Thursday, 28 January 2010

Competition Time!

Right, are you paying attention? The last time I tried to run a competition it all got rather confusing for some, so I'll try and make this a little clearer.
1. What is your favourite book? Why is it your favourite?
There are no restrictions on genre, age group (if your favourite is the Hungry Caterpillar like George W.Bush, that's fine!). It can even be non-fiction, it really doesn't matter. I've just got to the bit in The Count of Monte Cristo (which was recommended to me by a neighbour) where one of the characters has been kidnapped by a transvestite and realised some books just can't be pigeon-holed, something that's become a bit of a trend of late. So I hope this competition will give me the chance to pick up books from your recommendations, books I would otherwise ignore or not come across.
See this as your chance to pitch your favourite book to the world (or at least the four or five people who visit this blog). Just put it in the comments section of the blog. Shall we say, comp ends end of March? I may have some more goodies by then.
Prizes? Glad you asked.
Well, for now, it'll be the cover of the Dark Goddess (see entry below somewhere), scribbled over with my fair signature. Obviously if you don't want my hand-writing spoiling what is an altogether gorgeous picture, tell me. I will understand.
There are a few random goodies I'll through in, postcards and the like, so we'll keep it fairly open. Those who are on my newsletter will have something EXTRA SPECIAL.
If you have more than one favourite, by all means enter twice! Just we'll draw the line at two, methinks, unless it's a part of a trilogy or something similar.
By the end I'll pick the winner from the book and pitch that appeals to me most of all. I know it's utterly subjective, but it's my competition.
Oh, BTW, you cannot recommend your own book (or mine, for that matter), even if your Phillip Pullman. Okay, I know it's not that likely he reads my blog, but we can dream, can't we?
Oh, if on the chance you ARE reading the blog, Phillip, I just want to say I'm a big fan and WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE THE BOOK OF DUST?

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Why oh why can't I write like that?

There are times when, and they're usually in the middle of a rewrite and you're wondering if it's too late to go back to the day job, when you come across a book that so blows you away that you either:
1. Feel so totally inspired you give up all thoughts of food, sleep and company and attack the keyboard with a mania that is both terrifying and electrifiying
2. Wonder why you ever bothered with this writing lark because you'll never ever write anything good enough to be compared to even a line of said book.
3. Both of the above, simultaneously.
The Count of Monte Cristo. The book. The whole book and nothing but the book. Not the film. Not the abridged version. But the one with torture, with executions, with drug-fueled sexual fantasies, with madness and with noble-hearted evil and an anti-hero that would have Don Corleone crying for his mother.
New Year Resolution No.5 was to read a lot more this year, but not any old drivel that had a cool cover and was hyped as the Next Big Thing. But the classics. Oh, and before you roll your eyes a conclude Sarwat's become an old fart all I can say is that you will never read a book as intense, desperate, wide-ranging and heart-gripping as this. It is a tale of revenge in the vein of Medea. Edmund Dante's descent from generous, kind and naive hero to (basically) revenge-driven madman is a masterpiece that defies categorization.
It's a chunky book and none of it is filler. Allow it's multitude of tales within tales, overlapping destinies and discussions on what best to wear for a execution consume your every waking moment. It's like taking the best bits of all your favourite things (sex, violence, revenge, fashion, philisophy, the Napoleonic wars, Italian opera, boat design and the habits of English stock-brokers) written by the best, and putting then all in one book. And THEN adding swordfights. Only a Frenchman could have written it and it not seem like showing off.
The only thing this book has made easy is my choice of birthday presents for the rest of the year.
For Heaven's sake, why aren't you reading it RIGHT NOW?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Insanely fabulous!

