Since the last update on Forget Me Not, my tenth novel, I have completed the first four chapters, that’s over 40’000 words or about 100 pages of the printed book. I am always astounded by the way the story takes on a life of its own and I am just a servant writing it.
Wondering what this photo has to do with the story. Well, read the short extract below from the beginning of Chapter 5 as young Maria slips away from her friends and ventures upstairs in the long-dead Explorer’s house. Remember this extract comes from a draft and may well change over time.
The left hand corridor was much darker and she wasn’t sure, from a distance, what lay down it. Steeling herself, she stepped into the shadows, feeling her way along the wall. When she came to a doorframe, she halted and cocked an ear. Nothing. She fumbled for the handle and eased the door open. A strange smell greeted her, but she could see nothing in the pitch black.
Unsettled by the dark and having nothing to create a light, she was tempted to retrace her steps and try another room, but the faint odour intrigued her. Like sweets or perfume or dried flowers, it smacked of humans and life. Someone had been there. Recently. “Anyone here?” she whispered, her voice more breath than sound.
No answer came. She let out a sigh of relief. She had no idea what she would have done if anyone had replied. “Thank heavens for that,” she said, taking a couple of steps forward, her arms outstretched in front of her. She should have left the door open, light from the landing might have filtered through. Her knee brushed against an object. Terrified, she turned to leave when the sound of a match striking had her swivelling back to face whoever was there, her heart thundering in her chest. The match flared, revealing a candle on a desk behind which sat a person outlined in the dark.
Yesterday I attended a workshop with MJ Homes in Pully, organised by Joy Manne. The theme? Uncertainty in writing, both that of the writer but also that of the writing itself. What is this between space in which all is possible? I hesitate, frightened by the void and the dark and the silence, then I jump…
Met an old lady at the workshop. Gina Monjoy was her name. A zany pole dancer, cum script writer, who sported wild colours and spoke too loud. I wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t a little deaf. Not the sort of thing you could tell her, though. She must have been at least eighty-five. All wrinkles she was and preoccupied with loosing her mind, or so she said, often. You only had to hear what she wrote to wonder if she might be right. Anyway, here’s an extract she scribbled on a piece of paper that I found screwed up in a corner under a desk.
John was a tall man with hairy legs and knobbly knees that knocked together when he climbed the stairs which he did rarely because with age his legs had gone so stiff he could barely quit his wheelchair to pee or to pray and anyway praying was not his thing, unless you included preying on his neighbour’s wife who was a most beautiful specimen of sun-kissed tropical fruit that would dribble down his chin if he bit into it which in turn recalled his youth before the accident, but after the operation, at a period when he spent less time thinking about being someone else, even if the idea had begun to obsess him, despite efforts of two psychiatrists that cost him a fortune and a lot of medication which ruined his liver and might have explained why he had the accident, not that the police would have agreed, but then they agreed only with themselves, blustering away, swearing at him when all he needed was a hug
I have just finished chapter two of my latest novel, which is now called, Forget Me Not, and in doing so I passed the twenty thousand word mark. Above is a first shot at the cover. And below is a brief extract from chapter two of the draft. Remember this is only a draft and could change before the book is published.
(…) There was no direct path and the bushes grew tight together so she was forced to take a long detour that led her close to a wooden chalet like those she’d seen in the Alps on a skiing holiday. This one was much smaller, a bit like a Dinky toy chalet, but still big enough for two to squeeze inside. It stood alone in the middle of a carefully tended lawn strewn with plastic boats and ducks. A crazy stone path led up to the door.
The sound of snoring warned her she was not alone. Peering in the window she saw the immortal girl fast asleep, tied to the bed with ropes around her arms and legs and a gag across her mouth. What nutters! The windows were too tiny to climb in or out. The only entrance was through a small wooden door which stood open.
Beth toyed with the idea of freeing the girl, but had no idea how she would react. Maybe the boy had forgotten he’d left her there. She might be grateful to be saved from certain starvation. Then again, what if being trussed up was part of a game they’d played for centuries? The two could be furious if she messed it up. Or maybe the girl was only pretending, lying in wait, knowing Beth would come. She shook her head. Such a subterfuge would be quite beyond them.
