Thursday, 26 November 2015

Not a win, but a drabble...

Some years, there's just nothing you can do.

It's been a very bad November here in the Seaforth Finch household. A member of the extended family became and remains gravely ill, the washing machine inflow pipe has developed a leak, we've found more woodworm in the floorboards, and we're still trying to paint the house.

I've written 10,000 words of NaNoWriMo, but there was just no getting more out of me this year. I've been out of spoons, and I've not been able to shut myself away and write - my need for connectedness has been too great. But still, I've been writing, and reading, and there will be other years.

I'm a great fan of the "On This Day" function on FB, and recently a post from 2009 came up in which I mentioned a piece of writing I'd done for an assignment that had creeped me out. After an extensive search of my hard drive and my emails I managed to track it down. I no longer found it that creepy, but amongst the collection of short stories, poems and journal entries that formed the assignment there was the cute little piece below. I have no memory of writing it, and suspect this is because it was done after midnight!

Apparently I was already thinking up ways to use this fairytale long before The Twelfth Princess Dances leapt into being in my head...

Alternate voice from the Brothers Grimm fairytale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”.

It’s not easy being the prince of a hidden underground kingdom.

I mean, think about it. There’s no sunlight. The fuel bills are astronomical. And if that’s not enough, some ancient treaty insists that we hold a ball every night to dance with anyone who stumbles down into our world. Every night. Never a decent night’s sleep, never dark or quiet . . . of course, the dancing is fun and the girls are pretty, but sometimes a bit of shut-eye would be nice, you know?

I remember this time a while back, when these twelve sisters used to come down every single night. The secret doorway to their world was on the other side of the lake, but did they bring a boat? Of course not! They were a pretty lot, but not the brightest. So every night we had to row across the lake, as if the dancing wasn’t already enough to wear us out.

Now, these twelve sisters . . . we used to ask ourselves, how did the king end up with twelve daughters old enough to go dancing, and none of them married yet? The youngest one, she was barely more than a child, and a silly giggling thing too . . . but the eldest must have been almost thirty. Wouldn’t any self-respecting king have offloaded a few of them by now? They were pretty enough, after all.

Anyway, these sisters used to come down every night to dance with us. The twelve princes, they called us. We weren’t all princes, of course, but how were they to know? They believed us! Every night they would come, and dance until they put holes in their shoes, and then back across the lake again to deliver them home. Beats me why they didn’t just wear stronger shoes and stay all night.

From time to time these girls, laughing and flirting, would tell us about the knights who were trying to win their hands. The king knew about the girls’ dancing of course, because the daft biddies didn’t have the sense to hide their worn-out shoes. The king wanted them stopped – I guess it’s hard to marry off your daughters when you can’t account for their whereabouts. So these men would volunteer to find out where the girls had been. Fools, said the princesses, drugged into sleep! And off with their heads in the morning when they couldn’t explain why they had slept through the excitement.

Heartless witches, really, these princesses. Seems a bit harsh. Surely they could’ve given those guys a fighting chance. I mean, I’m not the marrying type myself, but it can’t be all bad and it’s better than letting some poor sucker lose his head, right?

Well, as it happens, one day those princesses didn’t come. We waited in the boats, having a laugh, making jokes and so on. Hours late, the door opened, but only one princess slipped through, and she wasn’t wearing dancing shoes. I think she was the ninth, or maybe the tenth – can’t keep them straight in my head, these days – soft young face, red hair, nice … well anyway.

With a pathetic look, the chit told us that they’d been found out after all. The night before the latest knight had managed to follow them, and had dobbed them all in to the king. Darned if we could figure out how he’d done it, but that was that. The knight was marrying that eldest, and the king was moving the princesses to another part of the castle and bricking up the secret doorway first thing tomorrow. Silly fool should’ve done that in the first place. Didn’t bother us any – we had other doors of course.

We never saw the princess again after that. We heard about the grand ball they had, when the knight married the eldest. Grand affair apparently … not that we’d know, not having been there. You’d think after all the time they spent drinking our wine, eating our food and wearing away our ballroom floor that they could’ve sent us an invite!

But I guess if you’re running away from your father’s house to dance the night away with an underground prince, it’s the adventure that matters, not the man. We have other doors, and other princesses. We’ll dance on.

Monday, 12 October 2015


I'm very tired today, because I accidentally stayed up until nearly 1am on a work night, and had trouble getting to sleep when I did go to bed. The reason for this was that, for the first time in months, I managed to find my way into that precious state known as 'flow'. Several hundred words came tumbling out and I finally wound up the nth re-write of Chapter 1.

According to Wikipedia:
In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.
I do love flow. It's why I read, and indeed for many years I simply could not sleep unless I'd achieved at least half an hour or so of reading flow. It's why I play musical instruments in ensembles when I can, for the magical moments that I used to describe as 'transcendence'. For a long time, though, it wasn't why I wrote. Experiencing flow in writing is a relatively new thing for me, that has started to occur as I've gained confidence and self-assurance in my writing. When it does happen, it's precious.

According to my flighty, frustrating brain, these are the conditions for flow state when it comes to writing:

1) It must be dark out.

I've always done my best work at night. I got my bachelors degree on the strength of essays written after midnight, and have become resigned to the fact that this is simply how I operate. This means - particularly here in the UK - that I write significantly more in the winter months than I do in the summer.

2) I must be uninterrupted.

Obvious, really. I can't get into flow state if people are nudging me out of it. This also means...

3) There must be no danger that I will be interrupted.

This one is significantly harder to achieve. Being alone in the house almost qualifies, but I've got to know when people are coming back, and that's not always enough. Better is for everyone to be asleep. You can see a sort of circular feedback starting to appear: do I write better late at night because it's dark, or because everyone else is asleep? Do I actually need the dark or do I like it simply because it means 'uninterrupted time' to me? Either way, I can't get into flow state if I'm on edge that someone may jolt me out of it.

4) I have to feel like my time is unlimited.

I can't get into flow state if I'm clock-watching. I'm in great envy of people who can get up early and write before work. I just can't... if I enter flow state I'll lose track of time, and if I don't, I just won't get anything done. And also:

5) I can't need to function afterwards.

This is also why I've banned myself from reading fiction before work. If I slip into flow state I'll be half-stuck in the book and unable to concentrate for the rest of the day: the pull of the story is too strong. The same goes for writing. Last night, even though all I had to do was drop off, the flow state was hanging around and left me dozing restlessly when I should have been sleeping. Before work, flow robs me of the ability to focus for the rest of the day. I find it hard enough to concentrate already!

My writing time is both precious and precarious. In the summer, with long bright evenings and a more wakeful family, it diminishes. Now, with autumn gathering and the nights growing longer, I can feel it expanding. I can start writing earlier, but I will have to be careful not to have too many nights like last night when flow makes me its own for hours at a time. I already walk a fine line of sleep deprivation, unable to shake the habit of, and desire for, my long quiet evenings. Hallowe'en is coming, and with it NaNoWriMo, and I feel the desire to slip into evenings of flow growing once again.

Post-reading daze, 1989. Photo: NR.
The book I am holding is Lynette Winters' "My Dog Eats Mangoes".

We've got two major family health crises unfolding at the moment (neither is me, I am suffering nothing worse than an autumn cold) and I'll admit that flow is a kind escape from thinking about those, too.

Monday, 5 October 2015

It's nearly time...

Today, like thousands of others, I sat with my cursor on the 'refresh' symbol, waiting for the NaNoWriMo site to relaunch.

Although I'm still in love with the thought of "The Twelfth Princess Dances", I've decided that finishing "The Roadkeeper's Daughter" comes first. 50,000 words will see it finished and ready for editing, so I'm going to blitz it and enjoy the feeling of having completed an entire novel again! I'll either work on "12th" in December/January while I'm letting "Roadkeeper's" settle, or I'll do it for NaNo next year.

I'm now all set up on the NaNo site, complete with a sleek new cover mock-up design. Feel free to add me as a writing buddy! Ready, set...

Cover design CSF 2015 using GIMP.
Image purchased from;
fonts are "Ringbearer" and "Beyond Wonderland".

Monday, 14 September 2015

Fourth, twelfth, who's counting?

So as the plot has drifted into place it's become clear that my NaNo will actually be called The Twelfth Princess Dances. Different princess, same general premise! I have the preface written in my head, but I'm not committing a single letter of it to print until November 1st, because that's the rules.

"A fairy-tale is told now, of an underground ballroom, a valiant soldier, and twelve dancing princesses. All tales grow with the telling, but this one grew from a seed of truth. I should know, I was there."
 Once the frightened youngest princess of the fairy-tale, Una of Alarta has a reputation to uphold. However, her body tires easily and her bones are weak, and the rumours are spreading... is the king's last daughter unfit for a prince? Outcast and lonely, Una finds her way back into the underground caves, where she uncovers a secret race whose very existence threatens the stability of the North Kingdoms. Will Una and the mysterious elf-girl Mellis unite their peoples before the Conqueror of the North falls upon them both?

I have so much plotting to do before this is ready to go! But I did spend several procrastinatory minutes making up a dodgy mock cover to go on the NaNoWriMo website.

I bought a new laptop last week, after my 6-year-old, much-rejigged Dell started to behave in worryingly idiosyncratic ways. The new one is an Asus, a little faster and much bigger in the storage department, with all new software etc. It's taken me a while to get it set up, complete with a battle with Windows 10 over file ownership (is it a bug or a feature? Opinions are divided...), but I'm up and running now. Let the writing recommence!

My plan is to keep going on The Roadkeeper's Daughter until the last week or two of October when it's going to be time for frantic planning for The Twelfth Princess Dances.

I'm hoping to make it to a London or Hertfordshire midnight write-in on the 31st of October... watch this space!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Brace Yourself... November is Coming

Okay, okay, I know. November is still more than two months away. But it's coming nonetheless, and across NaNoWriMoLand can be heard the NaNoWarrior's cry: "I have an idea!".

Well, I have an idea, anyway.

I'm still plugging away at "The Roadkeeper's Daughter", but haven't made much progress numbers-wise; much of what I've done has been a substantial reframing of the first few chapters. I felt that the initial event and character motivation were under-developed, so I've gone back and fixed that. It continues, and I've set myself the goal of writing four new chapters before NaNoWriMo begins.

"The Roadkeeper's Daughter" is set in a warm, dry place, with a wholly POC cast, eucalyptus trees on the hilltops and blue sky overhead, and a somewhat Arabic-inspired styling. My NaNo work for this year is a substantial shift, from the hot winds of Lynnar to the misty, cool Yorkshire Moors, or at least a fantasy version thereof. Echoes of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira in the late 500s/early 600s infuse this YA adventure.

Tentatively titled "The Fourth Princess Dances", it riffs off the fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", although naturally it is an elven princess, not prince, who is sought across the underground lake. Sixteen-year-old protagonist Cyna (/k/-/igh/-/n/-/ə/) is largely sidelined in her parents' royal hall, due to her weak and unpredictable limbs and dislike of strong sunlight. Bored and lonely, she finds a passage into a cave beneath the fort, but what starts as a harmless adventure with the bewitching elf Melis soon turns dangerous. As both humans and elves arm themselves against the gathering threat from the north, will Cyna and Melis be able to broker peace between their people, or will their unsanctioned romance cause a war that neither side can afford to lose?
... I hate writing blurbs/teasers. That's one off the top of my head, but I'll no doubt tweak it as time goes on. Too many commas, as usual!

