Monday, 19 December 2016

Just to mark the date...

...I am submitting Drawn To The Deep End to publishers of interest. Or, if this was Twitter, #AmSubmitting.

I'm trying to do things properly, by which I mean traditionally. I'm also being realistic in acknowledging how hard it is to find not only a publisher but, more importantly, the right publisher. At the same time, I want to see Peter Potter's Deep End world make it into print, so I'm giving myself a deadline of nine months to find that publisher. If nothing promising is happening within that time, I'll bite the bullet and self-publish DTTDE (subtext for any publishers reading this - why not get in first?)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Does an author have a social responsibility?

Long term readers of this blog may know that I have a novel-length manuscript permanently "on the go". It's provisionally entitled Drawn To The Deep End, and tells the tale of a 30-something wage slave who cannot forgive himself for the part he played in his fiancée's suicide three years earlier. His life spirals downwards under a succession of blows, until he ultimately attempts (but is unable) to take his own life.

Now I've workshopped a lot of this story to death, if you'll pardon the pun, and many of my critique group have had an issue with the ending. I've always defended the story by saying that the protagonist has come to view death as redemption, and that was usually that. I put it down to my group-mates not wanting my (anti-) hero to die.

But this week, after an especially full-on but focused session (just three of us - thanks you, KC and DA) another issue was raised. Did I need to think about the message I was putting out there, into the wider world? Okay, it's unlikely that the book, whenever the manuscript becomes a book, will ever be read by that many people. But even if it's only read by one person, was I comfortable with putting out the message that death, and especially suicide, can be redemption? What if one person who's feeling suicidal reads my book, takes that message away, and acts on it? How would I feel?

So, the bigger question: do authors have a social, ethical responsibility for the message, as well as the content, of what they release to the reading world? I'm starting to think they do. And if they do, when does that outrank the story? Could I, with a clear conscience, release my story with it's current ending if I took the Eastenders approach, and put something at the end of the book along the lines of "if you've been affected by the issues in Peter's story, please call this number of visit that website." Is that enough? Or is that a cop-out?

What do you think?

By the way, if you are feeling affected by Peter's story, why not give the Samaritans a call on 116 123 (UK & ROI) or visit them at www.samaritans.org. Thanks.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Higson. Charlie Higson.

Shaken, not stirred. Charlie Higson signs.
I went to see Charlie Higson last week, not in any comedy setting but as an author, talking about the process by which he came to be entrusted by the Fleming estate with the Young Bond novels. The event formed part of the Noirwich Crime Writing festival (the name of which sits somewhere on the punning scale but I can't decide if it's at the 'genius' end or the 'cringe-worthy'). The event coincided with Charlie's donation of archive materials to the host university.

Charlie came across as a thoroughly good bloke, affable, insightful and funny. For people of a certain age in the audience, like me, he even squeezed in a Fast Show catchphrase (though not from one of this characters)... which was nice.

He's a criminally under-rated author in my view, the success of his YA fiction (he writes the zombie-pocalypse series The Enemy too) overshadowing the excellence of his adult fiction. If you don't believe me, take a peak at King of the Ants and Happy Now.

Anyway, I jotted a (very) few notes of the things Charlie had to say; here are those observations.

  • Talking about Bond, Higson described the spy's dream lifestyle, not in terms of the guns/girls/fast cars cliché but by saying (paraphrase alert) he's not married, he doesn't have children, he lives largely in hotels, he eats largely in restaurants and he goes off doing exciting things. Charlie alluded to the appeal of Bond's lifestyle in part relating to not being tied down with a wife and children again later in the evening.
  • Charlie name-checked author Jim Thompson as a favourite, and influence, mentioning The Killer Inside Me and Pop.1280 in particular, suggesting the latter could be his favourite book.
  • When asked about studying how fiction is written in general, and crime fiction in particular, and how the donation of his archive to the university might support that, Charlie joked, "These days you can study anything, can't you?"
  • When discussing the merit of YA fiction, Charlie recounted how Martin Amis, when asked if he (Amis) would ever write YA, had replied, "Only if I had brain damage."
  • Charlie also mentioned Anthony Horowitz, whose Alex Rider books are often understandably considered alongside the Young Bond series. Charlie explained how Horowitz had once confided that he'd named his protagonist Rider after Honeychile Rider in Dr No, and that he considered Alex Rider to be Bond's illegitimate grandson.

Another, more general observation is how much time Charlie made for everyone in the book signing queue. Nobody was rushed, everyone seemed to have as much time as they needed talking with him. Respect also to the guy ahead of me in the queue who had some Higsons 12" vinyl (this, I think) for signing - Charlie duly obliged. Also of interest were the samples of Charlie's work in the foyer that would be going into the archive, including early drafts of the first Young Bond book, Silverfin, complete with extensive editorial notes. Proof, if proof were needed, of the value of a good editor and trusted, objective feedback, something I've blogged a bit about before.

All in all, this was a terrific evening. There was lots more of interest that I didn't note down, but the whole shebang was filmed, so maybe it'll appear online sometime. I'll keep my eyes open and, if it does, I'll post a link here. In the meantime, go and read some of Charlie's fiction, both adult and YA - you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Unbound? Uncharted...

