Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I’ve been trying to tidy up my hard drive in a vain attempt to get my laptop to run a bit more smoothly and I’m astonished by just how many stories I’ve got on it. One is finished – contemp romance, co-written with a friend that we decided needed beefing up a bit and never finished the beefing – but there are masses of others that are languishing there doing nothing in particular but take up space.

I’m wondering if I should try to finish one as a blog project. Maybe 300 words a week because that’s doable but 300 words a week more than I’ve been averaging over the past few months. But which project to pick? And which day of the week to post it? I’m undecided because most of them are awful – as stories tend to be if nobody but the writer is supposed to read them – and I need to pick a day so I can guilt myself into actually doing it! Jeez, it comes to something when you’ve reached such a low ebb you have to bully yourself into writing. But it has to be done because it’s a lot of fun and I’m missing it like fury.

For the moment, here’s a snippet of a medieval fantasy story concerning the adventures of one Carlito Enrique Esposito d’Urbino, lutenist, mountebank, actor [and spy for the Pazzi banking house] that I started in – oh my gawd – 2006. Here Carlito catches up with Yacoub, aka Jack, an ex partner and currently controller of a small travelling circus, at a tournament. See, I said it doesn’t have to make much sense if you’re writing for yourself.

Carlito entered Yacoub’s tent and smiled to see his old friend seated on the cushions with a coffee pot steaming beside him.

He shed his shoes and went across, Jack standing to greet him then the tall man spread his arms and drew him into a tight hug.

“We DID look for you,” Jack said, “when we heard that Jacopo had let you go. But by the time we got to Venice you were long gone.”

Carlito hugged him back then stepped back with a sigh. “They put me on a boat to Ravenna. At one point I thought they’d drop me overboard but no they just robbed me blind. I’ve been all right, Jack. What about you? Where’d you get all this from?” His gesture took in the tent, the hangings and the coffee pot that was at least partly silver.

“Found the circus down on its luck near Salerno,” Jack said. “The manager didn’t speak good Italian and he was being robbed blind too. So after I married his daughter,” he grinned at Carlito, flashing a gold tooth, “he retired and I took over. We’re doing really well. People like a bit of exotic.”

They were seated by then and Jack reached for the coffee to pour it. He passed Carlito the tiny cup with a formal nod of the head and Carlito leaned forward to add the sugar and spice he preferred.

“You’re certainly that,” he said. “Are all four of those girls yours?”

“Officially no,” Jack laughed, “because more than one wife is frowned upon, unofficially they are under my protection. Speaking of which,” he added, “where did you find the swordsman? I was watching that last bout. He’s good.”

“Bruges,” Carlito said. “He was heading south and so were we. We needed an extra man, he needed to earn and wasn’t in a hurry. It’s worked out well.”

“So he’s just a guard then,” Jack said and sipped his coffee. “Bearing in mind that he’s fighting here.”

Carlito snorted indignantly. “No,” he said. “He’s a genuine man at arms. He’d be a knight if – well – if it was allowed. That means the big tourneys, where the real money is, are closed to him, but I doubt there’s a man alive who could stand against him with either sword, no matter his pedigree.”

“Oh hush,” Jack said. “I meant no slur.” He laughed and turned a little, leaning closer as he put his cup back on the table to allow the grounds to settle. When he turned back he propped on one arm and set his other hand on Carlito’s thigh, fingers squeezing a little.

Carlito flushed and shifted but Jack’s hand tightened and he caught his gaze. “Has he tried you yet?” he asked. Then shook his head as Carlito flushed and scowled.

“Don’t try to lie to me,” he warned. “I saw his face when I touched you. For a moment I thought he’d have my hand off – so – maybe not yet. And that puzzles me, Carlito because what could be easier? A walk in the evening – a secluded spot – maybe the excuse of needing to bathe – a convenient stream.”

His fingers flexed and Carlito looked down at them, remembering just such another occasion and remembering their strength and gentleness.

“So,” Jack said quietly, “how long have you been in love?”

Carlito gave a desolate sob. “Since the moment I first saw him,” he groaned.

“Shit,” Jack said and put his hand on his own leg. “Well then mate, looks like we’ll have to get drunk together instead.”

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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these so it was quite nice to be tagged by Sarah Granger, author of A Minor Inconvenience, one of my favourite historicals. You really need to check it out, okay?

I have four questions to answer about my writing process, which is quite hard because my process changes all the time. On this occasion I’m going to talk about a big partially completed, and currently stalled, project called A Fierce Reaping, about a troop of Romano-British cavalry fighting the Anglo=Saxons in post-Arthurian Northumbria and Yorkshire.

What am I working on?

A Fierce Reaping is based on Y Gododdin, a piece of poetry written in Old Welsh in about the 9th century though it deals with events that occurred at the beginning of the 7th century. I’ve got about 60,000 words of it so far, am halfway through and have the most difficult section – needing to kill off a lot of people – still to write. I wrote the first 50k words during Nanowrimo in 2011 and have added to it sporadically since but decided that it might be better to finish a few short projects rather than devote the couple of years I’d need to getting AFR finished and redrafted.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Less romance. Romance is not a genre I ever got into – I just upped the violence levels in the ‘bloke books’ I used to read. Westerns, fantasies, Age of Sail books, military thrillers, police procedural – all focussed on the action rather than the development of a loving relationship. I’ve nothing against romance, in fact I quite enjoy reading someone else’s, but in my writing process I get distracted from relationship angst and introduce the action adventure elements. In fact I’m usually MORE excited about the plot than I am about the romance when I’m reading too. I also don’t write much sex. I use it as a motivator, a reward, or a way of upping the stakes for the characters. BFFs get distressed when the other is in dangers; lovers get distraught! A Fierce Reaping should end up at about 100k words when I’m done and it will have 3 sex scenes. It doesn’t need any more to make the plot points I want to make and since I really don’t enjoy writing sex scenes – I mean I REALLY don’t enjoy writing them and the insistence of the M/M reading community that books with no explicit rumpy pumpy are a waste of pixels hurts my soul – I see no point in adding any more.

