Stuffed – Full Length Fantasy for Free on Inkitt

Good morning, lovelies 🙂

So my novel Stuffed has been up on Inkitt for a while now. If you’re someone who was about when I was doing a lot more blogging, you may remember me referring to this particular novel as “Tom”, after the protagonist. It’s a fantasy/thriller-ish/young adult-ish story set in a world resembling the late 1800s where steam trains and gramophones are the height of technology and mystical creatures near extinction. Stuffed is intended to be the first of a three-part series. It may be some time before I start Book 2 … it’ll be an interesting process. My style has changed a lot since I wrote this.

Stuffed is currently entered in Inkitt’s Grand Novel Contest – winner gets published. Good prize, yes 🙂 Love-heart votes required to push it up on the site listing – basically, more love = more love. And Stuffed would love your love, as would I.

So if you’ve a spare few moments – or more … I think last check it was roughly 136,000 words, so would probably take a few sittings – I would love if anyone could give my novel a look and a vote. Any comments and feedback would  be adored – it’s currently sitting on 5/5 from the lovely three reviews I’ve gotten so far. Check out these reviews, maybe, if you’re wondering what it’s about.

Also if you’re wondering what it’s about, here’s the short summary:

Snatched by a taxidermy-happy countess and her unsettling assistant, young shapechanger Tom Ness only wants to live. But how can he save his skin when that’s all she wants?

Also if you’re wondering what it’s about, for your enjoyment, an excerpt from Chapter 1: The Silver Vixen:

The silence in the shallow valley but for the breath of wind through pines was total. Weary and weighted by age, Vera did nothing to disturb that quiet, even as coughs clawed to escape her withered lungs. She hid in a tangle of scrub just beyond a little shack. Micah squatted beside her. He had chosen their cover; its view of the dwelling was uninterrupted. Micah’s black eyes were fixed on its crude door.

The shack stood—slumped, rather—at the base of the valley. There was a little glade there dotted with flowers. The patches of heather and clover brought to mind a classic cottage garden, though the clearing appeared natural. There were signs a few trees had been felled for fuel—a cluster of wood and a small axe rested by the wall nearest. Vera was pleased to note those trees chopped down had been replaced. Most were saplings, but several fine, strong young fellows stretched their branches into the air alongside seniors.

There was little evidence of the outside world, only a lead pipe stuffed through the thatched roof to pump out smoke. The shack’s walls were stone to Vera’s thigh, then interwoven twigs given strength by clay, insulation against the wind. The only window was shuttered; they couldn’t see inside.

But there was no one inside. Not yet.

Though the shack was primitive, probably constructed by its inhabitant—apparently they were determined, though lacked notable building skill— it blended so well with the undergrowth it was near invisible from all but a few perfect angles. Vera and Micah had traipsed the taiga for three weeks before they happened upon it, about to sit down for lunch. Vera’s grasp of the forest’s spoils and the rabbits and scrub fowls Micah shot kept them well fed.

From above, the taiga was a stretch of embroidered velvet; green, grey, black and glimmering night blue. Such fabric spun the gowns of countesses of old, donned to welcome the most esteemed of guests and dazzle at the most important parties. Streams and rivers twined flashing silver chains and sparkles of white—evening frost on twigs and stone—were tiny precious gems. The great lake was the crowning piece: a glistening sapphire brooch so large it would topple any silly old countess who pinned it to her breast.

Vera was a present-day countess. She wore no such finery, not now—not even when she was young, some sixty years ago. The only jewellery she wore was a small pendant on a fine chain. It was as precious to Vera as life. She never took it off, the pendant forever nestled to her bony chest.

The fresh scent of pine on cold air seemed auspicious and filled Vera with expectation, stalling surrender to the ache of her stiff old body as late afternoon eased toward twilight. Her information promised the shack’s inhabitant would return by then. It couldn’t spend the night exposed. Even in late summer, it grew bitterly cold in the dark so far south.

