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Archive for August, 2009

I’ll be upgrading the blog over the next two weeks to give it a new feel and domain name of its own.  However, much of the subject matter and design style will remain the same, and I’ll still be blogging about creative writing, the novel, music and piano playing – just like before!

As regards to the current novel I’m working on, I’ve changed some of the context of the creepy cliff walk back, told through the viewpoint of the second main character, Dawn.

Here goes…Dawn is a clinical psychologist who has lost her license and spent a few years in prison for manslaughter.   She has no recollections of the event and believes she killed her former boyfriend after he subjected her to a series of subtle but menacing mind games.  Dawn’s father, however, suspects his daughter might be innocent and launches his own investigation into what really happened.   The following section, told from Dawn’s viewpoint, has been altered and forms part of the back story of the events leading up to the murder. 

The remainder of the week passed like a holiday of sorts, the first half slower than the second, even though she’d been in the area a week.  She took bus trips most morning to the surrounding resort towns and bays.  Sometimes, over a glass of lemonade and a sandwich, she exchanged a few words with tourists, but mostly, she preferred the newspaper and her own company.   

Nina rang late on Friday afternoon. Told her that Ryan and his mates had been posting boozy holiday photographs on Facebook earlier, and that she shouldn’t miss the barbeque tomorrow because Ryan wouldn’t be back in the country until the middle of next week.  After the call, she spent a couple of hours on the beach.  At half seven, she got up and started back towards the cliff path, hesitating suddenly at the foot of the path.  She was conscious of an unusual sensation, like someone watching her.  Obviously, Ryan couldn’t be observing her, as he was in Spain.

The sun had begun to settle over the horizon, its pink grapefruit glow blending with the calm sea.  There were still people on the beach: families walking along the shore, a large group of teenagers on the pathway leading down from the main road, swinging from the railings.  But nothing suspicious. The cliff walk normally lasted ten minutes.  Unless she went into town and took the steep grassy climb by the roundabout – equally secluded – there was no other way up to the cottage.  In any case, I’m being paranoid, she told herself.  There’s no one there.

She began the climb, walking as fast as she could, panting from the path’s steep gradient that seemed to get steeper with every footstep, the closeness in the air making her hot and light headed.  She had to stop several times to get her breath back. The stillness was thickening, the beginning of dusk making the path ahead look darker. The quietness had taken on an oppressive quality of its own, like a shadow lurking nearby, watching her make her way up the hill.  She felt a shudder pass through her and paused to look back a couple of times.  Nothing. 

The taut stillness kept thickening, reminding her of angry bees.  The shore below appeared deserted now, although there were still some people around.  She attempted to run the rest of the trail, the roar of blood in her head drowning out the soft movement of the tide below.  Fresh shadows formed ahead on the pathway.  Wisps of movement.  She drew to a halt.

Summer storms. Dark skies in the middle of the day.   Rain blowing in gales across fields, wind tearing at fences and telegraph poles.  Police officers and search parties with torches, trudging through the bleak countryside in Wellington boots, searching for Katie.

Pushing aside memories of that other summer twenty-three years ago, she ran towards the lane of cottages that were visible now in the fading daylight, fighting against the breathlessness and the humid heat, until a stitch in her side finally forced her to stop by a bench near the top.  She slowed her tempo to brisk waking pace, her shins and thighs aching from the exertion, specs of light dancing before her eyes from the continuing mugginess.  Her unease kept mounting.  Thunderstorms were on their way, she knew.  Another summer of storms, like those summer storms twenty-three years ago when Katie disappeared.  The thought made her shiver.  She glanced back down the path.  Nothing.  With all the strength she could muster, she strode on towards the lane of cottages, wincing from the stitch in her side.  

Moments later, she arrived at the cottage out of breath.  The gate scraped against the pavement when she opened it.  She made her way across the unkempt stretch of grass in the centre of the garden to the front door, coming to another halt when she heard a rustle of movement nearby.   

‘Who’s there?’

Silence. 

She fumbled around for her keys, her hands shaking as more taunt stillness pressed in, bringing with it images of shadows waiting in the lane. Once again, she thought she heard footsteps nearby.  The sounds stopped.  Thrusting the key in the lock, she pushed the front door open and ran into the hallway where she shut the door with a slam and put the chain over the lock.  She tiptoed upstairs, across the landing in the twilight, and perching low, crept towards the window to peer out at the lane.  There were no signs of movement outside or everything suspicious, only the cliff tops and the dwindling evening light. 

Switching on the bedroom light, she drew the curtains and changed into a fresh set of clothes, as the other ones were sweaty from the climb.  After looking out of the window one last time, she phoned Nina who rang back five minutes later and told her that according to the latest photo on Facebook, Ryan and his two friends were drinking beer outside a club in Spain, getting happily drunk.  Heaving a sigh of relief, she thanked Nina, ran off and went to the kitchen to make a mug of decaffeinated.  Instead, she settled for a large glass of wine, her hands shaking after the imaginary encounter by the front gate.  That’s what it had been, hadn’t it?  An imaginary encounter caused by the stress and the heat?  No one had followed her up the cliff.   

Even so, she got up to draw the kitchen blinds.  The throbbing stillness continued to press in, along with the vague sense of someone watching.  The mugginess was getting worse, a band tightening around her temples.  She felt a headache coming on.  The electrical charge in the air warned of severe storm weather.  Shutting her eyes, she massaged the side of her head. 

