Okay, so here’s a thing I did. You can read it now. It’s just your average tale of werewolves, Oxycontin and a pitbull named Pablo.
Okay, so here’s a thing I did. You can read it now. It’s just your average tale of werewolves, Oxycontin and a pitbull named Pablo.
HEY, IT’S SOME FREE STUFF. YOU LIKE FREE STUFF, RIGHT?
Course you do.
You save $4.99 on the first book of this brand new horror trilogy, all three books of which are now available for sale in the Kindle Store. It’s an unflinching look at what lycanthropy does for your resume (bad things, as it happens) and why you should never annoy the person who is preparing your dinner.
The whole thing was initially inspired by the stunning photography in the Netflix series Bloodline. As soon as I saw those aerial shots of the Florida Keys I knew I had to write something set against such a beautiful backdrop, and it certainly didn’t hurt that there was the grand old tradition of Southern Gothic to draw upon, with those drifts of Spanish moss and people going Tennessee Williams style crazy from the heat and the bugs and the oppression of their own ugly secrets. I had no exact idea where I was going with it but I knew I wanted the main player to be an old lady named Gloria – I had the Hendrix version of that song thundering through my head all last spring. And I knew the heroine – Blue – was from New Orleans and had been a teenager when Katrina devastated the city.
Then that kind of set me aboard a different train of thought, to a girl who had spent her whole life adrift in some way or another, scurrying ahead of social services who wanted to separate her from her bipolar mother, always wanting to be left alone to fend for herself, right up until those few days in the Superdome when she understood what it really meant to be absolutely, totally abandoned. She was a very solitary, self-reliant young woman and the more I got to know her the more I realised she was a little like Shakespeare’s Miranda, cast adrift and left for dead in the wake of the tempest.
That was when I remembered the production I’d seen at the Barbican some twenty years ago, with Simon Russell-Beale’s stiff, snarling Ariel, chafing at the bit of captivity. And there it all was – a girl cast adrift, who comes to an island of monsters, where there’s a once powerful witch now sliding into her dotage and the spirit she once marshaled to her aid is now figuring out a way to destroy her.
Now take that and set it against a background of skunkroaches, gators, werewolves, fundamentalists and other weird Florida wildlife, and you’ve got yourself a trilogy.
It’s a strange feeling, being done with something as huge as a trilogy. On one hand you’re going to miss it and the other you kind of want to punt it out of the door so that it can piss off and start earning its own living. Sort of like having teenage kids, I imagine.
And this thing is a monster baby. This afternoon I put the final touches to the final book, looked at the word count and whistled. The Wolf Witch comes in at a slightly portly 95k, the sequel – which you can buy at the end of this post, hint hint – is a tubby 97k. The final volume – Full Fathom Five – is a beast of almost 118,000 words, which is a monster for me, having cut my teeth on 75k genre fiction. It’s also one of the darkest, wrongest things I think I’ve ever written; there were moments where the story took me to places that were frankly so disturbing that I wondered if I should even go there.
Still, I suppose horror is pretty much the place for disquieting things that make your skin crawl. If I wanted to write about sunshine and puppies (and I actually kind of do) I’d write a children’s book.
Anyway, this is the sequel. You can get it on Amazon and if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber you can get it for absolutely NOTHING. So you should probably do that. After you’ve read the first one, obviously. Otherwise this isn’t going to make a great deal of sense.
That was the message on the Ouija board, but Blue is a long way from understanding, and as July’s brutal blue moon looms she is forced to face the reality of the weird new world in which she now lives. Gloria, being more wolf than witch these days, is not much help, and Gabe keeps pushing Blue away in a desperate attempt to protect her from the horrors of the full moon.
But Blue’s stared horror in the face too many times already, and keeps right on walking into the realm of the spirit workers, the all-but-extinct wolf witches who once derived their power from pack spirits like the murderous Yael, who’s been a little too quiet for comfort lately.
Also there are power struggles looming when exiled alpha Charlie returns to the Keys in the wake of the cannibal swamp-wolf murders near St. Augustine. And things aren’t going so well for the Okefenokee packs either, at least according to swamp-wolf Ruby, who’s come down south trailing a captive spirit tamer and softer than Yael, but no less potentially dangerous.
When July’s first full moon brings disaster for Joe Lutesinger, Blue finds herself thrown headlong into the role of wolf witch. There’s trouble at home and abroad, no instruction manual beyond an elderly cook book and Gloria’s increasingly in no position to offer help. Gabe can push as hard as he likes, but the more Blue learns the more she realises that even if she wanted to walk away, she’s in this thing far deeper than anyone – least of all herself – ever knew.
Isle of Spirits is the second book in the Keys Trilogy.
So, last summer I had this odd little bet with myself that I could bang out a werewolf trilogy in under six months.
I failed. It took me about thirteen months instead, thirteen months of hairy, bone-crunching, howling-at-the-moon craziness that has left me all but straining at the leash to piss off and write a nice flossy pink bubblegum romance, just to have a break from trying to think up the best ways to describe exposed rib cages and the noises that parts of people’s skulls make when they go bouncing off the kitchen fittings.