Light waned. Vera reached beneath her collar and gripped her pendant. Beside her, Micah was a statue. Though Vera was intent as he, his eyes were sharp, her own touched by age. It was Micah who first spotted their quarry.

A silver vixen ambled into the clearing with a scatter of needles and pine cones. Though fleet, her gait was clumsy, as though the vixen was unbearably tired or her limbs slightly crooked. The creature padded toward the shack; the clearing her home and she was unafraid of danger there. Vera’s gnarled grip tightened. The glass capsule of her pendant, around which gold and gems were fashioned, seemed to pulse, the rare syrup within rippling green-black as Vera’s hand trembled.

The last rays of sunlight filtering from heaven vanished.

The vixen gave a shudder, nose right to the tip of her limp tail aquiver.

Vera almost groaned and clutched her pendant all the more tightly. Any other capsule might have shattered, but this was a Moore heirloom. It would take more than pressure to damage Vera’s pendant; what it protected was too precious.

The vixen began to change. Her limbs lengthened and fine silver hair retracted, leaving human skin. Her tail vanished, body lengthening and bending upright so she stood on her hind legs. Soon nothing remained of the vixen. A naked woman stood in her place.

She was bent and crooked, thin silver curls sweeping to her wrinkled waist.

She was old. Older even than Vera.

Micah uttered a soft sound of satisfaction, no more than a sigh of wind. But Vera’s heart dipped, crestfallen.

The very old shapechanger stepped into a pair of worn boots and took a faded bluebell dress from a nail stuck in her door. It was a young woman’s dress: practical, smart attire for ducking out to the market, taking tea with friends or visiting relatives. At least, it would have been fifty years ago. Vera had owned several like it, buttoned down the bodice on an eye-pleasing curve, tied with pretty white sashes.

‘Countess, what’s wrong?’ Micah asked, barely moving his lips as the shapechanger wriggled into her dress. It was very loose—she was as string held up by some miracle. ‘She’s just what we need. I’ll set the traps once she sleeps and we’ll have her at first light.’

‘She is too old,’ Vera sighed, deflated. Despite deep regret, she couldn’t tear her eyes from the magnificent creature. The aged shapechanger took a stout cane, muttering about disobedient kits and quarrels over mates. Her voice was the scratch of sand on stone, the rustle of dried leaves. A voice of the earth and forest. Leaning heavily on her cane, she tottered about patches of vegetables at the edge of her clearing, gardens disordered so they appeared wild. The shapechanger filled a small sack with a few potatoes, onions, carrots and a sprig of thyme.

‘Too old, Countess? What do you mean?’ Micah asked, eyes narrowing.

‘She is too old,’ Vera repeated, initial devastation fizzling to sad resignation. She was used to disappointment, but the loss of her precious shapechanger hit hard. ‘She is beautiful, but how would she look by our other pieces? The shapechanger is our very last creature to collect. I want perfection.’

Micah wasn’t impressed. Their contact, a tanner from the south, had written of a story widespread in his town, that silver foxes became human with the setting sun and threw great parties filled with food, wine and dance. Scornful of the tanner’s reliability, Micah had reluctantly accompanied his eager mistress south; the countess had hunted shapechangers for over half a century and lived for such tip-offs. His fervour on the hunt had kindled when they found faint boot prints where no sensible villager would roam, and discovering the dwelling had sparked terrific excitement. At last seeing the shapechanger, all recent hardships were now worth the great effort he’d spent.

That it had been pointless was not what Micah wanted to hear.

‘We have spent the last month slogging through this damn forest, tailing every silver fox we’ve come across. Now you forsake possibly your very last opportunity to complete the Moores’ collection for mere cosmetic concerns?’

‘It is not only that,’ Vera insisted, eyes locked to the shapechanger as she ambled to her door and opened it with a creak. As though a signal to charge, a quintet of kits bounded from a nearby bush and skittered through her legs, barrelling into the shack. She sighed, but chuckled with two vixens and a fox that followed more sedately. They gazed up at her, noses twitching.

