Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A Writer's Perspective on Editing

Darren Shan is a deservedly successful writer of horror fiction for younger readers and his blog always has interesting and useful insights into the writer's routine. A recent article about his editing process is worth a look.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Resources for Writers: How Publishing Really Works

Want to know what happens in the publishing industry? Check out Jane Smith's informative and very objective blog How Publishing Really Works. Not enough books and courses cover the technical aspects of what really happens behind the scenes once your ms has disappeared into the mailbox but this site has a wealth of information, written by someone who's been a researcher, editor and writer so can speak with some authority on the subject - and does so objectively and with a healthy degree of reality checking.
Some of the most recent recent posts have delved into the complexities of self-publishing (as a result of the recent YWO offer) and include analysis of how pricing of self-published novels works, an insight into how Waterstones deal with self-published and POD books as well as touching on marketing and promotion.
It doesn't always make for pleasant reading - but, then again, if you're talking about the realities of publishing then that's hardly a surprise.
If you've got the champagne on ice while waiting for the advance that you know your ms deserves to drop through the letterbox you could do a lot worse than read this blog and have your eyes opened. At least then when the form rejection arrives, you'll know why you got it.
Well worth checking out - and the links are good too!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Fantasy - now there's a thing

I just noticed that on my most recent "What I'm reading" list there were two fantasy novels. Not strange in itself but I'd given up on fantasy about 20 years ago, finding that - with very few exceptions - most of what was out there was derivative and predictable. I know I'm probably generalising to some (a large) extent but after devouring tome after tome in my teens and early twenties I suddenly became very dissatisfied with what I was reading and moved on to other things.
Over the years since, I'd dip into the genre occasionally but, with the notable exception of Stephen Donaldson, never got more than my toes wet...until recently.

On the recommendation of a friend whose opinion I respect, I began to read Steven Erikson and became totally immersed in his uncompromising, huge-in-scope-but-not-forgetting-the-characters Malazan Book of the Fallen series. His refusal to pander to the reader and explain everything as he went along but preferring to drop the him in the middle of the story and letting him swim for himself made a refreshing change. The stories are richly textured, well written and I have at least six more massive volumes to go. Yippeee!
The other fantasy novel I've just finished is the Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert Redick. I was intrigued by the book's setting - a gigantic ship - more than anything else and when I spotted a copy in my local library, I picked it up more in hope than expectation. Despite some predictable elements, the setting and pace of the novel kept me engaged all the way through to the (inevitable) "continued in Part 2" bit.
Maybe all is not yet lost in the fantasy world.

Trailers. Woot!

Geekness abounds. Not only do we get a new Watchmen trailer - with some effective use of Philip Glass music but the trailer for the new Star Trek movie is online too. As a Trek fan since the original series (first seen in glorious in black and white on RTE) I was unconvinced by the " how they all met" concept of the new movie; I just didn't think it'd work. Attaching JJ Abrams to the project made me think it might just work after all and now the trailer gives more grounds for optimism - and isn't Heroes Zachary Quinto scarily like Leonard Nimoy (who I believe will make a cameo in the movie).

Roll on 2009.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

A View From the Inside

Eoin Purcell's blog is never less than interesting but his latest entry gives some useful insight into what aspiring authors should be looking at when submitting to publishers. Some good points - although the one about the picture is a bit surprising!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Resources for Writers: Absolute Write

The Absolute Write Water Cooler is a huge moderated forum that covers all aspects of writing. Of particular interest is the Bewares and Background Check section. Here members can ask about agents and publishers and get feedback from other forum members on their experiences with them (good and bad). This feedback is generally open and honest and reflects the real world position. If you need information on a specific agency - or agents within an agency - here's the place to come.
In addition, most of the big scam agencies are identified so newbies can find out who to avoid when sending out submissions.
As a US site there is an understandably US bias to most of the entries but most of the big UK agencies/publishers are covered as well.

Highly recommended for those starting out on the submissions trail.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Resources for Writers: YouWriteOn

One of the things I missed when I started writing was objective feedback. As I worked full time and any writers' groups I knew of met during the day, any opinion on what I was doing and whether it had any worth was difficult to come by.

