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So, I’m pleased (in a complicated fashion) to announce the midsummer release of Kitto, the fourth book in my Tyack & Frayne series. Kitto is a mysterious young man whose arrival in Lee and Gideon’s lives causes huge disruption, not least to their plans for their wedding. I hope you like the cover art – I’m pleased with this one – and I’ll have a blurb and excerpt ready for you soon.

Why another Tyack & Frayne novella? What happened to the grand full-length novel that was scheduled to take up the best part of this year and explode on the world with drama and majesty early in 2015?

It detonated prematurely, that’s what. I actually had a bit of a disaster. And because I love you all so much, I feel that I should share with you my occasional total f*ck-ups as well as the good times. J

I had an idea, and a pair of protags, a terrific start and a great ending. You can probably see what’s missing here but I did not let that deter me. I was so wrapped up in adoration of these two guys and their situation that I thought I could make the book fly, and I blazed in and wrote the first third of it – two months’ work – before I could finally bring myself to admit that my wondrous new work was actually lacking a plot.

There’s a serious lesson here. I know a lot of authors can fly it by the seat of their pants, but I’m not one of them – not when I’m writing professionally and to a deadline schedule. All kinds of things can grow and blossom on the way but the plant needs a trellis, a nice strong shapely framework, and I need to build that before I start. No matter how long it takes, how much I’d rather just jump in and start writing... I need that.

And the death of this book really threw me. I spent another month trying to breathe life into it every morning, and every evening consigning it to the bin, and these repeated efforts became painful and distressing, a cycle of nonproductivity and self-doubt. Eventually Mrs H staged an intervention, hid all my notes and the manuscript I’d printed out so far, and suggested I try another episode in Gideon and Lee’s tale.

I really hadn’t planned to, not so soon. But it was such a relief to step back into their world. The awful sensation of struggle went away, and I’m pitifully relieved to say I’m more than halfway through, and pretty confident I’ll be able to release Kitto in time for midsummer.  It’s a financial necessity for me to do this, too:  at this stage of my career, I can’t afford three months without anything to show for the time! So I hope all you lovely readers who’ve been kind enough to say you love Lee and Gid will be pleased another story’s in the offing, and I beg patience of all of you – it’s long past time I delivered another full-length book, and I’d like nothing better. I just need time to get the air back into my lungs.

I am looking closely at why this happened. Yes, in part it was infatuation with an idea and a failure to create that scaffold. There’s other stuff going on too, though, and I’d be foolish to ignore it, even though DeNial is my favourite river of all. J I shan’t share biological detail (you might be eating, after all), but things do change for a female writer of a certain age. Or maybe that’s a huge generalisation. Suffice to say they’re changing for me. I never ever wanted a kid – why would I, when my sister has been kind enough to provide the world with a perfect one? – and have ploughed all my creative energies into my books. It’s disconcerting when the hormones and rhythms that have guided my body’s dance, the ebb and the flow of my writing, begin to falter.

And I miss the ease of it, the sense of capacity and fire. I can still do it, but I’m drawing on different parts of myself, and it’s hard. I’m not going to the wellspring any more. Looks like I’ve got an old, good, durable strata or two down there, though, and I’m mining.

What I’ve come away with is this. The daily fears, self-doubts, the plummeting sensations of failure – these are actually absolutely normal in a trade like mine, and more than ever to be expected at my time of life. If I say they don’t matter, that might sound heartless to anyone reading this who may have gone through the same thing. What I mean is that it’s bad enough to experience all these pangs and pains without the added grief of constantly trying to fend them off, to insist that we shouldn’t be feeling that way – that we’re so lucky to be writers – that we should be braver, stronger, thicker-skinned, whatever!  What I’ve started to do is let them roll over me. It’s no fun, but at the end of it all I’m still writing. A thousand words a day, come hell or high water.

And that is the only – the only – thing that counts.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 23rd, 2014 12:51 am (UTC)
Harper, I know it's not always easy and things don't always come to you or work out. I hope that you find your place and your space again. For myself it's the ideas that are often the easiest, but the rest that isn't. I know that doubts and other issues are part and parcile of things when it comes to any sort of creative work. So, for my part I just wanted to say I've enjoyed your past works and I look forward to what comes.
May. 23rd, 2014 09:18 pm (UTC)
I really appreciate these kind words, Krazysidhe. Yep, the ideas part is glorious, and then comes the infinitely tricky business of realising them in a story. I will be fine and it's great to have supportive mates and readers like you. xxx
May. 23rd, 2014 09:34 pm (UTC)
The details are the trick in writing, art or life. :)
Hollis Shiloh
May. 23rd, 2014 01:27 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing what's going on. I love your stories and I'm so glad there are more coming!!

