Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Well, wot's next?

So, a quick recap on 2009, which hasn't been too bad. There was two trips to the USA, two radio shows, one tv show, trip to Russia (research, honest!) two book tours, a large number of schools, and few bookshops (thanks to the few who turned up!), and Devil's Kiss hit the shelves. I've completed my first full year as an author, and still loving it. Oh, and I learnt how to skip in a manly fashion. It's not as easy as you think.
Right, for 2010. I'm a great believer in New Year's Resolutions and breaking them. It reminds us that we are, after all, only human.
1. Carry on skipping. You may laugh, and many people in the park do (9.30am Tuesdays and Fridays, just by the gates), but gosh, it's hard work. I think it's not helped by the weight of my belly on somewhat dainty feet. Still, my vain ambition to be Daniel Craig's body double continues.
2. Be adopted by Angeline Jolie. Yep, still keen.
3. Well, since I am here in the land of make-believe, a literary prize would be nice. Hmm, is it too early in one's career for a Noble prize for literature? I think not.
4. Something writing related. Like another book. Yes, that sounds reasonable.
5. Read a lot more. This is something I'd thought would be automatic, but no. I used to read a lot when I commuted. So 2009 has probably been the year I've read less books than ever before. Plan to fix than in 2010. January will be NOTHING but reading.
6. Oh, another research trip. India in February. The next project is set in Varanasi, I'll tell you more about that in March (ish). My agent read the first draft. Her comments were unpublishable but 'sickeningly violent' were amongst them. So, maybe it won't be a picture book after all.
7. Not become the local mad old man. I'm slowly slipping into that 'don't see why I need to shave/ dress/ wash/ brush teeth/ get up before 12pm' routine and have started spending my waking hours shuffling around in my dressing gown and slippers, usually holding a cup of tea. Yesterday I used up three razor blades getting rid of my Xmas beard. Scary.
8. Expand my horizons, not my stomach. I might make a sideways step into writing pantos. Oh yes I will.
9. Dark Goddess. Deliver that in all its blood-soaked glory. Rewrite almost done!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Make way for the original bad boys...

This came up in Publishers' Weekly some months ago and is in today's Independent (link to the article is here).
So, are vampires on the way out and angels on the way in?
Well, yes, but mainly no.
For those of you who have read Devil's Kiss (thanks guys and gals!) you'll know the book centres around Billi's misguided relationship with the Archangel Michael and his plans of humanity, namely the unleashing of the Tenth Plague.
Angels have always been there, well before the vampire. If we follow the development of the modern vampire we follow a trail that takes Edward Cullen to Lestat, to Dracula, to Poladori to Milton and Satan, the first, original and still best literary bad boy. Ask not if the angels are the new vampires but more the vampire was the new angel. I like to think the angels are now reclaiming their original primacy, shoving the vampire back into the earth and coffin. Time for a rest, a long one.
I'm bloody excited about this new take. As the article states the angel's a interesting reflection on our times, especially since we're focusing on fallen angels, those that were good but no longer stand in God's light. Are we, as a society, feeling we've done the same? That we no longer strive towards noble ideals? that we've become tainted by lesser, more earthly desires?
I remember how Devil's Kiss started and my decision to make Michael, the guy who cast down Satan, into the villain of my piece. I've had some flack (though not half as much as feared) for taking a good Biblical figure and casting him in a less than flattering light but angels raise important questions of 'how do we know we are right'? The world's too complex and today's hero may be tomorrow's villain. The Book of Enoch, a tale that never qualified into the Bible, centres around the Grigori, angels sent down to Earth that refused to go back. My version plays on this legend as well as King Solomon, John Dee (said to have communicated with angels) and how righteousness can become a dangerous virtue, maybe the most dangerous.
The poster's for a movie called Legion, with St. Michael going totally badass. Frankly, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that , is there?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

International appeal for home-grown stories

This is the German edition of Devil's Kiss, due out in January. One of the strange side-effects of publishing is the foreign rights market, and wondering why some stories seem to translate internationally, and why some don't.
Frankly, I haven't a clue.
Look at 'Slumdog Millionaire'. Isn't it 'Rags to riches'? Isn't it the American Dream (local boy makes good and gets the girl). Given its setting there's nothing particularly Indian about the story, is there? You don't need to know anything about the culture beyond what you've picked up on the news or in your local curry house. The story has a strong Dickensian streak, it is both gruesome and sentimental (but with cooler music).
I think concentrating on the greats certainly helps. Not what's big now, I'm not a hundred percent sure Da Vinci Code will be popular in 100 years (though I hasten to add I learnt a lot about pacing from it. It's an awesome page turner). But look at Dickens, Shakespeare and Austen. Settings vary from Prospero's Island to the drawing rooms of Sussex. What is it about them that has such timeless and global appeal? I remember when the Indian adaptation of Austen, 'Bride and Prejudice', came out. But of course! Marrying off your daughters is a major theme in Indian and Asian lives. I'm reading Emma right now and touched by her self-sacrificing nature. She does so much for her dad and has abandoned any hope of her own marriage to support him. Maybe Billi could learn a thing or two from Emma, they're in the same boat regarding dependant dads. The best stories touch us because they speak to something fundamental in our hearts or psyches.
Universal and timeless appeal. Isn't that something to aim for?

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Twin Peaks and staying on the path...


On Friday I went to a graduation ceremony. The last one I'd been to was mine, back in 1989. I was fresh faced and ready to go. Shake the world and see what dropped out.
Now, twenty years (!?!) later here I am, sitting with all the proud mums and dads, watching their offspring spring off. And I'm wondering "My God, was I ever that young?"
It doesn't seem that long ago, honest.
Oh, by the way, I wasn't there for my kids, I like to believe they're brighter than most but being under ten it wasn't either of them collecting their degrees. It was my wife getting her doctorate (always handy to have one in the house, don't you think?). A lot of things happened in the course of that first decade as a grown-up but I won't bore you with the details. I'll just dwell on one thing.
TWIN PEAKS. My God, a festival of awesomeness. I so wanted to marry Sherilyn Fenn. And Madchen Amick. Dale Cooper was the epitome of cool and I watched the Tuesday episode, taped it and watched it over the week and then the repeat of it on Sunday. For me it caused the hysteria rarely seen outside of a Twilight convention.
It was disturbing, dreamlike and bewildering. It made no sense. It was 'streams of conciousness TV' and bypassed the brain. Owls swooped across the midnight woods, women with logs gave ominous clues and ghosts and demons schemed and screamed but the darkest horrors lay at home.
Who killed Laura Palmer? First, it mattered. Then it didn't. In solving the crime the show lost its way, or so took it's own path into the deep forest that all boundaries fell away and everything good did indeed become everything bad. I struggle to write heroes, mainly because all I can see is the barely supressed villainy. Never trust a guy in a white hat. What's he hiding under there?
I wonder if with plots and arcs and character development we're too on the straight and narrow. Why should the good guys win? Life is cloud chasing, Twin Peaks showed these clouds sometimes gave was to the sun, but more often than not, to storms and terrifying violence. Twin Peaks, in storytelling, strayed way way off the path. It wasn't to the taste of many, maybe even to most, as no matter what we think about ourselves, we ARE afraid of the forest. The warnings of Little Red Riding Hood ring in our ears whenever we're tempted.
Stay on the path. Don't court danger. Be good, obedient children.
I wonder what will become of those graduates as they are put on the road. Will they stick to the tride and tested route towards career and wages and whatever. I know I did for many many years, not daring to look left or right to the trees and never wondering if there might be something just a bit more interesting than all this tarmac. Maybe by stepping off, there is no going back. But think about it. Was there ever a chance to go back? To anything?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

