Sunday, 30 September 2012

When in Rome...

Afternoon all,

It's raining in Rome! It was amusing as it began to drizzle watching the locals run for cover or put up their umbrellas. Meanwhile, the wife and I were happily wandering about in short sleeves as we are used to the weather in the north of England. All the illegal street traders immediately went from offering knock off bags and toys to offering umbrellas. Talk about supply and demand.

Had a wander round St Peter's today. Big old spot that and mighty impressive too. Plenty of folk had warned me about queues in Italy. So far the only waiting I've done was for the Colisseum and that was a good hour. But then it was Saturday afternoon. But we were straight into everywhere else.

I was intrigued by the majority who seemed more intent on photographing every element of the buildings while seeming to notice none of them. Even a basic google search will produce all the pictures one could ever wish to see of all the things in the Basilica for example. So I was more than happy to simply stand in the place and experience it. I'd much rather look at the sights with my own eyes than down the lense of the latest Canon camera. Still, each to their own.

Anyway, we've seen plenty of stuff on our Italian tour, both in Venice and here in Rome. I've also just about finished the first draft of the novel. The plan is to do a bit now, bit more on the plane home tomorrow and then see how the rest of the week plays out. I might even post a few holiday snaps on here if I can be bothered although I tend to take pictures of random things like the tea and cakes we had in a tea room next to the Spanish steps (British couple wandered in. Wife was grumbling. "Why pay 10 Euro for a cup of tea? There's a kettle in the room") rather than obvious attractions which you can Google for yourselves.

Right, I've got typing to do. Hopefully it will distract me from the frightening amount of money this trip has cost us. The wife's already fretting about it and we haven't even got home yet. Bless.

Until next time...

Friday, 28 September 2012

First post from Venice

Morning all,

This will be a brief post because it is being written on the wife's Blackberry on the steps of the train station in Venice.

Needless to say we've had an awesome time and I've very nearly finished the first draft of the new book.

Sales are good too so maybe I should go away more often.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Am I brave enough to write full time?

Evening folks,

Let me open by saying I am shattered. I've dragged myself through the last few days and the writing output has suffered a little. I didn't write anything yesterday. That was the first time in weeks, maybe even months that this has been the case and I was thoroughly frustrated by it. Today I'm more tired than yesterday but I have made myself write about 700 words and may do a little more. I am also writing this post.

There is light at the end of the tunnel however. For a start tomorrow is my last day at work before I have 2 weeks off on holiday and it cannot come soon enough. Hopefully I will finish the book while I am off.

This leads me to the question, am I brave enough to jack it all in and back myself to write books full time? If it were just me then the answer is probably yes. But I find myself in the position of having a superb wife, house and rather comfy lifestyle which I am not mad keen to lose. So what to do?

Well, I have just got another job which will, in theory, allow me more time to write. Also, it's only a 12 month contract so there is a possibilty I can work for another year, save as much as possible from the new job and then get a healthy redundancy package on top. This would allow me the freedom to do pretty much nothing but write for a year without worrying about the bills.

In other news Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann has accepted my friend request on Facebook. Good news. She still hasn't got round to rejecting my submission either so fingers crossed.

Also, The 24 Hour Jazz Cafe is selling really well this month in the UK and sales overall are great so far this month here. If my US chums could be persuaded to buy a few copies that would be marvellous.

Finally, a lady at the local hospice asked for a signed copy of the jazz cafe paperback this week which was nice. Also, the fund raising manager there has proposed a joint promotion where I donate some of my books, signed, and the hospice either raffle them off or something similar. Good for them, great for me. I'll let you know how it pans out.

Until next time...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Book submissions, Andy Murray and Hillsborough

Evening gang,

Been a lot happening this week.

First off, the Tour of Britain cycling has been in my neck of the woods this week, in fact a few minutes away from where I work. They don't half shift as well those Olympic riders. Crowds have been good too on the back of the awesome summer of sport we've enjoyed.

Which leads me nicely into a belated "well done" to Andy Murray. Regular readers will know I'm a huge Federer fan and not a massive Murray fan. But in the US Open final he went the distance with Djokovic and came out on top. A Brit winning a Grand Slam? After so many pretenders who really thought we'd ever see that? As such, full marks Andy. He might even make a liar out of me and win Wimbledon. Assuming Federer, Nadal and Djokovic let him.

