Tag: Neil Gaiman

Gothic Revival

I just finished the big re-write on Protector. Thank god. It’ll be winging its way over to Bev for a final read through before tumbling its way over to Amanda for the start of copy editing. So close now. I can almost taste it.

Meanwhile, my brain is incapable of stringing together sentences having just finished going through 280 some odd pages of angst, mayhem, and horror. So today’s blog is going to be rather chaotic and probably slightly all over the place. Bear with me.

First things first.

I’m obsessed with gothic horror right now. Not necessarily unusual. I did my degree in 18th century English literature with a focus on the gothic novel. Add being a former goth on top of that, and it all slots nicely into place. So no surprise there.

I’d sort of lost touch with my previous fascination with that genre, focusing more on fantasy and urban paranormal stuff in the last couple of years. That was my mindset when I’d started writing The Shining Ones series way back in 2010. I wasn’t so much caught up in the sublime or my novel’s setting being a character in itself or mad monks and falling down castles. I was more interested in mythos. More interested in building my own angel mythology from scratch based on two points of interest: Neil’s take on Lucifer Morningstar in the Sandman series and one of my favorite songs of all time, “For Her Light” by a band that still has a very special place in my heart, The Fields of the Nephilim.

But more recently, there has been a resurgence in gothic horror that is taking me back to that genre. Have a look at Del Toro’s trailer for Crimson Peak.

Yeah exactly. I got shivers watching it the first time. Tom Hiddleston and creepy haunted houses. I’m in. PJ Harvey doing Nick Cave? Could it get any better? I was already heading in that direction, but Del Toro’s ability to make beautiful, ethereal things just pushed my mind into creative overdrive.

And if that wasn’t enough, I also just got done reading this, Jack Thorn by Katherine Harbour.

jack thorn

I don’t normally get book envy – it takes a lot for me  to go there – but I was absolutely impressed with her book to the point where I was like, “No seventeen year old should know that much about celtic mythology and be able to weave it into an enticing story that doesn’t read like a history lesson.” It even caused me to stalk her on Twitter. If you haven’t read it, do so. I could probably write a whole blog post on her setting descriptions alone. Very nice stuff. You can also be like me and follow her on Twitter if you’re so inclined. Just go here.

So here’s my second bit to this blog post that I want to bring to the party:

I predict that 2015-16 will see a huge uptick in gothic/steampunk literature, movies, etc.

It’ll be a bit like what Twilight was to vampires and paranormal romance or The Hunger Games and the slew of dystopian novels that followed. It’s coming our way. (ed note – Gothic is different from Steampunk for those who want to be pedantic about it; there is a nuance between the two, but for argument’s sake, I’m going to lump them together.)

If you don’t believe me, take a look at Madonna’s new video that came out two days ago and try not to dry heave. I couldn’t. In fact, I got really really mad to the point that my husband laughed at me. If I could’ve reached through my monitor and bitch-slapped Madonna for yet again more shitty music AND ripping off yet another subculture’s much-loved and respected identity for her own piece of tripe I would’ve. Does she have no shame?

Seriously. Enough already, Madge. Go retire into that good night and leave the rest of us alone. If the Steampunkers wanted to light you on fire, I’d gladly hand them the matches.

Sorry. Did I just say that out loud?

I could list several more examples of why I think this trend is going to continue, but I just realized that I’ve just done a smack down on Madonna so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. I’m pretty tired.

If you can think of any other examples to share, let me know, and I’ll put them up here.


Kill Your Darlings


So I am in the midst of getting back on that horse. After a month away from my desk, I’m finally taking the plunge and here I sit. Back. In. The. Chair.

It feels good, mostly. I have missed my Herman Miller chair. I’d like to think it missed me, too, in its own way.

But the thing is that while I missed sitting here, I don’t miss the anxiety when it comes time to edit. By far the hardest part of the whole shindig, edits kick me in the gut every time. And on this book, it is no better than the last one.

Which is kinda surprising, I can’t lie. “Why?” you ask.

I will be truthful with you. Watcher was a rambling hot mess. Even after multiple edits and tear downs, it still was painfully awkward, hence, why I pulled it. I have to live with the nightmare that Neil Gaiman still has an original copy. If I am lucky, he will tease me one day about it, if not, well, that would almost be a bigger relief. That aside, it took a year of sitting on it, to stomach going back to it and ripping it apart some more. And in that painful process, I killed off 30K+ words and two major characters.

Which is the thrust of what I have to say next.

I learned big, painful lessons from that first book. The only thing that kept me going was the passion I had for those characters. And naivety and probably a hint of arrogance, too. But don’t get me wrong, those lessons, I kid you not, were like a million tiny papercuts all over my body and then being dropped into one of those dunk tanks filled with gallons of rubbing alcohol. Get the visual, right?

So when it came to Protector, I tried my best to learn from those mistakes. Cut down on over wordy descriptions, watch for narrative repetitions, keep that pacing tight, and whatever you do, stay away from new secondary characters. No really. Don’t do it. Remember Lamar Jackson? Or Amanda’s baby daddy reveal? Yeah, seriously, don’t even think about it.

The thing is I love characters like I like breathing. I like to inhale them, give them life, exhale them out nice and slow so that they come to life in a slow, glimmer. In my head, Tybee Island teems with all sorts of pedestrians from all walks of life. Each one has a story screaming to be let out. With all the noise in my head, some days, I’m surprised I get anything done.

But I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. Sigh. You know what’s coming don’t you?

I have inserted a secondary character, just the one mind you, that was going to play some serious havoc in Betrayer, the next book. I wasn’t sure that I really liked him, but he was creepy, and he had some odd physical attributes that would’ve stuck with my readers. And I’d just got done watching The Killing and was in love with Holder so that didn’t help either. I heard the warning bells, but I ignored them. It would be different this time. I would write him in from the beginning, slide him in insidiously into Paddy-life, make him stick, give him purpose. I swear that was the intention right up until I got to the first hot and heavy scene with Adam and Poesy and then it flew out the window.

I found that I’d written seven chapters and he’d disappeared off the face of the earth and like a complete idiot, instead of accepting that he was a goner, I went back and hacked him into a bunch of other scenes, punching that circle into that damn square like that made any sense.

Oh yeah, I made him work, but not work enough.

So here I sit almost eight weeks behind in my edit schedule , which I thought was going to be a breeze and now I have to rip him out and patch up the holes he’s left in the lives of my other characters. I’m not sure anyone will miss him except Haylee Jane, but the work is enough that I want to punch myself in the face.

I still sit here in my Herman Miller chair. But the work is just beginning.


Clarion West = fail

Well, the short answer is that I didn’t get in. My rejection email came last night while I was either in the middle of Netflix or sleeping. I’m not sure which. Either way, the outcome is the same . . . I won’t be going to Clarion West this year.

I have to say that it’s a mixed blessing; on one hand, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get in. (Part of me felt that there was some sort of karmic destiny in the mix given the fact that  Neil was teaching this year) At the same time, being away for six weeks from my family and garden and having to pay nearly $5K for the privilege was a worrying thought indeed. Alot of money and a lot of time. Would I even measure up once I got there?

I don’t have to worry about those things anymore, but it still sucks. It’s like when you have a great disappointment you try to be gracious about it by making up excuses for why it’s okay. It’s almost lame to do so, but you just can’t help yourself. That’s kinda like the way I am this morning – plus I’m getting sick. (Instead of karmic destiny try karma biting me in the ass.)

My last words on this subject are this: my husband, Jon, said one thing to me that has made it a worthwhile experience. Applying for Clarion West made me take up short stories again, something I hadn’t done in over twenty years. While I did it, albeit unwillingly, I found out that I actually enjoyed it. It’s a completely different experience from writing a novel, and something I’ll continue to do. If it hadn’t been for Clarion West, The Mixtape Collection would still be a pipe dream somewhere.

If you’d like to read my short story submission you can find it here. Until next year.


Old times and your idols

How to begin the story . . .

The year is 1994. It’s a cold cloudy day and you’re standing with your friends in a queue that can only be described as “epic”. Your friend, Bob, has been holding a place for you on Shaftesbury Avenue for some time because he’s at uni and students can do things like that. You stand in line with your friends, you smoke a cigarette or two and curse your decision for wearing your long purple velvet skirt. At the time it seemed sexy – now it just seems silly. Still, it helps keep the wind out and it’s nice to be the only one in line not completely in black.

You stand and stand and stand a bit more and then you notice that the line is starting to shift. You think to yourself, “Hurrah! It’s about bloody time, otherwise, I’m going to require more than fags to keep me warm.” You are vaguely tempted to bugger off down the street to the nearest pub, but you’ve waited and it’d be a shame not to meet the man. I mean, he is the man, right? He wrote a whole comic that sort of changed your history – the least you can do is give him an extra ten minutes.

It’s finally time and you’re ushered into Forbidden Planet along with every other goth, nerd, art fan boy, and socially awkward creature waiting to see Neil and Dave (Did I mention Dave McKean? Yeah, it’s like a trifecta minus one.) You don’t stop to look, you don’t shop for the new Hellblazer and you certainly don’t dawdle over Nightmare Before Christmas figurines. No, you focus on what you’re going to say. You focus on what you can say to the man in order to get him to sign your jacket. You know you’ve already been told that he’s under a “time pressure”, but damn it, you’re determined and hell, you’re a girl, right? What the hell is the point of being a goth girl if you can’t use it to your advantage?

Still, you’re shocked when he says “yes”. And you’re even more shocked when he asks you to jump up on the counter in front of a store full of people. It’s at this point that you swear an oath under your breath about the god damn purple skirt, but luckily your boyfriend is there to help hoist you up.

You try not to faint from embarrassment as everyone ogles you with a resentful eye. You are hogging up the man’s time don’t-you-know, but you try to look anywhere but at the crowd. Seconds tick by then minutes and you can’t figure out what’s taking him so long. You look to your friend and she gasps. You want to ask what’s wrong, but you don’t. Did he forget how to spell his name? Did he spell it wrong and cross it out?

Now to put it in perspective, this is a vintage leather jacket from Camden market that’s already got three painted panels that you’ve worked so hard on. You can’t throw this jacket away and start again. No, you’ll have to live with whatever the mistake is and be done with it. After all, you are living in a hovel of a flat with no money. The jacket cost you at least 30 quid even in Camden.

You jump off the counter and the man reminds you to hold still until the ink dries. He gives you a secret smile and before you know it, your moment is over. You find yourself ushered out of the building onto the sidewalk trying desperately not to ripple the leather of your jacket, which means you appear to walk like a zombie.

Five minutes later, after a bunch of oohing and aahing from your friends, you get to see what Neil has left for you . . . a perfect rendition of Dream aka the Sandman.

Neil Gaiman Forbidden Planet 1994

That was me back in 1994. Young, impressionable, straight out of university with no job or at least with no job that required a degree in English Literature.

That was then and this is now.

Neil Gaiman Shawnee Small Mason Awards 2012

Not alot has changed in that time. Yes, the hair is a little longer, maybe a little bit of weight has been gained, and there’s the odd streak of grey here and there. The black is still there for both of us, of course. Unlike Neil, I’ve had several career changes since then. I’m now an author myself, which somehow seems poetic when I look back at the younger me. And Neil is still Neil, which pleases me to no end.

So where to go from here?

Well, I gave Neil a copy of Watcher, which was kinda like giving a candy bar to a god. Sweet, but potentially tasteless to someone who’s had only the best altar offerings. It’s hard to compete with that, but I had to do it. Even if he never reads it (I feel slightly nauseous if he does read it) Neil’s part of why I’m an author. If it hadn’t been for The Sandman and that fated drawing so many years ago, Watcher might’ve never existed. The whole Shining Ones series would be obsolete.

So thank you, Neil, for being an inspiration and an utterly lovely human being. And congratulations on your award. You’re still my idol after all these years . . .


(Authors itty bitty tiny note: Watcher was inspired in part by

Lucifer Morningstar in The Sandman, more specifically Lucifer's

continued story in "Seasons of Mists". More information can be

found on Wiki.)