started to glance back over her shoulder, and then seemed to change her mind. Robert was grinning widely. Trying to catch Jack’s eye, giving him an odd sense of déjà vu.
It was like school, the way when someone was being humiliated, everyone else looked at each other and shared the joke in silent amusement. He’d done it himself, for a while, until he’d realised that he didn’t really like the people he was exchanging glances with, and even more that he didn’t like what they were doing. He remembered his one-time friend, Rob, wilting under a barrage of abuse, the other boys laughing. At least, they’d laughed until he stepped up, put a hand on Rob’s shoulder, and the two of them walked away together. There’d been a bit of name-calling, but he’d given them the finger, and they’d shut up. Under his hand, Rob had been shaking. That was the first time he’d realised how much that cruelty hurt, how frightened someone could be.
He got up, walked over. ‘Sorry. I spilled something, earlier. I must have put everything back wrong after I wiped up.’
‘N—no, it’s all right.’ She rubbed her palms on her thighs.
He unplugged the heavy steel toaster, picked it up. ‘Here, shove the kettle back. Before I drop this.’ She did so, and he could see her relax. He didn’t bother looking at Roger. ‘Where did you get your coffee?’
The rest of her tension dissolved in a discussion of the relative merits of several coffee suppliers, as she made brimming mugs for them both.
‘I think you know as much about how to pick good coffee as how to pick good wine,’ he said after he’d taken a mouthful.
She flushed a little, unable to meet his eyes. ‘Not really, I just tell them to give me something that tastes like it’s been stirred with a burnt stick, and might possibly dissolve the spoon.’
‘Alternatively, you could probably tell them you’re a doctor, and they’d give you much the same.’ He sat at the table with her. ‘What are you writing?’
‘Nothing,’ she said, at the same time Hots from under the tea towel said loudly, ‘Poetry.’
She twisted round in her chair to glare at the pilot, but as the tea towel remained draped over his face, it didn’t have any effect.
‘She’s a published poet,’ Hots added, ‘didn’t she tell you?’
‘Why would I?’ Lyssa said crossly.
Hots lifted one corner of the tea towel. ‘Over there,’ he nodded at the bookshelves in the far corner of the room. ‘There’s a copy of her book. It’s the third copy—the other two just vanished. Very strange, but I think the thief knows that if this one disappears, we’ll just buy another one.’
Lyssa sighed and picked up her coffee, drank it without looking at any of them.
Jack wandered over to the bookshelf, sorted through the piles of three-year-old celebrity magazines, medical journals, out-of-date textbooks, copies of Dan Brown and Wilbur Smith, and found a small, hardback volume, titled heavy air, and with a picture of the London skyline on its cover.
‘May I borrow it?’ he said.
Lyssa didn’t reply.
Hots said, ‘Of course,’ dropped the corner of the tea towel, and went back to sleep.

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.