Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Strange but apparently true

If you go to and key the title of my favourite film (Heavenly Creatures*) into the search box (don't specify DVDs or anything like that; just search all departments), the ninth item down on the list of results is currently Cover the Mirrors.

At first I thought it was related to my own search history, but I've had friends do the same thing on their own machines and they got the same results. Weird or what? And very cool, I have to say.

Anyone any idea why this might be happening? It's not as if my Amazon page mentions my taste in films or anything, so I'm left pleasantly baffled.

* And no, I don't go about my daily life envisioning lifesize claymation figures of my characters reacting to the situations and people I encounter. I'm tempted to add the word 'usually' here, but perhaps not.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Escalator

I can sympathise with writers who find out that being published is not the greatest thing in the universe. Nothing is the greatest thing in the universe. There's no experience which can make life worth living, even the ones you were aiming towards since you could think. Personally, I'm with Peter Cook. It's much better to set your sights far too high, and to move your goalposts every time you get near to your perceived achievement. Then you never realise your potential. You leave it glimmering on the horizon, and there's always a reason to face the east and smile every morning.

Anyhoo, I wanted to talk about what is great about being published. And my favourite thing at the moment is The Escalator. This is the conversation I have at parties when I tell strangers that I'm a writer. The Escalator is a series of steps they take towards the plateau which makes me unutterably cool in their eyes, at least for a few moments:

Them: So what do you do?

Me: I'm a writer.

Them: You mean a technical writer? Is the money good in that?

Me: No, I'm a writer writer. Novels. Short stories.

Them: Well done you! You keep going with that! I bet you'll even get published one of these days.

Me: I am published.

Them: Self published?

Me: No. Published published.

Them: Good for you! That's brilliant! I bet one of these days a really big proper publisher will publish one of your books! What's the name of your publisher?

Me: Macmillan.

Them: I've heard of them...

Me: Yes.

Them: Wow. Yes. That's really brilliant! Keep going and one of these days you'll even be on the shelves in Waterstones!

Me: I am on the shelves in Waterstones.

Them: Holy crap.

Then there's a silence, and then they ask me what my next book is about, and they promise to buy a copy, and usually I write my name down on a napkin, and off we go to the next topic, such as global warming or Eastenders. But I do love The Escalator. It's just like being six again and travelling to Exeter just to ride those magic stairs at Debenhams again and again. I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

World Book Day

The World Book Day Hidden Gems first round ends this week. If anyone thinks Playing with the Moon might make a good book club read or spark debate among other reading groups, it would be very kind of them to take a look here, and register (top menu bar) and vote.

At the moment I'm on a long list of 100 of books. On Friday, at noon, voting closes and a shortlist of 10 titles is compiled. Then that list is cut to one. At least it doesn't involve ballroom dancing or singing and there is no Simon Callow.

Anyone who would like to vote--thank you! I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Do I Get a Gold Star on the Library Bulletin Board Now?

As of today, I've read all the published MNW novels. Well, except for Testament, which is somewhere in the trans-Atlantic post (and therefore not shown in the rather sloppy photo above). There they are in all their glory, in pub order left to right starting at the bottom.

I'm not usually much of a completist, and I never was much for coin collections or trading cards. But I started with the MNW special offer of the first six...and then after those, I read this one, and then that one, and after a while it seemed as if I were being rude by not reading the other five or six. Though it's been two steps forward and one step back, as they seem to keep publishing new ones every month.

And, no, I'm not going to review them. The dreaded book reports were the reason I never got a gold star on the library bulletin board in the first place. (My reasoning back then was why waste time writing anything when there was so much great stuff to read? Which is damn sound reasoning. Probably ought to have stuck with my position on the subject.)

A few of them weren't exactly my sort of thing (whatever that is), but I enjoyed them all. And I can say that I understand why most of them ended up at MNW--they are good books, but most of them are a little bent, just the teensiest bit outside the standard categories.

I won't take any vows to continue this practice. Though I will be reading Testament soon. And I'm looking forward to Aliya's forthcoming book. And Brian's. And Tim's. And Matt's, of course. Oh, and Eliza's. And from Faye's recent post, she's off on novel three; I'd happily read novel two.

