Tag Archives: novel

Getting on the writing piste. Talking to myself.

I’ve wandered off my writing piste. The weather’s fine, but I’m lost in heavy going.

Maybe I’m on the wrong horse. No point in riding a fast sprinter when you’re in it for the long haul. Sprinters are for short stories, writer in Languedoc, but you have something else in mind now, don’t you?

writing piste direction

which way?

I do.

But which way to go?

There’s no worn track to follow. I’m going to have to make my own way.

See, the thing is, it doesn’t matter how many times you read how other people do their thing, how they organise their time for writing, whether they pants it first and sort it afterwards. Some of them will tell you get your outline, plot your scenes, follow this rule, follow that one. Get the backbone straight before you give it legs. It’s got to have a sound skeleton (structure) before it can run (be good enough to publish).

Yes, yes. I know, I know. And I’m grateful to all the wonderful writers out there who freely give of their experience and time to help others. Well, maybe they do want you to buy their How To book, and why not? What they have to say has helped other writers find some measure of success in this fiercely competitive world we want to break into.

However, dammit, it doesn’t matter how successful all these other writers are at following their path, because when it comes right down to it –


You are on YOURS.

Let me take stock of my writing journey. It’s September and through my year so far I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

1. New Year’s Resolution – get a website. Check.

2. Blog regularly on said website. Check.

3. Learn about SEO and other wizardry. Check.

4. Tweet regularly and support other authors without always peddling your own stuff. Check.

writing missions

on target so far

5. Get Mick’s collection of short stories out on Kindle. Check.

6. Prepare Arse(d) Ends for paperback version. Check.

7. Finish that Airport short story and submit it. Check. Sold it.

8. Keep up to date with new ideas for more short stories. Check.

9. Have another go at writing something for serialisation. Half-check.

10. I didn’t have a tenth thing on my must-do list.

So, what’s the problem, Writer in Languedoc? It sounds to me like you’ve been busy.

writing maze

which way?

Oh, I’ve been very busy. But, I’m in a maze. That’s the problem. I have a decision to make about which way to go now.

I have three novels ready for final edit.

I’m going to choose one of them and get it out there.

But which one?

The family saga – an epic 140,000 words spanning 1934 to 2010? The psychological drama? The one with the theme that hides itself?


I’ll probably write a few more short stories while I’m thinking.

keep writing


Guest Post by author Luke Murphy

Luke Murphy

Luke Murphy – author of Dead Man’s Hand

Author Luke Murphy is my guest today. He’s celebrating great reviews for his novel Dead Man’s Hand. I love the chance to share in other people’s celebrations.

July 14th is a day of high rejoicing here in France, where I live. We’ve already had a week of firework displays, live music and street parties in town squares from north to south and east to west. Tonight, French people celebrate becoming citizens of a Republic. There’ll be a procession through the streets of our village. Children will carry the flame of truth (lanterns) to the main square to remind us how in 1789 the principals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity underpinned the movement for change. No longer were ordinary people prepared to accept the hand they had been dealt by an unfair society.

It’s probably fair to say that the French have been ornery ever since, but . . .

. . . What better day to celebrate author Luke Murphy’s debut novel Dead Man’s Hand.

I follow Luke Murphy on Twitter. I like to see how other writers are doing. Share the good news.

Luke lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters and pug.

He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).

Dead Man`s Hand was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.

Luke has received excellent reviews. Here are just a few from Amazon.

Make sure you have a few days free if you start this book because once you start reading, you won’t want to put the book down! 

S.Dox  |  8 reviewers made a similar statement.
So, I’m thrilled to bits to have this talented writer as my first guest post.


It’s a great title isn’t it? I’m not a card player so the phrase wasn’t familiar to me. I didn’t know the history behind it.

Historically, the phrase, Dead Man’s Hand was given to the last poker hand that Wild Bill Hickok had been dealt when he was murdered during a game of five-card-draw. Although there is  controversy over what those five cards were or even if there actually were five cards when the infamous Hickok was slain, there appears to be a general consensus that he was holding a pair of 8s and a pair of Aces. However, the most controversial aspect about the poker hand in question, was the the number and suit of the fifth card.

Here’s Luke’s tantalising introduction to his novel:

Luke Murphy - his novel

a must read!

