Can you smell that?

I’ve another hospital appointment coming up and one thing I have noticed, and that everyone seems to comment on, is the smell of hospital and how is clings to you.

It’s kind of a sour smell, Sharp. And it lingers.

Tonight I’m on call – a favour for a farmer friend who’s got a family wedding and a couple of  late calves and a foal due any day. So I find myself completely sober on this Friday night in the middle of summer. I have had way more caffeine than can really be good for a person and have already exhausted my list of sober, insomniac friends and eaten all the pudding in the fridge. But to be honest, that’s the least of my problems.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been paying way more attention to the small things than I ever did before. And what have I learned?

My garden smells like lavender and tarragon and wild grass.

My favourite place on earth smells like glass polish and carpet cleaner.

My hair smells of cherries and nutmeg.

My horses smell warm and sweet and of grass and hedgerows and hilly streams.

My daughter smells like violets.

My best friend’s house smells’ like horse and sausages and potato.

My living room smells like old paper and ginger tea and cat.

My mum’s house smells like lavender soap.

My old dog smelled of wet dog – all the time!

My grandfather’s house smelled like raspberry ice-ream and Turkish delight.

My car smells like tomato soup and the inside of latex gloves.

My dad smells sweet like old tobacco and coffee.

My doctor’s room smells like bleach and lemons.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how everything, even the most minor of things, can suddenly be of a huge consequence? Would things be easier if my favourite place smelled of wet dog? Or if my doctor’s surgery smelled of roses and chocolate? Smell is a very powerful sense, one that triggers memories and feeling. Oh you might remember something, think about it, but when that certain smell comes around you aren’t merely remembering, you’re reliving. It’s like when you pass someone in the street who’s wearing the same talcum powder that your grandmother used and suddenly you are six years old again. Or that peculiar chemically smell of an ice lolly that takes you back to day trips to the beach.

The point this week is to consider the senses – those everyday smells, sights, sounds that you might not even realise until someone asks you about them. Until you no longer notice them and realise they are missing.

Those are the things that build a world for the reader – something to cling on to. A sense they can understand. Something they know in a world they don’t yet.

So, your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to consider what you write, all that you write, and look at how you can yell us MORE without simply ‘telling’ us.

Til next week.



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Show me the money!

This last week or two has been both good and bad in terms of money matters and art.

On a positive note, I got two unexpected royalty cheques from my German publishers which, although not a large sum of money, was welcome and paid an unexpected bill.

On the negative side, funding fell through for a film project that is already underway, providing much stress and frantic rejigs in terms of schedules (both mine and other peoples) and a minor panic over time that has possibly been wasted and the knock on effects that will have when I try to get people on board in future. So far, people have been good about it, understanding even. After all, these things happen. But oh, does it make me feel like shit.

To top things off, my laptop has decided that Windows 8 is useless (like the rest of us) and has decided to stop working, freezing on the Aptio settings screen and meaning I will have to do a full reboot this evening in order to be able to do some actual work. Thankfully my lovely brother and uncle between themselves and the power of Google, seem to have the necessary expertise to fix it.

In the meantime, following a week of stress, on going ill health and some pretty interesting events over the weekend (more on that later) Mum has poured us a sneaky rum and coke while we watch my father and assorted male relatives burn stuff on the BBQ.

Irish bank holiday weekend folks – rain, bonfires, hyperactive children and solo cups.

Have a good one folks, and here’s hoping next weeks is better.


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Kill your darlings!

Last night I was talking with one of my girls about death in fiction. She’s currently reading the latest installment of a well known series (I won’t name it because of spoilers etc) and she’s been filling me in on the main plot points which include Character A having heart to hearts with his girlfriends brother (who hates him) his parents (who kinda hate him) and his sort of brother (who hates him.) My reaction ‘A is so fucked.’

See, there are three types of death in fiction – the expected, the set up and the unexpected.

Sadly, only two of the three ever really work.

The expected death is the death that you, that you are told from the outset is going to happen, like ‘A Walk to Remember’ where you KNOW what is going to happen, and you start crying at about page 9 and stop about three hours after finishing the book. These sort of deaths work because you know from the outset that no matter what happens, it’s going to happen. It’s all doomed. And that sort of knowledge is painful. You spend so much time and energy willing  it not to happen. And then when it does, it’s just so much more painful.

The hinted at death is the sort of death I mentioned at the start of this article. The character has outlived their usefulness. They have made amends. They are basically redundant to plot. Time for them to go. Some of these deaths are written to ‘shock’ but really, for the most part they have been so set up for the last 100 pages that no one is really surprised.

The unexpected death is one which shocks because of it’s suddenness. And that’s what death, for the most part is. It’s sudden. It’s shocking. In life we don’t get time to make amends. Some writers are better at this than others, but it varies across the genre. Take Michael Crichton, for example, we EXPECT characters to die suddenly in his books. It’s not really a shock, but the methods often have shock factor. 

One of the most shocking deaths I have ever read was the death of Hedwig in The Deathly Hallows. It was unnecessary, unexpected, upsetting, shocking, sudden. All things that death is. And it was at that moment you knew that NO ONE was safe.

There are few things I hate than a character who gets a chance to make amends. As my friend pointed out last night, when talking about deaths in Harry Potter, it’s not like Fred ever got a chance to say all the things he might have wanted to. To make amends, to have one last laugh, one heart to heart. He was there, and then suddenly he wasn’t.

Likewise, once scene in particular from the Walking Dead came to mind – the scene where Amy was bit. She was in a ‘safe’ place, with people looking out for her, right in the middle of her group and all she wanted was some toilet roll. She wasn’t expecting what happened to her. No one was. That’s what made it shocking and upsetting. Even being in a ‘safe’ place doesn’t mean anything. Not really. Take Dumbledore – Hogwarts was supposed to be the safest place there was on earth. But that didn’t change things for him, didn’t save him.

I think fiction needs to be a bit more like life in that respect. It would be nice if we all had a chance to tie our lives up neatly, to give our loved ones closure and to prepare for the worst. But for most of us that doesn’t happen. We don’t always know when the end is coming.

One of my neighbours lost his wife some years ago when she tripped and fell down the stairs. She was ‘safe’, she was in her own home. She was doing something that she had done tens of thousands of times before. Something that we all do every day without thinking about it. And one day she slipped. Just….gone.

We can all recount stories like that. I’ve known people, healthy, fit people who died suddenly of a heart attack in their sleep, or fell of their horse and landed the wrong way, or who just took a corner to sharply in the rain.

Now, I’m not saying to start killing off your characters just for shock value, but I think we really need to start looking at HOW we kill characters off, how realistic it is, and what sort of a mess they leave behind.

In real life we don’t always get a chance to put things right.

Think about it.


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Barely containing

This week several awesome things have happened-

1. A business matter has been granted an unexpected reprieve

2. Filming began on  2 (count ‘em 2) projects

3. I wrote another 65,000 words

4. They were good words

5. My cat loves me

6. I’m going to comic con next week (Belfast)

7. I’m still alive.



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TMCD Part 2 – Taking a Level in Badass

****Warning – this post may contain links to TV Tropes****

Okay, so I wasn’t going to post again for a day or two, but I had a brief chat with a friend earlier after the first badass post and it led me to think about other characters who have gone the same way – becoming so badass that they sort of steal the show from all the normal people. Once I started making a list, it seemed to just go on and on and on, and every show and series seems to have at least one.

Here’s the thing that I found was really interesting – for the most part they aren’t the main character. They are usually, not always, but more often than not, a secondary or minor character when they start out. In terms of character development, taking a level in badass is one way to do it. I mean, characters change over time, but sometimes it just seems like levelling up is the only way it happens.

(TV Tropes has it’s very own page on this:

Often it’s not necessarily immediately obvious – especially if done well- and it can take a rewatching / reading or a first and last episode / issue comparison to really see how much the character has changed.

Oh, so you want examples?

No problem.

Neo – The Matrix

‘I know Kung Fu.’ Enough said really.


Pretty much everyone in the Buffyverse

I’m not even kidding. But mostly you’ll see the change in Willow – who got all super witchy and powerful (and a bit unstable) and Wesley. Both of them started out at kinda sweet, kinda useless characters, but by the end they were saving the world with gusto.

Hiro – Heroes

Hero goes from sweet, funny office worker to seriously badass in a pretty short space of time, mostly as a result of his girlfriend being brutally murdered by an almost unstoppable psychopath with superpowers. Hiro does the only thing that a mild mannered office worker can do in those situations, he gets himself a big ass sword, a swishy coat and grows a goatee. Hey, I never said it was a good plan.

(speaking of Hiro, and following on from my Daryl post earlier, I’m going to do a post about ‘weapon of choice cliches’ soon – so stay tuned)

Ginny Weasley – Harry Potter

Ginny went from being the shy younger sister of Harry’s best friend who was unable to speak in his presence, to, by the end of the series being a total badass who took on one of the most powerful witches in the world. Although we had hints of this throughout the book, with Ginny becoming increasingly able to stand up for herself, and a rather wicked sense of right and wrong when it came to unleashing curses against people she doesn’t like. It’s no coincidence that Ginny is a fan favourite and one of the most shipped about characters.

Neville Longbottom – Harry Potter

Neville was once the boy who was so pathetic that he was given House points for telling someone they should stay in bed. Throughout the series, as we found out more about him it seemed that Neville was suffering from a bad case of ‘Too Much Tragic’ but by the end of the series he had become something of a dark horse.

Lana Lang – Smallville canon

Lana Lang is generally considered, even by fans, to be a waste of oxygen. She was so…nice. And perfect. And helpless. And then she got possessed, started dressing in black and doing stupid shit like marrying billionaires she hates. It all got a little weird after that. Lana is a classic example of badass through external forces – something which is usually seen when characters come into contact with glowing rocks, radioactive anything, magic etc.

Yuna – Final Fantasy

Most of the characters in the Final Fantasy games gained several levels of badass at some point, but none more than Yuna who went from being a mild mannered magic user quietly resigned for her arranged marriage, to commandeering an air ship, loosing most of her clothes and rallying together a host of tough ass people to go find her dead boyfriend. Although hints of Yuna’s forthcoming change could be seen in the first game WHEN SHE THREW HERSELF OFF THE ROOF.

Zelda – Legend of Zelda

Zelda is, for the most part, useless. Sitting around waiting for Link to grow up so he can save her – seriously, if you are relying on Link then you really are in the shit. But then all of a sudden she transforms herself into a super awesome ninja-type fighting machine capable of kicking some serious ass. And then immediately goes back to being all girly and pathetic again. pfft.

John Crichton – Farscape

Crichton starts the series as a bit of a frightened pilot, not really sure what the hell is going on and just trying not to get killed before he figures it out. He’s all about the science and the wonder of the universe. Over the course of four series he developed into a serious power to be reckoned with, known throughout the universe. Admittedly, a lot of his badassery was instigated as a result of someone messing with his mind that sent him a little boogaloo and resulted in some of the best one liners of the series. John could have been too much badass had he not had Aeryn around to show him how it was done, although she softened through the series the further from her previous life she got. John on the other hand really struggled with his actions and just how far he was willing to go and John gradual descent into madness / rise into badassery was one of the highlights of the show and spawned quite possibly my favourite moment:

Crichton: I can’t believe it, I left a nuclear bomb in an elevator.
Chiana: Well that’s all right. You’ve done worse


So, that’s taking a level in badass explained.

