Saturday, 31 July 2010

Invent-10n PART 2

John sent my Invent-10n story back with his comments yesterday and I've been working on it since.

John made some observations about the sex content so I'm toning that down a tad and I'm taking the opportunity to seed in some of the ideas I've had in the interim, mainly aimed at making the lead character - a blandnik called Jim Smith - seem a little more sad and anodyne. Again though it's all just a question of balance: I don't want him to come across as too much of a wuss.

I'm aiming to get all the revisions done by close of play Monday though it might take a little longer. The story seems a little stiff somehow so it might need more extensive surgery than I anticipated. I don't wanna get to fundamental though. John's going to send it to INTERZONE and I'm interesting in seeing their reaction.

I also sent the last (hopefully!) batch of Demi-Monde: Winter corrections off to Quercus. There's a new guy dealing with them - Rich - and I've got to say I'm impressed: he seems very much on the ball and is one of the few people who actually acknowledges e-mails. I find it infuriating when I send off an e-mails and then...nothing. I always get to wondering if it's been received okay. Anyway according to Rich everything is in train to right wrongs and correct the incorrect so the final book will be tight and error-free. Here's hoping.

I asked Nigel if he would put a front page on the web site ( announcing that the book will be published on 6th January 2011 and had to resist the urge to add 'This is the best book wot I ever read' and sign it Burlesque Bandstand.

Apart from that (and a little work tweaking Chapter 25 of Demi-Monde 3) it was just an ordinary day at the computer.


Friday, 30 July 2010


Yeah, yesterday was a hodge-podge of a day.

I put in a shift with DM 3 in the morning and managed to cull 500-odd words as I tried to get a sex-scene right and then worked on a couple of chapters involving Nikolai Kondratieff. Nikolai's one of my favourite characters. In the Real World he was a Russian economist famous for developing the idea that economic activity in capitalist countries moves in 54-year cycles from boom to bust. He was eventually purged by Stalin.

When I was younger he was quite a hero of mine (come to think of it, it's a little sad to have an economist as a hero...I should have gotten out more!). I was fascinated by the idea that by examining history it might be possible to accurately extrapolate the past into the future. Of course, the world being such an indeterminate environment with so many people interacting in such unpredictable ways accuracy has always eluded us; the maths is simple too complex. Asimov touched on this in the Foundation Trilogy with Hari Sheldon and psychohistory but I was always worried by how Sheldon overcame the problems of free-will and scale (it was the Galactic Empire he was talking about, after all) in making his predictions.

The Demi-Monde is another matter as it's a closed system (the Boundary Layer sees to that) and hence Kondratieff with the help of Michel de Nostredame and his HyperOpia difference engine can make reliable predictions about Future History. That is if it wasn't for those damned elusive and very InDeterminate Daemons.

I've digressed! I was going to say that in the pm I got back to reading the DM 1 bookproof hunting for errors. Fortunately for me, Nell was also proofing and found a couple of real beauts of mistakes so they will go off to Quercus today.

Then at 9 pm the Rees family gathered for the last episode of 'The Big Bang'. Together with 'Have I Got News for You' and 'University Challenge' these are the only things we all will watch (though Ellie seems addicted to 'Friends'). Oddly the girls seem to have forgotten about their 'Lost' DVDs - they gave up at Series 3. I'm pleased: at the end of Series 2 the writers had run out of ideas big time.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010



A short day today as Ellie's going to a party so I'm taking her to Cambridge.

I've been working on a new character in DM 3 for most of the morning trying to get him right. Trouble is he's a real bad ass - vicious, cruel and nasty - and it's been difficult getting the correct balance. I want readers to dislike him but I want their revulsion to creep up on them so he can't be bad straight out of the blocks. The trouble is with all the slasher stuff in the movies these days I suspect today's audience is pretty ho-hum to violence, it's immurred to the stuff.

Ah me.

I'm also proofing DM1 (again): I've found a couple more mistakes which is worrying.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


Start of the Day:171,422
End of the Day: 174,723
Written: 3,301

I was reading an interview given by another author published by Quercus, Tom Fletcher (his book 'The Leaping' is highly recommended), and one of the questions posed was about the themes Tom had incorporated in his novel. This got me thinking.

My approach to writing is totally instinctive - an instinct backed I suppose by having read piles upon pile of books - so I have never really taken the time (or thought I had the need) to analyse just what I am writing about or even considered what are the themes that dominate The Demi-Monde. This, I suppose, is hardly surprising as by nature I'm something of a Deconstructivist - I hate regimentation - and apt to just go with the flow, but I had to admit it was an intriguing question.

I cogitated and came up with the answer that the major theme of The Demi-Monde is absurdity. The religions of the Demi-Monde - UnFunDaMentalism, ImPuritanism, HerEticalism, HimPerialism, RaTionalism and Confusionism - are merely the religions of the Real World stretched and distorted to breaking point. Now it might be that some readers think that all I was intent on doing was taking the piss but this is not the case. I believe that only by showing a belief system in extremis so to speak is it possible to see it as it really is...reductio ad absurdum.

It is a fact that every religious and political creed eventually becomes just a ridiculous pastiche of what it originally was but by then its followers (and the guys at the top making so much money out of it) have invested so much intellectual and emotional capital in it that they are unable (and unwilling!) to see it for what it has become. This is 'The Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome' and why all religions and all political systems ultimately end in tears: they collapse under the weight of their own absurdity.

Satire is the way in which a belief sysem is stress tested and why it is so essential that a society is open, free of censureship and one in which everything can be criticised

The problem I have is that by concluding the Demi-Monde has a satirical aspect I find myself on quite trecherous ground, in imminent danger of taking myself too seriously and getting a long way up myself (I'm no Jonathan Swift, after all).

But if I can't reach the heights attained by Swift, I can, at least, be inspired by him:

"Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but there own.'

I think I'm gonna quit now while I'm ahead. Let's just say the major theme of The Demi-Monde is entertainment...and if it stimulates a little thought along the way, then that's my Bonus Ball.

Monday, 26 July 2010


This is the back cover of the bookproof - the mock-up that goes out to reviewers and such.

And this is the front cover:


As I'm a great fan of Holmes I took time out yesterday to watch the new BBC programme entitled 'Sherlock'. This is a 'reimagining' of the Conan Doyle character with him now portrayed as a modern day hyperactive 'hi-level sociopath' who's very tech-savvy and who to avoid boredom has set himself up as a consulting detective.

Now I'm all for 'reimaginings' and I can accept that bringing Victorian characters up-to-date is the way to go: the production costs are lower (no period costumes or settings necessary) and young people (like Kit and Ellie) who aren't familiar with the original have a greater chance of relating to the characters.


With great reimagings comes great responsibility and unfortunately this one shirked that responsibility big time.

I first noticed what I call 'nerve failure' on the part of writers and producers attempting to breath new life into classic stories when another 'reimagining' hit the small screen a few years back. This one was the reworking of the Jekyll and Hyde story and was called simply 'Jekyll'. Although blessed with a first-rate leading man (James Nesbitt) they still managed to eviscerate the story whilst simultaneously making it risible. The one good thing about watching this mish-mash of mediocracy was I thought 'I can do better than that' and this in turn led to me writing 'Dark Charismatic'.

'Sherlock' had all the same faults. Everything was too bland and much too predictible. The character of Holmes (played by Benedict Cumberpatch who the girls declared 'unfit') had none of the original's darkness and was much too hysterical to be a sociopath. Watson (Martin Freeman) was better but still there was just that certain something missing. And the realtionship between the two of the princlpals...nonexistent.

My biggest gripe was with the plot (plot?) which was ludicrous. This was being shown at 9 pm for heaven's sake so surely we could expect something with a little more heft, a little more gravitas and - dare I say it - a little more originality. It was BORING!

I went to bed fuming and woke up with a whole new idea for how Sherlock should have been portrayed. Trouble is (thanks to Guy Ritchie who, I admit, made a good fist of it) there's Holmes overkill at the moment so I'll have to keep it under my hat for a couple of years.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Start of the Day: 169,258
End of the Day: 171,422
Written: 2,164

Finished the chapter and have pretty much finished the Demi-Monde part of Book 3. Of course it now needs to be knocked into shape, slimmed down and polished but in essence it's finished.

Now I need to turn to the action taking place in the Real World and for that I need to take time out to read up on plagues! This will take ten days or so, so in the interim I'm just going to be reading through what I've written and critiquing it.

The amount of research I've needed to do for the Dem-Monde series came as something as a surprise.

The original idea for the Demi-Monde came after the first book of mine - Dark Charismatic - that John Jarrold handled on my behalf went the rounds of publishers. Dark Charismatic is my re-imagining of the Jekyll and Hyde story seen largely from the POV of Jekyll's wife, Margaret. Set in the year 1877 it portrays Jekyll as a much more ambitious character, his evil going far beyond a little localised murder and mischief. I thought it was pretty good but as no publishers were terribly interested (there's a lot of sex in it which might account for their nervousness) I suppose it wasn't. Anyway one of the rejections I received said something along the lines that the Victorian London I'd conjured wasn't authentic.

Now this, I've got to tell you, was a real downer. I'd spent months researching London of that era and thought I was well equipped to convey the attitudes, the morality and the speech patterns of the day. The problem was, I liked writing about this era, I like steampunk, so what was i to do?

