Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Discord and disharmony - Teaser Tuesday

Still working through revisions on 'Christopher's Medal'. I've taken out a few words and I've added some new scenes. After a day of wallowing in self-pity on Saturday and playing Mahjong Tiles (I never knew I had that on my lap top), I kicked myself in the arse and resumed work. I'm slowly getting there. I've got to go back to the beginning and read through and see what still needs to be fixed, glued on, stripped away and made pretty.

This is a new scene. It ain't pretty and there are some bad words.


Grace leaned against the wall and held on to Christopher’s calf. “Come on, Chris, push.”

“Fuck off.”

She gritted her teeth and looked at him, lying on his back on the floor. His tee-shirt was blotched with perspiration and his eyes full of fury. Physio was a daily nightmare, wrestling with the twin monsters of Christopher’s anger and pain. “It isn’t going to get better if you don’t work at it.”

“I’m not one of your fucking horses, Grace.”

“More’s the pity. Just push will you?”

“You’re a hard bitch, do you know that?”

“You’re a soft bastard. A soft, self-pitying bastard and you’ll never be able to walk properly if you won’t work at it.”

Some days were better than others when it came to the physio. Sometimes, Christopher worked hard and in silence, his jaw set against the pain and it hurt Grace to see him fighting it. Other days were like a battle and it took everything she had not to lose her temper when he lashed out at her. This was one of them.

“I’ve had enough.” Christopher tried to pull his foot away.

Grace tightened her grip. “No you haven’t. Come on, Chris. Don’t give up.” She was tired, she wanted her afternoon nap, not this constant bloody battle.

“Will you just let go. Just fuck off.”

She bit her lip and stared past him, to the soft sunlight beyond the window. This wasn’t a day for fighting. “Fine.” She let go. “I’ve had enough. You can fucking deal with it on your own from now on.”

She had to be away from there. Grace knew if she stayed it would just get worse. It would end in arguments and long, dark silences. “I’m done. Sort yourself out and let me know when you’ve the bollocks to pull yourself together. I’m your fiancĂ© not your bloody whipping boy.” She swept from the room and slammed the door.

Grace stood in the kitchen for a moment, shaking. The house was suddenly too small, too full of anger and it didn’t feel like her place any more. Christopher thumped about in the other room swearing and banging his fist against the wall.

“Sod this.” She shoved her feet into her shoes and stepped out into the early afternoon silence.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - a new bit

With 'Stolen Summer' out to Betas, I've plunged back into revisions on 'Christopher's Medal'. I had some brilliant advice from Beta readers, which I'm incorporating into the revisions. For starters, Grace isn't quite the cry-baby she was in the first version. The main changes come in the second part of the book. That's what I'm working on now.

This is a new scene. Christopher is in hospital in the UK and things aren't going quite the way Grace hoped. So far, he hasn't asked to see her. He's told her, through his parents, that he doesn't want her to visit.


“He’s with the physio. Phone back in about an hour.”

Grace looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. “Yea, I’ll do that.” She wanted to ask how Christopher was, how he was doing but the nurse’s tone put paid to further questions. She thanked her and put the phone down. It seemed such a simple wish, to hear his voice, to hear him say that he loved her. Grace rubbed her eyes and stared at the fog. It cloaked the house in silence and a grey chill that crept into her bones. She had an hour to fill – a long, empty hour. No racing on television, the papers already read from front to back. She’d even done the crossword puzzle. The yard was quiet. Evening stables was hours away and her father had gone racing. Grace found her jacket and boots and walked out into the mist. Even the crows were silent, sulking in a ragged gathering in the black trees. Allonby nickered softly when she turned the corner into the yard. His star shone a brilliant white in the grey gloom. Grace sorted through the bits of paper, empty bute sachets and cellophane in her pockets until she found the mints. She held her hand out and Allonby lipped the mint from her palm, his muzzle warm velvet against the chill of the day.

“What do I do now, eh?” Grace rubbed his nose. “He won’t phone me back. Why doesn’t he want to speak to me?”

The colt nibbled at her hair. His breath was scented with hay.

“No, I didn’t think you’d have an answer.” She tugged his ear and headed to the tack room. If she mucked out now, there wouldn’t be so much to do at evening stables.

Grace walked back to the house after an hour, two rows of stables skipped out. She sank into a chair, picked up the phone and hit the ‘redial’ button.

