It’s got to be perfect?


‘The trouble with you is you’re a perfectionist,’ said my mother. ‘I’m not,’ I replied. ‘I’m not good enough.’

new shoots

new shoots

Virtually all of my writing hours so far this year have been spent redrafting and editing. First there was the second edition of my novel, “Strong as Death”, which took a conservative six weeks longer to complete than I had planned. Then there was a quick redraft-reprieve whilst I planned my next project (I always like to leave ideas alone for a while. Once I stop poking and prodding them, it’s astonishing the new shoots that sprout whilst my attentions are otherwise engaged.) Then came the current marathon redraft of my next novel, “Selkie”.

Last autumn, I spent some time discussing my work with a very experienced editor who has published many novels. Although this had costs, both financial and time-wise, I think my money and hours were well spent. The major change I took from those consultations, and which I then decided to implement, was to write my YA crossover novels from one character’s perspective rather than from multiple points of view. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that multiple view points are somehow inferior. Far from. I am currently enjoying Kate Mosse’s “Citadel”, in which she uses differing character perspectives, as well as slipping between centuries, to unfold her tale. Even within her third person voices, she also handles omniscience with skill. But, apart from not being as experienced as authors such as Kate Mosse, I decided that my novels warranted a different approach.

One at a time, please!

One at a time, please!

Both the second edition of “Strong as Death” and my up-coming novel, “Selkie”, are now written from first person perspectives, Minnie Shilling in the former and Sam Harris in the latter. This technique has its challenges, and at times I find myself grappling with how to unfold part of the story, or reveal things without just interjecting an authorly aside or some sort of contrived plot convolution. However, the pay off works (I hope), as readers go on exactly the same voyage of discovery at exactly the same pace as the protagonist, adding tension, suspense. (Unless, like me, you are blighted by a read-the-last-page-first compulsion, something from which, I am happy to report, I am in recovery).

So, where does my mother’s observation come into all this? I have been known to spend upwards of an hour revising just two or three sentences to get it ‘just right’. I want sentences that slip almost unnoticed past a reader’s eyes whilst at the same time touching their hearts. The challenge: how to produce a beautifully written whole without over-written individual parts. So, ever mindful that my mother was so often (annoyingly) right, it’s time to get a move on, after all there are plots to plan, characters to fathom, worlds to create. And I mustn’t forget to peek at those shoots that have been sprouting all by themselves whilst I’ve been poking and prodding my words.

Look out for news of “Selkie” coming out at the end of May


The stone with a broken heart

Receipt for opal engagement ring

Receipt for opal engagement ring

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t not know what an opal was. Even as a little girl I knew, perhaps because I’d heard the story of my mother’s first engagement ring so many times. I used to ask her to tell me it over and again – sad stories have always compelled me. The short version is as follows: boy proposes to girl: girl says yes: boy buys ring he can barely afford: girl loves antique opal ring: ring needs adjustment: jeweller damages ring beyond repair

The next time an opal ring featured in my life was during my teens. The wife of the vicar at the church we attended had one – an heirloom opal-diamond affair that shattered light into shards of captured rainbows every time she moved her hand. I think the fact she was so charismatic, not to mention artistic, intelligent, wise and beautiful made her engagement ring even more mesmerising for me. I wanted to be just like her. And I wanted a sparkly finger.

OpalOpals (you won’t have to concentrate very long on this bit – my scientific prowess is up there somewhere just behind my sporting and mathematical gifts, so please forgive any inaccuracies or over-simplifications) are formed of sand, dust, silica. And they’re filled with fissures where air gets in and it’s those minuscule fractures that refract light.

When they’re cut, diamonds refract light. They’re stunning, and so much stronger than opals. But the multifaceted light of an opal is split apart in the defective heart of a stone formed in a desert. Who’d have believed that a place where life struggles to survive could be the source of such a gem? And who’d have believed that the faults that criss-cross that gem’s core could blaze with light-life that even diamonds cannot outshine?

The next time life seems arid, when difficulties and challenges leave me parched, I’m going to think about opals, those stones with broken hearts. And perhaps I should create my own opal-sparkly finger to remind me?

Perfect love could not be overcome


file0001219066109Whether you believe the resurrection is fact or fiction, what happened on that day two thousand years ago reaches through history and touches the present. For some, that touch is irrelevant whilst yet others have corrupted the message of redemptive, unconditional love into a lust for power and control over the freewill of those who choose not to believe. For me? Each day I live, that touch amazes me more.

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Saviour of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon Him

One final breath He gave
As heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love would not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Forever He is glorified
Forever He is lifted high
(And) Forever He is risen
He is alive, He is alive

We sing Hallelujah, we sing Hallelujah
We sing Hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

Johnson, Michael Edwin
Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC