Oh, yes, yes, I know video teasers are supposed to come out before the book, but being conventional is so dull.
So, here it is, the brand new teaser for A Strange Companion. Let me know what you think!
A Strange Companion is available on:
Mr. Fab and I just moved house. We had lived in our old house for thirteen years and it’s fair to say we had accumulated a lot of stuff. So, for the month before we moved, we set about the task of purging. Which meant I had to face…da–da–da–daaaah…the office.
Oh, good grief. You wouldn’t believe the amount of clutter I’d gathered there. I had receipts dating back to 2010, cross-stitch projects I started for my young nieces, who are now in their 20s, and a giant stuffed Nemo that my nephew’s girlfriend won at the county fair and then couldn’t fit in her suitcase. I had stationery, bags, gift wrap, colored paper, even the user’s manual for a car I don’t own anymore. I had no idea just how much junk I had been hoarding.
Once I’d pulled all of it out and tossed several bags of trash and recycling, I finally made it down to my box of abandoned manuscripts. Ugh, what a trip down memory lane that was.
I found a very early version of A Strange Companion, then titled Bond of Souls, in which Kat is a decade older and working as an auto mechanic in San Francisco. I know there are gems in there (Mary-Jo Lipinsky Meyers, one of my favorite characters) but the story takes a serious turn south around the middle and should never be read.
I found My Mother’s Eyes, a story about a girl who discovers the woman who raised her was her grandmother and sets out to find her birth mother. Meh. I found a screenplay attempt that was so terrible the only bit worth salvaging was the character of Mr. Scroggins, the cat who charmed his way into Kat’s mother’s heart in A Strange Companion. I also found Thicker Than Water, a story based on a vivid dream I had of two sisters tied by a hidden secret. Great concept, but also flawed. This, at least, had sufficient potential to be dusted off and re-examined. In fact, it’s the story I’m rewriting for this year’s National Novel Writing Month. (You can follow along with my progress through my daily Instagram posts.)
Most published authors, when pressed, will admit to several abandoned novels squirreled away in drawers and under beds or in the back of stuffed closets. For most writers, it takes time for ability to catch up with the vision, and the truth is, some novels just aren’t ready to debut.
I discarded much of the paper I found in my office, packing and moving only selected versions of completed books, and a copy of each of the unfinished ones. Even though there are hours and hours invested in those novels, they belong in the back of my new closet, where perhaps my literary heirs will discover and publish them against my will, and I will quietly turn in my grave.
In A Strange Companion, a lot of peculiar things happen around Kat. Another character in another story might have chalked up all these signs as coincidence, and then maybe I’d be writing a romance novel about a girl who falls for a guy who bakes a wicked chocolate hazelnut marble cake (*see below for more about this). But that’s not this story. This story is full of strange coincidences that may or may not prove that Gabe is back.
A while back, I wrote a post about some of the weird things that happen when you’re dealing with grief. If you’ve ever lost someone you love, you’ll know that nothing is beyond the realm of possibility as you try to come to terms with someone being gone.
There’s always a danger of crossing a line in fiction and making coincidences unbelievable. I mean really, what are the odds of Mai calling Kat by the pet name Gabe gave her, or having a birthmark in the exact same spot as his? But while I was editing the book, I got a sign of my own that weird coincidences happen in real life, not just in fiction.
On my office wall, I have Plot Planner, a long sheet of brown paper where I keep track of my novel and its various storylines. I like to gather pictures as I write, images of how I see the characters and some of the settings. It helps to get the story clear in my head.
I found the perfect picture of Mai, cut it out, and stuck it on my story board. It wasn’t until weeks later that I took a close look at the picture and realized that the dress the little girl is wearing is made from identical fabric to my living room curtains!
* Owen’s chocolate hazelnut marble cake was a big hit with Kat and it was an equally big hit with Mr. Fab when I tried it out on him. If you’d like to get the recipe to make your own, plus recipes for five other dishes mention in A Strange Companion (including Kat’s mother’s prawn cocktail and Jon’s blackberry lavender scones) I’ll send you a free recipe book (plus a collection of short stories) when you sign up for my newsletter.
I’m finally settling in to work on a new book. I’m about a third of the way into a messy first draft, which is usually where things start getting wooly and a book can go off-track. I’m about ready to get the story “up on my wall.”
I’m a visual person and I need to “see” the story. That’s really hard to do when it’s laid out sentence after sentence in a document, or even sketched out in outline form. So I like to create a story board.
I stick up a long sheet of brown paper, mark off a storyline and plot out my story with post-it notes. Then I map out certain landmarks I know I’ll need to hit in the story. These might be moments when my main character discovers something about herself or confronts another character, or where something major happens that changes the course of the story. I figure out roughly where they might happen and stick them up on the board. This way, as I keep writing forward, I have a landmark in the story that I know I’m writing towards. Even if I meander a bit, I know I’ll get there eventually.
As things get more complicated in the story, I tap into my inner super-nerd and go color coordinated. By using different color notes for different characters and subplots, I can make sure that characters don’t disappear for chapters at a time and that minor storylines don’t fizzle out. Using moveable sticky notes makes room for surprises that come up. I can also move scenes around to keep the pace of the story moving.
Here’s the storyboard I built for The Smallest Thing.
As you can see, I also use the board to collect all my scraps of inspiration. This one has pictures of the settings and characters, images that inspire the mood and themes of the story, a layout of Bubble City, and a very important timeline that I needed to keep consistent. Any time I feel the story going awry, I can check my board to see where I’m going wrong.
As I head towards the middle of the new book, I’ll be putting up a brand new story board sheet and adding my color-coded post-its. I’ll let you know how it all goes.
I’m on tour with The Smallest Thing this week. Over the course of the next six days, I’ll be visiting the sites of more than thirty bloggers as they review the book.
If you’d like to follow the tour and see what others are saying about the book, you can find the schedule below or on the official tour site.
If you’d like the chance to win a signed copy of The Smallest Thing, hop on over to any of the tour stops or go to the giveaway widget at the end of this post.
I’ll be dropping in at all the tour spots this week. Hope to see you there!