A different nurse answered. Grace asked for Christopher.

“He’s just come back from Physio. Hold on, I’ll just fetch him for you. Who shall I say is calling?”

“Grace.” She waited, hearing the nurse set the phone down. “Captain Beaumont?” Her voice was distant but cheerful, speaking of an easy familiarity with Christopher. “There’s someone called Grace on the phone for you.”

Grace tightened her hand around the receiver and felt a sharp little stab in her gut. She was ‘someone called Grace’, someone who this nurse, who knew him, hadn’t heard of. She wished she hadn’t phoned. Grace pressed the phone to her ear, straining to hear Christopher’s voice. There was a distant murmur and then the brisk footsteps of the nurse.

“I’m sorry, miss. Captain Beaumont can’t come to the phone at the moment.

“Oh.” Grace’s fingers cramped. She wrestled with the sudden tightness in her throat. “All right. I see.” She didn’t. She couldn’t see at all. Her eyes burned. “Just tell him to phone me some time.”

“I will.”

Grace thought she heard sympathy in her voice. That made her hurt even more. “Thanks.” She hung up and fought an urge to crawl into bed and cry herself to sleep. The dull glint of the sapphire on her finger was a bitter reminder. For a moment, she was back on the beach, warm in Christopher’s arms. She wanted that Christopher back, the affectionate one, irresistible and charming. Grace wondered if she’d ever see that man again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - A confession

That's it, 'A Stolen Summer' is done, the first draft. It weighs in at 71.5k words and will, doubtless, need some serious, serious revision.

So, with that in mind, this is the last scene you'll see from it. It's going for a long rest so I can tackle all those other things that need to be done, e.g. taxes, census forms, revisions of other novels, beta-reading, etc. etc. Ah well, keeps me out of trouble.

I'm leaving you with a pivotal scene. It's about 800 words but a lot of it is dialogue. I'm interested to know if it works.

Oh, yea it's slightly rude.


It was raining when we left the restaurant. A soft, cold steady rain that had us hurrying along the pavements. It was good to reach the warmth of the flat. Colin turned on the fire while I closed the curtains. He made coffee, humming while he messed about with mugs, spoons and boiling kettles. He handed me a mug and sank onto the settee. His eyes were dark and distant. I had no idea where he’d gone to in his head. It was somewhere I couldn’t follow. Those thoughtful moments were rare with Colin. We drank our coffee in silence, broken only by the whisper of rain against the windows. After a while, he set the mug down on the table and looked at me.

“There’s something I need to say to you,” he said. His voice was low, uncertain. “I’ve been trying to think of how to say this for a long, long time. I think I need to say it now, before you go away.”

Something inside slipped a little. Something in his tone made my hands shake. “All right. I’m listening.”

He looked down at his hands and shook his head. “Fuck me, this is hard.”

“When has it ever been hard for you to say anything? Out with it, man.”

His hands trembled. He flattened them and rubbed them along the top of his thighs. “Believe me, Evan. This is hard. This is a deal-breaker.”

I had no fucking idea what he was getting at. I know that he scared me.

Colin took a deep breath and looked at me. “I love you, Evan.”

“I know that.” Relief washed through me. I was expecting something horrible, like he had a terminal illness. “We’ve known each other for ages. I love you too.”

He swallowed. “That’s not quite what I meant.”

Jesus H. Christ.

I stared at him. I saw him for the first time. I saw the pain of this secret he’d kept for God knows how long. “We’re not talking brotherly love, are we?”

“No.” His voice was scarcely a whisper. Uncertainty clouded his eyes.

I scrambled to find something to say, something that would make sense. I wondered why I wasn’t horrified. “Since when?”

“A long time.”

It explained so much - the restless flitting from partner to partner, the perpetual dissatisfaction with them. I looked back through them all, and understood. “Bloody hell.”

“Please don’t say you hate me.”

“No, I don’t hate you at all.” His pain gnawed at me. For a moment I felt like crying. Instead, I got up and walked to the window. I looked out at the rain and tried to find something to say. Inside, I was all messed up because I wasn’t repulsed by the confession. Far from it. That’s what scared me more than anything, that I couldn’t see anything wrong with it. It was like finding the last word in a crossword puzzle, the one that ties all the others together. You see the theme the puzzle writer was aiming for and it all makes perfect sense in spite of all the time you spent wondering what that last word was.

