Saturday, 31 January 2009

February's Publication

This month's publication is the debut novel of a fellow Yank, Doug Worgul:

LaVerne Williams is a reformed felon, ex-ballplayer, and owner of Kansas City’s best barbecue joint. Ferguson Glen is an Episcopal priest and faded literary star, lover of God, women and liquor (but not necessarily in that order).

Their lives intersect at LaVerne’s diner – ‘Smoke Meat’, as the regulars call it. There they are joined by a cast of remarkable characters, including LaVerne’s devoted right-hand man, A.B. Clayton; blues legend ‘Mother’ Mary Weaver; and Sammy Merzeti, a young man with a bloody past – and a bloodier future.

Thin Blue Smoke is an epic redemption tale, the story of two men coming to terms with their pasts. It is also a novel about faith, race, storytelling, bourbon, the language of rabbits, and the finer points of barbecue technique.

Heartrending and bitterly funny, it marks the arrival of a vital new voice in American fiction.


Hi, Doug. Tell us a little about your novel, Thin Blue Smoke.

Thin Blue Smoke is set mostly in present-day Kansas City. It's primary themes are love and loss, hope and despair, fathers and sons, God and whiskey, and the blues and barbecue. It's about ordinary people struggling to come to grips with and find meaning in the extraordinary kinds of things that happen to all of us — death, squandered opportunities, broken dreams, unexpected gifts, small graces, second chances, good food, great music, community. It's not a genre novel. Though I suppose it could be forced into the category of literary fiction. It's very much character-driven, with a very slow-rising plot arc. I think it's pretty funny, though it's also pretty sad. My main objective was to get the readers to fall in love with these characters and to care deeply about what happens to them.

How did you and Macmillan New Writing "meet"?

My sister, Jan Ackerson, is also a writer and when I finished Thin Blue Smoke (on Labor Day, 2007), she alerted me to MNW, which she'd learned of on a Web site for writers. I submitted the manuscript via e-mail in October 2007 and heard from Will in late-November. Absolutely and forever changed my life.

What is your typical writing day?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a "writing day" for me typical or otherwise. I have a fairly demanding day job and an active family with two young daughters. So finding time to write is difficult. I am sometimes only able to squeeze in a paragraph or two a day. Other times maybe a page or two. But I'm constantly thinking about the story I'm working on, and always making notes. I don't really do drafts, per se. The writing comes out of my head pretty much fully formed and close to finished, so when I do manage to get the words down, there's not a lot of editing that goes on after that.

Can we please have the traditional Four Random Facts?

1. My oldest daughter is a world-class wedding photographer in Los Angeles.

2. My second daughter is a world-class elementary school teacher in Traverse City, Michigan.

3. My third daughter is a world-class student and basketball player in Leawood, Kansas.

4. My fourth daughter is a world-class intellect and comedian, also in Leawood, Kansas.

Very crafty of you to have four daughters; this shows outstanding foresight on your part. Do you have a writing mantra?

No writing mantra. I tried a mantra, but couldn't seem to get the hang it. I'm going to try a manifesto instead.

Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what...and why?

My hands cramp up if I try to write too much with pencil and paper, so it's mostly keyboard for me. Though I always have a notebook with me and I do make lots of notes by hand.

Will you share the greatest influences on your writing?

The greatest influences on my writing are probably Frederick Buechner, Jim Harrison, John Irving, and Oscar Hijuelos.

And, the last question: What would you rank as the most ludicous moment in your life?

It's a sad commentary that there haven't been too many ludicrous moments in my life. Ludicrousity is an important in a good life. Arguably, it is quite ludicrous that I am, at age 55, enjoying the publication of my first novel. Ludicrous, also, that it's taken me this long to figure out that this is what I was meant to do -- who I was meant to be.


Thin Blue Smoke will be published on February 6, 2009, and can be found at all good bookstores.

Doug has a new website/blog (which has pushed Ms. Whiteley out of the coveted last-in-the-alphabet position on our sidebar). Drop through and take a gander.

Friday, 30 January 2009

In The Beginning

At the start of the creative process, there's a rush of ideas, right? And sometimes you see the key points in the book clearly, and you know what you're working towards, right? Those bits are going to be good.

But what do you do when you don't have a key point for a beginning?

Quite often, I have to start writing and put down a scene/chapter that I know won't make it to the final version, but it's the only beginning I have in my head. I know it's wrong, but what else can I do? And then it bothers me, sometimes throughout the writing of the entire book, until I get that click and know what needs to go there instead.

Do you get that? Or can't you start until you know exactly what the start is?

Monday, 26 January 2009

Lucy McCarraher Returns to the Blogosphere

After a long (but apparently busy) bit of quiet time, Lucy McCarraher, author of MNW's Blood and Water, has started making noise again. She has begun a new blog at a new address (freshly updated under her name on the sidebar), has a new website, has published a new novel, Kindred Spirits, and has another, Mr. Mikey's Ladies, in the works.

Welcome back, Lucy!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

When the emperors are in the buff.

Just thought I'd link to a new post in my blog that may be of interest. It's quite lengthy, so I thought I'd link rather than copy-pasting!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A book meme

Grab the nearest book. Open it at random and post the first paragraph your gaze falls on, along with the book's title and author and the page number.
Oh cripes, it's a longish one, but good nonetheless:

"The key to bad girls is that they own their sexuality, and nobody dictates how they act out their sexuality. Possibly one of the best examples of a bad girl in literature is Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders of The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders. Published in 1722, the book was considered scandalous for its frankness and because of the unrepentant nature of the marauding Moll, who marries, deceives and cons an assortment of men in her search for wealth. Throughout the story, Moll must live by her wits, beauty and sexuality to survive. The children she has with her lovers and husbands are mostly pawned off for others to care for. Eventually her crimes land her in prison, where she manages to con the authorities out of hanging her, and she heads back to America, where she inherits a plantation. That is not the end of the story, but the point here is that Moll sold her soul and body for survival with little remorse, making her one of the original bad girls of literature."

You gotta love Moll. Anyway, this is from Bullies, Bastards & Bitches by Jessica Page Morrell, p228.

What about you lot?

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Hoard of Mhorrer

Matt's Hoard of Mhorrer has already been pinched by my son. He is particularly impressed with the fighting monks and has now stopped reading: but only so that he can order the first book.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Public lending rights

I'm sure no-one will have been as stupid as I've been, but just in case there are one or two other forgetful souls out there, do remember to let the PLR people know when you publish your next novel. I know, I know. Of course you have/will do. But I didn't, and have therefore lost nearly 6 months' PLR payments. Probably not big bucks, but what with the recession etc etc....

Saturday, 10 January 2009

A PanMac Interview With Matt

For those who haven't seen it already, there's a great interview with MFW Curran up on the Pan Macmillan site. You can get there by clicking on the link on the sidebar under the Book O' the Month image to the right (though for survivability beyond January you can also click here.)

By the way, when content like this crops up in your pub month, don't hesistate to give Tim or me an e-shout so we can insert a link. After all, pub month comes but once. (Okay, actually once per book. Or, to get picky, once per book per edition. But it only comes to the sidebar of this blog once...)

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Hoard of Mhorrer

Matt, congratulations on the release of Hoard of Mhorrer. Happy New Year!