I'm the sort of reader who would prefer shorter stories more often than longer stories with longer waits. It's because I'm immature? Maybe because I'm going to read it in one day either way...
May. 23rd, 2014 09:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Hollis, and that makes me feel good about whatever length of story I end up writing! :-D
May. 23rd, 2014 07:53 am (UTC)
Harper, I'm very pleased to see another Gideon and Lee story on the way. I'm sorry that you had such a disaster with your "grand full-length novel", and I hope that it doesn't undermine your belief in yourself as an author. Just look at the wonderful books you've written over the last few years; so many classics in such a short time! Everyone needs a break now and then (Josh Lanyon took a sabbatical, remember). I understand that you have financial pressures which prevent your doing that; I'm simply saying that you shouldn't be too hard on yourself. You've already found part of the solution -- you're writing a different book.

Maybe the book about the two guys will continue to percolate at some level until the plot emerges eventually, while you're working on something else. Maybe it won't. But you're still a wonderful writer and you'll find your way through the hormonal and other changes. (But keep checking your iron and B12 levels!)
May. 23rd, 2014 09:34 pm (UTC)
Helena, you're absolutely right, and weirdly enough now that I've taken the glaring spotlight of my stressed-out attention off the Grand Work, I *am* having some ideas for reanimating the creature. I also very much appreciate the reminder that I have done pretty well over the past few years: once a book is done I tend to forget that it was an achievement and go scrabbling desperately for the next thing. And I will have that sabbatical one day! (though will probably end up writing a book about it... ;) xxx
May. 23rd, 2014 08:50 am (UTC)
I love long books but you'll write one eventually! I love Gideon and Lee too, so a midsummer story is an unexpected treat to look forward to. I know exactly what you mean about having a strong trellis - otherwise the wind just blows the rest of the story away! When you do 'something completely different' sometimes your subconscious gets on with building the trellis when the pressure is off, so you never know, the long book might happen yet. If it doesn't, another one will. Thanks for keeping us in the picture, anyway!
May. 23rd, 2014 09:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you, moth2fic! I think there are some subconscious stirrings in there already, so you never know. I'm delighted you're looking forward to a bit more Gideon and Lee. xxx
May. 25th, 2014 03:38 pm (UTC)
Glad You're Back!
Dearest Harper, I've missed your wonderful stories and have wondered how things were going for you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Things always have a way of working out. I was fired from my job two years ago and was emotionally and financially devastated at the time. Now I look back and realize that getting fired was the best thing that could have happened to me. It opened up so many doors I never would have thought to knock and lead me to new friends I never would have met. Let things flow and fall where they land...meanwhile I'm so happy we'll get to see these two wonderful men again soon. I've missed them too. Thank you.
May. 27th, 2014 10:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Glad You're Back!
Hello, Darkvamp, and thank you for that kind and inspiring message. Redundancy hit me hard too but it kicked my writing into high gear. I'm not saying the first few years were anything other than terrifying but you're right, things do sometimes fall out the right way at the right time. Glad you're looking forward to more Gid and Lee xxx
Jun. 1st, 2014 08:18 pm (UTC)
Harper, dear Harper, Panic not, your fans will look forward to the new Tyack and Frayne as an unexpected bonus. I sent a book to Josh Lanyon for his opinion which came out that I can write, that was encouraging, but that the book had no plot. You are not alone, don't beat yourself up or beat your head against a brick wall, leave it to mature. My book has a plot now, but having cut it in half and sorted out part one, it still needs more major surgery and part two needs a lot more work, at present its only about a quarter of a book and I am sick of it, so I have put it aside, but I will get there. I have had a long period of not writing and am now disciplining myself to write again, in a fantasy world I know well. As for the hormones, well maybe this verse or worse will help.

Ladies prepare for some shocks
Cos I think the menopause rocks
There are pills for hot flushes,
Lube for dry tushes
And dye for the grey in your locks,

Fear of the menopause? Never!
It won't ruin your sex life forever,
No more pain, no more mess
No insane PMS
It's like being a man...only clever.


Edited at 2014-06-01 08:20 pm (UTC)
Jun. 2nd, 2014 07:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, Seraphina, thank you - I could use a laugh about this whole insane biological situation and that certainly did the trick. Just brilliant! I'm sorry you're locked in creative struggles. Ah yes, how well I remember coming under the surgical knife of Doc Lanyon. :) But pain from that quarter has inevitably meant ultimate gain for me and I hope you have the same experience. Cripes, he once made me re-cast an *entire book* to tight-third POV. I really wanted to kill him, or myself. But that turned out to be Driftwood, so I guess all ended well. I hope your love for your quarter book will return after you've let it lie fallow for a while. I'm certainly feeling stirrings of affection for the Disaster now that I'm two thirds through writing Gid & Lee 4. And it's a great idea to return to familiar ground in order to re-establish the magical drudgery of the writing habit. I wish you the very best of luck with every word of it xxx
Jun. 2nd, 2014 08:50 pm (UTC)
Tyack and Fraayne
About to ride again
Fans can only bless
Your munificent largesse!

Jun. 6th, 2014 05:09 pm (UTC)
Hah! You wrote a poem for me. I love it. And how encouraging! :-D
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )