Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas and all that

As Vic and Bob once said, Christmas time. Mistletoe and wine. Children swimming in pits filled with brine.

Yep it's nearly here and the grumpy old gits amongst us are just starting to turn from Bah Humbug to Ah Xbox. I suppose Christmas is not all that bad is it? A week off work, see relatives you haven't seen all year, get a couple of presents. Yeah it's alright I suppose.

This year's been a bit topsy turvy up and down for me. I've had four short stories accepted, one of them from a magazine. Written one and half new books and 21 short stories, a few of which weren't bad. Next year I'll hopefully finish the assassin book and start work on the one after that, probably a police detective one or maybe a PI. I may even re-write Spies, Lies and Pies again.

So, merry christmas one and all. Thanks for reading my little musings and as it's christmas, here's a little story I wrote in March or April. (apologies in advance for the swearing)

Bored Meeting

“So then,” said Jeff, “are we all buying into this?”

“Ahuh,” Sally replied, “I think it’s important we stay ahead of the curve.”

“Oh yes,” agreed both Jen and Sara. Sally scribbled a shorthand note in her filo-fax.

“The worry, for me,” Calumn piped in, “is that we’re not evolving vertical relations with our end users.”

“Oh ya,” agreed Jen enthusiastically.

“Maybe we could commission a focus group to explore this avenue?” Sara timidly asked.

“Good call Sara,” said Jeff with a smile.

The others nodded in agreement.

Jeff’s mobile rang. “Guys I’m so sorry, I just have to take this call.” Answering with the words, “Marcus, hi”, he walked from the room.

A brief silence gripped them.

Calumn was the first to speak. “While Jeff’s out, I’ll take the opportunity to pop to the little boy’s room.” He left the room smiling.

Once Jen was sure he was out of earshot, she spoke, “Worra bunch of fuckin tossers, did you hear them?”

“Evolving vertical relations, what a twat,” said Sara.

“Did you hear me, I got in a ‘commission a focus group’ that’s ten points ain’t it Sal?”

“Yep, well done. Scores on the doors so far, girls. Sara twenty five, Jen ten, me five. Piss poor show by me really, but can’t get a fuckin word in edgeways with that twat mincing on about buying into this and raising the stakes on that. I’ll raise his fuckin stakes, the lanky streak of piss.”

Sara giggled, “Shush they’ll hear.”

“Fuckin let the bastards,” said Jen, scratching her arse. “It never used to be like this. We used to talk properly about stuff and things. It’s all these fucking courses and seminars they keep sending the twats on.”

After waiting for Jen to finish, Sally continued. “Right, well we’ve still got leverage, blue sky moment, 360 degrees thinking and, would you believe it, we’ve not had maximising the incentives for stakeholders yet.”

“I tried to fit in it earlier, but it’s a hard one to get in,” said Jen.

“Yeah, not really relevant today is it?” agreed Sara.

“Is any of this relevant though?” asked Sally.

They all sighed.

Calumn knocked before re-entering. Sitting down he said, “Guys I just had a blue sky moment on how to maximise the incentives for stakeholders.”

Sara and Jen looked at Sally. They all mouthed the word shit.


One other little thing. I've come across a website that puts up short funny stories (max 550 words) They've very kindly put up Safety Begins at Home.

Merry xmas and a happy new year y'all.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Snow Ideas

So I got stuck driving home just over a week ago. A foot of snow fell in an hour. I'm not going to go into a big rant about how the council never do anything and it's a bloody disgrace and all that. All it really did was make me miss my tea, get a bit wound up and make me lose my routine.

The routine in question is the one that was producing nearly two thousand words a day. I've not written a sausage now in just over a week. I have done a bit of editing on Too Big To Fail, and it's about ready to be sent. But it's the writing and ideas that have gone.

I had always thought I'd have december off from the next book, but I imagined I'd write a couple of short stories at the very least. But nothing's coming out. Makes me wonder just how much of this is getting in the right routine.

Talking of short stories, those kind people at Powder Burn Flash have accepted the story I rewrote into First Person a few weeks back. Not sure when it's going to be up, but I'll let you know when I know.

I'm going to force myself to write a short story. Looking at an old word file, there's a couple of ideas in there, namely: A cordless drill, a vengeful wife and three people at a bus stop. Sounds a bit like a game of cluedo doesn't it.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

First versus Third part two

I tried rewriting the first part of the new book (needs a name) in first person, but to me it's missing something. You can judge for yourself beneath, both the starts are there. I think what it's missing is what some people call voice.