Recent readers will also know I sent an extract to Sparkling Books which was swiftly rejected. Undeterred I sent them something else which has also been rejected. Still, at least they don't leave you hanging. I've been waiting months for something from Blake Friedmann.

Lastly, I've written over 66,000 words on the new book and still hope to have a draft by the end of this month.

And now onto the genuine big news of the week. The Hillsborough Independent Panel published it's report into what happened that dreadful day in South Yorkshire. There is no need for me to tell anyone about it, it's part of our history and everyone should know what took place. It all comes down to two numbers.96 and 23. Two numbers which have come to represent loss and a fight for truth and justice.

I, like so many millions, am a fan of Liverpool Football Club. That in no way qualifies me to comment on what happened that day or the aftermath. But I will say this. In a summer which has seen the country brought together in unprecedented fashion by sport, it is the dedication, committment and refusal of a community which has brought about the publication of this report which so many senior officials hoped would never see the light of day. Ignored, abused, belittled and igored some more, this group have held firm, swelled their ranks and demanded justice.

They perhaps feel they still have a way to go before they can rest but, as an outsider looking on, they should be, if not applauded, then at least commended for their tireless efforts to make this happen despite the barriers set before them. I am merely a fan of the mighty Liverpool Football Club. I love the history, the records, the players past and present and on the occasions I get to Anfield my heart races and I always pause at the top of the steps to take it all in before I sit down.

The publication of this report and the vindication of the families in their pursuit of justice makes me proud to be associated with the club even in the very small way I am. I perhaps could have summed all of this up in a much more concise way.

You'll never walk alone.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Wattpad and the Paralympics

Evening folks,

Really quick one. About 65000 words of the new book written. I've also finally done something positive with my Wattpad account and added some work. You can now read the opening scenes of my book All the fun of the fair on Wattpad now.

But before you race off to do that, check out the closing ceremony for the Paralympics. It's pretty impressive. I believe some very, very large countries haven't been screening the games. Very much your loss I'm afraid. From what I gather online US audiences are as keen as everyone else to see the games and there's a massive US team. I hope broadcasters over there catch on eventually.

That's all for now.

Do you fancy coming to Lancaster Litfest?

Morning folks,

The programme for the upcoming Lancaster Litfest was in the post this morning. It all kicks off on the 17th October and if you've any interest in poetry, fiction, writing or reading in general then come along and have a look.

Just to give you an idea of what might happen. At last years event I met Ian Rankin, he signed my book and saw him again later in the pub over the road. Basically I met one of my favourite authors and it cost next to nothing. How cool? Very!

Anyway, I've littered the above with links so check it out and hopefully we'll see you there. I'll be the one not performing or appearing in any events despite being a local author. Litfest organisers - an invite to do something next year would be much appreciated!!

Right, it's late and I've just bought the new Blu Ray version of Jaws which I'm keen to watch. So in short:

A thick fog has rolled across the bay in the last couple of hours following an impressive sunset so I've spent all night quoting things from the film The Fog. The wife has not seen the film and is not impressed.

We watched Black Swan and weren't thrilled with that either, despite the very lovely Natalie Portman being in it. I spent a lot of the film saying I thought the mother daughter relationship was similar to the one in Carrie. Something to ponder.

Finally, huuuuge thanks to everyone in the UK who has been buying The 24 Hour Jazz Cafe. I'm not sure what has prompted the sudden spike but it's very exciting to see it bouncing up the Amazon charts. Still very little love for it in America though. Come on America, you're missing out! You don't want little old Britain to be ahead of you on this. Quick, start buying my book and show us who's best.

Okay, enough. Movie time.....

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Apparently I lack sparkle, unlike Michael Clarke Duncan

Morning readers,

Sad news about Michael Clarke Duncan. I know everyone's saying it now, but how awesome was he in The Green Mile? It's a great story anyway but he really made the role his own. I'm not going to pretend I followed his career with any great interest but he was superb in that film. I am also an avid viewer of Two and a Half Men and, if you've watched it, you'll know he appeared in a few episodes and was comfortable doing comedy too. 54 is no age at all and it's a terrible loss.

In other more book related news regular readers will know I submitted an extract to Sparkling Books. Well, true to their word, they responded quickly enough. Sadly it was negative. Undeterred, I have tonight sent them a chunk of All the fun of the Fair to consider. No harm in trying right?

