Friday, 19 December 2008

Wrapping up 2008

The latest revision of DEVIL'S KISS went off to Hyperion yesterday and I'm officially on holiday. So this is the last blog of 2008.

Gosh, really not sure what to say that's not already been said. Even if you've only flicked through the other blogs you've got a good enough idea of my opinions on the things that matter. Like Christian Bale.

Given the bloggers involved in this are other writers, I've got a mini-checklist together of things up and coming. You probably know about them already, but what the hell. I'll try not to sound like a life-coach.

1. SCBWI British Isles are doing another Undiscovered Voices in 2009. YOU MUST ENTER! Check their website for details, http://www.britishscbwi.org/

2. They're doing lots of other things too, Agents' party, Masterclasses and their legendary Professional Series. My agent Sarah Davies will be doing one on 26th February.

3. Buy my book. 7th May. Got that?

4. Don't be realistic with your ambitions. What's the point? They're ambitions, they should be sky high.

5. If in doubt, double it. Twice as many words, twice as many submissions, twice as many rejections. Means you''ll get to your goal twice as fast. It worked for me.

6. 7th May, you won't forget, will you?

See you in 2009!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

DEVIL'S KISS TRAILER

OMG! Whilst searching for more videos of Christian Bale on Youtube I came across this, a trailer for MY BOOK!

I was told that when the ms has been accepted and the copy-editor's happy, the real fun begins, and it has.

Now I know that it should all be about the art and then work and the slaving away, but seriously...my trailer! How cool is that?

Also...the US editions will have very different covers to the UK's. Hyperion will be using models on the front covers for both Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess. The girl they've picked for Billi and the boy they've chosen for Ivan are, in the words of Zoolander, really, really ridiculously good lookin'. Alas, I was not invited over to New York for the photo-shoot.

Meanwhile...
Major reworking on The Dark Goddess about to commence. There's been a bit of a brainstorm with Ari, Lins and Sarah on Book 2, so we're retaining the best bits about Devil's Kiss and raising the bar. I'm ashamed to say that their idea was better than mine. Not that they'll receive any credit. What's great is that's it's freed me from feeling pretty stuck, so the book's suddenly received 1000mg of pure adreniline.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Books of 2008

So, the lists are starting to appear. Might as well add mine to the mix.

Strangely I've not read half as much as I'd hope to have. Now I'm not commuting there's a serious chunk of the reading day gone. Also, whenever I sit down to read I feel I should be writing.
Ho hum.

Anyway, in no particular order...

1. This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson. A huge brick of a novel but a work of genius. It's about Robert Fitzroy, captain of the Beagle, and his life, coinciding with Darwin, the battle between Faith and Science, between Empire and Independence, and between honour and advancement. If Bernard Cornwell calls it a 'masterpiece' you have to take a serious look at it.

2. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Utterly chilling and very moving. A classic coming of age tale and Charles's reflection on Chapter 39 is what it's all about. "Our hour is short, eternity is long. With this knowledge came pity and mercy". Too many horror books dwell on the shock, the passing fright and creeping dread of a thing, a monster, that can be beaten. This book's goes way, way beyond that.

3. Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell. Part of a trilogy of his reimaginings of the Tale of Troy. Heroic fanatasy as it should be. A perfect balance between the thrill and terror of war. The battle scenes are full of fire, because he allows you to love and care for the characters. Working through Shield of Thunder right now.

4. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. A real 'get your teeth into' fantastical fantasy. Too many 'fantasy' novels are terribly mundane. This isn't. Has a real Alice in Wonderland/Wizard of Oz vibe, what I love is that the conventions are played with mercilessly. The Unchosen One, indeed! Dare I say it's better than Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere? It is, IMHO.

5. Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera. Lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this and must admit, I approached it with soem trepidation. It's about 15 yo Khalid, a British born Muslim who gets kidnapped whilst on holiday to Pakistan and ends up spending two years in Guantanamo Bay. It's a hard but important read. Find out how the War on Terror's being fought. Khalid's brilliant and I've rarely got so involved nor felt such a part of a character. It's out in Feb 2009 but I do recommend it BIG TIME.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Dark Goddess

Came across this picture and had to put it up. I've hit the 47,000 word mark on Book 2, and it's going to be wild.

As you may know, it's got werewolves aplenty I'm slowly looking into Shamanism as part of the religious backdrop of the story. Devil's Kiss is very Judeo-Christian so I wanted the setting to be as different as possible.

I'm working through the proofs of Devil's Kiss and it's amazing to see the words in the format and size they'll be as a finished book. All the sepearte components are coming together and the book as an object will soon be real. Cannot wait.

Beyond that it's just trying to maintain a good rate of story, keeping The Dark Goddess vital and bloody. Treachery, double-crosses, murder and mutilation are the keywords to the tale but it's one of redemption and finding heart in a cold world.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

SCBWI Conference

Just back from a weekend at Winchester where I met up with loads of other writers and we did writerly things (bitch about the other writers and drink and eat too much, basically).
It was great, and reinforced why I'm so lucky to be where I am.

Met up with my glamorous Greenhouse brother from another mother, Jon Mayhew (who is much taller in real life than I'd expected) and we hung out a lot, which was both charming and a bit like the first day at a new school.

