“All of me.”

img_7008Well, I promised you a couple of sneaky book previews, so here is an initial little taster of ‘Foundling’. Please bear in mind that these previews are unedited, and are therefore subject to change in the final version of the novel.
In this scene we see our protagonist, Jake Malloy, having an arrow removed from his arm…

~ When Jake stumbled through the ranch house door, streaked liberally with blood, and with Aketcheta’s arrow protruding from his arm, Clara did not scream, merely rushed to his side and supported him as he made his way to the chair by the stove. She settled him down and knelt beside him to examine the wound.
The arrow had embedded itself in the flesh of his upper right arm. The wound was a narrow slit, already bruising black and purple. It seemed to have missed any major arteries as the entry point was not pulsing blood, and instead it had planted itself into the wide muscle of the lower shoulder.
Jake’s face was ashen; almost grey, but he was not complaining.
“Tell me what I need to do,” she said calmy looking up at him, her eyes wide.
He grimaced. “Get the damn arrow out.”
“I realise that much, but how?”
“I’m guessin’ it’s a flint broadhead. Twist it.”
She frowned but took the arrow shaft gently between her fingers and slowly turned it. Jake sucked in a sharp breath.
“Okay, it’s not lodged in the bone. You’re gonna need to push it through.”
“Push it through what?”
“My arm!” He laughed, his voice rough. “You can’t pull it out – you’re not strong enough, and anyway you’ll tear my arm to pieces with the flint teeth.” He glanced around the room, his eyes settling on one of his bottles of moonshine. “Get me the whiskey.”
She pushed to her feet and rushed to get it, presenting it to his good hand.
He shook his head. “You first.”
“Me? But why should…”
“Listen. You’re gonna have to snap off the shaft of this arrow leavin’ a short piece, which you’re then gonna place the flat side of the blade of my knife against. You’re gonna to hit that blade hard – damn hard – with the flat of your spare hand to force the arrow out the other side of my arm. Then, if the arrow hasn’t broken inside me and if you haven’t passed out, I’m gonna make you wash the wound with alcohol and sew it, front and back. It’s gonna be difficult, and it’s gonna be bloody; I’m probably gonna curse you and cuss despicably, and you’re gonna need a strong drink.” He nodded at the bottle hanging limply from her hand.
She slowly lifted the bottle to her lips and swallowed deeply. The whiskey was strong and she coughed as it hit the back of her throat. Wiping her mouth with the back of her arm she passed the drink to Jake. He tipped the bottle up and drank until it was almost empty. His eyes became hooded, his voice slightly slurred. He directed her as she fetched the things she would need from around the house.
When she was kneeling at his feet again ready to begin, he grabbed her hand.
“Whatever I say to you in the next few minutes, I don’t mean it. It will just be the pain talkin’.”
“Will you allow me one thing before I start?” she asked him.
“He grinned rakishly at her. “Now you’ve just put all kinds of possibilities into my head. But why do I get the sinkin’ feelin’ I ain’t gonna like it?”
She pulled her hand away and took a deep breath. Slowly she gently pushed his Stetson away from his head. His hair fell around his face; dark and long. She placed the hat on the floor.
“What d’you do that for?”
“I need to see your eyes when I do this. I need to see how much pain I am causing you, and I can’t see that from the hard set of your mouth. Your eyes are always in shadow.”
He nodded at her slowly. “I am always in shadow, Miss Casey – all of me.” ~

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Time Management

img_8504Forgive my absence. I have a good excuse, I think – I’ve been writing another novel. It’s a long novel and the research alone has taken a year.

But I’m nearing the end of the first draft and hope to be a little more present here in the coming weeks.

I’ll be posting some excerpts here and information about the story, so check back later!

Igniting the fire

I’ve blogged before about how important music is to my writing process – how I actually can’t write without a playlist – but I’ve realised it’s more than that.

Without doubt music sets the tone as I write a scene; it changes my mood and the way I write, and I can tailor my music choices to impact my creative output. But it also ignites the spark.

Allow me to explain.

When a piece of music or a song comes on it inevitably sets me off daydreaming (something pretty much every author is excellent at, by the way. I like to call it ‘working’). A certain lyrical phrase or brief lilting melody can be enough to put an idea in my head. Of course authors take inspiration from many sources but I’ve come to recognise that for me invariably music is the catalyst.

So many songs are short stories in themselves (have a listen to Del Amitri’s ‘Be my downfall’ as a perfect example… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GwASZpIHKLY) and sometimes I get an urge to fill in the missing details and tell the whole tale in novel format.

Classical music pieces (particularly film scores) are what ignite my idea-fire the fastest, however. They seem to be able to push my emotions up and down, as though they were riding the swell and dip of crashing waves, and as my emotions are manipulated so my imagination follows suit. I begin to imagine a scenario that fits the mood of the melody and that scenario becomes an idea and then a longer story, and eventually a novel.

How intrinsically linked the arts can be sometimes!