You see, the main character Jim was written in third person so he's never really had his own voice or way of talking. It's always been the storyteller telling his life and the mess he's made of his first hit and the subsequent dash for cash to repay the money he was advanced. Trying to suddenly rewrite it in his style doesn't feel right. I'm kind of drawn into using my stock first person style, but I know it's not right for him.

The other way it probably won't work is later on when someone else becomes involved heavily in the story. I suppose it could work in first person, but it would get messy and there is certain things the reader should know before Jim does.

Anyway, here's the start in third

Muscles Jim never knew he had continued to twist his stomach.

Looking again at the clock, it still showed half six. Thirty one minutes to go. He pushed the second button again, convinced for the third time it had stopped. He kept telling himself digital clocks don’t just stop. If they break, the display doesn’t work, it doesn’t just freeze. But, he had to check again.

He knew it shouldn’t be like this. He should be looking forward to the first day of his new job. It definitely shouldn’t have made him physically sick with fear. After all, it’s the chance to meet new people, the start of an adventure. Maybe that was the problem with contract killing; the only new people you met, you killed.

The clock that was definitely working showed thirty minutes until crunch time. Everything had been prepared and checked many times yesterday and last night. As he sat on the corner of the bed, Jim knew all he could do was wait. Waiting would give him plenty of time to think what he was about to do. What he was about to become.

and the start in first

They told me to expect this, but it doesn’t make it easier. Sat here in this murky hotel room, my brain’s cranky from last night. I got to sleep about three, maybe four. Sun starts rising early here, not that the day ever really ends in a city. The bustle’s all night. Busy, busy people. Busy important, or self important, people.

It’s half six now, thirty minutes till crunch time and my stomach’s twisting itself up in some sailor’s knot that my bowels are trying to undo. Suppose physical sickness’s just another part of the job. First day of a job shouldn’t be like that. Should be the start something new, the chance to meet new people, that’s what they say ain’t it? Guess that’s the problem with contract killing. Only new people you meet, you kill.

I’d got all my gear together last night, too. Should have left that for this morning. Could have been a job to eat up the time. As it is I got nothing to do now but wait. Wait for the clock to strike seven. Then, I go for a walk.

Anyway so that's it. It's going to be third person.

I've finished editing Too Big To Fail, though the start needs another look at. I'm also re-writing a short story I found hidden away from last year from third to first, which definitely does work.

Friday, 19 November 2010

First or third?

Person that is. Forget second, to me it just reads like one of those old Fighting Fantasy books, not that there was anything wrong with them back in the day. But, what makes you decide whether to write in first or third?

I've always been a third person kind of guy. One of my earliest short stories was first, a meeting of two young people, written from the view of both of them, one after the other. Obviously, it involved pies as everything from that era seemed to. But apart form that, everything's been third person since. Until recently.

I suppose my interpretation of writing comedy chose that way. Most of the jokes come from the narrator who keeps butting in. Some people scream, you can't do that, but it never hurt Douglas Adams (not that I can compare myself in anyway to him.)

Recently though, about march I guess, I started a little story about a Private Detective. It was hard work writing it in third person, like most PI's most of the action goes on in his messed up head. I gave up on it, but it keeps coming back to me, a little voice in my mind saying, 'write me, write me.'

My fairly recent discovery of the masses of excellent first person crime stuff out there made me have a go myself. Got to admit, I love it. Written about six little stories now, some work some don't

So is it horses for courses? Does the story dictate whether it's first or third. Or, is it the genre? Or even the main character? How messed up and complex does the character need to be before it needs writing in first?

Now that I've finished writing Too big to fail. I'm at a loss. For the past three months I've written a few thousand words each day, and just stopping dead is leaving a big hole. A couple of short stories have been written, but I'm looking more towards the next book.

The failed-newbie-contract-killer-come-wideboy-grifter book was started back in the summer. I got to about 35,000 words then put it on hold. I'm starting to wonder now if it would be better in first instead of third?

It seems a waste to dump nearly half a book and start again from scratch. But, then again, first person let's you get closer to his head, his thoughts without having to use those annoying He thought tags or italics all the time. Third person though, lets the reader see things the character doesn't. You can give little hints to the reader the character's unaware of.

Dunno is the answer. Maybe I'll re-write the start of it in first person and compare them?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Is it worth it?

A new winter coat and shoes for the wife.

