Friday, 30 December 2011


I had two interviews on American radio over the holidays and neither of them went according to plan.

The first was with Giovanni Gelati which was scheduled for 22:45 (my time) on the 26th. I 'phoned in only to be greeted by a message that I was 18 hours early ... so I recalculated and thinking that I was now wanted at 09:00 PST I called back on the 27th at 17:00. I was eventually bumped thru to Giovanni - 'hey you were scheduled for yesterday' - but fortunately he managed to slide me into the programme which featured an American crime writer 'Ben; and a lecturer in Creative Writing at UCLA called 'Lisa'. The programme lasted an hour. I'd love to be able to make an assessment of how I did but that's beyond me: I found myself concentrating so hard on the questions that I couldn't step back to make an objective assessment. Giovanni seemed happy tho', so it must have gone OK.

The second was with Dr. Alvin Jones on CBS Radio. Here I was expecting Alvin's call at 12:30 my time, but it came an hour early so minor panic ensued. It was an interesting 15 minute chat and I managed to get in my competition to win a copy of the book: all listeners had to do was answer the riddle I got in my Xmas Day cracker:

What's covered in muscles and swings from Christmas cake to Christmas cake?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


The second Demi-Monde book - 'The Demi-Monde: Spring' - is out in the UK on the 5th January. I'm really looking forward to it: it seems an age ago that I finished it, so-much-so that it's difficult at times to remember what I wrote. It's set in the hedonistic Mediterranean Sector and introduces a raft of new characters perhaps the most important of whom is Odette Aroca - a big and very bothersome marketgirl from Paris; and the Marquis de Sade, who I don't think needs much introduction and, my favorite, the Russian economist Nickolai Kondratieff.

I had a hand in the writing of the blurb on the back of the cover. I had wanted something a bit more radical but this was not to be. I thought it would be neat to do it as one of the PigeonGrams I feature in the book thus:

Got to say I'm REALLY looking forward to getting feedback about the book.

Monday, 19 December 2011


'The Demi-Monde: Winter' is out on the 27th December in the States so the promo people at HarperCollins have orgainsed a couple of radio slots.

The first is with Giovanni Gelati ('Gelati's Scoop') on BlogTalkRadio on 26th December at 4:45 pm EST (that's 10:45 pm my time) and the second is with Dr Alvin Augustus Jones on WHFS-AM 1580 (CBS Radio-Washington) this one scheduled for 06:30 am EST (12:30 pm) on the 27th December.

I suppose that's one of the consequences of having the book coming out after the holidays (prrsumably to garner some of those book token pressies) ... I'll have to stay unsquiffed all thru Boxing Day.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


ML has queried if I might be in the mood to give away a copy of the hardback of 'Spring'.  Being a man of generous inclinations if any of you want a signed copy let me have your address via ... you'll have to wait until I get my copies from Quercus and my bloody stamp arrives, tho'. First five to reply get a copy. Condition is that you write a review (no pressure - write what you think - as long as your criticism is fair, I'm cool).

The stamp shows Lilith;s emblem - no prizes for guessing who takes centre stage in Spring:

Emblem of Lilith

Thursday, 8 December 2011


I've set myself the deadline of finishing the fourth (and last!) book of the Demi-Monde saga - The Demi-Monde: Fall - by the end of the year. I've got a rough draft - 196,000 words - and now I need to knock it into a final shape. I've decided to divide the book into two (Book One: In the Demi-Monde and Book Two: In the Real World). Book One is pretty much finished but Book Two is being a pig.

One problem is how to filter the explanation of how young Norma was lured into the Demi-Monde in the first place. It's quite a hefty piece of exposition - 20,000 words - and it slows the action down a LOT, the trouble is, if I leave it out then the whole series seems a little incomplete. One solution I'm toying with is adding it as an Appendix but there may be a better way of doing it. I'll have to have a think.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Having 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' coming out at the end of December in the US has meant that I'm getting a daily tutorial on publishing lore in America. The latest infodump concerns Barnes & Noble. B&N are the biggest book retailers in the USA with (according to Wiki) 717 stores, so I guess that makes them a pretty big deal when it comes to shifting books ... a bit like our Waterstones but with bells on.

The first time B&N impacted my consciousness was when I was told that their resident SF& fantasy expert 'James' had made Winter one of his SF picks of the month for December (good stuff!); that there had been an 'email blast' (love it) going out to B&N customers; and that the book would be on their 'new arrivals' table for the first two weeks of January. Sounds good.

Liz Bourke also wrote a review of Winter on the Barnes & Noble Bookseller's Picks ( which was a very nice review indeed, though Liz obviously isn't a great fan of cliffhanger endings. The important thing she said though was that with a series like the DM an interval of one year between books is too long: I agree with her ... nine months tops should be the guideline. That's what Quercus are now working towards and I think it's very sensible.

Anyway, congrats to all at HarperCollins on the good work!

Thursday, 1 December 2011


You can tell that I'm a newbie writer (or as the Americans refer to me a 'freshman writer') 'cos I don't really appreciate the importance of some of the things that have been happening in the US. It seems that in the US there are four important industry book reviews: Library Journal, Publishers' Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist and getting 'starred' reviews from these is a BIG DEAL.

Anyway so the lovely Amanda sends me an advanced copy of the review going in the December 15 edition of Booklist and 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' has been 'starred'. The reviewer says:

'elegantly constructed, skillfully written, and absolutely impossible to stop reading. It ends with a beauty of a cliffhanger too ...'

So that goes with the 'starred' review from Library Journal (Debut of the Month no less) which said:

'Stong characters, along with the clever interweaving of seemingly disparate plot threads, make this a standout selection for fans of high-tech sf and cyberfiction.'

So, two down and two to go!


The past four weeks have been a bloody nightmare. I've been editing the third book in the Demi-Monde series 'Summer' and it proved to be a real trial. Most of my editor's comments centred around one of the new characters, Billy, who is an eighteen-year old black guy who also happens to be a pimp/drug dealer/general low-life from New York. My editor had problems with him on several levels: she didn't like that he didn't get busy in the book until a third of the way in; she didn't like that he seemed rather peripheral when he did get going; and she sure as hell didn't like the slang I given him to mouth. Solving the first two problems necessitated a major re-jigging of the story but I'm still not sure if I've got on top of the slang issue.

I really tried with Billy's patois. I used Larry Fishburne's portrayal of Jimmy Jump in 'The King of New York' (cracking film) as a template but I also checked out 'New Jack City' (cliched crap), 'Boyz N the Hood' (boring cliched crap) and 'Juice' (Okay); read 'Playground' by 50 Cents (Okay) and 'Power and Beauty' by Tip 'T.I.' Harris (a coming of age romance gutted of emotion and passion) and numerous articles on black street jargon; and I referred to things like the Hip Hoptionary and the Hip-Hop Rhyming Dictionary. The problem is that black street talk is now very visceral and (to white, middle class ears) bloody offensive: all motherfuckers, bitches, niggas and ho's and that's what I've written.

We'll see have to see how it all comes out in the wash but right now I'm sick to the back teeth of Billy.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


The publicity people at William Morrow, my US publisher, asked me to to give some answers to a Q&A they'd prepared in advance of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' at the end of December. One of the questions was:

Is it plausible that any government is working on a Demi-Monde of its own at this very moment?

A bloody interesting question! And to answer it I decided to trawl thru the web to see if there was anybody potty enough to be trying to do just that. I didn't have to trawl very far. I put in 'Virtual Worlds + Military Applications' into Google and up popped:

Now according to NextGov's FaceBook page it's a leading federal technology web site, a meeting place for government and industry managers to read the latest news and discussions and to share insights on deploying IT successfully to schieve agency missions.

What NextGov was discussing that so intrigued me was the news that the US Army wants to develop a massive virtual world populated by 10,000 avatars that are managed by artificial intelligence and operate over a 32-mile square simulated terrain. That stopped me: the Demi-Monde is 30 miles in circumference and, of course, is managed by its very own artificial intelligence, the quantum computer known as ABBA.

NextGov went on: officials at the ARDEC's (the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command) Simulation and Technology Training Center said that they want a systems intergrator to put together a virtual world that includes soldiers, vehicles and weapons that can move around a landscape built from Defense Department gigital terrain data. Of course my Demi-Monde was commissioned by the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) based in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and the contractor chosen was ParaDigm CyberResearch. ARDEC might want to give 'em a call! 

ARDEC also said in its request for information that it wants to incorporate technologies used in massively multiplayer online games. The Demi-Monde is defined as a MMP simulation ... to recreate in a wholly ralistic cyber-milieu the threat-ambiance and no-warning aspect of ... an Asymmetric Warfare Environment. Snap!

Now the similarities to the tender document for the Demi-Monde simulation produced when ParaDigm pitched for the contract (you can check this out on might be coincidental but being a suspicious sod I went back to check on the visits made to the site. Now to identify if any of them were from the US military I used (a very scary site so you have been warned!) which told me that I'd had two visits from an IP address which seems to belong to US Defence Information Systems Agency. Pecular, right?

Now I'm not saying I've been ripped off (I mean when the NextGov quotes a guy called General William Loomey III as the govenment's spokesman they've gotta taking the piss; whatever next Wing Commander Burlesque Bandstand?) but I just hope the similarities between what the US military is cooking up and the Demi-Monde end here, otherwise we're all in deep shit. I think they should wait for the final volume before they go much further!

I wonder if I should ask for royalties?

Friday, 11 November 2011


Some great news to begin the month! I've just learned that DEMI-MONDE: WINTER is an Indie Next pick for the month of January in the USA!

Until about two minutes ago I didn't know what this was or why it's such a big deal so here's a description from the internet:

The Indie Next List, drawn from bookseller-recommended favorite handsells, epitomizes the heart and soul of passionate bookselling. Independent booksellers are and have always been discoverers of the next big thing, the next great read, the next bestseller, and the next undiscovered gem. The monthly Indie Next List flier, sent to members via the monthly Red Box and available for download online, includes a bookseller quotation and complete title information for each outstanding book. Each monthly flier also announces IndieBound hardcover Great Reads now available in paperback. The Indie Next List is also featured on the consumer website,

I'm really chuffed!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


After five weeks bloody hard work I have got 'Dark Charismatic' - my take on the Jekyll and Hyde story - into a state where I think it is now readable. I chopped about 45,000 words out so it now comes in at around 145,000 and most of the sex scenes are now on the edit room floor. I upped the gothic horror too which I think is a good thing.

This is the cover that Nigel did when I was thinking about self-publishing it two or three years ago.
I think I can ditch the bit about there being an 'erotic twist' now!

I'm now passing it over to Nelli to do a beta-read and once she's happy I'll have to decide what to do with it. It'll be a book that's all dressed up but with nowhere to go!

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Just read that The Demi-Monde: Winter will be the 17th imprint of Nouveaux Millénaires the new series of SF books that J'ai Lu (my French publisher) have launched this year. From what I can understand this is going to be a series of the best of SF so I'm in some pretty auspicious company. The first book in the series is 'Flowers for Algernon' - or 'Algernon et moi' - which is one of my all time favourite books (if you haven't read it, do so, it's brilliantly poignant) and will be followed by works from writers of the ilk of Nick Sagan and Philip K.Dick. I'm really honoured.

Of course, that J'ai Lu has entitled this their nooSFere is quite a coincidence too. Teilhard de Chardin's noosphere - the emergence of a unified global mind - is an intergral part of the fourth Demi-Monde book, The Demi-Monde: Fall. Small world ... or perhaps, better, Monde!


Friday, 4 November 2011


Nice recent review of Winter carried BookGeeks, see

For his début novel, the first in a four-book story cycle, Rod Rees has taken on the well-used SF theme of virtual reality and the consequences when worlds collide. From cyberpunk novels to some particularly well-known episodes of Star Trek (which, with its holo-decks, could conjure up virtual realities for its characters at the push of a button), it’s a popular idea – so the execution of it, and the characterisation and storytelling, are the keys to success if originality is the goal. Fortunately, Rod Rees has demonstrated considerable prowess in all of these areas in Winter.
The Demi-Monde is a totally immersive virtual reality environment created to train US soldiers in asymmetric warfare – a simulation so realistic that players can forget they’re in a game at all, populated by millions of AI characters called Dupes. Everything about the simulation is designed to foment tension – limited access to natural resources, over-population, competing ideologies and the presence of a number of Singularities, characters modelled on the despots, tyrants and hard men of history, including Shaka Zulu, Henry VIII, Robespierre and Reynhard Heydrich. But (it won’t surprise you to learn), something’s gone very wrong in the Demi-Monde: the Dupes have realised that soldiers and other visitors walk among them and have started taking hostages – since to die in the game is to die in real life, the simulation can’t be turned off. Worse, somehow, the daughter of the US President has been drawn in to the game and captured. The stakes are very high indeed.
The unlikely heroine of the rescue mission is Ella Thomas, an 18-year old jazz singer – the only person who has the attributes to exploit a back door in the programme. Behind enemy lines, she has to adjust to the unique reality of the programme – and before too long she finds herself caught up in the middle of a war, started by Heydrich against a neighbouring zone, with genocidal intent. Also fighting against Heydrich are a rag-tag Polish resistance, led by the daughter of an aristocrat who works for Heydrich. Along the way, Ella meets versions of Alasteir Crowley, Leon Trotsky and Josephine Baker, among other figures from history, falls in love, and generally becomes completely immersed in the simulation despite the fact that she should be the only person in there who knows it isn’t real. Except she’s not the only one – some of the Dupes have worked it out too.
Everything about the Demi-Monde is beautifully thought out – the Orwellian delight in perverting the English language, a consideration of what would happen if all these characters from history were alive at the same time, a well-realised alternate system of physics and chemistry, and so one. It’s a rip-roaring story that does not pull any punches, with the desperate defence against Heydrich tragically evoking the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in its bloody desperation. It also has some great characters, including Ella and her Dupe partner-in-crime Vanka Maykov, and succeeded in leaving this reader very keen to know what happens next. Roll on Spring!

Many thanks my Geeky friends!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


The US editing of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' is scheduled for the end of December and things are starting to pick up on the promotional front which is all very exciting.

This is the advert which will go on the site 'Shelf Awareness' (and people think my puns are bad!) which, from what I can make out is the reference site for bookstores in the US.

Thank you to Mr Rollins for the kind words!

HarperCollins have also been building a very impressive FaceBook page which you can check out on

Now THAT is a bloody big internet address! I think the page (pages, actually) look very nice indeed (take a bow Shawn) and hopefully over the next few weeks there'll be lots of good stuff going up to intrigue and entice.

One of these is a competition to win a copy of the US edition. This has been posted on the HarperCollins blog.

All-in-all it looks very good. I'm pleased.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


I'm of an age when I can remember with fondness the last attempt to bring The Three Musketeers to the screen, the 1977 version directed by Richard Lester, so when I saw the trailer of Paul W.S. Anderson's steampunky take of the book I thought, 'that's for me!'.


Let's cut to the chase. For a film to be any good (for me) it has to have a decent plot, decent acting, decent directing and decent cinematography. The cinematography in this new Musketeers film is excellent, the rest is dire.

I'll begin with the plot. Look, the book the film is based on is a classic so it can't be difficult to fashion a halfway decent screenplay. WRONG!  The screenwriters have ditched all of Dumas' characterisation and tension and substituted vacuous pantomime-esque nonsense. The plot holes are HUGE (I think if I tried to explain the worst involving Buckingham and Milady and the Queen's jewels I'd lose the will to live) so I have to imagine that this wasn't just carelessness on their part but sheer indifference. Those involved were just plain contemptuous of their audience's intelligence.

And the acting ... what fucking acting? Third prize goes to Orlando Bloom as Buckingham (there are mitigating factors: no man should be obliged to act while wearing such a stupid quiff) who should be obliged by statute not to play villains, he's about as threatening as blancmange. Second prize goes to Gabriella Wilde who played (played?) Constance: this girl CANNOT ACT ... she is Valium made flesh. But tonight's star prize for worst actor in a Dumas adaptation goes to James Corden who plays the Musketeers' servant Planchet. A word of advice to Mr Corden: you are not funny and even when bird shit is dropping on your face the effect on the audience is to cheer for the bird. Roy Kinnear you most certainly are not.

It was awful. BUT the special effects were great, the designer who dreamt up the air-ships inspired and I am sure that the film will be well received by the many fans of The Pirate of the Caribbean.

Makes you wanna weep. And the worst thing is that the end of the film suggests that there's gonna be a sequel. ARGHHHHHHHH!