On reflection, were it to appear, I'd probably read the second book from any of the MNW authors. So I guess I probably will keep up this habit, especially now that I'm caught up.

As they used to say in bad foreshadowing, Little did I know what I was getting myself into...

Thanks for the great reads, gang.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The writer's life.

hagsharlotsheroines review!

A fantastic review of Cover the Mirrors has been posted on the hagsharlotsheroines blog, courtesy of the lovely Laura! If you haven't checked hags out yet it's definitely worth a look, and while you're there you can check out my review of Libba Bray's historical YA fantasy The Sweet Far Thing as well.

Thanks again to Laura, and watch this space for news of my next contribution to hags.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

It's All In The Title (Thattaway)

Over on my Pootle and Rat page there's a list of the winners of the Diagram Prize, which is awarded annually to the worst book title of the year.

I'd love to come up with a title as intriguing as some of these, but my mind is a blank. Perhaps true creativity is the ability to explore that thin line between clever and stupid. (Thanks to David Isaak for putting that quote from Spinal Tap back in my mind - it's now refusing to leave...)

News Bulletin

RN Morris--the Clark Kent identity of MNW author Roger Morris--has quit his dayjob and, follwing every novelist's dream, set up as a full-time scribbler. Read about it on his blog.

With all his new spare time, perhaps he'll toss off the odd literary novel (see his MNW debut Taking Comfort for a classy read*) in between bouts of crime fic.

Don't worry that he'll be too busy riding to hounds, and flying off to holiday on the Continent in exclusive resorts located in towns with too many vowels in their names. As long as you keep him in A3 tracing paper and other stationer's products, he's a prolific fellow so he ought to be able to squeeze in a few books each year.

(Perhaps I'd be more prolific myself, if only they sold A3 tracing paper over here. That's my current excuse, and I'm sticking by it.)

Bravo, Roger!

*(Actually, his crimefic is pretty classy, too.)

Monday, 7 January 2008

Testament on the net!

Something very exciting has just happened! A friend has just pointed out that you can read the whole of the first chapter of Testament on the Macmillan New Writing site. Just click on the jacket image and it takes you straight to the extract. Combine this with the Prologue on my website and you can get a pretty good flavour of what you might get. I think I might have to put up a link to the first twenty-first century chapter somewhere so that people can see what the other half of the book is like.
By the way, to any MNW-ers out there who are likely to be in London on Thursday, please do feel free to drop in to the Testament launch at Goldsboro books. (It starts at 6.30.) It would be great to say hi!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The Titled Aristocracy

I'm fumbling my way forward through a new novel, and so far it has the brilliant title "Untitled." It carries the ring of familiarity, but it's not terribly original.

I seldom come up with titles until I'm well-underway (say, one-third or more through the book). And even then I often change them before I've completed the manuscript. (As experience with Shock and Awe shows, they can also change in the very last stages of publication.) So titles to me are a rather fluid thing...yet I don't really feel I have a handle on the book until I think I have a title.

I know that a few MNW titles apart from my own have undergone at least slight changes late in the process: if I recall, Suroopa Mukherjee's Across the Mystic Shore was The Mystic Circle, and Peter Anthony's A Town Called Immaculate was once merely Immaculate.

Matt Curran is the only other writer I've seen blog on the problem of searching for titles. (Like me, he's often scratching his head over possible titles at fairly late stages. It makes me happy to realize someone else shares my problem.)

Now, I can imagine some books have their titles before they begin. Brian McGilloway's Borderlands certainly has offered itself a possible title by the end of the first page, and Aliya Whiteley's Three Things About Me is in the same category (if you don't count the prologue). But I have no idea if Brian or Aliya had those titles from the outset, or after the first page, or only after completing them, or only after changing a previous title in consultation with the publisher.

As to Cover the Mirrors and The Herring Seller's Appprentice--both great titles--they surely relate to the content of the books, but I have no idea at what stage they might have been titled. And when we get into more metaphorical relationships between book and title--for example Playing with the Moon or Never Admit to Beige--I can't even conjecture on when or how the title might have been selected.

So, do you have a title in mind when you start? Do you need a title before you can start? Do you often change it as you write? Did you end up changing it after the manuscript had been taken up for publication? Can I end a sentence here without a question mark?