Archive for October, 2009

October 28, 2009

>Another week? Already?

>I’d like to say something like “doesn’t time fly?” but, in reality, it doesn’t, not when you’re patiently waiting for something…

I tend to avoid posts which say “no news”, any extended silences can probably be interpreted as saying just that. You can be sure that as soon as there is news, it’ll be here. (It’ll probably be on Twitter first, though!)

This week I have been:
1. Writing – about 5,000 words or so this week. Reasonable progress on book 2.
2. Reading – HEAVEN CAN WAIT by Cally Taylor and FIRE by Kristin Cashore.

I can honestly recommend HEAVEN CAN WAIT, though it’s much more a book for the ladies than the gents, but if you’re willing to be entertained then it’s a very pleasant read. It’s one of those books that (and I have to word this very carefully) is written in such a simple, straight-forward way, no attempts at being “clever” – and I mean all those in the complementary sense. It’s no mean feat to write in such a way that doesn’t require the reader to go off hunting for the dictionary every other page to check the definition of an obscure word.

That still feels like I’m somewhat damning it with praise. To put it into context, I should say that it’s how I hope people will say that I write. It’s the way Richard Laymon used to write, and the way that Christopher Brookmyre writes (my two favourite authors). I’m not averse to “clever” writing, complex plots, unusual phrasing etc. but there are lots of times when I just want to immerse myself into a story and let it wash over me, and that’s not easy to do if the author is hell-bent on plucking archaic words from the lesser-thumbed pages of his dictionary.

I read HEAVEN CAN WAIT in two evenings. Thoroughly enjoyable, I recommend you grab yourself a copy.

As for FIRE: I haven’t finished it yet. It is the follow-up/prequel to GRACELING, both of which have received excellent reviews. I enjoyed GRACELING but I have to say that FIRE has all the hallmarks of an author now into her stride, with the first novel out of the way, more confident in her ability. It feels much more “together” than GRACELING, more mature perhaps.

I should add, at this point, that Kristin is represented (in part) by Lora Fountain – and it was Lora that recommended her books to me. But, I’m more than happy to echo that recommendation.

Next on the list is PRECESSION by my new Twitter friend Abigail Arrington, who is kindly sending me a signed copy (I paid for it, I’m no free-loader!). I’m really looking forward to it.

October 21, 2009

>Book Buying Day

>Today is payday (in my non-writing world) which means a visit to Borders to pick up some new reading.

Having made a number of new friends (if you can use the term so loosely) online via Twitter, many of whom have recently published new books, it seems right to support them and buy their books, even though some are not exactly my usual reading material. That’s not a problem, though, as the couple I picked up today have received good reviews.

Of course, finding the books is not always easy. Of the three I went looking for, I found one. The second required a visit to 3 stores, and had to be dug out of a box in the back (it had only just arrived). The third only seems to be available online, so I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for that one.

I’m looking forward to reading all three, knowing that I have a connection with the authors is going to make them a little more special, I think.

I’ll share my thoughts when I’ve finished them.

October 16, 2009

>So, what’s it all about, then?

>It occured to me today that, despite all my waffle here, and various people being very encouraging and even saying how much they are looking forward to reading THE LONG SECOND when (if?) it gets published, I’ve actually spoken very little about the book itself.

In sharing this now, I’m aware that it may sound a little presumptuous. There is still every chance that THE LONG SECOND will not get published. If that’s the case, then I’m going to look pretty foolish and possibly even a little full of myself for thinking that a first attempt could be considered good enough. On the other hand, if it does get published then, well, you heard about it here first!

When I sat down to write the synopsis and query letter for THE LONG SECOND the most difficult part was choosing the genre in which it should be placed. Thankfully, Lora (our agent) disagreed with our specified Soft Sci-Fi and calls it “a contemporary tale of family interaction, greed, responsibility and redemption”.

Our original query letter didn’t sell the book very well – though it was good enough to pique Lora’s interest. The revised one does a better job, I think, though it never actually got sent to anyone. That’s a shame in a way, so I thought I’d share it here.

How many times, as a child, did you play the game of wishing you had a Super-Power? What did you choose? Did you want to fly, or become invisible, or turn things to ice? These are the thoughts that Tony Cole uses to help him get through the day doing to most boring job in the world (a job he loves precisely because it allows him to think these things). Tony’s preference is to be invisible, though, if he’s honest, his reasons are a little seedy. You can imagine his surprise when he notices a small anomaly in time and stumbles upon the ability to time-travel.

What could you do with such an ability? Still hungry? Go back in time and have breakfast again. Left your mobile at work? Go back in time and remember to pick it up. Smashed your girlfriend’s mirror? Go back in time and move it away from the edge of the cabinet. Your brother kills himself and an innocent woman while drink-driving following a confrontation with you because you’ve discovered he’s having an affair with your girlfriend? Saving the woman is easy, but does your brother deserve to be saved?