I'll stop there. Robert Wyatt or Elvis Costello I am not. I read a post yesterday that didn't so much as depress me, but made me wonder if the direction I and no doubt others are taking is right.

The post in question was discussing the current state of publishing. It said that publishers (i.e. mainstream publishers) are currently only really interested in books they know will sell over 50,000 copies. That certainly would explain the lack of new writers the big publishers are publishing. I don't know if this link will work properly or not, but of the 538 best new sellers on amazon, only 1 is humour. And of the crime thrillers I bet none of their hardboiled main characters have diabetic pony's, dual personalities or fixations with smoked herring.

What genres would sell so many for a new author? Mainstream thrillers (anything to do with Terrorism or Afghanistan seems popular at the moment), ripoffs of proven subject matter (I'm thinking all those Da Vinci style books), chick-lit (no chance) and whatever they reckon will be in fashion next year.

So, do you play the game to get known? Or write what you want in the hope they'll change their policy and open the floodgates soon? Am I being ignorant in thinking that my non-specific genre comedy spy thriller or failed contract killer turned wide boy books are going to make a publisher say, scrap everything else, we were wrong, this will sell millions. It's very unlikely, isn't it?

The other options are smaller publishers. Little or no advertising budgets will unfortunately in this world mean little sales. The print runs won't be big enough for them to discount heavily or supply The Works and other cheap sellers at 3 for a fiver prices. The final option, Self Publishing. Not really much you can say about that is there. At one time I was all for it, but someone talked me out of it. Again, it's the advertising budget and inability to price low that makes this not really an option.

I guess it's all about building a following, isn't it? Without something substantial to read, your following won't get large enough for a big publisher to publish. The smaller publisher route could help build that following over a series of books.

Either that, or play the game. Write want they're looking for. Or, just sell it yourself and make a few quid.

Anyway, cheer up, here's a picture of a haggis, neeps and tatty pie.

Friday, 22 October 2010

No fish were harmed in the making of this post

Until recently, I've never really written in close first person. It's all been third person comedy spies and short stories. But after looking for somewhere to submit a few stories some months back, I came across and read some great first person crime shorts.

So, in between writing two other books, I wrote a few, some worked some didn't. But it on holiday in Scotland, trying to find kippers that a story popped into my head. Scotland is the home of smoked herring after all, but we couldn't find any. We ended up with smoked mackerel which, while being nice and not bony, just wasn't a kipper. That, along with a lot of single malt created the following story which the Flash Fiction Offensive have kindly put on their website this week.

I've now become hooked on writing short first person stories (there's a Ronnie Corbett joke there somewhere). This is a problem, because I've got to finish Too Big To Fail before the christmas deadline, but they keep popping out and I keep writing them. Some of them don't work, some are a bit too dark for me, so I daren't do anything with them. But they keep coming out.

Oh yeah, the link The Flash Fiction Offensive: We Need Blood Here by Charlie Wade

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Short Story

Time for a short story, methinks. This one was originally posted on authonomy, but I doubt many people read it.

Safety begins at home

The Royal Society of Health and Safety Inspectors’ annual dinner dance was the highlight of Ray’s otherwise moribund life. It was neither the friendship nor companionship he liked the most, but the planning and execution of the meeting. It was, without doubt, the safest (and possibly the healthiest) dinner dance in the world being as it was planned and coordinated by the most elite of the society’s members.

Sat at his table, Ray inspected the knives (regulation level three sharpness, the potential risk of minor cuts minimised), the forks (category two bluntness, but still a small risk of piercing) and the table cloth (made of 50% wool to minimise slippage.)

Satisfied all was well, he surveyed the room. His colleagues were mingling, drinking and walking round with clipboards. A few of them inspected various items with tape measures and approving nods. He noticed in the corner of the room Greg Nappel, the society’s president, begin his approach to the stage.

The background noise in the room, played at precisely twenty eight decibels, faded. The minglers and drinkers took their tables, some of them inspecting the chair legs before they sat. Ray watched Greg walk to the stage then climb up the reinforced, two-handled ramp clearly labeled, ‘For Trained Operatives only.’ Then, he walked to the ergonomic podium, its height previously adjusted via a clip board risk assessment to not cause Greg any discomfort.

The microphone hissed once as he spoke. “Good evening ladies, gentlemen and Health and Safety operatives.” It was the same joke each year, but it always got a laugh, even from Ray. He continued, “Before the annual ‘Safest Safety Worker’ competition, I’d like to say a few words.”

