And Now For Something Completely Different…

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During the last two blogs I have hinted at a new project. Well ladies and gentlemen here it is, hot off the press and now available exclusively on Amazon for digital download. It’s also available via KDP select and so is free to those who subscribe. You can get it here.

Here is the pitch….

‘How can two people so wrong make things right?

Meet Jacob Rose. He’s smarter than you, better looking than you, he’s stronger than you. In fact, he’s better than you in every way possible. Just one thing… don’t call him a vampire.

Meet Inspector Kate Thorne. She’s smarter than you, she’s tougher than you, she doesn’t care what you think about her or anything else for that matter. In fact, she’s better than you in every conceivable way. Just one thing…don’t call her a sociopath.

London a few years from now. Someone is harvesting the blood of the roughs and flooding the streets with cheap high-grade Fentanyl. If it goes mainstream, the police and the NHS will be unable to cope. Is it the Russian Bratva or are some other criminal gang behind this new epidemic?

Fast, funny and furious, ‘Lifeblood’ is the first part of the ‘Brethren Saga’ an adult contemporary fast paced urban fantasy series that spins a wholly new and original take on the Vampire myth. It seems they are still very much amongst us hiding in the shadows of society and protecting their true identity.

But all that is about to change.’

If Elmore Leonard wrote fantasy with Steven King and Joe Abercrombie, ‘Lifeblood’ would be the result.

So, there you have it. I suppose the question is why? Well, it’s to test the waters, see how going direct changes things. Hopefully, if it is a success, it will give me more credibility with the traditional market. So, give it a go, leave a review. If you do I owe you a drink, to be claimed at a time of your choosing, assuming I’m there of course.

 

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Congratulations, Mr Fisher you’re an (agony) Aunty

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Don’t laugh, please don’t laugh. It’s true yours truly is now counselling the great unwashed of authors on the trials and tribulations of the art of writing from my ivory tower of success….(not). But more about that later.

Write On is a new physical magazine that aims to promote unpublished writers from a wide range of backgrounds. You can find the on-line version here. It’s a brave move in these digital times and as such should be supported and applauded by everybody in the literary world. Much of the credit should go to Madeleine White and all the good people at Pen to Print. Madeleine and I inhabit the twitterverse and she asked me and fellow Wilbur Smith alumni Dan Cross if we would help. Well of course we would, and now the first edition is out there.

I was asked to comment on the issue of imposter syndrome. Here is the (brief ) answer I gave.

“Congratulations, you a self-aware human being with all the attendant benefits and mishaps that entails. Honestly, show me a writer (or anybody else for that matter) without a degree of “imposter syndrome”, and I’ll show you a liar or “a hack with no soul” as Steven King would put it.

You are writing, so you are a writer. Self-doubt is a cross we have to bear to write well, and not everything you write will be perfect. Understand and accept that writing is a muscle, keep exercising, and it will get better. The real issue is how to deal with the crippling doubt that gets in the way of writing, or that makes us question everything we do write as being worthless.

So lesson number one, do not suffer in silence. Join a creative writing group, give and receive feedback in a positive atmosphere. If not one in your area, then go online. WritersHQ is a great place to go and find you really aren’t alone, and everybody feels pretty much the same as you do. Above all else, keep writing.”

Obviously it’s a bit sparse but it at least opens up the issue which plagues us all and is, I believe, especially bad for writers as the process is such a solitary one, with only your head for company. It’s a wonder we’re not all mad!

In other news, “The Differences continues to rack up an impressive array of rejections all seemingly based on the fact that the book is original, well written and full of interesting characters. WTF you may ask. Which is indeed what I do on a frequent basis. Reading between the lines and talking to a publisher at the launch of Write On it seems that being published has ‘nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the book or writing’. What is important is apparently ‘luck, reputation and fashion’. Editors, it seems, are generally risk averse and it really helps if the reader has already heard of you. This recent example illustrates this point perfectly. Nothing against Richard, he’s an extremely talented guy, but com’on, give us other poor suckers a break! Still we persevere and my agent is looking for new editors to pitch to.

So, it’s time to test the water with self-publishing methinks, see if I can build a track record/history which will make me more saleable to the industry. So, to that end over the last few months I have been working on a new project. It’s a re-imagining of the whole idea of what a Vampire might actually be,(none of the sunlight and garlic bullshit) and is set in London a few years from now and would fit into the urban fantasy/noir genre. It’s planned as a series and has the strapline ‘How Can two people so wrong make things right?’ It’s a very different beast from ‘The Differences’ being fast paced violent and taking no prisoners, sort of Elmore Leonard meets Richard Morgan. by way of classic pulp fiction. Stay tuned for further information.

See You Out There.

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It’s Monday night and I just got paid…

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…my first actual, real life, not all imaginary, non-fantasy related payment as an author. And I got to see my words being performed in front of a paying audience. Let me explain.