‘Yes, you can come in. At least you’ve got manners to ask. Those kits…’

She shook her head as though nothing could be done with them.

‘Let’s get in, then. Hope the kits’ bellies’re full, else they’ll be disappointed. Getting my fill of roots tonight—bowels’ve been letting me know I’m not getting enough.’

She chuckled again. The foxes seemed to join in.

‘Might have a bit of old fowl lying around. They can fight over it, if they’re diresome hungry.’

Impatient as his mistress listened, entranced by the one-sided conversation, Micah reclaimed Vera’s attention.

‘Tell me then, Countess Veradine: why would you abandon your life’s work? Why would you forsake your dream?’

‘Do not be so dramatic,’ Vera chided, but Micah scowled. ‘I am hardly giving it up. It is only she cannot be collected. She just cannot. She is…’

‘Too old,’ Micah grumbled.

‘We need something younger: a young, firm shapechanger that will heal well. Our traps might kill a creature as old as her.’

‘If that’s the problem, I don’t think we need to use traps,’ Micah said, again eyeing the door, lids so narrowed he might squint through solid wood at his target. ‘We can ambush her inside. I can overcome a small skulk easily,’ he declared, hand at the revolver on his hip. ‘And she can’t put up much of a fight, old as she is. I would be gentle, Countess.’

‘I know you would handle her with utmost care,’ Vera said. Micah behaved gentlemanly towards women whether toddler or school girl, maiden, married or crone. Perhaps due to his time in the army, he considered women rather delicate, as well. The few times Vera had been annoyed with Micah was when he hinted that, as a woman, Vera was in any way incapable. ‘But such an old body may not take well to the mounting process.’

‘What of the kits?’ Micah wondered, unwilling to give up on their prize. ‘Or the younger vixens and fox? They are the perfect age.’

‘But they are not shapechangers,’ Vera said sadly.

‘If she’s lived her life with the foxes, no doubt she’s bred. They could be hers. They might just change on different schedules. This is such a rare opportunity, Countess,’ Micah pressed. ‘We must be sure.’

‘I am sure. Shapechangers do not pass on their abilities,’ Vera reminded. Micah grimaced. Vera had taught him that. He’d read it many times in the museum. ‘If they could, no doubt enough of the creatures would remain that I wouldn’t be so desperate to find one.’

‘Of course,’ Micah replied.

‘And if the tanner’s story is true, and her schedule renders her vixen in daylight, how could she have carried any offspring? They would not have survived.’

‘You are right, of course,’ Micah relented grudgingly, but gave a short bow where he crouched. ‘I’m sorry to complain, Countess. Disappointment is a brute of a thing.’

‘That it is,’ she smiled sadly. The two waited until they heard the scamper of kits at play within the shack and a crackle as dry kindling was set alight. Then Micah helped his mistress to her feet. Together, starting slow to stretch cramped muscles, they began the long trek from the taiga.

Hooray if you read this far 🙂 Hope you go on to read the rest at Inkitt!

Book 6 Happened Too

Book 6, A Courtesy Call, was out about a month and a half ago now. I fixed up the Treading Twisted Lines page and such but, of course, neglected to actually post. Shall do so now 🙂

A Courtesy Call 01 full

When privileged Darren Brown stumbles upon a body outside his apartment, the idealistic but naïve student attempts to do right by the victim. Unfortunately, in Oshi Daini, alerting police is not enough to trigger justice.

Treading Twisted Lines is a story cycle (previously short story cycle) set in the Four Free Areas, a technologically advanced world where Gods watch from rivers and fantastical arts are practiced by wizards and priests. It is the normal roughly $US0.99 from all the good places – Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo eBooks and so on.

