Friday 25 July 2014

The Good Things in Life

A picture says a thousand words.

You've only got to go to the |National Gallery and look at The Fighting Temeraire to see how true that is. So I thought as I have a book launch coming up a little bit of promo, coupled with some photos of other "good things" would be interesting. A bit like passing the holiday snaps around, I suppose!

So let's start with the cover of the second in The Temporal

Detective Agency stories, called Trouble With Swords. It's published on 8th August and will be available as an eBook and a paperback on both Amazon and from most good book shops.

While I'm at it, the first in the series, Leap of Faith, is still selling and very much available, so although you can still go straight into the second book, it would be great to read Leap of Faith first!

Okay, so that's the selling bit over,,,, except for the odd hint!

I mentioned the Fighting Temeraire. If I'm in London by myself and have an hour or two I almost always nip along to have a lokk at Turner's great painting. I was surprised to see that James Bond and the new Q did exactly the same in "Skyfall".

Let's look at The Gower, a 25 mile long by 2 mile wide peninsular in South Wales. I lived there for many years and love the unspoiled remoteness, beautiful beaches and cliffs. It was the main location for Leap of Faith.
When I was a teenager my cousins and I mapped every inch of Gower and gave each cave, nook, beach, valley and inlet a name.

Some of the rock shapes and caves are really strange and still have a fascination even now. The one on the left was christened The Asimptote for some reason while the one on the right is a walled up cave called Culver Hole, which in Leap of Faith features as a smugglers hiding place. 

I still go back twice a year if I can and for some years took my Cocker Spaniel, Benji, along. We walked miles every day no matter what the weather. He's a bit old for long walkies now, but I still walk him every day, even though he's 80% blind and almost totally deaf. We may not go far, and it's pretty slow, but he wags his tail and he's still my boy.

I love holidaying, whether it's ski-ing in Europe and Canada, slobbing out by the pool, or trekking in foreign countries such as Peru.
Canada is very special. For one thing they speak English! It also tends to be well below zero all day long so the snow never melts and remains lovely powder. Europe can get slushy.

I went to Peru about 10 years ago and saw most of the country which is spectacular, from Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately I didn't get to see the Naztec Lines. I was also  surprised to find that it never rains in Lima. It gets misty occasionally but it NEVER rains.

I also loved Petra, the Lost Rose City. The place is stunning, especially the entrance through a narrow canyon that opens up into the area with The Treasury, which featured in Indian Jones and the Holy Grail.

Amazingly most of Petra is in an enclosed plain that is strewn with broken pottery. There's so much that no one bothers to pick it up even though it's more than 2,000 years old.

Friday 18 July 2014


Hmmm.... now there's a question!

Actually it's lots of questions with even more answers and some of the questions don't even have answers. I even suspect that some of the answers don't even have questions... which causes the odd problem and calls for a glass of something, while I ponder.


The first question has to be... what do you want to write? Is ti going to be:-

 1. A good book
 2. A book that the intelligentsia will buy
 3. A book that agents and publishers will fall over themselves to take on
 4. A book that will fly off the Amazon "shelves"
 5. A book that Waterstones will take on and promote
 6. A book that independent bookshops will want to sell
 7. A book that the average punter will want to buy
 8. A book you just want to see in print to prove you can do it.

Blimey! But let's face it... the answer is probably all of them. So where to start?

Well, actually a clean sheet of paper is NOT a good starting point, because it'll probably remain blank, and "It was a dark and stormy night" has already been done to death. Though I may start one of my Camelot detective stories with "He was a dark and stormy Knight"! That's book four taken care of!

Some authors keep a note pad with them at all times and jot down one-liner experiences / scenes / views / conversations / character traits based on their interaction with people, on the basis that ANYTHING can be used in a novel eventually. In theory, of course, they're right, and in a book the length of War & Peace (500,000 words and we get criticised for doing 100,000!) you can cram virtually anything in and it'll get lost in the mishmash. Let's face it, no one's ever finished War & Peace except probably Tolstoy.

Others think of a great ending and work backwards.... a bit like Japanese writing! A fantastic conclusion is a must, of course, if only to make sure the reader wants to grab your next book.

Once an author has a series, things become easier. Terry Pratchett once said to me (name dropper!) that he now has over 200 characters in his Discworld series and that he is continually adding to a biography on each of them. The best known character biogs are the length of a book in their own right. Terry's point was that his characters are so well developed and defined that for a new book, he thinks of a scenario (a bank robbery, for instance), then decides which main characters will appear in it. After that the book tends to write itself, because all the characters know what to do. So easy!

An agent friend of mine once gave me the best piece of advice ever. She told me that too many author love the sound of their own writing. They ramble and witter on, adoring every keystroke, digressing into areas way outside the intended storyline and totally losing their reader in the process.... that's supposing they ever got and agent, let alone a publisher. She told my to put GOWTS on a piece of paper and stick it above my keyboard. It stood for Get On With The Story and if Tolstoy had remembered GOWTS, War & Peace would have been a fifth of the length!

Okay, so how to write a book:-
- If it's your first book then set aside a couple of years before adding another year for editing, rereading, changing everything etc.

- Don't even think about getting an agent yet, because they're only interested in a final version, fully edited and pretty well ready for submission to a publisher. They're all parasites living off the hard work of us geniuses, except of course for the ones reading this who are all wonderful people, full of good sense, charity and a helping hand. Just keep writing.

- Know your genre. Understand who you're writing for and what they like to read. It also helps if you actually like the same genre. Keep the same style throughout the book, so if you're writing a murder mystery, don't suddenly turn it into a comic fantasy because it seems a good idea. You'll loose your reader.... that's if you ever finish the book, because even you won't know where it's going!

- Many editors and agents tell authors not to use, or to take out adverbs and adjectives. It's a pretty harsh rule, but it has some sense. The action, the narrative and the dialogue should mean an adverb is unnecessary, otherwise it probably means the dialogue and action aren't strong enough and need to be amplified. Adjectives? Well, I have an open mind there, and besides some of my best friends are adjectives!

- Don't try to write another Harry Potter, Discworld, or copy a successful Chiclit book. Be yourself; be unique; be the first "you" rather than the new J K Rowling.

- A lot is written about environment. Many people say you should set aside the same period of time every day, in the same location for writing and allow no interruptions. That may work for some, but personally I'll write when I can and when the family allows. If I have an idea I just have to make a mental note, then I'll find the time and the place to complete it, but there may be several days when I don't write. Someone (I can't remember who, so it was probably me!) said there's no such thing as a writer's block, it's either laziness, or the wrong book you're writing! With me, I'm sure it's the right book!

- I have to admit I sit in the study on a comfy sofa with the laptop on my lap (hence the name). Initially it's very comfortable, but the recipe for disaster and the forerunner to physiotherapy for neck and shoulder pains.

- Right now the sky is blue, the temperature is around 27 degrees and looking out of the window, the patio is beckoning, so one of my last hints is that you should always keep your laptop battery fully charged.... then you indulge two passions at the same time.

A final couple of comments.

Writing a book isn't hard, but it is incredibly difficult. Writing a good book is even tougher, but you'll know it when you've done it. The feeling is one of sheer bliss... or so I'm told!

Blog on, Dudes!

Trouble with Swords, the next in the Temporal Detective Agency series is being released by Crooked Cat on 8th August. Meanwhile Leap of Faith is available on Amazon and at most good bookshops,