What happens when the deck is stacked against you…

From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.

…and the cards don’t fall your way? 

When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.

What if you’re dealt a Dead Man’s Hand? 

Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.

Wow! A real thriller writer on my website. Isn’t that something? I asked Luke to tell us a little about where he finds his inspiration.



 What Inspired my Fiction?

I never thought much about writing when I was growing up.

But I was always an avid reader, which I owe to my mother. She was a librarian, and although I lost her when I was young, I will always remember a stack on Danielle Steele books on her bedside table, and a lot of books lying around the house at my disposal.

My first chapter books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels. DEAD MAN`S HAND has been compared to James Patterson books, which to me is an honour. Maybe in style (short chapters, a quick read), as I have read many of his books.

Plot: I get my ideas from stories I hear about, whether through reading (newspapers, magazines, etc.), what I hear (radio) or what I see (TV, movies, internet, etc.). The plot is completely fictional. I wouldn`t say that one thing or person influences my writing, but a variety of my life experiences all have led to my passion in the written word. There is not a single moment in time when this idea came to be, but circumstances over the years that led to this story: my hockey injuries, frequent visits to Las Vegas, my love of football, crime books and movies. Dead Man’s Hand became real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts in their field, and adding my wild imagination. The internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.

Setting: I usually set my stories in cities I`ve visited and fell in love with. Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for this story, glitz and glamour as well as an untapped underground.

Characters: I have never been involved in a homicide investigation, LOL. Although I am not a 6’5”, 220 pound African-American, I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating my protagonist Calvin Watters. Watters past as an athlete, and his emotional rollercoaster brought on by injuries were drawn from my experiences. His mother died of cancer when he was young, as mine was. There are certainly elements of myself in Calvin, but overall, this is a work of fiction. I did not base the characters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence.

I’ve always been a self-motivated person, and my harshest critic. Whether it was in school, hockey or writing, I’ve been the one to put the most pressure on myself to succeed, to be the best in everything I try.

I made my decision in 2005. I enjoyed writing so much as a hobby, I decided I wanted to take my interest one step further – write a story with the intention of being published and making it available for friends, family, and readers around the world to enjoy.

I`m not one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft. I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. I continually researched on the internet, reading up on the industry and process. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.

Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2006, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of the novel.

I then worked with editors and joined a critique group, doing anything I could to learn, to improve my writing and my novel to point where I could create the best possible work.

My years of hard work finally paid off. With my dream still in mind and my manuscript ready, I hired the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency to represent DEAD MAN`S HAND. My dream became reality in 2012 when I signed a publishing contract with Imajin Books.

Writing allows me, for a short time, the freedom to leave my everyday world and explore new avenues, to be in another place and time. It allows me to get inside the head of characters—to think, do, and say whatever I want with no rules or restrictions. It means liberty and freedom to express myself.

That’s great, Luke. Thanks for sharing that with us. I wish you all the very best for this and future novels.

And isn’t it nice that the principals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity somehow found their way into this post?

What makes a satisfying read?

What is it that makes a book satisfying for you? When you’re choosing your next read, do you look for some kind of guarantee it’s going to hit the spot?

satisfaction guarantee

can any book guarantee reader satisfaction?

Imagine – you’re in the zone – receptive to suggestions – you’re browsing genres – willing to take a little chance – open to new ideas. You spot an interesting cover – you read the blurb. Maybe you read the opening paragraphs, too. You’ve never heard of the author but you’re bookless and looking forward to your next read. But it’s got to be satisfying.

Chances are, what makes that book hit the spot for you won’t be the same as what makes a book satisfying for me.

satisfying read for a cat

do not disturb!

We like different things, don’t we, all of us? We’re attracted by different images and colours which make us choose to investigate book titles further. We might insist that we were open to new ideas and receptive to suggestions, but we were still subconsciously bound by our preferences. Those preferences grew out of our personal experiences with books and reading. You can’t prefer something you’ve never experienced.

