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Archive for April 2011

Stop The Bandwagon, I Want to Get Off!


posted by Lucy V Morgan on , , ,

13 comments


 You know what the dregs of that party look like.

Bodies, limp and filmed with cooled sweat, lie draped across rugs and couches. Empty bottles clatter against your heels as they roll along ahead of you. The iPod dock is skipping on some rap track -- s-s-s-superman -- and the room is a haze of shadows and snores. As you bend to rub a slackening potato chip between your fingers, the air smells like sex and beer. Further up, it's cigarette smoke and vomit.

Yep, a couple of hours ago, this party was shaking the walls. Now you missed the time when Eric was stuffing bits of vodka-soaked marshmellow into unconscious and drooling Jess's cleavage, using Mikado like chocolate chop-sticks. OMG, it was hilaaaaaarious! Everybody will be talking about it on Monday, but it'll be old news by the time you hear about it. Yours will be the last laugh nobody wanted to have.

As an author, I forever feel like I'm late to the party. It's almost inevitable for at some point; you read a slew of novels following one trend and take elements of inspiration for your next project, only to find that by the time you finish it, the genre has gone stale as far as editors are concerned. The agents you bookmarked six months ago aren't looking for that trend any more, and those who do look at it tell you they're not sure who they'd pitch it to.

I think the only way out of this conundrum is to a) be the one who holds the party ("you know that weird chick, the one with the red hair who likes Haribo floats? She's got a bigger hot tub than Carnage Carl!") and b) make sure it's a frickin' awesome party. (There's also c -- write like the wind and cash in while you can. Since whatever you sell will likely take two years to hit the shelves, mind, I take it you aren't too fond of sleep).

The whole bandwagon thing is weighing heavily on my mind. My newest project is sci-fi dystopian, which is apparently already falling out of favour. Say I'm ready to query around Christmas; will it be fresh enough again  to catch somebody's interest? Urban fantasy -- now here's a genre that I think will be sticking around for a while (I am being given buckets of UF to read as an intern. Especially with pyschics. No psychic centaurs yet, but I have my fingers crossed). Does my brain want to write UF? Nooooooo. I can't control the characters who stalk me for months, tapping on my shoulder, whispering in my ear. Some of them get annoyed way sooner than others...what am I meant to say? "Sorry guys -- you're just not hip right now. Give it five years and let me churn out some minotaurs who have their own YouTube band. Internet celebrity Greek beasts are meant to be seriously hot for the summer..."

In the meantime...I'll just have to get me a seriously kick-ass hot tub, invite all the cool kids (plus a few of the strong silent types, since everyone knows they're the most interesting drunks), break out the novelty food and hope for the best.

Haribo float, anyone?

Fiction: Somniopath (the dystopian WIP)


posted by Lucy V Morgan on ,

7 comments

I'm feeling very blog-frisky this evening, so I thought I'd share the opening scene from the dystopian WIP I mentioned a little while ago. It has a working title of Somniopath (will probably change) and here's the rough blurb:

Leontine Avery dreams beautiful dreams...and she is terrified.

In a world where most are afflicted with horrific nightmares, good dreams are few and far between. Since Leontine's mother set up the Somnium auction house and patented the fatal method of dream extraction, they're also a valuable commodity: a cure for somniopaths. One good dream and no more will they find themselves at public sleep clubs, clinging to strange bodies. No more opiate hangovers to slow the world.

Koji Valo was a brilliant student until his brother's black market extraction ripped his world apart. Eight years after he was sent to Japan to recuperate, he returns to England a gifted scientist. Koji thinks he's finally cured the illness that led to his brother's death, but the auction house, his sponsors, have other plans for his synthetic dreams. Koji fears that nobody will ever love the man he has become; the one who does terrible things in the name of science. And when he spies Leontine, he vows to give her something to remember him by before she finds out...

****

“The brave man walks into his nightmare; the wise man does not close his eyes.”
                                                                  Hiroshi Nakamura, somniologist


Chapter One

He was a stranger, but that was not unsettling to me.