Then, just as Greg put his hand on the podium for support, it happened.

Richard Binwell, the North East Region’s most senior Health and Safety Inspector, had inspected the podium for all safety fastenings, rough edges, electric and static electricity earthing and also the danger of blinding by reflection from the hall’s many spotlights. However, he hadn’t checked the topple point: the point at which, if pressure was applied, the podium would topple. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t on the safety checklist. It wasn’t on his clipboard.

Via a combination of poor footing, the pre-speech sherry and a heavy hand, Greg’s weight on the podium started to tip it. Losing his balance, he leaned further forwards, helplessly grabbing for the podium as it toppled and he started to fall.

His weight now too far forward, in one last desperate attempt, he lunged for the podium. Mistiming his grab, he instead pushed and, losing his footing, fell after it. The podium fell from the stage, landing first on the head of Western-Super-Mare’s safety representative, then onto the lead table, knocking over two bottles of wine.

In the rush to stand up, the other members of the lead table capsized the table onto its side, squashing the representative for East Grinstead. The falling Greg landed in a pool of wine on the floor, closely followed by the ripped power cables from the microphone and podium lights.

The fatal fizzing electric shock he received created panic amongst the onlookers. Two were crushed to death in the stampede to exit, while sixteen others gained minor injuries including finger dislocations, broken limbs and trampled toes. Poor Ray somehow received a freak castration after falling knackers first into a pile of category three forks while others accidently trampled him in their haste to flee.
The Newspapers, of course, had not only a field day but a whole field week. The annual dinner dance was cancelled indefinitely and a period of mourning set aside for the ex-president and the other deceased.

To big to fail is now 55,000 words long and well on target for the christmas deadline.

Another picture from Village of Joy

Friday, 8 October 2010

A Few Links

Thought I'd share a few links today. A bit of funny, bit of bloggy and a bit of writing.

First up, there's nothing better than well done sarcasm. Topical news sarcasm is even better. First up The Daily Mash another good contender is News Biscuit. Bordering on the ridiculous is Hats of meat which was designing processed animal clothing well before Lady Gaga.

Blogs I like include Marmite and Fluff , Agenthood and Submissionville , The voices in my head , Pie and Biscuits and Culturally Discombobulated.

On the writing front, The Flash Fiction Offensive for the obvious reason, Clueless Ink just look at all them links to agents/publishers etc and finally Strong Scenes

That's it for this week. Up to 45,000 words now, I've been editing and chopping it this week so though I've written a lot more, it doesn't show.

A picture, for old times sake, this from Village Of Joy.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Bagging an agent part 15b

Okay, so there's a lot of talk and advice on snagging a literary agent. Well, I'm sure this has been done before, but...

Dear [redacted],

Please find enclosed the first fifty pages of my epic 250,000 word, young adult novel entitled “Brownley Cotter And The Curious Nark of Spluttergatry.”

Haronda Fitzgerald, Grand Master of the Brackanumpty University of Wizardry hopes this year’s intake of students will be more prolific than recent ones. One of his new students, Brownley Cotter, seems more adept at wizardry than anyone Haronda has seen in years.

After many hilarious scrapes and heroic battles, my novel climaxes with Brownley Cotter receiving his degree in wizardship and defeating an evil Dragon. I feel that Brownley Cotter is not only original but also it would make a good series of books. It could even be adapted to a film!

On visiting your website, I feel we could work well together. So much so, that I have done some extra research on you, both via the internet and also the electoral roll. I think it’s amazing we live so close to each other and your office is only a twenty minute run from where I work.

You won’t believe this, but I’m a Lady Gaga fan too! (The man who was servicing your car told me you had one of her cd’s.) I said to him that your brake lines needed looking at, and he even let me help while he went for a twenty minute cigarette break.

Finally, I don’t mean to be rude, but what are you doing throwing away your bank statements un-shredded? I hope you don’t mind me going through your rubbish, but I think it’s lucky I did. Also, sorry about your medical condition. It must be so embarrassing, not to mention uncomfortable with all the sitting around you have to do.

Hopefully we can meet up soon. The pub you sometimes visit after work, the Crown, is on my bus route home. I can be there next Thursday, though I have noticed you seem to prefer Wednesdays for an after work drink. Anyway, if you get there before me, mine's a Babycham.

Thanks again and I look forward to our friendship lasting a long, long time.

