Monday, 17 December 2012

All I Want For Christmas Is...

    The Demention Team is looking forward to a Christmas break after a fantastic
                      launch year! Thanks for your company, it’s been fun. 

                   A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone. 

            Here are our (slightly demented) Christmas Wishes.... what’s yours?!


All I want for Christmas ... is time.

My head is packed full of stories - I need time to write them, refine them, polish them into perfect jewels. (Only last night whilst flicking through the innumerable tv channels I chanced upon a sound bite that is the perfect opening line and jumping-off point for my next book. The one after the one I'm only a third of the way through!)

The world is packed with great books, my bookcase is groaning under the weight of unread stories - I need time to read them all. (And now I can download things as well - free classics to borrow straight onto my phone!)

My world is packed with friends, people to laugh with, sing with, play with, have in depth discussions with - I need time to enjoy them all.

A head full of ideas, shelves full of books, a life full of friends ... I have all I want for Christmas.


Dear Santa,

I  have been  very good   mostly good   occasionally good  haven’t committed any actual crimes all year. Also, I’ve done my very best to not leave things to the last minute  all of the time  most of the time  sometimes  and I have made  all  almost all of my deadlines by  working diligently  staying up all night. And I  never  almost never  sometimes  spend valuable writing time on Facebook and Twitter.

So please for the first time ever could you take me off the naughty list, and put me on the  nice list  not totally lost cause list?

Just in case it is a yes, and it’s not too much trouble, here is my modest little Christmas wish-list:
  1. Please could you get the UK government to change the tax laws so my tax return isn’t due in January so I don’t have to do my taxes over Christmas? (which could of course been done months ago, but heh - this is me we’re talking about)
  2. A large supply of calorie-free chocolate
  3. A movie deal for Slated.
p.s. say hello to Rudolph.


Merry Christmas.

For Christmas I’m hoping for a ‘Men in Black’ Neuralyzer, so I can wipe my mind and reread my work in progress with no memory of having written it. (Why is it so easy to read someone elses WIP and know exactly what needs work/ revising/ correcting/ deleting, and so hard with your own characters, scenes and story?) 
And while I’m wishing for MiB gadgets I also wouldn’t say no to the auto-clone machine so that I can make quick-clones every time there’s housework to do. Signed copy of The Glimpse to anyone who can tell me where to get hold of these!


Dear Santa, 

It's a little bit tricky but... 

All I want for Christmas is an extra day in the week. One just for me. Myday. A secret day that slips between the cracks of Friday and Saturday, still with a glimmer of Friday feeling. A day where my week’s work is done (ha!) and I can fill my time with reading the books piled beside my bed that I never get around to and have a filmfest of all the stuff I’ve meant to see and didn’t have time for. 

With the normal rules of time suspended, there are no deadlines, word counts, invoices, emails or any other of the hundred and one things that normally have to be done. I can think and dream like a child and see where my imagination takes me. And there’s no one waiting for dinner or needing a washing done - Mother Time has ensured that such things don’t apply on Mydays. 

And since the Internet, FB and Twitter are all trapped in human time, there’s none of that either - which leaves a LOT of extra time to fill. I’m sure I can remember how...

Best of all, I can chomp my way through all the chocolate I hope you’re leaving in my Christmas stocking. If Myday is outwith time, it surely doesn't count. Which, now that I think of it, could be very interesting in all sorts of ways... hey, there's a great idea for a book!

*Thanks to Julienne for the Christmas graphics!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

What were Peeta and Katniss REALLY up to? Under the Covers in YA

by Teri Terry

A recent blog on Epona Reviews caught my eye: Sex in YA Novels: Should it be kept under the covers or do readers want more?

This was particularly because of the timing: when I was in Edinburgh recently at the Anobii First Book Award party, fellow Demention blogger Julie Bertagna and I were discussing this issue - from the other side. Yep: authors. It isn't always the choice of the author what does or doesn't happen under the covers...of their books.

One example I'd raise is in Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games, when Katniss says Peeta is comforting her in the night when she has nightmares. I instantly thought....what were they doing together in the middle of the night? Why don't we know? Did the author decide to keep it ambiguous, or were judicious edits responsible? Do readers who aren't authors also wonder these things?

Stay tuned as Demention will explore this issue further in a future blog!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Writing and the Lost Art of Patience

Claire Merle

 …long-form writing is like running a marathon: it requires endurance, patience, a deep reserve of will power and commitment, and an almost Herculean ability to delay gratification.
                                                                     –      Dennis Palumbo

Last week was a milestone week for me. A year and I half ago I signed a contract with Faber and Faber for The Glimpse Duet and last Tuesday I posted the final corrected proofs of the second book back to my publisher. It was an extraordinary feeling. Both books finished. A year and a half of deadlines and revisions and corrections had come to an end. A second book ready for the press. WOW! But beneath this incredible feeling of accomplishment lay the ever present ‘what next?’ It is wonderful to know that the answer to that could be, ‘Well, anything you want!’ But it’s also daunting. All around me I suddenly seemed to be hearing the importance of pitching NOW; of general industry expectations for a YA writer to produce/publish a book a year; of not falling off the bandwagon because God knows how hard it is to get on it in the first place.


I think all writers put it on themselves. You have to if you’re going to learn the craft, dedicate time and energy to writing a book you’re not sure anyone will ever read, find the courage to give it to critique groups and send it to agents. To get published you need to be extremely motivated and always pushing forwards on the next step – revisions, critiquing, agents, publisher. But I'd got to a point where I also felt I needed to step back a bit, give myself room to explore a few ideas before committing to one single one for the next year or more. So with the feeling that I was/ am going against the grain, I began searching around to justify the instinct. And that’s when I stumbled on an audio interview with Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, (translated into 71 languages), about his writing process. Despite the fact that Paulo Coelho says it only takes him around two weeks to write a book, he also says that his ‘natural cycle’ for producing a book takes two years. When explaining this further he says,

Eventually some subject pops up when the cycle of two years ends and there are several layers of ideas… I think I’m going to write a book about this and then I start and then (I start) a second and a third. But hidden behind all these books that are not ready to be written, or should never be written, is the book that wants to be written.’ 

As the saying goes, ‘people see what they want to see,’ or in my case ‘find what they want to find.’ Yes I admit, hearing these words after I’d just ditched 35,000 words of a rough draft of a contemporary YA, offered some comfort. But while it is often acknowledged that writing requires stamina and endurance, I was intrigued by this idea that sometimes we may need to throw things away to uncover the book that will be the right one to have published next.

In an article for the Huffington Post, ‘Hollywood on the Couch: For Writers, Patience is still a virture,' writer turned therapist Dennis Palumbo says,

Nowadays, few writers are advised to cultivate patience. There’s a lot of pressure to just write, to get it out there, to strive mightily to come up with the next high concept (“You got anything like Iron Man?” “We’re looking for another Harry Potter-type book.” “How about a police procedural show on Mars?”).

Don’t get me wrong – there are many writers who have an amazing talent to turn around books in six months or less, to sit down at their desk and spin something off and their books are selling well time after time. Some authors need the deadline, the pressure, the sold pitch. 

As an aspiring writer, I believed if only one day I KNEW I’d be published then I could relax, just enjoy the process without worrying what the rejections meant. Now I know that wherever you are on the chain, there’s always the next step… agented, published, mid-list author, best-selling author, film deal, huge best-selling author, J.K. Rowling. 

We live in a competitive, consumerist culture where success is measured by money and sales. This is inescapable. But for me the art of living is appreciating where you are now, of being fully in the moment, of absorbing and interacting with the world around you. And perhaps it’s also the lost art of patience. In terms of being an author, I don’t mean sitting around waiting for a masterpiece to smack you over the head, I mean digging and cultivating and nuturing until you find it. 

I'm working on something new now. I'm trying to cultivate patience, hoping it will be THE ONE. Or at least THE NEXT ONE. What about you?

If you want to hear all of Paul Coelho’s audio interview, ‘How I write’ go here.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Fiddlesticks and Flapdoodle - made up swear words are great! by Julienne Durber

When I decided to write this post, I was convinced that my first experience of made up swear words was in the pages of 2000AD from the grizzled lips of the mighty Judge Dredd.  But then I came up with the title 'Fiddlesticks and Flapdoodle' and realised that things went back a lot further.

Professor Yaffle

The cantankerous Professor Augustus Barclay Yaffle, carved wooden bookend in the shape of a woodpecker, foil to the gentle wisdom of Bagpuss, naysayer of mice, used to fire swearing at me from the television before I was even old enough to go to school!  Now before high horses are mounted, I have to say that in my opinion Bagpuss is the finest children's television program ever made, and I am positive that the legendary Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin hadn't the slightest wish to offend (though I did see Mr Postgate on a documentary recently explaining what Mother Clanger was actually saving behind all of those whistles, and it wasn't entirely wholesome!)