The tall frame broadened by boxy shoulders; hair tugged in a dozen shadow’s directions; white skin licked by the moon; I knew them. Knew the shape they made. He had the east and the west in him -- his eyes were dirty sapphires, barely lidded -- and beneath the flesh, he was nameless and waiting.

The wind teased the scent of him past my nose: marzipan. Nothing new there; everyone smelled like the Zippy these days. But there was a rough air of sea salt too, as if he’d been launched on the shore by the tide -- and like a shell, when I pressed my ear to his torso, I heard the hoarse whisper of the ocean.

The boat rocked gently as I relaxed against him. Above us, the sky was black and blistered with stars; below, the lake refracted the light like an old, polished mirror. We were far away from the world, it seemed. My pulse -- my wrist, so silky on his -- was the noisiest thing there of all.

“Mine is faster than yours.” I turned my palm up beside his and compared our messes of veins. His were bluer, thicker. I loved to look inside him like this.

“It’s just the drugs, Leo-chan. Don‘t worry about me.”

I was used to a somniopath bed-mate. I had held another man as the nightmares roared through him, though he never woke to look them in the face. Still, the thought of the Stranger in the grip of a terror -- his brow twisted with the pain -- made me want to weep. My eyes prickled with it.

“Do you remember them? Or do they hide when you wake up?” I drew a fingertip along his collarbone. “My brother always remembers. When he was younger, we called his diary the monster box.”

The Stranger laughed and it was ragged around the edges.

“Sometimes I do. Other times…I just escape. And here we are.”

“Here we are, huh.” I put my chin on his shoulder and peered up at him. “Do I know you?”

Before he leant down, he smiled. The way his eyes shone, it was bewitching; that smile cost him more than any mouthful of words. He kissed me with the slow, forceful grace one puts behind a knife to slice an apple, and I came apart beneath him, all sweetness and seed. His hands splayed to catch me, one across my hip, the other at my thigh. Heat flushed through and settled in the mash of our swollen lips and tongues.

Then his hand moved up my thigh and I went hot somewhere lower.

“What’s your name?” I was mumbling into his cheek. He scraped his teeth along my throat now, pausing to suckle little welts of kisses. “You know mine, but --”

“It’s just a word.”

But it wasn’t. I had to know his name, had to taste and swallow and assimilate. It was everything.

And the slow glaze of his eyes said he would not give it to me.

“When?” I whispered.

“Soon.” He found my mouth again and tasted me. “I promise.”

“…Ok.”

“We don’t need names to be perfect, you know. Sometimes, the most perfect things…they’re silent. See?” He sat back and breathed in the sky. “When did you last see anything so beautiful?”

I smiled.

“I don’t even know where we are.”

“I like it. I come to think up perfect things.” He paused, wound a fist into my hair. “Which must be why you’re here.”

“Oh.” My cheeks warmed. “Thank you.”

He picked my hand up and laid my wrist against his again. Pop, pop, flicker-pop.

“I’ve caught up with you, I think,” he said. “Do you want to go faster?”

Our pulse points were throbbing in their hard kiss.

“How will you do it?”

The wind lifted my hair as if it was in his service, and then his voice was breath rushing over my collarbone.

“Blood magic, Leo-chan.”

Oh.

The heat set its tongue to my belly. It licked his palms as they wandered, caught the hairs on his arms and coaxed the static which jarred my skin. I panted against his mouth; choked on the taste of him, all cinnamon syrup and bitter coffee. Couldn’t suck the air in fast enough between his teases. Couldn’t…ah….--

“Leo!”

I sprang up in the bed and smacked against Max’s forehead. He groaned through his teeth, clutched at his temple.

“Leo, what the fuck--?”

“Why…why can’t I breathe…?” The sheets were sodden; I had to peel my pillow from my bare back. Around me, lamps and wardrobes and random shoes hovered in a blurry room. “Max…?”

“You were dreaming.” The words were heavy. He couldn’t quite fathom that he said them.

“Of course I wasn’t…” Oh. No, no.

“You were talking. Thrashing about.” His upper lip twitched. “Moaning. Leo…why didn’t you tell me you were having nightmares? I can call down for something to help--”

“No.”