In all, it’s not a bad thing. It allows for character development, and to be honest, if a character didn’t man up in some of those situations then as vewiers / readers we’d be pretty pissed. It’ kill or be killed folks, and if you don’t grow you die. That said, as I’ve already explained, it can get too much sometimes. It’s about balance. It’s about character.

Now I’m off to watch some Farscape, and for you folks out there who have never seen it, check it out. It’s got some great writing, fantastic acting and some serious eye candy.

Have a nice evening folks,

Catch you tomorrow.


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Too much badassery


Okay, so this post isn’t specifically about books, but it is about writing, so bear with me. I do have a valid point to make here, although some of you might not like it.

I’ve been rewatching some of my favourite TV of late, and perhaps it’s just the intensive rewatching in a short space of time, but I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend that actually pains me to point out – it’s when one character takes over to an extent that you start to get annoyed by them, and not only that, but it starts to change the character in ways that you don’t like.

Yes, I’m talking about TMCD – too much character development.

Or, ‘Why I think I hate Daryl Dixon.’

(It was a tank! A frigging tank!)

Case in point, and I run the risk of some friends disowning me here, but take Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. Daryl started out in season one as a real asshole, a hot head living in the shadow of his brother, incapable of keeping his temper and with a tendency to throw squirrels at people. I liked that Daryl. But now, four series later and the character is almost unrecognisable from what he was.

And while that’s not a bad thing, it’s seriously running the risk of turning Daryl into a bit of a joke. For instance, in season one he took on Rick and Shane at once, by season four he took on a tank!

It started really in season 2, episode 5 ‘Chupacabra’ which saw Daryl hallucinating after he fell down a ravine while looking for Sofia, then he pulled an arrow out of his own leg and we all thought, ‘Yeah, Daryl is a badass.’ But then came the ears, and the raw squirrel and the blood and the bullet to the head and somewhere along that episode it was almost too much for one man to be that awesome. Right at that moment it started to become ‘The Daryl Dixon Show.

No one this dirty and bloody should be this sexy

No one this dirty and bloody should be this sexy

The creators clearly latched on early to the fact that Daryl was a fan favourite, and they started to give him more screen time, let him do cooler things, see other characters go to him for the shitty, difficult jobs (like beating Randal, something that the old Daryl wouldn’t have thought twice about, but something that the new and improved Daryl might balk at, or at least have to listen to a heart warming motivational speech from Rick for half an hour first.

Things started to go from bad to worse when other characters started to lose out on plot or events because they were given to Daryl instead. Such as the death of Dale. This was originally an Andrea and Dale moment and was significant because of the relationship that Andrea had with Dale, and particularly how that relationship was changing. The moment was given to Daryl instead, and while I understand that it was important in order to further Daryl’s relationship with Rick, but it took away from another character. While I appreciate that sacrifices have to be made in the nature of a show, especially when the character involved was not an original character, I think it’s important to remember that there are other characters.

Season three saw further shift into making Daryl awesome. But now he had the crossbow, the motorbike, the leather, he was a proven badass with known daddy issues and a violent past, but dammit he was going to get that baby formula. Episode 5 of season three saw Daryl taking over while Rick had his little breakdown and everyone else just stood around looking gormless. I mean, no one even liked Lori, surely they weren’t all that upset? I watched that particular episode with a couple of friends, and three quarters of the way through there was complete silence in the room. It should be impossible for an unwashed man to look that sexy while holding a baby. But the fact was, there was no need for Daryl to be holding her. I mean, we have no reason to believe that he knew what the fuck he was doing – other characters there have actually had babies, surely it would have made more sense to pass her over to Hershel or Carol. But then we wouldn’t have had the sexy man with a baby fan service. So not only is Daryl a cool badass, he’s also great with babies.