Yours sincerely

A. S. Talker

Anyway, wrote another 6,000 words last week on 'Too Big To Fail' which appears to now have a permanent name. Still on course for the deadline.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Christmas is getting earlier and all that...

Another post in my 'It's not like the good old days' series, this one covers the phenomena that is Christmas and how it starts earlier as you get older.

Bought a pack of six mince pies today. You know it's Christmas when mince pies are being sold. Love them or hate them, they just say 'Christmas is coming' don't they.

The expiry date on these lovely pies is 20th October. That's 20th October this year. Over two months before Christmas actually starts.

What in the name of arse is going on?

Anyway, I was going to moan about how when I was a lad, you only ate Mince Pies actually at Christmas, and how the shops are already full of a whole wealth of Christmas goods (big tins of Quality Street - yes I bought one, whole displays dedicated to baubles, tat and tins of biscuits - I didn't buy any of them, yet,) but, as I say, in what is probably my longest ever sentence, I'm not going to moan about it: everyone does.

Instead, I'll sound off about what must be the real message of Christmas, and how it's got lost in all the glitter-infested fibre-opticed trees, the lure of the money-grabbing supermarkets and the constant repeats of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That's not what Christmas is all about is it? I truly believe I have found the real meaning of Christmas.

Pigs in blankets.

Little dozy sausages wrapped up in cozy bacon blankets. It's what the day was invented for, a celebration of all things porcine. So simple yet so lovely, these little fellows hang around all year waiting to be devoured (a bit like turkeys) yet they're everyone's favourites. Unlike turkey, you're not subjected to over-kill in a five day period after the huge turkey you've bought has to last a week in various disguises (turkey curry, turkey salad, turkey and chips, turkey surprise.) You usually only get one pig in blanket at Christmas and I'm sure most people would agree, there's never any wasted.

So that's it. Moderation. To keep Christmas special, everything needs to be in moderation and not have a five month build up.

I'm still writing, nearly ten thousand words done last week, so I'm on course for the deadline. It's the editing that scares me a bit.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Queueing and Pushing in

We love queueing don't we? Stick some miserable sod behind a checkout and we'll spend hours standing patiently in line to give them money for some overpriced tat. But what if someone pushes in? What if someone breaks the unwritten code of queueing?

A few days ago in the supermarket, me and my other half, Mrs Pie (not her real name) approached the tills with a trolley full of essentials. The tills were busy, unusually very busy, but eventually we saw one with only one person waiting to be served. So, we headed for it.

This is going somewhere, honest.

Just as we got to the till, two little children (probably about 8 and 10), ran in front of us and stood there, behind the woman waiting. It's okay, I thought, they're with her, probably been looking at sweets or games or whatever. They were slightly blocking the conveyor belt so we couldn't start unloading. But that's okay, we're British after all, we love waiting.

Then, it happened. Another trolley pushed by a woman appeared beside us and tried, slowly, to force it's way in front. Well, that wasn't going to happen was it? I maneuvered the trolley a bit to block her off, but the kids in front were stood in the way so I could only partially obstruct her. These same kids were now looking at this new woman and smiling.

At that point, Mrs Pie turned round to me, she'd sussed what was going on. I was slowly getting there too. These two kids had been sent out in an advance party to sneak in and pilfer our till position.

It came to a head when the woman tried to put a chicken on the conveyor belt, claiming it as hers. Well, Mrs Pie, not known for her shyness, intervened. "Excuse me, what are you doing?" she said. "They saved the place for me," the woman replied. The two kids by now had stopped smiling. Expressions of horror and fear gripped their little faces. They knew something was wrong, knew they'd been used as pawns in some power-mongering, queue-pushing act of anti-politeness.

What did I do, I hear you ask. Well I was trying to think of something to say, some killer, knockout winning line. But, it never came. Six hours later I'd come up with at least three blinders. Maybe if the world had paused at that moment for six hours, I'd have thought of something, but it didn't.

Mrs Pie said something else, something like, "If we'd have known they were saving a place we wouldn't have queued here, would we?" To that the woman replied, "Well if it makes you happy, go on, you have the place."

Well, steam and smoke billowed from Mrs Pie's ears as the other woman walked away. Everyone within a three queue radius was looking at us. The checkout girl was ready to call security, the Police and probably the UN. I eventually thought of something to say. "Just leave it," I said to Mrs Pie, quietly.

My considered and thoughtful attempt the diffuse the situation didn't. The wrath of Mrs Pie found a new home. The look I got could have melted Satan himself.