What makes a good bad guy

I'm working on a new book and trying to build my bad guy. The trouble is, he's not that bad. I think the problem is the setting is the real world, but with strong supernatural undercurrents but the villain's just a bit...blah. He wants to conquer the world. Why? What's he going to do with it? Name all the countries after himself? Become richer?
There's the James Bond villian syndrome, where they're evil just for evil's sake. That's just lazy storytelling. The key to creating a great bad guy is making him the hero, in his own way. He wants to bring order to the galaxy. He's conflicted. The better angels of his nature don't win out, hardly ever. He wants to be better, but then he takes the easy way. He believes the ends justify the means. A little evil for the greater good, that sort of thing. He can stop, whenever he wants, honest. But there's just one last thing he needs to do, one last job, one last big win. Let's have a look at some villains, big, small, real and unreal.
1. Hitler. Well, he would be at the top of the list, wouldn't he? But what did he want? A utopia for the Aryan people. Great if you're Aryan, I suppose. Pol Pot would fall into this category. They wanted to build a better world. That means getting rid of the undesirables. It meant the gas chambers or the killing fields, but they got people to believe in their dream. Somehow, however briefly, their vision makes some sort of sense. We could be great. It's just we're held back by (insert racial group of your choice). They're not true humans anyway, they don't deserve what they've been given (which they no doubt stole off the backs of us honest folk). They're taken our jobs and speak/smell/look funny. Get rid of them and everything will be beautiful.
2. Hannibal Lecter. Interesting, the guy eats people but he's cultured, intelligent and wise. He's like some vengeful god, seemingly omniscent, certainly smarter than anyone else in the room and above morality. That's for the petty people. What is it that he worked out that we're too stupid to see? What does he know and understand that makes cannibalism seem the right choice? He's made his own rules, and it seems he's winning. Add the Joker to this. He's seen the madness of what the world really is and has responded in kind. There's too many contradictions in our existence, what alternative is there to going mad? Surely that's the only sane thing to do.
3. Darth Vader. C'mon, everything eventually comes down to Star Wars. The fallen knight. He had hopes, had great good, but fell. The Lucifer story. Maybe the ideal he had of himslef was too high and it tormented him. If I can't be this, then I'm nothing. His evil is a form of self-loathing. He does bad knowingly, reveling in his fall and using it to justify his hatred of himself. He's a geat figure because he's the dark reflection of our hero (though all good villains should be this). He's saying "I was just like you, once. And you'll be just like me, one day soon."
4. The Alien. The non-human. Now this villain doesn't need tentacles or razor sharp teeth and acid for blood, but he's the unknowable villain. Someone we feel who's mind-set is so apart from our own that there's no meeting ground. It's kill or be killed. He won't change, he's not misunderstood, he is what he is and that's that. Add your favourite terrorist group under this heading. By making our enemy an alien we can justify anything we do to him. Since he's not human the rules don't apply. The only solution is extermination. See Item 1 to where that all leads.
So, that's a brief snap-shot of the villains I've found fascinating. Feel free to add your own but ask yourself, 'why him?'. Good villains are hard to find.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Dark Goddess, almost finished!

This glorious cover comes courtesy of Puffin and as you can tell it will be very cool. We have Billi in her little red riding hood outfit about to get medieval on the rear of a werewolf.
I'm on the last-ish rewrite of Dark Goddess, which is more of a straightening out of the furniture. It's all there, just needs a bit of tweaking so it's all in exactly the right place.
The Puffin edition will be out next July, the Disney-Hyperion next October. I know its ages, but it'll be worth it, I promise!
So, in the meanwhile, I would like to offer you a selection of werewolf distractions, just to get you in a howling frame of mind. I may have mentioned some of these before, but what the hell. Great is great.
1. Angela Carter- The Company of Wolves. This book is actually a collection of wolf-related fairy tales. All dark, gruesome and macabre. Also check out the film Company of Wolves which is utterly amazing. It came out way way back and is the best werewolf movie ever.
2. Dog Soldiers. Oh, this may actually be the best werewolf movie ever too. A group of British soldiers fight it out against a pack of huge werewolves in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. It's a horror/action/comedy and has one of the funniest Matrix jokes. See if you can spot it. Werewolf versus frying pan. Who will win?
3. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Well the big bad is a wolf and his minions. It still counts for so many reasons. If you haven't read it yet, DO SO NOW!
4. Women who run with Wolves by Clarrissa Pinkola Estes. She deals with a lot of female fairytales and looks at the mythic and Jungian archetypes these tales represent. If you're wanting to write fantasy, supernatural or anything inbetween, read this book. Also, for the position on the male psyche, read Iron John by Robert Bly.
5. The Prince Ivan series by Peter Morwood. They have wolves in them but are primarily a retelling of some Russian myths, but in a joined up way. Actually, I think I read these back in the early 90's and they were probably the seed from which Dark Goddess grew. I've just found the first two on Amazon and really looking forward to re-reading them. It's got Baba Yaga in them (and her daghter, too strange to explain), so that's a reason enough, don't you think?
Oh, an update on the next short story. Billi's Date is done but will be out in December. It's not that short so hopefully will make up for the delay. You'll meet the new squire, Mordred. He's pretty cool.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Building a better bad boy


We all love a bad boy. We either want to be one, or tame one. He's the fantasy feature of literature and he never, ever goes out of style. He is style.
So, how do we spot one? What are the key credentials in acquiring bad boy status? Let's have a look at a few examples and qualifications.
1. He's gorgeous. Well, that's a given. He's an alpha male who leads the pack or the lone wolf. Nothing shouts ego like turning up at a party alone, and still being centre of attention. Yes, I mean you, Mr.Darcy.
2. He plays by his own rules. He's an outsider, he's got a reputation and it's one of scandals galore. BUT (and this is a big but) he's in society. He's comfortable with the movers and shakers as well as the scum of the earth. He's always invited to the best parties because, well, he is the party. Dorian Gray, I salute you!
3. Oh, he's dangerous. He fights, he drinks, he gambles, he smokes and has female friends of ill repute. He picks his friends as they suit him. He is guaranteed to act inappropriately. If he hasn't ruined some innocent lady's reputation or been challenged to a duel by the end of a weekend, well, he's not a bad boy. Valmont, take a bow.
4. He knows he's good. That's bad. He's not shy. He's not timid or misunderstood. He is what he is. Take it or leave it. It'll end badly, but would you want it any other way? He doesn't give a damn. Thank you, Rhett Butler.
5. If you can tame him, he's not a bad boy. He will love you and leave you. It's part of his DNA. That's why all the stories end with the marraige. The rest is all downhill. Bad boys don't do domestic bliss. Suicide is the traditional way out for the female. Salve, Mark Antony!
6. He's no gentleman. He will shoot first. That'll be Han Solo, then.
7. You may think all he needs is the love of the right woman. Wrong. He needs the love of every woman. It's probably tied up with him being bottle-fed as a baby. Look no further than Mr. Casanova.
8. He'll age disgracefully. He won't care. No matter his age, even if he's drawing a pension, he's still that bad boy. It's as much attitude as looks. Check out Jack Nicholson clubbing at 70!?!
I'm sure there are more qualifications but those seem to be the most common. So, do take time to check out some of the characters listed above (especially Dorian and Rhett, still the gold standard of bad boy-ness).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The US tour, Part 1


This is a clip taken at Kingwood High School in Texas, one of the first stops of the tour. The trip out to Houston was pretty hard (no First Class travel for us debut authors) but the hotel rather impressive, with gym and swimming pool and room service. I know it's shallow but hey, it's not often I get room service. So, I used the room service, if not the gym, nor pool (wait until Chicago for that).
Anyway, there were school visits to St. John's and Kingwood and a bookstore talk and Murder by the Book.
First impressions? My God, it's full of cars. It dawns on you how huge the place is, Texas is the size of England (give or take) and you may live in (say) Birmingham, but your neighbour's in Leeds. So you need cars. Lots of cars.
The pupils muck in with great abandon and the first few days slowly put me in some sort of zone of semi-bewildered excitement. It's started well and no homeland security issues. I eat pecan pie. It is most delicious.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

First love and other tales of horror


The horror. The horror. It was at a Halloween party many many years ago that I had my first 'Bella meets Edward' crush. The sort where you obsess about the target of your affection, you can't sleep, you feel sick and flustered and frankly can't do anything but act a total monkey on acid whenever they're near. You wonder how on earth they, who are Aphrodite/Apollo in the flesh will ever notice you, who feel like a Caliban, club-footed and whose face is hosting an acne convention of global proportions.
I know what you're saying to yourselves. You're saying, 'Hey, how can Sarwat, that most god-like of men, have even felt anything less than totally divine at all times and under all circumstances?"
(Okay, you may not have actually said it, but I'm sure you were thinking it very, very hard).
Nope, it's true. I too have suffered in the arena of luurve.
There's the old chestnut which is 'Just be yourself' which is fine if you're Robert Pattinson, not so fine if you're like, anyone else on the planet. But not being yourself means you end up acting like a pillock, which isn't very helpful either.
Be honest? Hmm. I'm not so sure how "I love you and want to have your babies," would have worked as a chat up line.
So, love and horror. It's kind of the same in my book. The same gut-churning, the same sweaty, broken nights, the same waking at 4am screaming in terror and shouting "Why, dear God, why?".
Well, it came to pass, or it didn't actually. She went out with someone else, who though much more handsome, and richer, and with better teeth and smoother skin and a nickname that threw up all sorts of very complimentary imagery (unless you were a bloke) I at least liked to believe was shallow and superficial, so I won on personality (yes, I know. Great. Like that made me feel so much better). Alas, I reacted the only way I knew how. By being petty and not a little bitter.
Something very similar happened when I met the person who eventually became my wife. The same anxieties, fears and doubts. I had matured (very slightly, maturity isn't one of my strong points) and I did use the 'I love you and want to have your babies' line if not immediately, still rather too early on in our relationship.
So, as you dress up as ghosts and ghouls tonight and head out, wherever you are, for a spot of trick or treating, remember real horror comes from the heart. And hormones.