But I'm being flippant for a reason - fiddlesticks is a term of mild disapproval dating back centuries, along the same lines as balderdash and poppycock, but when combined with the explosive flapdoodle it became something that my tiny ears loved and my tiny mouth was too nervous to use in public!
Stephen Fry

But why create swear words when there are so many already available?  Stephen Fry expounds the virtues of swearing as part of a full and rounded vocabulary.  People swear.  Children swear.  Swearing is naughty and bad ... and great fun when you're not supposed to be doing it!  And used sparingly, swearing in teen books can have a huge impact.  The inclusion of the word sh*t (see, I'm self censoring so that I don't offend and yet you all know what I'm saying) on page 4 of the wonderful Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner says a huge amount about the central character in an instant.

Judge Dredd

When creating Judge Dredd, John Wagner wanted a gritty cop for a gritty future, a future with swearing.  But as he was writing for comics in the late 1970s he had to create a vocabulary that Dredd could use without censorship.  Hence 'Stomm', Grud' and my favourite 'Drokk'.  These are great, chewable, spit-outable words, loaded with venom and brilliantly similar-but-different enough to please both publishers and readers in the 70s and 80s.

But that was then.  These days things are more relaxed.  Sam Hawksmoor's excellent The Repossession uses swearing sparingly and effectively, as do many other book too numerous to list.  It enhances tension, defines emotion and character, and isn't a block to getting published, yet I still chose to invent a whole range of frustrations and insults for Springpunk.  People are cog-heads, spring-brains and in extreme cases spring-faced cog-winders.  And if you are hit with a stray winding spark then you would cry 'Cogs!' without thinking.

And what would Red Dwarf be without the insult smeg-head?  Still great, but ever so slightly less so.

Made-up swear words can be as integral a part of a future, dytopian and other-world society as the oppressive government forces, plasma sythesizing killer robots and overarching mystic prophesies.  They let readers into the sociology of the world and show how things have changed, how the trials, threats and drudgeries of life have bled into everyday speech.

So I challenge you, you fracking, smeg-brained, flapdoodling drokkers - have fun with your swearing.  It isn't gratuitous, but it can be vital!

All artwork copyright Julienne Durber 2012

Monday, 19 November 2012

Serendipity Strikes

It was still dark across London. 

I hauled myself off the pre-dawn flight from Glasgow onto the dinky little Docklands Light Railway for a meeting with my publishers. I’d barely slept and spent the short flight in a hazy, waking dream of the futuristic novel I was writing and I still felt deep inside that world. I was at a crucial point in the story. My teenage heroine had just fought her way through a world of death and despair, up into a spectacular ‘sky city’ that rose out of the ruins of a flooded Earth. I was building up that world in my head - to survive in it, Mara had to absorb all of its strangeness, fast, and the reader too.

I’d imagined an empire of cloud-high cities with towers linked by sky trains, where people lived liked gods, by their wits, trading ideas, inventions and stunning technologies while the forgotten world outside rotted and drowned. 

The docklands train swerved around a bend and I jolted wide awake. For a stricken second I felt I’d slipped through a crack in reality into the sleek futuristic city of my imagination.

There, through the window, was my sky city. Giant glass towers soared up out of the dockland waters. Global market data flashed in reels around the skyscrapers, above processions of early traders walking to work through luxurious shopping arcades and entertainment malls. It was as if the plane from Glasgow had landed in my own book.
Global market data flashed around the skyscrapers
It was Canary Wharf. As the train wormed right through the heart of that exclusive trading bubble, my fictional cityscape burst to life in my head. It was a crucial part of the story that would become the Exodus trilogy and sell around the world. Somehow, in that half-dream state, the writing gods had gifted me just what I needed, exactly when I needed it.   

Serendipity strikes when you least expect. It’s like a tap on the shoulder of the creative subconscious from some unfathomable force. Suzanne Collins was half-asleep, channel-hopping between newsreels of the Iraq war and reality TV shows when the idea of The Hunger Games burst upon her. Jo Rowling was trapped on a broken-down train with no book, pen or notebook, nothing but her thoughts, when Harry Potter zapped into her head. 

It’s harder than ever amid the cacophony of social media, deadlines and deal-making, and the echo of your own voice selling your wares, to find a calm space to rummage around in your dreams, wander through doors in your subconscious, triggering impulses and inspirations we don’t really understand. Often it’s in those half-awake moments when your subconscious runs free that serendipity drops you a gift from the universe you can never quite explain. 

When writing my YA novel Soundtrack, a sea-drenched coming-of-age story, I remembered Bobby, a second cousin. He'd seemed godlike to us younger teenage girls; a good-looking charmer and, most amazingly of all, he was a guitarist in a band. He’d punkified his bedroom with cascades of netting hung with iconic album covers and posters. To an impressionable 14 year old from suburbia, it was a rockstar den. I don’t know why I remembered it decades later, but I gave my music-mad character, Finn, a bedroom just like Bobby’s. I also gave Finn a beautiful song, Walk The Last Mile by Scots band Love and Money, to leave to the girl he loves at the end of the novel. 

