12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it



A Shocking Confession

The Rogue Verbumancer strikes again!  To find out more about what he’s doing when he isn’t asking me questions, follow him on Twitter @Glempy or read his blog.

Since you’ve been writing for so long there must no be one character you’ve created who now stands atop a mountain made from the corpses of his fellows screaming “Look at me! I am the best! I have conquered you lesser creations and made you unto nought but dust and memories!”. That is to say: of all the characters you’ve written about over the years which one holds that special place in your heart as “the favorite”? And what is it about them that makes them so special?

Is it really bad to admit I can’t remember that many of my characters?!  9 out of 10 times I write a story I put in on my blog (or in a little newsletter for my friends at school before that was an option… I was a cool kid) and then I forget most of the details.  I didn’t even print out copies of those older ones for myself, which was clearly an oversight.  They’ll be worth money some day!

To add insult to injury, I think at the moment my favourite characters might be some I haven’t technically written yet, unless you count a few pages scrawled out on loose paper that have since been lost!  They are going to be in July’s book, which is for kids, and they’ve been growing in my brain for a few years now.  Their names are Amelia Trousers and Snooky Jim – what’s not to love?!

I suspect that the more time you spend with a character, whether they’re loitering in the back of your mind or there on the page, the more you get to like them. That would explain why a lot of the ones I’ve come up with in the past have been banished to the misty watercolour corners of my mind – I didn’t start writing full novels, requiring large amounts of concentrated attention, till last year.  I mean, I started a couple (as you do), but never really got very far.

The first novel I began (she said, tangentially) was based around an essay I had to do for Religious Education when I was about 13.  We were asked to write creation myths for different countries from the perspective of the deity and I quite liked that notion.  The exercise stayed with me and a few years later a book started to grow out of the idea.

It was a fantasy thing that began with what I thought at the time was a pure dead original creation story, although now I have reservations on that score…  There were four gods – well, two gods and two goddesses, I think – and they represented the elements.  I think the plot was that one of them wanted to be mortal and the others weren’t happy about it, so she ran away.

I know I named a couple of them after classical names for the winds – googling it I’m thinking maybe it was the male gods I did that for because Boreas rings a bell… that tells you everything about how much they stayed with me, doesn’t it?!  But actually I still think there might be something in that story.  There’s a lot to be said for creating your own world to play with.

I don’t just forget characters out of hand – that would be churlish in the extreme.  I don’t have one favourite, though!  I still have a lot of time for the cast of Torchwood:Dundee, which was a spoof (fairly obvious of what) that myself and a couple of other people came up with in uni around 2007.  I had particular fondness for Shaktar, who was our Tosh character, and Teuchter, who was our Ianto equivalent.  I wrote one of the stories that decided their characterisation and both of them were quite tragically funny but generally useless people.

In terms of 12 Books, I’m quite fond of Victor McGlynn, my Western protagonist.  Overall this year I’ve spent more time thinking about him than some of the others, partly because the western was one of the genres I was less confident about, and I think he’s perhaps a more considered character as a result.  The downside to that was that he was much slower to write, as I felt I owed it to him to get down things he would definitely say and do – there’s a lot less stream of consciousness blethering in that book (with the result that it’s the smallest word count so far).  I’ve no idea whether he’ll appeal to anyone else, but I like him!

Poor Prose

I received a text from my other half this morning which read:

My new favourite line from a book: “the birds in the oak trees knew nothing of totalitarian regimes or the cares of humans.”



On one hand, this put me in mind of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Brian: Consider the lilies…
Woman: Consider the lilies?
Brian: Oh, well, the birds then.
First Man: What birds?
Brian: Any birds!
Second Man: Why?
Brian: Well, have they got jobs?
Third Man: Who?
Brian: The birds.
Second Man: Have the birds got jobs?
Fourth Man: What’s the matter with him?
Third Man: He says the birds are scrounging!
Brian: Oh no, no, the point is: the birds, they do alright, don’t they?
Fourth Man: Well, and good luck to them!
Second Man: Yeah, they’re pretty!

On the other hand, it threw me on to the horns of a furious dilemma.

Well, not that furious.  But it made me wonder, should it give me hope that lines of prose like that one make it into print?  Or should I find it depressing?

Surely, if people are publishing books with lines of prose that are laughably awful, someone at some point will publish one of my books, which are at times not too bad at all.  There again, maybe readable books in which incidents of humour are deliberate rather than unintentional are not what the modern publisher is looking for?  Based on the evidence above, it’s hard to tell.

Still, I’ve no right to fall into a quandary over this.  After all, my favourite line in a book comes from a Torchwood story by Dan Abnett, and was almost certainly not intended to be as funny as I found it.  The line in question is:

“Tosh’s new leather jacket was very cool beans.”

How that got past first draft stage, never mind editors, proof readers and the like, I do not know.  Perhaps they liked it because it encapsulates the way people really speak an’ that – even though it wasn’t presented in the context of character dialogue?

Or maybe they didn’t notice, because Abnett churns out about a book a week into the assorted Doctor Who and Warhammer empires and there simply isn’t time to read them all.  Either way, I love it, and as such am in no position to badmouth poor prose.

But that doesn’t mean I wish to write it.  Not deliberately, anyway…

Western Tropes

Obviously you can’t write a piece of genre fiction without researching the genre.

Well, technically you can, but chances are it won’t work.  Sometimes it doesn’t work even when you do research the genre, as with my first novel, which was supposed to be a Mills and Boon romance parody but became something very different – even though I read ‘The Millionaire’s Inexperienced Love Slave‘, one where an American tourist falls for a Greek Tycoon, something about a Rake, a deeply disturbing one in which a grieving widow falls in love with her dead husband’s long lost twin brother… the list goes on.  My one regret is that I never got around to the charmingly alliterative ‘Mediterranean Billionaire’s Blackmail Bargain‘.  I say regret, but that’s not what I mean.

Anyway, this week I’ve been researching the Western genre by reading short stories from a rather amazing website called Rope and Wire.  This is essentially a bunch of Western enthusiasts enthusing, and as such some of the stories are quite fun, whilst one or two are kind of terrible.  I enjoyed ‘Mexico George and the Cabin at Rio Del Poncho‘ in the same sort of way as I enjoyed the Owen/Gwen dialogue up against a tree in the ‘Countrycide‘ episode of Torchwood – slightly open mouthed in disbelief and going ‘really?  You thought that would work?’

As I go along I’ve been compiling a list of elements to consider including and updating for Book 3.  Here are some of them.

– Area used to be home to an industry such as mining (in my book could be steelworks, or some other factory) but is now very poor
– Injuns (maybe mine could literally be a person from India – possibly owner of a local business or something)
– Shaggy eyebrows (well, those are timeless)
– Whisky, straight up (ditto)
– A weatherbeaten complexion (he likes gardening…)
– A mysterious stranger to blame ill fortune on – who ends up saving the day (not sure how to use this yet)
– A trusty steed (scooter?)
– A nemesis (slightly older teenage lead of the gang)
– Guns (air guns?)
– Mention of the war (the one mentioned in Westerns is obviously the American Civil War between north and south – Victor’s would have to be one that happened in the 1950s or later – could potentially be a ‘war’ as in industrial action rather than armed combat?)
– A beautiful woman with a tragic past
– People in need of help (someone to stand up to the kids who are terrorizing the street)

Any more for any more?

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