Here's the final cover of Dark Goddess. I rather like it. A lot.
The rewrites continue (draft five) but the end is in sight, so I thought I'd share a few details with you, some clues of which are in this photo.
Firstly, notice St. Basil's Cathedral in the background. Russia will feature prominently. As you may know, I went to Russia last year to get a flavour of the country. Moscow is way cool and there's material there I could have used form a number of books, but I've distilled it down to the most potent elixir. Russia has a very different flavour to Western Europe and that'll be one of the main features of DG. That and the darkest of fairy tales. The cannibal witch Baba Yaga. Koshchey the Undying. Prince Ivan and Vasilisa are all players in Russian fairy tales and they'll be in DG, in one way shape or form. Baba Yaga is a witch like no other and her servants, the werewolves, are old school. Eaters of manflesh and hunters without peer. As with the vampires (or ghuls) in Devils Kiss, I'll have them doing what they do best, and that's giving you nightmares.
The red coat is both my homage to Little Red Riding Hood and the works of Angela Carter. If you get the chance, see 'Company of Wolves', macabre, beautiful, and very bloody. I hope Dark Goddess will be the same. The cover is made up of the Templar colours: red, white and black. You've got Billi armed and dangerous and the story takes place three months after events of DK and she's become her father's daughter. If you thought Arthur was a ruthless SOB in the first book, you'll see how it all escalates with Billi, now she feels she's got nothing to lose.
There are a few new faces in the Knights Templar. We've Lance, a French hitman who's joined the cause and then there's the new squire, Mordred. The Arthurian legends have been the foundation to my version of the Templars and these two guys will have a sutble but important effect on the path Billi takes.
In a way I've had more fun writing Dark Goddess than I did Devil's Kiss, or at least fun in a different way. I've been very very fortunate with my two editors, Ari and Lins, who've guided me in making DG a pretty special book and experience. I think I've started taking myself seriously as a writer with this book as it's been my first project as a full-time author.
It's a while yet (six months) until it appears on the shelves, but the writing's fresh and hot in my head.
After this I'm working on a short story, The New Boy, which is when Billi first met Kay. Given the importance of their relationship I always planned to go back to how it all started. I hope that'll be out (with the other short stories) a little before the release of DG.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Barnes and Nobles Teen Top 20 for 2009

Wow, this one came a bit out of the blue but Barnes and Noble (huge book chain in the US for my British buddies) selected Devil's Kiss as one of their twenty best teen books for 2009. Which is nice. The others were (and I'm sure you've read them all, haven't you?):
Catching Fire, Shiver, Along for the Ride, The Maze Runner, Hush Hush, City of Glass, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, If I Stay, The Demon King, Leviathan, Going Bovine, Wintergirls, Jessica's Guide to dating on the Dark Side, The Summer I turned Pretty, North of Beautiful, Bloodhound, The Ask and the Answer, King of Screw Ups, Claudette Colvin:Twice Toward Justice.
Of those above I'm ashamed to admit I've read three, and have one on my shelf, waiting.
No, I won't tell you which, but I will add the others steadily to my reading list as the year progresses.
But this isn't all about ME ME ME, there's another little book I've just finished that I'm sure will be on the 'Best of' lists for 2010 and that's MORTLOCK, by Jon Mayhew.
I know what you're thinking, 'he's just banging on about him because he's his friend' but that's not true!
When someone you've insulted and belittled in public and in print demonstrates a true and amazing talent (and I'm not talking about his haircut) it's hard to swallow one's pride and say, "that's a bloody awesome book and I WISH I'D WRITTEN IT".
There, I've said it.
Mortlock's not out yet (see April) but its a Victorian mid-grade horror story starring Josie, a ready to rumble circus knife-thrower. Jon's tapped into some seriously spooky old ballads and built a creepy but incredibly rich world for his trilogy. There's the quest for immortality, monstorous creatures galore and an encounter in the marshes which will have you sleeping with the lights on for a month. Jon's story is a deliciously creepy and gruesome tale that seeps fog and drips cold, black blood. What's more, it'll be available in Russian!
Jon, I bow at your awesomeness. Just with the sequel, add a few Templars, alright?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

India, here I come!

Finally booked my ticket to India, home of my forefathers and foremothers. It's been a trial since I was meant to go back in November but thanks to an over-enthusiastic visa office got well and truly delayed, but here we are.
What am I doing?
Well, wrapped up the latest draft of Dark Goddess, managing to cut 12,000 words out of the process and bringing it down to 76,000 (which, to get some comparison, is 11,000 longer than Devil's Kiss).
Reading Mortlock by someone called Jon Mayhew. Hmm. It's rather brilliant but I'll save my critical analysis for the enxt blog.
Shoveling snow. The novelty has worn off.
Pondering my next book. I have written it, but it's not quite there yet. Obviously it's set in India, and Kali will be relevant, but beyond that, who knows? Even though there's a manuscript sitting there, it's going in the bin and I'm starting afresh.
Which is the great luxury of writing. It's not like putting up a house, where if you don't like it, hard luck it's built and there you go, live in it. Manuscripts can be dumped if you get a better idea. Especially if you get a better idea. In fact, I'm counting on getting many better ideas once I'm out in Varanasi.
Right, back to Mortlock...