The Bechdel Test – An Article What I Wrote

sexism-in-film-helen-mirren

So, how many films are there where more than two named women talk to each other about something other than men?

You can find out more (and read my amazing Vats of Blue film script, SOMEONE LET ME WRITE A HOLLYWOOD TREATMENT NOW) here.

Cover Reveal: The Seal Girl

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The second set of Buzz Books USA Mythology High Stingers by UK author Magda Knight will be released later this spring, starting with Seal Girl. Digital ARCS are going out now so if you’re a book blogger or with the media, message buzzbooksusa@me.com if you’d like to review it.

I’m really excited about this series. I’ve handled a trilogy of celtic myths (the selkie, the pooka and the banshee), all in a high school setting. It’s a magical Mean Girls, with no magic and lots of mean…

Cover Reveal: ‘The End Was Not the End’ Fantasy Anthology

The End Was Not the End

It ain’t over till the last dragon sings.

Cover reveals are a thrill. Aside from the edits, the bio, the signing of contracts, they’re the bit that makes a writer get goosebumps because it’s all REAL and you can see it.

This cover for the upcoming ‘The End Was Not the End’ fantasy anthology from Seventh Star Press is by the award-winning Bonnie Wasson, and I love the colours. The idea of a skull reduced to chewing on tree roots makes me feel indefinably sad.

A big thanks to Joshua Leet, Stephen Zimmer and the Seventh Star Gang for including me in the anthology.

Sad Snow Bunny

I just made this sad snow bunny. He was meant to be cute, but the snow wasn’t sticking right (I tell you, it wasn’t) and he ended up looking rather eerie instead.

A mad, evil, eerie, sad snow bunny, just like the one in Donnie Darko.

Say hello to the sad snow bunny! And now let’s run away from him before he catches up…

snow-bunny

EDIT: I have just had good advice from a friend:

“Don’t run! You should buy a itty bitty tiny freezer, put him in it and airmail it to ME where he can free-range happily in minus 20 until April. He won’t melt and die, but burrow down in the neighbours’ sawmill where he can dwell through the warm months to be resurrected next October and proceed to haunt this valley FOREVER! I love evil looking snow bunny, and if you give him to me he will have a good life and if I happen upon a fairy I’ll make her turn him into a real bunny.”

Sounds good to me…!

One for the ladies wot write.

shes-a-writer

A friend sent me this directly after I’d invited them to my Unbirthday party featuring tea-duelling and a kazoo orchestra. I can’t think what they mean.

A Tim Burton Christmas

Because nothing says Christmas like spicy witch fingers and cheesy monster eyeballs!

 

witch-fingers

Writing advice from Rolling Stone Keith Richards

Music documentaries are endlessly fascinating to me, and they beat documentaries about writers hands-down when it comes to engrossing visuals and sounds. About the only thing the two documentary types have in common is an above-average culture-quota of black leather jackets. Garth Marenghi, Jim Morrison, I’m looking at you. Except I’m not, am I? Because I can’t tear my eyeballs from your matching jackets.

As I watched the recent Rolling Stones documentary, Keith Richards let slip a gem while doing his very best Jack Sparrow impression…”When it comes to music I look out for the silence between the notes,” he said. I’m paraphrasing wildly, but that’s honestly what he said. “That’s where the magic happens.”

And he’s right, isn’t he? Lots of magic hides in the silence. Look at those strange pauses infused by Indian rhythms in Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliott. Look at the deep blues of the Rolling Stones, and the weird sexy dangerous bits between the thuds. Look at every song ever by the White Stripes. Meansters made fun of Meg’s blunt attack of the drum machine, but under Jack White’s mentoring her simple, drawn-out icky thumps make up 50% of that tasty alchemical gumbo.

Is it possible to play with silence in writing as well as music? Can it be laid bare to give depth and structure to a thing? Can you zen yo bad writerly self into seeing the spaces between the leaves of a tree as tangible,  as much a ‘thing’ as the leaves themselves? I’m pretty sure there was a zen exercise about this. But I practice the Zen of Forgetting on a regular basis, so I’m not the best person to ask about things of the past. On the upside, ask me how many pairs of stilts a mouse should have and I’m THERE, baby.

Anyway. Silence in words?

Maybe it’s the rhythm and cadence of a thing.

Maybe it’s the empty page itself, printed or made of light, and the way you make the lines squiggle onto it. That phrase. That word. Maybe it doesn’t want to hang out with the others in a big old herd paragraph. Maybe it’s outgrown them. Maybe it wants to hang out on its own, over…

Here.

