Archive for December, 2009

December 31, 2009

>Milestones and Future Plans

>With 2009 drawing to a close, it’s only slightly coincidental that Book 2 (now titled BROKEN) is in the final stages of polishing, ready for delivery to Lora, our agent.

This year has seen, from nowhere, the birth of Marshall Buckley and the beginnings of (hopefully) and long and successful writing partnership. While, I’m sure, the prospect of writing a book in partnership with another person probably fills many with horror, for us it works incredibly well, and that’s despite the 2,500 mile (and 3 1/2 hour) difference. In fact, it’s possible that those difference actually help, and it’s impossible to be constantly under each other’s feet (and it’s much easier to ignore an email or MSN message than to ignore somebody face-to-face. Not that we ever do… at least, not yet!)

When the idea for THE LONG SECOND was first raised, back in March, I don’t think either of us thought we would achieve so much in such a short time, but here we are, nine months later, with two books completed and a raft of ideas waiting in the wings, agency representation, and the first book out on submission with multiple publishers.

On top of that, the connections and friendships forged through FaceBook, Blogs and Twitter have been inspiring and remarkable, and to all those who have offered advice and encouragement (either directly or indirectly) I thank you, most sincerely.

With BROKEN about to leave home, all attention is now focused on the next book, which is not part of The Long Second series. It’s called NUM63R5 (that’s NUMBERS for those of you who have trouble with such numerical substitutions). Whether it keeps that name is anyone’s guess. THE LONG SECOND kept its name from the start, but BROKEN was originally titled PARALLELS.

To round up the year, I thought I’d share the contents of what I long ago christened the “Ideas Tank”. I’m only sharing the titles, though, the story behind each will remain a mystery.

We have:
The Long Second Series, Book 3: INBETWEEN
The Long Second Series, Book 4: AFTERLIFE
LAST MAN STANDING (aka PARADISE)
DEARLY DEPARTED
ONE MORE SLEEP
UNDER YOUR CLOTHES
HARD WIRED
I SPY
WHEN I WAS 7, I COULD FLY
YOUTH’ANASIA
SUICIDE DREAMS
PUSH ME, PULL ME

Some of them are little more than titles, with only the most basic synopsis behind them, others are more fully formed. For example, LAST MAN STANDING was supposed to be the next book to be written, before the idea for NUM63R5 came along.
It’s possible, of course, that some will never be written, and some may become combinations of two of more ideas.

But, with that many ideas in less than a year, we’re going to be busy writing for some time.

And with that, I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2010.

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December 23, 2009

>The Ghost of Christmas Past

>Strictly speaking, I’m referring to ghosts and Christmases in the plural, but it wasn’t such a neat title.

I was reading a blog entry over on An Awfully Big Blog Adventureand it made me start thinking about my own childhood Christmas memories.

Mrs MB has frequently commented that I must have been built from a clone at age 12 as I have so few memories from before that age, but while thinking about this, it’s apparent that I’m not, in fact, a clone as there are lots of little things I can remember.

I can recall me and my brothers harassing my parents with chants of “We want the decorations up” and actually making banners and parading around the house.

I can recall a TV advert for an alcoholic drink which Google tells me was a brand of advocaat. I shared a bedroom with two of my brothers, and in the nights leading up to Christmas we would frequently lay in bed, call out “Seagers Egg Flip” and have to turn over in bed, while bouncing at the same time (if you get what I mean). It must have driven my parents mad.

I remember putting the tree together. We always had an artificial tree, but it was like nothing you get today. The trunk and branches were wooden, with plastic needles. The trunk was in two parts, which screwed together and each branch had to be slotted into the trunk.

We had mainly paper decorations which became tattier with each passing year. Most famous was the large paper bell. This thing must have been 24 inches deep, and folded out from flat into a large (surprise!) bell shape. So pivotal was it to the yearly display, it ended up having it’s own metal hook screwed into the ceiling of the living room.

We kids would make our own decorations out of strips of coloured paper which were looped, stuck and joined together. Can you still get those?

We never had stockings, or presents on our beds. Instead they were all kept downstairs in sacks. We weren’t allowed into the living room until dad was ready, and he was infuriatingly (and, I’m sure, deliberately) slow. We also had to have breakfast first – though who wants to eat when there is a pile of presents waiting for you?

When we were younger, and finally allowed in, the present opening was finished in a matter of minutes and a mass of torn paper. I can vividly recall my first wristwatch, with its shiny blue face and blue fabric strap. As we grew older and calmed down (just slightly) we were made to open presents in turn, waiting and watching as each brother opened something. And occasionally Mum or Dad would get a present too – Dad always gave Mum a Terry’s Chocolate Orange (amongst other things, of course).