I thought back to the day we met, me soaking wet and summoned out of the shower by the doorbell, him standing there all hopeful in the doorway wanting to know if the room was still available. The way he looked at me meant nothing back then, now, it meant everything.

I leaned against the windowsill, with the chill of the night behind me and looked at Colin. His eyes were huge and sad.

“How long have you felt this way?”

“Remember the night in Woodhall Spa when we got rat-arsed at that wedding? The only place we could crash was that old fashioned, creepy hotel?”

I remembered. Waking in the middle of the night on an old soft mattress, Colin’s arm thrown over my waist, a semi-erection pressed against my arse. I remembered how ashamed I felt because I liked that feeling, wished it wasn’t just a drunken lazy lob. I remembered battling with my own erection, feeling like I was back at boarding school.

Yes, I remember.”

“I woke up wanting you. God, I wanted to fuck you so bad.”

I felt the memory tug at me. An ache grew in my groin and my jeans weren’t going to hide it for much longer. I didn’t even want to think about Katy, not when Colin sat on the settee with his hands in his hair. God, I wanted to feel those long pale fingers on me, curling around my cock.

“Yea, I wanted that too.” I sat down beside him. It felt right to put my hand on his thigh, to feel hard muscle beneath warm denim.


“Yes, really.” His breath hitched when I slid my hand towards his crotch, to the bulge there. I kissed him, feeling his stubble, feeling his tongue sweep over mine. I curled my fingers in his hair, intoxicated by his aftershave, by his nearness, by him.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Never can say goodbye - letting go of your darlings

I just tweeted about this and thought...hmmmmm I can blog about this, can't I?

The WIP that has occupied the empty bits of my brain for the past four weeks is drawing to a close. I'm excited that the end is nigh because I didn't get lost in a mid-book slump and because I have a wonderfully angsty, romantic ending in mind. I loves my emotional stuff, oh yes I do.

That's a good thing, right?

Well, yeah but *sniffs* I love Evan and Colin. I've loved shaping their lives for them, putting them through tough times, letting them enjoy themselves (rather rudely) when the occasion arose. Now, I have to give them an ending, let them get on with their lives without me telling everyone about it. I need to leave them alone.

I hate this bit, sometimes. Now I can understand why some writers want to keep their characters around, make up shiny new adventures for them. I can't do that with these two, it's just one story, theirs, and it's nearly done and dusted. Now my writer's feet are dragging because I don't want to let them go. I know I'll be visiting with them many times again as I tidy up what is bound to be a very messy first draft, but it's not the same, dammit. It's like going back to visit someone you once adored and finding out that they pick their nose, fart, leave the toilet seat up just like other mortals.

Still, I will pony up, fix the messes, make the story shine and try and find a home for it.

I'll miss them.

So, my question for writers is: Do you miss your darlings when you've typed 'The End'?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tuesday Teaser - Introducing Colin

So, the WIP charges ahead. No mid-book slump and at 53k, I think it's safe to say I'm over halfway through. I did have a minor falter. I wondered whether the emotional issues and effects of PTSD on a relationship would be enough to sustain the story. Perhaps in the hand of a top-class writer. I'm not there yet! So I've thrown a spanner into the works for later.

Anyway, this week, we meet Colin. He and Evan have been best friends for 10 years, since University. Colin is a lecturer at Oxford University and Evan has gone to visit because he's got business in Oxford anyway.


Colin’s car was already there when I pulled into the broad sweep of gravel in front of the house. I retrieved my bag from the back seat and glanced up at the upstairs windows. A curtain twitched open. He opened the window and waved. “Come on up, it’s open.”

His flat sprawled across the top floor of an Edwardian house. I always envied him for it.

“Hello, mate.” He stood in the hallway. A bottle of beer in each hand. “I bet you could use this.”

“You got that right.” I dropped my bag, took the beer and then engaged in the traditional, manly one-armed hug. The bottle was cold in my hand.

The huge living room was filled with light from three sash windows. Colin sank onto the settee. I took the chair. I tried to remember the last time I saw him. It was before Michelle, probably after Janie. He looked the same as he had ten years before; lean, pale with disheveled half-curls and a habitual nine-o-clock shadow. It wasn’t hard to see why his conquests were so easy.

“You’re looking well,” he said.