Anyway, is getting your kids to push in and save places really acceptable queueing behaviour? I think not. Maybe that's what's wrong with this country etc, etc.

Work continues at a fast pace on new book #1, which might be called, "It's different this time."

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Strong Scenes Contest

So, while on holiday it was a nice surprise the receive an email saying I'd made the last four of the Strong Scenes Contest. This came as a welcome shock, especially as its a popular competition with over a hundred entries.

Whether I can blame my failure to win on my holiday, as in not enough time to organise friends authonomy style to vote for it, or whether it was just crap I don't know.

But thanks to the one person who did vote, whoever you are. (No, it wasn't me.)

There's nothing better than going back to work after a two week holiday is there? Nothing quite like the feeling. Your brain's fried within seconds, everyone's nicked your coffee while you've been off and there's a mountain of unsorted papers on your desk.

Anyway, I'm wondering whether to try and rush new book #1 for the Terry Pratchett contest or stick with New book #2. Tough choice. Writing 70,000 words by the xmas deadline for new book #1 would be tricky to say the least, but I might have a stab. It's 573 words a day (ignoring editing.) I like a challenge.

No piccies today I'm afraid, sorry.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Offensive Material

So, all those hours spent writing haven't been wasted. A site called the Flash Fiction Offensive have used one of my short stories. Needless to say, I'm well chuffed.

Called Double Trouble, it's one of those niggly little stories that just comes to you and hacks at your brain until you put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. I've got loads more filed in the To be written part of my brain. At some point, when the niggling becomes to much and I'm stuck on new book#2 I'm sure more will come out. I should probably post some of these short stories or flash fiction here, I'll try to when I get the time. However some folks don't like submissions that have already been posted elsewhere, which you can't really blame them for.

Work still continues on new book #2, which still has no proper name, 30,000 words have now been written. Still no sign of interest for Spies Lies and Pies either.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Dead as a Dodo

Had another rejection yesterday. It was actually another very nice one. Parts of it seemed copied and pasted but one sentence stuck out, again.

Comedy Thrillers are extremely difficult to sell at the moment.

Apart from the question, have they ever been easy to sell, it leaves another question. Why the hell did I spend twenty years writing a book that no one would want to publish? It's like opening a health food shop in Scotland (apologies to the Scots) or holding a beauty contest in Norfolk (apologies to any East Anglians).

What was I thinking?

In the modern world of squeezed finance and safe bets, you probably can't blame publishers for not wanting to take a risk. It doesn't benefit society or advance literature to release hordes of biographies of middle ranking celebs, but it does preserve publishers. After all they're a business, they want to make money. We can only hope they'll take risks again one day. There's going to be a very big backlog/queue when they do.

Re-writing Spies, lies and pies as either a (a) Non-funny Thriller would involve too much work and be, well just another thriller. Similarly (b) writing as just a comedy would need me to somehow become a recognised comedian, and at my age I think I'm past it. Plus, I'm not funny either as East Anglians and regular visitors to this blog are well aware of.

So. What to do? Give up. Write New book 2, which is a thriller with a few funny lines, market it as a thriller and see if I have any better luck.

If that gets rejected?

Smashwords and Lula would seem to be the final answer.

Probably the last pie picture. It's got a cat in it though, so it's not all bad.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Carry On Caravanning

After a weeks holiday in a caravan, a proper bed is welcome. As holidays go, it was good. Maybe too good, the sort of good that really makes you want to go back to work monday morning.

The study of other people is always something that fascinates me. I'm not talking psychology, just the casual observance of other people from different areas when you're in close proximity. Caravanning and camping holidays are certainly good for this, mainly because of the lack of stout walls. Every argument and accent becomes not only good fun to listen too, but also helpful when you're trying to create your own characters.

One geezer in particular was talking fairly loudly, I assumed drink was involved, about his problems. He went on for ages about his ex-wife, his inadequacies and even his therapist. He was using some great buzz words like denial, dysfunctional and synergy. Call me old fashioned, but I had a great urge to tell him to just effin get on with it. Life's not a bunch of roses for all of us all the time, you know. Obviously I didn't, but it gave me a great idea for a short story.

Talking of short stories. I Didn't make the shortlist for the Alibi contest. According to their website hey had hundreds and hundreds of entries, so I don't feel too bad about it. There's two more contests coming up, Waterstones and the Guardian Summer short story comp. Deadlines are soon so I'll have to get cracking on them.