And so it continues. Daryl is the one that people rely on, case in point is when Beth informs Carol that they are ‘weak without him’ and for some reason that angered me. Yes, okay, so Daryl is a badass, but everyone in that prison has already survived several years into a zombie apocalypse. They are all, in their own way, badasses. But no, let’s make it all about Daryl. A guy that none of them even liked. All the bad shit gets left to Daryl, but he also gets to do all the cool shit too. He might get beat on a bit, but you know Daryl is always going to win. And something about that annoys me.

The season 4 mid break finale created it’s very own Daryl meme which I think highlights just how out of control the badassery had become. This dude should have been dead by now with all the stupid risks he takes.

daryl tank

I think that’s why I liked to see him in season three episode 12 ‘Still’ – now, I’m not a big fan of sentimental serious thinking Daryl – leave all that introspective shit to Rick – but I liked to see him getting drunk and losing his temper again, a welcome return to the old days. I also liked his interaction with Beth, both getting equal screen time and equal importance – which was great because up until now all Beth seemed to have going for her was that she was a convenient babysitter with a great ponytail . It wasn’t the Daryl Dixon Show anymore. This was a welcome relief given that just a few episodes before he took out a tank by himself. See:

Now, while I appreciate that characters have to change and grow, sometimes when one character changes and grows too much it can take away from other characters. Rick and Daryl both suffer from the same issues in this. Although Rick has gone the other way, lost all of his hope and instead spends all of his time saying sentimental cringey shit to people who don’t want to hear it.

As writers we all run the risk of doing something similar, especially when we love a particular character, and often we don’t realise we are doing it until someone points it out to us, or until we reach the point where we realise that we are only giving lines to one character in a cast of ten. Now, some characters simply are more badass than others, and that’s fine. But what is it about the other characters that makes them relevant to the plot in the first place? If they aren’t getting lines, getting scenes, then maybe it’s time to cut them loose? Or maybe it’s time to take a good hard look at our main character who is desperately in danger of become a Sue and take action before it’s too late.

So, what do I think? Well, much as I loved seeing Daryl go all Mad Max, I think it’s time to rein it back a little. Make him a little more human again, give us something we can relate to as people, we don’t need him to be an action hero. Let him to stupid shit so Rick yells at him. Let him make mistakes. Let him fail at something again.

And for fuck sake give other characters cool things to do.

And just because she does have a really cute pony tail:


Happy Wednesday folks,


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Keeping busy

Hey folks, sorry it’s been a while. Some of you emailed me about changes and removals of some posts, so I’ll just address the issue now – there have been some personal issues over the last few weeks that have kind of put an awful lot of other stuff into perspective, and while that’s ongoing I’m not going to comment on personal / private issues, but I just wanted to say thanks for the support and love over the last year, it’s meant a lot, and while some of you know what’s been going on lately, it’s not really something I want to talk about just yet.

And then there’s the peripheral stuff that’s occupying way more of my time and mental capacity then it really should – one of my best friends announced that she’s moving 4000 miles away, career is running away from me a bit (turns out that I’m pretty good at what I do, but have no self control so have been seriously overworked), daughter is growing up far too fast, my passport photo looks terrible, and then there’s a boy. Isn’t there always? I’m a little old to be dealing with this kind of thing, and it’s a strange complication of emotions that I haven’t felt since I was a teenager. But ultimately my ‘still married’ status has effectively put a halt to anything happening. And that’s a whole other issue to deal with. And yet, they are all minor matters compared to other things going on.

I’ll admit that, having been thrown for six, I’ve not really been myself lately. I’ve written over 100,000 words in the last week, spent most of my time walking around with the dog, talking to my neighbours, reading more than ever, hanging out with my friends, saying yes to things I would normally not consider, volunteering for stuff and getting into arguments that I would normally have let slide – FYI, Jaws is NOT a trilogy! I’ve also been sorting out a few things on my computer – password protecting certain folders and making sure that the relevant people know what to do in a worst case scenario. Turns out that for a mostly straight woman I possess a startling collection of gay porn. :)

I have a couple of sensible writing type posts that I will put up over the next few days, I just need to get my head showered first. And maybe log out of Archive Of Our Own for a couple of hours – if nothing else it’s doing terrible things to my expectations regarding sex.