And this is where the story behind the story turns strange. 

Families fracture. I hadn’t seen Bobby since my early teens. Love and Money are one of my favourite bands and when I'd asked my relatives if their bassist, Bobby Paterson, was our Bobby, the family grapevine said no, couldn’t be, he’d gone off the rails, never got a proper job, fallen in with a bad crowd, got himself in debt... so I didn’t think any more about it. Moody-looking guitarists were ten a penny in Glasgow. Reader, I married one.

Tragically, Love and Money’s Bobby Paterson died, far too young, a few years ago and when I read his press obituary I was doubly gutted. It was our Bobby. The one whose bedroom I’d enshrined in my book. Old-fashioned Scottish values, the family rumour-mill and no doubt a bit of sheer green envy had twisted the truth. No, he hadn’t got a proper job, he’d fallen in with a bunch of musicians and run up music company debts - in one of Scotland’s best-ever bands. And the opening bass line that pulses goosebumps of soul through Walk The Last Mile, the song I’d given to Finn in Soundtrack, was Bobby’s...

How did Bobby’s bedroom and his song end up so strangely entwined in my novel twenty years on? I’ll never know. 

Orion Nebula, NASA image
Serendipity struck again a couple of weeks ago. Unhappy with my day’s writing, I began rummaging through books and websites, following trails (wasting time, but totally engrossed by my own curiosity.) It was like following a faint, unknown scent. My tracks led me to NASA and I made a mind-bending discovery, one that’s thoroughly discombobulated me. Somehow the universe itself, via NASA, seems to have gifted me the most extraordinary surprise in the exact spot of the cosmos that I need it to be in my new book. 

‘It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.’ Virginia Woolf

I don’t understand the hows or whys. I’ll just thank my lucky stars, keep following the scent of my unconscious and see what else serendipity brings. 

How about you?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Next Big Thing by Julienne Durber

For this week's post I have been asked to take part in The Next Big Thing.  Upcoming authors are asked to answer ten questions about a work in progress and then link to others who have done the same.  So here are my ten answers and at the end are links to some of my favourite up and comings, do check them out, they are all fab ...

What is the working title of your book?
I always struggle to title my works in progress.  For ages, they are just called by the name of the main character until I bite the bullet and give them a title that sums up the spirit and hopefully raises a question.  At the moment, this story has just graduated from 'The Maxwell Story' to the extremely unsatisfying  'A Forest Full of Aliens', (partly because Maxwell has just been rewritten as a female called Redd).  There will be more changes!

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was trying to reimagine an old idea I've had for a while about a whole world within a gearbox in a scrap yard, changing it from a fantasy epic to an ultra-violent sci-fi thriller.

What genre does your book fall under?
I'm aiming for Young Adult Science Fiction Thriller as long as I can keep the cuteness and wise-cracking at bay that tend to drag my stories towards 12+.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I'd love Redd to be played by Paloma Faith.  She had a small part in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus which really stood out for me, and she's great at 'fabulously bonkers'.  I think she'd give a brilliant take on the concept of a heroic main character.  And to counter Paloma, the scientist character would have to be played straight and by-the-book.  Perhaps Helen Mirren.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Borrowers meets Platoon and then the solder hits the cooling fan.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I'm currently working on another couple of things with my agent, but when this one gets into a shape where I'm willing to show people then hopefully it will go forward with agency representation.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
This story is ongoing, but my last first draft took around six months, fitted in around my day job.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hopefully none!  I lie awake worrying that someone will have come up with a similar idea to one of mine and that a publisher will already have it on their desk.  Authors don't write in a vacuum.  Inspiring events, films, books, newspaper stories etc are all around and it's inevitable that other creative people may take an idea in a similar direction.  And good luck to them if they have, I genuinely wish them every success with it.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
The original gearbox concept came from a college exercise.  I was on an illustration course and the project was to combine a piece of technology with a fantasy element.  I had an overgrown mini gearbox in my garden and wondered what it would be like if tiny creatures lived in it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The whole thing takes place inside a computer tower (apart from the bits that don't ;)

The fab authors I'm tagging are:

Sam Hawksmoor - author of The Repossession and The Haunting

Caroline Green - author of Cracks and Dark Ride

Addy Farmer, who invited me to take part (and author of amongst other things the heart warming Grandad's Bench)

Sharon Jones - author of Dead Jealous and lover of poodles

Please check out their sites and responses to the Ten Big Questions.