Christmas Day was immediate family only. That meant Mum, Dad and four kids. Nobody else. Ever. As we grew older, girlfriends were acceptable but that was it. We never went out to visit others and nobody came to us. The occasional rare visitor was treated cordially but coolly. This was our day.

TV was forbidden. Absolutely without exception. The arrival of the VCR made that a little easier to bear, but it was never an issue (except the year we were given our first video game – an Atari VCS – but even that had to wait til Boxing Day to be played).

Christmas Dinner was never turkey – none of us liked it. It was most likely lamb – Dad’s favourite. After dinner was the swapping of family presents, small tokens mainly. Then it was time for games – board games if there were any new ones. Dad – like most dads the world over – would insist on making up his own rules. I seriously doubt any game was successfully finished. Then the cards would come out – we would play Cribbage (yes, really!), or other games whose names escape me right now (to my shame). Bets were placed using pennies from the huge Whiskey bottle which stood perpetually in the dining room.

Tea was always just nibbles, though my mum never came to terms with “light” meals, and the table would have contained enough food for a major party.

After tea came “Tree presents”, silly little gifts that Mum couldn’t resist buying, and then we’d usually end up playing charades or something similar.

It all sounds so terribly twee and old-fashioned, but that’s how it was and – I’m guessing – very much how all my brothers would probably choose to run their Christmas even now.

Certainly, my Christmases are now very different. The children storm through their present piles in minutes; we almost always have Dinner at the In-Laws; after dinner the TV is on while the kids (hopefully) entertain themselves and the adults slowly drink themselves to sleep…

I’m not complaining, of course. It’s different, but not worse.

But the memories… the memories prove that I really was a kid once. Honest.

December 11, 2009

>Down time

>With the first edit-pass of book 2 now complete, it’s off to the beta readers for their comments. This small, select group of readers will give feedback of varying levels – one will send back the ms fully marked up with any grammar or spelling errors as well as comments on continuity or flow. Another has already completed his first read-through and has given feedback, but doesn’t really serve as a copy-editor – which isn’t to belittle his input in any way.

The biggest question for me, is what to do with the time I now have on my hands? I’ll wait for all the beta-readers to finish and give me corrections or comments before I do my own read-through, which leaves me a little lost.

Do I sit back and enjoy the rest (especially with Christmas just around the corner) or do I embark on the next step of the adventure? In other words, do I start another book?
And, if I do start another book, which one do I start? Do I start the next book in the series or, as was my original plan, go off and write something different, just for a change?

There is certainly no shortage of ideas. The “ideas tank” currently has about a dozen possibilities, just waiting for their moment in the sun, of which at least two are clamouring for my attention (and, if you add book 3 of the series, then there are 3 books calling out “Pick me, pick me!”).

It’s not an easy decision. What do you think?
Option 1: Sit back and wait for the beta readers. Relax.
Option 2: Start working on Book 3 of the series.
Option 3: Start working on something completely different.

December 1, 2009

>The Editing Process

>The more observant amongst you (and those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook) will have noticed that the first draft of Book 2 (working title: Parallels) is now complete.

At 84,000 words it’s a shade smaller than The Long Second, but I don’t think it’s a problem as it fits nicely into the most common word-count that everyone seems to be asking for at the moment. In fact, The Long Second comes in slightly high and I’m half-expecting to have to trim that down at some point (I hope not, but it’s possible).

Now starts step 2 – the process that some authors seem to love and some hate: the editing.

I don’t find it a chore at all, and that’s mainly because of the way the book is written in the first place. To reiterate (for those of you who didn’t pay attention the first time) “I” am a “we” – two people, working on this project together, under one name.

What that means is that as each chapter is written, it is passed to the other for checking – for grammar, spelling, plot inconsistencies etc. It’s an excellent form of near-immediate feedback and I believe it helps to keep the story quite tight (as, indeed, was the exact comment about The Long Second when it was read by my agent). It also means that, when it comes to this point, there are (hopefully) no major, shout-out, “Oh My God!” moments of something that just doesn’t fit. And, as an additional bonus, it means this phase is completed really quite quickly.

Despite having only finished writing Book 2 yesterday, the first pass of this editing is already about 10% complete, and at this rate will be finished within a week.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the book is perfect, of course. The next step will be to send it out to a small number of beta-readers. Of these, one is very thorough and will pick up on any errors that have been missed so far, and one will provide valuable feedback on the overall quality of the story (and whether, or not, it’s as good as/better/worse than The Long Second).

Once their feedback has been received and any errors corrected and suggestions acted upon, it will probably sit, untouched, for another week or so. As this nicely coincides with Christmas, that should mean a nice break in the run-up, and allows me to (basically) forget the story, so when I come to it again, it should feel reasonably fresh.

Phase 3, essentially the final read through will then take place and any further errors corrected.

Then, and only then, will it go to Lora for her to read. Target for that: first week of January.