I come by my love of reading honestly, as when I was a kid my parents read to me all the time. Both of my parents were passionate readers and throughout my life my father and I shared a love of certain books and authors. The Travis McGee novels and Dick Francis were shared passions, and even when we couldn’t talk about much else (I was a horrible teenager) we could still talk about books. My mom and dad would take us to the library to check out our weekly armload of books, which was the high point of my little-kid week. We lived ten miles or so outside of town, and once they drove halfway home before realising that they’d left my youngest sister sitting in the little kids’ section. Good times. :)
One of the books that my dad used to read to us when we were little was The Children’s Bluebird. The book had been his as a child and eventually was passed on to me; of course I lost it during my footloose early twenties when I was moving from city to city. I managed to lose a lot of things during that time. I always remembered that story, though, and have always wanted to write my own version of it. The original is a product of the era in which it was written; loaded with sentimentality and saccharin emotions it hides an extremely warped and twisted core. I wanted to write a version which stripped away the sentimentality and kept the twisted bits, a version updated and streamlined for more modern readers.
Several years ago my mother died from complications associated with ALS. My father was diagnosed soon after with cancer, which started in the bladder and then spread all over, bowel and spine and so on. It was incurable, but he was strong – having been given a matter of months to live, he survived for two years. During that time I rather abruptly went freelance with my artwork and when NaNoWriMo rolled around decided to participate and finally write the book that I’d been thinking about for ages. It’s dedicated to him and although he was too sick to read it at the end, he did read the dedication. I’m thankful that I had a chance to at least put it in his hands before the end…he is such a huge part of who I grew up to be. He taught me about being brave and doing the right thing, even (or especially) when that is hard to do. He gave me my moral code and my honesty. Oh, sure, I’ve been a fuckup in the past, and will most probably be one again, but I I do try to be strong and do good in the world.
So. Back to this book.
The Clockwork Bluebird is a steampunk, or clockwork-punk, fairytale retelling of The Children’s Bluebird set in an alternate-universe Victorian England. The main characters, Maia and Tyler Lemarchand (every name has a meaning – I had fun with this) are the mixed-race children of an inventor and the daughter of the Moon; they get caught up in the middle of a clandestine war between the Fae Courts. There are goblin markets and black dire wolves, a gang of clockwork-limbed children called the Tatters that live in the lost Underground tunnels beneath the city and even a talking dog. Working on this was pure fun from start to finish and I hope that it is equally fun to read.
I’ll post more about this later…mainly I just wanted to tell my father that I loved him. I miss you so much, Dad. And all of this is for you.
When you’ve lived with someone for a long time you develop a vocabulary of shared references and private jokes. One of ours is the phrase “dust and tears.” This is generally used in tones of adolescent existential angst when asked things like “We didn’t go shopping – what do you want for dinner?” *long, drawn-out sigh* “Nothing…dust and tears.” Just a quick explanation of the title. :)
It’s been dust and tears all round for the past week. And madness, obviously, as per the post title. The follow-up story to The Clockwork Bluebird is a complicated one, very dark, with intertwined fairytale retellings. I left it partially written with pages of notes several months ago when my book cover art workload got too heavy to even think about it. I was working late each night and also weekends and getting very stressed out. So I went on a hiatus of sorts and gradually worked my way through all of the existing cover work until I reached a point where I only had a few left to do. Yes, I as a working freelancer got rid of all my paying work. Yikes.
That madness aside, once I was able to go back to the second manuscript I found a pile of rubbish and pages of notes that no longer made any sense to me. You have to understand that in this book I have intertwined main stories based on the Goose Girl and The Red Shoes. There are notes relating to Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty (don’t ever let anyone tell you that your reading habits as an angst-ridden goth teen won’t serve you well in later life), Commedia dell’Arte and the exotic animal trade in Victorian England. We have a King of the Cats subplot and steampunk technology fueled by Fae magic.
And I don’t remember how much of it fit together. It all made sense at one point…but now? Dust and tears.
I think most people have seen this image of JK Rowling’s plot spreadsheet for the Harry Potter books. I have something a bit more high-tech but just as messy in Scrivener right now and I’ve been trying to beat the whole thing into submission or die trying.
After a week of literally hurting my brain (incurring stress headaches) I think I have most of it again. The moral to this story is write while it’s hot, don’t wait until the time is right. You’ll never have that span of interruption- and responsibility-free writing time, so just make do. Write the goddamn thing at the point when it wants to be written, or risk losing it.
