There aren’t that many of us on the street, but we turn up a lot in books. What, editors? Struggling indie authors? (I’m both of those!) No, redheads. (Yes, I’m one of those too.) The most popular hair colour for literary heroines is red, and to go with the fiery locks they often have green eyes. I’m as guilty as the next person. I’ve created a green-eyed redhead leading character, Fiona, in Something Fishy, a book you’ll find in blovel form here under the pen name of Rorie Stevens. I hadn’t realised I was being so predictable  until a message thread on an author’s forum alerted me to the fact that many of us have similar looking heroines. Since then I’ve come across hundreds more in books I’ve read! We redheads make up a lot less than 10% of the population, even in Celtic countries such as Ireland and Scotland, but around 50% of the fictional population I’d guess!

Not that it matters. I think authors tend to go for redheads because that colour hair is unusual, attractive and has the associations of a certain feistiness. Red hair has long been thought to be a sign of a hot temper, but there’s no proven biological explanation for this. The idea probably grew up, in England anyway, due to the invading Vikings having red hair as did the brave and troublesome Scots.  Another myth is that redheads have a higher libido than other people. Another good reason to have a redheaded hero or heroine if you’re writing in the romantic genre!

Rose Thorne of Gary Vanucci’s short fantasy novel A Rose in Bloom is therefore both a typical yet very unusual literary heroine. She has long red hair and green eyes, a strong personality and works in a bordello. So far she fits the bill. But add to that her various special gifts which include light-fingeredness and the ability to merge in and out of the world of shadows at will, and she becomes a formidable ally, or if you’re unfortunate, enemy. Arm her with a magical daggers and you could have a problem! You can read about Rose for yourself for free today and tomorrow – 18th and 19th May – since A Rose in Bloom is free on Amazon here (and on the other various Amazon sites). Gary Vanucci is a brilliant author. He creates wonderful characters and exciting situations for them, so you’re in for a treat with his books. And if you fall under Rose’s spell, which I am confident you will, then you can follow her adventures in Gary’s Covenant of the Faceless Knights, where she plays a leading role.

Gary’s books are illustrated by the talented William Kenney. I’m a huge fan of his artwork.

Can you spot Rose?

You probably know by now that I like blovels and serials. I’ve written several posts about this interesting type of fiction. I’m sure we see a lot more coming out in 2012.

First a few words about a new blovel on the block. Check out http://www.somethingfishy.fr for what’s shaping up to be a fun novel by Rorie Stevens, with a spot of fishing thrown in, and we’re promised some spicy action is to come. Do give it a look.

Here are three more sites with serials worth knowing about. First up Fiction Express. This describes itself as ‘interactive e-fiction for tweens, teens and young adults where you control the plot through a weekly vote’. You sign up to the site and then, for just 39p, you read a chapter of the work of your choice, vote on what happens next, and then the author writes it given the majority decision.

Eat your Serial: I love this one! It’s a a new, free website that features ‘up and coming writers and their stories in all genres, both fiction and nonfiction.   The idea is simple –  Monday through Friday there will be five unique stories.  Come back the following week, and you get a new chapter, and so on and so forth.’ There are some good stories currently up there.

Last but not least, there’s Discoverlit. Start out on this page to find out what it’s all about. It describes itself as being for readers who want ‘an engaging experience in literature that fits into a mobile lifestyle’. However, it’s also for writers and publishers of poetry, short stories, serials or any other type of short-form literature. There’s a small charge to read the serials there.

Out with the old, in with the new – give this new form of fiction a whirl. I think you’ll enjoy it.

 

Here’s an extract from Something Fishy, the racy fishing mystery story by my carp fishing friend Rorie Stevens.

Marcus Summers is the narrator. He’s brought a team of 6 anglers to take on a rival team at a friend’s lake in France near Coussac. This year Marcus has the hot Fiona on his team.

 

Chapter 6

Fishing is a good sex substitute. Not if you put them side by side, of course. If a beautiful, naked, sex-starved woman (or man, if that’s the preference) came prancing along the bank just as an angler was about to cast, well, I don’t think it’s the fish that would get pulled. But as a way of keeping your mind happily and busily off the subject for a period of time, it works well. At least it usually did for me, but this week with Fi close by, it was rubbing my nose in it.

I’d once done a column about why fishing was better than sex, coming up with daft reasons like the fact that a fish will never post embarrassing video footage of you on Youtube; you don’t have to hide your fishing magazines; you can have as many fishing partners, including total strangers, as you want, and how if you catch something when you’re fishing it’s good, but if you do the same when you’re having sex, well, that’s bad. That was one of my most popular articles. It was a shame it wasn’t actually true.

I got through Sunday more or less OK. We were all anxious to get our first catches so we all concentrated hard on our fishing. I spodded like mad and built up a good bed of bait, and sure enough, by Sunday evening I was starting to land some excellent fish. Overall, our team was ahead by 41 lbs. Greg had been landing the most regularly, but he was bringing in smaller grass carp, rather than larger commons. However, no-one minds catching a grass carp – they’re always exciting and fight like crazy. Fi had brought in three mirrors over 30 lbs and she was thrilled. She was proving to be a reliable carpist.

She got a lot of teasing, because in between casts and catches, she pulled her knitting out.

“Grannies knit!” protested Derek over lunch. “Hot chicks don’t.”

Fi rolled her eyes. “So you’re saying Scarlett Johansson and Dakota Fanning aren’t hot? You’re way out of touch, Del Boy. It’s cool to knit these days. All the celebs are doing it.”

Derek snorted.

“Anyway, I’m a yarnbomber, not a knitter.”

“You what?” Derek looked at her blankly, like the rest of us.

“Yarnbomber. Knitted graffiti street artist, if you’d rather.”

“Knitting’s not art,” grumbled Andy. “Knitting’s jumpers and stuff.”

“Not necessarily.” Fi put him straight. “There are quite a lot of us who brighten up public places with our artwork. You know, a hat on a postbox,  a scarf round a statue’s neck. Some yarnbombers have knitted covers for tanks and buses!”

“They need to get a life,” tutted Josh sadly.

Fi ignored him.

“Have you done any of that stuff at Haverton?” asked Norm.

“No, not yet,” admitted Fi. “I’ve been too crazy with work. But I’ve got the time now so I shall rustle up something for Coussac. It’s bound to have a statue somewhere that needs a makeover. Are we going into town soon?” she asked me.

“I was reckoning on tomorrow or Tuesday morning,” I replied. “I need to buy more food, and it’s always interesting to have a poke around there. It’s a nice little town. You’ll like it – it’s got a very picturesque old part.”

“Has it?” said Derek, surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

“How many years have you been coming here?” I grilled him.

“Eight now, I think.”

“Yeah, and for each of those eight years you only ever go to the same bar each time we go into Coussac!” I reminded him. “That’s why you haven’t done any sightseeing yet.”

“Oh, I see sights in that bar,” smirked Derek. “There are some fit babes in Coussac.”

We sat around for a while longer, then Fi got up.

“I need a shower,” she announced.

“Thank God for that,” grinned Liam. “I wondered what that funny smell was.”

“Ha ha, very mature,” riposted Fi.

She collected her wash things from her bivvie and disappeared up the path to the barn which housed the new shower room. But she was back ten minutes later, still dry, and carrying a camp shower. All the others had gone back to their swims.

“The proper shower’s bust,” she grumbled to me. “Julian says he should have it fixed by tomorrow evening. So he’s given me this thing. He says if I hang it up first thing in the morning in a sunny spot, the water should be good and warm by midday.”

“Keep that thing in sight the rest of today,” I warned her.

“Oh?”

“Yes. Never forget there are people round here with a mental age that matches their hook size. These same people are into silly practical jokes. I remember a camp shower episode a few years ago that involved worms and other creepy crawlies!”

“Eeyuw!” grimaced Fi. “Thanks for the heads up. I shall go and stash it at the back of my bivvie and stand guard.”

I smiled as I watched her hurry off with it.

Next morning, she vanished early with it, into the woods at the far end of the lake. I was the only one to see her go. No-one else was up yet. I’d had a broken night with three runs so I was tired. Two of those had resulted in fish on the bank, so I was well pleased. But damn, the thought that in a few hours Fi would be naked somewhere in those same woods was definitely arousing. I tried to think about something else – what I’d write in my next column, how things were going at the fishery, had I got enough cash for the shopping today, but that was no good. The mental picture of wet, soapy Fi wouldn’t budge.

The other lads only found out about the shower over lunch, when Fi happened to remark that the water had still been on the chilly side when she’d last checked it, so she was going to give it another hour. All eyes were on her.

“Do you want someone to hold your soap?” offered Nat. “So you don’t have to keep bending down to pick it up.”

Eleven minds’ eyes saw a nude Fi bending down. That was something worth seeing.

“Come to think of it, it would be better if I held your towel rather than your soap,” Nat corrected himself hastily with a smile. “So you have to bend down!”

“In your dreams,” chuckled Fi. “I shower alone.”

“What if a wild boar comes along?” suggested Greg. “You should have a lookout to scare it away.”

“I’ll take my chances with the local wildlife,” replied Fi firmly.

Rob rustled up some cups of tea. I noticed Andy and Derek slip out. Not too hard to guess where they were going. They came back about half an hour later, sniggering like schoolboys. I watched them go round the lake, talking to Rob’s guys and then Greg and Norm. Everyone seemed to be giving them cigarettes.

“What are you up to?” I demanded when they finally got to me.

“We know where Fi’s shower is!” smirked Andy. “For half a dozen fags, we’ll tell you.”

I looked at them hard. “That’s a bit mean isn’t it? I mean, this is Fi, she’s our friend.”

“Are you telling me you don’t want to see her in the buff?” Andy cut to the point.