If you’re looking for paranormal romance, you might want to give these puppies a pass. Unless you really like knowing what kind of noises that parts of people’s skulls make when they bounce off the kitchen fittings, in which case welcome aboard, fellow weirdos.
So, here it is. Book one in the Keys Trilogy, a happy little bedtime story of Florida lycanthropes, man-eating rednecks and why you should never mess with the kind of crazy old ladies who keep leaving their dentures on the draining board.
Unfinished family business and a promise of paradise bring Katrina survivor Blue Beaufort to the Florida Keys, but what she finds there is beyond anything she could have imagined. At first glance her new home is nothing more than a small town in a tourist trap, unremarkable save for some unruly neighborhood dogs and a strangely high incidence of red-green colorblindness.
But then there’s the way the local boys tilt their heads when the wind a certain way, like they can smell trouble on the breeze, and while practical-minded diving instructor Gabe doesn’t seem the type to cling to superstition, he still won’t take the boat out when the moon is full.
And then there’s Gloria, a wilful seventysomething eccentric who for years has been den mother to packs of lost boys like Gabe, Joe and black sheep Charlie, but now presents them with the delicate problem of what to do with your elders when they start showing signs of dementia. Doubly difficult when Gloria – who even when healthy used to talk to people who weren’t there – shows signs of a miraculous recovery and drives all the way to Miami in her bedroom slippers.
When Blue steps in to help out, she thinks she’s going to be cleaning house and serving Jell-O and pills to an old lady, but Gloria’s house is not like other houses. The light fitting keeps swinging, and old records keep skipping, and Gloria’s miracle cure seems to have woken something in the house, a whispering entity that seeps into Blue’s dreams and starts showing her things she’d rather not see.
Like that cage in the basement.
As Blue wades deeper into the strange world of the wolf witch and her boys, she soon comes to realise that what happens at the full moon is actually the least of everyone’s worries.
The Wolf Witch is the first book in the Keys Trilogy.
(This book is FREE to KindleUnlimited Subscribers)
A lot of writers talk about process, and mine goes like this – SHUT UP AND WRITE. I seldom talk about what I’m working on as I find it kills my desire to get the thing finished; it’s like I’ve already got my storytelling jollies by telling it and then there’s no more satisfaction to be had in writing it out.
This also explains why I am not really very good at blogging.
I only feel really safe talking about things when they are very, very nearly done, and even then I feel slightly guilty about it, like when someone tells you that you can open your present before Christmas or your birthday and you do it, but it doesn’t feel right. Not really.
Anyway, remember a few years ago when absolutely everything was vampires and there were vampires on TV and vampires in the bookshops and some of them sparkled and others just had abs and were Alexander Skarsgard and Lindsay Lohan took selfies wearing fangs and everyone got really, really sick of vampires?
Well, shortly after that my brain decided it might be a good time to write a vampire novel.
There were a couple of problems with this. One was that everyone was so tired of vampires that it wasn’t even funny, and the other was that I don’t even like vampires. I enjoyed Anne Rice books when I was a teenager, but I’ve never managed to get through one as an adult. I like Dracula and I think Salem’s Lot is one of the best things Stephen King has ever written, but I have no patience for a bunch of undead mopes whining around the place talking about how hard it is to be beautiful, irresistible, basically immortal and (on more than one infamous occasion) sparkly.
Good fictional characters should change and develop, which is why vampires are at a disadvantage from the start; they’re basically frozen. They never age and never really need to fear death all that much. In fact some of the worst ones just sit about moaning about the fact that they’re never going to die (yes, you at the back with the widescreen forehead) and don’t even have the decency to try and off themselves properly. Seriously, just order some garlic bread and hop on a tanning bed for half an hour. Do the world a favour.
Anne Rice did a groundbreaking thing when she turned the vampire – the monster – into the point of view character. The trouble these days is that it’s been done to death and back, and I thought maybe it was time to take the vampires back to what they used to be; straight up monsters who want to eat you.
The other thing I knew I didn’t want was the kind of urban fantasy where there are vampires wandering around just because. I wanted something where vampires – impossible, mythical, storybook things – invade the real world. Dracula does this very well, with newspaper clippings and diaries. Salem’s Lot – which uses Dracula as a jumping off point – probably does this even better, with Stephen King effortlessly folding horror into realism as only he can. Another inspiration was Ultraviolet, the sadly short-lived Channel 4 vampire series starring Idris Elba, Jack Davenport and Vampire Beeehl back before his True Blood days. I liked the hard science edge of Ultraviolet and I thought I could do something similar with some characters who have been knocking around in my head in various forms for over twenty years now.
So that’s kind of how I ended up with a mental patient, a slacker magician and an underemployed pathologist up to their eyeballs in a series of extraordinary events that start when a goth spontaneously combusts in a quiet Devon churchyard. Now, I don’t know how far you can be said to be writing ‘urban fantasy’ when part of the action takes place in Sidmouth, but if there’s one thing I’ve always been good at it’s giving myself marketing headaches.