As part of my New Year resolutions I’ve decided to do a cover giveaway in support of indie authors: specifically, all of the quirky and wonderful writers who make up the great NaNoWrimo community. I truly believe in supporting self-published authors and it is one of the reasons why I’ve kept my rates where they are. I’m also one of those people with dreams of finally publishing a book which is very dear to my heart, and I know from personal experience how difficult that can be to do successfully without a network of beta readers, editors and book blogger friends.
What I would like to do is offer the things that I personally can do, such as a professional book cover and layout services (ebook formatting, Createspace interior print layout and POD cover template) in hope that I can gather together a few like-minded people also involved in NaNoWriMo who in support of the community would offer other services such as:
- Beta reading
- Facebook, Twitter and (some) site graphics to tie in with the cover. (I’ll probably do this as part of the cover work.)
- A post after publication on your book review blog. This could be an actual review, a cover reveal, an interview, a spotlight featuring information about the book, etc.
- PR services and advice.
- A book trailer.
- Anything else that would help a first-time author that I haven’t thought of or covered here.
What do you think? I’d love to make this a yearly contest. I see it as being open to:
- NaNoWriMo “winners” of the most recent National Novel Writing Month.
- First time authors (first time to actually publish a novel).
- Any fiction genre up to a certain word length. (Sorry, no one wants to work on a 600-page doorstop.)
- Prospective authors would have to submit a synopsis and, say, the first three chapters. Best candidate chosen will be based on submitted material.
Can you contribute some time and professional services to this project? Comment here or email me and we can work out what we can offer. As for WriMos interested in entering, once we have the details worked out, I’ll post on the NaNoWriMo forums. I’ll also be bothering some of you personally in email…be warned. :)
I won’t finish NaNoWriMo this year, despite having been very excited about it and determined to succeed. Too much work and too much lost time with my headaches – I think I must have been sick for approximately a quarter of the entire month. Instead, December and January will be my time, unofficial but a least I’ll be doing it. I just need to finish off some of the current backlog of work that piled up while I was sick, and I’ll be ready. :)
Congratulations and best of luck to everyone who participated this year. The NaNoWriMo community is the best.
Walk with me through
owl-sung tattered woods,
moonbright, thorndark, sleaved
with dancing rootless spells
that wing twixt shadow & shadow
above the bloodless pale stones
sleeping like enchanted children
beneath rent, mossy blankets
Sing the wolfsong,
rant widdershins through a forest
out of time, behind the Moon,
cobbled from snips of story
fireside-chanted & wisps of dream;
send voice fluting through
chambered moonlight, spill blood
on the wormholed foxed pages
of a gramarye lost for aeons.
Call Herne to the
Dance, in shattered silk
run windward alongside the Wild Hunt
thundering enhorsed in ebony splendor
fleeing madly though heather
down hill skirting stone circle
to plunge through shuttered town:
battened against wild witchcraft
they hold candles to the immense
darkness of a world of magic & madness.
Rattle doors, loose the witless noisy dogs
to join the quadrille, the Hunters’ Ball,
the fairies’ procession from dark to light
across the world before dawn, fools dance
in laughter and mayhem to finally
Fall to rest in the sweetling meadow
where our moonstruck cows lie dreaming
a step from havened cottage,
from hearthfire that busily sweeps
nasty dark magic from its white stoop.
We fall into a jackdaws’ nest of quilts,
layer of forest, leafbrown, watergreen
layer of stone, shadow, pale earthed bones
layer of cloud, moondark, enskied childseyes
World into world we bind the wild magic,
make it fast with cord & chanted rhyme
& sleep entwined…back of Moon,
beyond the dark, in the twelve quarters
of the wind.
I’ve been reading Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman from the old paperback that came with me from the States: back cover mostly gone, pages softly browning, smelling of mold and dust. I love this book.
This review says it quite well: “What makes Moonwise so unusual is the fact that it exists in a grey area between prose and poetry; without rhyme, meter, or any set patterns, it is very dense in its imagery, and the story is subordinated to the words far more than the other way around. It is not the sort of book that you read in a few sittings. Like a Worm Ouroboros or a Gormenghast, it is, I think, one of those novels that it is easier to admire than to love (although if you do fall in love, you’re not likely to fall out again, knowing that you may never find anything remotely similar to take its place). Sometimes it is almost too clever, too self-conscious, and because of this it may wear on the reader’s patience — but in smaller doses it can be an altogether bewitching and extraordinary experience.”
