Sunday, 30 March 2014

Mother's Day


Oh, drat and discombobulation. I thought about this long and hard before spelling it Mothers' Day. Anna Jarvis, inventor of the event, you are infuriating.

This is a very interesting article on the grammar of special days.

Once you're done reading it, see whether you can keep your inner pedant in check.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Simply Criminal

Just thought I'd throw it out there for any readers who enjoy their crime fiction. Here's a couple of writers you might like:



Adrian Magson is a top bloke and full-time crime writer. He's written several successful series. My dad really likes crime novels. I bought him the first in Magson's Gavin & Palmer series, No Peace for the Wicked, and it got an enthusiastic thumbs-up. You can find a list of all of his series on his website.




Colin Cotterill is possibly the only writer to have written crime based in Laos. That's how I discovered him. Everyone I know who's read this series has loved it. I've gone into more detail about The Coroner's Lunch in a previous post, but I thought it was worth mentioning that you can now purchase the entire seven-book seriese.




This is a bit of a wild card. It's written by Steven Clifford, who shares a house with my illustrator buddy DB Mathews. On the Right Track is his first crime novel. It's a little pricey in paperback, but it's also available on Kindle, and has very good Amazon reviews. Increased sales will hopefully prompt him to continue writing.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Yo-ho

(Crabshack)

I'm not sure if I've struck gold or merely pyrite (pirate - gerri'?).

With Blood Rose submitted to my publisher for consideration, I was wondering what to write next. For some time I've known that Blood Rose is probably the last long-distance novel I want to write. At over 100,000 words it's the longest thing I've ever written, and a fairly meaty piece of fiction.

I very much enjoyed myself, but a book like that can easily take seven months to write and the rest of the year to edit. It's a big commitment of time and imagination.

On that basis, I was gearing up to try a trilogy of shorter works. Say, something in the 60,000 range, 180,000 total. Although that's still long, you write them one at a time, so you can quit if they're not doing well, or add more if they are. It's horrible to think practically about writing a book, but things like time and marketability do play on your mind a little. More, the more you write. 

I had a sterling idea for a series. The characters were semi-formed, the plot was almost fathomed, and the concept was exciting. I could picture myself sitting in my apartment in Rwanda (or perhaps now the Pyrenees), writing this trilogy and having a lovely time doing so.

Then, a couple of days ago, I accidentally found myself looking through pictures of pirates. I was looking for something fun to photoshop myself onto for another blog post. Something at the back of my mind remembered a story I was toying with years ago. I'd never given it much real consideration, but the itch started to spread. Instead of packing, I've spent most of today reading about the Spanish Main, the Golden Age of Piracy, Barbary Corsairs, and the Pirate Round.

I'm not interested in writing another Historical Fiction piece. I'd rather do something character-driven than immaculately researched (although the Golden Age - and the careers of most pirates - seem to have been so short there probably wouldn't be much research to do), and perhaps - dare I say it - a touch more steampunk-esque than traditional? I'm not entirely sure about that yet. Maybe more Monkey Island-esque than cool.

So, I've just had a bit of a play and thrown down 1k. Typically it takes me at least 5k to decide whether I'm interested enough in the concept, and 10k before I know whether I can commit to a full-length piece. It's still early days.

I think I'm just excited at the prospect of writing something completely different to what I had planned to. If it doesn't look like a goer, I'll switch back to my original idea, but it's always worth exploring things. Usually if something gets under your skin enough that you feel compelled to play with it on paper, there's something to it and it's worth following up.

It's also nice to have started something new before I leave. I had sort of thought I'd doodle ideas and start writing properly once I get settled in Africa, but having something to take with me is really nice. Suddenly I'm not travelling alone, but with a host of new friends.

There was a terrible sense of loneliness sitting up there on top of the world. The sea stretched out like the sky, in all directions. Only a couple of lights flickered on the island, separate and forlorn, whilst above so many stars shone that, if you stared hard enough, you would start to feel your body shrinking, as though you were growing smaller and smaller until you were the size of an ant, gazing up at God’s bootheel about to descend.  
Looking down saddened Möz, and looking up frightened him.

I'm also secretly quite happy to be back in third person. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Book Depository

Ooooh, I am so annoyed with myself. It's been over four months since I bought anything through Amazon, due to their crap treatment of employees and their tax avoidance.

Thought I'd got it down to a fine art. Once I find the books I want, I follow through to the seller's page rather than their Amazon listing, then buy direct from the supplier. Better for bookshops, as they get the full price without Amazon taking their cut.

Yesterday, I did this with Book Depository after searching for bookshops locally to buy from.