I signed my first autograph, which was strange, but (lets be honest) pretty cool.

The teachers there were brilliant. Lee Weatherley has helped make me the writer I am (so it's her fault if it all goes pear-shaped) with extraordinary advice from Cornerstones and this w/e. Tim Bowler was a total inspiration and Alison gave me a chance to practise what it might be like delivering a talk at a school visit. Quite terrifying.

And Candy, I've bought it, as advised. Thanks.

Saturday evening's entertainment was Barry Cunningham, the man who published Harry Potter and (more importantly) was Fat Puffin (for those who remember Puffin Club from the 1970's, which, incidently, is being relaunched).

Met lots of great people and read some amazing work which kinda gave me the willies. There's a lot of excellent writing out there and all of it deserves to be published. Why it's not is a mystery to be solved by wiser men than me.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

It's the Writing, Stupid

Feel I'm CRAWLING through Book 2. Once I could turn out 1,000 words, no problem. 700 of them may have been crap, but there was a sense of movement. Now 500 words per day are a struggle, bizzare since I'm now actually free to spend my days doing it. I thought I'd be doing 2,000 easily.

What's going on?

There's an interesting phenomena called homeostatis, which is about maintaining equilibrium of a system.

So, I'm upsetting the system that is ME. That's the day job, the usual grind, the urgency to write and use it to break the monotony. It's burgers for lunch, its fighting for a seat, its the daydreaming in the office and the scribbling on notes at meetings and ALL THAT CRAP. But it's what makes me, well, me.

Take all that away, even in a good way, and the system thinks WTF? It doesn't get the change, and there's a lot of resistance.

Basically what I'm saying is that it's hard going, even when it's all going your way. Strange, but true.

It's also that this is my first book where I've been paid for before I've written it. There's an expectation (and hope) that this will BLOW PEOPLE AWAY, that's what I'm aiming for anyway. Maybe having seen the height of the mountain I've suddenly got the willies, forgetting that you climb it one step and one word at a time.

I am very aware that actually (maybe) I've had a few big breaks very quickly, and maybe this is part of the 'not having earned it' with years and years of slogging. Can't be sure. There is no sitting pretty, not with the agents, not with the publishers, not with the front covers.

Maybe I've finally realised this profession is not the easy option.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Nature of Heroes



Re-reading the Iliad recently and I was struck with a bit of an epiphany (okay, not a huge one, but enough to feel it worth sharing) and given the current state of affairs with a new president, a new F1 world champion and new Bond film out I thought I'd raise this.

What is it about heroes?

Given the Iliad was written around 800BC, the tale of Gilgamesh way before that, we've always wanted heroes, we always will.

But why?

The Iliad is perhaps the GREATEST story of ALL TIME, and concerns a few days at the end of the Trojan War. Now if you haven't read it, but think you know the story, you're wrong. The Iliad DOESN'T include the Tojan Horse, the death of Achilles, or the sacking of the city. It ends with the funeral of Hector, prince of Troy and first son of Priam.

Is Achilles the real hero of the tale? He's beautiful, the best of the best, an iconic figure who's rage drives the story. But...

He has no humanity. He is not us. He has passion, but it is all tumultuous humors, there is little that he FEELS except the urge for violence. Not to put too fine a point on it, he's a psychopath. Charming, appealing and deadly, he's like Hannibal Lector, a beautiful monster. Our eyes are always on him because of what he's capable of, in a way an erupting volcano is amazing to watch, but there's no way you want to get close.

Hector is the true hero of the tale, and that's why it ends with him, "Such was their burial of Hector, breaker of horses'".

I know that there were other tales lost in history, only the Iliad and the Odessey survive (and that raises the question WHY just those two?), so maybe some story lies lost that turns this on its head, but think about Homer and his audience. Think how in some ancient dark night around a campfire a king and his warriors listened to a blind old man recount the story. Did they identify with Achilles, the Greek superman? Did they imagine them in his armour, with his shield and long-shadowed spear? Or did they think of Hector, the man, who visits his baby son and wife, is full of fear and doubt, who finally faced with death, runs, who asks that he be honoured in death, a death he knows now is inevitable as he stands before the godlike son of Peleus?

Shakespeare picked this up in Troilus and Cressidia, we are left in no doubt regarding Hector's greatest.

I like to imagine that the Greek king shifted uncomfortably on his stone throne when he heard Homer. Had he a small son, who cried when he saw his father dressed for war in a horse-tail helm? Did he stand in battle, not imagining himself as Achilles, because no-one can, but as Hector, noble, brave, but a man open to doubt and fear. A man who'll do his duty, but one who loves, feels loss, knows that he is falible, but does it nevertheless.

I think the greatest of heroes are the ones who's humanity shines out. It is their capacity for sacrifice that marks them.

Monday, 3 November 2008

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

video

Just thought I'd try this as an experiment. This little clip is from this year's Battle of Hastings re-enactment a few weeks ago. I don't know, but this sort of thing really intrigues me. Part of me would love to have a go at the dressing up but it all looks like too much hard work. Plus I bet the mail really chaffs.

Meanwhile...

The Dark Goddess continues. I've got it more or less plotted, so I know where I think I'm going, but of course if something better comes up, so be it. Reckon I'm half-ish through.