Let me give you an example. If you asked me six years ago if I’d read any Cornwell, Reichs, Slaughter, Gerritsen etc. I would have said, I don’t think I’d enjoy that kind of book.
I had never been tempted to try titles in that genre. They simply didn’t appeal. Then a friend came to stay and left books behind. I was bookless and read them. Now I have a collection of aforementioned authors. It turned out I enjoyed the genre after all and I’ve since broadened my reading experience to include action thrillers. Who knew I’d turn out to be Jack Reacher’s #1 fan?


a dog’s fave genre?

But then, as I’ve said elsewhere on my website, I love variety. My bookshelves comprise an unusual mix, some might say. Authors now have a better chance of attracting me to their titles because I’ve experienced a wider range of books.

But, I’m still not too easy to please. The writing has to transport me. I have to care what happens next. Characters have to be attractive to me in some way. I must want to see them attempt to reach their goal. Or the plot has to be fascinating. I have to want to turn the page.

But is satisfying enough to aim for when we’re writing? Would I be delighted if, when I eventually have my novels on sale, reviewers vote them a satisfying read?

Wow factorI don’t think I would. I guess I’m aiming for the Wow factor. I think I have to. As a novelist, I’m unpublished. It’s been hard enough to break through into magazine publication and I know that to achieve success with a debut novel, you have to come up with something really special.

My novel Trobairitz won’t please everybody. Neither will Patterns of Our Lives. They’re for different markets. You can’t please everybody. But I’d like to think I could burst the satisfaction meter for some readers.

What constitutes the difference between a satisfying read and the Wow factor for you?

How do you write a novel? A bit at a time.

It seems you’re expected to answer this question of how do you write a novel. At some point, your followers are going to want to know. That’s lovely. That’s why I’m writing this blog: to reach people I’ll never meet in the flesh. I’m delighted to have some followers. I hope to have lots more.


the lady diarist at her desk

Other writers will be curious, too. We all have our own ways, what works best for us. There are probably as many different ways of setting about the writing of a novel as there are different kinds of books. I have a link here to tips from published writers. I read both Larry and Holly and I think their information is so valuable to new writers setting out on their journey.

I don’t beat myself up about targets. I write here about letting it happen. Sometimes, my plans take a day off and the page stays empty. Other days, an idea explodes out of nowhere and I have to drop what I was writing and scribble down this new idea for a short story. It isn’t a problem. I let it happen. Why would I want to shut out new ideas just because I’d been planning to edit chapter fifteen of something else?

So, I run with the sprint of a short story when it presents itself. Writing a novel, though, is a marathon. Planning is a must. I plan everything in great detail. I know my characters inside out and upside down. By the time I get around to writing their scenes, I’ve lived with them for weeks. I know exactly where they live and how it looks. I won’t use all that information, but it’s useful for me to visualize them when they’re walking along the streets of the village I’ve invented. I even draw maps.

map of Montalhan

my version of Montalhan sans Vents in the novel Trobairitz

Okay, so the drawing isn’t fabulous, but this is the village my Trobairitz is imagining when she tells her stories at the overnight truck stop. She knows where the vineyards are in relation to the housing developments. She knows where the river runs past the chateau on its way to the sea. She knows the narrow passages and steep steps linking levels of the circulade.


circulades are spiral shaped

In Trobairitz, the shape of the village is reflected in the stories she tells. There is a central theme, hiding under the archways, shrinking back into the alleys, revealing itself only gradually. I like that kind of a tease in books.

I plan a timeline, too, so I know how events from the three books fit into a chronological order, even if in the narrative I don’t treat them chronologically. The whole thing becomes a magnificent obsession, to borrow fromMagnificentObsess Douglas.

Now, there was a story. I wonder whether its themes would stand up today? That might be an interesting exercise one day; one day when I’m not obsessed with my own creations.

Sometimes, the short story I dashed down in between writing chapters of the magnificent obsession pops back, like indigestion. Erm, over here, it says, have another look at me. I’m not finished.

And I have another look, and it isn’t finished and, would you believe it? There’s enough there for a whole new novel. I’ll make that another post.

TROBAIRITZ. Who were they?


Trobairitz songs were called cansos

Trobairitz were troubadours. Female troubadours. They sang songs and poems about love, tradition and current affairs. Their songs were called cansos. Their language was Occitan – the language that gave its name to the region of southern France where they lived and worked.

Langue means language.

Langue d’Occitan became Languedoc

The region of Languedoc stretches across southern France from west to east.