Friday, 23 October 2009

My passport photo

Ho hum. Yes, you may wonder "what the **** is he doing?" or "Gosh, he doesn't have that much hair on his head anymore," but I'm starting to get a little concerned what with all the jet-setting I've been doing why oh why do I always get stopped at airports and have delays getting visas.
Obviously launching photos like this onto the Internet may not be the wisest move, but what the hell, I have nothing to hide, except the hairy-ness of my chest.
This was during my holiday in Yemen, some time ago. For those of you who read my blog (hiya, Mum, Dad!) you may recall it was visits to countries such as these that got me in minor trouble with US Immigration back in April.
Now, everyone in Yemen has an AK-47. It's like taking your briefcase to work. Or your i-Pod. Okay, not exactly like taking your i-Pod. Still, it means your much more likely to get a seat on the bus, right? And if you are wearing an i-Pod, no-one but no-one is going to ask you to turn it down. Ever.
Unless they have an AK-47. Which they do.
What is my point? Well, I don't have one except it's been a while since I blogged and we were looking through some old holiday snaps and this one kinda leapt out at me. I decided not to go with the one with the stinger missile launcher since the lighting wasn't great.
So, where was I? Oh yes, jet-setting. Or not.
I was meant to go to India tomorrow, but alas my visa is still being floundering at the embassy somewhere.
I'm making my way through a great non-fiction book called 'India' by John Keay as part of my research into my next project. I don't know about you but I thought is was very cool when the Thuggee priest in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom pulled the beating heart out of that bloke then through him into a volcano. I remember thinking "Wow, I wish I could do that!" and how much cooler Thuggee were than Ninjas.
I love the old Indian myths and have an amazing pantheon of gods. Many with six arms and all armed to the teeth. Kali is (for reasons that you will discover) features heavily in the Thuggee mythos, and it's that which I am going to explore, should I ever get out to India.
I would reallly recommend getting your hands on some Indian tales. The Ramayana of course, but more so the Mahabharata. It is awesome and I would put it easily alongside the Iliad, maybe even edging it ahead as one of the greatest stories in the world.
I've always looked East and West, because of where I was born and where I felt I belonged. The world's too crowded and crowds make people ill-tempered. Try and check out how the other guy lives, and that's best done by looking at the stories that made them. If you've ridden the chariots alongside Achilles and Hector, now ride with Arjuna and Karna. See the battle field lit by flaming astras and the hear the thunder of the gods.
Read those stories. You'll be a different person by the time you finish.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Googling yourself and Devil's Kiss soundtrack

The two things are related, sort of. Before we get all excited that Sarwat has some interesting news, well I don't. Beyond that it's very nice being back home and I'm slowly getting my thoughts on the recent tour in some order.
Okay, I have googled myself. It's a bit of a dirty secret amongst writers (I suspect, don't know for sure, that's because it's a secret) but I will put my hand up and admit I used to do it.
I've lost count of the hours/days/weeks I've lost checking FB/Twitter/Youtube/whatever (but especially Youtube) when I should have been writing.
Fortunately my local cafe is one of the few places left on Earth which doesn't have Wi-Fi so that's where I base myself Monday to Friday. It's my office. No internet, no distractions. Hence there'll be a slight lag in Blogs (unless there is something earth-shattering to report).
Ha, of course I get the irony that here I am, on the Internet, but hey, logic is a problem for other people, I embrace my contradictory nature! I'm just trying to spend less time floating aimlessly in the ether. Writing's particulary bad, being dropped in front of the computer day in day out and before you know it it's winter and you've missed all the sunshine.
Lift your head up, once in a while.
Writing, writing, writing. What? Thanks for asking.
Next up is a short story called 'Billi's Date'. I've always wanted to try my hand at romantic comedy, and this isn't it. It'll come as no surprise to anyone the short story will be violent and troublesome and not resolve itself particularly happily. But it's Billi's attempt to have a 'normal' life, just for one night. Stay tuned but you should have it next month.
Okay, the soundtrack. The pupils at JFK Middle School, Plainfield, clearly have way too much time on their hands but have very generously put together a soundtrack for Devil's Kiss. I'm listening to it right now and while it would be highly illegal to attach it here, let me at least give you the play list:
1. So Cold (Breaking Benjamin)
2. Halo Theme (Marty O'Donnell & Michael Salva).
3. One Girl Revultion (Superchick). If ever a song summed up Billi SanGreal, this is it. Whoever picked this, my eternal thanks and I'll name my next child after you.
4. Panic Attack (Dream Theatre)
5. Decode (Paramore). Apparently it's also in the Twilight soundtrack but I'll forgive you.
6. Angel (Sarah McLachlan)
7. Master of Puppets (Metallica). I'm more of a Motorhead fan, but this works.
8. It's My Life (Bon Jovi).
9. Bring Me to Life (Evanescence). Wasn't this in Daredevil, with Electra being all bad-ass? I like to think Electra as a kind of 'big-sister' to Billi. I loved the old Frank Miller Daredevils!
10. Numb (Linkin Park). Awesome. Really excellent choice.
11. Mad World (Gary Jules with Michael Andrews). Great change of pace.
12. Duel of Fates. It's Stars Wars! The best fight scene of any movie, EVAH (though the battle in the school hallway in Grosse Point Blank is pretty amazing and a very close second. But it didn't have lightsabres. I don't know about you but I cannot wait until they invent lightsabres).
13. New Divide (Linkin Park). What a way to end.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The winners are...

Cast your minds back to last month when I ran the competition with Devil's Kiss goodies and such. So, without further ado, the winners are:
1. Lexie. Okay, she didn't really win but no-one seemed to understand the scoring system until she explained it. So that's a critique for you.
2. Jessica (Booklover). Hey, you only scored 4 points but your name came out of the hat! I think that's a copy of the book, yes?
3. Word Vore Prod. Copy of the book will be on its way shortly.
4. Bookologist. You can have the book or a critique. Choice is yours.
Can you lot email me your addresses so I can send you the books? For those who just want critiques email the first 3 chapters and synopsis. Contact me on:
info(at)sarwatchadda.com
Easy-peasy!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Okay, the vampire thing

So, as I've toured around the US I've been asking 'who wants to be a writer?' and there's been a fair response. And most of you seem to be writing vampire stories.
Why?
Hasn't this bandwagon rolled? Does the world need more vampire books?
First, let me state I was reading vampire fiction before most of you were born (okay, not before Jon Mayhew was born). I love vampires. Like most of you, I went through a period (brief, but distinct) when I wanted to be one. Or maybe it was just me? Alas I'd have resembled the Count Orloks of the vampire kingdom rather than the Lestats. Anne Rice is a writer I've mentioned at various points and she was the one who brought vampires into the spotlight. Not as the villains, but as the tragic centre-stage dark heroes that they've now become. If there had been no Louis, the melancholy vamp in Interview with a Vampire, there would be no Edward Cullen.
So, you want to write a vampire story. I will not stop you. No-one will. But...
What makes yours so very different from the others? What are you saying about vampires than no-one else has said? For Anne Rice is was the struggle between knowing good v. instinctive evil. For Meyers it is the tension between the longing of desire and the consumation of that desire. Simply put, with vampires it is always sex and death. These are, arguably, the driving forces behind us all. Our desire for immortality (the survival of our genes) is acheived by the one to 'defeat' the other. We cheat death through procreation. We cheat death with life. Vampires cheat death with death.
Please, believe in you vampires. Make them live in all their undead glory, but say something new. Vampires appeal endless because they answer the ultimate riddle: life/death. This will always fascinate us and aren't all religions, to some degree, based on trying to answer this riddle? What does it mean to you? What does it mean in your writing?
In most religions, and certainly the subject of Devil's Kiss, we have an immortal component. Our souls are eternal. The flesh dies but that is not to end. For those of you who have read DK you know the price that's paid in giving up your soul. You gain phyisical/vampiric immortality at the cost of your divine immortality. You are damned.
Make your vampires dark, tragic heroes. Make them blood-lusting fiends. Make them anything you want. Just make them special.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Allow me to introduce myself...

