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.
Here as promised, the buy links to Don't Let Go. ARe and Smashwords versions coming soon. Enjoy the book, and have a warm and wonderful Valentine's Day with the real or fictional (wait, there's a difference?!) persons of your choice!
Of course I don't feel better at all. I do feel more motivated, though,and I'll take that. Fear is good! Although I'll be terribly relieved once the book is finished and out there, I will miss Gideon and Lee a lot. I've lived with them pretty much constantly for the last five months and I've loved writing their story. Don't Let Go will finish up their plot arc for now and I'll move on to other projects, but I'll certainly return in future to find out what's going on in their lives.
For those of you who like excerpts, here's a little extra preview of my work-in-progress. (For those of you who don't - hide your eyes! ;-D ) It's a dark and scary dream sequence, in which Gideon encounters a monster and an unexpected friend....
The hallway was cavernous and dark. Gideon would never have tackled it, but he’d woken up urgently needing to pee. On his way back from the bathroom he stopped. His bare feet were chilly on the floorboards. Silvery television light flickered up at him from the living room below, whose door was ajar. His father so seldom allowed the set to be left on that Gideon crept across the landing and crouched, curious and fearful, at the top of the stairs.
The stair rods were as tall as he was. The banister rail sloped above his head. He was wearing yellow pyjamas with tiny ducks on them, and so he concluded that this was a dream. Nothing to worry about. He’d wake up soon in his own bed with Lee beside him. He just hoped he wasn’t talking in his sleep about the ducks.
He leaned his brow against one of the carved wooden posts. He couldn’t hear the TV broadcast very clearly but he picked out a couple of words. The sense of dreaming vanished and he was just a seven-year-old boy, shivering in his skin. The Cornish Panther, the newsreader said. Another child abduction. Devastating the small rural community of...
“Elizabeth, switch that off.”
“Please, John. I need to hear the end of it.”
A long gaunt shadow crossed the TV light. That was Gideon’s father, stalking across the room to snap the set off. “Why do you need to?”
His mother’s voice came faintly through the new silence, weak and unsure of itself. “These child-snatchings... They’re getting closer to us. First Penzance, then that place near Drift... It’s as if he’s working his way east.”
“As if who is?”
“Why, the... the Panther.”
“Elizabeth, the newspapers are well aware of the power of finding a name like that for a criminal. The Moors murderers, the Yorkshire Ripper... Make an effort not to fall for their sensationalist labelling.”
“It’s not the name I’m worried about. He’s taken eight children now, and he’s still somewhere out there. What kind of monster is he?”
“He may not be one man at all. The press may be making a many-headed monster out of several. Don’t be prey to fearful fantasies.”
“It isn’t reassuring to me that he might be several men, John. What about our children? Ezekiel’s old enough to take care of himself, but.. May I borrow the car tomorrow?”
“For a good reason. Not to take Gideon back and forth to school.”
“But it’s over a mile for him to walk. What if the Panther took him, John? What if he was out walking alone, and the Panther came with his red eyes and his great claws and took him, John? What if the Panther comes into our house at night, and creeps up the staircase, silent in the shadows, and...”
Pastor Frayne’s silhouette appeared in the doorway. “No son of mine should be such a bloody little fool,” he said, and slammed the door.
Gideon scrabbled upright in the sudden dark. Now everything was silent downstairs. Inexplicably, his parents’ voices were now coming from their bedroom. There was one line of light under the door. He wanted to run for his mother. But if he crept into their room – even after his worst nightmares – his father would pick him up silently, turn him so Gideon couldn’t see his face, and carry him back to his own bed. Never harshly, never cruel. Just cold, cold, cold.
Ezekiel’s door was shut tight. Gideon had learned better than to bother him. His bedroom was off-limits, the one private space he could have in this house where his every action came under unforgiving scrutiny by the pastor. With no other refuge, and the Cornwall Panther padding step by step towards him up the stairs, Gideon fled back to his own room.
He dived beneath the bed. The lino was chilly and damp under his belly but he lay flat, burying his face in the crook of his arm. His breathing rasped and he struggled to be silent – more than anything, not to sob out loud in fear and loneliness.
“Is it coming?”
He jerked his head up so hard he banged the back of his skull off the bed’s underside. He scrabbled backwards in terror. There was someone here beneath the bed with him. He inhaled for a howl: let the breath go in a shaky rush. It was just another little boy. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“Is it coming – the monster?”
The boy was dark haired like himself. He was skinny, and everything about him was ordinary except his eyes. Somehow they were green and silver at the same time. Gideon thought they were lovely, and they distracted him from his fear for long enough to speak. “Yes,” he croaked. “It’s coming up the stairs.”
“I won’t let it get you.”
That seemed a large claim, for someone in Star Wars pyjamas and a pair of bright pink socks, but Gideon kept quiet. Star Wars was a lot less embarrassing than ducks. “How can you stop it?” he asked, more in curiosity than doubt.
“You have to hold my hand.”
Gideon hesitated. Little boys who held hands in kindergarten got away with it, but something had happened in his first year at junior school, some bewildering shift that meant those same boys got called names. But the kid held out his palm with such fearless warmth that he reached back on reflex: held tight. “Okay. Now what?”
“You have to hold on. Don’t let go.”