This where the Trobairitz came from.  This is the area they covered when they travelled in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Not much is known about them. Very few of their songs remain.

Trobairitz Azalais de Porciragues

Azalais came from Portiragnes

Azalais de Porciragues lived in the twelfth century. Her home town is called Portiragnes now and is a popular beach resort in the summer.

Women like Azalais were strong and independent. It’s thought they must have had their own means to support their lifestyles.

This is where I live. The departments might have slightly different names now, but the rivers are all in the same place and the mountains funnel the winds as they always did.

land of the Trobairitz

land of the Trobairitz

Languedoc is a land of tradition and superstition. Its people love the Arts: it’s in their genes. This is where I’m writing about a twenty first century Trobairitz. She has stories to tell. About love, tradition and current affairs. Her name is Weed. Like the Trobairitz of old, she’s strong and independent. She has her own means to support her lifestyle. She travels the land of the troubadours in her truck. She tells her stories at an overnight truck stop.


Edit: Book One – Trobairitz – the Storyteller is available on Amazon from Friday 28th November 2014.

Living the Dream.The power of characters.

Last night I dreamed I went to duMaurierLand again. (Sorry Daphne)

Let me explain. When I was younger and I might dream of living the life of a writer, I’d create for myself a room with a desk by a French window, beyond which there would be green swathe running down toward the sea and there would be bracken and paths through stands of trees. Indoors, I would have a log fire and tea in a bone china cup and I’d probably be wearing something quite figure-hugging and pearl earrings. You see, dear reader, I read everything Daphne published. The lot. All the novels. All the collections of short stories. I keep by my desk an old copy of Rebecca and every day, before I begin, I look at it. Sometimes, I pick it up and sniff it.


my teenage heroine

There’s nothing like the smell of a good book. Kindles can’t do that. They can’t reproduce the touchy-feely thing about holding a favourite book in your hands. It would be sacrilege to read Rebecca on an e-reader. Wouldn’t it? Would I experience the same sense of connection with the woman who has inspired me for years?

first edition - I wish I had one

first edition – I wish I had one

Can you curl up with a Kindle?


a scene from Hitchcock’s 1940 film

Rebecca is my talisman. I keep it by my side to remind me of the power of characters. In du Maurier’s Rebecca there’s a character so powerful she controls everything even after she’s dead.  Rebecca, who Mrs Danvers adored, still occupies the thoughts and actions of the de Winter household to the extent that poor second Mrs de Winter doesn’t even get a first name all through the entire novel.

That’s power.That’s character. And yet . . . and yet.

I’m writing in the twenty first century. I might have a desk now AND a French window, ( I live in France; everybody has French windows) but Manderley it isn’t. My characters don’t wear pearls and dress for dinner.

My main character in Trobairitz drives a truck. This is where she spends most of her time.

Volvo Globetrotter cab

My character loves her cab


She hasn’t worn a skirt for years. She stuffs her hair under a baker boy cap when she’s driving and it’s so long since she had any fun with a man, she wonders if all her bits still work.

Daphne, as far as I remember, didn’t write about women’s bits or have a character admire the way a man fills his tee shirt.

But, if I can get my characters onto a page , whether on paper or a backlit screen, and readers remember them long afterwards, the way I remember Rebecca, I’ll be in du MaurierLand.

Passionate about Trucks


I love trucks. Especially ones like this. I hang out the car window to take pictures of them. I hang around truckers’ websites like a sniper, hitting on forums and stealing their conversations. I watch all the trucker TV programmes.

It’s no surprise then, that my novel Trobairitz features a mothertrucker as its main character. Trobairitz were female troubadours in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. My twenty-first century lady troubadour tells stories at an overnight truck stop. She doesn’t know she has it within herself to put back into her life the things she needs. She doesn’t even know she needs them yet.


She’s careful about getting too close to people. That’s why she tells stories instead.

She loves driving. She loves her truck.

She has another love.




powder blue – champagne leather seats

Her car.

What is the theme of your book?

You have to know. You have to be able to say, very succinctly, what your novel is about. What it ultimately IS. In one sentence. Go on. Say it. If you can’t, there’s a good chance you don’t really know what your purpose is for this book.


just three rules would be easy . . .