There are rules that have to be followed if you want to play with time; they’re not always obvious, and can have some interesting consequences, as Tony discovers while trying to solve all his family’s many problems. But Tony is a good man at heart, and if he’s lucky he might even end up with the girl of his dreams, but he’s going to have to work hard to get there.

October 13, 2009

>Frankfurt Book Fair

>It seems that the Frankfurt Book Fair has finally arrived. I’ve been watching various Tweets over the past couple of days and have been surprised how much has been going on, behind the scenes, before the fair even opens.

It made me wonder just how much actually happens at the fair itself, and how much just happens because so many of the right people are in the same place at the same time.

I guess it’s a little of both.

Of course, for me, the arrival of the fair just means that it will soon be over, and hopefully some news will come our way. I’m certainly not expecting anything to happen with THE LONG SECOND at the fair (although I’d be delighted to be proved wrong), but I’m hoping that when all the hangovers have receded and various editors find themselves back at their desks come Monday, maybe normal service will be resumed. Whatever that is.

In other news… Book 2 continues to progress. There was a nice moment late last week when the second half of the book seemed to come into focus for a while and many words were written, then rewritten, then rewritten again. Sadly, the momentum got a little lost somewhere in those rewrites, and suddenly it’s mired in the gloom once more, waiting for another little ray of sunshine to re-illuminate the storyline (enough metaphors?).

And as for Twitter… suddenly the cynic in me has discovered a use for it. So, a big hello to all my followers and followees (is that a real word?), and a big thank you to Nicola (who, I promise, I’m not really stalking) for enlightening me on the power of 140 characters.

October 5, 2009

>The Good Moments

>I was reminded today while reading the Blog of Cally Taylor that I’d intended to write about all the great things that happened along the way to getting this (these) book(s) published. While publication is still elusive (but fingers are still crossed), securing agent representation was certainly a major step along the road.

When I met Lora, and we agreed to work together, I was a little reluctant to go into too much detail – as Cally says, there is the fear of jinxing the whole thing if you get too excited.

But, a month down the line, with representation contract signed, and the manuscript of THE LONG SECOND out at (at last count) 5 publishers, I think it’s okay to go into a little more detail about what happened on September 5th.

Lora invited me to meet her at The Groucho Club and I took great delight in putting the telephone number of the club in my mobile (in case I was delayed) and showing it to anyone who cared to listen. Not that, to my amazement, many people knew what The Groucho Club was (way to rain on my parade).

On arrival, I walked past it twice. I was expecting at least some sort of sign above the door, but, of course, it’s much more subtle that that. Having pressed the bell I waited for a response, assuming the club was upstairs. After a moment I noticed the two receptionists waving at me over to my left. Strike one.

I pulled the door. It didn’t open. I assumed it was still locked. They gestured for me to push it. Strike two.

Smiling sweetly (I hope) I professed that I was new here… as if they didn’t know, but announced I was there to meet Lora.

There reply was one of those little moments: “Yes, we’re expecting you, she’ll be with you shortly.” They were expecting me!

Lora arrived shortly afterwards. She was exactly as I expected her to be – how often does that happen? (Lora: If you’re reading this, this is a good thing!)

We dispensed with the small talk, over a glass of wine for me and… something else for her (I think I can be forgiven for not catching what her tipple was, I was a little nervous), and she quickly made it clear that she was offering representation. I, of course, played it cool and said that it was only reasonable that I be given time to think about it, while all the time grinning like a village idiot.

I think it may have been that grin that gave it away. Was I going to accept? Of course…

She told me (and this is another one of those moments) that she “loved” THE LONG SECOND. She loved it! It’s one thing for all your friends and family to tell you how good your book is but, lovely though that is, it counts for nothing. When a complete stranger (for that’s what she was, really) who works in the industry tells you the same thing well, I think it’s enough to bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened man. And I’m not the most hardened man. Not that I cried, of course.

We spent what can only be described as a very enjoyable two hours together; two hours that felt like I was in the company of an old friend. We talked about the book, and the series, and we talked about other totally unrelated things – just getting to know us. Honestly, I could have talked all afternoon, and I don’t do small talk easily.

When we parted, I did my best to walk down the street as calmly as I could. Only when I rounded the corner, out of sight, did I reach for the mobile and send one of the best texts ever: “It’s really happening.”. I may have used slightly stronger language that than.

And so began the next part of the journey. I’m looking forward to meeting Lora again in a month or so, and hoping that, by then, we’ll have even more exciting news to share. It may not happen, but I’m very hopeful.