What has writing taught me?

My first children's novel, EREN - a dark middle grade story about a boy who meets a monster who eats stories - is being read by editors in the UK and the U.S. right now, submitted by my agent.

My second children's book, which is about two boys who mess with dreams and old gods, is now, officially, finished. Well, the first draft is. Much more to come on that one (including the title; a quick brainstorm with some Twitter-friends the other day has whittled it down to either THE NOUN THAT VERB, or THE NOUN OF NOUN AND NOUN, but I don't know if my agent will go for that...)

If you ever wondered what it takes to write more than one book...

Two books. I'm proud of that. It's taken a few years. I must have learned something, right?

Well, yes. Except that I haven't written two books. I've written five and two halves, over more than ten years. These last two are just the only ones good enough to make it.

There was the first book I ever wrote - which has since been destroyed, save one copy - which suffered so many problems I'm amazed the agents I sent it to even replied. But they did. And you know what? They said nice things. Encouraging, helpful things. I guess I was a pretty cute 13 year old wannabe.

There were a couple more after that - one that I think does have promise, and one that I think will probably never come to much. I submitted both of those to agents, too. I was an optimistic child, if nothing else.

The two halves are more interesting. One failed. One is just on ice, but with many plans for the future.

My point? That no writer just writes a book and stops. Practice makes ... well, not perfect. But better. Yes. Practice makes better.

What else? First drafts are exactly that. Those naive, if incredibly cute, first attempts to find people in the industry who liked my stuff were just premature. Books need work, and a hell of a lot of editing.

I've also learned about professionalism and encouragement. Great Zeus, but publishing is a fantastic industry. Creative, inspiring, and filled with people who care so, so much about what they do. That encouraging letter to my 13 year old self really did keep me on the path to where I am now. I still have it, too. Maybe one day I'll meet the agent who wrote it. She's still around.

The Jupiter de Smyrne, discovered in Smyrna in 1680[1]
Great Zeus
The time I've been writing - over a decade, which sounds a lot more grown up - has taught me something, too. Publishing changes, but good stories don't. Neither do kids. Not really. Kindles? E-books? Self publishing? New Adult? What does all that really mean to the readers? At the end of the day - and I know some will disagree - I rather imagine it doesn't mean a lot to the kids out there who just want to open a book, jump in, and dream. Don't spend time fretting about changes and the impact it might have on your career before you actually have readers. And don't try to write for what you think the market will be, if that's the only reason you're doing it. Believe in your books, writer! You have to be the first one who does. God knows no one else will, to begin with.

Rubbish Zeus
So. What else have two (or five and two halves)books taught me? That 'said' really is the best dialogue tag in roughly 98% of cases. That adverbs can be used well, but lots of people still hate on them. That 50,000, or 40,000, or 30,000 words sounds like such an easy thing to do, right up until you find yourself in the early hours of a Sunday morning, bottle in hand, drinking to forget, cursing the world and yourself.

That community matters more than probably anything else when you're an aspiring writer.

That people care about you doing well, and want to help you get there.

That writing isn't an easy life, but for some, it's the only life there is.

Am I sounding trite? Well, how about this, then: I've learned about agency contracts and publishing agreements, royalty cheques and advance payments. I know what the AAR is and how to query in two different countries. I can use the world 'slushpile' without batting an eyelid and can format a ms., correct margins and font size and spacing and all, like it's no one's business. Synopsis? Easy. Name five top editors and agents they've done business with in the last year? Piece of cake. I joined the SCBWI, too. I made this blog, and my Twitter account.

My point? I've worked at things beyond the writing itself. It's that professionalism thing again. Writing is my passion. Of course it is. But if I want people to pay me for it, I recognise the need to play by at least some of the rules.

And lastly - what has writing taught me?

That I really don't know very much. I have so much more to learn. From other writers, from my frankly astounding agent and her colleagues, from editors, from strangers, from family and friends, from books, and from readers. It's a learning curve, isn't it? Getting better and smarter and more savvy. But hey - know what? I wouldn't give it up. Not for a second. Not for anything.

