The Last Book

Once I’ve finished writing this, I shall be reading the very last Terry Pratchett book, The Shepherd’s Crown. It’ll be difficult. On the one hand, I am looking forward to it. It’s a new Terry Pratchett book, after all, and it’s Discworld and it’s Tiffany Aching, one of my favourite characters. But on the other hand, it’s the last Terry Pratchett, and once I have finished this, the door to Discworld will be closed forever.

There were midnight sales of the book last night, as so many people were eager to read this. I woke up this morning and immediately checked my Kindle to see it had arrived. I suspect it’s already top of the best seller list.

Discworld, you see, is loved. Terry Pratchett created a universe that was different, and yet a bit like our own, with characters that reminded us of people we knew, doing things that we could never imagine doing, like fighting demons from the Dungeon Dimensions. His heroes were reluctant, just men and women trying to do the best they can. His villains were often men and women who just went the wrong way (although often they were bad in very recognisable ways). He dealt with prejudice and fear and religion and passion and taught us lessons without ever once preaching. And he was funny. So very funny.

It’s struck me over the past few days that Terry Pratchett himself was loved. I’ve very rarely come across authors who are loved by their readers – respected, admired, yes, but loved? Dickens, Douglas Adams, perhaps Neil Gaiman – and yes, I’ve noticed that two of those writers are fantasy/sci-fi writers like Terry Pratchett. Perhaps sci-fi/fantasy fans feel more connected to their authors than other genres, perhaps because the fans as well as the writers have always felt like outsiders.

I miss Terry Pratchett. His PA this morning said that he had notes for ten future books on his hard drive – books I will never read, and that feels heartbreaking. It feels cruel that there will be no more books.

But that gave me an affinity with him too – I also have notes for a pile of books to be written at home. And I don’t want anyone writing them but me.

But I have one more book to read. I shall make a cup of tea, switch off the phone, put the fireplace DVD on the TV, curl up in the corner of the sofa, and enter Discworld one last time.

Funds for Writers by Christine Duncan

I have been fascinated lately by the number of writers I see on Facebook or here on WordPress who are seeking crowdfunding for their writing.  I’m not quite sure I understand the whole deal.  If I do crowdfunding, do the people who fund me get a percentage of the profits?  What if the book fails?   What are people funding anyway?  Is this to give people time to write?  Or is it for money for publicity?  Sorry to be dense, but this is a new frontier for me.

Somehow my google search on the whole deal went wonky though (I frequently follow bunny trails on google) and I ended up finding other kinds of funding for writers, like contests and grants.  So I thought I would share some of the links here.

Poets and Writers is a great source of funding information for writers. It goes on for pages.  Don’t start that one unless you have some time to investigate.

Funds for Writers has some cool links.  Some of these residency programs sound awesome.  Who wouldn’t like uninterrupted time to write?

 Michigan State University has a page that is devoted to grants and subventions.  I had to look up what the heck subvention is though. To save any of you who might not know either from going to the trouble, Merriam Webster says it’s an endowment or grant of money.

I’m guessing I’ll leave crowdfunding for another time.

To Tell or Not To Tell


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I’ve been reading a Ruth Rendell book, Not In The Flesh, a crime novel involving a writer. In it, Inspector Wexford discusses how some writers will discuss every aspect of their novel in detail with everyone, and some keep their book, even the fact they’re writing one, completely secret. He mentions a writer he knew whose boyfriend found and read the first ten chapters of her book. He loved it, could quote at length from it, but for her it was ruined, and she couldn’t finish it.


I’m the kind that doesn’t like to discuss the book until its ready. When I was writing my first book I told barely anyone about it. I don’t think I even mentioned I was sending it off to agents until it was accepted. I felt if I talked about it, someone would say something that would make me stop writing it. I also felt talking about it would ruin it somehow – like a cat walking across wet concrete.


I know some authors love to talk about their books with everyone. They feel it stimulates the writing process, and gives them ideas they may not have thought about. I occasionally discuss concepts and characters and parts of the plot with a chosen few people, but mostly, I keep my writing to myself until it’s done. I was very uncomfortable when I had to submit a synopsis of the second book before I felt I had finished.


But maybe talking about it would be good. The few discussions I do have help. Maybe I could get more ideas. Maybe I could spot mistakes before they happen. Maybe I could see different strands developing rather than the ones I had thought of.


I think perhaps it’s a defensive move on my part, to not talk about something before its finished. After all, if no-one knows about it, no-one can criticise it. But perhaps I am also missing out by not chatting about to everyone.