Thought of posting due to other Treading Twisted thoughts. Like thinking ahead to distant books when I should be working on Book 7. And consistently planning Treading Twisted stuff when I’m trying to write an unrelated novel. Hard to focus – been wondering if it’s time to attempt a hard copy collection of the first six (plus Book 5.1 …) stories. Did want a few more in each collection, but Book 4 is a long one … Also it seems Amazon.com now supports giveaways for eBooks. May be looking into that soon. I know they’re short and inexpensive, but free stuff is always nice 🙂

Just A Quick Note of Free

Just wanted to let all the lovely people know that all my books are part of the July Summer/Winter Sale on Smashwords. This means they are all free. Lovely and free – and this includes brand new baby book Suddenly Calling, which only came out on the 16th this month. July will only last a few more days, though – grab while free 🙂 And let me know how they read – Goodreads, here, wherever. I remain in a constant state of anticipating feedback, particularly with a brand-new book out.

The free code is on each books’ page and you can access them all from my author’s profile right here.

And, as an update, Book 5 is going reasonably well. Recently finished the second first draft … if there’s such a thing. Have taken it out of Scrivener and shall now be attacking in Word. Still too long and a few holes that need filling and/or total removal altogether. But shouldn’t take more than a few weeks … hopefully … then should be getting it out to my lovely editors. Trying to give my third novel a little love at the moment, too. Got as far as rearranging chapters tonight. Have many notes for the numerous adjustments that must be made, but think I need several entirely free days to be able to focus.

Hope all the lovely people are well 🙂

Valiant or Vain (or Both): A Cunning Time Plan

So I’ve been floundering for a couple of months. A bit. Nothing new, really – so much to do, so little time. It’s a not-so-good thing that I’m not great at optimising my time, due to further not-particularly-new-or-unique reasons – too tired after work to write, kitty to be played with, songs to be sung – the usual.

But now, I will at least have a valiant/vain attempt. Weekdays without evening commitments, be ready. Hopefully getting it down will help with sticking to it – or trying, at least. Just imagine I have an approximate tilde before every time …

6.30 – get up

6.30 – 7.15 – morning chores and readiness for work

7.15 – 8.00/8.15 (depending on bussing or biking)  (or – 9.00/9.15 when I stop working overtime) – work on Treading Twisted Lines

8.00/8.15 – 8.54 (or 9.00/9.15 to 9.54 without overtime) – bus or bike to work

8.54 (or 9.54 without overtime) – 18.00 – do the work thing

18.00 – 18.45 – bike or bus home

18.45 – 20.30 – evening fooding, cleansing, chores, etc (maybe a bit of relaxing?)

20.30 – 23.00 – work on editing and reworking Embraced (first novel)/work on new novel, working title Shimmer, Child of Light/work on other projects. Alternate as necessary. But not on the same night. One night, one project. Things will get too muddled, otherwise …

23.00 – fall asleep instantly. I’m not so good at falling asleep, either …

We’ll see what happens, anyway. Given it’s one of my nights without evening commitments, I’m already flouting this – haven’t showered yet. And I suppose anything related to blogging/social networking/self-publishing/looking for not self-publishing agent-publishing people gets crammed in where it fits. Or relegated to weekend time. Not projecting this will last long. But at least it’s an outline. It’ll be good to use what time I have more wisely (if a bit ambitiously) while I still have that time. Am I an adult, after all … adult-ish, anyway. When the time comes for doing adult-ish things, I’ll probably laugh to even remember this post.

The False Angel and the White Knife: a novel excerpt in an Inkitt contest

Greetings lovely people 🙂

Not expecting many to lift their hand at this salutation – I’ve been gone too long for that, unable to keep up with blogging here at my faithful doll thermometer, attempting other forms of blogging/social media, etcetera. Nevertheless, I hope to still pop things up from time to time – when I put Book #4 of the Treading Twisted Lines series up for pre-release, for one. Should be reasonably soon, I hope. Almost through the last trudge of the final edit. Can’t bring myself to work on it right now, though – just finished Den Patrick’s “The Boy Who Wept Blood”, and I’m having trouble maintaining my composure. Needless to say, difficult to focus with tears streaming. However, there is something I’ve done recently I’d like to share … otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here 🙂 I suppose that’s so with blogging in general, whether long absent or not.

