Thursday, 4 May 2017

On Submission

The editing and rewrites have all come to an end annnnnnddddd my agent has sent the manuscript out on submission.

Phew! So, what now I hear you ask? Waiting...mostly waiting...and hoping...and trying not to check my email every now and again...knowing that realistically very, very few books ever get picked up and published, but also that hoping bit is back again...

I'm finding this wait a little different to my short story submissions. Partly because there is a much larger chunk of time, effort and imagination invested, and partly because if this novel does get picked up then I'll have books in shops and libraries - something younger me had dreamed about ever since I first set foot in my local library. I frequently left that hallowed hall with shaking arms holding ten books at a time, and I would be delighted to find my own writing fuelling other people's imaginations in the same way.

I suppose we will just have to wait and see, and hope.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

John Constantine LEGO

So my latest dabble with LEGO has been building a John Constantine minifigure, bottle of booze in hand, ready to glass the sodding demon in the eye. From Hellblazer thanks for asking, not the Keanu Reeves movie, you vile heretic! (Actually, it was an OK film)

Now if only the TV series had taken off and been allowed to go darker. *sigh*. I thought Matt Ryan was pretty good.

So here it is, with a little help from the Dr Strange set:

"I'm the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I've got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I'll drive your demons away. I'll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they're down and then I'll be gone back into darkness, leaving only a nod and a wink and a wisecrack."

Hellblazer was bloody brilliant!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Ancient Sites

It's hardly a secret that I'm a huge fan of archaeology and history, as anybody who has ever glanced at my Twitter feed will notice. Whenever I have a few days off I like to visit museums, stone circles and standing stones, castles, hill forts and the like. Anything ancient I find utterly fascinating.

Last weekend I took the ferry over to the island of Arran and explored some of the wonderful sites. Amongst the many well-preserved monuments I enjoyed two the most. We walked up the forested hill to view the Glenashdale Falls, and then visited the Giant's Graves on the way back down.

These are actually neolithic chambered tombs that were once mounds. All the earth and turf scoured away by the elements, and heaped stones taken away for building materials. The stone bones of the tomb have been left exposed to the air. The passage you can see in the bottom picture is the entrance passage to the heart of the mound, and the burial cyst.

We also revisited the Machrie Moor stone circles, standing in eerie silence on moorland with sweeping views all around.

Whenever I visit ancient sites I can't help but imagine how they were used by our ancestors and what their rituals were like. What human hands touched these stones so very long ago...

Food for thought.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Editing Editing Editing

I've been busy the last few weeks. Really busy. Neck deep in edits on my novel actually.

My fine agent Amanda Rutter at Red Sofa Literary sent me back my edits and as I readied myself to open the files I knew damn well what was coming. Still, it hit me like a well-aimed half brick to the face to behold a sea of comments, corrections, suggestions and advice. Where do you even start? For me, it was a little paralysing at first, but then I got to work on the quick and easy changes: typos and word choices, clunky bits of prose, clarifications and eliminating confusions. Gradually that mass of edits was whittled down to manageable chunks I could wrap my head around.

Who ever said that writing a novel was the hard part? Re-writing and editing are far trickier, and yet also as - if not more - satisfying. It feels good to trim away the fat and build up the muscle, making my novel a leaner, fiercer, and more emotional beast.

The end is in sight!

And when it gets picked up by a publisher I get to go through the editing process all over again. Yay?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A Writer's Thick Skin

As my novel is currently undergoing edits with my agent *waits with both trepidation and eagerness* it’s got me thinking about the process of critique and editing of my work by other people.

It’s always a slightly daunting prospect to submit a new piece of writing for the first time, especially if you are asking people to pull it to bits and hold each morsel up to the light to be thoroughly examined. Still, that’s one of the best ways to improve your writing, and when all the dust has settled you will be left with a much-improved piece of writing. But you do need to develop a thicker skin. It may be your darling mind-baby but it’s not personal critique, it’s professional.  The harshest critic is likely be your finest friend when it comes to writing.

There’s an important word – Professional. More on that later.

When I joined the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers’ Circle back in 2010 (Has it really been so long??) I poked my poor little prose head right into the word-lion’s den and asked it to bite down hard. I sat in on one critique session to see what it was like and then went along next time to add my feeble and probably not very helpful comments into the mix. Then, since there was a gap in the story schedule, I gingerly put my own short story up for people to read and critique. I thought the piece was OK, not great but not terrible. Oh how wrong I was! To put it bluntly, it was (nicely and constructively) ripped to pieces on every level: plot, character, science behind it, prose and punctuation... It hurt, but they were totally right. Looking back I’m like, ‘Urgh, what was I doing?’ (Hurrah for proof of my own improvement as a writer!) But the point is, I took that all on board and came back for more. It helped me just as much, if not more, to read other people’s stories and apply that same criticism to their works. Gradually I learned and improved my craft of writing.

Gradually, there’s another important word. Let’s add that in the pool with Professional shall we?