I'm in Memphis, hence the photo. Well, where to begin..?
The tour's coming to an end, but I've still New York to look forward to. However, I've met a lot of people over the last ten days or so and there's a lot to sort out.
1. HUGE thanks to all the awesome schools I've visited. There's St. John's, Kingwood, JFK and Timber Ridge. I can't thank you guys enough for the displays, the welcome, the cake, the gifts (I'm listening to the CD right now) and all the enthusiasm and bright and scary ideas you've given me. The appearances of Kanye West and the demon ducks are memories that will linger far longer than are healthy. I'm also incredibly touched (and humbled even) that you've found things worth discussing out of Devil's Kiss. I'm glad there's more to it than just the sword fights. Though there's nothing wrong with swordfights.
2. The bookstores have been great and giving me a very fresh view to the front end of bookselling. The enthusiasm and passion everyone's shown has been a great reminder why I love all this. Books are just cool. They're little presents to youself. Murder by the Book, Watermark, B&N at Oak Brook, Anderson's and tonight's trip to Davis-Kidd, a big thanks to everyone there and those that came along to help a debut author not feel too alone.
3. Hiya to Dina, with whom I shared a long road trip and in doing so found a musical soul-mate. If you do throw the 80's party, make sure I get an invite! Also next time I really do want to stop off at the Guns and Ammo store and shoot off a few rounds. Purely for research purposes.
4. John Mason, Jim, Linda and all the great people at the USBBY conference. It's opened my eyes to a wider world than the one I previously inhabited.
Fingers-crossed and hope to see you all same time next year!
Right, a few practicalities:
1. The Short Stories. For those of you who are interested I'm releasing stories to fill the gaps between Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess. The first, Bodmin Moor, is already out BUT I'm going to reissue it to everyone on the newsletter in it's entiriety, next week. So if you want it, join the newsletter via my main website. There are more to follow, I'm just sorting the release schedule with the publishers. I wrote them because it allowed me to focus on the other Templars, since most of them only appear briefly in the books, and to expand on Billi's world, and to give a few hints and clues to what's coming up in Dark Goddess. They are packed full of story vitamins!
2. To all of you who've sent messages, thanks and I will be replying. My laptop's a bit rubbish so I'm going to do all of the correspondence when I'm home, which will be next week.
3. The competition. I have not forgotten. The comp is now closed and I'll be picking the names out of the hat also next week. I'll be intouch then.
4. I'm going to report on the trip in much more detail when it's over, so I can sort my head out.
Finally, the biggest shout goes to my wife and daughters. I cannot wait to see you.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Headin' over to Texas, y'all



This time tomorrow I'll be in Houston (actually I'll be in a plane over the US somewhere, but you get my drift) for the start of my US two (!!) tour.
Sooner or later, I'm going to wake up and discover my writing career was all a bit of a dream. The tour was as unexpected as the rest of it (the agent, the book deal, the parties, the dinners, the parties, the signings, the dinners) and it kind of makes you wonder 'how come Neil Gaiman's not fatter?" since he must have invites coming out of his nostrils.
Well, it is about the writing and, truth be told, the novelty hasn't worn off. In fact, Dark Goddess was more fun than Devil's Kiss. I went to Harriet's launch party on Thursday (did I mention the parties?) and met a good friend who's going through the doldrums, a tiny bit. Her book's not moving, she's spent ages on it, it's her third attempt and no joy.
QUIT. That's what she's thinking. QUIT! QUIT! QUIT!
Oh God, please don't! Any of you!
Everyone goes through it. You will want to give up (hell, there are times I've wanted to give up and the last was only a few weeks ago). Someone's sold for six figure sum, someone's got a three book deal with Bloomsburg (yes, Jon, not jealous at all!), they're out in hardback or tours or awards or whatever.
This isn't about writing, it's about doing something that means a lot to you, whatever it is. Society doesn't ask it of you, your friends, family, work mates don't understand why you waste all that time and effort, for what? You're not getting any younger, y'know.
Success means something, but so does failure. It means more.
At some point I will tell you about my fiorst media presentation, which wasn't that long ago. Inmitigated DISASTER. First I was following a well known media personality that had everyone clapping. Then I decided to go off-piste with my prepared speech (which was a bit crap anyway) only to discover that I was looking at a HUGE precipice. That I promptly went straight down.
Failure will happen. It's what makes us better. I'm quite looking forward to my next.

Though obviously I hope it doesn't happen in the next fortnight!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Judge Dredd and 2000AD


Amongst the many literary heroes that have been inspirations and beacons in my writing career there's one that stands head and shoulders above the others.
I feel almost disloyal saying it (especially with the Christian Bale thing) BUT he's even better than Batman.
Judge Dredd.
We're not talking about the rather disappointing Stallone movie, but the original, in brutal 2D and black and white, comic character.
I read 2000AD all through the 1980's right into the 1990's until a stint abroad, left me out of sync and from that I've never recovered. I did not miss an issue in 14 years, bearing in mind the comic was a weekly, that's an awful lot of material I have in my loft.
2000AD is a science fiction comice that's produced som of the most amazing stories for a generation. We've had mutant bounty hunters kidnap Hitler. We've had genetically produced dinosaurs rampaging across a nuclear wasteland, devouring all in their path. Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, the Ballad of Halo Jones, Dredd of course, Robo-hunter. The list goes on and on. It's where Alan Moore cut his comic-writing teeth and where the gods of art (Bolland, McMahon, Kennedy, Ezquerra, Talbot to name a very few) produced weekly masterpieces back in the day of pen and ink.
The publishers, Rebellion, have produced a series of collected stories, charting the career of all the greats. The art is psychotic, the writing razor sharp, the attitude punk, the colours blackest of all.
Check it out.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The USA

So, in two weeks time I'm flying over to the US (for the second time this year, excellent!).
Here's the list of bookshops I'll be visiting. This may change.
Monday, September 28 Time: 6:30 PM Murder By the Book 2342 Bissonnet Street Houston, Texas 77005 Phone: 713-524-8597 http://www.murderbooks.com/
Wednesday, September 30 Time: TBD Watermark Books 4701 East Douglas Wichita, Kansas 67218 Phone: 316-682-1181 http://www.watermarkbooks.com/
Monday, October 5 Time: TBD Anderson’s Bookstore 123 West Jefferson Naperville, IL 60540 Phone: 630-355-2665 http://www.andersonsbookshop.com/
Tuesday October 6 Time: 6:00 PMDavis-Kidd Booksellers2121 Green Hills Village DrNashville, TN 37215Phone: 615-385-2645 http://www.daviskidd.com/
Thursday, October 8 Time: 5:00 PM Books of Wonder 18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011 Store Phone: 212-989-3270 http://www.booksofwonder.com/
Friday, October 9 Time: 6:30 PM Clinton Book Shop33 Main StreetClinton, NJ 08809Phone: 908-735-8811 http://clinton.booksense.com/
If you're around, please come by and say hello! Bring many friends and relatives. Otherwise it'll all be a bit lonely.
There's various other events, schools, libraries and such but they are 'non'-public events (does that make sense?). I've not quite sorted out the school events as such but they should involve a bit of swordfighting. It will either be great fun or all end horribly with hospital visits.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Goodies! Many of them!!

videoIt just goes to show how darn DEDICATED I am to my blogging that, within minutes of getting home from holidays, here I am. Well, the other reason is that the rest of the house is (literally) a huge building site. But, did I have a bunch of goodies waiting for me when we stumbled through the door and thought, "Gosh, that wasn't the colour we agreed for the halls/stairs/landing/bedroom/kitchen/playroom/study/conservation/west wing/attic/north wing/swimming pool/helicopter landing pad."

Anyway, you're not interested in the domestic stuff, so...

Welcome to the Goody Room!

So, I've been pondering how better to embrace the wonders of the Internet and all that. Now, rather than shoot off these gifts to who knows where, we'll do this as a sort of vague get to know me get to know you thing. The names will go in a hat. I will pick three. They will contact me. I will send them one of the following:

1. Devil's Kiss hardback. It still has that fresh new book smell. Yummy.

2. Devil's Kiss CD

3.Devil's Kiss MP3 disc.

4. A critique, by me, of their current first three chapters. (Though what the hell do I know, so I think you'll be up on items 1-3, but people have asked).

How to go in the top hat? A grading system is in operation. You score the points, and points make prizes.

+2 if you follow me on the blog

+1 if you link to my blog

+2 if you're on the newsletter

+1 if you follow me on Twitter

+1 if you follow devilskissbook on Twitter

-1 if I've sent you a book already! I have a list of names and will check!!

+2 if you want a copy to review on your blog (I will demand proof or blacklist you FOREVAH!)

+1 if, on this blog, you publically forgive Christian Bale for his rant. (Chris, I'm still your No.1 fan, see?)

+1 if you want the critique (hey, it saves me postage)

-10 if your name is John Mayhew.

The competition ends the last of this month. I'll inform the three winners sometime early October. Fair enough?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Billi's ancestors

I know there's a trend to draw elaborate histories to fictional characters. Long family trees that go way back and show how everyone's related to evil Aunt Edna and the such.
So, in the same spirit as Tolkien and Rowlings, I've decided to fill you in on how Billi came about. What's more is I'm going way, way back.
Conan the Barbarian is probably the first recognisable ancestor of Billi SanGreal. I loved the old Frazetta covers and spent many an hour trying vainly to copy them. Some of you may know I started my storytelling career by writing my own roleplaying adventures. Well, most of them were variations of some Conan story or another. Beyond the Black River really sticks in my mind as being, perhaps, the definitive Conan tale. The dark hair, the deep broooding nature, the skill with the sword. The haircut. Billi inherited all these from the somber Cimmerian.
Okay, jumping forward a few millenia and we've got some Mongol horde in there, the odd Norseman (from the dad's side) and maybe some mysterious Bedouin from the deserts of Arabia. We alight on English shores, mid-late twelfth century, in Sherwood. Okay, she's got a dash of Robin of Loxley, that's for sure. Again from the dad's side there's the old Robin of Sherwood series from the early 1980's. Each generation has his or her Robin and mine was Michael Praed. What's more is the coolest character was Nazir, an Assassin. Doubly cool is that he and I have the same middle name. He fought with two scimitars, was the best swordsman and a man of few words. his actions spoke for him. On second thoughts, maybe Billi's descended more from him rather than Robin.
Into the early 19th Century and we've Napoleon on the map. Pretty much all over it, in fact. Richard Sharpe, English thug and hero of the Napoleonic wars is certainly a template of Billi and (more so) Arthur. He battles for his country, one that doesn't think much of him, and really struggles with what it's all about. He's good at what he does, so does it. In honour of Sharpe I have established that the SanGreal name was one amongst the staff of officers who fought for Napoleon at Waterloo. A cavalryman, because they were cool. The writer of the Sharpe novels, Bernard Cornwell, is a major influence on my writing.
What of the female line, I hear you ask? The Rani of Jhansi. An Indian queen who fought against the British as was very much India's Boudiccia. Billi's got South Asian blood so the old queen's spirit is certainly alive in her.
So, there you have it. Billi's evolution.