I recently followed the Twitter account of a writing community called Inkitt, and soon after received an invitation to participate in the contest they’re currently holding. It’s called Echo of Another World, held in honour of Terry Pratchett. I wondered a while if I could finish and enter a short story/novelette I’ve had in mind, but concluded I would not have the time to do the story justice. However, the rules indicate that novel excerpts are welcome. So, after a little thought, I spent a few days editing/reworking two chapters from my first novel – the ridiculously long one that no unpublished writer could ever hope to traditionally publish. I nervously popped it up on the site yesterday.

The cover image is awful – text over a Paint-adjusted free image. I am so far from an artist it’s sad.

The excerpt is called “The False Angel and the White Knife”, chapters eight and nine of the presently fourty-four chapter novel, and comes in at roughly 12,000 words. So, roughly, you’d probably estimate the whole thing might be around 264,000 words. Sadly, you’d be wrong – I know for a fact it’s over 400,000.

Sigh.

In any case, I’d love it if anyone wanted to read my work and let me know what they think. Also, it’s community voting to determine the finalists, so, if you do like it, a vote would be very much appreciated. Vaguely hoping someone with their foot in publishing’s door might magically spot it and see potential. Aren’t hopes lovely 🙂

You can have a look at “The False Angel and the White Knife” at http://www.inkitt.com/stories/13054.

And now, here’s the 200-character or less summary that I hope entices you to have a look:

“A scorned leader of a zealously religious and racist people, the Mirror-to-be uncertainly performs a brutal ceremony on capture of a hated False Angel, whose soul is fused with another’s, far away.”

After the First Hurdle

And now, a randomly-generated scene…

Nouns: loss, bite, breath, record, peace, silk, wash

Adjectives: handsome, aberrant, gentle, guiltless, slippery

Verbs: defer, ensure, write

Adverb: alluringly

Pebbles

A butcher’s son, Dom could appreciate a good cut of meat. But the smell as his dish was uncovered, tender chunks of goat dusted in flour and spice, fried in the best oil with leeks and strong garlic – on any other day, he would have fainted.

He wanted to enjoy his meal. His stomach begged him to – they’d been without supplies for four days, robbed in the Wastes as they travelled to reach this oasis city.

‘Go by night, when you can,’ Calahur had instructed as Dom hurriedly made preparations, shoving smoked pork and fresh underwear into a pack and stealing his father’s second-best cleaver, belting it to his waist. ‘This is not a task we can defer any longer. Avoid being seen – take the secret ways, not the road. I will point you through them,’ the aged record keeper—if taking census was really all he did on his travels—had said, and then sketched a map. In a narrow, slanted hand, he wrote a few lines telling Dom how to navigate the paths.

‘Memorise, then burn,’ Calahur had said, thrusting it at Dom and waiting, Dom under his heavy gaze – it was unsettlingly frantic behind his customary sternness—until he crumpled the paper and threw it in the fire.

‘So not quite as less-travelled as the record keeper claimed,’ Dom had grumbled after they were robbed.

‘At least petty thieves aren’t likely to report to… well, them that Calahur warned you about,’ Ral had remained cheerful, though their stomachs growled and their sunburnt skin froze in the night wind, coats taken along with their packs and weapons.

‘Who knows how big their network is,’ replied Dom moodily, slapping his sore arms and rubbing his chest, trying to keep warm as they trekked on.

‘Well, at least we’re travelling light, now. We’ll make the oasis in no time.

‘Eat, will you? That’s a handsome dish you’re letting cool.’

Their first night in the oasis they’d spent in the gutter, sleeping outside the magnificent inn where they now ate. That morning, Ral had pinched several glass bottles from street corners, washed out what liquor remained, and juggled a fistful of coins into her pockets, entertaining market goers and buying a few days at the inn, meals and baths included.

Ral nudged Dom under the communal table where they sat cross-legged.