Score: 3/10


The VERY efficient Caroline Butler at Quercus has let me have a link to the downloadable first chapter of The Demi-Monde: Spring which is out in the UK on the 5th January. Try:
It's an excellent download with flipping pages and rustling sounds and all that other excellent digital stuff so I hope you enjoy it. Odette Aroca who features is a new heroine and I've come to really like her. When I was writing her the image that kept coing to mind was of film actress Mae West (a remarkable woman!) so for those who are too young to know who she is:

One point: you'll see from the extract that the opening words are:
Beau nichon!
This was the subject of some debate between me and my editors. I had originally wanted
'Nice tit!'
but was persuaded to go with something a tad less crude so the French translation was substituted (the action takes place in the French Sector of the Demi-Monde, the Quartier Chaud). I think in retrospect I should have stuck my heels in!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Just heard that a short story of mine 'Alternate Currents' has been selected for inclusion in the Ian Whates edited anthology 'Dark Currents' to be published by NewCon Press. The book will - hopefully - be launched next April at EasterCon 2012.

I'm really chuffed.

Whilst I'm not really a great fan of short stories (they use up ideas at an alarming rate for precious little return) I was happy to write for this anthology because it gave me an opportunity to try out some ideas I had for a new book. It's a stroy that stars Nicola Tesla - the genius inventor and thorough going oddball - and his adventures in defeating an invasion from Mars. I had a blast writing it and the short will give me a terrific platform when I start on the book for real (next month). I'm thinking of calling it 'Tesla vs The Martians' which has a B-movie feel to it that I like.

Anyway Tim Burton has already got dibs on 'Mars Attacks!'

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


In anticipation that I'd need to supply a new blueprint for 'The Demi-Monde: Spring' to feature on the inside covers and which would match the one we used in Winter, I had a long think and suggested to Nigel that he design the Zeppelin V1 Flight Capable Attack Steamer featured right at the end of the book. This is what he came up with:

I'm very pleased though it might have been better (though less authentic) if he'd shown the exhaust steam from the four Polzunov Vectorable Steam Turbines been shown coming out of the V1's backside, but you can't have everything! The squadron emblem (the clenched fist) is excellent too and will get more mileage in 'The Demi-Monde: Fall'. I also like the cut away showing the underlying geodetic structure of the V1 - I pinched this idea from the models I made as a kid of the Vickers Wellington bomber.


One of the problems I've found with being a new writer is that (obviously) I don't have any track record with readers and that means there's a lack of trust in my ability. And this is a particular problem when - as I am - you're writing a four volume saga like The Demi-Monde.

When a reader trusts a writer they believe that he or she won't leave them dangling, that the plot holes and inconsistencies they perceive when reading a book are not mistakes, and that everything will be explained or rationalised in later instalments of the story.

Let me give you a case in point. One of the reviews that has gone up on (by 'silea') has cited a number of 'major plot points' which, in her (I'm presuming 'silea' is a girl, if not, my apologies) view mar the book. Now what we have here is a breakdown in trust: silea doesn't have enough confidence in me as a writer to believe that by the time she gets to the end of 'The Demi-Monde: Fall' everything will be explained (notably how Norma got into the Demi-Monde; why the US military thinks its neoFights are dying; why ABBA is so persnickety about exactly replicating its Dupes etc. etc.). But believe me, silea, all will be made clear ... trust me!

Another example was the English reviewer who chastised me for introducing technology to my world of 2018 which will be beyond our current capabilities. Absolutely correct if the Real World of 2018 was OUR world but (as will be explained in later books) it isn't. You see: he didn't trust me.

Unfortunately this trust issue is a problem I think will be exacerbated by 'The Demi-Monde: Spring'. There are a number of inferences/suggestions/hints strewn in Spring which won't be resolved until the final book. I thought this was me being tantalising until my American editors (quite rightly) suggested that I become just a tad less oblique. God knows what silea will make of Spring but it'll be interesting.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Got to thinking who is my favourite fictional villain. The candidates are:

Flashman: the great character creation of George MacDonald Fraser. Utterly reprehensible (coward, womaniser, etc.) but don't you just see yourself in him and wish for just a touch of his luck? 

Lockhart Flawse (aka 'The Bastard'): the wonderfully dark and sardonically comic hero of Tom Sharpe's 'The Throwback. better even than Wilt.

Griffin: 'The Invisible Man' ... paranoia personified.

Meursault: the lead in Camus 'L'Etranger' and literature's most compelling psychotic.

Moriarty: Sherlock's bete noir and a villain to admire (tho' not evil enough in my opinion).

Alex: from the masterpiece that is 'A Clockwork Orange' ... brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Funny evil and profound with it. the Droogs' patois is inspired.

O'Brien: the dark presence in '1984', the greatest book I've ever read. The fact that the political treatise Orwell puts in the middle is genius and gives me hope that my own 'Confusionism' tract won't be edited out of 'The Demi-Monde: Summer'.

And the winner is ... Alex! (by a nose ahead of O'Brien).


I was asked who I would ask to a fantasy dinner party, the guests I choose can be living, dead, real, mythological or made up.

Well, to start ... my experience is that you have to invite couples to dinner parties otherwise things become a little unbalanced, so with this in mind, my couples would be:

Josephine Baker (20's jazz singer/dancer) + Richard Burton (the Victorian explorer/linguist/libertine not the overrated actor/husband of Liz Taylor). As they both had a pretty liberated attitude to all things sexual (and were hugely talented) I think they would make a pretty good pairing and add little pizzazz to proceedings. I'd have loved for Dick Burton to have made an appearance in the Demi-Monde but unfortunately Philip Jose Farmer had first dibs on him.

Marilyn Monroe + Cyrano de Bergerac. In my humble Marilyn was the greatest comedy actress of all time and Cyrano was, of course, a freewheeling genius. A match made in heaven.

Jane Austen + H.G. Wells. Jane could explain to me how to write in third-person omniscient (which I don't get) and Herbert could explain to me what it's like to be the greatest SF writer of all time (and maybe give me some plot ideas).

Eleanor de Aquitaine (a real feminist!) + John Henry 'Doc' Holliday: I wanted both of them to feature in the Demi-Monde but in the end they got squeezed out. These are two people in history who I admire because thay had the force of character to be their own people.

Billie Holiday + Charlie Parker. Okay the drugs might be a problem but the jam session after the meal would be unreal. The thought of Kit duetting with Charlie and Nelli harmonising with Billie with Ellie on bass ... far out!

Marguerita Zelle (aka Mata Hari) and Francis Walsingham (Elizabeth I's spymaster). They could sit in a dark corner and exchange encrypted billet doux. Hopefully Marguerita could be persuaded to dance. Now she and Josephine Baker tripping the light fantastic would make for an interesting evening. Zowie!!!!

Top that line up, folks!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


DRC raised an interesting point about agents (and as my computer doesn't allow me to reply to comments ...) so I thought I'd touch on the subject here.

In this world of self-publishing it's probably tempting to think, fuck it, I'll cut out the middleman (middle-men if you include publishers in that definition), stick my stuff up on Amazon and, eureka, I'll be an over-night sensation. But whilst I'm sure for some people that's a strategy that works, for the vast majority it doesn't and they languish un-read, un-discovered and un-paid in the very crowded e-backwater that is 'self-publishing'.

My own belief is that once you have a book you think worthy of being published then it's worth at least attempting to get yourself an agent. A good agent will have three invaluable abilities: he or she will have an instinct for what will sell; will be able to advise what should be done to your novel to make it sell better; and will know the people who might be persuaded to buy the bloody thing. And to this list should be added that they will be a font of good advice (and believe me you'll need it) and a receptacle of oil to be poured on troubled waters when you get really ticked off with your publisher.

I came to John Jarrold by simply Googling 'Literary Agents + Sci-fi' and then checking out what came up. In the end there were three agents I thought seemed promising, checked out their submission guidelines (please, please do this before you submit and follow them, otherwise it's manuscript interfacing with bin time) and sent my stuff off. John came back and the rest as they say is history. And that history is that whilst I've been a client of John's (three years now I think) I've become a better writer. The whole agent/publisher complex is designed in part to provide friendly criticism for a writer and such criticism is vital if you're to improve (of course, being given money to write also helps!).

Criticism is part and parcel of writing but whereas some of the critics out there have got issues and agendas, your agent will be constructive and honest.

So ... my advice: before abandoning the well-trodden path of getting yourself an agent at least give it a shot.

Saturday, 1 October 2011


'Dark Charismatic' was the book I submitted to John Jarrold some two years ago which persuaded him to become my agent. Unfortunately it never found a publisher and as I'm taking a break from 'The Demi-Monde' I thought this was an ideal time to revisit the book.

DC is my take on the Jekyll and Hyde story, and elements of it serve as a prequel to the Demi-Monde. I've always had a lot of affection for the book but now re-editing it after a couple of years it's easy to understand why it didn't land me a publishing contract.

First off, it's too long (190,000 words) and too slow. One of my aims is to remedy these failings by taking out extraneous scenes and speeding up the action. 150,000 words tops!

Second, the book doesn't know what it is. It's not horror (though there're horrific interludes); it's not fantasy (though there is a fantastic element about the story); it's not alternative history (though I do play fast and loose with some historical events); it's not social commentary (though there are chunks of the story devoted to just that); and it's not sexy (though there is a LOT of sex in it ... a lot more than I remember writing!). Therefore I've decided that I'll remodel it as a Gothic Horror Story.

Third, the central character, Margaret Jekyll, isn't well defined enough. I've got a LOT of work to do on Margaret to bring her into focus and to make her journey (hate that word) from Victorian wife to rebel and to make that journey credible.

Fourth, the bloody thing is sloppily written. I keep switching POVs mid-scene etc. etc. Need to tighten up. I've written 500,000 words since I penned DC and done at least 50 edits so I've doubled my writing experience and it shows.

Fifth and final, I've got to tighten up my Victorian idioms which means MORE research!

BUT and this is important, I've a feeling that inside DC there's a good book struggling to get out. It'll take me a month to make that happen.

Thursday, 29 September 2011


I sent the hardcopy edit of The Demi-Monde: Spring back to Quercus on Wednesday and because it represented about 60 hours of bloody hard work I decided to do two things - take a copy (£26 up my shirt) and send it by the Post Office's super-dooper ParcelForce system which GUARANTEES next day delivery (another £16!).

You guessed it, the package has gone AWOL but the most aggravating thing is that the supposedly foolproof tracking system has turned out to be USELESS. All it can tell me is that it was picked up at the Hatton post office on Wednesday at 13:58 and thereafter ... NOTHING. I've tried ringing ... what a joke: all I get is automated gibberish.

I am not impressed. Roll on privatisation.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Today the UK paperback version of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' is launched! I got a few copies sent to me by Quercus yesterday and I have to say that it looks terrific, the embossed cover being especially nice. Quercus also seem intent on doing some advertising to support the launch. This is the advert carried in this month's SFX magazine:

Obviously 'The Vampire Shrink' ain't nothing to do with me!

Friday, 23 September 2011


Publishing contracts should come with a health warning. Just like cigarettes there should be a sticker on them somewhere which says something like:


The Rees Coefficient of Editing states that for every hour you spend writing, you'll spend at least six editing.

Now I ain't moaning (I'm just so pleased that I've won the Great Prize in Life, that is getting a contract) but it's something every novice writer should be prepared for. You write your book (and by the time it's finished I bet it's gone thru at least four iterations: edits #1, 2, 3 & 4) and you've had your beta-readers plough thru it (it's a great book but ...) and given their two-pennyworth (which you've dutifully incorporated as edit # 5). Then your agent gives his opinion (which you listen to 'cos he/she will be selling the bloody thing) and so you do another edit (that's # 6). Then a publisher buys the thing and you think ... phew ... great ... that's it ... what am I gonna write next. That's when the publisher comes back and says something like 'great book, but wouldn't it be better if this character was a woman and you brought this chapter to the beginning and what do you think about flashbacks and could we crop it by 20,000 words and, by the way, how to you feel about a new title ...'

That's edits # 7, 8 & 9. And they're BIG edits, BIG time-consuming edits, edits you take MONTHS over. But you do them and then the book goes off and you think ... phew ... great ... what am I gonna write next. And that's when you get the copy edit where the publisher lets the Copy Proof editor (whose sole purpose in life is to protect the English language from philistines like you) have a go at your book and he corrects the grammar/spelling/impression you had that you were literate, covering your opus in Rain Forest destroying quantities of red ink in the process. That's edit # 10.

But it ain't over. Once this is done it goes off to be typeset, which is the process that takes your gibberish and making it look like a book. And you've got to edit that - CAREFULLY - 'cos this is absolutely the last chance you'll have to make sure that you haven't done something stupid (and you have, betcha money on it!), so that's edit # 11.

But you do that and then you think, phew ...great ... what am I gonna write next. And then your agent phones and says 'Great news, the book's sold to the Americans'. And you think 'WOW' and then you get an e-mail from New York which starts 'great book but ...'

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Went to see the latest film version of John le Carre's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,' on Sunday. I was quite looking forward: Gary Oldman is one of my favourite actors, the buzz was good and the source material impeccable. I came away disappointed.

Oh, all the elements were there: the cinematography was superb (I loved all those shots of documents going up and down in a lift), Oldman captured the stillness of the Smiley character brilliantly, and the Director' portrayal of a seedy, deflated 70's Britain excellent (made me quite nostalgic). The lighting was terrific too.

But ... but ... but ...

As is so often the case it was the script that let it down. I should have known what to expect when I read an interview with Gary Oldman when he said that he'd been regularly consulting with John le Carre in order to get his performance right. I am always suspicious of writers who get too closely involved with film adaptations of their work: novels and films are two completely separate mediums and in moving from one to the other the director/scriptwriter needs to be brutal with books. I think this is why the Bourne films were successful .. they were inspired by the source material, not enslaved by it.

In the case of Tinker they seem to have forgotten that what they were dealing with was, in essence, a whodunit, and to make these work the audience has to be party to the deliberations of the sleuth so they can pit their wits against him. In Tinker all the deliberation of Smiley as he tried to track down the mole were internalised and I've gotta tell you that shots of railway junctions symbolising the workings of his little grey cells don't cut it.

But where there was a paucity of information regarding Smiley's investigations, we were bombarded with a mass of irrelevant noise about characters (who cared that Benedict Cumberbatch's was homosexual; it had no relevance to the story); the Cold War (it doesn't help to be sitting next to Nelli as she mutters in your ear, enumerating the gaffs made regarding the Russians); and the protagonists' back-stories (all that angst by Tom Hardy's character about 'Irina' was a total waste of screen time). And what all this noise did was derive the major players a chance to establish their characters in any meaningful way: at the end of the film the only ones we could name were Smiley, 'C' (John Hurt so far over the top that he had sprouted wings) and er, that's it.

The girls pronounced themselves 'baffled'. I have to agree: if you haven't read the book, don't bother.

My rating: 6/10 (and Gary Oldman earned 3 of those!)

Oddly though

Saturday, 17 September 2011


Okay, so two weeks behind schedule I've finished the beta version of the final Demi-Monde book, 'The Demi-Monde: Fall'. It's still a little rough around the edges and I haven't interlaced the final chapters (I've done this in the other three books to add pace and tension) because its easier to edit them when they're separate but the story's there, the denouement is in place and I think the resolve of all the plot lines is okay.


Now I'm gonna let it lie for a few weeks so I can hit it renewed and refreshed (anyway I've got the US edit of Spring to attend to). I think I'm gonna need all the energy I can muster; the final edit of Fall is going to be a beast. It's come in at just north of 196,000 (say, 200,000 with a 'Story So Far' and a Glossary) and I want to be sure it doesn't include 30,000 words of self-indulgence. Pace is everything!

But anyway, the back of the thing is broken and I really like some of the new characters.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


I had one of those odd juxtapositions of thoughts today. I read the article on Nick Broomfield's documentary about Sarah Palin ('You Betcha' - I've got to get to the BFI Film Festival on the 14th October!) in The Guardian and then this evening sat down to watch both the original and the (fucking awful) remake of 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' on TV and I was struck by a terrible thought:

What if Gort came to call and Sarah Palin was President of the USA!!!

The answer to the question, is there intelligent life on Earth would be really worth eavesdropping in on.


Last up (for now!) is the song Nelli and I wrote called 'At Night I Burn'. I think this would be especially appropriate for the scene where Josephine Baker (great, great star) is dancing in Club Resi. We'll need something up-beat and pretty sensuous and this fits the bill. I'm desperately trying to remember the name of the violin player we drafted in ... but old age has beaten me.
Anyway enjoy:


For the scene when Vanka and Ella get smoochie there's only one choice of music: Nelli's take on the song 'Dancing'. 'Dancing' was written by the late, great Race Newton who played piano for Nelli for almost three years. Race had earned his chops playing in New York after the war and there wasn't ANYTHING he didn't know about jazz. He was a very special pianist and one of the few musicians I've ever met who knew that silence in music was as importaant as the notes.

Check out 'Dancing' on

Monday, 12 September 2011


The track to accompany Ella's dance in the hounfo at Dashwood Manor was always going to be tricky mainly because it was meant to have been accompnaied by drums - by rada music. Fortunately Nelli and I had a time when we were really into dub music (the more earthy cousin of reggae) so we'd had mix of one of our songs from Nelli's first album 'Jazz Noir' re-mixed dub style.

So this is 'Struggle Dance (JubDub) Mix' which is one of my favorite of all Nelli's recordings. Hope you like it.


Second track up on the 'The Demi-Monde:Winter' sountrack is the Marlene Dietrich classic 'Falling In Love Again'. Nelli had included this in her set and it always went down a storm so I had ideas of updating it and releasing it as a single. It didn't come to anything but when I was casting around for a number for Ella to do when she first comes to the Prancing Pig this was an obvious candidate.

The video is one I produced (and did the camera work for). Never quite as sexy as I wanted but still, considering it was made for £400 not too scruffy.

Check the song out on


Okay, prompted by Kimberley at HarperCollins idea for a soundtrack for 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' I dusted off the tracks from Nelli's never-released album that had been tentatively entitled 'Sex&Bile.'

This number 'I Don't Do Good' was written by Nelli and me and was intended to put a bit of 'oomph' in her live shows - nuJazz is all very well but it is a bit cerebral. This is the d'nb mix done by Bob and Paul. I think it would sit wonderfully at the beginning of the book when Norma is trying to escape from Clements thru the back streets of the Rookeries.


The link is with YouTube and the rest of the tracks are shown under 'The UnFunDaMentalists featuring Nelli Rees.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

TheY WanT uS DumB

Kimberley at HarperCollins is putting a FaceBook page together to support the US launch of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' at the end of December. One of the ideas she has is putting a soundtrack together and she asked me for suggestions, which persuaded me to dust off some of the tracks that Nelli and I produced for her stillborn 2nd album and I think they stand up bloody well!

I'm going to put them up on YouTube and the first is 'They Want Us Dumb'.

Nelli and I wrote it in protest of the Anglo/US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and is, unfortunately, still pertinent four years on. I think Nelli does a great job with the Manson-esque vocals (she's more a nuJazz singer).

You can check it out on under the name 'The UnFunDaMentalists (feat. Nelli Rees)'. I'll sort out a better video when I get time!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


I had hoped to have the beta-version (finished but rough) of the last Demi-Monde book completed by the end of August but things got a little backed up and it's proven to be a bigger (literally) task than I imagined.

As I think I've said I'll be dividing Fall into two books (all contained within the same cover) and the first 'The Battle of the JAD' is now with Nelli for a preliminary reading. It's better than I thought it would be but not as good as I'd like it to be (but isn't that ever the way with writing). I like the denouement and I like some of the new characters but as it weighs in at 100,000 words I think it'll need a little surgery just to inject some pace.

The second book (section, part, whatever) has the working title 'Battle for the Real World' and is proving to be an absolute bastard. It's very complex and although I've resolved all the multiple threads of the story (I wish, I hope) it's VERY convoluted and some of it's quite demanding. My target is to have it in beta-mode within a fortnight and then to go at it with an axe. It's currently weighing in at 105,000 words - way too long - and there's still a longish chaper to write.

What I've learned from all this is I will NEVER, EVER do a book this sizeable again. It's almost impossible to edit the bloody thing, almost impossible to keep track of all the ins and outs and it drains your will to live.

In future it'll be 120,000 words tops! Frank Herbert must have been a bloody masochist!


I need a puzzle in 'The Demi-Monde: Fall' which turns on deciding what the next number is in a sequence, and I'm trying to decide if the one I've come up with is too hard/easy (delete as applicable). The sequence is:

1 5 2 3 2 7 8 11

This sequece is referenced in the book by a piece of doggerel:

This is the stairway to heaven.

Salute the Trinity that is

The Nothingness …


And the Duality of Being.

So come, embrace ABBAsoluteness.

When consciousness blossoms

And flowers beyond the confines of the mind.

Then, Time will have no meaning,

No relevance.

To progress to the embracing of Ying.

To stand beyond Time

HumanKind must conquer Time

And bring the Column to its resting place.

But to err, is to die.
The clue is in the numbers 1, 2 & 3!


I was asked by Quercus for cover art for the third book in the Demi-Monde series: 'The Demi-Monde: Summer'. Quite a bit of the action takes place in the Sino-Japanese Sector of the DM - the Coven - when one of my heroines is help captive in the Forbidding City by the dastardly Empress Wu. There she is introduced to the now outlawed philosophy of Confusionism.

Based on the teachings of the mysterious Master as recorded in the two MasterWorks – the iChing and the BiAlects – Confusionism differs from all other religions in the Demi-Monde in that it is refuses to provide a definitive guide to its followers as to what Confusionists should believe and how they should act. This ‘confusion’ inherent in Confusionism is a result of the Master’s teachings being represented by the diametrically opposed views of two mythical opponents and their inability – and, it must be said, unwillingness – to fuse these views into a single teaching. The two Voices of the BiAlects – the Sages Wun Zi and Too Zi – represent contrasting and irreconcilable interpretations of human life and purpose; of the Creation; of the ultimate Fate of the Kosmos; and of the existence and role of ABBA in human affairs. It is the aim of all Confusionists to reconcile the two Voices (‘the Fusion’) and to know the Answers to the five FundaMental Questions posed by the BiAlects. The Master informs us in the Ninth and final Book of the BiAlects that the Fusion will not come until the Time of Enlightenment, when Yin and Yang are merged in the form of Ying, and all knowledge – both Self-Knowledge and Knowledge of the Kosmos – are revealed to HumanKind.

Therefore the idea I had - which Nigel so mastefully interpreted - was that we should take the usual yin/yang emlem, introduce the dragons (the symbol of Empress Wu) but have them spiralling together into Ying. I thing it works pretty good!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Amanda, my editor in HarperCollins, has just sent me the final cover of the US edition of ‘The Demi-Monde: Winter’ (out January 2012, folks) and mighty fine it looks too. Amanda was kind enough to involve me (and by default my designer mate, Nigel) in the design process so I got to see how the cover evolved. I think it’s quite an interesting process.

It all started when I got an email from Amanda in the beginning of April saying that HC were having a cover concept meeting and did I have any thoughts regarding which design elements might be useful for inclusion in a design. So I had a think and below is a précis of what I sent (edited so some of the spoiler bits have been taken out).

The Demi-Monde is an ensemble story told over four books of the protagonists’ adventures in a virtual dystopia locked in a Victorian timeframe. While the story deals with what I hope are serious issues (fascism, racism, eugenics and anti-semitism) I’ve tried to do this in a satirical way and invest the books with humour. They are written to be fast-paced and fun. I’ve also attempted to introduce a Lost-like unexpectedness to maintain the readers’ interest throughout the four books and keep them intrigued. I call this script-tease. The words/phrases I think (hope) best describe the Demi-Monde series are fast-paced, dark-humoured, surreal, thought-provoking and fun. It appeals to females as well as males (and this has certainly been borne out by the reaction in the UK). It is not hard SF.

The basic themes which permeate the four volumes of the Demi-Monde are as follows:

SEASONS: Each volume of the DM is contained within a particular season, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Quercus is intent on showing this via the use of the cover colour (Blue for Winter; Green for Spring etc.).

LOCATION: Each volume is set in a different Sector of the Demi-Monde viz,Winter in the Rookeries of London and in Warsaw; Spring in Paris and Venice; Summer in Peking; and Fall in Istanbul and the walled city of the JAD (a faux Jerusalem).

REAL CHARACTERS: There are new historic characters (‘PreLived’) introduced in each volume. Each of these will be shown on the website by means of a cigar card.

DUALISM: Dualism is a key feature of the Demi-Monde series, viz the virtual Demi-Monde and the physical Real World; and Norma Williams and her doppelganger Aaliz Heydrich.

PURSUIT: The single connecting theme of all four books is Norma Williams and her ‘journey’ from being spoilt teenage brat to sage and peacenik. By the suffering and anguish she endures as she is pursued through the Demi-Monde she grows in maturity and stature.

BLOOD: Blood is very important in the Demi-Monde. All the Dupes inhabiting the Demi-Monde are blood dependent.

STEAMPUNK: The Demi-Monde is technologically ‘fixed’ in the year 1870, but some of the tweaks the Dupes have made to their world are quite steampunky (steamers are their equivalents of cars, they use PigeonGrams to communicate etc.).

RUNES: There is a flavouring of Seidr magic in the books and hence quite a few references to runes and other Norse elements. The Valknut rune is the emblem of the quasi-fascist unFunDaMentalists while the combined Laguz sinister and dexter is the symbol of Lilith.

RELIGIONS: Each Sector of the Demi-Monde has at least one religion: UnFunDaMentalism; ImPuritanism; Confusionism; HerEticalism; nuJuism; and HimPerialism.

This I followed up towards the end of April by a selection of ‘reading lines' I’d dreamed up (I’ve already blogged about these) and then at the beginning of July Amanda sent this cover mock-up through:

The consensus of the UK jury (me, Nelli and Nigel) was that it was a good cover – a sort of cross between ‘The Lost Symbol’ and ‘1984’ (not bad references) and that the eye was clever – but we had a few concerns. These mainly centred on the thought that the cover's two parts (the cityscape and the rest) don’t seem terribly well integrated. The cityscape looked a little like an after-thought and whilst the cityscape we used on the website was an amalgam of the skylines of Washington, London and Berlin (with the Eiffel Tower shown in the background) the one on the cover didn’t communicate this feeling of wrongness. Perhaps, we opined, if St Basils from Moscow was shown near to St Pauls with the Eiffel Tower across the river, this would give a better sense of unease.We also suggested that there should be more steamships on the river (it is 1870, after all).  Nigel wasn’t too happy with the title font (but then Nigel's got a font fetish) thinking it neither fish (Victorian-esque) or fowl (digital). There was a thought that the title would be better if it were centred and that ‘Winter’ could be strengthened.

A couple of days later this is what came back. Heaps better, especially regarding the make up of the cityscape! But ever one to push my luck, I observed that it might be better to run the gold border into the rip off of the cityscape i.e. no horizontal border 2/3rds of the way down, the one bifurcated by the Valknut. I thought that if this was ditched it would lessen the impression of there being two parts to the cover, especially if the rip wasn’t so square to the edge. I was still missing my steamships on the river and I wondered why we needed to state that it’s ‘a novel’. I also showed the cover to Kit, my writer-in-waiting daughter, and she liked it BUT didn’t think it was very girl-friendly, so I added one thought: how about making the eye a female eye? Nigel STILL didn't like the font!

Amanda had also been pondering on reading lines, now leaning towards “Where nothing is as it was … or as it will be.” Or “Trust nobody … not even yourself.” Or “Someone’s always watching”. I weighed in with “A Past that wasn’t … a Present that isn’t … and a Future that mustn’t be.”

This was the final iteration of US cover Mark I and I thought it pretty damned good, especially that the burn/tear line was no more asymmetrical and the horizontal gold border had been ditched. This was the cover that went off to the Sales/Marketing Meeting that makes the final judgement on covers.

They obviously weren't keen. It seems they thought it a tad too travelbook-esque and wanted something funkier.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the final US cover of 'The Demi-Monde:Winter' (and bloody brilliant it is too!!!!!!) ...

Thursday, 18 August 2011


I got to see the final cover of UK edition of The Demi-Monde: Spring today, that's the second book in the DM quartet. Each of the four books is set in a season so following on from the blue of winter we have the green of spring. I think it looks pretty good and I'm quite happy with the blurb on the back (I should be, I wrote most of it!). I had wanted to do something a little more radical with the blurb: pigeongrams feature quite heavily in Spring so I concocted a Blurb-o-Gram which went like this:

I thought it added a certain je ne sais pas but the consensus was that it was too much. Shame
This second book features the character of Lilith quite heavily so I thought it appropriate that she was there on the front cover. Book sellers' sensibilities were such that she couldn't have any visible nipples so this is what Nigel came up with in the end. Anyway, the upshot is that this is the book which will be hitting the bookshops in the UK on the 27th December!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


I've been neglecting my blog. I've set myself a target of having the beta-version of the final Demi-Monde book 'The Demi-Monde: Fall' finished by the end of August and although the first half of the book (confusingly called 'Book 1) which takes place inside the Demi-Monde is in pretty good shape, the second half (you've guessed it 'Book 2'!) which takes place in the Real Wolrd has proven to be a real pig.

In Book 2 I'm trying to pull together three main plot threads which although interlinked are bloody complicated in their own right so all I seem to have been doing is wrting reams and reams of exposition. Not terribly exciting to write and a damned sight less exciting to read. It all came to a head this morning when I sat down at the keyboard and hadn't a bloody clue what I was doing there. As I've always found from experience the last thing to do is give up, so I started writing 'filler': bits I might be able to use to up the thrill quotient in the story. Once I've got some mileage done I always feel better, so after ponding out 1,500 words of total crap I had a little ponder and bits started to drop into place. It ain't perfect and it'll need me to go back and re-write a couple of chunks I'd thought were done and dusted but there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel.

I've also got a killer twist for a denouement.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Just to show the power of the Internet, I give you a review of The Demi-Monde: Winter that's came winging in all the way from South Africa. Penned by Dave-Brendon de Burgh you can find it on:

Dave is a writer and an aficionado of all things fantastic BUT more importantly seems to be quite even-handed in his critiques so this was one review I was looking forward to. You can learn a lot from people like Dave. But the problem I find with reviews by writers is that they approach books in a very analytical way, a sort of, 'where would I take this story if I was writing it' tip and Dave is no different. He's already looking forward to the last book, Fall, and how the series will end - his guess with either the Demi-Monde or the Real-World in rubble - so I better be careful and keep everybody off-balance thru Spring and Summer.

Talking of being off-balance that's currently where I find myself with Fall. I'm 170,000 words in and STILL struggling with the ending but I've a feeling that the last of my made-up 'isms' - InfoCialism in this case - will play a big part.

Oh, and well done, Dave: that 'our world in the novel' comment deserves a coconut!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


I've been so caught up in sorting out The Demi-Monde: Fall that everything else (including this blog) has been neglected. I've been trying to resolve the second phase of the book which has been an absolute swine but now I can see light (or possibly an on coming train) at the end of the tunnel. Problem is that in doing this I've twigged a better way of resolving the ending which will require a LOT of words. QED it's going to be a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG book so I thought I'd better touch base. The consensus seems to be that hitting 220,000 words (cf Winter, Spring and Summer which will weigh in at circa 150,000 words) ain't too bad. So I'm ploughing on with what looks to be a real beast.

I had a break today to speak with Amanda and the marketing people at HarperCollins re the ePromotion of Winter. All terribly exciting. Gonna be neat having posters of The Demi-Monde up at ComiCon!

Monday, 11 July 2011


Got chatting to a guy called Jeff Richards at Alt-Fiction and ended up giving him a copy of The Demi-Monde: Winter to review. As good as his word Jeff reviewed the book, posting it on SSF Chronicles. You can find it on:

Jeff made some interesting points. He wasn't a great fan of my cliff-hanger endings (which is a shame because there's at least two more to go). I thought long and hard about this when I was writing Winter, whether to make the books self contained or not. The problem is that if you put a resolve at the end then you've got to unresolve it at the start of the next book which always seems a bit artificial to me. The other thought I had was that as the action in each of the books is set in a different Sector with different supporting characters then the reader is going to have quite enough exposition to cope with without a long explanation as to why the protagonists are in danger again. But in the end, the real reason I use them is that I was brought up on Saturday morning pictures when I was a kid where every episode ended with a cliff-hanger ('Can Batman escape from the concrete block the fiendish Joker has encased him in. Tune in next week ...'). I'm addicted to the bloody things.

He would also have liked to have had more explanation as to how Norma got to be in the DM. Now, Jeff, this is all written, but I ain't had room! Fifty thousand words is a lot to drop into a book. I had hoped to do it in Fall but that would tip the book way over 200K which is too LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG. I'm thinking of doing it as a stand-alone story and maybe wrapping it up with the origin story of another key character appearing in Spring. I've got 50K written about her too. We'll see.

Finally, you're right Jeff, the Demi-Monde ain't steampunk. It's a thriller with an SF/Fantasy tip!

Anyway, thanks for the review, Jeff, much appreciated.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


To me breaching the 150K word barrier is the time when I can actually start thinking that I am really going to finish a book before the book finishes me. There are certain points in a book's life that go something like this:

20K: there's still time to stop and start again. What I've been writing is crap.