Also, you might have spotted a few media outlets picking up on the subject of sock-puppeting. No? In short it's the practice of using fake/false accounts to give oneself glowing reviews of books, while often posting negative reviews of other authors work. It's not for me to judge what others do, though I certainly don't codone it and I'm not defending it. What I will say is that I can see why a lesser known writer might do it, simply as a marketing tool to generate sales. A bit like my mother posting a glowing review of my books (although it took her long enough).

What I don't understand is why established authors, best sellers and even award winners, would engage in sock puppeting. What's the point? Anyway, if there was a way of preventing it then there'd be nothing to talk about so perhaps that's the way to go.

Until next time...

Sunday, 2 September 2012

What does Ford Madox Ford mean to you?

Evening folks,

As I sit here watching a recording of Roger Federer mauling a Spaniard who isn't Nadal at the US Open, I've been pondering the last decade (and a bit) of my writing life. Why? Because the BBC are showing Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford and that made me think.

You see, many years ago, when I was much more active in my efforts to avoid gainful employment I went to university. There was zero career plan. I just knew I was bright enough, because most people are, and I had no desire to continue working nights at the local supermarket.

After collecting my first degree, I still had very little idea job wise so I began to write a book. I don't recall exactly why or how this came about. But, under pressure to do something, I decided to apply for the new MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. The course leader was Michael Schmidt.

I quickly learned that he is a remarkable chap. Wildly intelligent with a great sense of humour, very patient with students like me who don't try as hard as they might and, it transpired, the man in charge of Carcanet Publishers. I had read, at some point, The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. I had loved it and one evening, in general conversation with Michael, Ford came up. I mentioned The Good Soldier, his eyes lit up and he vanished from the room only to return minutes later clutching copies of The Good Soldier and Parade's End.

Fast forward to tonight. The wife was watching a programme on the BBC about the Parade's End adaptation and mentioned she'd like to read it. My eyes lit up, I vanished from the room only to return minutes later clutching the copy of Parade's End given to me years earlier at university.

That got me thinking. It was during my first year at Manchester that I completed my first novel, Playground Cool. Michael was a fan, as was tutor Sophie Hannah, now making a name for herself as a crime writer of the highest order. When I approached the agent Vivien Green she rang Michael to ask about me and he apparently said only positive things.

Many things have happened since then. I got the MA, obviously, I've got married, bought a house and now have what I used to refer to as a "proper" job. But I still write books, I still view it as the thing I want to do for a living. Playground Cool sells quite well and the paperback sits on a shelf not too far from The Good Soldier, I like the link between them.

And I suppose that's the point of this blog, to consider the journey, mine and the writing. The next book is nearly finished, and there'll be another after that. But the journey began properly back then. I could have stayed at the supermarket (Freshco as Michael used to refer to it) and who knows what I'd be doing now. So that, in a very round the houses way, is that Ford Madox Ford means to me. Yes, I love The Good Soldier, but the name will always remind me of my MA, of Michael and of writing my first novel.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

US Open Tennis, late nights and a new job

Morning all,

Been raining again here in the north of England. I say 'again', it hasn't really stopped all year or so it seems. Officially the wettest summer in 100 years I think I read somewhere today. Perfect weather for writing books you would think.

Being back at work this week has had an impact though I've managed to write 500 words each day. The thing is I've just got a new job which will start in the next month or so and I'll have to pull my finger out a bit because it's a fairly huge promotion. This is awkward as my routine tends to be, get up and go to work, come home and sleep on couch, then stay up until middle of the night drinking ale, writing, watching (currently) the US Open tennis (though it could equally be the golf, a film or the Xbox) and then stumble into work again.

Anyway, we'll see how that pans out. On the plus side I've written 57000 words of the new book and All the fun of the Fair has been ordered by the local libraries which is very cool. Even more cool, and surprising, is that someone has bought a paperback copy of The 24 Hour Jazz Cafe from Createspace. Whoever you are, I'm very grateful and I hope you enjoy it.

The plan tomorrow is a significant lie in, then hit the supermarket and spend the rest of the day writing because on Sunday, hopefully, I'm off to Anfield to watch Liverpool play Arsenal. Clint Dempsey won't be lining up for the reds as we didn't sign him which was a surprise to all concerned. Still, I'm sure the manager has it all in hand.

Right, I'm off for a sandwich and an ale before bed. As ever, it's been a pleasure.