Onward, comrades.



Wednesday's Inspiring Books

Morning, one and all.

Christmas in New York is a pretty awesome time - the decorations come out, markets open up, and shops go out of their way to outdo one another. Last night I, my wife and a friend dropped in to Union Square Holiday Market, filed with the usual tempting but slightly too-expensive-to-buy art, treats and gifts.

Photo: Christmas in #NYC. The market in Union Square.
And also, famous landmarks

On top of this, I'll be in England in 23 days, and Wales for New Year. So much to be done.

Today's Inspiring Book is one I have been back to time and time again, dipping in when I remember lines, double checking, wanting to show others. 

It's also not really meant to be a book. 

It is, instead, the collected letters of J. R. R. Tolkien: 

It might seem strange that this is on my list of inspiring books. After all, I admitted on this blog that I haven't read Lord of the Rings. That might seem especially odd when you realise my family, and my wife, are all huge Tolkien fans. Huge.

I read Tolkien's letters out of mild interest. I studied Old English at university, and a bit even before then. That Tolkien was a scholar before be was an author made him far more interesting to me, and his philological work and knowledge of world  mythology remains just as interesting as his published fiction. The Monsters and the Critics, his academic essays on Beowulf and other matters, changed Anglo-Saxon scholarship forever.

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien are fascinating. They start when he was a single, unknown undergraduate at Oxford, and end right before his death. This man was extraordinary, but seeing his ordinary life - his struggles, worries, thoughts on local characters (including C. S. Lewis, of course), on Oxford, and on LOTR as he wrote it, got it published, and then experienced its huge popularity - is something special. It's satisfying to know how it all turns out, as well. When Tolkien writes about his new project, and you realise what it is, you can't help but smile.

His letters to his children, often serving abroad in the war, are also touching and filled with a very keen Christian insight. His letters to his first readers, explaining points of plot or linguistic confusion are also immensely satisfying - Tolkien's grasp of the world he created probably remains the bar against which all other fantasies will be compared. 

A good, great man
So, inspiring stuff indeed. If my writing, and my mind, are half as good as Tolkien's, for even half of my life, I'll have it made. In the age of e-mail, it's less and less likely we'll be able to read writers' correspondence in this way. We can, though, at least look back at this man, and appreciate even more of who he was.

Go on, be inspired for a bit.



THE DRAFT IS DONE, and other news.

Good morning to you all.

A busy few days here, with the four day weekend from Thanksgiving through to Sunday meaning a lot more time sitting around, eating with friends. Thankfully, it did also mean more time writing. So much so, in fact, that I was able to share in an impromptu Twitter celebration on Saturday after announcing I had finished the first draft of the next book.

Kindle avec New Book
No title, still. It's proving a tricky one, but I'm sure we'll get there in the end. For now I'm calling it The Story of Peter in lieu of anything more concrete.

With this draft finished, next comes the cooling off period. I'll keep busy for a couple of weeks, on other projects and Christmas prep., and then come back to it with fresher eyes. There's work to be done; plot to be tightened, dialogue to be tidied up, loopholes to be closed. Even typos and spelling errors, and inconsistencies in naming, can be ignored if you're too familiar with the text. So, for a while, I'll let it steep.

I'm really pleased with it, I have to say. Think it'll be a strange book, and the ending isn't necessarily happy, even if it is a bit more resolved that EREN. This book has been many months in the making and many years in the planning. Funnily, I remember the exact moment the seed of the idea came to me. I was in Osaka, Japan, in Universal Studios with my sister. Perhaps it was the music, or the crowds, or nothing from there at all, but I had an image, and one line of dialogue. That was - what? - three years ago? Well, here's the book. I'm speedy, me.

It's the most magical place in the ... no, wait ... 
In other news, today I send off the contract to Indigo Ink Press for THE STORYTELLER'S JIG. I am most excited. More news as it comes. Also been enjoying the latest SCBWI magazine, and, of course, decorating for Christmas. And so the world turns...



