I’ve considered myself a writer for many years now, despite the lack of publications to my name. There were certainly a number of years where I was fully immersed in the weaving of tales, improving my craft and living in a world of my own making. I was undoubtedly a writer. A wordsmith. Or at least an apprentice.

Then I got divorced, gave up work, lost a lot of weight and began to have an actual social life. None of that was achieved without pain and determination but it seems all of it drew me away from that wonderful world (or worlds) that I had created. Dust gathered on my Word files whilst I navigated new relationships, strengthened the bonds with the girlfriends that had stuck with me throughout all the flux and endeavoured to divide my time equally between my children and the things that just have to be done. Not Writing though.

Don’t get me wrong. I still spent most of my day at my laptop, still spent a lot of it tapping away at the keys etc only there was very little to show for it. In the last four years I can safely say that I have created very little. This fact worries me. It nags me awake at night and sits on my shoulder during the day. It asks the questions I haven’t dared speak aloud.

If I’m not writing stories then does that mean I’m no longer a writer?

I’ve considered that I might be suffering Writer’s Block. I’ve considered that I write more/better when I’m miserable but none of that helps. I’m still planning stories but HERE is a problem that I’m not sure can be overcome. I am totally, pathologically and psychotically honest.  Ask anyone. I don’t lie, have difficulty skirting truths for the sake of hurt feelings, and become physically ill if I try to say nothing about a situation/fact/feeling. I also share without filters. That may be an unrelated and totally separate character flaw but I’ve a suspicion that it’s part of the first one (only? maybe I have only the one flaw and it just happens to be a big one).

Yeah but that’s life you say. Hmm maybe not just life – maybe imagination too. So I’m planning a story and it sort of comes to a stop, I think I just need to complicate it a bit – add some interest (as we wordsmiths do). Then I stop. Grind to a halt. I can do convoluted happenings, troublesome friendships – other people’s lack of communication are all possible to me but I have to strain – think weight-lifters at the Olympics – to make my character dis-honest. (You’re probably getting the idea that I have a high standard as to the line where honest and dishonest blur and you’d be right). Then again, how many books have you read where you just think – that’d all fall apart if they just had a conversation.

Hmm, wondering if that is just me. Is it only me that thinks that all those romance heroines storming off in a huff for a hundred pages would be a lot less stressed if they just asked more questions. “Did you mean that you thought my arse did look big in this or was that grunt simply an indication that you liked my arse as it is?” And the all important – “When you said you could never love another was there a review date built into that statement or should I just jog on now?”

Don’t get me wrong I can ‘imagine’ a character who might deceive lie fudge the truth a little, it’s just not my first thought (or twenty second really). Sadly it’s not just the good guys – it’s the bad as well. And if considering that my antagonist might tell the odd porky is hard then consider how crippled I am at anything approaching Machiavellian.

So – doomed by own happiness and doubly so by my honesty. Does everybody have a handicap (can I still ask that without being prejudiced?) that they must overcome (please say yes and not that I am such a freak) if so what is yours?

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I started this blog as a method of recording/promoting the final stages of my book. Once my goal was stated in irrefutable black and white life conspired to throw a bag of spanners into my workings.

A wedding, a funeral, and a bouquet of navel gazing (hmm good title for a book there) later I am placing Sassy, my long adored protagonist, onto the shelf. I can’t say for certain whether this is permanent or not. Guilt and sorrow twist my insides but I’m growing more convinced that Sassy is my learning curve and not my road to celebrated literary success. It’s a tough call.

I have a new heroine, a new setting and whole new list of hoops for her to jump through but unlike when I set out with Sassy I have a lot missing this time. I have no name for a start, this is very strange for me since it’s usually the starting point, I have only a vague idea of where she might lead me and a very worrying problem. The antagonist I have envisioned for her is so much more compelling to my wicked brain.

This antagonist, this problem to be conquered, also has no name but she has a justified reason to be riled and vengeful. Just thinking about it makes me want blood on her behalf.

My last post was about setting, time and place etc, and I’ve dallied and delayed the start of this project thinking that my problem was in deciding this setting but I’m not sure that it is. I think my problem is deeper than that. I think I might have to fundamentally change my affinity within this imaginary conflict. This is not something I’m used to. I’m a set in stone type of person, or so I like to think, not so closed down that I can’t reconsider my stance on a subject (theoretically at least) but fairly definitive by nature.