Monday, 31 August 2009

ooh, Shiny!

Well, the US edition is out, like, by the time you read this. Disney Hyperion have done a fabulous new website with many, many opportunities to win copies of the new edition with its glamourous cover (which will look very cool next to the blood red cross of the UK version, don't you think?). Do check it out immediately! I did want to do the presentation dressed up as a knight, or Batman, but alas, it was all a bit too short notice.
I've had so much amazing support in getting to this new stage of my career, and whilst there's something very special about the first time you see your ms as a book, thanks to Puffin, the US part of the business is pretty awesome.
I'm due back to the Land of the Free on the 27th September until the 4th October. I know I'm in Texas on the Monday, at Kingwood High School, but not much else. I had a great time visiting in May for the BEA (and a big HI THERE to the Immigration bods at the airport, boy did I get a lot of mileage out of that incident) and looking forward to a bit of a whirlwind tour in a few weeks. I'll put up the details as I get them, if I happen to be in your neighbourhood, do pop by and say howdy. I am extremely excited about this trip, it should be a good one. My only question is can I get my Templar Sword through customs?
So, in no particular order I'd like to thank Ari, Jonathan, Deborah, Donna and the rest of the crew at Disney Hyperion, past and present. Cheers and see you guys in a couple of weeks.
Oh, Ari, thanks so much for all the Elephant and Piggie books. Insane!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Why the Knights Templar are cool


Just finished reading this book and would throughly recommend it to anyone who:
1. Loves historical fiction.
2. Loves stories about the Knights Templar.
3. Loves stories set in 12th Century Sweden.
4. Loves stories.
It is my firmly held belief that any story can be improved by adding Templars. I know mine certainly was.
I've got book 2, The Templar Knight, right here beside me and will start it tonight.
There's a few things I wanted to discuss, the main one being today is MY FIRST YEAR ANNIVERSARY of being a full time writer. In fact if you look through the blogs of last year you'll find my 15th August entry, which was my last day at the 'day job'.
Frankly it's been better than I could have hoped. The main thing is how old anxieties are merely replaced with new ones. I think though this is more my baggage than any major realization about the job of writing. It all boils down to feeling I'm one very, very, lucky chap in being a full time writer and even now I still can't quite believe it, in fact, I believe it even less and there's a niggling feeling that someone's suddenly going to realise I'm still an engineer and not a writer at all (since my only qualification is an English Language 'O' level from 1983. Which was, interestingly, a ninja story, not a Templar one at all. The title was called 'Dressed to kill' and basically involved a ninja and James Bond having a big fight ending with JB throwing the ninja out of a window then, as he leaned out, stabbing himself on a poisoned spike the ninja had left on the window sill.). All I can say is that it's mainly down to writing lots. Courses and qualifications probably do help, but not as much as just writing and writing and writing. About Templars. Or ninjas.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Summer Reading and preparations for the Fall

The builders are in and the blogging's going to be fairly haphazard for the next few weeks, so time to discuss what being read on the beaches this summer. Here's my list, feel free to add yours too.
Firstly, THE MASTER AND MARGARITA by Bulgakov. It's a Russian cult classic and it's all about what happens when the Devil comes to Moscow. Macabre and satirical. Reading this almost made me rewrite The Dark Goddess from scratch.
HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. Like, absolutely everyone is reading this and I held back until I knew the sequel was imminent. It's kind of Battle Royale/Running Man but so much more. Little kids fighting it out to the death. What's not to like? It's the future of Reality TV.
The PERCY JACKSON series by Rick Riordan. Greek myths were my first love and he's put a great spin on the demi-god conceit. I'm almost finished with Titan's Curse.
GLADIATOR by Simon Scarrow. Fights. Roman legions and a bloody huge tidal wave in Chapter 1. I must admit though, I so prefer Macro to Cato, who, IMHO, is a bit of a smart-arse.
Just picked up DEAD UNTIL DARK by Charlaine Harris. It's the basis of the True Blood tv series. Hmm. Vampires. Okay, I love vampires and have written about this before. And will write some more when I finish it.
Visted my local friendly Waterstones and was well-chuffed to see MY BOOK on their 3 for 2 offers. So if you are wondering about that Christmas present to Gran/Uncle Bob/Little Mary Jane or whoever, now's your chance to stock up on many copies!
The US publication date approaches (1st Sept) and that's all very exciting. It's likely that I'll be over in the US later in September, care of the wonderful people at Hyperion. Details will come up as soon as I know and if I happen to be in your neighbourhood, do pop by and say hello! Or howdy, partner.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Summer Holidays and REWRITES.

Well some people accuse me of being on holiday all the time (yes, Mrs. Chadda, that means you) not realising me lying eyes closed on the sofa is 'plotting'. When I'm doing that and snoring it's called 'deep plotting'.
School's out and we've just spent the last week in sunny Southwold. Beach-huts, freezing North Sea dips and a very, very nice fish and chip shop.
Trying to squeeze in the rewrite as we proceed and it's a fairly major shake up, not a little polish.
REWRITES.
1- Does it make sense? First drafts are your chance to throw in all those wild and wacky ideas and not worrying quite how it all lands. That's what you need to fix on the re-write.
2- Character motivations. That's part of 1, actually, but so important it should have it's own section. Make sure the characters act in accordance to their nature. We must understand their motivations wrt to everything they do, even if they don't.
3- Get you facts right. The Moscow trip was all part and parcel of that. Locations, descriptions, history, all of that. Translations. I've Russian characters. They speak Russian. Could be tricky.
4- Seemless exposition. Not big clunks of text you've copied from Wikipedia, okay?
5- Is it consistent with the first book? Hey, it's been so long I'd forgotten who was dead, disabled and basically where I left everyone at the end of Devil's Kiss. It's the minor secondary characters you tend to forget. Don't.
I'm sure there's more stuff but that's what's concerning me right now. Aim is to try and get it finished by end of August.
Other news...
DEVIL'S KISS comes out in the US in a few weeks. A free copy or two might be available soon, competition-wise. Hmm, the wrap around cover. I love it.
DARK GODDESS front cover has appeared! I can't wait to show you this one, but it's a work in progress, there're issues regarding the sword design and such. But Puffin have done their usually awesome job. I've been very blessed by some seriously cool covers, IMHO.
Summer reading so far- PERCY JACKSON ATSOM, OUTLAW (Robin Hood story from Alan Dale's POV), SHARPE'S TRIUMPH, and HUNGER GAMES. All extremely good and HG is as good as everyone says it is. Learning from the masters.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Bodmin Accord, Part 2