Read beneath the tag for a first nibble. This takes place when the main characters meet for the first time in the graveyard where a goth named Deborah Messinger goes up in flames. What Francis doesn’t know at this point is that Deborah’s partially cooked corpse is missing, having seemingly walked out of the morgue on her own steam the night before her autopsy. Continue reading
Yes, I’ve been a busy bunny. Or rather my alter-ego has. It’s probably my own fault for naming her ‘Jessica’.
The new Jessica Pine novel is on its way in the next couple of weeks, so if you’d like to add it on Goodreads you can now do so. It’s a fun, trashy beach read and likely to appeal if you enjoyed the Fifty Shades of Neigh series. Read below the cut for a nibble, if you are so inclined. Continue reading
Some books are easy to write. Whether it’s a character, an idea or a setting, sometimes something grabs you so hard that its impossible not to write it down. In the most serendipitous of these moments, the thing that grabs you is so grabby and so good that you can blast past the initial uncertainty and even flick two merry middle fingers to the dreaded Mid-Book Blahs.
The other extreme is a much more familiar story. It’s the one where you’re just putting words on page without much clue about what you’re actually doing or any real enthusiasm for the wordmatter you’re forcing yourself to excrete, two thousand words at a time. It’s those times when you’re staring at the screen wondering how the pink, frilly hell you got into this state in the first place, when the extent of the upfuckage seems so severe that nothing short of gasoline, a match and maybe a judicious ploughing of the earth with salt is ever going to even atone for the dreadful mess you’ve made, never mind clean it up.
At the very worst extreme it’s the point where everything grinds to a halt and you become that most pointless of creatures – a writer who doesn’t actually write anything.
This is usually the moment where a lot of people start blaming that mythical friend of all pun-inclined forum headers – the dreaded writer’s block. Before I can get into any more of the reasons why your novel might be stalled, we need to talk about writer’s block.
Look at it. Just look at what I just typed. Look at that fucker sitting there in the heading line like it’s an actual thing. I even gave it capitals. I don’t even give the sasquatch capitals and the sasquatch is more real than writer’s bullshit block.
Writer’s block is a myth. It does not exist. If you want to write, you will write. It’s that simple. There’s nothing stopping you. There is no magical anti-muse working against you. Writer’s block is bullshit. Say it out loud. Say it louder. There – doesn’t that feel better already?
Now, you may be side-eyeing this advice, which is fine. You may be thinking that it took Joseph Heller ten years to write Catch-22, and that James Joyce’s existence was a daily brawl with the written word when he would have much rather have been knocking out farty love letters to Nora. One of Joyce’s friends, so the legend goes, found James Joyce prostrate and groaning over his desk one day and asked him how the book was going. “How many words today, Jim?” the friend asked, only to meet with the despondent reply – “Seven.”
The friend attempted to cheer Joyce up by telling him that seven was better than nothing and that actually seven was pretty good going, for him, at which point the author raised his head from the desk and wailed “But I don’t know what order they go in!”
If you’ve read much of Joyce’s work – particularly Ulysses – you might understand the great man’s frustration. Every word, line and even punctuation mark in Joyce’s work is carefully considered and measured for shape, strength, pun capacity, resonance, texture and wit. It nearly drove him mad on numerous occasions, but the point is that Ulysses is complete. It’s done. If poor old brainstrained James Joyce can get from Stately plump Buck Mulligan all the way to yes, I said yes I will yes, then what the hell is your excuse?
If you’re citing – as the Bukowski poem goes – ‘light and air and time and space’ as the reasons why you can’t write, then maybe do something else. Find another form of creative expression that you like. Nobody cares that you can’t write unless you have the right chair and the right music and all your pencils are sharpened in a very specific way – we’ve all been there. Anyone who has ever put words on a page – either as a hobby or a profession – has at some point indulged in sometimes byzantine methods of procrastination, sometimes to the point of building entire houses in order to have the ‘perfect creative space’.
And it’s all pointless. It’s all utterly useless. If you find yourself tooling around in this way, maybe it’s time to ask yourself if you really want to do this at all. It’s not an easy question to ask yourself, and you may not like the answer, but that’s all it is – ‘writer’s block’, procrastination – call it what you will. It’s nothing more than your own laziness and reluctance to commit to a thing that – when you get right down to it – is actually a whole lot of fun.
Once you get past that and the answer is still ‘yes, I want to write’, it becomes much easier to stare down the real obstacles to writing (work, time, family) and make the time to write.
Stripped of its demonic, mythological status, writer’s block is often nothing more than a perfect storm of problems – plot problems, pacing problems, character problems or just outright problems with the entire premise of a novel in the first place. These are scary things to face, but like most problems they can be a) overcome, b) worked around or c) thrown screaming from a precipice into a gigantic pit of fire, scorpions and spikes.
I won’t lie – when it comes to problems, I have a sentimental fondness for option C.