Wednesday's Inspiring Books - CLOCKWORK

Happy Wednesday, one and all.

So, what's going on here? The WIP grows every more, and is now well over the 26,000 word hump and heading into the home straight. You can read a post I made here to see why 26,00 is almost 40,000, really. Almost.

The mug I'm sending on as part of the SipSwap blog celebration arrived yesterday. I won't tell you what it is in case its intended recipient is reading this, but I promise you, it's a goodun. Kinda want to keep it for myself. Hm.

Also started batting around a few ideas on a new project - something different to my previous and current stuff, which is exciting, challenging, and scary all at once. That probably makes it a good thing. Also signed up for December's AW Blog Chain - The End of the World! Which will be great.

But enough of me. It's Wednesday morning And that means one thing.

Wednesday's Inspiring Books returns.

Today, Philip Pullman's CLOCKWORK, OR ALL WOUND UP.

Philip Pullman is a marvelous writers, one of the pioneers of children's writing living today. His HIS DARK MATERIALS series, no matter what you think of the theology, is remarkable - broad and profound in a way few children's books are. His mastery of language and craft are beautiful to watch and when this combines with the sheer effort he puts into his books, you get Good Things.

CLOCKWORK is an odd little book. Odd because it's so simple, in many ways, so focused on a few simple tales and the art of storytelling itself. Little because - well, because it is. It's a short story, really. Maybe a children's novella?

I first read this book when I was in France. I'd taken a few books with me on a family holiday, should I need some entertainment beyond the Gallic landscape. I left it untouched for a while. I'm not even sure why I'd bought it. Finally, one day - perhaps it was raining - I sat down and jumped in. And wow. The ending of this book - which I won't spoil, but I will say is technically astonishing and very satisfying - shocked me. Writers could do that? They could have all the streams of a story just come together like that? I'd never seen it coming. I wanted to do that.

The title comes from one of the main stories - a broken clock, and a clockwork figure made for the position. It also comes from Pullman's understanding of good story telling - that you wind up all the factors, all the characters and plots and scenes, and then they go, and they keep going, and eventually it's not you who's driving the story. It's a good understanding of the best stories. In the end, it's not always the writers who decides what the end is. 

I'm not going to say much more. You should read this book if you want to know what I'm talking about. Go on. Read it. You won't be sorry. Time's running out, y'know.

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

Tick ...


NYC Waterfront Recovery and Staten Island

A piece I wrote for work - found here - which I thought would be good to share around, still. I was back on Staten Island this Saturday. Inspiring, grim, and surprising, all at once.


Citywide Waterfront Recovery - Staten Island Still Matters
Photo by T L Miles

Like many this past weekend, I left the comfort of my own home – with its restored power and heat, and my thankfully untouched belongings – and traveled to Staten Island, to begin the slow, dirty job of cleaning up after Superstorm Sandy. The work to be done there is unpleasant and at times depressing. The people, however, are warm, welcoming and endlessly inspiring. It’s not often that Americans living on the affluent East Coast – especially near New York City – find themselves faced with the destruction of their lifetime possessions. This, though, is the reality for thousands in the wake of the “storm of the century.”

More than two weeks after Superstorm Sandy brought devastation to much of the East Coast, the recovery is well underway – but the final cost and impact of the storm is only just becoming clear. The latest figures related to loss of property, revenue, life, and government cleanup, suggest a figure between $83 and $87 billion. The final cost, in the years to come, may well surpass $100 billion. How does the local and state economy recover from such a hit? And what is the future of the affected waterfront areas?


The cost of the September 11th World Trade Center Attacks ($83 billion, according to The Partnership for New York City) and how the city has recovered from that tragedy offer some insight into the resolve of New Yorkers and the NYC economy’s ability to recover. Though the effects of the storm will be felt in the city over the coming months and years, stability and financial recovery are guaranteed. However, the issue of physical recovery  is more complicated. The site of the Freedom Tower was flooded by Sandy making it worth noting that even more than a decade after the Twin Towers fell, rebuilding has not yet finished. Cleanup and rebuilding take time.