The inspiration for the location comes from two events I attended at Bolton Castle in Yorkshire. Although the castle itself is nearly a thousand years too young for this story, its position on the edge of the moors is perfect, and some of my experiences there have cast it in a somewhat mythical light. I first saw it before dawn, stepping out of a taxi from Darlington having taken the overnight coach from London; and as no one was awake to let me in, I spent the following two hours standing on the gravel outside, watching the sun gradually rise over the hills and valleys below. That event was cold and damp, going down in SCA history as "never again". The second event there, on a sunny June weekend, was much more pleasant; I spent much of it working down in the kitchen or drifting in solitude around the castle. In the evening most of us went to the villas down the road to relax; my friend S and I decided to walk back to the castle where we were staying at 1am. We didn't even have a torch, got lost in one field because we forgot which field we were in, got scratched by prickles, and frightened by sheep. Although this event was sunny, between the kitchens and the midnight walk my impression of Bolton Castle is overwhelmingly one of darkness, and it is from there that "The Fourth Princess Dances" begins.

I'll leave you now with a picture of something else entirely. This year I attended the entire SCA Ffair Rhaglen, at Raglan Castle in Wales. 10 nights under canvas, with a grass floor, is an adventure even in summer, but how irresistible does it look nonetheless?

If you can blazon my arms, you deserve to be able to
work out my SCA name. Have fun! Photo: CSF 2015

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Power of Story

It's been a while since I've posted. My word count dropped dramatically when I cut out the off-track chapters, and I've spent several weeks combing through the existing chapters getting the landscape, climate and furniture ironed out after a change of image. I'm back on to regular writing now, however, with a wordcount of 25,060 and rising. And I'll be back to posting here regularly!

Today's post was inspired by a conversation on that other website we all use, in which a friend expressed unconcern about a certain controversial novel with the phrase "it's just fiction".

I don't think there's any such thing as "just fiction".

Terry Pratchett has been on my mind an awful lot since his passing last month. His books were a very positive influence on my teenage years, with their witty and incisive observations of the follies to which we all cling. Mort was my first Pratchett experience, aged 16, when two of my classmates convinced our Drama teacher to let us perform it as our class play. I've been an avid reader of his books ever since, and I owe a lot of my familiarity with science concepts to his co-authorship of the "Science of Discworld" series. In these, he gave Homo sapiens a new scientific name: Pan narrans, the storytelling ape.

Aren't you a little ... short ... for a Bursar? Photo: NR 1997

The name fits. The only way we humans can deal with the complex world in which we live is to tell ourselves stories about it. The harder something is to understand, the more we try to turn it into a simplified narrative. We often fall foul of our own narratives too...believing the story we've told ourselves and being surprised when the universe doesn't seem to have rehearsed its lines as we have. This isn't how this scene is supposed to play out...

The fiction narratives we encounter as children, teenagers and young adults definitely shape the way we see ourselves and relate to the world around us. Whether it's realistic fiction or fantastic fantasy, we internalise the messages of gender, sexuality, relationships, how to be an adult, what success looks like, and what makes things right or wrong based on these stories. Narratives that teach us less than safe ways of relating, in particular, can really mess us up when we're older.

"You wouldn't actually have liked the Victorian
period, Christine. It was dirty and smelly and full
of disease, you'd have had half a dozen siblings by now
and opportunities for women were really limited."
Photo: NR circa 1990.

This is not to say that no one should write these kinds of relationships. The dark heroes (male or female), have their place. But it serves us well to cast a critical eye over them, and ensure that the young people reading them have the opportunity to hear those narratives challenged. It's important that adults in all parts of their life share that understanding that some narratives aren't meant to be followed, that some narratives are cautionary tales even if the tale itself pretends to have been about a successful relationship.

I remember the thrill of the fear-lust-romance-danger brought on by a dark hero. I still get it, sometimes (*cough*AlexVause*cough*). And there's nothing wrong with that. But there's also no excuse for letting that go unchallenged because it's "just fiction". There's nothing wrong with saying "Jareth is extremely sexy but also a giant jerkface" or "actually Angel's kind of a selfish idiot a lot of the time even when he DOES have a soul" or "Alex is broken, do not engage until and unless she sorts her shit out, seriously". Because these messages are important, and fiction is powerful. Dangerous stories are fine as long as we know they're dangerous. It's when we think that Lessa and F'lar have a healthy relationship because the book says so, despite providing plenty of evidence to the contrary, that we have a problem. When we internalise those faulty messages, we live out those problems in our own stories.

"It's just fiction" does fiction an injustice. Stories are the most powerful social tool we have. Everything we do relates back to the narrative we believe in about who were are meant to be. We can shape our society, for better or worse, with the narratives we approve and the narratives we criticise. Challenging a negative narrative is not being too sensitive, it's not interrogating it from the wrong perspective, it's understanding and valuing its power.

I can't promise I'll always write powerfully positive narratives, chock-full of characters who own their behaviour and treat each other well. But I hope, if I ever write a dark hero with a happy ending, that people will call me out on it. Life's too short to believe that old story.

CSF xx

Friday, 30 January 2015

Friday Update 30.1.2015

Well, it's been a week of lurgy in our house, with no member save the cat escaping unscathed, and very little writing has been achieved. But I did finish Chapter 5 and delete the shadow chapter, so there's that.

I'm about to embark on a sequence of chapters detailing how Tamsen is drawn ever more deeply and dangerously into the power struggle that lies beneath the calm waters of the palace. Writing it is rather like creating a French plait...drawing ever more strands of hair into the plait as it gets thicker and thicker.

I've never mastered the French plait, despite an orphanage's-worth of dolls and one fairly willing little sister*. I hope these chapters are less slippery than hair!

*She turns 19 on Monday. HALP.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Friday Update 23.1.2015

I'd been intending to get in another post this week, but it hasn't happened...damn day job! Hopefully something waffly with photos over the weekend.

"The Roadkeeper's Daughter" is at 52,335 words tonight, and Chapter 5 is three quarters done. As before, the word count is due to drop when I delete the shadow chapter, but oh well! Chapter 5 closes off what I guess you could call the opening act of the book. Tamsen finds herself where she thought she was going: she thinks her temporary state of adventure is over and "normal life" has started. Of course, she soon learns that in the palace there is no normal.

This week I've been writing with a re-watch of "Orange in the New Black" in the background. Quite apart from the eye-candy (*cough*Alex*cough*), I love how the different stories interweave, and the dropping of details and hints is masterful. One could write a hundred books from a couple of episodes. It's somewhat distracting for background noise, but it does keep the imagination firing.

My big piece of news this week is a side project I've just started with a friend. We were chatting the other night about the lack of Regency lesbian romances in our lives, and the difficulty of discovering what may be out there in the genre. (Dear Amazon, not being able to filter the LGBT section for M/M vs F/F is really quite stupid.) I actually started writing one a few years ago, in the style of Georgette Heyer, but it fizzled out. We started throwing some plot ideas around and came up with a plan for a collaborative novel in which we're going to write one protagonist each, alternating between the two girls in "close 3rd" POV (similar to how Barbara Ann Wright does it in her delightful "Pyramid Waltz" series). The plot is only in the roughest outline stage, but there's love, blackmail, Class Issues and comedy already abounding. It should be fun to write and I'm very pleased to be working with a dear friend as well as a fellow Crazy Writer™ on such a joyful project.

Since we're alternating chapters and writing around our other ongoing projects, this is going to be a long-term thing. We're both trying to make sure that we give it enough attention without treating it like a Shiny Thing distracting us from our more complete work. We also need to make a few trips to Bath and Birmingham. For research, obviously. Not for any other reason. At all.

Maybe Winchester too. Because of reasons.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Friday Update 16.1.2014

If you're new, welcome! The blog is a week old, minus a few hours, and I'm happy with it so far, so that's good.

"The Roadkeeper's Daughter" currently stands at 50,411 words. It's been a long, hard week and I haven't written much, but Chapter 5 is about a quarter revised/repaired/rewritten. The word count will drop again when I delete the shadow-chapter from which I'm working, but them's the breaks when editing. Hopefully the next week will be productive and I'll still be ahead even after that's done.

At the moment I've got Planet Earth playing via Netflix. I find David Attenborough's voice and the wonderful soundtracks an excellently soothing background noise, and I need something in the background as I don't write as well in silence. It's playing on my work laptop because the TV chose today to stop working (typically, the day my wife brought her six-year-old son home poorly at lunchtime and really, really needed the TV!). I suspect that until we get it fixed my weeknight background noise will be my wife playing Settlers on the other laptop. Not my favourite soundtrack, but companionable enough!


Well, I was going to blether a bit about the editing process, but a surprise trip to the urgent care centre in St Albans courtesy of a screaming child has meant that this blogger window has sat open and abandoned for the best part of three hours. I'm exhausted so I'm going to leave it here, with profound gratitude that it's here in England with the NHS, not my imaginary Kingdom of Lynnar, that I am dealing with a child in pain! Pain and medicine are fraught in any "medieval-style" fantasy, and indeed in the Lynnar Chronicles it is access to healing that is the key motivation for one of the Tamsen will soon discover.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

On Beginnings

Me, aged 13.

It is perhaps fitting that 2015 is the year when I will finish the book, as it is the year that it, like my main character Tamsen, comes of age at 21. What is now "The Roadkeeper's Daughter" began in 1994, and it began with a piece of red fabric.

It was a mere strip, really, perhaps a metre long and twenty centimetres wide. Some sort of polyester gauze, medium weight, with stripes and a floral pattern woven into it. It felt silky. The fabric had been in our dressing up box for as long as I could remember - a remnant of Mum's early 80s dressmaking - and as I emerged into teenaged attempts to be fashionable, I took to wearing it in my hair as a headband.

It was here that my imagination took over. From then onwards, from time to time, my inner narrative would turn to shaping this story about the young girl and the red scarf tied into her long brown hair. Few elements of it remain the same, and the protagonist is both older and smarter, not to mention named differently several times over. But it still begins with an inn, and still involves the protagonist leaving with a group of horseback law-enforcers, identified by the red scarves or bandannas that they wore on their person. Thus, the red sashes worn by the Roadkeepers. Thus, the iris on the arms of the Kingdom of Lynnar.

While scrap of fabric is long gone, and the story has blossomed into something quite different to the imagined tale of rebellion and young love that helped me while away the lonely hours of 1994, the threads remain... woven into a new cloth of words.

CSF xx

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Place and Character Headspace

My main hobby, aside from writing, is medieval re-enactment with the Society for Creative Anachronism. It's the kind of hobby that can expand to fill all available resources, so I've chosen to limit my involvement to the part of it that means the most to me: big events, preferably overnighters, most preferably in historic locations such as manor houses and castles. These are the events that leave me feeling blissed-out and rejuvenated from the time spent with friends in amazing locations - even if I've worked hard the entire time!

Something else often happens at these events, when I find some time to be alone. Always, since I was very small, I've found it easy to slip into internal storytelling, making a narrative of my circumstances and surroundings. The surreal otherworldliness of an SCA event enhances the ability, and once I'm on my own I find myself automatically weaving stories in the air around me, putting me straight into character headspace.

This can be a very powerful tool for coming up with new story ideas or exploring the feelings of existing characters. Because I'm so immersed in it, I respond more realistically to the story my mind is telling, because I'm physically in that space.

Raglan Castle, Wales. Photo: CSF.
Sunset at Raglan Castle, Wales. Photo: CSF.

SCA encampent at Raglan Castle, Wales. Photo: CSF.

I've been to Ffair Rhaglen, or Raglan Fair, twice (2010 and 2013) and will be going again this year. It's grown into a 10-day event, in which the SCA takes over the castle, interacting with the public during the day then enjoying exclusive use of the site after hours. From the groups of medieval tents, the ruined castle, and the rural landscape surrounding the site, the scope for story immersion here is immense. As I walk around the site, I find stories of community and survival most often dominate my imagination. If there is, one day, a novel about a court in exile, fled to the ruins of a long-abandoned castle, you will know that this is where it began.

Hot air balloon at Raglan Castle, Wales. Photo: CSF.

On both occasions when I've attended Raglan, our late-afternoon weekend idyll has been punctuated by the sudden emergence of hot air balloons from below the treeline. Watching a balloon, astonishingly close, loom up and over a castle gives rise to spectacular steampunk imaginings. Who is in the balloon, and where is it going? Why are those on the ground so astonished by it?

Raglan Castle, Wales. Photo: CSF.
OK, I'm playing around a bit here. I don't write Fanfic, but if I did, the walk from the mundane tents to the portaloo would create an irresistible opportunity. And if the Doctor stepped out of that, I'd totally go.

Bolton Castle, Yorkshire. Photo: CSF.

On a break from helping in the kitchen at Bolton Castle, I needed some alone time. With my recorder and my sheet music folder, I climbed into a window embrasure in the ruined, roofless chapel, overlooking the maze and gardens where many of the other event attendees were gathered or wandering. For half an hour I played quietly to myself, delighting in the image of being a secret, magical, invisible source of music. A faerie haunting, unsuspected and unsought.

Buckden Towers, Cambridgeshire. Photo: Rob Ross, used with permission.
It was here, at Buckden Towers, that I had the longest-lasting story-immersion experience I've had. It's a stunning site, ideal for events. The main floor is a grand hall, while the two upper floors and the towers are given over to dormitories and bedrooms. However, it was in the basement - you can see the window shafts at ground level - that I found myself so deeply wrapped in a narrative. I was part of the main kitchen crew this time, and spent the best part of six hours entirely involved in food preparation. While my hands were busy with endless puréeing, assembling, stirring and cleaning, my mind beavered away with a narrative about a young woman learning to be content with indentured servitude after some poor decisions. I have a mental image of my cold, chapped hands turning the old iron latch, the fur edging of my shawl wrapped around my wrists, as I slipped out of the kitchens on an errand. These are the hands of a character, and one day you will see them opening the door to her own kitchen and emerging into adventure.

It feels very strange and exposed to be sharing these fantasies, though I don't think I'm alone in this habit of narrativising one's experiences - I've heard it from others before. Finding opportunities to physically slip into character, even if it's only in my own head, is a vital part of my writing practice, and I can heartily recommend it.

Dressing up helps, too!

I'm on the left. Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, Epping Forest, London.
Photo: Andrew Leavesley, used with permission.


One Friday night when I had a hundred better things to do, I decided that it was time to create a new blog. Four hours and one small temper tantrum later and here I am, posting on it for the very first time. The layout isn't perfect yet - I'll get a cursive script on that title if it kills me - but it's after midnight and my wife will have a Look to give me if I don't come to bed soon. So here we begin.

My aim on this blog is to post every Friday night (or failing that, every weekend) with a short update of where "The Roadkeeper's Daughter" is at. Additionally, I'll post general writing-related happenings, inspiration, photographic plot bunnies, drabbles and other bits and pieces...basically, what it says on the tin.

So, as of now:
  • I am just finishing an editing phase, moving into a fresh-write phase.
  • "The Roadkeeper's Daughter" has 49,458 words.
  • Chapters 1-4 are perfect.
  • Chapters 5-12 need either partial or complete rewrites after having been charged through at an astonishing pace during NaNoWriMo.
  • Chapters 13 onwards need writing, although some of them were already written, salvageably so, in the first draft.
  • My Writing Chair is still perfection:
Complete with a cat called Ophelia.

Time to go to bed now, but whether you're a real-life friend, a NaNoWriMo writing buddy, or just passing by, I hope you'll drop by and say hello from time to time.

CSF xx