In the key hole on the inside of the door was an outsized key. It reminded her of that bottle in Alice which said: Drink me! Except that the key called out: Lock me! Oh no! She wasn’t going to give in to that temptation. It was probably a trap. But she would take the key. Goodness knew why. To annoy them, maybe. Easing it out of the lock, halting every time it squeaked, she pocketed the key, surprised at how heavy it was. Pulling the door too behind her, it shut with an ominous click, causing the snoring to cease. As she tiptoed away in search of an exit, she heard grunts as the girl struggled to get free.
On a prolonged weekend in the mountains (those flowers really were frozen!), I finished the first chapter of my new book, Immortal No More. That’s over 10’500 words in less than two weeks. Pleased. And surprised. The underlying themes that sprang up were quite unexpected. No. I’m not going to tell you what they are. Later, maybe. But I am publishing a short extract. Remember this is a rough draft only.
The far side of the dormitory was devoid of girls. The little girl halted, looking round to see if they were being watched, then she got down on all fours and crawled under one of the beds. When Beth hesitated, the girl beckoned, a worried look on her face. Feeling stupid, Beth glanced round to see if anyone was watching. All were engrossed in their games and chattering. So she scrambled under the bed. Being much bigger than the girl, moving in such a confined space was a struggle. Several times she snagged her dress on the wooden bed frame.
Did the girl live under the bed? Beth hoped not. Making friends with a nutter that slept under a bed was hardly a good start. There was little light so Beth hurried to keep up as the girl crawled under several beds placed side by side.
Beth was about to give up and return the way she’d come when an eerie light filled the cramped space. The girl had opened a door in the wall no higher than the space under the bed. Once Beth wriggled through, the little girl helped her to her feet. They were in a large room with one small window placed high on the wall casting a gloomy light over piles of furniture, most of which were covered with sheets and dust covers.
Read another short extract.
Having finished the draft of World o’Tales, book four of The Storyteller’s Quest, I immediately launched into writing book five entitled, Immortal No More. I have written a thousand words of the beginning which follows on directly from World o’Tales although that is not so evident if you read the short snippet below.
Here is a brief extract of the beginning of Immortal No More. Remember this is a first draft and (many) things can change. This scene is entitled Just another girl.
Jag sighed. Another girl. He ran a comb through her wet hair, tugging at the knots. This one might be healthy and surprisingly fit, and her dark brown eyes were attractive, yet she wasn’t what he’d call pretty. That high forehead promised intelligence, but that was hardly what was required. Couldn’t that self-satisfied pair of hunters not find better material? How many more botched specimens would it take before the Master and Mistress decided the poor quality was his fault and tossed him on the scrap heap along with the bones of all those that had gone before?
After just over a month, I have finished the remaining two chapters to complete the 165’000-word draft of World o’Tales. For an alarmingly long time, I was unsure how the story would finish. The end was in a surprising minor mode a little akin to the end of Boy & Girl, with a faint ray of hope … You’ll have to wait a while to find out what happened. I plan to write the next book of the Storyteller’s Quest, Immortals No More, before editing World o’Tales.
Above is the future front cover of World o’Tales.
When I began writing my novel Chimera – which is finished but awaiting editing and publication – I had no idea what I was embarking on. I had my own experience of being wrapped up in my stories and my worlds, missing out on what was going on around me, feeling worryingly absent at times around people. But from there to imaging myself in the head of a being who was totally unable to communicate with words and gestures was a giant step. My intuition was that seen from the inside Sam, my character, would be wildly creative but no one else would know. What frustration. He had no iPad or computer to bridge between him and the world. To make things worse, or possibly better in the longer term, he discovers he is a chimera, someone who shares his mind and body with another being. Sami, that other being, is quite the opposite to him. She is articulate, communicative and deft with her hands and feet. She offers him a chance to leave his long-standing isolation and span the gap to the world through her. But will he want to relinquish the security of the fortifications he has built around himself?
The video: a contribution from Apple to celebrate International Autism Day.
Gender is only a problem when others expect something different of you. (Photo: Elle Fanning in About Ray)
For more about gender, see my two novels: Boy & Girl and In Search of Lost Girls.
Just received the printer’s proof of The Starless Square, the third book of The Storyteller’s Quest. You will soon be able to order your copy. In the mean time, check out the first two books of the series (The Reaches and The Keeper’s Daughter) or read more about The Starless Square.
Monday morning with wild words and a blood red cloth…