Tag Archives: characters

A Box Full Of Ashes – The Trouble With Vampires

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


At Weekends My Name Is Jessica

I aten’t dead. Just busy.

I suppose, after being extremely quiet for most of September, I should explain myself. You see, while I love self-publishing because of the way it allows me to write exactly what I want to write when I want to write it, it also follows that it takes some time to build up momentum on Amazon.

There have been countless books written about this and there will no doubt be countless more, attempting to explain the mysteries of SEO, how the Amazon algorithm works and how you can game the search engine to your advantage. I’m willing to listen to some of these theories, but ultimately if you want to carve yourself out a niche in fiction, keep carving. Write more books. Seriously. You want to be a writer? Good. Write. That’s pretty much how it works.

The trouble, of course, is that while you can pound out novels like there’s no tomorrow, there’s no guarantee that the damned things are going to sell. On reflection it may have been a bad idea to put my historical novels on Amazon when historical novels are not traditionally Kindle store fare. I’ve had some senselessly lovely reviews and I am grateful for each and every person who downloads them – thank you. I mean it.

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Kindle favours genre fiction. In fact, the first time I ever heard of e-books, Nooks and Kindles was on the popular Romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Romance readers were definitely the early adopters of e-book technology, possibly because e-readers meant they could read certain books on public transport without strangers making snap judgements about their intellect. Let’s face it, those old school clinch-covers were pretty painful. If there’s one thing Fifty Shades did do for the romance genre, it steered us toward the ‘moodily lit plot point’ cover. Admittedly this means Fabio gets less work, which seems a shame, since Fabio is quite nice, by all accounts.

There is also no getting away from the fact that romance readers are some of the most ravenous bibliophiles known to humanity. The Kindle store bears witness to this fact. The subcategories on Kindle fiction (UK) tell me that the smallest fiction subcategory is Sea Adventures, with a tiny 11 entries. The biggest is Romance, a behemoth with over 137,000 titles to choose from. (Close on its heels is Erotica with 108,000, although this is hardly surprising since Kindle porn ‘books’ are usually under 10,000 words and the authors are terrifyingly prolific.)

Historical fiction? A modest 33,000.

Numbers were very much on my mind last month, as I perused the phone bill and read the last rites to my elderly washing machine. It was obvious that I needed another, more lucrative string to my bow.

So, without further ado, meet my alter ego – Jessica Pine.


Just A Small Town Girl will be available at Amazon.com for just $2.99, and it’s a sweet little love story featuring antiques, stoners, bikers and the cosmic question of whether the vegetable Bog was hollowing out for a bong in chapter seven was in fact a rutabaga or a turnip.

Follow the cut for a nibble. Continue reading

Fifty Shades Fatter – Now Available in the Kindle Store!

Are you ready? It’s time for more dick jokes!


They’re back, they’re bigger, and they’re in therapy.

“…don’t you talk to me about mommy-issues, Crispian Neigh. Between the crack-whore, your nightmares and that dipsomaniac bitch who hates me…”

“…oh, like you’ve ever given her any reason to like you. You don’t even try. You just stare at your fucking thumbs and cry into your lap!”

“As if it would make any difference!” I yell. “She made up her mind to hate me the first time she saw me, all because I was taking her precious little baby away from her. Just like she hates your sister.”

“She does not hate Alicia!” screams Crispian, getting to his feet. “You take that back. Mommy loves us! Mommy loves us all!”

“She told you to go and get shanked in the prison chow line!”

“So she has a dark sense of humour!”

I shake my head. “This is beyond dark, Crispian. This is…darker. This is complicated.” Oh hot damn…and maybe a little bit…sexy? I sit down and press my knees together. He’s gazing thunderously down at me. “We have…issues,” I murmur.

“I know, right?” His brows quirk up under the shade of his fedora and I melt. Holy crap.

Dr. Quinn glances up from this month’s issue of ‘Which Luxury Yacht?’ magazine. “Yep. You do.”

Also includes bonus material, I Read Fifty Shades Darker So That You Don’t Have To.

Get it now!

Stay tuned for further news about Fifty Shades of Neigh promos, or subscribe for weekly updates, giveaways, sneak peeks and more.

The Pleasures of Play-Doh

Still thrashing out some last minute edits for Fifty Shades Fatter but with a bit of luck and a following wind the thing should be available in the Kindle store next week. I’m also trying out Rachel Aaron’s method for cranking up the wordcount. I can’t report that it’s been a total success – at least not yet, since I only bought the book yesterday, although I have doubled my wordcount today so far and feel like I still have gas in the tank, so to speak.

Word-counting can sometimes feel counter-productive to me; I’ll hammer out three thousand words in a day and then the next day getting anything on paper will leave my head feeling like an orange that’s already been squeezed to within an inch of its life and then some. The thing I like about this advice that she emphasises notes – notes, notes, notes. Make them. Lots of them. You are not nearly as good at keeping things straight as you think you are.

It makes sense to arm yourself before advancing into forest of an intricately plotted novel. There are things in there that will eat your brain, spit out the pips, burp and laugh mockingly before finishing off the rest of you.

I also like her advice on keeping your characters reasonably squishy. One of the reasons I tend to avoid writing forums is that I just get sick of seeing the same questions asked over and over again, and the same mistakes made too. Someone will wander in and say ‘How do I write fictional characters?’ and then someone will offer the helpful suggestion that they should fill out some kind of D&D sheet, or some elaborate questionnaire determined to discover the character’s favourite colour, their rising astrological sign and their preference for lobster over shrimp. This is why I don’t go to writing forums. I don’t want to be the apparently crazy person capslocking IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER.

But seriously. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. There’s no point setting your characters in stone, because they are not stone. They’re Play-Doh. Specifically, they’re your Play-Doh, and you can make them do or say anything you need them to. Obviously with main characters this comes with a certain level of limitation. You must still strive for consistency. One of the gnarliest problems I had with Paris Green was that when I looked back at the first draft I realised that my heroine was wandering around behaving like a woman who had just undergone a personality transplant. I was so invested in the love story playing out in the background that Caroline suddenly turned into this siren, rather than the anxious, angry and deeply damaged young woman she was in the first half.

But would knowing that her favourite colour was pink rather than blue have changed or helped with this? Of course it wouldn’t. There’s no reason to worry yourself with these superficial details.

The thing about not tying yourself down to specifics is that you have all the fun of inventing new details about the characters as you go along. For instance, I always saw Andrew Blakemoor as having really good cheekbones – nose too long and chin, chin too short, ears too large, but man – he had some good cheekbones. His voice I kind of imagined as a male version of Clarice Starling – very soft, very countryish. I hadn’t committed myself to making him a Southerner, but somewhere along the line I picked up North Carolina and suddenly those great cheekbones made sense; his back-teeth were rotted to hell from all that sweet tea. His passion for sugar was suitably fly-like, considering that he lived most of his life as a sort of psychic parasite.

It was one of those lovely little moments of serendipity that make life much more fun for a writer. It’s even more fun when you’ve got a character like Andrew Blakemoor; someone who lies so often and so well that you can reinvent them every time they turn up.