Bloody werewolves.
If there was any creature that Gwaine really, deeply hated, it was the werewolf. Mindless, bestial, savage like nothing else. They were machines of slaughter, which was why the Templar Rules clearly stated that any werewolf hunt should include a full lance per werewolf. Three knights per Hairy Scary.
So of course Arthur wanted them to take out an entire werewolf pack. Gwaine shook the mud off his boot, but it did no good. The field was just one huge quagmire and his legs were black with mud up to his knees. He swore and ploughed on.
Bloody Arthur.
The man wouldn’t listen to reason. Ever. Hadn’t he trained him? Hadn’t he brought Arthur into the Templars? He’d given the man purpose, pulled him, literally, out of the gutter. Now there were times when Arthur looked at him, well, it made Gwaine think he was something stuck to the Master’s boot.
The gutter. He’d found Arthur, in the gutter, under Waterloo Bridge. With the drunks, tramps, illegal immigrants. Snoring in his stinking old army sleeping bag, lying on a bed made of cardboard boxes.
He’d been kicked out of the Royal Marines after some bad business in Bosnia, and had spent six months in a psychiatric hospital. From there, out onto the streets.
Ghul attacks were up. He should have been suspicious, even then, that something was brewing. But that was all hindsight. No-one, not Lot, not Elaine, no-one could have predicted what was to follow. The Nights of Iron. The near-extinction of the Knights Templar.
A ghul had brought him to Arthur. The Unholy blood-drinker was feeding amongst the flotsam and jetsam that lived under the arches. It made sense. You drink from a kid, someone would investigate. You drink from some smelly tramp, even kill them, who’s interested? No-one.
Easy pickings.
Unless you pick a psychotic ex-Royal Marine with bad blood and an even badder head. The ghul had just sunk his needle-sharp fangs into Arthur’s neck and woken him. Strong as the ghul was, even he was taken aback by Arthur’s ferocity. Gwaine had been trailing the ghul, hoping to find its sleeping place and kill it during the day, but it had delayed, looking for a snack. A big mistake. A big fat fatal one.
Arthur had grabbed its hair and held it down with one hand while he pummelled its face with a half-brick. The concrete walls had echoed with the high-pitched screech of the Fang-face and Arthur didn’t stop until the only thing left was a smear of blood, brains and bone. Then he’d crawled into a corner and wept.
When he’d stopped sobbing, Gwaine spoke to him. Told him that other monsters were out there, tonight, doing what this creature had tried to do. He’d asked Arthur if he believed in God. He’d asked Arthur if he wanted to help fight against theses monsters, these Unholy. Arthur had only asked one question.
Why?
Gwaine smiled as he pushed himself through the deep, sticky mud. He’d given him the only answer a Templar could give.
Deus vult.
Okay, Arthur was still deeply disturbed and unstable, but now his rage and anger at the world had direction, focus. Gwaine had been pleased. It was simple. Just point Arthur in the right direction as send him on his way. The details were irrelevant, but his successes were legendary. The guy was just born to slaughter. With guns, swords, knives, his bare hands. Uncouth, lacking technique, just simple and direct.
Then he met Jamila. God, what an evil day that was!
She’d been a doctor working at the psychiatric hospital where he’d been a patient. She specialised in Post-traumatic stress disorder and while he hadn’t been her patient, she remembered him. They talked. They swapped numbers.
They fell in love.
The day they married Arthur should have been kicked out. Simple as that. No Templar was allowed to marry. Relationships were an unnecessary distraction. You needed to have one focus, one love. The Order. Nothing else. God had given the Templars a holy duty and it was not to get married, happy and lazy.
The less said about the kid, the better. Uriens was insane to let Arthur stay when they discovered he was about to become a dad. Insane.
Then Jamila died. The ghuls killed her and Gwaine got the old Arthur back. No, he got something better. Or worse. His hate was like a laser beam: pure, narrow and devastatingly intense.
With Uriens one of the first killed, Gwaine was finally in charge. Or should have been. The Nights of Iron were mad times. Death-dealing times. Truth be told, they all thought they were going to die. Knights were being picked off, the ghuls attacked in hordes. Gwaine tried to organise some defences, he’d even contemplated going for help. He tried to think things through. Like a proper Master. Conserve their strength and try and understand what was going on.
But total chaos reigned. The other Templars realised if they were going down, they were going down fighting. They took Arthur’s lead: Total war.
Sacred slaughter.
They killed and died and it was a close run thing. Out of the forty knights that had served under Uriens, less than ten survived. Gwaine’s strategy had failed. War was madness and it needed a man like Arthur to wage it.
The stones came into sight and they stopped. Torches flared around them and figures approached, cautiously.
Yes, times were mad. A man married to a Muslim led the Knights Templar. Hope rested on the shoulders of children. Here they were, fighting for a boy that all sense dictated should die.
Gwaine peered amongst the gathered figures, darkly robed in long winter coats or rough builders’ jackets. They looked like gypsies. Then he caught sight of him. Small, skinny and huddled against a rock, his hands tied together like a lamb ready for the butcher’s yard. The social services report said he was ten, but he looked younger, skinny with malnourished, sunken cheeks. His hair was silvery-white and crudely cut, half-covering his shining too-big blue eyes.
Gwaine scowled. They were risking their lives for this boy. Their eyes met and a chill crept up Gwaine’s spine. If he was a powerful as Elaine suspected, better they kill him quickly, here and now. Leave him to the wolves.
The boy called Kay.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Research (yes, really, not a holiday at all)

Back from Moscow, and it was pretty cool. Amazing city and I'll feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.
I went because a large part of The Dark Goddess is set in Moscow and I needed to get a touch of gritty authenticity into the story. Devil's Kiss was easy, set in my home town of London. But having now set that presidence, the next book had to have the same street-level appeal.
Can't get that out of a guide book.
Where to begin? Monolithic. Noisy. Epic. Marble train stations. Fire dancers. Drunks. Vast cityscapes. Illegal car racing. Very very cool.
I've visited a house where, apparently, satanists congregate. It was down a dark art-lined passageway and a black cat slept peacefully on a bronze bench. Saw the amazing Faberge eggs at the Armoury and minute portraits of the tragic Romanov children painted on petals. The seven sisters dedicated to a tyrant and war hero.
I've so much to go on, it'll take a bit of time to filter through and focus on the details I need, rather than throw everything into the book willy-nilly.
Phew.
Meanwhile...
THE BODMIN ACCORD. This is a trio of chapters that relate to Devil's Kiss and The Dark Goddess. The full piece will be up on the website shortly. Here's the opening.

The Bodmin Accord-Part One
“We’re lost, Art.”
“Bloody hell...”
The flashlight came on and bobbed up and down as they ploughed across the muddy farm track. Percy kept his eyes on the few yards of rain-smeared earth and his hands tight around the steering wheel of Arthur’s old Jaguar.
“I told you we should have taken the jeep,” he muttered.
“Just...shut up, Percy,” said Arthur.
The underbelly of the car groaned as it scrapped over a semi-buried rock. Percy winced as he heard the exhaust rattle and break loose. Then it began clanging loudly, filling the interior with a dull metallic din.
Arthur snapped the ordnance survey map over and flattened it over the dashboard. The white beam of the torch splashed across the contours and narrow yellow lines of pathways and Percy caught a glance of Arthur’s old Royal Marines compass. The green cover was chipped and the lid held together with glue and tape. He’d told Art to get a new one but Art wouldn’t listen and there was no point arguing.
No one argued with Arthur SanGreal.
“Stop here,” said Arthur.
Percy slammed down on the brake. He hoisted up the handbrake and sighed. He’d pushed the car-seat back as far as it would go but he’d still driven the entire journey from London with his knees up by his ears. He’d kept his head as low as possible but with all the potholes and trenches around here he’s spent the last hour banging his head against the ceiling. He unfolded himself out of the driver’s seat and groaned loudly as he stretched. He tilted his head hard sideways, pulling at his thick neck muscles until something cracked.
“Jesus, that’s better,” he said.
“Don’t blaspheme, Percy.” Arthur surveyed the dark moors with his binoculars. “Wake him up. We’re here.”
Percy hammered the rear passenger door.
“Oi! Gwaine!”
There was shuffling from within and the door opened. Gwaine peered out, rubbing his rough hands across his face.
“We there yet?” He didn’t look impressed. “I need a piss.” He yawned and walked over to the opposite side of the car. There was a sharp snap of a zip and then the patter of urine on earth.
Percy buttoned up his jacket and pulled down his wool hat. The last time he’d been out here was his Escape and Evasion training with the commandoes. He’d hated it then, too. The moors lay dull and desolate under the brooding cloudy skies. The moon was well hidden, leaving only a faint halo of shimmering cold white beyond the few cracks in the cloud cover. Stinging icy drizzle swept across the rolling landscape, whipped up and over the low hills and dull valleys. He’d met Arthur here. They’d both applied to join the Royal Marines and earned their berets together. He glanced over at Arthur. He’d been a different man then. Hard, practical, but a laugh, someone who enjoyed life no matter how bad it got. He missed the old Arthur and maybe, deep down, he hoped that man was there somewhere.
“What’s on your mind?” said Arthur, not lowering his binoculars.
“Better days, Art.”

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Russia, Harry Potter, and me.