I couldn’t look at him. The dark cloaks faces, but not lies. Instead, I rose into cool air  and then wobbled towards the en-suite bathroom. The door rattled softly as it shut.

In the florescent light, I held a hand up and studied the little map of veins at my wrist. My arms were trembling.

It wasn’t a nightmare.

The girl staring back from the mirror had flushed cheeks that clashed with the pink tips of her blonde hair. Her nipples were stiff and her chest heaved, heaved, heaved. It wasn’t a nightmare at all.

“Leo? Are you ok?” Max drummed his fingers against the door.

“I’m -- I’m…”

I’m going to vomit.


It poured out of my hands, pooled on the tiles, and streaky orange dribbled into the cracked skin of my world.

****


I know, I know -- it starts with a dream. But it's a novel about dreams, so I can stretch the cliche, right?! [Grasps straws] It's Leontine's first ever dream and the moment everything changes for her, so it seems right that it should come first.

New note: so I have a proper title! Yay! SHE DREAMS LIKE CALLIOPE. 

Oh, Lordy -- My Troubles, So Haaaaard


posted by Lucy V Morgan on , , , ,

6 comments

It's a very common trope in fiction: the hero or heroine so damaged that they're reluctant to commit.

They come in two moulds, these troubled tragedites: they're prickly and defensive, or they're all-out for the no-strings sex. Often, they're a nicely phallic-shaped pendulum, swinging between the two. Yummy emotional conflict, right? Kind of depressing half the time, actually. And often just damn offensive.

Is anybody else tired of the abused heroine? The heartbroken hero? We've all had bad experiences in our lives, and they do shape our personalities -- but to this over-saturation of mistreated Marys, I object. I object! And here's why:

1) It's true that bad experiences can make people reluctant to start new relationships. However, that's only one side of the coin. What about the huge number of hurt people who go to great effort to throw themselves into relationships, often one after the other? We all know that person, right? We don't tend to read about them (unless they are secondary characts, in which case, we mock them) because the idea of having a high number of partners is somehow distasteful to the reader (though the heroine doesn't have to have slept with them all). Yet the idea of a heroine coming to love herself in the midst of all this sounds like a pretty juicy story to me. She gets to sift through the fish pond for her special lobster. That fish pond would be all kinds of fun to write. I can see the concern: the reader might think she's pathetic. There's a challenge if I ever saw one, then: make sure she's not. (I've seen a couple of these characters in chick-lit, and it speaks volumes that we see it more in a humourous genre than we do in romance).

2) Bad past experiences are so often used as an excuse for a woman to have casual sex. Why, why, why does she need this excuse? Why does she need to disengage from the male species to burn up the bed sheets? Isn't this kind of misogynist? If I see one more novel tied up when the hero saves the heroine from her abusive ex's attacks, I might have to write a haiku about it. You've been warned...

The heartbroken hero is also popular because it makes him chaste without lessening his masculinity. It makes the heroine who causes him to reconsider extra-special. It's also a good excuse for any previous promiscuity  -- "it's ok; he never loved any of them." In truth, there are all sorts of reasons why men might resist relationships, but we never see a hero dealing with the more common ones, do we? When was the last time our vampire hero complained about the heroine adding scatter cushions to his barren bed? (He's been around long enough; if he wanted cushions, he'd have frickin' bought some). Why do these men, who have been alone so long and are probably quite accustomed to having life their own way, accept the romance heroine so easily? His strop after she switches off the football would be an awesome opportunity for make-up sex...

3) You don't need to have been abused to be interesting. You do not have to be damaged to be beautiful. That's not to say I don't enjoy a brooding hero or a twisted heroine, but the point is, "normal" people have all sorts of fascinating, evocative intricacies and faults that could just as easily build a story. A tiny experience -- just a moment, something insignificant to all others -- can shape a person. They don't always need a fatal accident, a hospital visit courtesy of the ex or a dead relative. Romance plays on drama, and so it's easy to fall into these tropes -- but a reader can relate to that tiny moment just easily, if not more easily.