Just before Christmas, at the urging of my creative writing tutor Pat, I entered a competition for new playwrights to submit a one-act monologue for this year’s Bury St Edmunds literary festival. The competition was organised by the Quirkhouse Theatre Company. The prize, to be part of the QuirkHouse 5 theatre crawl; five monologues performed in five venues around Bury St Edmunds in April 2019. Oh and fifty quid.

So, as you can see above, my play “Thack” was one of the five selected by Andrew and Jackie to be presented this year. Last night was the dress rehearsal and I went along to see mine and all the other pieces being performed. Well, they did a fantastic job, and I can’t tell you what a buzz it is to see and hear your words being professionally performed to an audience with no vested interest in you or what you have written, other than it should entertain them. So thank you, Andrew, for bringing “Thack” to life, and good luck with the rest of the performances.

So, what else has been happening? Well nothing and rather a lot, actually. As you may recall, “The Differences”, the first part of the “Steam” trilogy was formally submitted to publishers at the beginning of January. Those eagle-eyed amongst you will have correctly surmised that as yet, no one has said yes. But what have they said….

“……..enjoyed the story and the historical setup but found the storytelling slow in places and ultimately didn’t feel strongly enough to take it forward.”

“…….have passed as they don’t feel they have sufficient expertise in the steampunk/sci-fi genre that the book is pitching at.”

“……… have also passed – they were very complimentary, calling it a unique and interesting proposition with tons of character, but they felt that the unclassifiable nature of the book was going to be a problem for them positioning-wise.”

“We have had a pass from ………… who admired the writing but didn’t think it would fit well enough into their heavily sci-fi orientated list. We knew this may be a problem due to the hybrid nature of the plot.”

All the above are direct quotes from my agent. The names of the publishers have been redacted so as to remove any future embarrassment :). So, it appears it’s original, well written, but not for us, as we don’t have a clue how to position it. So much for trying to be original eh!

The question is now what next? Well as far as “The Differences” is concerned, keep plugging away. There are plenty more publishers out there and the publishing world is littered with tales of authors who got passed over numerous times. I’m in good company there. However, one must also face the possibility that it won’t get picked up and as it’s the first part of a trilogy it begs the question, do I continue writing it for no good reason other than personal satisfaction and sheer bloody-mindedness? Good question, so what is plan B?

Well, plan B has emerged from one of Pat’s writing exercise prompts and the first draft is currently at around 30k. It’s written as a series of episodes that potentially could be published in instalments via a platform such as Amazon Kindle. The title? “Rose and Thorne – Lifeblood”. The genre? An urban fantasy, crime thriller. The subject, London a few years from now. Someone is flooding the streets with cheap medical grade fentanyl and draining the blood of the city’s down and outs. You want to know more? Me too, that’s why I’m writing it to see what happens next. It’s great fun to write, fast, furious, funny and very violent. I’ll let you know how it goes.

See you out there.

 

 

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My life is in the balance…….

Ok, that sounds a bit (melo)dramatic. But in truth, it is no word of a lie. This week my first novel will be formally submitted to a select group of publishers by my agent. It’s out of my hands now, nothing to with me. I have to be honest, it’s not a feeling I feel comfortable with. I want to be there as the carefully crafted letter, synopsis of the second and third book arrives. I want to follow every flick of their eyes as they read it. I want to argue every imaginary point they might have, explain every nuance of plot and character so they really understand just how wonderful the whole thing is. I want to be there as they discuss the advance they are going to offer. I want to raise my eyebrows in disdain at such a paltry sum, tell them that the others have offered far more….and have already secured overseas rights and a film deal. Losers!

I think you can see my problem. I have spent the last two years living this, agonising over it, dreaming about it, fretting over it. A child could not have had more love or effort lavished on it. But the sad fact is that it all comes down to this. My MS being sent to a bunch of people who have no idea I exist and only care if my book happens to be better than all they currently have offered to them if it fits with their publishing schedule and is  – most importantly – in a genre they think is going to be popular in the next eighteen months or so. I am helpless, unable to argue my case, defend my child. And what if they just say “meh, thanks but no thanks”. What then? I am well into the sequel and at 40k words it is shaping up well. The writing is better, the plot and scope have grown. It’s getting really interesting and I have come up with, what I believe to be, a wholly original solution to one of Sci Fi’s most popular ideas. Be a shame to see it all go to waste……

But, dear reader, that is the fate all authors face. The sad fact is that even having got to this point and fail now is both galling and frustrating, but it is the likely reality, the odds are still against you, especially as a first-time novelist with no track history. So it helps to be a pessimist, the glass must be half-empty, it is the only way to survive. Think the worst, destroy your own before they do by professional indifference. It’s nothing personal, it really isn’t. But try telling your psyche that when you wake up at 4am thinking you should have tweaked that chapter a bit and now all is lost. They will see you as the fraud you are.