I was well chuffed at first, as Amazon have done away with their free delivery on orders under £10, but Book Depository are still free, so I was saving myself some cash.

Amazon Price
Book Depository Price

Shopping locally and saving money, what's not to like?

It all seemed a little too easy, and this creeping sense of doubt took hold. So I googled Book Depository, only to find... they're owned by Amazon.


How crap is that? I knew about ABE and Waterstones, but not this. 

I knew a guy in South Australia years ago who owned two travel agencies right opposite each other. He was a complete arse, taking great delight in being rude to customers, then watching them storm out in righteous indignation only to spend their money in his other shop over the road, thinking they were taking their business elsewhere.

It's a minefield out there, and businesses really ought to be forced to display their chain holdings so that consumers can make more informed decisions.

Won't be making that mistake again, but will, reluctantly (and in line with my self-imposed rules) be stocking up my Kindle ahead of the great getaway.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Procrastination Workshop


My lovely Aunty Heron just sent me this, which she found in The Guardian. Think I'll book early and see'f there's a discount... or maybe tomorrow... definitely by the end of the week...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Wombling Free


Well readers, now is as good a time as any to announce my next road trip. Well, more of a world tour. I'm heading off to Laos on 10 April to visit Ruairí and Martine, then off to Kenya in early May.

I'm looking forward to seeing Africa again, I've missed it. Plus it'll be my first time in Asia, which is very exciting. However, it does mean that posts on this blog may be a little less frequent, depending on internet access and speed.

I will be keeping this blog for all things writing-related, but if you would like to keep up-to-date with my wombling, check out my travel blog (wombling post).


Friday, 21 March 2014

Do Tigers like Marmite?


Thanks to my friend Penny, I'm never going to get any writing done ever again. She's introduced me to the Big Cat Rescue channel on YouTube. There appears to be nothing these people won't do in the name of entertainment. So far they've answered the pressing questions: Do big cats like catnip (above), mirrors, cardboard boxes, pumpkins and, ingeniously, Marmite!

You can find more on their website, Facebook and Twitter (@BigCatRescue).

Monday, 17 March 2014

British Problems


I love this list of 21 Brilliant British Problems. The above has happened to me twice in the past six months. I was explaining it to a friend...

Me: #13 has happened to me twice in the last six months, at two completely different roundabouts :oD I'm afraid I don't understand #10 though. Is that what Americans say instead of 'by accident'? I've never heard it before.
Lisa: i didn't understand 10 but was too polite to comment lol 
Me: Yeah, I know. I've seen that list a couple of times and it's taken me until now to build up the courage...

One can only wonder how we, as a race, have managed to survive this long. If we're this uptight about asking for simple explanations, how have we ever managed to ask for sex?

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Growing a Thick Skin


Now, where was this article the first time I went through the submission process? 

I've since managed to thicken my skin by scrubbing myself down with brillo pads and sand each morning, but this is a neat shortcut to surviving the bubble-bursters: Thickening Skin: 6 Tips for Taking Criticism

Although I particularly enjoyed the section Some people aren't your audience. Others are just ass-holes (though, thankfully, I've not yet met a reader who's been an asshole, so I'll substitute that for 'industry professional') I think the most important advice came towards the end:

There are several common myths that make criticism more difficult to handle. First, we have the myth of good writing. If you buy into the idea that fundamentally "good writing" exists—that there's a template out there in the universe that describes what makes written work good or bad—then any criticism of your work becomes a reflection of whether you are "good enough."

It's a myth often perpetuated, knowingly or otherwise, by agents and publishers who feel the need to say something when responding with a rejection, and instead of making that something neutral and 'all the best,' turn it into something which is more personal and confidence-crushing. Confusing the fact that there is a 'promotable mainstream' with the notion that there is an aforementioned template for good and bad work. 

An opinion is just an opinion, and it's always worth ignoring the opinion in favour of inspecting who that opinion belongs to, and why. 

You know that line in Pretty Woman

The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

We all suffer from it. I can get five-star reviews on Amazon, have someone contact me from halfway across the world to tell me how much they've enjoyed one of my novels, and yet one kick-back from a submission and the world is a darker place. Suddenly that agent or publisher's opinion means more than a reader's... seriously, why?

That's skewed logic if ever there was, but it's deeply rooted in school child psychology that we exist to impress people. That opinion is worth more the higher up a hierarchy it goes, be it a teacher, a religious leader, a politician (although they're gradually losing all credibility) or a publisher. When, mostly, those opinions are formed of the criteria the opinion holder must uphold: the national curriculum, a holy doctrine, a party whip or popular consumerism. 

Few grown writers would beat themselves up if they failed to agree with any of the others, so why submit wholeheartedly to the opinion of the last?

That said, if they do happen to agree with you - fantastic!

You might also enjoy a chuckle at rejection letters sent to famous authors.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Dessert Desert

The Dessert Desert via Melinda Rose 3D

I love this article by Liz Bureman, which highlights why English can be such a pain-in-the-arse language:

Yes. Deserts. Spelled like the arid home of the cactus. Pronounced like chocolate cake. My brain exploded... 

  • Desert is used when you’re talking about Death Valley/the Sahara/the Negev,
  • Dessert is used when you’re deciding between coconut cream pie and peach cobbler,
  • And all of the above is thrown out the window when you use the phrase “just deserts”, because it’s spelled like the first, and pronounced like the latter.

The one that always astounds me is blond/e, which has got to be one of the only masculine v. feminine nouns in the English language? Blond for male, blonde for female. 

For someone who's homonymincally challenged at the best of times, this feels like it was deliberately invented just to trip me up.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Waiting for Godot


I once had a Physical Theatre tutor who told a story from his own university days, where he was charged with presenting a play by Beckett.

The audience filed in and took their seats before a safety curtain with the words Waiting for Godot painted across it.

In the grand tradition of experimental theatre, the performance set out to determine just how long people would actually be prepared to wait for Godot before calling it a day.

The answer is, perhaps surprisingly: quite a long time.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Almond Press


I just wanted to give a shout out to these guys.

Almond Press really are quite special, and I'm not just saying that because they're based in Sterling, which happens to have an excellent second-hand book store.

What makes Almond Press so interesting is that they really are behind new authors and promoting fresh talent. All of their profits go back into running writing competitions, and the best of the entries are published and widely distributes.

They were only started in 2012, but hopefully they're going to be huge.

As well as finding out about them on their website, you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter (@AlmondPress)

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Small Demons


Small Demons is such a clever idea:

Select a book. Start with one you love or one that looks interesting. From there, it’s all about discovering everywhere it can take you.  
Take your pick of thousands of authors, actors, musicians, historical figures, gangsters, heroes and villains, fictional and real. In every book, behind every name, there’s a story. This is where you’ll find it. 
In stories, fictional places become real and real places take on new meaning. Want to see exactly where the action takes place? What books share the same setting? This is the path that gets you there. 
Every thing placed into a book is there because it means something. A song. An album. A movie. Fashion. Food. Cocktails. Cars. Here is where you begin to discover what they can also mean to you.

Basically, any popculture reference to a film or song, any restaurant, type of food, car or location mentioned in a book is connected to every other reference to it in any other novel ever written. You can hop between all of these references, their books, and the places you can purchase the items, or visit the restaurants. It's very entertaining, and more than a little addictive.

It's currently a little limited at the moment, but they are working on tools to increase public content contribution. Worth watching for the future.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Moment of Lucidity

Just got back from Cardiff, which is where the first novel I ever wrote was set. Lucid fans might enjoy this.

*

By the time Saturday morning rolled around, everyone in the office was disgruntled at Suzie’s departure. She still had her one-month notice to work, but it brought into the open the miserable atmosphere that everyone had been trying to gloss over.

Ollie sat on one of the benches in the Gorsedd Gardens.


It was a small patch of land outside the National Museum and, like Bute Park, it sported its own artistic version of a stone circle. 


A little guy sold coffee from a wooden kiosk. Although he never usually made a specific detour to drink it, he felt more comfortable there than showing Amanda where he lived.


He looked at his watch: ten-to-ten and the sky was overcast. He watched a couple of students climb the impressive museum steps and pass between its pillars into the gaping interior. 



This was the University quarter of town. The street opposite, Park Place, ran all the way up a long procession of university-owned buildings. During term time a steady stream of undergraduates flowed back and forth between campus and the bars in town. He had nothing against students, he’d just never been one. 
It all struck him as a continuation of college, only the kids got bigger and were legally allowed to drink and smoke fags.

A car beeped its horn. He recognised Amanda’s dimpled smile from behind the glass. Dropping his empty coffee cup in the bin, he opened the passenger door and slid into her little blue Citroën.

Sadly long since scrapped, I inherited my first car from my nana.
I often imortalise cars I've loved in my writing.


“Morning.”

“Hey, how you doing?” she asked from beneath a rainbow bobble hat.

“Okay. Glad it’s the weekend.”

“Tell me about it. Ready for this?”

“Bring it on.” He blew into his hands to warm them up as she put her foot on the accelerator.


*

Although not set in Cardiff, fans of Georg[i]e might like to know that it didn't entirely escape the Welsh influence either.

Happy Saint David's Day!