Started Twilight and, inspite of myself, am really enjoying it! Will try and grab the film, which is in a few weeks, I think. Vampires, I never tire of them. Also grabbed a copy of Dark Alchemies to dip in and out of. The first story, Neil Gaiman's, is good. Strangely while his Sandman series was, IMHO, the most marvellous thing EVER, I've never really got into his novels. I've tried Neverwhere twice, and still given up p100. Oh, just finished Un Lun Dun. It was fantastic!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What are you doing on the slush pile?

Attended a talk by my agent Sarah yesterday where she was telling a group of aspiring writers the do's and don't of writing children's fiction. Most of her key points are on her website http://www.greenhouseliterary.com/ so I won't go over them here. But also do read her blog, especially the past ones.
Firstly, it made me aware of some painful statistics, which YOU MUST IGNORE but put things in perspective.
Sarah gets 300 submissions a week. Only 3 does she typically find engaging enough to read to the end. That's 1%.
Of the 3,000 odd submissions she's received since she set up (this is all on her blog, that's why you should be uptodate at ALL TIMES) she's only taken on 3-4. That's 0.1%.
Sarah's strike rate is very high. Everyone she's submitted has sold, so far. This proves she's very good at picking winners, or at least the front pack.
How to get into this front pack?
I certainly don't profess to having any secret clue, but do read Stephen King's ON WRITING. It's utterly essential.
BUT...
Study. Read everyone else who you'll be sharing shelf space (i.e your competition) with and work out how and why they work. Attend courses and learn the craft. Swordfights and battles for example, MEAN NOTHING in fiction. It looks all very glamourous on film, but that's because film is visual. The greatest strength of writing is the INTERNAL WORLD of the protagonist. What's going in on his/her mind? Read any of the Sharpe novels and much is made of the night before the battle. The anxiety, the fear, the tension is all there. The event itself is splendid, but that's because we've had the night before to build emotion into it. Action does not move plot, RESOLUTION of the action (did they win or lose) moves the plot.
Lord of the Rings is another case. The defeat of Sauroman is OFF PAGE. It doesn't actually matter to any of the main characters, doesn't move the plot along and frankly, it's consequences are not significant to the Ring bearer's quest. Frodo's journey is predominantly internal. What's at stake is his heart, his friendship to Sam, his steadfastness against the allure of the ring, with Gollum as his shadow self, the Frodo that Failed. This is playing to the strength of the form, this is what novels do best. We love him because he's small and big hearted, he's scared but heroic. That's why Strider is second fiddle. He has no real emotional journey to make. He's a hero at the beginning, he's one at the end. His rise to kingship is mainly external, done by deeds rather than internal growth.
Also, enter competitions. This is how Harriet and I got Sarah's attention, not through the slush pile. The Yearbook has a long chapter on these. They are in a way MORE important than the list of agencies. Enter them and when you've got a couple of wins under your belt (even one) THEN contact the agent. It proves you're better than the rest. Which is what you have to be.
DON'T RUSH. If any of you from last night's talk are reading this, be warned. Wait until your ready to blow Sarah's socks off, then send it to her. She gave you a lot of very useful info last night and there is NO WAY you've incorporated even half of it into your writing. To make sure you've done all she asks is half a year's work, at least. I know because it took me half a year with her sitting at my shoulder to do it. So, if your finger is hovering over the SEND button, please reconsider. Can you honestly say you've already done everything she's told you?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Writing IS rewriting

Back on Devil's Kiss, reworking it for the US market. What's curious is that there are subtle mods required beyond changing the odd word and eliminating the 'u' out of colour.
Obviously it's the same book (though if you insist on buying both US and UK editions, who am I to stop you?) but there's a different emphasis.
I'm bring this up when I've finished it and can review it with a bit of distance and objectivity, but the rewrite's going much more smoothly than before, now I've a bit more confidence with what to do.
Just read Here Lies Arthur, which wasn't on my list and I've just bought another book I really didn't need (but one has to support one's local ye olde book shoppe) and I...liked it. It's been so widely reported as a masterpiece, it won Reeve the Carnegie and is a great, deceptively simple read. But...
I really did think his Mortal Engines was MUCH better. Also I am a huge fan of Arthur (as you'll see shortly) and it's very hard reading him being cast as a scumbag. Which was the point, but still.
There, said it.
While I'm at it, the ending of the Country for Old Men was RUBBISH!
Oh, and really, when will Phillip Pullman write a proper LONG book? Which reminds me, they've got his small little pocketbook story in the library, which I must read. Obviously, I think Phillip Pullman is GOD, or at least some significant divine being (but would that mean he doesn't believe in himself?)
Rant over.

Monday, 6 October 2008

DEVIL'S KISS COVER


OMG!

Please allow me to reveal the cover of my book. It's been created by the awesome (nay, LEGENDARY!) Tom Sanderson and frankly, I'm a very happy camper.

I'd just settled down for some serious writing when it appeared in my inbox. Since then it's been...oooh, pretty.

The publication date is (I think) early May 2009. It's now out of my hands and into the machine...