So RIP Sassy and Gunner I have loved you dearly for so many years. Long live what’s her name!

My question is has this ever happened to you? Has one of your imaginary friends managed to coax you to an opposing viewpoint?

So I’m sitting at my computer with a great idea for a new storyline. I have a rough sketch of some new people I want to terrorise but I’m stuck on my setting. I’ve been running around the same urban fantasy land for some years now but one of those shocking ‘what if…’ moments hit me a few months back and I’ve been reeling ever since.

It doesn’t really matter if your story is based in the here and now, a historical place and time or a build your own fantasy world, what matters is that it is believable and that the surroundings don’t make people go wtf! this is ridiculous. Bear with me – because from this point of view it’s the story that is important.

So two months of working out the most realistic shake down of post-apocalyptic anarchy in Britain and I had to most life-changing thought.

DOES IT REALLY MATTER?

Not in a ‘is this a worthwhile enterprise’ type way but does the setting actually matter at all, maybe some more capitalisation, full stop, . Does anybody care whether the story is set in post social meltdown England or in a less different near-future world, come to that does it make any difference if I tell the story in present day or historical past? Meaning – isn’t it the story that is the point of the exercise. I mean if your lead character can just as easily go through their life affirming revelation without the need to wear tights and a frilly shirt doesn’t it just make him a closet transvestite?

It’s probably an age-old writers conundrum that I’m just very slow at discovering but that little brain bomb made me think about the stories that I have loved over the years. Made me consider whether it was the story (usually good conquering evil) that made me love them or was it the characters (usually mouthy women and the men that adore them for it). Okay so none of this is sounding very highbrow but do consider that I’m condensing this into the very driest of bones here.

Maybe that leads me to a third option. Perhaps it’s not the story or the characters but the way that story is told that is of most importance for an enjoyable read.

What do you think?

As you know I am experimenting with Twitter at the moment. Thank you to all you who joined me there.

In the spirit of fairness I entered the experiment with a non-judgemental bias towards the whole thing being a waste of my time. Several weeks on and I have been proven right really. All those great communities out there where the writer set live; sharing their ideas and giving expert tips on making agents and publishers worship your words… well they don’t exist. If they do then they live in some foreign/mathematical code that I cannot decipher because no search words seems to give any hint of them.

On the whole Twitter is the realm of ‘I’m eating a turkey sandwich’. A whole stream of meaninglessness 24/7 BUT (stick with me it’s not all I told you so) then Illona Andrews replied to my Tweet and I’m instantly 12 years old, bouncing in my seat and squealing that I won’t ever refresh my screen again…

So my question to you. Do you know the way to the secret societies within the web? Have you demystified the power of the search engine? What have you found in the shadowy realm of the interweb?

My initial forays into blogging sites were through writerscafe.org. It was a way to come out of the writing closet and get some feedback on what level my writing was at. I like the site, or the idea of the site; you post your writings and people read them. They leave comments and in return you read their stuff and give them feedback.

As a theory it’s great. In reality it sucks. Everybody is so concerned with being loved and adored for the talent they behold that nobody writes anything negative. At ALL. Now as a writer I feel that I would have saved a whole lot of time and vanity if someone had taken the time to say ‘honey, that is not what a semi-colon is for’. In a way it’s a bit like watching the X-Factor auditions (in the days when you actually saw people attempting to sing rather than 20 minutes of backstory on someone so self-involved… a theme for another blog maybe). You sit there trying to decide whether anything good is going to come out of this, using all your pyscho-babble training to discern if it’s going to be a bitchy punch-up or an audio revelation. The child diva discoveries are supposedly what we are there for but it’s really the deludedly talentless that makes the programme.

On the X-Factor I love the idea of people getting to the age 20,30,40,50 believing that they are a secret Pavarotti/Lady Gaga but reality you have think ‘didn’t anyone tell you?’ Personally I think it cruel to encourage someone in a field for which they have no aptitude. So why would you tell someone that an average piece of writing is profound? This is even more common in the realm of poetry. Phrases like ‘that first line really touched my heart’ when the poem begins ‘there was a young man from Doncaster’. Okay I might be exaggerating a little.