‘Eat, or I will.’

She’d nearly finished her own share.

Urged on by Ral along with his empty innards, Dom picked up his fork.

‘We don’t have time for this,’ he said between mouthfuls, eyeing a trio of robe-swathed patrons at the end of their table. He was sure they sneaked looks his way, speaking in low voices over their steaming bread. Dom’s hand crept to his trouser pocket, closing over his handkerchief stuffed beneath. It was knotted about a glossy stone that shone shades of blue and green. Ral had stopped teasing once the thieves rode off – Dom had no clue what would have happened had they found its aberrant hiding place.

‘We need time to recover,’ Ral insisted. ‘You, especially.’

‘Why me more?’

‘My boundless optimism keeps me upright. You, on the other hand, my dear pessimistic friend, look like you’re unravelling at the seams. And it’s only been a week.’

Only a week.

Dom couldn’t believe it.

And there was still such a long way to go…

‘And we’ll be off again once we’ve seen this mineralogist fellow to get your stone looked at and all.’

‘Keep it down,’ Dom hissed thinly, shooting a glance down the table to ensure the trio had their attention elsewhere. ‘You’re unbelievable, Raleven. What have we just been through, and you’ll bring heaven knows down on our heads with your massive mouth.’

‘You need to relax,’ Ral announced, as cheery as ever, but Dom didn’t miss how she looked on him with deep concern.

He felt terrible, sick with exhaustion. He could barely fathom what was happening to him, Calahur cryptic and unknown dangers and responsibilities playing on his mind. Ever anxious and so tired, after only a week this quest-business he’d once dreamed about had already taken a hefty toll. Right then, all he wanted was to be home with his father, wielding a cleaver and smelling of carcasses for the rest of his life.

And it would only get worse. So he didn’t protest when Ral, after watching over every bite he took, led him to the inn baths. In his own cubicle, Dom stripped, scrubbed the Wastes from his skin with fragrant lotion, rinsed in the flow from the ceiling and donned the silk robe that had been folded for his use. But it had no pockets. And, unlike in the Wastes, he wore nothing beneath where he could shove his potentially-precious cargo.

Too tired to think straight, Dom stood motionless in his cubicle, stone in hand, until Ral rapped on his door.

‘You’re taking forever. You were no filthier than me… what’s the problem?’ she asked, seeing dilemma on his face and slipping inside, swiftly closing the door.

Wordlessly, he held out the stone. Without missing a beat, Ral unravelled her braid, shaking out the black cord that had held her hair back through the Wastes. Clucking patiently, she took the stone and bound the cord around it, knotting so it hung safely around Dom’s neck.

‘Everyone will see…’

‘It looks just like the cheap glass gems in the market, now. And who would wear anything valuable in a public bath? Not someone as paranoid as you, for sure.’

Taking his hand, she gave Dom a comforting kiss on the cheek.

‘You’ll be fine, you know? This’ll all sink in, and you’ll be fine.’

Still unable to summon words, unimaginably grateful Ral was there with him, Dom rested his head on her shoulder as she held him, relishing her warm support. Then, she led him out into the bathing chamber.

In deep rectangular pools and waist-high bathing pots, water glittered alluringly in the sunset, almost open to the outside beneath the massive glass ceiling. Decorative pebbles edged the pools and marked paths, leading bathers across the slippery tiles. On the other side of the chamber were towering shelves stacked with soft towels in every size.

‘I’ll grab us a towel or two,’ Ral said, leaving Dom by a vacant bathing pot. ‘Don’t wait for me—plenty of water for the both of us.’

Used to doing what Ral told him and the water increasingly inviting, Dom grew almost convinced a long soak would help him feel sunny again, even just for a minute. So he hung his robe on a nearby stand and gripped the edge of the pot, hoisting one leg over into the blessedly warm water.

‘Hey, boy!’

Dom started at the hiss, a dark shadow falling over him. His neck snapped around violently to find its source.

