Friday, 29 February 2008

Voting closes

Voting on the World Book Day search for the Book to talk about 2008 closes at noon GMT today (Friday). Shortlisted titles include Playing with the Moon.

All voters are automatically entered into a weekly draw for £100 worth of book vouchers and five free books.

Thanks to everyone who's already supported me--I'm hoping this initiative will shine light on all the Macmillan New Writing titles and the talent of the imprint's authors.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Casting call

I don't know about the rest of you, but I find the "Who would play [insert character here] in a film?" question impossible to answer. However, it does sometimes happen that people who've read CTM tell me they saw a certain performer in a certain role, and out of sheer curiosity, I've thrown the floor open in my blog for folk to comment with their CTM casting choices if they wish to.

So, my questions for the MNW Mafia are thus - do you mentally cast characters? Your own? Other authors'? Any casting choices you'd like to share, in either case? Or does the whole idea give you a headache as well?

Launch Party

Just a reminder about the launch party for Light Reading, tonight, at Goldsboro Books.

Excitement! I'm not used to this. I had to lie down in a dark room last night.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Learned Helplessness and the Writing Life

Roger Morris has an absolutely fascinating post on his blog about trying to promote your books (and the possible pointlessness thereof).

And Dr. Ian Hocking dropped a line in Roger's comment trail directing us to his marvelous post on the "locus of control."

Now I understand why I'm so depressed. Doesn't fix anything, but at least I have a name for it: Learned Helplessness.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

"Help! My Teenage Character Is Having Sex!" (and other potential MNW talk show titles)

Quoth the inimitable Mr Isaak, on Aliya and Neil's blog, and the subject of fiction vs. autobiography:

"I think it's Oprah and Jerry Springer who've caused all this confusion between imagination and confession."

This set my brain ticking, and I've come up with a bit of a game for you all - you know how talk show episodes tend to have those awful, hyperbolic titles that usually involve mad sensationalism and copious exclamation marks? Well...what would your book's episode title be? If your characters were dragged up before one of the unholy army that includes Jeremy Kyle, Sally Jessy Raphael and of course the inescapable Mr Springer, what ridiculous titles might be used when the show aired?

Personally, for Cover the Mirrors, I like the one I've used for the title of this blog post (optional extra: ...With A 29-Year-Old!), or perhaps Fraud and Teen Pregnancy Exposed!. I'm lucky in that my protagonist is a sixteen-year-old girl, which automatically makes everything she does worthy of an even bigger fuss in talk show land, so that's useful.

What about the rest of you?

Monday, 18 February 2008


     Since I've been lurking around the edges of this blog for the last several weeks, and even once posted a comment, it seems a proper introduction is order. 

     I'm Doug Worgul. My novel, Thin Blue Smoke, is scheduled to be published in February 2009. I'm an American, living in Kansas City — smack dab in the middle of the continental United States. The Kansas City metro area is bisected by the boundary between the states of Kansas and Missouri. The suburb I live in is on the Kansas side. I was born and raised in Michigan. On the U.S map, Michigan is the mitten-shaped peninsula surrounded by the Great Lakes, in the north.   

     I'm very happily married to Rebecca Sesler and I'm blessed with four lovely daughters. 

     I'm 54 years old. A few weeks ago I read a review of a first novel in the New York Times Book Review, in which the reviewer noted that the novel's author was 38 years old, which the reviewer said was "a little old for a for a first time novelist." Damn. I was feeling quite ancient until I visited each of the personal Web sites of the other MNW authors. Now I feel a lot better and a lot younger.  

     Writing Thin Blue Smoke fundamentally altered my understanding of myself. Even if it had never been published, its purpose in my life would have been fulfilled. When the book was accepted by MNW, my life changed yet again.  Now I have a sense of calling. I may never make a living as a novelist, but making novels will be the way the way I now live. 

     Thin Blue Smoke does not fit neatly in any established genre. It's about love & loss, despair & hope, squandered opportunities & second chances, fathers & sons, Black & white, barbecue & the blues, God & whiskey, forgiveness & redemption. 

     I'm working on a second book, but sometimes I have a sick feeling in my gut that there was only the one in me.  

     I'm honored to be a member of this group. And I look forward to reading all your books. Whose should I start with?


Sunday, 17 February 2008

Writers' dreams....