Tell me though, which is best; to allow a person to think that what they have produced is golden when you’d be lucky to melt it down to brass or to leave a comment to say ‘honey, your dialogue cured my insomnia’.

Sassy lives in my head and sometimes she kicks me. Here is how she starts:

My toes clenched in my boots. I missed my steelies; they were downstairs in Murdoch’s car. Though perfectly safe beneath the more supple leather my toenails itched for the missing protection. It wasn’t the climb up the outside of the warehouse that had left me breathless, it wasn’t the corpse that stared unblinkingly through me, it was the knowledge that I still pulsed with the magic that had altered my shape from rodent to human. If it weren’t so dead then that corpse would have seen me.

That squished my lungs like an obese fist around a chocolate bar.

I tried to slow my breathing. I couldn’t afford to pass out and I needed to clear the fermented decay from my taste buds. Lying still forced my pulse rate to drop a little with each second until I was no longer at risk of seizure. Magic rode too close to the surface, flickering like moths just beneath my skin. My eyeballs tingled sharply with it. I closed them against the magic. Watched the road map of tiny veins traversing my eyelids. Magically enhanced I could see the blood pumping through them. Very slowly the speed of that flow stilled. In truth my eyes merely reverted to their regular green and I could no longer see the detail that held me entranced. They would no longer give me away as other if I were to confront Murdoch waiting at the front door and ask him for my boots.

The thought of Murdoch tipped my heart rate back up to the three hundred mark forcing a shuddering gasp from my lips. My stomach revolted at the wash of death I’d inhaled. Snapping my eyes open I lay still, eye to lidless eye, and exhaled my breath until my lungs flat packed. It wasn’t as though the corpse could hurt me. Not packaged in its shiny cage with bars thicker than my thighs.

Though grotesque it was uniquely compelling. As the vampire killer’s lock pick I was accustomed to bodies. Vampires had a habit of collecting them. This one was different. Not least for the cage that resembled a magician’s stage set. And the smell wasn’t so foul, just beneath the sour rancidity of rotting flesh was something peculiarly sweet. I lay there trying to filter through the layers to sample it more closely.

Get in and get out. That was all I needed to do. Get in, check, now get out.

I shook my head to clear it and very slowly put my palms to floor, shakily pushing up to my knees. The floor was so dusty I left holes in the thick grey felt when I rose. I clapped my palms together twice. The sound was a shockwave snapping the silence. The movement sent a shower of woolly grey dust floating up into the spikes of wintry sunbeams.

My lip curled as I watched a dust bunny flutter and settle onto one clean white canine of the corpse’s lipless smile. It seemed so wrong, so blatantly discourteous that my hand twitched to nudge it away. No need. A blunt ended tongue slipped forward, curled around it, and drew it back between its dry teeth.

I started September with such a buzz. To me it’s the real New Year. Not really an academic I still associate September with new beginnings in a much more positive frame than the hungover regrets of January 1st.

September is all about starting over, new beginnings, new stuff. Oh how I love new stuff. New books, new pens, new clothes (ok usually a school uniform but it’s brand spanking new guys). I loved the whole writing my name in my newest neatest handwriting and all that. Nowadays September arrives after an August filled with claustrophobia and tension. Three children at home needing to be entertained (wishing to be left alone probably) planning days out and activities to while away the school-less haze and wistfully shopping for the start of the new school year.

So I arrived back at my blog last week with all the best of intentions. I wrote my new year blog with my very neatest of neatest typings only to have the computer eat it. So I was already snarling when I pushed myself to investigate this site further, determined to make it work at last despite the lost blog. Against all my principles I opened a Twitter account today on the advice of many forms of media. I’m in a self-help crisis right now. Unpublished author seeking recognition and publishing contract, maybe just a little solidarity too. I had every intention of using this site to meet new people in the same situation, earnestly writing gazillions of words with goal of seeing them bound together on paper. But how do you do that? I have searched, I have thought up foolproof combinations of words to find unpublished fantasy freaks who are obsessed with magic and words and combining those two but to very little avail.

So how do you guys do it? How do you network on these things? And why? Is this truly just a dumping ground for ‘check me out I’m reading a book/eating shreddies/writing stupid stuff on wrist’. I am not a technical dunce but I am lost here. I am starting to feel like I am just too damn old to use the internet. So leave a comment or better still Twat me!