It seems REAL now, in a way it didn't before. It's got words, its got a cover, it's got the Puffin logo, it's going to be a BOOK. A manuscript no longer.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

My top five for this year, so far

Oops, the discipline thing's slightly gone out the window, and it's only Week Three. So today is BIG WRITING DAY.

But first...
Have seen lots of films this year, now the girls are old enough to be dragged along to the cinema I have all the excuses I need, and the fact that, frankly, I have a lot more spare time for 'research'.
So, what I've seen and LOVED this year, 2008:

1. The Dark Knight. Well, d'oh. I've been a long time fan of Chrsitian Bale (well, since American Psycho) and was more pleased that most when my favourite actor became my favourite comic character. It just proves there is order in the universe. But we won't be dwelling on the 'Batman arrested' headlines, thank you.
2. Rocknrolla. Awesome and a surprise all round. Never been a Guy Ritchie fan but more like this please, Mr. Madonna!
3. Tropic Thunder. Robert Downey Jr AND Tom Cruise (as you've NEVER seen him before). The dance over the closing credits is worth the price of the ticket alone. Bizzarely Ben Stiller and Jack Black are the least funny things in it (IMHO).
4. Iron Man. It's hard putting a Marvel character on this list, but basically it's the Robert Downey Jr. effect. Everything he does is great.
5. The Duchess. Nah, only kidding.
6. No Country for Old Men. Hmm... I putting this in because the cast was amazing and the tension around Javier Bardem just terrifying. BUT I have issue with the ending (it's the same in the book) and it's over the Arch-plot v. Anti-plot saga (read McKee's book on screenwriting called STORY. It's heavy work but totally worth it). Simply put Arch-plot is everything makes sense and all key issues are resolved. The story goes from A to B to C etc. Anti-plot means that nothing makes sense and you can have space aliens land in the middle of a costume drama and it's okay. It's common in comdeies (the Life of Brian with him falling off the tower, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail are two that spring to mind).
NCFOM is arch-plot story with an antiplot ending. VERY annoying. I've argued with others over this, but that's what I think.

Right, the list above may well change because A Quantum of Solace is just around the corner...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The only dial up in the village

Not anymore! I have broadband at last.
Spen the last few weeks adapting to working from home. Girls are now sharing as I've stolen one of the bedrooms and turned it into my nerve centre of creativity. There's a HUGE glass desk, new pc, and all my books are steadily migrating into the room.
Finally we can eat at the kitchen table.
Writing's ongoing, I'm still working on the rewrite of THE DEVIL'S KISS. These works of genius can't be rushed. (somehow I know that line is going to come back and haunt me).
Need to log off and get the childrens' packed lunches sorted for tomorrow's school trip.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

What am I doing? Answers on a postcard...

Day three of the rest of my life and I've started back on THE DARK GODDESS, the follow up book to THE DEVIL'S KISS.
It's great being free of the editing and back into raw first draft stuff where frankly, you don't worry about anything except intense CONFLICT.
However, it did bring me to review 'what's it all about?"
TDG has werewolves aplenty, its a supernatural thiller after all, but so what? What do werewolves MEAN?
Of the top of my head we've got change, hidden nature, cannibalism, lunacy, freedom and wildness.
My most immediate image is a beast, silohuetted against a full moon, just howling. Howling for the fury of it, howling for the LOVE of just being able to make that sound. Freedom to just BE. The joy of existing purely for the moment. That's the freedom the BEAST has. it's not governed by consequence. Isn't that exciting? Dangerous too, but that just adds to it. BEING WILD.
(This coming from a 40 yo man with mortgage, kids and a pot belly).
Change, that's a good one too. How often are we trapped in ourselves, in our expectations of how we should be, and how others perceive us? A werewolf literally TEARS itself free of its human self, ripping itself out, to reveal its true (?) nature. Are we, deep down, just beasts? That's what a werewolf asks of us. Run naked in the forests, howl at the beautiful moon...but be willing to pay the price. Hunt, feast in blood, feast in terror. The glimmer in your eyes are reflections of the fear you bring with you.
There's a little town in Romania, Brasov (I think, it was a long time ago) and it's in the Carpathians. DEEP DEEP Dracula country. It's got a black wooden church in the town square and during the day, is very chocolate box pretty.
But as night fell, thick mist descended down from the black peaks on either side, the streets were UTTERLY empty, the windows all shuttered and SILENT. No radios, no tvs blaring out, no cars rumbling in the background.
Then I heard a wolf howl. The sound echoed back and forth between the mountains, you had no idea where it was coming from. Part of me wonders, given the time, it wasn't really like that, but that's my memory. And I remember, whether it happened like that or not, of being very afraid. We've dwelt too long away from the camp fire in our safe houses and trashed nature to be able to order takeaway pizzas. But the wolf is out there, and he has a lean and hungry look.

Friday, 15 August 2008

The party's over, let the fun begin!

That's it. Day job is OVER. A huge thanks to everyone who came to Mary Janes bar last night to celebrate my retirement.
It was great to touch base with my agent, the inexhaustable Sarah Davies, fresh off a plane from the US and bag stuffed with manuscripts. The woman does not stop and I count my lucky stars she signed me up. Then there's the Scott Wilson crowd and all associated chums from the wide world of engineering: THANK YOU! I've worked in a lot of different places and the people at the City office have been a delight. I'm going to miss you all but especially Rory's crew: Jerome, Sean, John, Marius, Felix, Nicol, Peter, Bill and my boss (at least for the next five hours) Rory. The South London posse was there in force, especially pleased we're all still friends after last weekend's camping.