The answer was to create my own Victorian world and that's how the Demi-Monde came into being. Being virtual reality it's by definition faux-Victorian and that gave me the lattitude to twist things around a bit.

And it seems to have worked out fine.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


Start of the Day: 166,251

End of the Day: 169,258

Written: 3,007

A much better day! Managed to put my other problems behind me and just write.

Of course, it helps that I am onto a new chapter and not bogged down just revising old stuff but still it's gone well especially as I didn't have a bloody clue how I was going to attack the chapter. And then...inspiration!

All of a sudden it all fell into place and what had seemed impossible became quite straightforward. The set-up is Norma back in the Rookeries with Burlesque trying to put a spoke in Heydrich's wheel and I've managed to do it by taking a character from DM1 - a big, blonde, busty girl called Sporting Chance - and by linking her with a hook line from the first book...EUREKA.

Inspiration is a funny thing. I was reading a piece by Justin Cronin who's been having such success with The Passage where he says he has his best pieces of inspiration when he's running. I wish it was so predictable with me. Most of the time I have my best ideas when I can't sleep at night - always a problem this, I've got to get up and jot them down so I don't forget them overnight - and, most often, when I'm chatting things over with Nell. Driving to see the girls is a good time: we're sealed off and can talk uninterrupted and undistracted. I've often had to ask Nell to take notes while I'm driving.

But today was different. It was almost as though two pieces of disconnected material had been lurking around in my head waiting for a moment to thrust themselves to the front of my consciousness and link up. The other explanation - a little out there, I know - is that characters take on a life of their own and some of them - as with Sporting - keep pushing for another turn in the spotlight. Every character wants to be a star.


Friday, 23 July 2010


Start of the day: 164,753

End of the day: 166,251

Written: 1,498

Not a great day for writing.

A lot of things are happening - or rather not happen - and it's difficult to write when things are nagging away at the back of your head. But I still put in a shift at the laptop.

DM3 is now getting to the stage where I'm revising chapters and scenes to a) make them read better and b) make them mesh with the rest of the book. This is always painstaking and quite debilitating work where you can put in eight hours hard graft and have precious little to show for it. Today I've been working on a WhoDoo ritual that takes place in the JAD and is quite complicated in that there's a metaphysical, psychedelic aspect which is tricky to describe without getting all New Age.

Still...hopefully once this is behind me I can hit clear air and dive into what Norma's been up to back in the Rookeries.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


Went to see Inception.

I'm a big fan of Chris Nolan's - Momento I thought was a great movie and what he did rescuing Batman from 3rd rate Hell was terrific - so I was really looking forward to it. Of course my assessment might have been affected by the rotten sound system they have in the King's Lynn Empire but a few inaudible sentences aside I have to declare myself disappointed.

On the plus side: I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent in the lead role and the idea behind the story - the infiltration of an idea into the subconscious of a dreaming man - original and provocative.

The problem I had was this bright, sparkling idea became weighed down with too much baggage. It might have been better to have dumped the three-level of consciousness tip and merely tried to make the one-level consciousness a more intiguing place.

I also thought - unusually for Nolan - that his imagination faltered when he was presenting the sub-conscious: it looked too much like home. I put a lot of this down to the lighting: if the sub-conscious had been rendered in an off-kilter colour then it would have gone a long way to upping the 'this is wierd' ante and making it more disturbing. If the tone of 'Franklyn' could have been introduced...

The final act was also a muddle and went on way too long. In fact the film was too long period and some of the peripheral characters were crying out to be culled.

So all-in-all a disappointment. But I'm pleased to see it doing well at the box office: it is a daring film and all the more power to Chris Nolan for having the balls to do it.

Score: Rod 6/10 for execution (9/10 for style)
Nell 8/10
Kit 6/10
Ellie 7/10


Spent a lot of yesterday reviewing where I was with the third book. The problem I find is that once you're over about 150,000 words the book become difficult to manage especiallyif, like me, the story and the characters develop and mutate as you write. So every now and then I have to stop and assess what I've written and where I'm going.

First off I had a big cull of stuff I'd written. I dumped about ten thousand words of dross. Some I might be able to recycle in Book 4 but really it was crap.

The first third of the book - which takes place in the Coven - I'm pretty happy with and I've got two new characters - Fresh Bloom Dong E and PhilosopherNoN Xi Kang - who have something about them. It's always better when you like your characters, it's so much easiler to write their dialogue.

The second third of the book is OK. This is set in NoirVille/the JAD with the occasional side trip to Venice and is quite complex because there are multiple characters interacting. Of the new characters Billy is good (well, actually, bad) to write for though I've gotten to the end of his antics and realised that I hadn't been writing him correctly so that means quite a major revision. Xolandi - a NoirVillian - has been something of a diappointment so he will need some tweaking but being a NoirVillian he should welcome that.

The last third is the climax of the book and that has been a real torment. I'm trying to interweave five plot threads and to do that and make it entertaining and comprehensible is a bit of a challenge. But it's coming. Slowly.

That just leaves some action in Rodina and the Real World segments to be done. I guess there's 20,000 words here and that with what I've got thus far will tip the scales at 180,000+. It's too much. The one thing I learned from DM1 was that anything over 150,000 is a real tester and if you ain't careful the story will drag. So before I submit to John my agent I'm gonna have to subject DM3 to some quite profound slimming. But then I'm on schedule so I've enough time to sort it out.

Post Demi-Monde I'm going to have a spell of writing books that come in at about 100,000 words: shorter and hopefully sweeter.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Nelli and I went to London to meet with Quercus again, this time to discuss the marketing of DM 1.

In anticipation of meeting with Key Accounts (Waterstone's, Amazon etc.) Quercus have produced a bookproof copy of the Demi-Monde which looks to all-intents-and purposes just like the finished product. It's this bookproof which will be given to the account representatives to assess and go out to reviewers and other opinion-leaders in the SF/Fantasy community to pass judgement on.

First impressions? It looks dauntingly thick but as I was assured the SF/Fantasy reader likes a little heft in their books maybe I shouldn't be too concerned. The cover looks great. It's been 'distressed' since I last saw it and I think looks better for it. Very steampunky but intriguing at the same time.

It's an odd feeling to actually be holding your book, a REAL book with a cover and pages and your name on the front. The whole process from story idea to bound copy has taken a little over eighteen months and in that time the book has taken on a sort of nebulous aspect: you know it's all real and that things are happening but the end product seems tantalisingly far away. Yeah, now I can appreciate how Tantalus felt.

The problem is that concerns about the style and the story and the plot and the edit have now been superceded by a more practical concern: will the thing sell. The thought that after all this hard work (and it's kinda humbling when there are five or six people sitting around a table talking about how they're gonna help your book be a success) if the book isn't read it'll be a real bummer. Course, I was encouraged by the Quercus team, they've got lots of experience and enthusiasm and seem pretty confident, but as everyone keeps reminding me there's a lot of competition for the reader's attention out there.

Reading various blogs by established writers there seems to be a strange reluctance to admit to wanting your book to do well. It appears to be very non-U to want to be a best seller, that promoting your book is rather declasse. It seems that a lot of people prefer (or so they would have us believe) that a book should be a success by dint of a kind of reader-led osmosis. Unfortunately it's impossible to have a reader-led success if no one reads the bloody thing in the first place.

So marketing and promotion are important if the book is to be given a chance to shine and after that...well, everything is in the hands of the gods and the reading public.

The main message I got from Quercus was to be patient and to let nature take its course. The problem is that I take most of my inspiration from the old poster showing two vultures gazing down on the veldt and one saying to the other 'Patience my ass; let's go down and kill something!' I need to be patient but unfortunately that isn't one of my main character traits. So it's deep breath time.

It's quite fascinating though to listen to publishing experts strut their stuff, especially regarding how the book will be sold into the trade, the positioning of the hardback (6th January 2011, folks) and the paperback (August 2011) and then of course there's the eBook (launch date still being debated). This is really exciting stuff and I reckon the DM eBook will be quite something. I might even be persuaded to buy an iPad!

Monday, 12 July 2010


Funny time this, sort of betwixt and between, neither one thing nor the other.

The proofing of Demi-Monde: Winter is finished and bookproofs - which as best I can make out are mock-ups of the real thing - will be out in a few days. These apparently are needed to promote the book to Key Account Customers and to get them to stock the book. The first one - Waterstone's - is at the end of the month is at the end of the month so I'll be burnig a candle. After them come WHS, Amazon et al.

It's quite scary really, having all these faceless people make judgements on your work, and their decision affecting whether the book lives or dies.

Maybe I should have made those changes to DM1! Too late now.

I'm working away on DM3: Summer, which has been a bit of a pig to be honest though I have managed to resolve some plot issues over the weekend. Problem I have is fitting everything and everyone in whilst making it coherent and entertaining. There's at least another couple of months of hard writing left...

Also planning on an assault on the e-universe (FaceBook and all that) though this will have to wait for the house move to be finalised (HOPEFULLY by the 6th August). I want to go on holiday with Nelli too...I feel tired.

That's it for now: I'm meant to be going to Quercus for a marketing meeting soon which s/be interesting: I'll keep you posted.