She lived alone, and few could know when Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and oh! The difference to me.
A slumber did my spirit seal – I had no human fears. 
She seemed a thing that could not feel the touch of earthly years. 
No motion has she now, no force; she neither hears nor sees – 
Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course with rocks, and stones, and trees.

This is a companion piece to the blog entry I’ve just made for NaNo London. If you’re not interested in NaNoWriMo, there’s probably not a lot here of interest. But if you’re interested in how I find inspiration in music and elsewhere, read on…

Still here? There’s a bunch of years’ attempts to go through. So without further ado:

2002: Truth, Jalfrezi and Freedom. I was living in Manchester, on the edge of Longsight, which is a less than salubrious area. Walking home alone from a friend’s house down Daisybank Road late one night, I was approached by two tough-looking guys who I was convinced were going to mug me. Instead as they approached me across the deserted road, they looked me up and down and told me “Sorry mate, didn’t recognise you,” before crossing back to the other side. I still have no idea who they thought I was, but it gave me an idea about a bunch of students caught up in a gang war over protection money on Rusholme’s curry mile.

2005: Infinity / 2006: Infinity Squared An idea I’d been kicking around for about eight years, a cross between Quantum Leap and Doctor Who. Odd parts were inspired by my life in Manchester, but for the most part these were two books in a planned trilogy that I got bogged down in. Maybe one day I’ll finish it off, their approach to time is somewhat different.

2007: The Ghosts That Haunt Me. This was the first year I used music as my inspiration – The Crash Test Dummies’ track, Winter Song. I envisaged an ancient aristocrat who lived in a stately home, left to become a well-know human rights lawyer, and recounted his memoirs. There were winter drownings, and rowing across lakes, and long-overdue homecomings. I killed him off at about 40,000 words because it turns out I really dislike aristocrats.

2008: The Logic Bomb. The Barenaked Ladies’ song, Break Your Heart, gave me my protagonist, and I came up with a sci-fi MacGuffin that causes the beginnings of a societal collapse as the reason he wouldn’t leave his girlfriend. This is one I’m very happy with and I’m slowly polishing to a state that I might want to do something with.

2009: Thinner Than Water / 2010: Killers in High Places I was sitting on a beach in Alicante, my pale skin looking for all the world like someone who’d never seen the sun before, surrounded by an army of bronzed sunseekers, and had an idea for a novel opening featuring a vampire lying on a mediterranean beach, sunbathing on a July afternoon. The first book turned into a road-trip story describing what he was doing there and how he returned home to London; the second described what happened a few months later and takes some of its inspiration, including its title from Anthem by Leonard Cohen. Of course, the vampire idea went through a few iterations and by the time I’d finished was diluted almost to a homeopathic level, but it’s where I started.

2011: The Silicon Jihad Nothing to see here, move along please… a sequel to The Logic Bomb, set 250-ish years later on a planet just beginning to recover from a Dark age. The idea was to explore a sentient machine’s right to follow an established religion. Mostly my protagonists, a set of privately funded archaeologists looking for advanced technology, widely-used tech having reverted to a 1960s/70s state, spent their time arguing. It’s a useful background piece for a world I might return to at some point, but not yet. The inspiration came from my own introspection at the end of a difficult few years for me personally, and the slight ray of hope that appeared just as everything was at its worst.

And for this year? I’m taking inspiration from a Broadway musical. In fact you might say I’m lovingly ripping off a Broadway musical. How it will turn out remains to be seen.


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