So, here we are.

It's very weird sitting here at my empty desk with all the hurly-burly ended. I'm packed, I've stolen as much stationary as my bag will carry (hey, I'll need all these pens to write my epic!). Right, the next two weeks are rewriting THE DEVIL'S KISS, which I'm really enjoying all over again. Trying hard not to branch off in any new directions, it's too late in the day for that as it's got to be with the Copy Editor early September.

I'm got a fairly rigid routine set, mainly revolving around child care , school runs and writing. I think it's the best way to maintain the self-discipline which, I believe, is the biggest danger to my new lifestyle. I don't know how long my career as a writer will last, and I am discarding the usual 'don't give up the day job' advice but time is short and once in your life you've just got leap in and worry about the depth later.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Quiting the day job...living the dream?

On Friday 15th August 2008 I quit the day job after 18 years, 11 months and 16 days after I began.
To be a writer.
Firstly I know I'm fantastically lucky to have this opportunity and this time last year I had absolutely NO IDEA it would turn out this way. So luck, timing, awesome agent and lots of rewriting have paid off, big time.
Still...feeling pretty anxious about it all. There's a perculiar comfort is salary, sticking by the rules and (lets face it) a lot of practise and training as an engineer. There's a box, didn't realise it was a cage until quite recently but the sudden release into fresh air and the awesome unlimited scenery is frightening. I've been on a narrow road and stepping off the path is quite bewildering.
Of course, this is my dream. I haven't been able to sleep for the last few days because of the excitement. But...
I haven't finished. I have the deal, but no book. It's being rewritten, but it's not out, it's not on the shelves, its not sold by the truck-load so I can put my feet up with a cigar and say I'VE MADE IT.
You think once you have the agent, it's easy. It's not. Then you think once you have the deal, it's easy. It's not. Then the editor's comments, then the rewrite, then the copy-editor's comments and on and on. Once it's on the shelves I'm sure I'll be twitching and worrying about how to promote it, is it in all the bookshops, if not, why not, etc.
It's funny, I was far less frightened and worried before it all went well the way it did. Writing's all about drawing stuff out from your guts, how do you feel about what's going on. You can't find the answers on a chart, on the calculator or even in the thousands of books about writing. There is no formula, and that's what makes it so special, so exciting and worth all the effort and fear.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Rewriting

I started THE DEVIL'S KISS back in October 2004. By November 2005 it was (IMHO) finished and went off to various agents to be rejected. So far so normal.
Since then I've worked and reworked it. Plots changed, characters changed, aged, died, were born, combined, split, personalities metamorphosised and so on. In November 2006 a new draft was written (then called GOD'S KILLER) and I had one of those first 3 chapter reviews up in Norfolk.
It was ripped to shreds.
So...rewrite AGAIN.
New version was much stronger in many ways, but still not there. The Cornerstones WOWFactor came and I was short listed, then the Undiscovered Voices competition arrived and my agent appeared.
New rewrite! From scratch!
Now we're into the nitty-gritty. Editors are involved. Lindsey and Ari have cast their eagle-eyes and I'm back on the rewrite.
What I'm trying to say is really, it's a LONG LONG slog, and I'm still working on my first book. And my book's pretty short. I would also reckon I'm pretty fortunate in that the agent and book deal came pretty quickly-ish (looking back it seems like things were always moving forward, so that was encouraging).
Where are you in the process? Have you given yourself any deadlines, goals, timetables? What do you do to keep going and have there been any moments when you thought 'Sod this, I'll become a fighter pilot instead'.
I read somewhere (so take it with a pinch of salt) that less than 1% of submissions get taken on by agents and (this is also a big assumption) assuming they all got sold, only 5% of authors actually make a living just through writing.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

General ramblings...

Finished the latest rewrite of the Devil's Kiss. Unlike most, instead of cutting I've enlarged the book by 10,000 well-chosen and highly important words. Many spelt correctly!
For those with £4.40 to spare, this week's The Bookseller (4th July edition) has a brief article on Sarah Davies and Greenhouse. Buy it immediately, you know you want to. (I am too modest to mention who else is briefly refered to in said article).
Moving on...
To Christian Bale.
For those who know me even slightly, this actor features prominently in my viewing pleasure. Sufffice it to say I have a small man-crush (I think that's the correct term) on him, ever since American Psycho. Stick him on the cover of a magazine and I'll buy it. So most of my pocket money this month has gone on GQ, Total Film, Film Review (where he's been chosen as the BEST ACTOR ALIVE), Empire. Add to the fact Batman is my FAVORITE hero, well it just proves there is a God.
I even loved Equilibrium. Gun kata, how cool is that?
I even forced all my mates to see New World with me. Granted he's only in it for about five minutes, but hey, that was enough!
Roll on the Dark Knight...

Friday, 27 June 2008

Monday's Puffin Party


I had my first event as an 'author' on Monday. Met up with my agent Sarah and off we went to the Tate Modern, for Puffin's annual shin-dig. Here's a piccie with me lurking in the background with a lot of people who's names I should know. I'm just over the shoulder of Francesca Dow, the Puffin MD and all round excellent human being.
Very noisy, very crowded and very glamourous (well, to me anyway who's only ever attended events dominated by hairy-arsed builders, I doubt there was a hairy arse anywhere that night, apart from mine. Not that I hung out in the loos checking. Or anything. Lets move on, shall we?). Awesome view over the city, especially as night fell. Saw a few of the great and the good (Charlie Higson, Lauren Child and Meg Rosoff to name but a few) and excellent chatting to some of the other debut writers.
The key thing was how everyone LOVES what they do. Long talk with Anne, the Puffin art director and Lins (my super editor, now muscle bound from a week of house moving and such) and it's great being in an industry that ultimately is about passion and the love of the product.
No doubt I'd say this about any publisher who was on my book, but there's something very cool about being with Puffin. You remember being in the Puffin club and getting the newsletter (when you're a kid letters in the post are an EVENT) and counting the pennies to work out what you'd get and all that.
So a big thanks to Francesca, Lins, Tania, Anne and everyone else I stared at (bewildered and amazed that I was even there) for the invite and a fantastic evening.
Also, Kirsten, I have seen you before. Your photo was in Bookseller recently, wasn't it?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

My desk


This is where I work. I'm sitting at the kitchen tabel writing this. I'll talk you through what's on the desk.
2 books on punctuation and writing style (Strunk and White's Elements of Style and the Penguin Guide to Punctuation).
The concise Oxford Dictionary and the Collins Thesaurus. Two books on the Knights Templar, one book on the history of the Middle East, one book on Islam. One book on Witchcraft and one on Alchemy. Guide to the Temple Church. My Sony mp3. My mobile. Another guide to Temple Church. The annotated ms from Puffin (the work in progress). The Puffin notes. My biographies on the Templars, Billi, and Michael (key protagonists). My small leather bound 'writer's' notebook (I never leave home without it). Various pens, including a red one. A map of Middle and Inner Temple which, err, fell off the wall when I visited it. On the floor just off the bottom left of the photo is an encyclopedia, a book of quotations, and the Morte d'Arthur, the one with the Beardsley artwork. I hope to eventually allow my family to eat at this table, but not quite yet.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Lindsey Leavitt...Princess for Hire

A sibling seedling at Greenhouse has just got herself a THREE BOOK deal, at auction, with Hyperion. Lindesy's based out in Alabama and she's written PRINCESS FOR HIRE and it has landed, big time!

Lindsey was in the amazing position of having a horde of agents chasing her, but she went with Greenhouse, and the rest is now history.

Lindsey explains more on her vblog thingie (I don't know, it's too technical and I've only got dial-up) so check it out.

Hooray for Lindsey!

Monday, 16 June 2008

Backstory, how much is too much?

Where to begin? I've written a VAST backstory to the book, but am in the dilema regarding how much is to actually appear in the book. Rather than leave my editor to sort it out (hi, Lins!) I'm going back and forth, putting stuff in, taking stuff out, moving it and shaking it all about.

Have crossed the half-way point of the rewrite, but will revisit a few key scenes to spice it up a little (actually, a lot!). I think I've just got a tendency for melodrama. I'm not for quiet moments of self-denial and whistful looks. If you want characters moping around feeling sorry for themselves, look elsewhere. Thunderstorms, divine heartbreakers, demonic killers, the fate of the world, destiny, revenge, swordfights and violence. And more swordfights. These are a few of my favourite things!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Do you remember the first time?

That feeling of anxiety before you started? Trepidation as you ventured into an unknown world, a world of fubbling, confusion, bizzare rules and unbelievable excitement? How did you set it up? Candles, dim lighting, a few snacks, maybe incense?

Then afterwards, the exhileration of it, of having done it. You just couldn't wait to tell everyone, but deep down you knew they'd never really understand what it meant, what it felt like unless they did it themselves. Even now, years later, when you'd thought you'd be cynical and blase, there's still that tingle, isn't there?

Yes, I mean the first time you played Dungeons and Dragons.

Just back from Orcs Nest (my friendly local roleplaying shoppe, though why they shrink wrap books I don't know) with the 4th Edition triple pack (PHB, DMG, MM). It's been years since I've played, but it's D&D, God damn it! It's in my Geek DNA.

(Note to my editors- I'm not going to waste time reading them this month, I know I have a deadline.)

Friday, 23 May 2008

Werewolves...lots of werewolves

Halfway through Book 2 and I thought I'd talk a little about it, but not much. It's tentatively called THE DARK GODDESS and it'll have werewolves it, bloody loads of them. It's about the Russian witch Baba Yaga (the Dark Goddess of the title) and what happens when she comes up against the Knights Templar. The entire Russian myth setting is very very cool, and that's where I'm headed...
If anyone's interested, try the works of Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber especially) and a book called Women who run with Wolves. One of my favourite ever films is 'The Company of Wolves'. It's going to be bloody, violent and savage. Like all good werewolf stories should be.

Did I tell you it's about werewolves?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Dealing with Rejection...and getting better

Since I don't actually have a book out right now, and judging by you kind people who've actually left comments, there's a lot of writers out there looking to get their work published. I'm picking up a thread off Sarah's website actually, but it did make me think.
Getting rejected.
It WILL happen.
I've been rejected. EVERYONE'S been rejected. No-one's that good. But if you check my website I've shown a before and after sample of my writing. What's very interesting is that you CANNOT judge you're work objectively at the time, you can only judge it looking back, once you've improved.
Get rejected. Collect all those impersonal slips writing by the sixteen-year-old intern who's power belies her dress size. You'll be upset. Your feelings will be hurt and you'll doubt yourself. Maybe you aren' that good. YET. So what? Just think of all those other writers who quit at this point, all those rivals who WON'T be around next year to queer the pitch, while you're writing, writing and writing. But it does come back to the most fundamental point. You must love writing. Wholly and totally. To the point of irritation to your partner, friends and children. Take this blog, right now. I'm sure I have more important things I should be doing, but I can't help it. Only the desperate NEED to write will get you through the rejections.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Book 2...or avoiding rehash

What happens next? I'm not going into details regarding plot, but more about process, and will be using films as an example ('cause I know you've all seen them).
The thing about writing a sequel is what's the key development of your character? The best stories are ultimately about the hero's emotional growth, but having grown immensely through Book 1, how much more immense must their growth be in Book 2? With Bond, he doesn't actually evolve in his stories (I'm excluding Casino Royale as it's a reboot, so shouldn't be considered as part of a series, will be interesting to see what they do next), he's the same at the beginning as he is at the end. Refuge is thus sort through spectacle as (lets admit it) the plots are pretty much the same. Which is why Connery was the best. In Doctor No and From Russia with Love, he isn't a superman, and the challenges are relatively small scale (from Russia with Love the whole plot revolves around he stealing a TYPEWRITER). But each challenge must be greater than the last, which is why it always ends up with FATE OF THE FREE WORLD being at stake.

The Bourne series tried to instill character development as the story does centre around him trying to discover himself (though I'll argue that Ultimatum was a repeat of Supremacy and actually the series was just one VERY LONG (but terrific) chase sequence) but did he actually CHANGE? He's still an ice cold operative at the end as he was at the beginning. Okay, he's disillusioned with the day job but hey, aren't we all? The story's about a man's mid-life crisis.

Granted, not all stories need to be based on the Hero's Journey (and if you're a storyteller, I don't need to explain this, do I?), but we are talking about the adventure the hero goes on MEANING something, rather than it being a recycle of what's gone before. To have meaning it must cause a CHANGE in the status quo.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Literary...sort of (well ok, not really)

The summer blockbuster season is upon us, and last week I started what will hopefully a cinema extravaganza of superheroes, more superheroes, and even more superheroes.

Yes, put a guy in a cape and I'm a happy camper. So...Iron Man. Ok, doesn't have a cape, but he can fly, which is almost as good. Everything Robert Downey Jr. does is cool, and this is no exception. Throw-away oneliners, the perfect mix of arrogance and charm, and the flying scenes were INTENSE! While I'm a through and through DC fan, this one from Marvel was great. The only thing missing was a REALLY BIG aerial battle with Iron Man and dozens of fighter jets, instead of just two.

Sticking with the comic adaptation (or graphic novel if you want to pretend to be grown-up about it) I also saw Persepolis, about a young girl growing up in Iran during the revolution. The animation was simple and beautiful, and the main character was both poignant and hysterical. It ended way too suddenly.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Multi-tasking

Went to a talk given by Darren Shan last week. Felt slightly embarrassed being the only adult there without a kid on tow, but never mind.
The guy's a steam-engine of productivity and said he usually has three books on the go, writing one, editing another, and something inbetween with the third.
Does anyone else work like that? Must admit, I'm not sure I could keep it all in my head. My methodology is finish one, work on another, stop, go back to the first, stop, go to the second. Actually, now I think about it, it's quite a shambles. Basically I'm a fair chunk into Book 2, but will shortly be putting that aside for a few months to rework The Devil's Kiss. What's great with having a sequel is that you don't get confused with you you're writing about since they're the same person, and each book feeds back and forth from the other.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Hooray for Harriet!

My sibling at Greenhouse has struck the publishing world like...a thing that strikes! Harriet's written a great book called The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43 and it's a pretty unique tale (boy crashing his car into the underworld and teaming up with a girl who broke her neck centuries ago). She's got a two book deal with Stripes, an imprint of Little Tiger. It'll have maps, artwork and everything!

So, it's another notch in Sarah's pencil (go Greenhouse go!) and also another result out of the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices anthology. Make sure you order your copy now from British Isles SCBWI and find out how it all began...

Well done Harriet!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Music to write to...or what's on my MP3

I started listening to my MP3 ( by Sony, I REFUSE to get an Apple anything) when I used to hang out in parks and cafes to write, so I could tune out from everyone else. I know I shouldn't listen while I write, but there are some tunes that get you in the Zen-like zone...