Just back from Simon Mayo's FiveLive radio show where I talked a bit about Harry Potter and what he means to me. Also there was Julia Eccleshare from the Guardian and Boyd Hilton from Heat.
The converstaion was interesting but, with time being short, didn't really get into any nitty-gritty stuff. So I'll do that here.
1. How great a hero is Harry Potter in the pantheon of children's characters? Okay, he has to be near the top, but I do prefer Bilbo Baggins. Scout from To Kill a Mocking Bird is also one of the best, though there's some debate if it's a kid's book or not (I think it is).
Harry's the perfect fairy tale character. All children (and many adults too) have the fantasy they're secretly princes and princesses, destinied for greatness. Their imaginations free them from their daily existence and the special destiny is a powerful fairy tale archetype, Cinderella. Rags to riches. That sort of thing. Harry starts off frail, weak, forced to do all the cooking and cleaning for his step-family, dresses in rags. Cinderella through and through. But it's the power of the Invite (Hogwarts or the Ball) that start his journey out of the Ordinary and into the Special World. Rowlings has been accused of being derivative, but I think every writer or creator is derivative. True orginals are extraordinarily rare and I can't think of one particularly, maybe Piccasso? Biblo's small, frail, pout upon and (unlike Harry) gets dragged into an adventure way bigger than him. His archetype is the Quest story, rather than rages to riches. Also, he has a clearer character growth and the setting is seamless, while Rowlings' style, especailly in Philosopher's Stone, is VERY Roald Dahl (though in a good way, but acts as a slight distraction since the Dahlesque flurishes are pretty strong). Scout's the truest children's character out of them all, because she is utterly ordinary and perfectly written. Lee totally gets back into what being eight was and felt like, probably better than any other writer.
Russia- I'm off tomorrow and will report back. Have a long list of places to visit. Very excited with this.
Short Stories in the Templar World- This is a project I've been working on. Now Devil's Kiss is out it feels a long wait until The Dark Goddess. So I'm preparing a series of short stories dealing with the Tempalrs, past and present, than will fill in events I refer to in DK, and include hints to what's coming up in book 2. The first one's almost done and is called THE BODMIN ACCORD. It's about the deal the Templars ahve with the local werewolves. Since Book 2 is wall to wall carpets of the hairy blighters It'll clue you in to the sort of people Billi will be dealing with in The Dark Goddess. Pretty dangerous people.
It'll go up in a week or two.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

FAQ and NOT FAQ

This is going to appear on my website shortly (no, not the photo, very nice that it is) but a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. However, some are very common and I'll just go through the motions on those, but some may not be, and those will be the interesting ones...
So, rather than me just list out what I'm usually asked (and have probably answered somewhere already) I would like you to send me YOUR QUESTIONS. I'll see if I can intergrate them seemlessly into my FAQ page. To get the ball rolling I'll start with a few that have come up in the last few months:
1. Angelina Jolie or Megan Fox? Well, it'll have to be our Angie. C'mon, just look at her, for heavens sake! It did cross my mind that if I put myself up for adoption there would be a small chance that I might get picked and be calling her 'Mama'. The rest of this answer's not suitable for children but, let's put it this way, I know which side of the bottle v. breast-feeding arguement I'd come down on.
2. Angelina Joile or Christian Bale? Christian, for reasons too confusing to explain. But being Batman certainly helps.
3. What's the hairiest part of your body? My back. Then my chest, then my ears.
4. Favourite author? Okay, right now (and has been for the last few years) Philip Reeve and his Mortal Engines series. OMG, they are BRILLIANT. However, it was reading Northern Lights that made me want to be a writer.
5. Favourite book? Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. I have a signed card from him above the pc. The prefect dark fairy tale and a major inspiration to The Dark Goddess.
6. Did you always want to be a writer? No, I wanted to be a ninja. Actually, I STILL want to be a ninja. Given the choice, I think it's the profession most people would pick.
7. I'm looking at applying low-carbon technology to my existing house. What would you recommend? Solar hot water panels are probably the most straightforward to retro-fit. The payback on photovoltaics is horrendous so probably not best suited for domestic jobs. Some boiler manufacturers do dual coil boilers, which will save you space, but they are expensive. Do make sure you have them on roughly south-facing roofs!
Okay, now you take it away...

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Er...this might be a terrible mistake.

I don't know about you but when I went to see Casino Royale a few years ago a BIG cheer went up (and not a few wolf-whistles) when Daniel Craig emerged out of the Carribean sea. And that was just from us blokes.
I tried to keep that picture in mind today as I shuffled around the park, sweating and feeling a bit unwell. No pain no gain sort of thing.
I'm a naturally lazy person. That's why I'm a writer instead of, well, something else. However, as I suffered my latest annual waist enlargement I decided to do something about it. I don't think I'll be getting the Daniel Craig response when I surface at my local lido but hopefully me diving in won't be a seismic event. Which is good. I certainly feel different after a few weeks of exercise. Light-headed, for example.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Are you not entertained?

Violence. Don't we love it? It's come up with my school visits where I've got the students to deciode how they want to conclude a scene from the book. Heads have been chopped off, rocket launchers involved, flesh-eating bugs and a whole lot in between.
Okay, Devil's Kiss is an adventure story so there's going to be fights and the hint of violence throughout. But very early on I decided that I wasn't going to be half-hearted about it, and the action wasn't playtime.
Depending on the genre, the violence can stray between realistic and fantastical. Bond blows people away with merry abandon and there's no payback. Then there's books dealing with the social and personal cost of using weapons. Everything from the child soldiers to the stabbings in the cities. There's a responsibilty to show the dark consequences of the use of weapons. But...
There's a thrill in reading it, in seeing it. It's our taste of gladiatorial combat that's not really diminished, not really. We want that life/death struggle played out before us so we can be reminded of the most fundamental drama of existence -- SURVIVAL.
Drama. Conflict. These are the things our stories are made of. Again and again it goes back to why the greatest story to survive from the ages is a war story, The Iliad (Yeah, you knew I was going to bring that up again). The struggle of nations played out by individuals.
I want to have a story that has lots of life and death struggle, after all it's about the Knights Templar. But the violence is brutal and every death costs the killer too. Only psychopaths brush away murder. Everyone else pays.
The question that came up most from the visits is "Why is it called DEVIL'S KISS"?
It's about making deals. With the Devil, with your allies, but most of all with yourself. We all have the capability to become something extraordinary, but what is the cost? Can we live with ourselves if we blinding chase our dreams, forgetting our dreams may be the nightmares to others? How many friends and family have people lost because they chased that promotion or next big deal, so stayed after hours, forgot their kids' birthdays or wedding anniversaries?
The Devil will give you whatever you want. But he will want something in return. Just remember that when someone promises to make all your dreams come true.



Wednesday, 24 June 2009

BOOKS! BOOKS! MORE BOOKS!

A few weeks ago I brought back a bundle of books from the BEA, and a few other random packages. I've finally wrapped the last pile and will post them tomorrow to those that asked. THERE ARE NONE LEFT.
The books will be winging their way to: Vania S, Nancy S, Lauren R, Kathryn E, Nicky S, Bryony P, Tina C, Tony D, Bryan R, Tracy AB, Candy G, Miriam V, HJulienne D, Lexie C, Milly A, Jon M, Darcy W, Natasha H, Cynthia S, Jeanette T, Mel R, Jessica P, Liz dJ, Gareth M and Rebecca C.
There was even an entry from Bogata, Columbia, which is a first.
There's a wide selection and if any of them become collectors' items in the future, I want half.
For those of you not blessed with addresses in Britain, you'll have to wait since I'm posting them overland. Hey, airmail isn't cheap!
Also, if the book isn't to your liking, no complaining and swap it amongst yourselves.
Meanwhile the school visist have continued. There's a certain theme developing with the groups and the discussions that come out of the sessions. The main theme is how much more bloodthristy the book could have been. Most of the school-kids demand much more gruesome violence (and death!) than I delivered, and I thought I delivered a lot. Don't let the sweet demeanor of the Year 7's fool you. Seriously, it was like being surrounded by a group of junior Hannibal Lecters.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Sunday's Workshop and other 'stuff'


Firstly a big THANK YOU to those who attended. The discussion over plotting and Desire v. Need was very refreshing and gave me a bit of serious food for thought. There'll be a bit of reworking of The Dark Goddess because of it. Anyway, this blog is a quick reading list of books that have worked for me. Some of them are clear guidebooks but others are more personal opinions on writing.
I know we spent the session talking about films but I think structurally, we're looking at very similar designs when it comes to telling a story. The BIG difference between the visual media and written is the exploration of the internal world of the characters. In a film you really have no idea what the character is thinking or really feeling. With books you can get into their brain and heart with ease. Likewise be wary of thinking writing a book is just transcribing the film in your head, it isn't. Film is visual which is why violence and action are so dominating. It's eye candy. No point writing big CGI scenes in books, they'd be wasted. Be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the medium you're operating in.

Reading List:

On Writing by Stephen King. King is very anti-plotting and who's to argue with the master? All the more reason to take what influences that WORK FOR YOU and don't believe a formula will save your writing. Only passion will save your writing.

The Writer's Journey by Volger. This is almost the complete opposite, it's very proscriptive. I think it's worth reading BUT then dwell on it and see how the ideas within are merely labels, or signposts, on the story road. Do we need to know if your villain is the hero's SHADOW MENTOR? No, not really. But if you like the idea of it, explore it, and Volger's work is very easy access.

Story by Robert McKee. I found this book fascinating, but really heavy work. McKee is a very famous script mentor and goes into meticulous detail, which from an almost acedemic viewpoint is worth looking at.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Maass. I must admit it's very formulaic, but really good. Very easy to digest and a great way to start.

How Not to write a Novel by Mittelmark and Newman. Basically a hysterical book outlining all the main cliches writers slip into. I garantee your work is in there somewhere. Mine certainly is. It's not about plotting or structure or Inciting Incidents or anything like that. Just the major pitfalls.

How to write a Million. I was so embarrassed by this book I put a fake cover on it. It's actually three books in one package: PLOT by Dibell, Characters and Viewpoints by Card and Dialogue by Truco. If you're starting out this and the book above are the ones to get.