The opening paragraph of the book illustrates that well. Not a quick or easy read, perhaps a bit over-rich if one tries to eat too much at one sitting. A book to keep on the table next to your reading spot and savour slowly over many nights. A book for people who love the cadence and creativity of language, who appreciate imagery over plot or snappy dialogue. I’ve never read anything like it.
There was a green bough hanging on the door. The year was old, and turning lightward, into winter. Cold and waning, at the end of her long journey, Ariane looked back the way she’d come. Bare woods, bright wind that shook the rain from naked trees, a stony slant of field: the earth lay thinly here. The trees stood lightstruck, hill beyond blue glaze of hill. Then it darkened again, turned cloud and clods of earth, and crow-blotched trees: a drizzling thaw.
Such a gorgeous book.
NaNoWriMo has not been going well. I’ve been trying to write in the mornings and save cover work for afternoons/evenings, but I’m so tired and stressed. I’m so behind. It’s not at the point where I have no hope of making it, but I’m beginning to wonder if I want to salvage it. Not that I would stop working on this project, of course. It’s consuming me. But trying to fit that 2k per day into my schedule has been really, really tough. It would be nice to fall back to a nice, relaxed “minimum 500 words a day no matter what” schedule and not stress over it. I’ll see how it goes…giving up on a challenge is something that really bothers me. But lordy am I tired.
I finally made my word count. It took me from this morning when I got up until just before 4:00pm, but I did it. I could have ploughed a field, or raised a barn, with less effort. Oh, I did a lot of other things as well (which probably contributed to the problem): I checked Twitter, I pissed my entire family off on Facebook, I read a bunch of stuff that had nothing to do with what I was writing about.
I think I finally have the bones of the story now, though.Yep, all of this has actually been prep work, and most of it will be replaced.
I hope that things will start to flow a lot easier now. There were times last year when I actually enjoyed the whole process, when it just flowed and I had 5k days. There were hard days as well, when the words wouldn’t come, but I managed to “finish” (ha, ha) several days before the end of November. My experience this year, since I didn’t have my outline ready, was much different.
Here’s to hoping the Word Fairy will stop by soon!
Today wasn’t a very productive day. I did a bit of writing in the morning, and then went to work on a cover which refused to come together. Sometimes that happens – I think everyone has days where everything you touch turns to shit (rather like King Midas’ much less popular brother). I worked on it all day long, and then decided to start fresh tomorrow morning.
Yep, that’s freelancing, my dears. You work nights and weekends for a fraction of what you used to make, AND IT IS ALL WORTH IT.
Tonight after dinner I opened Scrivener, looked at it, and shut it again. I’m going to head downstairs to a large glass of cold vodka and my copy of Caliban’s War, which I am enjoying the absolute hell out of. Highly recommended!
Well, I got up early this morning and had a total panic attack – I had no way of picking up my previous notes on the project and making sense of it. I had a lot of ideas, but I’d lost the vision of the whole in the months since I started. I had a lot of shiny, broken bits and pieces and no idea how they should have gone together.
Note to self: when you have everything clear in your head and it’s all hot and shiny and all you have to do is just manage to not fuck it up…do it. Don’t wait. Don’t set it aside for four months, because when you come back you won’t have any idea how it all fits together.
So I started writing about things, rather than trying to write the story. I wrote about the various areas that the Carnival will hold, such as the Wild Hunt carousel (which occasionally eats small children). I wrote about the Vagabondi, the clown/tumbler troupe based on commedia dell’arte. Two warring bands of clowns, jugglers and tumblers, one from the Summer Court and one from the Winter Court who perform short impromptu plays throughout the Carnival which mock the Court on the opposing side. They also hint at secrets and imply things in pantomime that most are afraid to whisper out loud, as the night winds carries all secrets to the Queen of Darkness. I described the Marionette Theatre and the King of the Cats, whip in hand…and so far I have something like 2,500 words, over my daily goal of 2000.
It will all get replaced, of course, but for now it serves a purpose. I haven’t even had the time to blog recently, and I haven’t written anything in a very long time. But my ass is in the chair, and I’m adding words to the count…and as I fall into a groove, hopefully they’ll be more graceful words that I’ll be happy to keep. Which I guess is the whole lesson of NaNoWriMo: Yes, it will most probably suck, but that’s not the point. Try to not suck, of course, but primarily you just need to force yourself through it and put words on paper. In December you’ll start revising and throw most of them away, but at least you’ll have a start.
Anyway, the video above? That is TOTALLY my marionette theatre. I can picture Perdita in her red shoes dancing there with her painted smile, leaving bloody tracks as she dances.