New York City’s waterfront has only two viable options: abandonment, or a sustained, long-term commitment to rebuilding, fortifying, and investing. Of these, only the latter is truly a possibility.

That NYC’s 520 miles of waterfront are some of the most attractive development sites in an already crowded city and have attracted attention of developers and investors adds an extra urgency and tragedy to its current state. After this disaster, will the waterfront still become a place where people want to work, live, and invest?

The full scale of the damage to much of the New York City shore is yet to become apparent. Beyond the obvious physical destruction – the houses, cars, businesses and lives – already covered by the media, the ongoing recovery efforts are facing increasingly insurmountable difficulties. Delicate electrical systems in basements and subway stations are easily damaged by salt water – we now can see how probable such a situation is as the water from Superstorm Sandy so successfully flooded such large areas of the city. The contamination from sewage, chemical-tainted waters, and mold, along with the overwhelming amount of debris still to be cleared, has rendered many areas uninhabitable, and the damage to essential infrastructure is yet to be fully understood.

The economic toll of Sandy is complicated to define. The loss of power to downtown Manhattan forced many businesses to close, relocate, or simply improvise for days. For certain areas of flooded downtown, the wait may extend to weeks. At the same time, New York City has recovered before, and the nature of the startup and entrepreneur industries – defined by their flexibility and energy – means that for many, working from home will do little to damage output. The influx of donations and government aid, and the simple fact that in a city of such limited space, rebuilding is a necessity, will no doubt result in an invigorated waterfront, complete – one hopes – with an infrastructure and flood defenses capable of withstanding any repeat of Superstorm Sandy.


Still, it may be too soon to look to the future and hope. The day to day reality for thousands is one of grim work and uncertain prospects. Staten Island, especially, has been hit hard by the storm, and the understandable habit of economists to focus on Manhattan must give way to pragmatism and a city-wide focus on recovery. Staten Island has sometimes been called "the forgotten borough" he recent controversy over the ING New York Marathon divided SI from Manhattan like never before, and Mayor Bloomberg’s final decision may well have prevented full scale riots in the borough.

For the last two weekends I have visited Staten Island alongside thousands of other volunteers to work with those who have lost their homes and begin the cleanup operation. It is not hyperbole to say that many have lost everything. Houses still standing may nevertheless be destroyed, the contents lost to the flood waters, and the buildings condemned by the Department of Buildings. It is not only basements that were underwater. In Oakwood and New Dorp Beach, blocks of houses have been left uninhabitable and full of the broken and still sodden belongings of the families who once lived there. The real needs of those on Staten Island have not been fixed by returning power to Manhattan. Investment in waterfront development for business and investor use must go hand in hand with a firm commitment to restore normalcy to these communities. Staten Island is New York City, and the genuine anger felt by some there towards the marathon, and the perceived resource drain, is understandable once you’ve witnessed and comprehended just how much they have lost. Far from a “them and us” mentality being allowed to develop, however, the city must unite, focus on its citizens, and then look to the future.

Crain’s New York Business on Tuesday suggested that plans for the waterfront’s future must include traffic congestion control, telecom protection, and a willingness to move certain essential features out of nature’s way. Superstorm Sandy has, perhaps, given NYC one gift: an awareness of the dangers of its current situation, and a focus, driven by real grief and renewed vigor, on what needs to be done to ensure Staten Island, and the entire city, is saved from similar future calamity.

For now, though, every day, every weekend, and every evening, we will see volunteers – often from out of state, sometimes from out of country – slowly but surely help put back together the lives that the storm tore apart.


It's Good to Know: A Glossary of Writing and Publishing Terms

Making it as a writer has become increasingly complicated, yet increasingly possible, with the advent of the digital age. Gone are the days of a lone author spending hours by candle light pouring his heart out, bundling the pages together, and sending it into the ether. Heck, even since I started sending stuff out in the late 1990s, the whole scene has changed. Facebook didn't exist then. The Internet was still widely distrusted. Printed out, real-world, read-them-in-the-bath copies of your book were the norm if you wanted to submit to an agent.