Was just wondering whether anyone who reads this has any experience of Unbound? Seems to be, for books, what PledgeMusic is for albums. Anyone used it, either as an author or as a pledger? (Pledgee, maybe?) If so, how good/bad/indifferent was the experience?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Freebies - this could be the last time

Both Cold and Turn Around Where Possible are free from Amazon from today, for five days. You can get them here.

I don't often blog about free promotions, because it would get a bit repetitive, but I'll make an exception this time, because it's conceivable that this could be the last occasion these will be free. I'm thinking about bundling them, with some other stories, into a new collection of short fiction, and withdrawing the standalone titles. The collection won't be free.

Get 'em while they're hot, is what I'm saying.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

My children need wine!

I self-published my first title, Dark Steps in August 2011. Since then, I have sold some books. Here's a graph to prove it.

You'll note that I have removed the scale from the Y-axis, but essentially this equates to just over 300 sales across five titles. In the same time period, I have given away, completely free, over 9,000 copies through various channels, nearly all Amazon Kindle Select promotions.

Giving books away for free is fine, I guess, and, barring miracles, writing is never going to enable me to give up the day job. That's fine, I accept that. Fortunately, that's not why I write. But, you know, <plug class="shameless">if you wanted to buy a book sometime, well, that would be fine too...</plug>

Footnote: wondering where the title of this post comes from? Wonder no more. And yes, Euro Itchy & Scratchy Land is a perfect metaphor for sales of my books.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Attention, creative writing class-mates...

Because lots of you will have sat in creative writing classes, and some of you will have taught them too...

A Letter to My Creative-Writing Class

Friday, 5 February 2016

Something new

Whilst I let the first edit of the novel-length work "rest" for a while, I've started something new. A short story, no less (and certainly no more). At present, it begins thus:

I've never lost a coin toss. I know how that sounds. But if I'm going to record this at all, I'd better be completely honest from the outset, and qualify that: I've never lost a coin toss by chance.
     There was that one time you see. I was captain of the school second eleven football team. Nine games into the season we were unbeaten, and I'd naturally won all nine coin tosses. Before our tenth match Mr Smith, the reluctant geography teacher whose sole purpose as our coach was to ferry us around the county in the lesser of the school's two minibuses, concluded his usual pre-match pep talk ("Go and win boys!") with a question: did I know what the odds were of winning nine coin tosses in a row? His Irish accent softened the question, and his mouth was smiling, but his eyes weren't.
     "No sir," I replied.
     "One in five hundred and twelve," he said. "Long odds, that."
     I don't think I said much in return, possibly I tried to laugh about it as I ran on to the pitch to catch up with my team-mates. And of course I lost that day's toss, just - it was surprisingly hard to remember, counter-intuitive even, to nudge heads but call tails. As I trudged back out of the centre circle, I risked a glance at Mr Smith - he was staring directly at me, and no part of his face was smiling.

I'm three and a half thousand words in now, and the story has bitten me. It has traction, I think (hope). What do you think?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Not definite yet, just at the idea stage, but...

...if I curated a collection of short fiction, would you submit?

Let's be clear from the outset, it wouldn't make you money. And I'd be editing the collection, so submission is no guarantee of inclusion. But it would be published, at least as an ebook on Amazon and, possibly, also as a physical paperback with an ISBN that could be ordered/purchased anywhere.

Not totally committed to the idea yet, but if I put out the call for original short fiction, could you answer? Would you answer?

Monday, 18 January 2016

Whoop-de-doo, tarantula town

 Whoop-dee-do, employees. Everyone who's found true love may leave early today.

So, hooray for me, I finally finished the first draft of my novel-length work. Note how I still can't call it my novel. It's a manuscript, until it's published, and it just happens to be novel length (just - only 78k words). But anyway, whatever you want to call it, the first draft is finally finished. This ought to be cause for some celebration. After all, I've been working on the damn thing, off and on (increasingly off, decreasingly on) since June 2010. And don't get me wrong, I did celebrate a little, in my own way. I didn't punch the air, or crack open a bottle of anything, but I did have a quiet moment and a wry smile. Success! And yes, I am fully aware of how much work there still is to do, with editing and rewrites, filling logic and plot holes, all that good stuff. But success all the same.

So why the ironic post title? And why the "sad man" image, above? (Both explained by watching this.) It's this. My fictional (anti-)hero and I, well, we've been hanging out together, on paper and in my head, for five and a half years. I know him better than I know most of my work colleagues. He feels like a friend, albeit a messed-up friend with a whole host of problems. And since there won't be a sequel, that's it - that's his story told.

I won't be so crass as to say I'm in mourning, but I do feel some small sense of loss. I'm not writing the novel(-length work) any more. The fun part is over, and that huge emotional and intellectual investment, paid out over years, is suddenly gone. And I'm feeling it. Anyone else have the same problem?

I guess the obvious way to fill the void is to start on the next project but I can't, not whole-heartedly, until all the edits and re-writes of this one are done. In the meantime ... is there a "seven stages of grief for writers" out there, somewhere?

Friday, 15 January 2016

Learn from the greats ...

The writer Stephen King. Photograph: Steve Schofield (commissioned by The Guardian)... or, since I am editing and have nothing new or finished to blog about, let me instead direct you to a recent(ish) article from The Guardian entitled Ten things I learned about writing from Stephen King. To me, "thing" seven is the crunch.

Still here? Go on, scat!