Just a little post to say I am starting a collection of writers' dreams, in particular those that are writing-related. I put one on my own blog to get the ball rolling. I'd love it if people could pop over and add their own as comments.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Change of Address

Since they are too secretive to tell you themselves, I'll take this opportunity to inform everyone here that Aliya Whitely and Neil Ayres, who formerly maintained a joint blog at Pootle-and-Rat, have joined the rest of us in the buzzing, group hive-mind of Blogger, at

Aliya is also known as Pootle, or even the Blue Pootle, while Neil travels under the handle The Rat. Therefore, Aliya's avatar on their blog has long been a Gorilla, while Neil's has been a Chicken.

Don't try and figure this out.

Unless you follow their blog, you also might not understand why the new one is called VeggieBox. Be patient. This will soon become clear if you keep reading it for a while.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Great Review of Light Reading

Hi folks! Just thought I'd mention, for those of you who don't read crimefic blogs on a regular basis that there's a great review of Aliya's Light Reading here.

Read it, then read the book - it's fab!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Crime in North London

It’s a bit like buses. Nothing for ages, then two turn up at once. First I had had an email to tell me that Macmillan had sold the US rights to Herring Seller ­– the New York based crime specialists Felony and Mayhem will be publishing it in late 2008 or early 2009. Then within an hour or so another email from Will saying that MNW had accepted my second novel – provisionally, but not definitively, entitled Reality Check – scheduled for publication in March 2009 (i.e. just after Doug’s).

I celebrated with a couple of purchases of high quality crime fiction. On Thursday I went to Waterstone’s in Hampstead to listen to Roger Morris and other crime writers (Frank Tallis, Andrew Martin, Lee Jackson) being interviewed on their work, including Roger’s new book, A Vengeful Longing. Contrary to the predictions on his blog, Roger seemed calm and relaxed, in a way that I’m not when being interviewed. It was a good evening. If you haven’t read Roger’s previous books, by the way, I would strongly recommend them. Taking Comfort is a really original book, full of ideas that I wish I had thought of myself! A Gentle Axe, set in C19th St Petersburg, is memorable and atmospheric, with plenty of good twists in the plot. I now also have a copy of A Vengeful Longing, which looks set to be every bit as good. Then, on Saturday, I dropped into Goldsboro Books and picked up a copy of Aliya’s Light Reading. I’m looking forward to reading that too, when I can get it back from the rest of the family!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Great news for Eliza and MNW!

Huge congrats to Eliza Graham, whose Playing with the Moon has just been shortlisted for Books to Talk About, part of World Book Day.

You can read all about it here at dovegrayreader scribbles.

Sunday, 3 February 2008


I thought that I might pose a question or two to the rest of you about genres.

When I started writing the Herring Seller’s Apprentice my plan was just to write a novel. Obviously it would be a novel that would win the Booker Prize, but beyond that I had few clear plans for it. As the book progressed and the bodies started to pile up, it occurred to me that I was probably writing a crime novel, but I still had no particular intention myself to become a crime writer. I remain mildly surprised every time I go into a bookshop and find my book firmly in the Crime Section.

I’m not complaining. The people who review crime novels seem a really nice crowd – well-read, knowledgeable of the genre and enthusiastic. I have had marvellous support from crime web sites such as It’s a Crime, Reviewing the Evidence Eurocrime and Tangled Web. I also rather like being able to reply, when people ask me what I write, that I write detective stories. Few people admit to not liking crime novels. It’s a respectable, unpretentious field to be in.

Some reviewers, including the excellent Grumpy Old Bookman, have noticed that there was more going on in Herring Seller than the humorous-crime that met the eye. He wrote: “the ending of the book, like much else in it, is capable of more than one interpretation. So, as I said at the beginning, tricksy stuff. Keep your wits about you while you smile”. Indeed. If “devious” was a recognised genre, that’s more or less where I would want to be.

When I started writing the second book, my plan was just to write a second novel. Obviously it was a novel that would impress Richard and Judy and would make me disgustingly rich, but otherwise my ambitions were modest. I noticed half-way through that nobody had been murdered yet, and concluded that this was therefore probably not going to be a crime novel. This made me feel guilty in the light of much of the above. I have promised a number of people that I shall return to a life of crime as soon as I can.