Time for today's picture.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Taster of new book

The first little chunk of "New Book" It still needs a bit of an edit, but this a taster of what it's like. Wrote another 1000 words after yesterdays blog post. I hope to write more later today too.

They came in the middle of night, they always do.
Rob woke to the sound of next door’s dog barking. He should have realised why; it may have given him a few seconds. However, his sleep clouded brain didn’t connect the bark with anything sinister.
A few seconds wouldn’t have helped. Their entry was swift, noisy and at times too smoky. Rob never stood a chance.
Ten seconds after he heard the front door being smashed in, his bedroom door was flung open.
In those ten seconds, Rob had sat up in bed, yawned, scratched his ear and looked at the alarm clock.
The door flying open shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was. He had been more asleep than awake. Rob saw the black-uniformed, faceless men, enter his bedroom, the red laser dots of their assault rifles scanning the room.
There was no time to register the chill as the duvet was pulled off him. There was even less time to register the small shards of metal piercing his skin. But, the taser, that really registered.
An immense pain twisted his body, flung it in the air. He was helpless, couldn’t resist. His arms and legs flailed uncontrollably, the pain bolting through his head and heart unlike anything he’d ever felt. Trying to scream, no words came.
Then, the pain stopped.
Within seconds many hands covered his body, moved him roughly onto his back, twisted his arms around, something was placed over his head.
A bag? Is it a plastic bag? I’m gonna suffocate, can’t breathe, must breathe.
Cable ties cut into his arms and legs as they were forced together. Rob tried to breathe, sucked in air. Relieved he could, he smelt the plastic of the mask, imagined, but could not see, the holes that were letting him breathe in the mouth piece. His breathing and life now belonged to the hands of those tying him. Trust them, he did not.
They made no noise. It was too silent. They were well trained; their voices weren’t, and would never be, heard.
They picked him up; four sets of hands, one at each corner, carried him, tipped him as he went down the stairs. Then, out the front door. The cold winter night bit into him.
One thought in his mind, good job I’m wearing pyjamas.
The only sound, as they stopped carrying him, was a metal door opening. A van or lorry. It had to be a lorry. They always used lorries.
Then, floating.
Floating through the air, his hands and legs tied up and unable to break the fall he knew was coming. Rob knew it’d be a hard floor and braced himself as well as he could.
Landing head first, stars flickered in his eyes over the blackness of the hood before he drifted out of consciousness.

No pictures today. Oh go on then.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Short stories, ebay and re-writes

Queries continue to go out and rejections continue to come back, though at a slower rate. Most appear to be variations of 'it's not something I can get behind with the necessary enthusiasm.' They all appear to be personal though, which is a good thing. I think. I'm seriously thinking of re-writing the start. Most agents want the first three chapters, and due to the layout and short chapters of Spies, lies and pies I reckon I can make it more appealing with a little tinkering. Plus the first three chapters are from three different characters POV. That must go against so many rules (both written and unwritten).

Anyhow, I'm in trouble with both the postman and my other half for buying too many second hand records on ebay. I mean, it's not really my fault. Ebay is too blame. They've made it too easy to buy stuff. Too tempting. Plus, old vinyl can be a real bargain. Of the hours I spend looking on there (maybe that's the reason I'm in trouble) you can guarantee I'll find something I've not got that I've just remembered I've been looking for all my life. As for the postman, well, it is sort of his job but you have to feel for him a bit.

Written quite a few short stories this past week, thanks in part to this little site Short story idea generator
I can't take the credit for finding this, James Killick twittered about it. I'm going to enter a few competitions soon, defintely the Waterstone's one, not sure about the Alibi one. I've partially written a story for it (the Alibi one) but I've become a bit too fond of it, think it may have potential for a full length book.

What's that you say? Pastry picture? Not this week.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Does your query breach the trades description act?

So, the final query below wasn't the final query. I had a bit of help from a friend. Just a bit of help in re-phrasing and urm, well, quite a lot of help actually.

The importance of the query is something I've only just realised. Being new to this game, it's a three steps forward two back, learning curve thing. But, what's the point in perfecting chapter 49 and making sure you haven't spelt penguin wrong in chapter 68 if no one ever reads it?