So, take care peeps, and I’ll catch you in a day or two.

Love, etc,


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Life lessons from a 7 year old

Every year I plant peas.

Every year I tend to them, give them support, sunlight, water, love.

Every year I find myself standing, at the end of the summer, wondering where the fuck all my peas are.

Every year my daughter stands in front of me and tells me, in her most innocent voice, that she has no idea where all the peas went, and maybe I should plant more next year.

Every year I plant more peas than the year before.

Moral of the story – you can’t always see how much someone loves the things that you make or do for them. Sometimes you just have to take it on faith. And plant more peas.

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Avoiding overload

Lately I realised that I’ve been spending an awful lot of time on the computer that I could use for other, more important, things.

So, I try to have two internet free days a week, and I’m finding that it’s really good for my soul. I tend to avoid the internet at weekends – which is when most people seem to log on. That way I seem to avoid all the weekend wankery, all the beer fuelled rants and the hormonal wangst. I also manage to avoid seeing all those misguided weekend posts and updates that common sense will see deleted by Monday morning.

All in all, my two day abstinence has been a good thing. I don’t feel that I’m missing anything – after all, no one posts anything of importance after midnight on a Saturday anyway.

So, although sometimes it seems that I’m missing all the fun, in reality, I’m keeping sane and keeping out of trouble, and I’m avoiding seeing people at their worst. Everyone wins.

So, you’re mission, should you chose to accept it, is to take yourself away from life for a couple of days. Turn off your laptop and just…count the flowers.

Take care


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Romance, is it really?

Watching movies with my daughter this week I have started to realise how unhealthy some of the ‘romantic’ plots really are. Some of them are slightly uncomfortable, and some of them are downright creepy. But we have been conditioned to believe that these things are ‘romantic’ and desirable, and when you think about some of them, and the things that we are teaching a whole new generation of young girls. It’s unhealthy.

Here are some of my top examples from various stories:

Sleeping Beauty

The romance – Prince beats his way into palace and kisses Sleeping Beauty and she awakens from 100 year sleep and they fall in love.

The issue – Random bloke hears about incapacitated woman and decides to cop a feel. Can we say sexual assault?

Snow White

The romance – Prince opens glass coffin to kiss ‘dead’ princess because she is so beautiful.

The issue – Prince opens glass COFFIN to kiss DEAD princess because she is so beautiful.

Beauty and The Beast

The romance – incarcerated woman learns to see past appearances and falls in love with her ‘captor.’

The issue – young girl sold by father to stranger plus Stockholm syndrome made sexy.


The romance – downtrodden young woman has makeover, goes to ball, enchants Prince and they fall in love.

The issue – appearance is everything.

The Little Mermaid (the real story, not the bastardised Disney version)

The romance – mermaid gives up everything for the love of a human

The issue – mermaid gives up everything for the love of a human who doesn’t want her so she drowns herself. Moral of the story – you can’t live without a boyfriend


And that’s just fairy stories. When you take into account novels, movies etc, and really look at some of the things we are told are romantic, you’ll get chills. Twilight is an example I use a lot when talking about this. Everyone coos over how ‘romantic’ it is until you point out how controlling and emotionally abusive Edward is and how he slowly strips Bella of all of her opinions and choices – she doesn’t even get a say in the clothes she takes on honeymoon with her, let alone where she lives or how it’s decorated etc. She becomes completely and wholly dependant on him. It’s not romantic, it’s a warning to young girls everywhere.

I’m actually quite scared now of what we are being led to believe is acceptable and romantic, when in reality it’s just a cover for something much darker and much more disturbing.

Bet you’ll never watch a Disney movie the same way again.

Til next time,



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