File:Tamagotchi 0124 ubt.jpeg
Not everything in the 90s was quite so amazing. Photo by Tomasz Sienicki

Nowadays we have Kindles, self-publishing, writers' forums, Twitter, e-mail, and heck, even smartphones that do pretty much everything.

There's language to go with all of this. Interviewing Kelsey Macke the other day on her path to getting published, I realised something. For those of us already active in the online literary world, talking the talk is easy. But we've been doing it for years. Those starting out - as we all did, once - are faced with an ever growing list of terms, acronyms and slang that can act as a barrier.

Barriers are bad. Barriers keep people out. That's not what writing has ever been about.

Take this paragraph from Kelsey's interview, quoted here with her permission:

Currently, I write stories for "young people." I refuse to say that I only write YA (even though the only completed manuscript I have is YA) because I also plan on writing MG stories, and trying my hand at the new and oft debated NA category.

YA? MG? NA? They all make sense, as long as you know what they mean (Young Adult, Middle Grade, and New Adult, by the way - all classifications of books by age-range for use in-house and in-store).

Wait. In-house? It can be hard to avoid buzz words. So, let's try to clear a few up, at least.

Book Stuff:

  • PB: Picture Book (also, sometimes, Paperback). Books with lovely pictures. Young kids.
  • MG: Middle Grade. Book for kids aged approx. 9 - 13.
  • YA: Young Adult. Think The Hunger Games. Ages 14 - 18.
  • NA: New Adult. You'll see this more and more, but it's not gospel yet. Essentially, college ages. 18 - 21.
  • pp. : Pages. As in, how many.

Writing Stuff:

  • CP: Crit Partner. Someone you team up with to read each others' work and offer criticism and advice.
  • Beta: Beta-reader. Someone you get to read your book once it's done to offer feedback.
  • MC: Main Character. Pretty self-explanatory.
  • WIP: Work In Progress. The book you're working on at the moment.
  • NaNoWriMo. You'll see this one a lot at the moment, since it stands for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event that runs through November. The aim is 50,000 words, start to finish.

Agent Stuff:

  • ms. /  mss: Manuscript / Manuscripts. The full copy of your book. Can be physical, or digital.
  • Sub / On Sub: On Submission. You submit your finished book to agents. Thus, you're on submission.
  • R&R: Revise and Resubmit. If the agent likes your book, but sees flaws, they may ask you to make some changes and then send it again. Not an offer, but a great thing.
  • Exclusive: Agents ask for exclusives if they want to make sure no one else is reading your ms. at the same time. You can say no, if you want. There's no real benefit to the writer.
  • Rep: Representation. An agent represents your book to publishers.
  • AAR: Association of Authors' Representatives. Professional organization in the U.S. for literary agents, with a code of ethics and conduct.
  • AAA: Association of Authors' Agents. Professional organization in the U.K for literary agents.
  • Slushpile: The pile (sometimes physical, sometimes not) of mss. waiting to be read. Normally unsolicited.

Publisher Stuff

  • Big Six: A catch-all term for the largest publishing houses - Hachette, Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group/Macmillan, Penguin Group, HarperCollins, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Though Penguin and Random are going to merge soon, which makes it the Big Five, I guess.
  • ARC: Advance Readers Copy. Before the official publication date of a book, copies are sent out for reviews and to generate interest. ARCs are not meant to be sold, though they can be traded, won, and given away.

Let me know if there are more to add. Have I left out some obvious ones? Or have you come across some new terms that need defining? Feel free to let me know in comments below. 



