Sunday 28 July 2013

The List - First Draft

If you've had a look around my blog you might have noticed my new WIP (Works in Progress) page. There I've listed all of the stories I'm currently working on including a new novel titled The Flower Farm (working title) and a short story called The List (another working title).

At the end of last week I finished the first draft of The List. I must stress that at this stage it is a very rough draft, but finishing a first draft is always exciting so I thought I would share a little of that emotion with you. 

The idea for The List came to me after my boyfriend and I visited an Asian supermarket. We were through in Glasgow and I knew that there was a big supermarket out in the Partick area that sold mainly Chinese ingredients, but also Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Malaysian ingredients too. We're both really passionate about food and cooking and since we have just had a new kitchen fitted I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try out some new cuisines.

Some of our haul...

The supermarket itself was brilliant. It looked like any 'normal' supermarket, only it was much more sparse inside. No big gaudy advertising, no rows of trolleys and baskets, no big fancy display units. The signage was written in both English and Chinese and the freezers were packed with ingredients, most of them completely new to me. Thankfully, my boyfriend had some idea of what basics we should be looking for and we collected those first and moved on from there. 

Cock sauce?

Shopping there was a really good experience. I felt a little out of place, even though we were far from being the only white faces in the shop, but still I wondered what the Chinese patrons made of us picking up random things and trying to work out what they were. Although there were signs written in English, some of the product descriptions had been lost in translation - 'dried fungus' (some type of unspecified mushroom), 'shredded dried sea vegetables' (seaweed, I think), 'glutenous powder' (flour, maybe?!). It was fun trying to work out what things were and what we could use them for, but we were definitely a little out of our comfort zone. 

Some more of our haul!

That feeling stayed with me after we had left the supermarket. We had stepped out of our comfort zones to try something new and we were rewarded with a great experience. I quickly decided I wanted to put that experience in a story.

I thought about what might motivate someone to take on a new cuisine (other than curiosity) and I came up with a scenario. What if a character - a man - felt like he wanted to spice up his life a little? Open his mind to new experiences. Maybe he might decide to change his normal western supermarket for an Asian one and step out of his comfort zone. Maybe there might be more that he would want to do. What if he had a list? A bucket list of sorts. A list of things he had never tried before, encompassing everything from the most extreme to the most mundane. And there I had an idea for a short story!

I began the first draft at the start of last week. I focused just on the description of the supermarket and explored my character's feelings, his nerves, his apprehensions, his misunderstandings, and then I moved things along from there. 

Even more of our haul!

I wrote in two characters - best friends of my main character - and gave them the task of coming up with a list to help their friend who has become stuck in a repetitive rut. Then, I had to find myself a romantic lead (I found him in the supermarket!) and explore what new experiences he and my main character could have together. 

At the moment, I'm sitting at nearly eleven thousand words for my first draft. As I said, that draft is very rough so a second draft will involve me tearing my story apart, adding lots more detail and character quirks, and then of course working out a point of tension and a resolution. 

I always find the second draft a lot more fun to write than the first. First drafts for me are always a hard slog. I have to force myself to get my thoughts down on paper and keep my word count high. The temptation to write down '- insert more description here -' or '- insert sex scene here! -' can sometimes be overwhelming, but I know that doing that will hinder my success and enjoyment when it comes to starting the second draft. Despite knowing that, it's still sometimes hard to resist. 

For now, I'm in a great position. I have a story I love and that I think is interesting and different, and I have a draft that I can work with. The challenge for this week will be working up a second draft and then I'll be able to share it with a few early readers to get their feedback. 

I'll keep you posted on my progress. Hopefully by this time next week I'll have a story nearly ready to be submitted to a publisher. Fingers crossed! In the meantime you can check out my latest release (also a short story) A Secret Love available at all good eBook retailers including Amazon

Friday 26 July 2013

A Secret Love - An Excerpt

As I'm sure you're all aware by now, my latest release is a short story called A Secret Love. 

A Secret Love was released by Evernight Publishing in July and is about a couple who have long been forced to hide their relationship from everyone around them. For years they have only been able to meet up when their schedules allow. Fortunately for them, they only have six months of secrecy left before they can run away from the lives they know and move abroad so they can be together all the time. They meet up in a remote hotel in the Scottish highlands to discuss their plans and spend some much needed time together, but things in life don't always go according to plan...

I'm really proud of A Secret Love. So proud, in fact, that I would love to share an excerpt from the story with you. Humour me, won't you?!

A Secret Love - Excerpt

Mark returned the kiss passionately. James trembled in his arms. Tension coursed through his body and he could feel it mirrored in Mark’s. He could almost taste the other man’s nerves in his kiss. James savoured Mark’s strong arms around him. He pushed his hands inside Mark’s suit jacket and clung to the warm, toned body underneath. The body was so familiar despite the amount of time that had passed since their last meeting.
            “God I’ve missed you,” James said when he finally pulled away. Mark was breathless and didn’t respond at first, but the sexy, playful smile on his lips told James everything he needed to know. James took his hands and led him further into the room.
            It was a large suite with living area and a huge bathroom. Mark swung a new sports bag, bright orange and emblazoned with sponsorship logos, off his shoulder and dumped it onto one of the two couches. He paused momentarily, reaching into his suit pocket.
James watched as Mark pulled out his phone and turned it off without checking for messages. He waited patiently until Mark had tucked it safely into his bag and smiled at him when he had finished. “Difficult getting away this time?” he asked.
            Mark nodded. “I left as soon as I could. I was so scared I was going to miss the flight. I’m sorry it had to be mid-week this time. Will you get in trouble at work?”
            “I have the flu.”
            Mark smirked. “You look perfectly healthy to me.”
            “It came on all of a sudden,” James said, closing the space between them. “Unexpected. Probably be gone in a few days. You know how these things are.” Mark nodded and James slipped into his arms once more. With his head on Mark’s shoulder, he turned to whisper against the other man’s neck. “I wouldn’t have been able to stand it if you had missed the flight, if you had cancelled. It’s been so long. It’s always so long.”

A Secret Love is available now from all good eBook retailers, including Amazon and Evernight Publishing

Thursday 25 July 2013

An Exploration of A Secret Love

A Secret Love was an incredibly enjoyable story to write. Often when writing I find myself tense and nervous, always a little concerned that what I think is good work might suddenly peter out and become just another word document destined for the trashcan icon.  With A Secret Love I didn't have those concerns. I don't really know why. Perhaps because it is, at heart, a simple story centred around a simple, but fascinating question - 

How would it feel to have to hide the biggest, most important part of yourself from those around you? How would it feel to be in love with someone - to have spent years of your life in a relationship with someone - without ever being able to admit to it? How would it feel to have a secret love?

Mark and James, the main characters in A Secret Love came to me almost fully formed as I sat one day, playing around on my laptop. They are simply two men, desperately in love, who, due to circumstances beyond their control, have had to keep their relationship a secret. They live in fear of being caught and can only meet up when their schedules permit, which isn't very often. 

I wanted to explore how Mark and James would feel about their situation. Would they be angry? With the world and with each other? Would they be upset, depressed, hurt or lost? Would their relationship be under immense strain and would that take its toll on them physically or mentally? 

In the end, the answer to all those questions was no. Mark and James understand the need for secrecy. It is something they have adapted to. Their time together is precious, something to be savoured and enjoyed, and yes, when the time comes for them to go their separate ways they are both upset, but there is surprisingly little angst in A Secret Love. A lot less than I originally thought there would be! Mark and James get their happy ending and I for one was enormously happy for them.

In fact, the only depressing element of A Secret Love is something which doesn't even feature in the story. It was a realisation that came to me when I was writing, and it made me look at my story with different eyes. 

I changed Mark's job six times before I finally settled on a career I liked. Mark's career is a huge factor in the enforced secrecy he and James have to endure, and what was depressing for me was that I had so many options to choose from. I could come up with so many jobs, in a short space of time, where a person might want or need to hide their sexuality and their relationship. Sitting reading this, I'm sure you can think of a few. If you think a little longer, you'll be able to come up with a lot. I find that incredibly sad. I'm sure you do too. 

After a summer which has seen the defeat of DOMA and the end of Proposition 8 in the USA, and where in the UK same-sex marriage has been written into law in England and Wales, it might be easy to forget that things still aren't easy for everyone. For most people in fact, but little reminders are all around us, even in the most unlikely of places.

A Secret Love is just a story. It's entertainment. And let's be frank, it's M/M erotica with enough steamy love scenes to make it downright fun and filthy, but I'm also proud that it does touch on a real issue in some small way. 

Fiction makes it possible for Mark and James to get their happy ending, but not everyone is so lucky. Maybe I'll have to make a resolution to make sure all my characters from now on end up happy, to make up for the fact that in real life we don't always have that certainty. 

A Secret Love - Blurb

James is nervous when he pulls into the car park of the secluded and conservative Caledonian Hotel. He slips off his wedding ring, gives a false name at reception and checks into his room.

When Mark finally arrives James expects their time together to conform to the usual pattern, but Mark surprises him. Mark wants candlelit dinners and walks on the beach. James, well, James just wants to make up for lost time. More importantly, he doesn’t want to get caught. They have six months left before they can leave behind everything they know and start a new life together and James is desperate to be discrete. Unfortunately, he never could control himself around Mark. Throw in an interfering old couple and some very public displays of affection and Mark and James’s short hotel stay might just be about to destroy not only the secrecy that has always shrouded their relationship, but also their plans for a future together.

If you fancy checking out A Secret Love for yourself, you can pick up a copy on Amazon and All Romance Ebooks

Friday 19 July 2013

A Work In Progress

I think most of us can say we have had a wonderful summer. (And let's hope it's not over yet!)

The weather has been phenomenal, even all the way up here in bonnie Scotland, and I have been fortunate enough to find myself in the position where I have lots of time on my hands. I'm decorating my house, you see, which has meant taking time out from my real job to build a new kitchen and redo my bathroom. I can't do this all on my own though, which is where workmen come in and I go out. To the garden!

I've spent a lot of this summer writing. Sometimes long-hand to avoid the glare from the sun which renders my laptop useless, and other times sitting under a big brolly with iced drink close at hand, typing away. 

So far, I've managed to knock out an (almost)complete first draft of a novel I've been thinking about for a long time. It's working title is The Flower Farm - you can tell it's a working title, because it's rubbish - but it does tell you a bit about the story. It's set on a flower farm!

One summer, when I was a student at university, I worked on a flower farm. I can't say I enjoyed my time there, but it was certainly an experience. I wanted to use that experience and put it to some good use, and what better way to do that than by writing it into in a story?

I came up with the idea for a novel, centred around a young man who takes a job on a flower farm on the Hebrides in Scotland. It's a temporary job, and he only wants to work for a few months to complete his savings - he's going travelling in the new year, and everything is planned apart from the last few journeys to his destination. A little more money and he will be good to go. 

And what about the whole, M/M erotica bit? Well, throw in a hot boatman, lots of long, lonely winter nights, and maybe when the time comes it won't be as easy for my main character to leave as he thought it would be!

I'm quite pleased with my flower farm novel, and I'm looking forward to getting back to it and working on a much longer second draft, but once the first draft was finished (sort of!) I thought I could use a break. 

One afternoon, I was sitting in the sunshine and I thought I would revisit an old idea and try my hand at a little short story. 

My last release was a short story - a 12k word M/M story called A Secret Love - about a couple forced to keep their relationship a secret from everyone around them. 

A Secret Love was published by Evernight Publishing, a company I had never had the pleasure of working with before. I enjoyed my time with them so much - genuinely, they were just wonderful to work with - that I thought I might like to write another short story and see if they would like to publish that as well. 

I had started a story a while ago - working title The Bothy - and on that hot, sunny afternoon I thought I would drag it out and go over it again. 

I like The Bothy. The premise is simple. A couple leave the big city and head into the highlands for a few nights alone in a bothy. All I had to do was work out why. Why do they leave the city? Why do they go to the bothy? Have they been there before? Why do they need to go there again?

Those were the questions I started answering when I began work on the manuscript again. Unfortunately, based on the length of my first draft, I don't think this will be a short story anymore. A novella maybe. Somewhere around the 40,000 word mark. 

I have a lot of work still to do on both of these manuscripts, but I'm excited. And I have another whole month of summer in which to - hopefully - get them both finished. 

I can't wait to share these stories with you. I hope everything works out so that I will be able to. The writing process is not always an easy one, but what makes it so much easier is the thought that at the end, if you're lucky and if what you've written is any good, you will get to share your work with the world. 

That, is a wonderful feeling. One that always keeps me coming back for more.