4) Previous abuse is not a Get Out Of Jail Free card for being an ass. It does not excuse the hero being mean to the heroine because "all women will hurt him in the end." (I say this as somebody who did once have a bad time of things, and was subsequently an ass). It takes more than the revelation of abuse to redeem this guy for the misogynistic crap he normally pulls.

It it is not realistic, contemporary reasoning for the heroine to hide away from all men because isolation -- especially literary isolation -- is not in the moments when the character is alone. It's when they are out there, trying to live, pretending...and they realise what a great hash they're making of things. How none of it matters. That is when she is most lonely: when she can't escape the fleshy reminders of everything she doesn't have. If she never does much and then suddenly meets the hero, she never has that moment, and we never get to empathise.

I'm not advocating a lack of conflict. On the contrary; I love spotting the line of conflict in a story. It's the tributary, my personal connection point.

We're all a little bit damaged, and it's a good writer who can spot this. But anyone can find a matted scar. Maybe it's time to start looking for that near-invisible needle prick, or the surgical cut made by the cold knife that has since healed so beautifully...on the outside. More and more, I find myself drawn to to the stories that don't go back to "he/she was hurt in the past" as a default. Yes, these things make for interesting plots, done right. I'm even fond of a few of them (Jacqueline Carey's Imriel springs to mind).  I'm just starting to find it strikingly unoriginal to base all of the conflict on this point.

Looky, no haiku! You lucky, lucky people...

Not Quite Write For Your Body


posted by Lucy V Morgan on ,

16 comments

Writing is good for my brain, but my body doesn't like it much at all.

The problem is that the physical process requires you to sit down for a long time. Here's what it does:

-- screws my back (thank you, pregnancy, for the sciatica you so helpfully left behind).
-- after a while in the same position, my legs go stiff.
-- makes my eyes hurt (damn you, computer screen. Don't tell me I'm actually supposed to use...what do you call them again? P...ens? Pa...per?)
-- I definitely don't work off the pasta bake I had for dinner (which was in the key of awesome, by the way). In fact I seem to consume my body weight in various bad foods because I get an askew sense of entitlement. Look at the sheer emotional power of the scene I just wrote! Tulips literally wilted and then rose back to life! Must celebrate with pancakes/punnet of grapes/litre of ice cream. French Fancies, be afraid of my face!

Don't get me started on what procrastination does to a writer. I know, I know...I should turn off the internet. But WHAT IF I MISS SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT ON TWITTER OR FACEBOOK WHAT WILL I DO HOW WILL THE WORLD COPE WITHOUT MY WITTY COMMENTS EVERY SEVENTEEN SECONDS IT'STOOTEMPTINGICAN'TSWITCHITOFF AND BREEEEEEATHE!

Does anyone find that after you get into the zone (or wherever your plot and characters hang out. Mine tend to frequent massage parlours and alleys behind supermarkets; they're the special, British brand of dirty), you end up with loads of pent-up energy and have to spring up to dance about like a loon? I'll write for a couple of hours, do the best work I have in weeks and then find myself pounding the pavement because OH DEAR GOD, I NEED TO MOVE. There must be a better way to manage myself (besides industrial strength eye cream for laptop-squinting induced wrinkles. I recommend Skinovation, by the way).

Sometimes I think to myself, "hey, you don't smoke. You rarely drink. Don't beat yourself up." Other times I think, "there must be a more professional way to go about this." One that doesn't involve yoga at 5am and alternate meals consisting of spinach and sunflower seeds. I'm a writer; I self-flagellate enough already, ok?

I'd like to know how other writers take care of themselves: reccommend a desk chair, a good way to organise yourself, or describe how you reward yourself for finishing something big. Anything. I'm evidently in need of the odd salad and a trip to the gym (indeed, when my daughter starts school later this year, I might actually -- gasp! -- join one) but it's currently hard to organise my day when the four horses of the parental guilt apocalypse barely leave room for the writing, let alone the other stuff required to maintain a sane "me."

So. HELP?!

Aaaaand thank you. I'm here all week!