Thunder rumbled across the bay, followed seconds later by splattering rain on the paving stone outside.  There was another growl of thunder, louder this time.  She opened her eyes.  Thoughts of earlier crammed her mind: the darkening and shadows on the cliff pathway, the ominous silence swooping down in the heat, the rustle of movement near the front fence.  From her position at the kitchen table, she saw a flicker of lightning appear by the lounge window, illuminating the front garden.  A sudden crash of thunder made her jump.  More lightning at the window, followed by a pause in the storm as the steady thud of rain became a downpour.  She went into the lounge to draw the curtains.   Without warning, the reading lamp by the CD rack came on by itself. 

 

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There’s an old saying that goes something like “take care of the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves.”  

I think the same could be applied to creative writing, particularly novel writing.   In my last post, I described why I’ve chosen to revise my novel writing on a weeky basis  rather than concentrate on getting the draft completed.  Obviously, my writing method won’t necessarily work for everyone, but here’s one reason why I think it has merit.   It allows you to correct more noticeable problems as you go.    (I struggle with dialogue and plot, in particular.)    

Approaching  a piece of writing from a critical and analytical angle enables a writer to tackle the problems relatively early on.   Also, it helps with the overall word count.   By paying close attention to problematic or abrupt passages, you can actually increase the word count considerably – a bit like those pennies taking care of the pounds.  Obviously, if a writer is able to hurry events and dialogue along, my approach won’t help at all, but do consider it if you’re having problems.

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When I began another novel recently, I just wanted to get to the end of the first draft.   Once I got the material down on paper, I believed, the rest would be easy.   I managed six chapters, then had to stop and return to my first novel.  

Having recently gone back to the new novel and cut much of the original story, I’m beginning to think that ongoing revision is perhaps more important than completing the initial draft.   Obviously, there are limits to revising a story as you go; it’s a bit like the first coat of painting.  You need time to evaluate it.   However, I think reading through a week’s work with critical eyes is no bad thing, even if it means delaying the completion of the draft. 

See a list of revision tips. 

The story so far… Dawn is a clinical psychologist who has lost her license and spent a few years in prison for manslaughter.   She has no recollections of the event and believes she killed her former boyfriend after he subjected her to a series of subtle but menacing mind games.  Dawn’s father, however, suspects his daughter might be innocent and launches his own investigation into what really happened. 

Dawn is now rebuilding her life in a secluded Dorset coastal town.  Soon after her arrival, she begins to think that someone is watching her.   The events that follow trigger off flashbacks of a past event in her early childhood, leading her to danger.

Read a sample:

Father’s viewpoint.

Dawn’s viewpoint.

From chapter Five of Hidden Truths, a psychological thriller.  

After Bill rang off, I remained in my spot by the rockery, my shoulders and back aching still. Several houses down, a barbeque was under way, the raucous laughter travelling across the neighbouring gardens and merging with my own churning thoughts.  I’d always had reservations about Dawn moving to the cottage, but until two evenings ago she’d shown signs of settling in her new surroundings, going as far as to announce her plans to set up an online business selling greeting cards.  Her lack of bitterness, in particular, never failed to impress me, considering she had lost virtually everything.  Still, I often worried about her state of mind and the possibility of further memory blanks, but I’d spoken to her most days since her move to Dorset and she had always sounded lucid to me.  Not a hint of anything amiss until Friday evening. 

I made a mental list of the incidents so far…Dawn certain that someone had followed her up the cliff to the cottage…the two reading lamps coming on…the phone call from the unknown woman…the continuing feeling of someone trailing her through the resort from the coast to the bakery to the ATM machine.  If Dawn was correct, the person responsible had entered her bedroom and altered the timer setting.  And not only that.  They’d hung around on the cliff path on Friday evening, discreetly making their way up to the cottage after Dawn and waiting in the vicinity while she went in.  It was an unusual set of behaviour, not the type I would expect from a group of locals opposed to the presence of a person convicted of manslaughter in the town.  Worse, the preoccupation with the timer switches, along with the access to the unlisted phone number, suggested that the culprit was familiar with the cottage.  They were playing mind games with Dawn, it seemed.

Pippa tells me I worry too much.  Bill says I need to let go, chill out and tune in. Or to fizzle and melt, as he once put it.  Possibly, they’re right, but I can’t help worrying when it comes to Dawn.  She’s my only daughter, my surviving child, living alone in an isolated country lane, unable to recall a single detail of one of the most significant events in her life while an unknown person – possibly the woman who rang earlier – follows her around at a distance. 

Less than twenty-four hours ago, I’d made a decision to stop trying to prove Dawn’s innocence.  To let go and chill out and fizzle and melt.  Now, old questions and doubts came flooding back.  I admit I didn’t have a shred of evidence to support my theory, only a nagging feeling that the police and forensics had overlooked a clue of considerable significance. 

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New Online Recording

 

July 16, 2009: I spent a couple of hours this morning at a friend’s flat, recording the Grieg piano sonata in E minor, along with a couple of Chopin preludes and the Liszt’s fifth Hungarian Rhapsody.  My friend will go through the various tracks and send the files back to me.

After a particularly frustrating afternoon, I’ve finally managed to put six piano pieces on YUDU.   For some reason, the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody got missed out.   For more.

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Hidden Truths, a psychological thriller set in Dorset and London. 

I’m having quite a struggle.

The story so far… Dawn is a clinical psychologist who has lost her license and spent a few years in prison for manslaughter.   She has no recollections of the event and believes she killed her former boyfriend after he subjected her to a series of subtle but menacing mind games.  Dawn’s father, however, suspects his daughter might be innocent and launches his own investigation into what really happened. 

Dawn is now rebuilding her life in a secluded Dorset coastal town.  Soon after her arrival, though, she begins to think that someone is watching her.   The events that follow trigger off flashbacks of a past event in her early childhood, leading her to danger.

Read a sample:

Father’s viewpoint.

Dawn’s viewpoint.

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