Or maybe word-silence is the weird void where the thoughts come from, even if you sometimes stumble and think there’s nothing there. Maybe word silence lies in all those latent potential ideas as they build sufficient kinetic energy to come out of the void. Maybe it’s the pull, the rush that lurks behind every episode of writer’s block. I’ve always suspected that writer’s block represents too many ideas jostling for attention, desperate to be the one at the front, not too few. Yet, because they’re potential ideas, they’re only visible when you shine a bright light on them. We think they’re not there. They’re the emptiness. The not-here. The silence.

For me, writer’s block is a silent world doesn’t exist. It’s a really interesting void, a sunless abyss where Things Want to be Seen. Where Things Squirm Around in the Dark.

I’m not sure what word silence might be, yet.

But if it’s anything like as powerful as rhythm and blues, it’s a powerful thing indeed…

The Imperfect Perfection of the Love Triangle

Twilight. Harry Potter. Shades of Grey featured one between a girl, a boy and a furry spatula, probably. Love triangles in fiction, especially YA fiction, might be isosceles or equilateral or, or, you know, the other kind of triangle that I can never remember, but they’re THERE. Actually, my bad: they’re never equilateral. All three protagonists would end up with an equal dollop of power and desire, and what would be the point (yes, I went there) of that?

A number of agents profess to be sick to the back teeth of the YA love triangle and actively pay attention to synopses that don’t have one. If you check on Goodreads or any other reader networks, many regular YA readers are also happy to lay into the whole triangley thing to the point where our vulnerable three-pointed friends are beginning to feel like a marginalised group. Readers may not specify what shapes they’d like (dodecahedrons are probably a little too edgy) but triangles are OUT, my loves.

But what’s wrong with a nice, sturdy little triangle? It’s a humble beast, yet it reaches to the heavens if you point it the right way up. You just have to get the angles and degrees right. When crafting a love triangle it’s all about what angle you take, and to what degree it’s integral to the story.

One thing you often see on Goodreads is this:

“Oh noez I read this thing and YOIKS it had yet another love triangle, BUT…”

The reader goes on to specify what they genuinely liked about the characters or the situation or the thing, the other thing, the thingy-thing they actually genuinely liked. This other thing is, weirdly enough, often coloured by the presence of emotional stuff. Readers actually quite LIKE protagonists having problems with their heart-bits. They’re just tired of seeing the same emotional mechanics as that really big popular book which everyone read before it got turned into a film. Yes, that one.

Here are my love triangles so far. You are welcome to say if you think they work or not.

GATEWAY BOY: David (the hero) and Molly used to be best friends but after several years apart they’ve discovered their affection has grown stronger over time. However, David’s got the whole of England to save and Molly is locked into an arranged marriage because that’s how queening and politics work in the Kingdom of Below. It’s not really about the triangle, it’s more about discovering that mutual affection is really nice and can help you in the dark times when you’ve got some Big Stuff To Do. Also, very importantly, whatever your loveliness situation is, you never know what’s going to happen next.

JABBERWACK: Ellie Darkbrow and Vin grip their shovels tight as they unearth collapsing social systems and rising entities, but they’d rather work these problems out with each other than anyone else. No love triangle. They don’t need to sniff round anyone else. People have asked me if there’s a secret love triangle between Ellie and boy b, or between Ellie and girl b, but there isn’t. Ellie and boy b and girl b don’t fancy each other. And while boy b may not be gay, girl b definitely is. It’s sometimes hard to believe but you don’t have to fancy literally every person you meet. And, even if you’re (trope alert!) really beautiful and don’t know it, they’re under no obligation to fancy YOU. I know, amaze! But it’s true!

HOUSE OF SIGHS: HOORAY AT LAST IT’S A GENUINE LOVE TRIANGLE BY JIMINY. However, it’s an integral part of a locked room mystery set in an Orphanage where nothing is as it seems. At the risk of spoilers I will say that while Jane’s decision to pick Mort or Nicholas Hobb will make a big difference to everything that ever was, she’ll be in a pickle either way.

Not every book needs a love triangle. They may well help things sell to readers who have not yet had a relationship and would like to experience ALL the twists and turns of love in about 300 pages. That’s fair enough. But only you can decide, as a writer who is writing a book you’d want to read, whether your book should have one or not.

FIXING THE YA LOVE TRIANGLE. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Firstly, we are going to do a flip and make the YA hate triangle a trope. As soon as you know what a hate triangle might be and how it might enrich human experience and literature, get back to me.