It's occurred to me, and I'm probably wrong I usually am, that those three paragraphs that make up the query are the most important ones you'll ever write. They're the ones that get the proverbial foot in the door. Make a halfhearted job of it and your manuscript will remain a load of 1's and 0's on a hard drive or be self published and bought by 20 people. This is common knowledge and I'm sure I've read or heard it many times before, but it's just clicked.

within an hour of sending out the new query, an agent asked for the first 50 pages. This is either: a fluke, he was bored/a sadist or the new query has worked a lot better than the old one.

That brings me nicely to the title. If your query is too good, can an agent prosecute you under the trades description act for wasting his/her time when they actually read your manuscript? I'll let you know...

No pie pictures today. Oh, go on then. This is the alternative Sausage Roll Finger cover.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Different query

For the last batch of queries to go out, I thought I'd readdress the query itself. Is it up to much? Is it good enough? etc.

The answer, haven't got a clue. What do I know, this is all new to me as it must be to most of us. I've read what I can, tried many times to write the query and I still don't know.

This, hopefully final, version has less use of the word pie, is shorter and more to the point, but I think still lacks something. It's so hard in just a few short paragraphs to not only give a sense of the book, but also your writing style or voice as some people like to call it.

Am I alone in just wishing all the Agents would reject it straight away so I can get on with writing again? Probably.

Oh yeah, the query. Here it is.

Eczema suffering secret agent Barry Frond hopes his new task for the agency will take his mind off both his ex and his multiple personalities. However, the task (the simple collection of a memory card filled pie) quickly goes wrong leaving Barry on a wild chase through the streets of Basingstoke to find a pie, a man on sick leave who eats pies and a secret society similar to the Masons, known as the Free-Cutters.

After Barry teams up with bad-back suffering Don Spillacy, their quest for answers takes them to the Free-Cutters memorial hall in Cumbria. Will Barry and Don find out the secret? Or is this destined to be a pastry case with no filling?

Complete at 120,000 words, Spies, lies and pies is a comedy spy thriller in the style of Hugh Laurie’s The Gun Seller and Graham Greene’s Our Man From Havana. It is a celebration of the anti-hero British spy who drinks gallons of tea, talks to himself and messes up punch lines. Does he win in the end? Sort of.

If you're wondering where 13,000 words disappeared to. Some were edited, the others were a side story that has been removed for the time being.

Anyway no pie pictures today. Instead, the cover to Sausage roll finger that Bradley Wind did.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

First rejection

Had my first rejection yesterday. The first of many no doubt. Well, a maximum of ten. It was a standard rejection so I have no idea if they read any part of it or not.

One thought has crossed my mind. If you're an agent sitting in your nice chair, eating biscuits and drinking tea and you receive a query letter from someone claiming to have written a pastry themed comedy spy thriller. Do you think a) it's a wind up, b) mental instability is on the increase or c) this is a genuine comedy novel?

My query is as serious as I could make it, but describing a comedy farce of pastry proportions involves the use of comedy. I'm thinking maybe I should add a 'I'm serious about writing but I write about non-serious subjects' type of qualifier. Obviously I'll phrase it better than that.

But, if they don't read it anyway, what does it matter?

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Start

In a break from sending out queries to agents. I started writing another book. This is now the fifth on the go. In my opinion, the start is always the best part.

For one, it's difficult. How do you start? Where do you start? How do you instantly catch the reader and not let them go. The easiest way I've found is action, a joke or an unusual observation. Probaby all cliches but who cares. It works.

Spies lies and pies starts: On a scale of going wrong, this had hit ten.
Apart from being meaningless (no scale is defined) it seems to work. People just assume ten is the top end of the scale and something has gone badly wrong.

Some of my other starts are:

Jeffrey was no normal security guard. Sat on his arse eating a cheese sandwich, you'd be forgiven for thinking he was.

If there was one thing Fred hated it was time wasters. He didn't like cushions either, but timewasters, they were the worse.

Watching the huge nosed jogger run by, Bryn pondered the aerodynamics. He knew someone would be researching this. In time, all sprinters will have snouts like the Eiffel Tower.

These are all different to my chosen start to Spies for one reason. The main character is not named. It's passive. So, should I change it?

No. I think writers and wannabe writers punish themselves too much over little things,we all assume it's one word in the wrong place that stops us getting published. Perhaps it's not. Perhaps it's tens of thousands of books being touted in a declining industry that, because it's a business, wants a guarranteed return on it's money.

So, what was the point of this again? Dunno. If you've written the book you wanted to write and no one wants it should you change it or start again on a new one.

I know what I'll be doing.