The Devil's Guide to Hollywood by Eszterhas. This guy wrote Basic Instinct and a whole slew of scripts in the 90's. His big claim to fame/infamy is he also wrote Showgirls. He HATES McKee and Eszterhas has a point. He's sold far more scripts, for far far more money (I think he might still hold the No.1 spot for the highest ever earnt for a screenplay) so believes McKee is talking out of his a**e. It's real warts and all view of Hollywood but also very refreashing if you're drowning in 'how to write' books. Works well with King's book with their semi-autobiographical style.

Obviously there are hundreds more but the ones above worked for me. I have various other notes that I'll send out to the workshop people at some point. Sorry but my writing life is a bit shambolic!


OTHER STUFF: Looks like I'm off to Russia in a few weeks. Very excited about this one. All in the name of research, mind you. This isn't a holiday, this is work. Yes, I know, I don't really believe it either.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

New York, Part 3

Right, we'd got as far as Friday. So, I arrive at it's the size of Earl's Court and then some. Seriously overwhelming. There's Neil Gaiman! There's China Meiville! Meg Cabot! Julie Andrews! Holly Black! and so on and so forth. There are thousands of authors signing, including Ollie North apparently.
People are gathering trolley-loads of free books and I do my bit too. Ari's on a panel talking about the 'buzz' YA books for this Fall and she does a fantastic job bigging me up intime for my afternoon signing session. I'm terribly concerned I'll be sitting there for a very lonely hour....but no!
There's a person in the queue. Then another, they bring their friends and soon enough I an signing. Lots said they'd come because of the editor's talk and frankly, it's another free book so what the hell. But to all of you who came, for whatever reason, I THANK YOU!
Leave the desk on a total high.
Totally crash a few hours later and a dinner and silent auction. Start wondering around in a bit of a haze and doing the usual party bit, looking for people I know.
Saturday is me up on stage and I don't fumble my lines too much. I'm on a YA panel and there's an unseemly scrabble for the one working mike. Slightly shoot myself in the foot when I talk about why the YA genre shouldn't exist. I blame delayed jet-lag.
Sunday I fly home, no problems with immigration this time. Sleep for hours and hours and hours.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Russia, Rewrites and Research

I've started the rewrites on THE DARK GODDESS. The book's going to be different, that's for sure.
DK was set in London, my hometown. I had the luxury to visit all the sites, hang out and soak up the atmosphere. Chapter 1 opens with the aerial mast of Crystal Palace because I see it every day. It paid off and London seems real and works well in the book.
TDG is set in Russia. I've read up on it, worked through a few guide books but what's coming back is the story doesn't live the way DK does. Moscow must be a real as London and right now it isn't. I've grabbed a few more books and will studiously work through them. But it's not enough.
So, come July I'm heading out there. Haven't booked the tickets yet but have more or less fixed the dates. All for the sake of research. It could be there are those of you who can make a fantasy world live totally from your imagination and with no map or trips involved. Not me. That's probably why I could never right 'straight' fantasy. If you're in that field, you have my total respect!
The picture above are three Bogatyrs, Russian knights shown to protect the Motherland. I've a few of them in my book. I've added Baba Yaga, her werewolf followers, a big battle in Moscow and a lot of trauma in St. Petersburg and a blood-soaked climax in Chernobyl. If you thought the end of DK was desperate you've not read anything yet.
Writing is about going all out. You can't be half-hearted about it. I suppose I could manage to write the story without going out there, but then it wouldn't be the best story I could write. I'd have sold myself short and sold the reader a half-hearted tale. It's a waste of my time and certainly a betrayal of yours. It all falls under the 'Contract with the Reader' clause.
Still, a trip to Russia, that doesn't sound like a hardship! Just need to make sure I pack my lead-lined underwear before I go to Chernobyl...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

New York, Part 2 and COMPETITION!

Okay, where were we? Yes, Homeland Security. So, eventually dropped off at Essex House. C'est magnifique! Chandeliers, marble lobby, porters and, OMG, a view over Central Park!
I'm so overcome with excitement I fall asleep.
Thursday morning it all kicks off with a video interview. I fumble my lines, sweat profusely under the glaring lamps and forget everything I know about my book. The camera man is momentarily blinded by the light off my bald patch. With much patience something is cobbled together. Apparently it'll be appearing at the Disney Parks. Be afraid, very afraid. Lunch is with my editor of awesomeness, Ari. I meet the gang and Disney Hyperion and start embellishing my tale of detainment. There may be a book in this at some point. Everyone is apologetic on behalf of their government so I decide not to blame all of America. The view is suicidally high (but truly amazing) from their offices and their windows a health and safety nightmare. We go for a legendary publsiher lunch and the steak keeps me full for the rest of the week.
Dinner is a BBQ and I'm stuffed after the starters, and with trousers straining I'm forced up onto the stage amongst Times bestsellers (hiya Cinda!) and wards winners (hiya Mo!) and basically surrounded by extraordinary talent. I manage my five minutes without tears, swearing (much) and a great big thank you to Immigration for inspiring my next project: 100 Days in Gauntanamo.
So bloated now I need a bellywheel I'm taken back to the hotel and stay up all night due to overexcitement. I watch 'Blades of Glory'.
Right, Friday is the BEA and that'll be part of my next blog. One of the key things about the BEA is the freebies, namely books and books and more books. I have City, the new one by China Meiville. Fire, the prequel to Graceling. Maze Runner, Airhead, Ink Exchange, Demon King, etc. THEY ARE YOURS! Some are signed, some aren't. Some are out, others you won't see on the shelves for quite some time yet, so this is your chance to get in way early. Some I will read first then post (I'm make sure I don't bend the spine too much).
Just email me at info(at)sarwatchadda(dot)com with your address and I will randomly pick one out of the crate and send it to you. Can't say fairer than that, can I? I will post to foreign lands, within reason. Once posted I'll delete your address, obviously.
For those who've had advanced warning via the newsletter, I'm sorry but I gave Catching Fire away already! I know it was the one EVERYONE wanted, but it went to a worthy cause, if that's any comfort. Also, don't enter twice. One book per person the judge's decision is final, blah blah.

Monday, 1 June 2009

New York, Part 1

Just back from my first trip to New York, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion, my US publishers.
So much has happened at the Book Expo America that I'll be dividing it up over a few blogs, with a competition at the end, depending on when my crate arrives, so bear with me for that.
However, this blog is not directly concerned with with the BEA, but with my encounter with Homeland Security...
Anyway, after a grueling eight hour flight where I passed the time watching the last two Harry Potter movies I was quite looking forward to going to my hotel and having a sleep, then maybe explore Manhattan a bit and maybe find a cinema showing Terminator: Salvation. Picture this scene...
Lady at Passport Control: Passport please.
Me: Here you go.
LaPC: What's the purpose of your visit? Business or pleasure?
Me: Business. I'm a children's author and my publisher, DISNEY, has invited me here.
LaPC: Not good enough. You look highly suspect and I think are a danger to the security of the free world. Escort! (okay, she didn't really say that but what followed next led me to believe she was thinking it REALLY hard).
Enter man with a gun.
MwaG: Follow me and don't make any sudden moves.
Me:Errr...
What follows next is me waiting anxiously in a large empty hall surrounded with many more Men with Guns. I decide to act calm and natural. I get out a book to read. It has an exploding airplane on the front cover (see above). With horror I realise I have underlined paragraphs (I always do that with Cussler books since he's been a big influence on my style). I slowly slip the book back in my bag.
Eventually a Woman with a Gun turns up.
WwaG: Purpose of visit?
Me: My publisher, DISNEY, you know DISNEY? Like, the most patriotic employer in America? They'll vouch for me, honestly! Please don't imprison me! (Okay, I didn't actually say that, but was thinking it REALLY hard).
WwaG: Have you traveled to any of the following countries? Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Sudan?
Me: Er...yes?
WmaG looks at me like she's sizing me up for a jump suit. I try and explain I look really awful in orange. MwaG starts checking the latest weather at Gauntanamo. I'm starting to feel quite flustered.
WwaG: Do you have any relatives in the US?
Me: Er...yes?
WwaG: Now this relative wouldn't be the one who recently had dinner with the President of Iran?
Me: Er...yes?
WwaG concludes I'm probably a Large in jump suits. They're now checking for the next flight to Cuba. Seriously, orange isn't good for me. Doesn't that count for something?
Eventually I name-drop the entire Disney Hyperion staff list in my increasingly desperate attempt to persuade WwaG I am legit. So, if at some point in the future their offices should be raided by a SEAL team, I apologise now in advance. The WwaG takes down a lot of details, then smiles and bids me "Have a nice day". I am ridiculously grateful. I'm only stopped once more before finally leaving the airport to discover the chauffeur has called the publishers telling them I was a 'no show' so they think I've missed my flight. Phonecalls are flying back and forth across the Atlantic to find out where the hell I am.
I have been in the US two hours.
There's more on the following:
http://www.thebookseller.com/news/87052-british-author-detained-on-way-to-bea.html