Following a mate’s suggestion, we can try thinking about choice triangles instead of love triangles. Three sides, but many facets of human nature.

We are going to be brave and explore other love shapes like points, lines, teetering trapezoids and shapes that only exist if you can operate in six dimensions.

We are going to remember that colour by numbers results in a delightfully hamfisted picture of a sailing boat, but not a book that we or anyone else can be proud to have on their shelves or their portable magical box.

How to Write a Novel in a Week

How to write a novel in a week? Okay, I’m lying. But not by much.

THE HOUSE OF SIGHS is the latest. In one week I’m 57,000 words in, bringing the total up to 66,000. You know how long the other 9,000 took me? Two months.

Here is the blurb for HOUSE OF SIGHS, by the way: Jane doesn’t remember anything. The only thing she knows is that she’s an orphan and she has no second name. The Orphanage is the safest place in the world…

Before this one there was JABBERWACK (63,000 words in a week) and before that there was GATEWAY BOY (60,000, but “how to write 60,000 words in a week” doesn’t have the same ring to it).

I would like to point out that those words were not ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY over and over again. Deary me no, they were splendid words. As splendid as a first draft written by me can hope to get. I invented this method out of sheer frustration, and if it worked for me it can work for you too:

STEP ONE: HIRE A HOLIDAY COTTAGE FOR A WEEK

Make sure you know the beginning and (kind of) the end of your novel before you go.

Make sure the place is affordable, and has a pretty view. You won’t be seeing any of that view, but it’s really important to know it’s there. Holiday places are at their cheapest out of season.

Make sure you know the taxi number if you need to get your luggage to and from the train station.

Make sure there is an Indian takeaway. If you’re like me, you’ll be living on takeaways for a week. If you’re not like me, ensure all your food is microwaveable so preparing delights to sustain you will take a maximum of six minutes.

Make sure you have no friends to visit in the nearby area. They’re lovely friends, but – just for a week – sod them.

Last, and very important: Make sure you have no idea how to get onto the internet.

STEP TWO: DON’T BREAK THE RULES

My rules were:

1) Start writing by 9am.

2) You haven’t finished for the day until you’ve written 7-10,000 words.

3) Writer’s block does not exist.

Just three rules, but coupled with the splendidly sharp focus that spending money you don’t have on a week away can bring, you will, I am sure, get results. I have never yet, in twenty-one days of doing this, broken these rules.

I have had moments of blank-mind panic, and cups of coffee that lasted longer than strictly necessary, but I never stopped writing to such a degree that I didn’t hit my daily word quota. When I’ve had doubts then, to quote Chandler, a man walks into a room with a smoking gun. A couple of chapters down the line and you’ll be pretty sure why he did it.

At home, the world exists. People exist. Job hunting and the internet exists. In this happy little Gulag, this wonderful bubble of exile, the only things that exist are the next cup of coffee, the next meal, the next view of lovely countryside you’ll never walk in, and the next word. Normally I’ll only write 1,000 words in a day. This system changes all that.

Obviously, because I’ve made this system up I have no idea if it will work for anyone else. But I’m back, and I’m happy, and I’m a whole heap nearer to writing those crazy and rather magical words THE END. It may well work for you too.

Also, it turns out that the internet did not fall over while I was away. RESULT.

Mythology High Series to get an outreach campaign to English teachers…

Ah, some nice news on a fragile morning after excessively celebrating the return of an Esteemed Niece from Australia.
The glorious Buzz Books have announced signing me to their MYTHOLOGY HIGH series. The first story in the trilogy, SEAL GIRL, will be available as a one-off stinger, and then POOKA and the third story will be available as a collection and then included as a volume with Jammie Kern‘s first three stories in the series.

Excitingly, the Mythology High series is undergoing an outreach campaign to English teachers. Proactive work like this is why Buzz Books are so darned exciting, almost as exciting as actual bees. Incidentally, Buzz Books, you’re looking quite marvellous today. Did I tell you you look good in that hat? I did?

That’s because IT’S TRUE.

It’s really worth joining WINGS, their social readers’ club. You get special discounts and access to competitions, although with stories that are so nicely priced you hardly need the discounts.

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Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.

One bow, many arrows...

Malena Lott | stories. strategy. spaces.

D.E. Atwood

...writes books she wants to read...

Kip Wilson Rechea

Write, travel, eat, repeat.

Encyclopaedia Vanitatum

a dictionary of spectral curiosities

Sarah Hans

Author, Editor, Educator

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