Claire King


Archive for August, 2012

A canicular, French, late summer morning.

Posted on: August 22nd, 2012 by Claire - 10 Comments

There is a canicule in France at the moment – a heatwave. Municipal Lidos are full of people trying to cool off. Only the bravest, or the most determined holidaymakers take to the shadeless beaches between 11am and 4pm. Meanwhile the countryside is parched and forest fires are regularly taking hold, even in the higher mountain areas.

There are two weeks left of the summer holidays, and just as with the end of season peaches and nectarines – although we have already had our fill – we are gorging on the remainder, while it is still good, before the time has passed.

Even as dawn broke this morning the air was hot and by mid-morning it was pushing 35°.

I made pancakes (crêpes) for breakfast, to cheers of delight. We ate them with fresh lemons, syrups and jams and cold watermelon from the fridge. It’s amazing how pancakes for breakfast can make an ordinary day seem like a holiday.

Then the neighbour came round, as he does most years at this time and brought us tomatoes. They have stewed and frozen as many as they can, and still his plants keep on giving. He tours the neighbours with baskets and boxes and bags of the ripe-to bursting fruit.

My 6 year old and I took our dogs out for a walk, to let them cool off in the irrigation canal that keeps the fruit trees and fields watered on our side of the valley. We also took a bag in the hope of hunting down some blackberries. My daughter, who is enthralled by insects, spiders, lizards and in fact any kind of local flora and fauna, found this little creature on one of the bramble bushes. We think it might be a crab spider.


As we walked home the farmer was turning hay in the fields. The air was heavy with its sweetness and the warm scent of figs from the trees nearby. We dillied and dallied until we were parched with thirst, then ran home fast for cold water.

This is late summer, in the canicule, in southern France. This place is inspirational.



I can’t read; I’ve been possessed.

Posted on: August 19th, 2012 by Claire - 6 Comments

I’m going to try and share a strange image with you. And the question at the end is – does anyone else feel like this?

I love reading, and honestly believe that as a writer you have to keep on reading. It nourishes and inspires and I think you can learn from it by absorption. Plus, you know, reading is brilliant.

But I’ve got to in the stages of editing where reading seems like a distraction. I remember this from last time – reaching a point where I had to wave au revoir to my to-read pile, and give myself up to the novel I’m writing.

It’s as though there is only one story, and I have to somehow fit it all in my head, see it all in three dimensions, turn it, live it. Again and again. It’s a little like being possessed.


There, I said it. Is it just me?

Editing is turning the pot.

Posted on: August 14th, 2012 by Claire - 6 Comments


I like editing.

I find writing a first draft of a novel like digging the clay from the ground with my fingernails. Sometimes I hit a rich seam, other days I’m scraping at scraps and wondering if there’s any clay left to find. But it all builds up eventually and you end up with enough – more than enough – words for a novel. But they are so not in the right order. And the pile of words looks nothing like a story.

Editing is turning a pot. It feels much closer to creating the vision I have in my head. In fact, when I was editing The Night Rainbow two years ago I wrote this.

The second draft (after the first edit) looks more or less like a finished piece – let’s say a vase. You can at least tell what it’s supposed to be. But it’s still ugly and the flowers would sit badly in it. This is assuming of course that it hasn’t gone all wobbly and you’ve had to start again. That can happen. Sometimes more than once…

The third draft will look much better though. The nuances start to shine through.

Still you keep going. With every spin of the wheel you find another imperfection, and as you correct it you notice that it now shows up other flaws. Will this thing ever be perfect? Will it ever be good enough?

Eventually there will come a time to say yes. But I’m not there yet with this book. I’m only just finishing the second draft and looking forward to the first round of polishing. And the next…and the next.


Of course it still won’t be finished, not for this book – first it’s off to my agent and then my publisher and then there’ll be (touch wood) a whole new set of edits. If you’re interested in my experience of the firing, painting and glazing process you can find out more in these posts:

Publishing editor’s line editsCopyedits and Proofs. And not forgetting the book covers!

Photo above via Flickr Creative commons. For (c) see here. 

Copy, right?

Posted on: August 2nd, 2012 by Claire - 27 Comments


This week I asked a blogger who had copy/pasted an entire post of mine, to please take it down. She did, immediately. Thank you, Blogger.

I also want to say that she had not tried to pass the work off as her own (plagiarism) – she had attributed it to me and put a link to my site. It’s lovely to be appreciated. So why did I ask her to take it down? Partly it’s a copyright issue, and partly it’s etiquette.

The etiquette issue is purely emotional. One of the wonderful things about the web is the free availability of information and ease of access and sharing that information. It was born in that spirit (à la Tim Berners-Lee “This is for everyone.”) But I honestly believe that if someone makes something available that you appreciate, whether it is a blog post, a video, a photograph, an essay…whatever it is…etiquette demands that you share it by pointing people to that person’s site, where you can see their work.

But she did link to your site!

Yes. The issue was that despite the link to my site, the post was a a full copy/paste. If it had been a couple of lines, plus the link to my post and then – here’s the thing – her further thoughts on the topic – then that would have been great. That is a discussion started that without the web would never have taken place. But a copy/paste of the whole post with no further comment feels wrong to me.

If in doubt, it’s always courteous to ask if you can share someone’s work. If you can do that, they’ll tell you what they’d prefer.

The copyright issue is simpler to explain. Although it was ‘only’ a blog post, I wrote it. And I have also written a novel, and early next year it’s coming out and I’m hoping that people will want to buy it with actual money that will pay for things like food and rent while I write another one. Practically I know that sooner or later it will crop up on the web in a form where somebody who wants to read it, but doesn’t want to pay for it will be able to have it for free. It happens. But here is my issue with that: I think many people believe that this is OK. That “one of the things that is great about the internet is all the great stuff you can get for free.”

Because it’s not like someone walking into my house and taking my things, is it? Because digital work is not tangible. You can take it, but it’s still there!

Some would argue that copyright makes no sense on the internet because it’s hard to enforce, and hey, in the end it’s just marketing. If someone downloads a free copy of my book (that I didn’t make available for free) they will then go and read the next one. And maybe they’ll pay for that one.

Will they? Will they really?

What do you think?


Further reading:

Recently Roni Loren posted here about how she was sued for using pictures on her blog that she found on the internet. In the process of this she has found out what the law says about this. If you have a blog you should read her post.

For a short discussion on the difference between theft, copyright infringement and patent infringement, take a look at this post from Notch (the software developer responsible for Minecraft).