Awesome Writer Interviews: An Interview with Kelsey Macke

As part of a new series here on the blog, I'm thrilled to bring you the first ever Awesome Writer Interview, featuring the inimitable, the original, and the surprisingly turtle-esque Kelsey Macke. Kelsey's a gal with her finger on the pulse of what it is to be an up-and-coming writer, and was brilliant enough to answer a few of my questions. Check out her blog (which also has her interviewing me on it. Crazy!), dig her funky Twitter, and see what she has to say about life as a writer ... well, right here:

Awesome Writer Interviews: An Interview with Kelsey Macke

SPC: So, what kind of stuff do you write? And what led you to that genre?

KM: Currently, I write stories for "young people." I refuse to say that I only write YA (even though the only completed manuscript I have is YA) because I also plan on writing MG [middle grade] stories, and trying my hand at the new and oft debated NA [new adult] category.

SPC: Inspiration-wise, which books, and which authors, have had the biggest impact on you?

KM: I began writing my manuscript, DAMSEL DISTRESSED only a few months after reading John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. That book wrecked me. After reading it, I found myself hungry for the chance to tell a story that is even stocked in the same bookstore as that one.

I also love JK Rowling, of course. I'm a lover of much kids lit, including books by Matthew Kirby, Darren Shan, Stephanie Perkins, and Suzanne Collins.

One of these people is not John Green

SPC: Let's talk social media. You blog! You Tweet (you Twit?)! Have you found it helpful? Would you advise writers just starting out to get involved online?

KM: I have been an Internet addict for at least 8 years. (I've been blogging for over TEN!) You can look up your twitter user number which lists members according to when they joined. My number is 5,418,192. The site passed 500 million this summer.

I LOVE social networking, and I have accounts all over the wide spanning web. I think that social networking is KEY for authors who have been published. I think it is important to a lesser extent to aspiring authors because it's so easy to waste time "networking" instead of, oh, let's say... ACTUALLY WRITING.

So, yes, if you can manage your time well, and want to begin the incredible process of networking, I'd recommend twitter to all of those aspiring artists.

SPC: Three writing tips. Go!

KM: Hmmm. So silly because I'm certainly not an expert. :)

First, don't force it. Words that come naturally are often the most important ones.

Second, follow your instincts. I don't do everything the way I'm SUPPOSED to, but I'm true to myself and that has resulted in plenty of awesome coming my way.

Lastly, don't write on an island. UNLESS YOU CAN ACTUALLY GO TO A TROPICAL ISLAND IN WHICH CASE WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS--GO TO THE ISLAND! But seriously, connect with other writers and share your experiences. Going it alone is awfully hard, and wouldn't ever work for me personally. Find CPs [crit partners] and betas [people to read your book] and friends and share the journey together.

SPC: You had a great post on your blog a while ago about making your own writers retreat. Got any other habits to share? How do you tend to write? [The post, by the way, can be found here]

KM: I write in bursts. Sometimes I can only squeak out a few hundred words and other times I lock myself up for 3 days straight and write ten thousand. I try to always be patient and flexible with myself.

SPC: I know you're knee-deep in revisions and edits right now. How's that going?

KM: They're OFF! I finished requested revisions and sent them to their respective destinations. I blogged just a couple of days ago about how HORRIBLE it is to wait for responses. But I hope that the feedback is positive and helps me get to the next step.

SPC: What's the last book you loved?

KM: The last book I LOVED (other than the manuscripts of some of my stupidly talented pre-pub friends) was DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor. I can't wait to dig into the sequel, DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT.

SPC: I have to ask - there are some wonderful pictures going round right now of you dressed as a TMNT. Just for kicks?

KM: I teach middle school! 6th - 8th grade! This means we have lots of school activities that are silly and exciting for the kids! It was "twin day" and since my pals and I can't follow directions, we decided to go as a foursome instead, hence the ninja turtle costume. I was Raphael. Obviously. Cause he's awesome.

Awesome is certainly the word ...

SPC: Submitting your stuff to agents, what have you learned that you'd love to share with others?

KM: I've learned that you'll always have to wait... at least a little bit. I've also learned that agents really are just people. You click with some... you don't with others. You need them as much as they need you, and you shouldn't settle for just anyone. Ideally you'll be working together for much of your career. Choose wisely.

