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┬áSandman 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.)



What happens when outlines go bad

This morning has been pretty rough. Well, actually, it’s still rough, but I needed to take a break from the hysteria to get a better perspective. You know that bit I said about euphoria and hysteria in equal doses – I meant that. And today fits that perfectly.

So what’s gives?

Well, I think in hindsight I had it pretty easy with Watcher. Call it beginner’s luck or perhaps it’s first novel mojo, but whatever you call it, it’s been severely lacking with this second book.

I’d say that today I have officially woken up and smelled the coffee. Today I realized that I was actually struggling. The pacing’s off, I’m about hundred pages short of the first book, and the ending feels a bit rushed. My other half tells me just to finish the darn thing and go back and edit, but I’m afraid I’m not built that way. No, instead I’ve spent the morning poring over the storyline and trying to figure out where I’ve gone wrong. And you know what? It became clear very quickly.

I’ve got a bad outline.

Yep. The outline I set up for myself at the beginning of writing Protector has some major flaws that I’m just noticing with only a third of the book left to write. The red flags should’ve started waving earlier when I found myself combining chapters in the first 30% of the book. Combining chapters is never a good thing – it means that you didn’t have enough flesh for those chapters to be robust, stand-alone scenes. In itself it’s not horrible if it happens once, but when you find that you’re combining multiple chapters all over the place, suddenly, you have a great big gaping hole.

And that’s what I’ve got. I have a stagnant space right before the final story arch. It’s big and ugly and staring balefully at me even as I write up this blog.

So how do you fix it? Good question. Right now, I’m re-doing the plot lines for the last remaining chapters as they stand. I’m hoping that by plotting them out on large sheets of paper I can see where the worse offending gaps are. It’s sort of working. I can see the black hole that has swallowed up my next chapters, but the unfortunate part is I don’t know what’s going to fill that hole so I can get to the end.

That’s the dilemma that I’m tackling now. What sort of action and information would be useful to the reader to enhance the story and not bog it down? Filler for filler’s sake is good for no one.

So wish me luck. I need it.

What I did on my summer vacation

Bill Nye The Science Guy

It is somehow apt that I’ve come up for air right when the kids are going back to school. Probably even ironic given the fact that I have no children unless you count 2 very furry and smelly dogs. Yeah, not quite, right?

So where have I been and why have I been so quiet? And while I’m at it, what’s going on with Protector, Book 2?

Those are the questions that I have been dealing with as of late. Yes, I have been missing for some time and yes, it’s been eerily quiet so what gives? Well, while I’m sitting here listening to Amanda Palmer belting out about love and Southern Comfort and wondering if it’s wrong to fall in love with Bill Nye for being totally awesome, I have made a list of things that I’ve learned over my summer vacation –

Shawnee’s List of Summer Vacation trivia:

  • Dirty vodka martinis are the stuff of legends
  • Ghost stories are all fun and games until they happen to you
  • It’s good to have a five year plan
  • There’s always time to see a gig . . .The more the better
  • 115 degrees is only something you should experience in an oven
  • Family may come and go, but friends are forever
  • You can never have enough Dr Who paraphernalia
  • The gym is for people who like to inflict pain

On a more serious note, I have been closeted away at home in the la fuma chair (and a desk!) working diligently on Protector, Book 2 of The Shining Ones series. I’m slightly off my schedule, well, okay, pretty far off schedule and I wish I had a good excuse, but frankly, I don’t. It’s funny, really. While I felt pretty gutsy writing the first book, Protector is turning out to be a soul-searching-trying-not-to-scream book of epic proportions. I have loved and hated this book a hundred times more than I ever did with Watcher. It’s been crazy. I have watched (no pun intended) as Poesy and Adam’s relationship has deepened, have seen more people die in pretty horrific ways and have found myself meeting new characters that I didn’t even think would make it into Protector. I have found a new love and have rekindled old ones while also being extremely neurotic about characters growing up and getting a clue . . . And this is while being only half way through. If I didn’t need therapy before writing this book then I will definitely need it after.

So what can I tell you about Protector without spoiling it? Hmmm. Protector will lose some of its predecessor’s YA qualities. It had to happen sooner or later. I don’t really feel comfortable being in my 40s without there being some more adult content in there for us older types. Blame it on my re-reading of Ann Rice’s Cinderella erotica, but it’s time that the Paddy’s crew embraced their age. I’m also excited for you to meet some of the new inhabitants of Tybee, but don’t get too attached . . . I’m just saying. And I’m thrilled for you to see how things progress between Poesy and Adam and Birdie. I’m love them all, but there can only be one.

So, nice to see you again. Hope you had a good holiday, too.



PS – For more about my summer holidays, you can find me on facebook here or here