1. Scary Monsters Super Creeps...listening to it right now. back when David Bowie was a GOD.
2. Werewolves of London
3. Strange little girl...spooky throughout
4. Shut up and Drive by Rihanna. This song actually inspired a character in the Devil's Kiss. You know when you're at a club, party whatever and someone (usually of the opposite sex) comes in and it becomes that SLOW MOTION moment when you think...nothing. Your mind's utterly blank and it's all about OMG and what you feel is on a sub-molecular level? You don't just fancy them (join the queue) but every atom of you CRAVES them. No? Maybe it's just me then. Well this song is that character's theme tune.
5. Sorry...where was I?
6. Lucretia My Reflection by Sisters of Mercy. Yes, deep down I'm still a goth.
7. Voodoo People by The Prodigy. They define the early 90s for me. We won't go for Firestarter, too obvious. But this is a close call and I remember it from going to a Christmas party at a police station. Now THAT'S another story entirely...
8. The Wanderer by Johnny Cash. With a line 'They want the Kingdom but don't want God in it' this is another one of those songs that just builds and builds until your blubbing... Of the ones on this list, probably the CLASSIC.
9. Man Kunto Muala by Mehr Ali and Sher. Nope, you won't have heard of it but it's BRILLIANT. It's qwaali music and has a melancholy air you feel WAY deep down. The original SOUL MUSIC.
10. The Queen of the Night Aria out of The Magic Flute. Makes you sit in awe that a human voice can produce such music.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

What to read, and why?

I don't belong to a book club, so don't have the pressure to read anything beyond what takes my fancy. But it did lead me to an interesting point. Why do you read books, and what makes you choose a particular book? Author? Reviews? Cover? Blurb on the back? Celebrity endorsement? It's written by Jordan? There's a couple of books I've picked off the shelves completely at random, then ended up ABSOLUTELY loving. The three that spring to mind are:

1. Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. I liked the cover, read the blurb and needed to buy a birthday present (at least 75% of all presents I buy are books). Probably my favourite book from last year.
2. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. The first one was going for 99p. That's why I picked it up. Then I bought the rest (full price) because they're bloody brilliant.
3. One of the Eagle series by Simon Scarrow. Celebrity endorsement in this case (no, not by Jordan), but by Bernard Cornwell. There's a quote of his on the front cover. Also it's about Roman legionnaires, which I love.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

The Devil's Kiss in German, and French and...

The marvellous Alex of Rights People has been busy bashing the drum over my book. If it felt surreal before, now it's really Alice in Wonderland...
Some very nice people in Germany have bought both The Devil's Kiss and its sequel. I met with my new publisher, Urban, last week at the LBF (which was an adventure in itself) and I think it's going to be a blast. That put a big smile on my face on Tuesday.
On Wednesday I found out that Italy have bought both books, aswell as France. To round up the week, I've now discovered The Devil's Kiss will also be in Greek! My grin is so wide it's wrapped around the back of my (extraordinarily swollen) head.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Worse...much worse

If there's one law to writing it's make you're character's life as hard as possible, and then make it harder still. I'm a big of Bernard Cornwell and the Sharpe series and was watching one of the Sean Bean dvds last night, Sharpes Command (I think). So, we have our hero, Captain Sharpe. In the opening scene he's lost his sympathetic commanding officer, Lawford (forgive the slight inaccuracies regarding names, it was late and I was making notes simultaneously). New boss hates him and turns up with his arch enemy, Sargeant Hawkswill.
1. He loses his captaincy, back to being a lieutenant.
2. He loses his command of the Green Jackets.
3. His right hand man (Harper) is flogged and made a Private.
4. His lover is a spy trapped in a city with their new-born daughter (who he hasn't seen) being beseiged by the British.
5. Hawkswill has the hots of his lover and is a cruel and trecherous bastard.
6.The only hope for promotion is to lead the Forelorn Hope, which is a sucide mission.
7. Wellington won't let him lead it anyway.
Cornwell suggest that if you want to be a good writer, take a book off the shelves relevant to you and analysis it. Break it down and see how it all fits together. You could do worse that try it on the Sharpe series. Twenty+ published and still going strong. He's obviously doing something very right!
Ok, I'm off to see if I can add a seige into my book...

Thursday, 10 April 2008

The Devil wears Prada= Star Wars

In the spirit of how there are only & stories in the world, I've noticed a high level of similarities between these two films, basically how tDwP is about a hero's descent and temptation to the Dark Side. Anne Hathaway is both Luke and Anakin, while Meryl Streep is the Emperor. In essence tDwP is ALL SIX of the Star Wars films, wrapped into one!

Also Stardust= Conan the Barbarian (except not as good!). Especially the end where you have the helpless maiden strapped to the altar about to be sacrificed until our noble hero comes along and rescues her from the hideous witch. That was a cliche in the 1930's, guys!

Jon joins Greenhouse Literary Agency

Dear Jon,

I'd like to take this opportunity to say CONGRATULATIONS and welcome, brother from another mother!
You're in for a tremendous time, Sarah's going to stretch you to the utter limit.

Welcome to my new blog!

The one available on my website's become a shambles do to lack of security and spamming. So I'm going to try this one instead.

I'm really sorry about this, there was a lot of interesting stuff building up, but consider this the 'Batman Begins' version, leaner and meaner than the last.

At some future point it'll all become quite seemless, so do bear with me for the time being.