Setting by Christine Duncan

The setting of my third book (the one I should be editing at this moment) is New Jersey.  The problem is that many people have many mental images when they hear New Jersey, but those stereotypes are not the New Jersey that I know.

People think New Jersey is just big cities.  Or they think of some Jersey shore TV show.  The Jersey I know has a lot of wooded country roads.  It has farm stands and small towns and isolated old houses set back from the road.

The Jersey I know is the one of the pine barrens and small shore towns and the Jersey devil.  I believe in the Jersey devil.  Of course, I also believe in the headless horseman, Casper the Ghost and the Easter Bunny.  The jury is out on Santa.  I’m suspicious that he can be in all of those malls at the same time.  But I digress.

The problem when you are writing about someplace that everyone thinks they know (oh, yeah, Joisey) is combating their preconceived ideas without crusading.  I want to write the description as background and find that I’ve had to cross out all kinds of things, because I was trying to make a point.

But I’m proud of this particular book, and I’m keeping the setting where it is, because it makes me feel as though I’m coming back for a visit.  So I must be doing something right.  If I ever finish editing the darn thing.

The Pen


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When I got my first advance, I bought a pen. Not just any pen. This is an expensive fountain pen. It’s red, with gold trimmings. It sits beautifully in my hand. The ink flows smoothly. It is an utter joy to write with.


Since then, I have bought a new computer, and a phone, and jewellery, and Chanel No. 5 and a few dresses and a lot of books with my advance – but the pen was the most important.


First of all, it’s a symbol that I have finally earned enough to buy a posh pen. And it’s a symbol of how I earned that money – through writing. And second, I love writing with it. I love the feel of it. I love the way it glides across the page.


Every time I look at it, I want to write something with it. Every time I pick it up, I do write, and I don’t want to stop. And every time I hold it, I remember I bought this with money I earned from writing.


I’m a stationery addict. I love the stuff. Notepads, pens, highlighters, clips, all kinds of stationery. Nothing is more inspirational to me than a blank page in a notebook and a pen in my hand. And for about a year, I had craved that one really special pen, that wouldn’t make my hand cramp up, and wouldn’t catch on the paper and splatter ink and that wouldn’t refuse to write at a certain angle. That pen, my dream pen, had to be red.


Which is why, when I got that first cheque, I went straight to the posh shop and bought a posh pen. And its wonderful.












Why I Blog by Christine Duncan

Someone lately asked me why I am blogging now.  I don’t have a book that I am currently promoting and I’m struggling for time to write on my Work In Progress.  It seemed obvious that I should cut out blogging and use that time on my WIP.

I won’t though and the reasons seem pretty obvious to me.  For one thing, blogging helps develop (and reinforces) writing discipline.  Since I am responsible for a post week after week, it makes me think about it throughout the week.  It makes me flex those writing muscles.  It forces me to use the skills that I need in my fiction-in a different way maybe-but I still have to use them.

As I was explaining this,  someone else made the point that it takes time to build an audience on a blog.  So when I got another book to promote, I would be glad I kept it up.   But I’ve never been the sort of blogger who writes a post to say “buy my book.”  It’s not about that.  I want a writing community and blogs help with that.

Blogs also develop my awareness as a writer of an audience.  Sometimes writing is an isolated business.  I don’t see the reader of my books.  But over the years, people have reacted to this blog–commenting on content mostly, but sometimes commenting on transitions  (or lack thereof) or voice and tense change.  I hear you folks in my head as I write now as I do some of the great critique partners that I have run into over the years.  But I’m sure I have more to learn.

So I’m going to keep blogging.

No, Honestly, I’m Not a Murderer

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‘I’m just going to have to murder her! I know how to do it…’

Goodness knows what anyone overhearing that would have thought. That I was a crazed madwoman. That I was bloodthirsty, at least. I might have expected a visit from the police…


But I’m a crime writer. And I find that talking about my work involves some very bloody conversations.  I also find that everyday life worms its way into my work. Ideas for characters, ideas for plots, ideas for deliciously fiendish murder methods – it must sound very odd to anyone who overhears me.


I recently told someone I just met about my stay in hospital. I mentioned how annoying I found one of the patients in my ward. ‘I just had to kill her’ I said. Then I realised how that might sound. ‘In print!’ I said quickly. ‘In a book!’ (oddly enough, I ended up not killing the character based on her).


Crime writers must seem a gory and morbid lot to others. We imagine death and destruction all the time. But, if ever you do talk to us, and find us obsessed with crime, remember, our books always end up with the bad guy caught, and right winning over wrong.


And if you happen to hear me planning a murder, remember, it’s in print only. Yes, just in print…