“Thanks.” I took a gulp of beer and sank into the cushions.

Late afternoon sunlight filtered through the bare trees, fell across the polished floorboards and faded Turkish rugs. As usual, there were books everywhere, spilling from the bookshelves on either side of the fireplace, stacked high on the dining table, scattered across the coffee table. One of the two bedrooms was entirely devoted to books. Hapless guests, like me, slept on the settee. Special guests, of course, shared his bed. There were more books in his bedroom, stacked on the mantelpiece of the fireplace, in boxes under the bed and on the top shelf of the wardrobe.

“Fancy Italian tonight?”

“That sounds good to me.” Anything would’ve done. It was just good to get away from London and all the hassle that went with it.

“So, you’re still going to Pakistan?”


He shook his head, his eyes suddenly grave. That took me by surprise. It was a rare moment when I made Colin unhappy. We weren’t like that. “I hope to fuck you know what you’re doing.”

“I have a pretty good idea.”

“You’re a feckless git sometimes, Harrison. You know that, don’t you?”

Damn him. He actually made me feel guilty. I looked down at my beer. “Yes. I suppose I can be. But you weren’t in Afghanistan, mate. You didn’t see the mess, you didn’t see a Guardsman with half his face blown off. I want to find out more about the bastards who did that. If I can expose those fuckers and help bring them to justice then I don’t think that’s so feckless.”

“What if you get kidnapped? It happens you know. I looked at the Foreign Office web site, they don’t want anyone going there.”

“I know all that. I’ll have armed bodyguards.”

“Like that’s going to make a difference. You need a small army to keep you safe.” He slammed the empty bottle on the coffee table. “How about those of us you’re leaving behind? While you’re off playing Big Time Heroic Journalist, we’ll be worrying ourselves sick. Remember Daniel Pearl?”

“I remember him well enough.” Pearl’s fate had nagged at me since I decided to go to Pakistan. It was another very sound reason not to become attached to someone before I left. As Colin had so bluntly put it, I’d hurt enough people if anything happened to me.

“I don’t want that happening to you.” He walked into the kitchen and returned with two more beers.

“I promise I won’t be careless.”

He smiled then, a sudden, brilliant smile. The old mischief returned to his eyes. "Good, see that you’re not.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - More from Evan.

So, here I am, 40k words into my latest obsession. I haven't written much tonight. I think I'm still whacked after yesterday's 9k marathon. It never feels tiring at the time, but it caught up with me today.

Anyway, here's another piece from what I've decided to call "A Stolen Summer". Evan has just returned from Afghanistan and is phoning his girlfriend, Katy. I think the conversation pretty much sums up the state of their relationship.


I couldn’t be arsed to break up with Katy, not at the moment. It was too much effort. It seemed easier just to let things bump along for a little while longer. I punched in her number and waited, staring at the photograph of the two of us on the shelf.



She was smiling in the picture. It had been taken while we were on holiday in Paris. It was a cold day, I had my arm around her waist. Her pale blonde hair blew in fine wisps across her face. It was a long time ago, back when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other.

“You’re back.” There was a false brightness to her voice.

“Yup.” I wondered whether I should ask her to dinner or something. Instead, I waited.

“So.” A gusty little sigh. “Are you doing anything tonight?” She only asked the question because it was expected of her. It was the same every bloody time.

“I didn’t have anything planned. Fancy going out for a meal?” Translation: Fancy having something to eat and going back to your place for a shag? It had been a while. My penis twitched a little. I didn’t really want Katy, but it clearly did. I was too tired to argue.

“Yea, okay. Where?”

I glanced up at the ceiling and went through my list of venues. “How about Le Petit Filet?” It was only a few streets away from hers. We could meet there, eat, back to her place, shag. Pretend we still liked each other. The usual.

“That’s fine. Eight o’clock?”

“I’ll see you there.”

“Brilliant. You can tell me all about your trip.” She made it sound like I was going to tell her about a holiday. I doubted she really wanted to hear the nitty gritty. Katy’s idea of current events revolved around the gossip columns in the papers. I wondered how we’d limped along for three years.

“If you like.” I was already thinking beyond the phone call. I was thinking about lunch and the bottle of beer in the fridge. “I’ll see you at eight.” I tried to smile.

“Bye.” The line went dead. I put the phone down and headed for the kitchen.