So, the questions for you are as follows. When you all set out to write, did you plan to write in a particular genre? Do you write in a genre that you always enjoyed as a reader? Do you feel that genres are a valuable marketing tool (“if you liked Agatha Christie, you’ll sure as hell like me”) or something that restricts what you write? If you do change genres, should you also change your name – and, if so, entirely (e.g. John Banville/Benjamin Black) or just a bit (e.g. RN/Roger Morris)?

As I contemplate what my third book should be, I’d really like to know the answers.

Friday, 1 February 2008

February's Publication...

"Welcome to Britain’s most sinister seaside resort . . .

Prudence Green is a troubled woman. Stifled by her existence as an RAF wife, she’s dying for a bit of excitement. When one of the other women on the base commits suicide (having discovered that her husband is having an affair with a male comrade in Iraq), Pru and her best friend Lena are prompted to set off on a memorably surreal journey – a criminal investigation, a search for love and an exploration of Pru’s own dark past. The discontented pair escape the base and arrive in a blighted seaside town, Allcombe, determined to find out the truth behind the supposed suicide of one-time TV star Crystal Tynee. But as they explore the lawless town, Pru and Lena find that Allcombe hides more than one hideous secret. Light Reading is a wickedly clever detective story and a pitch-black mystery, seething with grotesque and unforgettable characters, and concluding with a twist that will leave you breathless."

About the author:

Aliya Whiteley was born in Ilfracombe, North Devon in 1974. She currently lives in Cambridgeshire.

Hi, Aliya. Tell us a little about your novel, Light Reading:
Light Reading is, ironically, a very dark book. The main character, Pru, started out as a nameless narrator in a short story I wrote called Spitting Wasps (it's on my website) and I loved that wilful, proud, but utterly misguided example of womanhood. She needed a foil, so the other end of the spectrum, Lena (the second narrator) came along - romantic, idealistic, and just as convinced that the way she sees the world is the only way to see it. Together they pretend to be Holmes and Watson in order to avoid hard facts about their lives, but let's just say detecting is not their forte.
The plot evolved from my previous novel, and most of the book takes place in the strange seaside town of Allcombe once more. Mainly it's about sex and death. Actually, it's completely about sex and death.

Light Reading is your second book published by Macmillan New Writing. How has your life changed since they published Three Things About Me in 2006?
A lot has changed since then. I moved from Germany to Cambridge, got on to the Arts Council's Escalator scheme, got mentored by the crime novelist Michelle Spring, got some funding, got an agent and got taken seriously as a writer. In that order. It's been a strange couple of years.

What is your typical writing day?
I write on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9.25 to 11.50. That's when my daughter is at creche and I am at the local coffee shop. I write longhand for the first draft, then type it up on to my laptop, then fiddle with it a bit until it seems as right as its going to get (which is never very right, to be honest). Of course, I'm thinking about whatever I'm working on all the time so when it comes to writing it down, it's pretty much like taking dictation. I'll do between 3,000 and 5,000 words on one of those mornings.

Four random facts:

Worst thing about writing:
When it all goes wrong and you have to bin thousands of words.

Best thing about writing:
The act of writing in longhand. Holding my special lucky pen and getting it on the paper.

Writers I admire:
Pretty much everybody really. I was telling Alis and Faye the other day how much I admire their ability to write historical stuff. I can only do the here and now. Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca turned me into a reader. Martis Amis' London Fields is the reason I wanted to become a writer.

Most ludicrous moment in my life:
My life is actually quite ludicrous throughout, so it's difficult to choose a particular moment. Most of these moments get documented in the column I write for Whispers of Wickedness as the Blue Pootle, or on my blog. I suppose recently the moment at the Good Food Exhibition where Gordon Ramsay appeared from nowhere and stood in front of me at the moment I happened to be halfway through an enormous sausage-in-a-bun was quite bad. Someone called 'get your kit off, Gordon!' and he thought it was me. He gave me the most scathing look and I was unable to respond, being caught with aforementioned sausage-in-a-bun. It was quite uncomfortable.

Thanks. Aliya, and congratulations on the new book.

By the way, Aliya's book launch for Light Reading will be held at Goldsboro Books, London, on 28th Feb. But if you can't wait to bag a signed copy, you can get an unsigned one at the following sites:

Macmillan New Writing

You can read an extract of Light Reading by clicking here . Or visit Aliya's website for more information.