Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Real Life?

So a reader of this blog just pointed out to me that I have been a bad caretaker of this particular corner of the interweb.

And she was right (I will be thanking her further down the page) which means I've been pricked into immediate action.

Of course there are reasons for my absence.

I blame - just like I always do - the sheer weight of work on my desk, the sheer number of ideas whizzing around in what I pass off as my mind, and the multifarious strands that intertwine on the frantic loom of my life . . . but I'm fooling no one.

I think my problem lies in a simple fact: that I'm incredibly comfortable rattling out tales of far-flung futures, or contemporary alien invasions, of cybernetic cats and monsters and the catastrophic collapse of society due to mutogenic plagues, but awfully poor at non-fiction; at talking about the real world, my place in it, and my reactions to it.

I fear, I guess, that no one actually gives a fig what I think.

But the purpose of this blog was always to force me to learn to talk about myself a bit. The idea was that there really is no point in a comfort zone if you're not prepared to step out of it every now and then.

To be honest I'd forgotten that.

So thank you, Franky, for reminding me that it's actually pretty good to blog. To ramble on without having to check that I'm not losing my narrative focus or are in danger of sinking into melodrama.

Normal service has been resumed.

Which doesn't mean I'm going to be doing this every day or anything.

But when I think of something to say, I'll see you here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


So with the final edit of '1.4' now with my editor, it's time for this writer to dust off his thinking cap and come up with something new.

I have a treatment for another book (1.0) to prepare; an idea for another book called '2360 Mhz' to flesh out and explore; a list of several other ideas to be worked though; and . . .

. . . and time to drag a much-worked book from limbo, to retool and re-title and rewrite.

The 'cat book' - the first of a trilogy, of which the first book is written, the last book almost written too, and the middle book still in early development. It may seem to be a strange way to work, to have the beginning and the end on paper and to only have a nebulous middle, but the trilogy requires the start and finish to be just right, whilst the middle can be a little looser, a little more free-form.

Reading the first book through I am actually, pleasantly, surprised by how good it is. So many cool ideas and events and characters and some really bold set pieces.

So why does it remain in my 'works-in-progress' folder?

Maybe what it really needs it rebranding.

Now I hate phrases like 'rebranding' as much as the next guy; it has a horrible, almost sinister sound, where the old thing is re-dressed in a focus-grouped wrapper and served up as something new, but I realise that the problem with this novel is that it fails to tell you what kind of novel it is.

It's a time travel, genetically-altered-battle-cats-from-the-future, suspense, future war thriller. With monsters. So why does my manuscript look like it's a gothic chiller?

The first book is fast, fun and furiously-paced, so why have I saddled it with the unwieldy title 'A Creature Darker Than the Night: Book One - The Unending War'?

In twenty minutes I have retitled it 'Cat's Paw' (to be followed, I muse, by 'Cat's Claw' and 'Cat's Cradle'), and have noticed that the opening is suffering from too much info-dump to be a satisfactory in-road to the story.

So I trim it down, swap the prologue into the present tense to make it more immediate, and then sit back and read.

Then I realise I need to rewrite the subsequent chapters from this character's P.O.V. into present tense too.

And I lose any gothic trappings from my manuscript, and for chapter headings I substitute the font 'Morpheus' for 'OCR A Std'.

You know what?

It's looking pretty fine now. You know what the story is now, without signifiers from another genre muddying the waters.

I guess I need to go through the whole book with this new rebranding in mind.

I'll tell you how I get on.

But it makes me realise that many of the decisions we make early on in the writing of a book can colour the rest of the story, subtly affecting the mood and tone. It will also serve to shape a reader's perception of the work.

It's only when you come back to it, look at it from another angle and with the benefit of time, that you can see that some of those choices do not fit the book.

I've given myself a week or so's extra work, but I have given the book a chance.

Our first instincts are not always correct.

It's a thought that is both sobering and liberating.

Now excuse me, I have a book to rebrand.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Writers' Desks

So I was looking at my desk this morning, thinking about this space that I spend so much of my time, and I started wondering what other people's desks look like. And about what we can tell from an inspection of a writer's working space?

Look, I'll show you mine:

That's the space I choose to work in. Turn around and I see this:

For me it's the natural place to work. Every wall shelved out and packed to the ceiling with books, comics, CDs, DVDs and action figures. I like to feel hemmed in on all sides by things that can, in a second, provide me with inspiration and ideas. Reminders of things that are somehow important to me, plastic representations of things that have, in some way, fed in to this crazy existence of made-up worlds that is the life of the writer.

The books overflow into just about every room of our house, and provide a constant, tangible tie to the world of words that I have chosen as my life-path.

I don't feel wholly comfortable in rooms that have no books. Even books I rarely touch have a place here, because my desk and shelves are like a map of my mind, of the influences and ideas that have made me the person I am, that fuel this thing that I do.

So that's my desk.

Anyone else want to share?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wet Pets

The dogs adopt a novel method of drying themselves . . .

Echo and the Bunnymen

So I was just getting back to the business of editing, aided by the soundtrack to Donnie Darko, when 'The Killing Moon' came on and sent me scuttling to YouTube to watch the video.

Curse you, bunnymen, don't you know I'm trying to work here?

Rain Taxi Review

Lovely review here: http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2011summer/lancaster.shtml.

And speaking of rain . . . .

(Tenuous link, I know) 

In Cambridge the monsoon season seems to have begun in earnest. Some wet pets are skulking around the house, looking a little disgusted, and I am very busy procrastinating - hence this blog entry.

I'm alternating between doing the final batch of changes for 1.4 (until the next set, that is) and coming up with something wholly new. I should focus on one or the other, but my discipline is slipping today and so I flitter from one to the other like a butterfly with ADHD.

1.4 is looking pretty good, though. Should be able to dazzle you with the new cover art soon, if you're good. It's a story that I loved to tell, and can't wait to share with you. 

Details will follow soon.

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011

So last week I was in Edinburgh, sharing an event with the marvellous Tim Bowler. Here we are, backstage, in the writers' yurt, radio-miked up and ready to go.

The event itself was great, we were interviewed by the lovely Daniel Hahn on our works, inspirations and ideas.

Then we got to meet some of our readers at a signing in the Festival book shop.

Tim was warm, generous and a pleasure to share an event with. I recommend you checking out his work at http://www.timbowler.co.uk/.

And I'd like to thank anyone who took the time to come and see us.