50K: there's still time to stop and start again but the pain of bining a month or two's work is immense. What I've been writing is crap, but it's a lot of crap.

100K: I've written so much that I can't start again but I'm losing the will to live. Maybe I should go back to accountancy. I don't know how to resolve the plot. All my characters are anodyne. What I've been writing is crap and it's incoherent crap.

120K: maybe some of what I've written ain't too bad. I have to dump/rewrite a couple of characters, usually the ones I spent the most time researching. Now is the time for a major read thru and assessment. I can't think of an ending. I'm fucked.

150K: I have a big pile of crap which needs to be polished (d'oh?). I still can't think of a denouement. There's too much sex/violence/swearing/exposition/boring shit. What I've got is mileage, which is great if I was laying a road, but unfortunately I'm writing a book.

180K: This is when I stop. There should hopefully be within this heap of over-written poo a half-way decent story of 150K. I start editing. I edit for three months. Nobody talks to me. I don't talk to me. I go to parties and stand there mentally editing my book. I refuse to read books on the grounds that these cocky bastards have finished their edit and are just taunting me. I change the ending. I change the ending again.

150K: I abandon my book and instead send it off to my agent. Why should I suffer alone?


The copy edit of Spring came thru on Friday. The copy edit is the last editing process in the pre-published life of a book, when the minutiae of the story is examined: spelling, punctuation, inconsistencies, that sort of stuff.

I must be getting better. Last time, Merlin (the name of my copy editor) covered Winter with a sea of red ink corrections but this time it was more of a puddle (and done in a rather sweet lilac colour). BUT hidden away in all this was a real bomb. Merlin made the observation that the revelation at the end of the book regarding one of my characters (I ain't saying who) didn't square with some of the earlier action. This was a real boot in the balls. Neither of my two beta readers or my editors had made this comment so it came as a bit of a shock.

A worrying shock. Inconsistencies can ruin a reader's supension of disbelief and smacks of sloppy plotting so I had to take it seriously. So Saturday was spent pulling together all this character's scenes and trawling thru them. In the end I didn't think there was too much of a problem but to be on the safe side I put in half a dozen or so additional sentences/phrases. It was all a bit belt and braces but I felt better at the end of the exercise.

Anyway, eyes down and hopefully the book will be winging its way back to Quercus on Tuesday.

Friday, 1 July 2011


I'm now well on with the fourth and final book of the Demi-Monde series. I had a rocky spell a couple of weeks ago when I thought I might be writing myself into a cul-de-sac but this I put down to lack of concentration - there was so much happening at Chez Rees that I was writing in spurts of a couple of hours. Now I've been able to put in a couple of solid days at the typeface, I'm starting to get a grip.

Yesterday I breeched the 135,000 word barrier and although some of it is in a pretty incoherent state most of the major elements of the book are now in place or I know how I'm going to shape them. The only big plot hole relates to Trixie and Wysochi and here I'm still waiting for inspiration to strike. I think I've got some interesting characters too - Judas Iscariot and Saladin strut their stuff as does uber-badnik, Thaddeus Bole - so I've had some fun writing them. Some of the reveals I'm pleased with too: I think only the most diligent of readers will have picked up all the clues scattered through the books so hopefully there'll be some 'wow, of course' moments.

What my major problem has been is the 'fun' element. The denouement is pretty messy for all concerned and it's difficult to crack jokes when people (and characters) are dropping like flies. I'll have a long ponder when the book is finished and in beta-mode.

Currently I'm thinking of splitting the book into two parts: one part set in the Demi-Monde and one in the Real World. My instinct is against doing this as I think the duality of the books is better preserved by interlacing the story relating to each domain but interlacing is bloody difficult to pull off and can be bloody confusing for the reader. This is especially the case as I've a feeling in my water that Fall is going to end up considerably longer than the 150,000 limit I set for the first three books. I'll have to have a think.

Got a day off today. It's the girls' final day at their school so it's speech day with the Ball tonight. Got a new tux!

Thursday, 30 June 2011



Welcome to new attendee Gerry!

Congratulations to Jan on the nomination of her short story ‘Otterburn’ in the British Fantasy Society Awards 2011 short story category.

After the standing-room only attendance of last week we were down to just six of us this week, but small in number though we were the quality of the writing was good.

Jan kicked off with a new short story called ‘Midnight Twilight’ set on a desolate artic island ‘somewhere north of Fennmark’ and involving the experiences of an intrepid reporter Ellie as she tries to get to the bottom of the nightly appearances of a mysterious sledger. We were all agreed that the piece was well written and the planned hook a good one. Specific comments were:

• Ellie (as a novice arctic-nik) seemed remarkably unphased by the strange dawn/duck ambience and her ability as a cross-country skier a little too good.

• The time spent describing the dogs was probably excessive.

• Jan has to check her speeds and distances.

• Maybe Ellie should be on a mission to check out all the unexplained legends (Yeti, BigFoot, the Abominal Sledger etc.).

Peter read a short story entitled ‘Ghost House’ which was a tale of a sceptic challenging his disbelief by spending some time in ‘the most haunted house in Britain’ where he has a close encounter of the weird kind. Again a good, strong story. Comments were:

• The Edwardianesque syntax of the girl threw one or two of the listeners, maybe more could be made of her being an en-actor?

• There was a feeling that the ending should be made shorter and punchier and that Peter should find a way of communication the lead characters scepticism earlier.

• Not make the lead character married so the sexual chemistry between him and the girl could be played up.

I read an excerpt from the end of ‘The Demi-Monde: Spring’, the sexy bit involving the seduction of one of his characters. It seemed to go down well with the listeners. Comments were:

• Perhaps make it a little snappier in places.

• One particular switch of POV has to be emphasised for clarity

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Amanda from HarperCollins has just sent me a few copies of the white-label copy of the US-edition of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' which is being given out to the William Morrow sales force. I'm now getting knee-deep in various versions of the book (I'd like my dining room back please) so if anyone would like a copy I'd be delighted to send one. Just drop me your address on

Sunday, 26 June 2011


I attended the panel discussion entitled 'The World of Publishing', the panel being John Jarrold (my agent), Lee Harris (editor of Angry Robot), Julie Crisp (editorial director of Tor), Jon Weir (publicity manager for Gollanz) and David Thomas Moore and editor).

Some of the points raised bear repeating. It seems that 90% of submissions to agents/publishers torpedo themselves by not following submission guidelines and by being infested with poor spelling/grammar/punctuation. This results in them heading binwise. New writers have got to realise that publishing is a business and hence has got to be approached in a businesslike manner. I emphasised this at my workshop: getting these hygiene factors (grammar/spelling/layout etc.) is essential. If a writer can't be arsed to spellcheck his or her work then they are signalling that the chances of them meeting editorial deadlines etc. are piss poor. Of course, the corollary of this is that if you do get them right then you're immediately in the top ten per cent of all submissions.

On the subject of self-publishing the panel was surprisingly dismissive. They acknowledged that some new writers had come thru the Kindle ranks but noted that these were amazingly small in number (a handful out of the 3 million books self-published last year in the States) so really nothing much has changed.

There was a comment that some writers, tho' talented, had written books which were perceived as not commercial enough (been there with 'Dark Charismatic'!).

They also looked for enthusiasm in their writers: if a writer wasn't passionate about their work then i) it showed in their work and ii) how were they supposed to be enthused about a book if the writer wasn't.

Food for thought.


Attended Alt.Fiction held at the QUAD in Derby today. The big change in the twelve months from the last one is that this year I was there as a delegate rather than an attendee. I didn't realise that being a delegate was such bloody hard work!

That's the back of my head folks,
my best side.
 I kicked off at 10 am hosting a Writing Workshop entitled 'That Killer First Page' (see a previous blog for details) and what was nice was it was well attended ... eight people which was about eight more than I expected. It seemed to go okay too, helped by the audience being smart and enthusiastic. I rambled on for the prescribed hour, answered questions as best I could and I hope gave some good advice.

Following on from this I enjoyed a coffee with Alison Drakes (lovely lady) re the book she's working on 'Ad Infinitum' and which she'd sent me the first chapter to have a look at. I hope what I said was constructive and helpful and look forward seeing her book in print.