A funny little quote from W. Somerset Maugham is all well and good and lightens the mood in an old-fashioned, quaint sort of way, does it not, Madam? Sir?

But we ain’t writing old-fashioned, quaint sorts of books, are we? Unless we’re Alexander McCall Smith and he’s a master so there’s no point in trying to emulate his style.

We have to have thrust. We have to have a clear picture of where we’re going right at the very beginning of this book, and we have to keep watching the SatNav all along the way to prevent from wandering from our ultimate purpose.That’s why we need one clear sentence that says what this book IS. That’s why we have to keep that one clear sentence lodged in our thinking as the plot progresses.

Loving the writing


pantsing doesn’t always get you where you want to go

I looked at my tag cloud.  What? The blogging word was getting too big. It was almost as big as the writing word. See what happens when you’re not looking? When you’re pantsing instead of planning. For initiates pantsing is flying by the seat of them. Get it?

Pantsing is great for that piece of morning writing when your head needs clearing and you just write down the first thing you think of. Afterwards, you can have a look at what you wrote and decide whether any of it’s worth keeping. Mostly, it isn’t. So you have to plan what you’re going to write.


in love with reading


in love with writing

Did I mention before that as well as short stories, I write novels? And, as it’s Valentine Day, I’m taking this opportunity to dedicate myself to them: my novels. I am in love with all of them. I shall be in love with the next when it arrives. My love for them has no bounds. Like with your children, your love grows: you don’t steal from one to give to another. You love them all.

Waiting for submissions feedback


an old British Rail waiting room

Waiting. Waiting. Drumming your fingers on the desk. Making another hot drink. Not being able to settle. Can’t read. Not even a newspaper.

I hate waiting. So, I don’t. I write instead. Actually, I blog and network and do some writing. Maybe a bit of editing, too. I go outside with a coffee and do A LOT of staring into space. Walking helps with the waiting thing as well. We have plenty of places to walk – mostly through the vineyards surrounding the village. I take my camera and see what’s new for the upcoming Wednesday Vine Report. The whites have begun sprouting leaves already.


vineyards below the village near the river

So, my time is filled productively without too much waiting. And a very strange thing happens while I’m out walking along the lanes. Ideas arrive! They pop up from behind a bush or they streak across the sky with Ryanair on its way to Beziers airport. My feet crunch through gravel and here’s a tale of lost luggage and a mix-up at the car hire desk where a kind person offers the lost luggage person a lift home. Hmmm. Romantic interlude or Samaritan from Hell? I think that’s already been done. Left, right, swishing through the grass and here comes another idea. Fast on its heels there’s an answer to that question I had about a character in a short story. I meet a couple walking their dog and now I know exactly what my elderly male character ought to wear on his head. I climb towards home. There’s a young man sitting on a bench by the side of the road. He has his mobile phone to his ear. Hang on a minute, goes the old grey matter, that there is an old folks’ bench. What is a young man like him doing sitting on an old folks’ bench using his mobile phone?

And before you know it, another short story is bubbling like Evian, featuring the very handsome young man, a distraught, wronged lover and a victorious wife biding her time for the killing. I dash indoors for my notebook. Then, I come back to my garden for some more staring into space.

DCF compatable JPEG Img

Flowers and fruit at the same time

Outside on my baby lime tree there are mature fruits and fruits barely formed and flowers waiting for the bees. A bit like my writing really.

I have three completed novels. Let me rephrase that. I have one novel under consideration at the moment and I consider that one finished after two rewrites. The other two novels need complete, hefty editing. They’re all different genres. One’s a family saga and at 140,000 words needs the heftiest axe. Another’s a psychological drama and needs a restructure. The third’s a book club read and at 86,000 words is close to optimum. I think. I’m waiting to find out. I’m also waiting for feedback on two short stories submitted to Woman’s Weekly. And the serial. So, that’s four pieces of work I’m waiting to hear about.

Then there are the flowers waiting for the bees. Two half-written novels, umpteen short stories and a file called Ideas which keeps growing longer every time I go out for a walk and see handsome young men on their mobiles in the wrong place.

By the time my limes fizz at the top of a clinky drink of Gin and Tonic, I’m really going to need it. Make it a big one. Easy on the tonic!