Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

From my current WIP:

She shook her head and curled up even tighter. Screwing herself into a tight, grieving knot. She could not even tell the maid that she just wanted to be left alone and scarcely heard her when she said she was going to send for the doctor. She hid her face in her skirt and wept helplessly. She clawed at her hair until it fell in a dark, disheveled veil over her face. It clung to her wet cheeks and concealed the mocking daylight from her. It was better that way, it should have been raining, it should have been dark. She sobbed his name and called to him but there was no answer, just a yawning chasm of darkness. She slid from the chair and clutched the fringe of the faded rug, lying in a pool of warm light. She wrapped her arms around her knees and kept crying. She was still crying when Tatiana returned with the Doctor and her father-in-law’s butler.
The Doctor’s hand was light on her arm, “It’s all right, Madame. We’re here now.”
“But Sasha’s gone,” she sobbed, “I want Sasha.”
“I know,” he said, gently, “I know.”
Natalia fell silent and peered at the doctor through her tangle of hair, “Why did it happen? Sasha was so gentle and kind.” Her breath hitched, “He wasn’t meant to be a soldier.”
“Life can be cruel, Madame.” His arm slid behind her back, “Can you sit up for me.”
Shaking, she complied. Her eyes burned and her throat felt as if it had been scraped raw.
He took a bottle from a black leather bag, “I’m going to give you some medicine,” he told her, “It will calm your nerves. You need rest, Madame Orlova.”
She wanted more than rest. She wanted oblivion. She wanted to find refuge in a warm, velvety darkness forever. She sipped the bitter, thick liquid meekly and prayed that it was the last time she would see daylight in this world.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cringeworthy, ancient things found in desk drawers

I'm jumping ahead of myself as a writer. I keep having ideas and juggling them around in my head. One of the bright ideas I had was to dust off a manuscript that I've been carrying around with me for 30 years. First draft and second draft written in Cambridge, based on a short story I wrote for a Soviet History course when I lived in Pittsburgh. Third draft written in east Berkshire, the last draft written in Suffolk. Each version more laden with cliches and purple prose and unfeasible coincidences than the last.

Now that I'm older and I've had a life, I think I can do a better job. So, while book number 2 is resting, awaiting a final polish, book 1 is being queried, book 3 is on the back burner as a potential non-starter, book 4 is the rebirth of my Great Russian Epic. I've made a good start, I've swept out the shades of aubergine, violet, lavender and plum; dumped the cliches and coincidences and, off I go, back into the chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution. Of tremendous help to me is the, wait for it, TEN PAGE SYNOPSIS. Of less help is the first chapter which, of course, starts with the MC WAKING UP and then a huge, embarrassing amount of back-story and shameless info-dump.

So, just for a laugh, I'll leave you with an extract. If any readers happen to find this blog and, if you happen to be a writer type, leave me something ancient or embarrassing that you've written.

"Natalia laid awake in the pre-dawn gloom and watched the bedroom ceiling spin madly above her while her stomach lurched in the opposite direction. Outside snow hissed against the darkened window and the street below was whispering with the beginning of another St. Petersburg day...."

Right, I'm outta here. I'm the one with the paper bag over my head, burning Roget's Thesaurus with a magnifying glass and the Arizona sun.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Forlorn Hope

When I went for my walk this morning, I thought about what I'd write for the Blog today. I was going to write about the joys of dragging my arse out of bed at 5.00am to be hauled around the block a few times by a 90lb labrador. I was going to be witty and funny. Forget it, I'll save that for another day. Pfffft.

As I logged on to read my e-mails this morning, 'Fields of Gold' was playing on the radio and I thought, 'oooh, now there's a good omen, perhaps I'll get a nice request from an agent about my book, 'Fields of Gold, Fields of Red'. My hand trembled a bit when I noticed that I had, indeed, received an email from British Agent that I'd queried. Could this be it? Sadly, no. This makes me wonder, is anyone interested in novels set during the Great War? Has it receded too far into the past for anyone to want to read about it? The themes of love, patience, devotion, survival and redemption haven't changed. Wars are still being fought in foreign fields by people who are loved and missed. Soldiers still come home wounded and broken inside. The only difference about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the weapons, the end results and the effects are still the same. These thoughts were in the back of my mind when I wrote the book and I hoped that the story I told would strike a chord with readers today.

So, do I plug away hoping that, somewhere, there's someone who thinks it will be a book worth fighting for? There's a term that was used by the British Military during the 19th Century, when men were sent on a mission where there was little or no hope of success, it was called a 'Forlorn Hope'. Is that what I'm engaged in here?

As for the morning walk. I'll get back to that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009