Why do I write what I do?

Firstly, choice. More choice in LGBTTQ fiction HAS to be a good thing. Yes I know that contemporary erotic fiction is the best seller but I’m petty certain that there are enough people out there who would enjoy the gay equivalent of Sharpe or Hornblower or James Bond – plot driven historical or contemporary stories with gay protagonists and maybe a little bit of sexiness – to make them worth writing. I don’t expect to sell well but I think it’s very important that the choice is there whether people buy it or not.
Secondly the shameful erasure from history of the tremendous contribution made to civilisation by LGBTQ people. Too often lives have been censored or bowdlerised to remove any reference to alternative sexuality. In most cases we’ll never know the true stories but we can make it clear in fiction that LGBTQ people were there and worked as hard, were as heroic and as competent as anyone else, but without the solace of being able to acknowledge their loved ones.

How does my writing process work?

Frankly it takes a while. I’ve never been one of those people who can read a prompt and a month later have a perfectly constructed first draft ready to polish for submission. In the case of A Fierce Reaping, it’s a story with which I have been familiar since reading it in translation 40 years ago. The actual poem is a series of death songs for warriors killed on a raid deep into territory held by the Saxons, so hardly a light and fluffy story but one of how pride and ambition lead an army to disaster. Atrocities occur on both sides and the climax is a bloody and tragic one.S o how to wring a happy ending from all that death and despair? I read the text again and figured out a way it might be done in about 2010. Then I wrote about Greeks and pirates instead and didn’t pitch into the Romano-Celtic period until late 2011. I read all the different translations of Y Gododdin I could get my hands on, refamiliarised myself with arms and armour, growing seasons, probable diets, the uber-macho death wish mindset of a culture that deemed it a grand and glorious thing to die in battle. Then it was November and I bashed out 53k words during a daily hour in the morning and another just before bedtime. They aren’t good words but they are there and I added another 10k over 2012 while I got a novella, a short story and a novel published. I was looking forward to carrying on with A Fierce Reaping in 2013 then I had to adjust my daily routines to fit around a newly retired husband and writing went out of the window.
Once a story has lost its impetus it’s very hard to get gong on it again. I find it very easy to go back and revise then find I’m doing a complete rewrite, and that’s a lot to commit to when only managing about 500 words a week, sometimes less. This spring I got my hands on a different translation of the base text that turned some of my ideas on their heads and had to do some replotting. I think the new version will hold water against all 4 translations and I’m looking forward to getting on with it again, but when it will be finished I have no idea. If it’s finished, when it will be published I have even less idea – I don’t know of ANY publisher now that Cheyenne is closing its doors who might be prepared to handle something like this.

For the moment I’m concentrating on the second draft of Eleventh Hour, set in 1920s London, and am still waiting to hear whether Riptide wants A Taste of Copper, a story with an erstaz medieval setting loosely based on the Black Knight sketch from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I keep promising myself that I’ll finish AFR when I have found a home for those, but I could say that about any of the half dozen novels on my had drive, some of which are almost complete. One thing at a time is a lesson I have only recently learned.

Since I have to pass on the baton to other writers I asked for volunteers and Mia Kerrick, Elliott Mackle and R. S. Charles responded. They will be posting their writing process pieces on Monday, May 19th. Links later.

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The Problem Of Choice.

Interesting post from Sam Starbucks on the importance of the benign critic. Favourite quote: survival as in the “I didn’t see that water buffalo coming” sense.

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Six Sentence Sunday

Six Sunday again – go here to see the incredible list of incredible contributors and read the excerpts!

I am continuing A Fierce Reaping from where I left off last week with Cynfal sounding out just how interested the bereaved Gwion is, with a view to getting his big hairy paws on Gwion’s dead lover’s armour.


“I heard,” Cynfal said.  “I’m sorry, and I’m sorry you were hurt as well.” He returned to the door and reached out to give Gwion a gentler version of the punch in the arm that Pup and March seemed to quite enjoy. “Come with us … maybe Llif’s horse needs exercising?” Gwion’s small smile confirmed his guess. “You could meet us – accidentally, and then come along for the company?”

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Here we go again – Six Sunday – go here and register then the following Sunday post six sentences from a published work or WIP.

I’m out and about today and don’t have access to A Fierce Reaping so Gwion and Cynfal can bide a while.

Instead here are six sentences from my story A Few Days Away which is *bounce* published today in the Lashings of Sauce anthology from JMS Books.


The website for the White Horse in Weston Stanage proclaimed that it was “the quintessential English Pub”, its qualifications comprising a lovely view over the village green, a proudly independent selection of superb real ales, simple well-cooked food and quirky architecture. Including the exposed beams in the ceiling of the publican’s bedroom, of which Hugh had a sudden and unwanted view as Tom pushed himself up and stared, appalled, at the bedroom door.

It closed with a thump, making the mirror above the dresser rattle against the wall. “Sorry – sorry, Tom, sorry, Hugh. I – erm – I’ll see you later then.” Footsteps retreated along the landing and rattled down the stairs.

“I thought,” Hugh hissed, “that you said your mum would be out for the day!”


Hmm, my warrior Six Sunday graphic is inappropriate again. I’ll have to draw another one.

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