From left to right: me, Pat Kelleher,
Colin Harvey and Guy Haley
Next up was a panel discussion entitled 'Breaking into Writing'. This was my first PD so it was fortunately that I was flanked by people who seemed to know what they were talking about (Guy Haley, Colin Harvey and Pat Kelleher). The room was packed (twenty people?) so it was standing room only and bloody hot. I'm afraid my advice differed a little from that of the other panellists but I suppose it's good that there was a variety of opinions on offer. It was transmitted as a PodCast so I'll post the link as soon as I have it.

Then it was lunch with my agent, John Jarrold, which was very enjoyable. I'm going to be pitching an idea I have for a vampire
whodunit to John which I'm excited about: it'll make a change from the Demi-Monde! I drank too much merlot, tho'.

Tony Ballentyne with two minders
Got back to the QUAD in time do a reading with Tony Ballantyne. Tony read an excellent short story about an enterprising owner of a Chinese restaurant and I read (slightly blurred by merlot, it has to be said) the intro to the Demi-Monde which seem to be well received. We'd finished inside fifteen minutes and I thought it was early shower time but the questions kept coming and we had a really enjoyable forty-five minute discussion. Excellent.

The last thing I attended was the panel discussion entitled 'The World of Publishing' but I'll talk about that at length in a separate blog.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Nelli and I took in Green Lantern last night. Kit (+ boyfriend) and Ellie had opted for Pirates (Johnny Depp!!!!!) and as five is certainly too many for company and I didn't want to see Pirates (Johnny Depp!!!!) we finally picked Green Lantern (I mean, the alternative was Kung Fu Panda!). I did this with a certain trepidation having been disappointed by both 'Thor' and 'X-Men: First Class' and with the GL reviews being decidedly mixed. We were both pleasantly surprised.

I have to admit to being a closet fan of GL. I was always drawn to the 2nd tier of superhero comics. I bought 'Metal Men' (now that would make a great movie!) religiously before it folded so prematurely and had a real soft spot for GL. I liked the back story and the reasoning behind GL getting his powers seemed more 'oh, why not' than kids being bitten by atomic spiders or coming to live under yellow suns.

The film's story is pretty straightforward. Hotshot test pilot Hal Jordan - troubled, rebellious, irreverent, defier of authority - in love/hate relationship with classy girl, is a man with a damaged psyche (dad died testing an aircraft). All this angst doesn't stop him being selected to take over as a Galactic Guardian by a dying alien and given the power ring which turns his thoughts into green-tinged reality (cue some really impressive SFX). Taken to alien planet where he is pronounced useless. Goes back to Earth to discover himself. Ultra baddy shows up looking like a cloud with attitude. GL battles cloud and comes out on top. GL gets girl and comes out on top.

Okay, okay ... I know. We're not talking Kubrick here and you won't be seeing a landmark in cinematographic history but shit GL did everything it said on the tin: it was fun, with an engaging hero complete with a mischievous sparkle in his eye, good-looking love-interest, a story that was by-the-numbers but with enough irony to carry the day (though it did get a bit creaky in the middle), some scary moments (too scary for a 12A?) and a few good one-liners. Yeah, it was a good solid Saturday night movie and not a bad way to spend two hours winding down after a hard day.

The big plus was Ryan Reynolds: I thought he nailed the cocky, engaging bastard bit, tho' what Tim Robbins was doing and what role he was playing heaven only knows.

I'd vote it the best superhero movie of 2011 thus far (tho' the Cap America trailers looks terrifc) but that, folks ain't saying a lot.

Score: 7/10

Thursday, 23 June 2011


I’m holding a workshop at Alt-Fiction in Derby this coming Saturday and I chose for my subject ‘That All-Important First Page’. I did this for the simple reason that unless a would-be author gets this right then all the work he or she has put into their novel is just a waste of time.

Apparently people select their mates on the basis of the first ten seconds of interaction – eyes meeting across a crowded room and all that – and that once this initial impression is forged it is almost impossible to overturn it. It’s the same with books. My agent told me once that he knows by the end of the first paragraph if the book’s any good, and I’m guessing that if a book hasn’t jingled the jangles of the reader (be they agent, publisher or punter) by the end of the first page (max!) then it’s bin time.
On this basis you’ve got 300 words to prevent your magnum opus interfacing with oblivion, so you’ve got to make each and every word count!

Now I’m no expert on creative writing but from what I’ve read (and here I’m referring to the SF/fantasy genre) it seems to me that there are certain things that get me hooked.

1. An intriguing, odd set-up. One of my favourite novels of all time, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ begins like this:

‘What’s it going to be then?’
There was me, that is Alex. And my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry.’

How can you resist reading on? I know the odd language might be daunting (a criticism that has been levelled at The Demi-Monde) but to me this communicates a really subversive feel and also that Alex isn’t quite operating on all cylinders.

Then there’s the classic: ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen’. Genius!

2. A crisis, with the hero/heroine in danger. Let’s begin with a cliff-hanger! This is the one I chose for The Demi-Monde (see below) and to make it work you’ve got to avoid passive writing (essentially telling not showing), over-complexity and too much description. Try:

‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.’ Stephen King, ‘The Gunslinger’.

3. Mystery. Everyone’s a sucker for a puzzle and well-written mystery will persuade the reader to turn that page in order to find the answer. I suppose the modern master of this is Dan Brown (yeah, I know he ain’t SF but I’m buggered if I can think of a great SF whodunnit. Now there’s a thought ...). If you check out The Lost Symbol (great first page, rotten book) how’s this for a hook:

‘Since the beginning of time, the secret had always been how to die’.

But as they say, physician heal thyself, so I thought I’d analyse the opening page of ‘The Demi-Monde: Winter’ to see how I stacked up.



Probably a mistake: it seems that a fair few readers don’t read Prologues. Strange but true. Probably better to have been Chapter 1

The Demi-Monde: the 37th Day of Winter, 1004

I used this to communicate that we were in a different world and a different time. Also as I hop between the Demi-Monde and the Real World in the rest of the book it’s a useful device to flag to the reader just which world they’re in.

Norma ran. Picked up her skirts and ran as she had never run in her life. Ran as though the Hounds of Hell were at her heels.

I wanted a short, sharp and exciting opening, this to signal that the book is a thriller. It also introduces my lead protagonist Norma and shows she’s in danger. I put the ‘picked up her skirts’ thing in as an afterthought to show that she’s dressed a little unconventionally.

Fuck it…the Hounds of Hell were at her heels.

Norma’s a feisty modern girl who calls a spade a spade so the use of the ‘Fuck it’ was deliberate to comunicate this. The thought lines are a substitute for dialogue.

And as she ran she heard a crackle of gunfire behind her, the sound of the shots ricocheting through the curfew-silent streets of London. The gunfire told her that Mata Hari and her Suffer-O-Gettes had kept their word. They had tried to delay those SS bastards for as long as they could. Suffer-O-Gettes died hard.

I’m told that the best hooks in a first page are sex and death ... I used danger. The juxtaposition of Mata Hari and the Suffer-O-gettes was an attempt to show that the Demi-Monde is out-of-kilter with our own world.

Run, Norma run! Mata Hari had screamed at her as Clement’s SS-Ordo Templi Aryanis thugs had smashed down the pub’s door. And she had run. She couldn’t - wouldn’t - let the SS catch her.

Mad, evil bastards.

But she was running blind.


The short elliptical sentences and paragraphs are designed to give the opening a breathless aspect, just like a running Norma would be.

The snow was so thick that she could barely see a dozen strides in front of her, snow that the icy wind was whipping into her eyes, making them water with pain.

Scene setting: the book is ‘The Demi-Monde: Winter’ when all said and done.

Angrily Norma shook her head, ordering herself to ignore the pain, ignore the cold, ignore the frosted numbness crawling along her fingers and her toes, ignore the protests of her mutinous body. Ordered herself to ignore everything but the need to put as much distance between herself and the animals chasing her as was humanly possible.

The repetition of ‘ignore’ is a writing device called ANAPHORA which consists of repeating a sequence of words thereby lending them emphasis. I did this to help build the tension, to show that Norma was starting to panic and to mimic the rhythm of her running.

She had to forget everything but the need to run. Forget that duplicitous, scheming, treacherous, underhand, slimy, son-of-a-bitch Burlesque Bandstand.


Over-the-top I know but Burlesque is an important character, but he doesn’t make an entrance for a hundred or so pages so I wanted the reader to remember him and Norma’s loathing of him.


Considering it's almost three years since I wrote these words I'm not too disappointed with them. I'd probably tweak the opening few words - Run, Norma run! - but other than that it's okay. Got me an agent and a publishing deal anyway, which ain't too shabby!