SPC: Open question! Anything you wanna say - cute kitten pictures to share, political platforms to expound?

KM: I'll just leave you with a thank you for the interview and the friendship, Simon! You've been such an inspiration and I'm so happy the interwebs landed us in the same boat!

Also, CHIN UP, writers! Keep fighting the good fight! :)

Thanks, Kelsey, for being such a good sport. What did you think, guys? Here's hoping it's not too long before her book is adorning shelves worldwide. Kelsey's interview of me can be found over on her blog, and if you want to get involved being / getting interviews, just get in touch. SPC.


Publication, Competition, Participation

Normality returns, slowly, to the east coast - though it's not here yet. Not by a long shot. I spent yesterday working on Staten Island, doing a tiny, tiny percentage of the clean up work that's left to be done.

On that topic, it's important I announce here that the competition I ran the other week - the book giveaway - is not going ahead. Instead, the money I would have spent has gone to Sandy relief. I feel OK doing this since nobody who entered had to put themselves out; it was retweets and blog comments to enter. If you want to discuss the morals of this, get in touch. Otherwise, no 'winner' when so many have lost so much.


News to be shared: My short story, THE STORYTELLER'S JIG, is going to be published. Coming from Indigo Ink Press next May, Modern Grimmoire is an anthology of modern fairy tales in the style of the Brothers Grimm. I'm very pleased to have my story included. It's a strange little piece, but I'm proud of it, and having others read it only makes me even happier. A full list of the other contributors can be found here.

A small change to the blog, too. There's now a Short Stories page, just to the left of this. Wanting to make more of my writing available, and to collect the various blog chain pieces I have. Feel free to read the stories.

I'm also taking part in Kelsey Is Writing's #SipSwap funpalooza - a great bloggy adventure (blogventure?) where you give a mug to get a mug from various kooky and quirky people around the U.S. Already have a great idea for the mug I'll be sharing - what will I be getting in return? Do check out her blog - she's a writer with real passion and a great handle on how it works in a community. Go, read.

So, much on at the moment, and the WIP progresses nicely, too. Still no title. Hmm.



This Morning

The Sound of Trees

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

Robert Frost


Always Keep Going

My usual blogging schedule has been off for a few days. After Sandy took out our power I was without my laptop - and even once it was returned, there's been much to do. The coast around here - areas called Union Beach and Keyport especially - and Staten Island in NYC have been devastated. That's not too strong a word to use. I've visited those three areas in person, and will be going back this weekend.

Naturally, I encourage anyone reading this to either donate financially, or through giving the most needed food and goods. I leave it up to you to work out what that means, and which charities, if any, you feel comfortable getting behind.

NaNoWriMo is in full swing, now! But not for me. It might sound like a cop out excuse, but the lack of power at the beginning, and the sudden pressure on my time, means I'm not really in a state to do it.

But I wanted to offer a small encouragement to those who are.

Two years ago, living in Japan, I did NaNoWriMo. It was a book I'd had the idea for for a long time, but it had just sat there, gaining dust and slowly growing. NaNo gave me the impetus to get down to it, and the community to drive me forward.

That book is now agented and on submission, right now, to publishers in the U.S. and the UK. So what's my point?


It can happen. The frustration and the edits are worth it. Ditto the late nights and the moments when you're convinced that no one - in all history - has written such a piece of trash, that this plot couldn't ever have made sense - what were you thinking? - and that you might as well quit.

Don't quit. Don't.

Write, write, write. Write because you can, and because if no one else in the entire world believes in this book, you should. You're the one to write it. And you never know what the future holds.

Heck, I live in the U.S. now. I lived through the March 2011 earthquake in Japan and now I lived through Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey. Who knows what's yet to come?

Believe. Write. Live.

I don't want this to sound like a load of trite pick me ups and meaningless platitudes. But I know how frustrating writing can be, and I know that sometimes we need others to point out what we're aiming for. Your book can happen, if only you write it. So go on. Do it. Write!