Inside the pot, his foot slipped with the sudden movement. Above, his legs tangled with the edge, and he lost his grip on the pot’s edge. A moment later, Dom toppled, striking the tiles headfirst.

It wasn’t a guiltless death, nor was he at peace. But it was fast; Dom was gifted that, at least. The almighty agony in his head faded along with everything else, gentle pressure failing to hold in all that seeped from his cracked skull. He barely had time to panic for himself and his father—what would he do when Dom never came home? By the time his thoughts reached Ral—he couldn’t see at all, but imagined she was at his side; she always had been—and the task Calahur had charged him with, he could only worry dimly.

It’ll be all right, he even managed to decide with his last ragged breath, though he felt bad he’d failed, fallen when there was still so much he was meant to do.

Ral will be all right.

Ral…

Ral was with him. He’d asked her to come with him.

Perhaps he hadn’t failed, after all.

*

Above him, her usually-merry mind numb with sudden, sickening loss – dead, the inn doctor had already pronounced him, covering him with a robe—Ral clung to Dom’s hand, stroking it, ignoring the questions and sympathy from the crowd of bathers. But though otherwise blocked out to anything besides herself and Dom, over the kerfuffle Ral heard a door creak. Not letting go of her friend, Ral peered through the dripping legs of onlookers.

The creak had come from Dom’s wash cubicle. The door was ajar.

A shadow rifled through Dom’s belongings.

Ral set her jaw. Leaning over Dom’s silk-draped form, she kissed his cheek in farewell, hearing as a few sensitive bathers began to cry.

She could cry later. Right now, she had to get the stone from Dom’s neck and around her own before anyone – particularly whoever searched Dom’s cubicle – noticed. Even with her juggler’s cunning, this would be some feat.

Honouring and Enumerating Inspiration

As most creative sorts will no doubt be aware, an original mind, even coupled with rock-hard determination, often needs a push to get off the starting block. A better analogy might be a light bulb moment. Or, rather, the flick of a light switch, the globe to which it’s coupled rendering our surrounds, a new concept with quirky themes and an honest voice, bright and clear. That friendly shove of encouragement, that finger flick birthing ingenuity, we know is inspiration. And it can take many forms – music, a good dinner, nostalgic scents, a wind-up watch, or sudden changes in weather.

Those familiar with my writing will probably be aware of many of my crucial muses – most notably, everything Japan and Florence + the Machine. They would likely also be aware of my love of lists. So now, in honour of inspiration and in an effort to remind myself and others that all is not lost when you’ve been months without it – or months without adequate opportunity to act upon it – I present a list, in no particular order, comprising five perhaps more unusual inspiration engines that have sparked ideas in recent-ish times.

1) Folks who stand outside shops and hand out flyers – I got a whole novel out of this, my 2012 NaNoWriMo effort, Pulp Runner.

2) Unexpected encounters with taxidermy – not to mention the ensuing debate with curators of a distinctly dissimilar mindset. Again, a whole novel came of this (and two more shall hopefully follow).

3) Belching in the bathroom – now, perhaps you mightn’t find this particularly inspiring. But would you change your mind if, immediately after you habitually excused yourself, though there is no one to hear but an otherwise empty bathroom, you instinctively imagine the bathroom replying with a polite “That’s quite all right”?

4) Soundtracks from 1994 platformers – you try walking through the streets of Kyoto at dusk with the track from Tubelectric in Jazz Jackrabbit on a loop and not coming up with an urban dystopian concept

5) Roadkill – admittedly, the poor thing had been moved onto the footpath. And it was more the call to the council to remove said poor thing after days and days of passing it, its state becoming increasingly decayed and fly-infested, on the way to the bus stop that has inspired Book 6 in the Treading Twisted Lines series (there is at least as much of this written now as Book 4, which is still sadly suffering).

What’s the oddest thing that’s ever inspired you? Did it lead to something great? Is the idea tucked away safely, waiting for the right moment to explore? In what form has the mighty light-flicking finger of insight aided you?

the idea!