Over the years of attending the GSFWC, people have come and gone, and for those that stayed I have enjoyed seeing their writing Gradually improve, whereas other people turn up for one or two sessions and then they are never seen or heard from again. (What? No, we didn’t kill them! They just didn’t come back to the group.) There are probably a few different reasons for that, but I think the main one is the level of detail we go into, a Professional critique of their story. Some people just can’t handle their writing taken apart and the guts exposed like that. I totally get that fear, and acknowledge it’s an especially hard thing to do for newer writers. We are not the right group for very sensitive souls only wanting reassurance or for wanting to be told how amazing they are - if it’s good we will say why, if it’s not, we’ll say what didn’t work for us and how you might improve it.

Writing for us is not about instant gratification or back-patting crap, it’s a long, slow, Gradual burn towards improving your craft to a Professional level. And to do that you need to develop a thick skin, or otherwise erect a fence between personal and professional criticism. Otherwise you will likely succumb to the snarl of self-doubt most of us have and those stories will remain unread and locked away in a dusty file on your computer, probably lost when you get a new one and forget to transfer the data over...then one day many years from now you will think about all those stories that were knocking around your head and wonder what might have been. And if you do still have those old stories, often you will find them not as bad as you had once thought. It’s bound to make you ponder how much time has been lost, but it’s never too late to take up the pen and keyboard again my fine word-warriors.

Some of my friends are trade-published novelists and it’s sometimes been said that you are not really a proper author until you’ve had your first 1-star review. And you will, because you can’t please everybody. It sucks baws, but if you put your work out there somebody will hate it. But others will love it. When this novel of mine gets picked up and published (It totally will, right? Right?), gah...I’m going to hate that 1-star review with a passion. But you can’t give up because some random twit gives you a bad review.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to seeing all these edits and suggestions from my agent. I imagine my stomach will sink when I behold the sea of red, but I do know they will help improve my novel, and ultimately it will be a leaner and meaner piece of fiction. And that will be awesome to see, and hopefully something people will find awesome to read.

Monday, 10 October 2016

I have an Agent!

In other writing news, I received an email last week from a literary agent. Expecting the old ‘I liked it, but…’ rejection that every writer who has ever submitted anything gets, I found myself stopping and reading again. Why? This was no rejection email - this was an agent saying she loved my novel and was offering a Skype call to discuss representation!!!

We arranged a day and time and a few days passed in a daze. I logged into Skype 45 minutes early…or I tried to, on two machines… panicked searching revealed logins to Skype were down worldwide. Argh!! Nightmare! Except, it was only for apps, and Skype for Web worked fine, phew, last minute save.

The discussion went incredibly well and I’m ecstatic to say that I’m signing with Amanda Rutter of Red Sofa Literary. This novel of mine will be heading out into the world after a few nips and tucks.

FantasyCon 2016 and Book Launches

It’s been an eventful and exciting month for me on the writing front, a whirlwind of new experiences, nerve-wracking waits and last minute panics (more on this in the very next post).

First up we had FantasyCon 2016, FantasyCon by The Sea, in Scarborough at the end of September. It was great catching up with friends from all over and talking books, writing, and nonsense of all sorts. As always happens at these conventions, my best intentions of going to see a wide range of interesting panels goes mostly unfulfilled in favour of talking in the bar. That said, some of the things I did go to included:

-Author Miles Cameron (of The Red Knight fame) talking about war logistics, scouting, water supplies, and why Sauron should have waged economic warfare on Gondor to bring it to ruin instead of going for ‘The Big Win’.

-Jonathan Oliver, editor-in-chief of Solaris and Abaddon books had a candid and informative talk on the world of agents and publishing and on how much input his authors have on cover ideas (a lot): “I want a picture of me punching a bear in the face.”  “Yeah, OK.”

-Marcus Gipps, editor with Gollancz, answering questions on his life as an editor and on just how few books he is allowed to buy a year. He also refused to provide me with any blackmail on Edward Cox, drat him for his closed-lip ways :p

-An interesting panel on anti-heroes that featured, amongst others, Neil Williamson and Adrian Faulkner.

-The Gemmell Awards, where a lot of truly excellent books were up for the Morningstar award, including Battlemage by Stephen Aryan, The Vagrant by Peter Newman, and Starborn by Lucy Hounsom… with the frankly huge award bust eventually won by Peter Newman for The Vagrant.

And then there was my stuff…
On the Saturday of the con’ Thirty Years of Rain launched alongside offerings from the excellent Newcon Press and a small selection of our authors were signing books – my first ever signing! At which point I realised I need to come up with a list of witty comments to write in books. Also, remember to bring a pen, you fool! Oops.

This was then followed by my first ever story reading, to a small room of people. Eep! *Has flashbacks to horrible high school English talks (it was on sharks if you are interested)* It went well, and I had excellent reading-mates in Neil Williamson, Ruth EJ Booth and Ian Hunter.

The week after heralded the second launch of Thirty Years of Rain, and this time a horde of people packed into Watersones on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. There were excellent readings from Elaine Gallagher, Ruth EJ Booth, Elsie WK Donald, Ian Hunter, Michael Cobley and Hal Duncan. Then followed a Pokemon hunt (gotta catch em all) to track down the contributing members of the Glasgow SF Writer’s Circle in attendance to get their scrawl down on paper. All in all, an excellent night!

Photo thanks to Stewart Horn

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