I was muchly relieved therefore to discover the online writers group YouWriteOn a few years back. Set up by Edward Smith - with some Arts Council funding - to help budding writers, YWO not only provided feedback but the top-rated titles each month were then passed on to industry professionals (editors, writers etc) for a more comprehensive critique.

The process was simple, you reviewed other writers work (which was assigned to you by the system so as to avoid any favouritism). Each review you provided gave you a credit which you could then assign to your own work thus making it available for critique also. Work was assessed in eight categories, each with a rating of 1 to 5. A daily chart showed the top-ranking titles and these were sent to a number of industry professionals each month and made available to a number of agents that were affiliated to the site.

As with all sites of this nature, some of the reviews tended to be perfunctory or lacking in objective or valuable content but, for the most part, most of the reviews identified what was good and bad about the work under review and presented comprehensive feedback - which was invaluable from my perspective as I had nothing else to go on when I joined the site.

As a result of my association with the site I not only received a positive critique from Michael Legat (a publishing industry eminence grise) but ended up having The Third Pig Detective Agency placed third in the site's 2007 Children's Book of the Year.
Looking back, the critiques I received helped me make my opening chapters so much better but, more importantly, the exposure I received from being on the site opened industry doors that wouldn't have been possible had I had to do it on my own.

Other writers from the site have made breakthroughs also, most notably Doug Jackson whose historical novel Caligula was acquired by Transworld and published earlier this year.

YWO has recently branched into POD in association with Legend Press and are offering to print 5,000 writers free of charge. Understandably this has provoked quite a reaction in the industry (both positive and negative) and it will be interesting to see the outcome of this particluar project and its impact on YWO as a whole.

In terms of what it offers to any budding writer, I'd recommend YWO wholeheartedly as it provides a resource for objective feedback that might not be otherwise available as well as fostering a strong writer's community.

Check it out.

Friday, 26 September 2008

The End

One of the great pleasures of being a writer (whether amateur, professional, unpublished or whatever) is being able to write The End when your story is finally complete. It may only be a first draft, will probably require rewrites and edits but the first part of the journey is finished.

I've just written The End on part 3 of my werewolf trilogy and it feels great. I've wrestled with the last fifty or so pages for weeks, trying to get them right and I finally managed it earlier this afternooon.

Am I chuffed with myself? You can sing it. The whole thing runs to about 150k words but that last 5,000 was tough. I knew what I wanted to say, I just couldn't get it right for days on end.

Even though I know I'll have to go through the whole process again sometime in the future when I start the rewrite, it still can't detract from the feeling of satisfaction that those two words give.
Methinks a celebratory meal and drink is in order later.

Go me!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

If Kids made the Reading Rules

As part of the Children's Books Festival 2008, Children's Books Ireland got together with Trim Library Book Club to design a poster outlining what would happen if kids made the reading rules. The result is a funny, accurate and very pertinent set of guidelines including advice for parents: If we are reading don't stop us for bed and publishers: Encourage new writers and Don't give away the entire story with the blurb.

I particularly liked the advice for writers, below:

Monday, 22 September 2008

Not Letting the Grass Grow

As I've discovered, there's lots (and lots and lots) of waiting in the publishing game, especially for a newbie like me. So rather than sit and wait (and wait and wait), I figured that the best thing to do was to write another book - or books as it turned out.
As I've been a huge fan of horror since I was a wee lad (a love I seem to have inherited from my mother), I thought I'd do something completely different from The Third Pig and have a lash at a horror story.
Some 120,000 or so words later I'm just wrapping up the last chapter of a trilogy about werewolves. Although vampires always seemed to be the most popular choice when it came to horror fiction, I've always loved a good werewolf story and always wanted to write my own.
Now its more or less complete apart from rewrites of the latter parts, and Vol 1 is currently being considered by an agent so it'll be interesting to see what happens with it (if anything).
So when's the next full moon then?

Friday, 19 September 2008

It's Like Waiting for a Bus

...nothing happens for weeks on end and then suddenly there's a rush of activity.

Blurbing Away: Firstly I had to come up with a blurb for TPDA. How do you compress a plot into a few hundred words, keep it in the style of the book and still give nothing away? It was an interesting exercise. I decided not to go with the standard blurb format but do it as a telephone conversation between Harry and a potential client (one Mrs. B. Peep). The publisher seemed to like the draft and only made a few minor amendments - and added one good gag I wish I'd thought of!
Hopefully it will grace the back cover of the book.

The Deal's the Thing: Hot on its heels came some talk about a deal for two more Harry Pigg novels - which took me a bit by surprise (ok, it took me a lot by surprise but I'm trying to play it cool here). I'm quite excited by this but, until I get something definite, am still grounding myself in reality.
More on this late breaking develoment as we get it.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Music to Write To 1

Actually it's music to write to, to drive to, to eat to, to anything to. A stunningly beautiful piece of music from a truly outstanding band. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Glosoli by Sigur Ros. Sure, they're not immediately accessible but this is a grower...listen with open ears. And the video is a cut above the average too!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Black Boxes

Caroline Smailes (who is a wonderfully talented writer you should all read) has come up with an interesting idea to publicise her book Black Boxes.

It's simplicity itself:

  • Click on the widget (thingy on the right)
  • Make some decisions
  • Add one of your own
  • See where you end up
  • Feel free to comment on the blog you ended up at
Be warned, it's very addictive and elevates displacement to an art form.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Copy That, Red Leader

One copy edit later and I'm amazed that, after all my rewrites and re-readings, there were still lots of little things that were spotted and that required amending. Most of them were the previously mentioned Americanisms (making sure they were consistent) but there were others that, when pointed out, caused a "how did I miss that" moment, including:

- having one character in two different places at the same time. Fortunately he was a bit-player and didn't object too much when he was written out of one scene,

- a paragraph that, no matter how many times it was read, made absolutely no sense whatsoever; although I'm sure it made perfect sense when I wrote it.

Now they've all been tidied up and the ms is back with the publisher.

Next steps are tyesetting and finalising the cover. Ooh I've gone all tingly with anticipation.

Friday, 29 August 2008

A Copy Edit a Day

The path to publication seems to involve a lot of waiting (and waiting and waiting and...). Finally this week the copy-edit of the Third Pig Detective Agency began in earnest. As I'm still a novice at this game I was wondering exactly what it would involve but, as it turned out, it was a painless affair.
Apart from consistency checks - particularly in relation to Americanisms (no hard-boiled noir pastiche can be considered complete without them) - and a few suggested minor changes, there wasn't much to it really. A few phone calls and it was all over - a bit like a chat-line service really.
The revised doc will be back at the publishers early next week and will then be sent back to me to check and confirm the changes. Once that happens it goes to the proofs stage.
At last things are moving!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Fiction is Stranger Than Truth

World War Z by Max Brooks (son of Mel) is a compelling, horrifying account of how humanity is almost wiped out by a zombie plague. The story unfolds as a series of newspaper-style reports and interviews with the survivors. Starting with the doctor who discovers the original outbreak in China, the narrator crosses the world talking to soldiers, politicians, black-marketeers and others who played their part in the war. The result is an unusually well-written horror story, made all the more believable by the non-fiction structure of the narration.
Clearly fiction, I was more than a little surprised (but highly amused) when, browsing in one of my local bookstores, I found it prouddly displayed in the non-fiction section under History.
Then again, maybe there was a zombie outbreak and I missed it.
Did I?

Monday, 11 August 2008

Funny Ha Ha - Part 2

...because there were some I'd forgotten (mea maxima culpa).

JA Konrath - US crime writer in the Evanovich mode. Criminally underappreciated this side of the Atlantic (pun not intended)
Christopher Brookmyre - his glossary at the end of A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil is worth the price of admission alone...and you can read it here.
Tom Sharpe - when he was on form there was no-one better.
Ross O'Carroll-Kelly - diary of an egotistical south-Dublin, upper-class moron obsessed with girls and rugby. Hugely successful in Ireland (and uncannily accurate) it deserves exposure elsewhere.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Blurbish Stuff

Now they've added a blurb to my entry on the HC web-site. It goes something like...this:

"Harry Pigg, the only surviving brother from the Big Bad Wolf attacks, has set up business as a private detective in Grimmtown, only things aren't going too well. Down on his luck, with bills to pay and no clients in sight the outlook is poor. But then in walks local businessman Aladdin who needs someone to help him track down an old lamp.

What follows is a case of nursery rhyme-noir. Funny, thrilling and always entertaining, Harry Pigg is an old breed of hero for a new generation. It's as if Humphrey Bogart or James Cagney had walked into the middle of a bedtime story.

Although written for older children, Harry Pigg will appeal to grown ups as well with plenty of in-jokes for all ages."

Still no cover though!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Who Watches the Watchmen

I know that trailers can be most deceiving and that Alan Moore hasn't been particularly well served by movie adaptations of his work (yes I'm looking at you LXG!) but the preview of one of my all-time favourite works, Watchmen, looks promising. If nothing else, Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead remake and 300) seems to have captured the look of the graphic novel at any rate. I remain hopeful.

Check out the trailer here

Incidentally I notice that the credits say "based on the graphic novel illustrated by Dave Gibbons". No mention of Alan M anywhere - but I believe that's at his request.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Funny Ha Ha

There's nothing I like more than a good laugh - ok, there are lots of things I like more but, for the purposes of this article, let's say that laughter is it. It seems that it's easy to make people laugh on the big screen (Airplane, Some Like It Hot, Blazing Saddles) or on TV (Fawlty Towers, Frasier, Fr. Ted) but infintely more difficult to do so on paper. Sure there are writers who raise a wry smile or provide an "ooh that's clever" moment but it's much more difficult to provide that laugh out loud response - you know, the one that makes heads swivel towards you and wonder who let the loon out of his straitjacket as you read on the plane.
Of course humour is, by definition, subjective and what makes me laugh may not remotely entertain you (especially if you're a fan of Keeping Up Appearances or Harry Hill) but there are a few writers that have consistently given me that laugh out loud moment. I'll post about them in more detail over the coming weeks but, if anyone is interested, here's a list of the winners - in no particular order.

Janet Evanovich - her Stephanie Plum series is consistently funny with a raft of unforgettable suppporting characters,
P.G. Wodehouse - how to make British upper-class twits both funny and accessible,
Toby Frost - a writer I've just discovered. Space Captain Smith hits all the big SF targets but doesn't forget about both plot and amusing the reader.
Bill Bryson - how to make an ostensibly ordinary story about growing up in small-town America ridiculously funny,
Douglas Adams - yes, I know that the later books became more plot driven and less humourous but I still love the "early, funny ones",
John Connolly - yes, that John Connolly, creator of Charlie Parker and writer of dark detective fiction. The books certainly aren't funny but some of the dialogue beween Angel and Louis is hilarious
Terry Pratchett - 'nuff said. When he's on form, he's unbeatable.
Simon Haynes - I've just started his Hal Spacejock series and already the auspices are very good indeed.
Roddy Doyle - Dublin humour at its best.
Jasper Fforde - his Thursday Next novels are works of genius.

More to follow....

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Now There's Something You Don't See Every Day

Looks like I've finally made the big time (sort of) - and I'm on Amazon too. Now all I need is a cover!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

No Thanks, I'm Just Looking.

One of the true joys of visiting a bookshop is the pleasure of being able to browse, particularly if you're not looking for something specific. Your eyes meander along the shelves, pick out something interesting and before you know it, you've parted with your hard earned cash and added another book to your collection.

Browsing is not a feature that you associate with online stores. Unless you have a specific purchase in mind, looking for something new or different can mean scrolling through lists of books displayed ten at a time until you run out of patience. This is particularly true of "Coming Soon" sections. I like to know what's in the pipeline over the next few months even if I don't have a specific author in mind but quickly tire of these lists.

Now there's Zoomii. This web sites displays books by category as a series of images on a bookshelf. If you see something you like, select it and up pop its details along with a link to Amazon. Want to see what's coming soon, they're all there on the shelves for your perusal.

It's the closest the web has come yet to replicating the browsing experience online. It was founded by Canadian Chris Thiessen who wanted "to bring online as much of the bookstore experience as possible".

I like it a lot. The only drawback from my perspective is that it links to Amazon. Much as I like Amazon, it charges for shipping to Ireland whereas other stores ship for free so I tend to use them a lot more (like The Book Depository who ship free worldwide and just seem that bit more personalised and friendly)

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

It's a Date!

Following on much confusion as a result of The Friday Project's death and subsequent Lazarus-like resurrection when they were taken over by HarperCollins, I was eventually told that The Third Pig Detective Agency would be one of the books taken on by the new (old) company. Woohoo!

Much relief all around as it was a period of uncertainty, wondering if TPDA would be consigned to the also-rans heap.

I've been given a provisional publication date of March 2nd, 2009 and, hopefully, this won't change. Once I have confirmation that the cover has been finalised, I'll put it up here for your delight and delectation.

More news as I get it...

Friday, 22 February 2008

Allow Me To Recommend #1: The Suicide Shop

Gallic Books are a publisher who print English-language editions of the very best in French fiction.

Ah, I hear you say, this must mean very arty, pretentious works full of young french students smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee while discussing Rimbaud (no, not the Sylvester Stallone character) and watching the Seine flow by.

Actually, no. The current catalogue includes murder mysteries, historical thrillers and this...

For generations, the Tuvache family have run The Suicide Shop, offering their customers a variety of ways to end it all. The family themselves are suitably miserable, humourless and proud of the service they provide until the arrival of their third son, Alan. Happy, effervescent and with a boundless love of life, he threatens to destroy everything that they hold dear - and is certainly not good for business.

How the Tuvache family cope with this threat to the family business and how Alan himself impacts all around him result in an hilarious black comedy full of surprises with an ending that both surprises and shocks.

Coming in at about 150 pages, The Suicide Shop is a remarkably entertaining short read and is well worth checking out when it's published in July.

If this is the standard of books Gallic Press are publishing, I will certainly be checking out more of their catalogue in the near future.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

You're Not The Only One

The wonderful people over at peach blog are putting together a book for Warchild written by bloggers.
They are currently seeking submissions and deadline is Feb 28th.
As they so eloquently put it:
We would like you to submit (to us at bloggersforcharity@yahoo.co.uk) a written piece about something you've been through from any aspect of your life that you want to share. It can literally be about anything: your relationships, your past, a road not taken, being a parent, an illness or your regrets etc. We've called it "You're Not The Only One" to reflect the camaraderie of blogging.
Why not check it out; you never know you might see your words in print!

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Shameless Plug Department 1

A friend of mine, Guy Saville, is writing a thriller called The Africa Reich and it's going to be mega. It's an alternate-history novel set...ah, let Guy describe it; he's so much better at it than me.

" Africa, 1952.

The swastika flies from the Sahara to the Indian Ocean. Britain and a victorious Nazi Germany have divided the continent. The SS has crushed the native populations and forced them into labour. Gleaming autobahns bisect the jungle. For almost a decade an uneasy peace has ensued.

Now, however, the plans of Walter Hochburg, messianic racist and architect of Nazi Africa, threaten Britain’s ailing colonies.

Sent to curb his ambitions is Burton Cole: a one-time assassin torn between the woman he loves and settling an old score with Hochburg. If he fails unimaginable horrors will be unleashed on the continent. No one – black or white – will be spared.

But when his mission turns to disaster, Burton must flee for his life.

It is a flight that will take him from the unholy ground of Congo to the slave camps of Rhodesia to war-torn Angola – and finally a conspiracy that leads to the dark heart of the Africa Reich itself."

Now's your opportunity to get in on the ground floor and say to all your friends "I knew 'im before he was famous." Go to his web-site The Africa Reich and subscribe using the link provided. You'll be kept abreast of developments as they happen. In the words of Del-boy, "You know it makes sense"

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Eddie and the Death Star Canteen

Just as I was about to sign out, I caught this. It's been a long time since I've laughed so much. Eddie Izzard, Star Wars and Lego - a perfect match!


And So It Begins

Ever heard of The Friday Project? Nope? Well, they're the publishers who've agreed to publish my book The Third Pig Detective Agency later this year.
It tells of the amazing adventures of Harry Pigg, detective, giant ego and adventurer extraordinaire as he struggles to solve cases on the mean streets of Grimmtown.
Look, he even has his own blog!

Hopefully I'll be able to keep you posted on my adventures in publishing (hey, it's all new to me too) as well as talking about anything else I find interesting, humourous or whatever.

Hope you'll join me.