So what next? Truth be told I have no idea. The submission process will take up to a couple of months and then your guess is as good as mine. I have another novel in the works, a completely unrelated idea that I have been working on whilst developing the pitch for “The Differences” with my agent. There are around 12k words completed and detailed plot and character arcs, as well as a complimentary solo play that I have submitted for a festival that can also form part of the novel. So the cupboard is not bare. Yet my heart wants to carry on with the trilogy. I want to write it. I want to find out what happens to the characters I have brought into this world. I want other people to read it and enjoy it. But it’s no longer up to me, and that is the singular truth I have to deal with.

See you out there.

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Alas Dear Reader……..

I was a runner up.

So a bit of who, what,why, where, when and how is probably in order. However I am a great believer in not re-inventing the wheel, so I shall let one of my fellow runners up describe the events of the 22nd of September, a date that will go down in the literary annals of history as….. Oh who am I kidding!  Dan Cross, one of my fellow finalists has written a great blog about the evening and you can read all about it here. Suffice to say it was a great evening, with lovely people, and a fantastic experience, that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. Dan’s feelings afterwards pretty much mirror my own. Oh and congratulations to Bill, damn him! Here are a few pictures just to give you a taste.

So, how does it feel to come close but no cigar? Well let’s put it into perspective shall we. The competition is probably the most prestigious global opportunity for an unpublished author, so to get onto the short list with your first novel is no mean feat. Secondly as a result of the competition I now have an agent and a profile that potentially sets me apart from other first time authors, and given the nature of the publishing industry one needs every advantage one can get. The acid test is that if you had told me six months ago that all this was going to happen then, quite frankly, I would have thought you mad. So it’s all good. Now to develop a strategy to pitch the novel/trilogy to the market.

In other news, the sequel “Manifest Destiny” is coming along nicely. To my mind the narrative is more complex and stronger with three parallel stories illustrating different aspects of the wider trilogy arc. The scope is bigger the ideas better/more original and my writing style is more focused. I am comfortable in my pocket universe and have put together an interesting assortment of existing and new characters, many of whom are taken from real life and ……..well that would be telling.

Finally a recommendation for all new and aspiring writers like myself. My good friend Sue gave it to me on the night of the competition and I read it whilst on holiday. I think it is no exaggeration to say that Stephen King’s “On Writing” is the clearest, most concise, useful and readable book on what constitutes good writing. It is unpretentious and extremely useful. Read it.

See You Out There.

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The next 48 hours will be interesting…..

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This Thursday one of five writers will find out whether their career as a potential author will get a turbo-charged kick into the world of literature. I oscillate between hopeful optimism and dread pessimism – which is the usual lot of an author I am beginning to understand. Still all fingers are crossed and all sphincters are tightened. Whatever happens it will be a great night. Good luck to everybody, but especially me…….what I’m not allowed to be a bit biased?

See you out there.

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Agents of Fortune pt. 2

I shall let selected extracts from an email I received the other day speak for itself…..

“As part of the shortlisting for the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation Award for the Best Unpublished Manuscript, I am delighted to offer you representation for The Differences.”

“Your novel is a wild ride that really made me laugh and also made me think, and I am sure that there is a readership out there that will thoroughly enjoy it. I do love a big twist at the end of a book, and yours certainly has that!”

The agent in question is Charlotte Colwill and you can find out more about her here. The Bravo Blue Agency

Well, wooo and indeed hoo! So here we are and there we go. Once against my enormous and heartfelt thanks to the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation for the opportunity. This is the major hurdle in getting your book on the shelves of book retailers. Of course one could self-publish, however the statistics and odds of success are fairly grim as this  article shows.

So what does an agent do for you and why do most authors need one? The following article gives an excellent summary of the role of an agent and is certainly the basis of what I expect my relationship with Charlotte to be. And why do most authors need an agent? Well put very simply, unless you are an expert editor, business manager, marketing and sales professional then the chances are you will never do your book justice in the self-publishing market. Scary but true.

However all is not yet plain sailing. What are the odds of actually getting a publishing deal when you have an agent? Once again it’s not pretty as this article explains. So what are the next steps with Charlotte?

  1. Meet. INHO you cannot have a successful relationship with someone you have never met. Do you get on. Do you both understand and trust each other?
  2. What does Charlotte think of the book. Does she like it? This may seem rather obvious, but the agent role is to sell the MS to a publisher, if he or she is not passionate about its potential, then they and you will be unsuccessful.
  3. What is the state of the market? Current trends both within the market as a whole and the individual publishers is vital knowledge that the agent needs to have in order to succeed in placing the book.
  4. What is the sales pitch/strategy to relevant publishers.
  5. What is the overseas/film/tv potential, if any?

But hey, all the above is a little po-faced if all true. Let us take a moment to luxuriate in the moment, be mindful that all is still to play for. “The Differences” is still in the game and now has someone else on its side batting for it. That, I have to tell you boys and girls, is a pretty damned wonderful feeling.

See you out there.

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