Halloween special release – watch from 5pm!

Tonight only! View our award winning zombie short film – The End – perfect for Halloween.





A girl interrupted….

It’s been a while, I know. I got interrupted. Life interrupted. Not only that, it made me face reality, which is never nice. That’s why I write fantasy.

The upshot is I had to increase my working hours; my paid for working hours, not the ones I spend bleeding onto the page and scratching letters in the blood. Now it’s all numbers, spreadsheets, policies and politics.

I’ve been sitting in bed at night, because they are the only free moments now available to me, thinking, ‘well I have about an hour, I could write something…’ and nothing comes. Nothing.

I feared my creativity had been sucked into a corporate void, I was being absorbed into the borg.

Then last night, I picked up an old script. It had been commented on by a guy called Erik Bork, who is, I understand, someone in Hollywood. I was supposed to have worked on it a while ago, but knowing the day of fiscal responsibility was looming I decided to use my last remaining days attempting, in vain, to finish my novel. I ignored the script. I re-read the comments and under “overall thoughts” it said:

‘this could definitely get real attention at festivals – and be compelling, emotional, entertaining and memorable’.

I dusted the thing off and began the re-write. Who knows if it’ll ever get made, who knows if it’ll ever get to a festival, but I should at least give it one more go. After all time is always running out.


My heart is still with my novel, but it’s better to write something and delete it later, than to write nothing at all and never know.

Here’s to carrying on no matter what.

Searching for inspiration 2: the parameters of magic

In Searching for inspiration 1 – I got some great feedback on the issue of creating great battle scenes in novels. I’ve not yet had time to read the books you all suggested, but I will –  after that and a bit more thinking time I’m going to tackle the re-write of my own battle scenes. The second major issue – which I need to solve before I can tackle my battle scenes, is getting the magical elements of my book just right.

For a fantasy writer the use of magic is a major issue.

I’m currently mid-way through an old fantasy novel written sometime in the 1980’s. Let’s just say it’s probably ‘of its time’. In many ways the book is well written, but the novel’s hero has the ability to summon and command powerful gods. So, whenever he’s in a bit of a tight spot he utters some spell and conjures a god who sorts it out. I’m going to plough through to the end because I hate to leave a book unfinished and am hoping its all grist to the mill, but there’s very little tension for me in seeing him facing any enemy.

If magic can conquer all, then it would, end of story. So, without trying to put fetters on our imaginations, I think fantasy writers need to come up with some ‘rules’.

Now I’ve read some blogs which firmly disagree with this. I can see where they are coming from too – after all, this is fantasy it is supposed to be fantastical.  There are some great books where magic is an unknowable force, even for the most knowledgable characters in the novel; where magic can be conjured but its effects never be accurately predicted. But this is a ‘rule’ in itself – this creates the tension. You don’t know what will happen when someone casts a spell, it could depend on their mood, their ingredients, the words they use etc.

One pitfall (I don’t think I’ve fallen into), is to use magic to get myself out of a writing dead-end. As with the novel I’m reading right now, using magic to solve every problem is just boring after a while. It smacks of lazy writing, even if the manifestations of the magic are amazing and awesome (I hate that word) it’s still a cop out.

Despite knowing what I like and dislike about other fantasy novels, I have found myself needing to take a step back from my own writing to make sure I’m on the right track. I’m not going to go away and draft some intricate magical system, I think it’s a fools errand. I’ve written some random notes about vaguely where I think the magic comes from and how it manifests in my world and what it can and cannot do. My major issue is the use of magic in combat. I want to have a lot of proper medieval style battles – just ‘cos that’s what I like 😛  – so there’s no way I want my magic making such battles irrelevant. I’m still undecided, however as to whether magic should have some place in it.

For me the magic isn’t the key to holding the novel together. It runs through it, helps to create the texture of the world but is only one element weaving through the story.

Once again any recommendations for books with subtle or well-crafted magical elements would be great. Also I’d love to hear about how other fantasy writers tackle this issue.

Developing strong female characters in fantasy novels

A couple of weeks ago I knocked 80,000 words (yes, eighty thousand) out of my manuscript. Now, at 174,000 words the tome was very, very heavy so it could certainly bear this loss. What I cut, however, was my female lead, Agnes.

I didn’t cut Agnes out because she was a weak character, or because she was female I cut her out because her journey was essentially running in parallel with the main storyline. I was bringing her through childhood to a point where, at the end, she’d be primed for action in book two. I love her and certainly want to revisit her, but when I took a step back I saw there was just no need for her. I felt upset to have lost Agnes, but pleased with myself for having been so brutal.

Now I have a book full of men. I like men. I especially like the men I have created, but I can’t bear to carry on with a book with so skewed a bias. I do have three female characters, one of whom was crying out to be developed, but I want to be careful as to how I do develop them.

Often you find that in films and some books strong female character = ‘bitch’ or ‘plucky but ultimately ineffective’. (I mean Keira Knightly in  Pirates of the Caribbean, did anyone even notice she wasn’t in the last one? Sorry, I’m not keen on Ms Knightly)

I’m not a feminist, or at least I don’t think I am. Come to think of it I’m not sure what one is anymore, so perhaps I am, but I do think it’s important to consider what stereotypes you reinforce or reflect when you write.

Any recommendations for fantasy books (or any genre) with good female characters who aren’t bitches, overly masculine, or just a tragic love interest would be greatly welcomed – I know there are many out there.

The Arvon experience – Part 3 – fears & dreams

Overcoming fears and making dreams come true.

Overcoming fears

A large part of the success of the Arvon format is simply that, for one week, it brings together a group of writers. At first this can seem a little daunting. After all, aren’t ‘other’ people so much more ‘sorted’ that oneself; more confident,  more experienced, more talented? What becomes clear, during the week, is almost everyone else is thinking exactly the same thing. It was great to spend time with a group of people experiencing the same challenges; difficulty finding time to write, difficulty in sharing the process with one’s nearest and dearest, feeling guilty for writing when there are ‘more important’ things to be done and so on… (if you’re a writer you’ll be able to add to the list!)

Testament to the power of Arvon in bringing writers together and facilitating the forging of relationships that go beyond the week itself, six of the attendees  had met on a previous course. This group set up, and encouraged others to join, student led co-mentoring sessions. I didn’t join myself, mainly because my aim on the course was to pull my sprawling novel together, rather than focus on specific passages. However,  those who did go found the feedback on their writing useful.

Every night three or four students read a five to ten minute passage from their work in progress. Each night I enjoyed the variety of styles and the sheer talent displayed – I also experienced a growing sense of panic about reading my own work. I considered simply not doing it, but I would have been the only one who didn’t. So, I put my name down for the last night and probably wasted a little too much time agonising over which passage to read. (If anyone is interested I might post the passage here; seeing as its escaped my clutches and wandered into the ears of real people already?)

Part of my initial reticence was that no-one else was writing fantasy (or sci-fi), although there were a few writing something with a fantastical element. Maybe Arvon should consider a fantasy writing course? That would bring the weirdos out of the closet – I include myself here!

When I finally did my reading the reaction was good. I was relieved to have got through the ordeal, for me that was an achievement in itself. The group gave me great feedback.

Making dreams come true.

Thursday seemed to be a turning point for a lot of us on the course. I spent a lot of time on my own, getting over the grief of my massive 80,000 word cull and going through a heap of self-doubt. I later discovered quite a few people were having a similar experience that day. Perhaps it was something in the air, or perhaps it was the fact the end of the week was in sight and we were all desperate to make some momentous breakthrough. The realisation began to hit home that however much input a tutor gives you, at the end of the day its down to you to make your dream manifest.

I had one dream of the outcome I wanted from the course. I didn’t mention it to anyone, because I felt it very unlikely to come to pass. To my quiet delight, on the last day of the course, in my last tutorial, that dream was realised.

I spoke again with Alan about my novel. He said some very positive things about my the depth of my character development and the story overall. He then told me that he felt my work might be of great interest to the publishing industry/readers if I could get it out in the next couple of years. He advised me to re-write over the next year and then send it to him. He offered to read the whole novel and then, depending on it’s state, pass it on to a contact of his; a prolific fantasy and sci-fi writer also involved in the publishing business. He felt this contact may well be interested in it or at the very least be able to put us onto someone who might be.  And there it was, my pre-course dream: that someone in the business would read my work and tell me they knew someone who might be interested.

Now the hard work really begins!

Are you developing an unhealthy relationship with your character?

Now here’s me baring a part of my soul; I have never actually talked about it…nope not to anyone. Excellent blog broadcast material then! As a writer (or indeed as an Actor – would love to hear from you too), have you ever developed an unhealthy relationship with your character(s)?

I should probably outline what I mean by this (although feel free to let me know your own interpretation if you have one).  When I began writing my novel (still in progress), I experienced something close to euphoria as scenes and characters began surging into my mind. When this started to happen I wasn’t thinking ‘this’ll be written into a novel’, I was just completely absorbed in shaping and inhabiting the characters; watching as they and their surroundings grew in my mind. I remember taking a three hour drive somewhere, as a passenger. (Something about the landscapes rushing past my window combined with good music always sparks my imagination.) I hardly spoke for those three hours. If asked a question I gave short answers, eager to get back to my daydream. I was, in fact,  a bit of an arse.

Having thought about it since, I wonder if it is something akin to the way an actor feels when he/she gets a great part and begins to live it every day; becomes absorbed in the character, not only because they want to do the best job that they can, but because there is something captivating about living in a different world. Of course if the character is a nasty piece of work, it might prove rather detrimental to their relationships. Just a thought.

This initial flood of ideas and characters has settled down now. I have committed most to paper, which is the only treatment effective for such a disorder of the mind 😉 I am now honing and refining which is far less exciting, but no less fulfilling. It also means I’m a lot more sociable.