I only hope I shall never have to credit the composers who have helped me find my own words. I don’t think ‘Carly Rae Jepsen’ would look quite right as an acknowledgment in the back of a historical novel…

Winter in spring

imageOccasionally – very occasionally- I step away from writing novels and pen a poem or song. I thought you might like to read one. It’s short, which I find is usually a good thing where amateur poetry writing is concerned… 😉

Winter

The bitter haze of a bleak morning, the bruise of winter.
White sun, an obscure and diluted orb, makes the world a gilded host as I step into its cold embrace.
My frosted breath, paints the air before me in a veil of the season.
Icicles as the path of a teardrop chiming on each naked branch like a mournful winter song.
Cold hanging; stinging, as needles
dancing on exposed skin.
Old clumps of snow lay like yellowed candle wax awaiting the kiss of a fresh fall,
Billowing out over the tumbling hills like a shaken sheet; a collage of quilted fields in patches of white.
The agreeable crunch underfoot of the frigid earth as it takes my weight.
In the naked poplars, ravens take flight in a loud burst of beating wings; startled by my presence- their harsh black forms flying and twisting out of reach of the spindly, bony arms of the trees as they stretch their unclothed winter limbs skywards.
The most perfect of seasons, where beauty is found in the barrenness and the wildness of nature’s heart sings.

 

History geek

image

I often get asked why I choose to only write historical fiction. The quick answer is, I don’t! I do, however, only choose to publish historical fiction. I also enjoy writing it above anything else. Far above anything else.

I am a history geek. There, I said it. I freely admit that I was the kid who loved history lessons and got really frustrated when classmates were mucking around throwing ink bombs at the teacher. I was the kid who spent lunchtime in the library reading from dusty old tomes about the Black Death, life in Roman Britain, and Henry Vlll’s wives. I was that kid who sat daydreaming about being a Victorian maid, or a medieval lady, or heck, maybe even a Cornish smuggler in the seventeen century. I still do dream about those things, and I guess that’s the point. We write about what we love.

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I was somehow birthed in the wrong era. Modern times just feel too, well, modern for this girl. Take me to a museum exhibit about times gone by and I feel instantly at home. Watching period dramas on television, I long to be immersed in the visual spectacle of what once was. My heart belongs in a different time.

Since being small I’ve been deeply interested in the Amercian West – the gold rushes, Civil Wars, and territorial disputes over Native American land. I had no reason in particular to be so fascinated by this, I just was. I still am. I also loved stories of infamous historical figures – the smugglers and highway robbers and other bad boys of a distant age. And so I immersed myself in as much information as I could about them. I even went on to write a book about a Dartmouth smuggler (‘Black Pool Hill’).

When I began researching my own family history I found out about a great great Uncle who, bored with middle-class Victorian life, had taken himself off to the American West for an adventure and settled there permanently. He wrote letters back to his sister telling her tales of near-misses with stampeding buffalo, and dangerous encounters with native Indians, “naked as the day they were born, brandishing bows, arrows and tomahawks.” At last! Something connecting me to my love of that place and time.

As if he wasn’t interesting enough there was a Dartmouth fisherman (yes, really!), a whole collection of Huguenot weavers, and an infamous highwayman (who became the subject of my novel, ‘Highway’).

A strange coincidence? I don’t think so. I think I must have always known, deep down. I think my past is flowing through my veins through generations of passed-down genes and I just had to rediscover it.

I write about history, because I love history. Because I know history. Because I am history. One day I may write and publish a modern novel. I have some ideas for a good story and I may even do it soon. But first I have a novel about the old American West to finish, and you can read more about that here:

http://www.facebook.com/FoundlingNovel

 

Set the author free

imageI have often wondered (and deliberated about on this very blog) why authors write – what motivates them. There are the oft mentioned reasons:

  • Because they have to – writing is a compulsion
  • Because they have a story to tell
  • Because they rather hope their novel will be the next ‘Game of Thrones’ or whatever, with its own TV series and cult following.

Whilst these are all valid reasons for writing (perhaps with the exception of point three), I think there’s something else. In researching and writing my fourth novel, I have noticed another motivation:

  • Because we are creating fantasy worlds to live in… not necessarily for our readers, but for ourselves.

Let me explain. Authors of fiction are dreamers. There are no two ways about it. We constantly create exciting stories in our heads (often in which we hold the starring role) as a form of internal amusement. It’s a form of elaborate daydreaming, but on the grand scale of a Hollywood movie. It’s escapism of the highest order. Don’t like your present situation? Fed up of bills and work and responsibility? Not a problem for the author, who can slip into an alternate reality without even closing their eyes. Suddenly real life ceases to exist and you are a princess in a castle, or a spaceman, or an FBI detective, or whatever floats your own particular boat. This is adult child’s play, and no one knows you’re doing it!

Until you start to write it. (And here’s the secret, readers. Whatever you read is a direct looking glass into the writer’s fantasy life). You can bet your bottom dollar that if a writer has created an epic medieval saga, they have been fantasising about being a knight or a maiden, or maybe even a peasant. A space travel story? They want to be Doctor Who.

I’m currently writing a novel set in the American West in the 1800’s. Have I been dreaming of cowboys and Indians? Honky tonk saloons and gold mines? Stetsons and spurs? Too right, I have. Would I secretly like to be a gun-toting, chap-wearing cowgirl? You bet I would.

But why write it down? Why turn the private daydream into a public document? That is the curious thing. Now, I can only speak for myself here, but I think it’s a strange belief that authors hold that if they write it down it goes some way to making the story become reality. It makes the dream come alive – it sets it free! Some parents live vicariously through their children – projecting their own life-long desires onto their offspring. Authors do the same with their characters. As long as people are reading it, then the story lives. I am that cowgirl every time someone turns that first page and immerses themselves in my tale.

So next time you pick up a book, take a moment to doff your hat to the author’s fantasy. You hold it in your hands. In reading it, you are about to set them free.