“No,” I sighed. “I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s very nice to go leering at her.”

“Suit yourself,” shrugged Derek. “You’re the loser.”

Just then, Fi came out of her bivvie with her towel. Everyone pretended to be busy with their rods. She snuck a look round, then hurried off to the woods again. A minute later, all the lads started following.

I watched them giggle off. I felt cross. No way were they going to eyeball Fi in the nude. I was determined to be the one out of us who got to see her naked first, but voluntarily on Fi’s part. I was going to get that girl. I pulled out my mobile, hoping Fi had got hers with her.  I quickly texted a message:

‘You wl hv audience. Lads r follwng u.’

I was relieved when my phone chirped almost immediately to tell me her reply had come.

‘Tx! Wl relocate fast!’

This I had to see, so I brought in my rods and trotted after the others.

“I changed my mind,” I lied shamelessly to Andy and bunged him a handful of fags.

“Knew you’d see sense,” he smirked.

We followed Andy and Derek through the shady woods. Everyone was trying to be quiet but not really succeeding. There were too many twigs cracking underfoot and too much laughing. I needn’t really have warned Fi. She’d have heard us coming, no problem. We climbed up some banking and then Andy and Derek beckoned to us to approach slowly and bent low. We looked down over the lip of the slope to where the lads were pointing. But neither Fi nor shower were anywhere to be seen. Derek and Andy looked gobsmacked.

“Where is she then?” demanded Mike, one of Rob’s team.

“Yeah!” said Josh, a giant of a man who made me look small and puny.

“The shower was definitely here earlier,” promised Andy.

“Lying bastards!” accused Liam. “I’ll have my fags back please.”

“Yeah, me too,” I added, hoping to appear genuinely disappointed.

“Um, we’ve smoked most of them,” admitted Derek.

“Already? Shit!” Josh wasn’t impressed.

“We’ll buy some tomorrow for you,” added Andy.

“Proper ones, like, not weird French camel-poo ones,” grumbled Josh.

“Do you get camels in France then?” enquired Liam.

I rolled my eyes.

“You have our word,” nodded Derek.

The two of them looked very abashed. Not a common sight, that.

Suddenly Josh laughed. “You had us all going!”

“Yeah, I believed you!” confessed Rob.

“We were telling the truth.” Andy didn’t like being accused of trickery.

“Yeah, whatever.” Phil, the quiet one on Rob’s team, shrugged good naturedly.

We traipsed back to the lake.

“Let’s have a beer at the cabin before we get fishing again,” suggested Greg.

Everyone muttered assent so we headed down to the cabin. And there was Fi, with wet hair and wrapped in a towel, unhooking the campshower from the tree branch just outside it.

“You had your shower? Here?” Andy couldn’t believe it.

“Finished about a minute ago. Yeah, it’s a nice sunny spot here,” she smiled. “Pllus I thought I’d get some help. I realised I’d been a bit stroppy with you all yesterday. It was so kind of you wanting to hold my soap and towel. So I came here, looking for willing volunteers, but you’d all gone. Such a shame.” She sighed melodramatically. “I really needed someone to scrub my back for me.”

She winked at me then sashayed along the bank, back to her tent, while ten pairs of eyes watched in abject misery. I watched trying not to laugh. Good old Fi!

Bite Size Edits

I happened across Bite-Size Edits today. It’s addictive! You get points for editing little chunks of text which you’re served up randomly, although you can request to get more text from the same author. You can make changes, leave the sentence as it is, and/or attach a note with suggestions. For example, I got a sentence with a word in it that clearly should have had accented letters but instead had question marks, so I wrote a note to that effect. Obviously I didn’t know what the missing letters were meant to be so I couldn’t make the correct change myself.

The site says it’s a way to discover new writers, and that’s true. You can also upload your own texts for other people to polish. I’ve added 1000 or so words of Something Fishy to see what reaction I get. At least I think it went up OK. I got an error message first time round saying ‘we broke the Internet’ but the text seemed to be there. We’ll see!

So if you like tinkering with other people’s texts, give it a try!

 

Something Fishy has become enormous. I’m at 180,000 words and not finished. It’s too big. So I started thinking hard about what to do today while lugging hay and water around for the llamas and goats. It’s amazing what a spot of not-so-gentle exercise can do for the old grey matter. I found the solution. I’m going to break the whole thing up into two (or more) books. I’d already been planning the sequel. And the sequel’s sequel! So … it will mean a fair bit of replotting and rewriting, and of course new writing, but I’m confident the project will work a lot better that way. Just need to jiggle the plot here and there. Watch this space!

I’m starting to think about a cover. This website was brilliantly helpful. I need to start taking lots o fishing photos to choose from. Here’s one that will be on the ‘to be considered’ list:

It’s maybe a bit too ‘quiet’ for my story but it’s a beautiful picture and an inspiring starting point. The only books out there that are even remotely like my book are in The Syndicate series by Mark Cunnington. Here’s the cover of one of them for comparison:

You know what – I can do better!