So here we are; fifth time in and I ought to be getting good at this by now. Am I? God only knows.
It’s been another good week (I’m wary of this turning into the Simon’s Good News Show, but if that’s life then that’s life!) on the writing front. I spent a very long time on the phone on Monday night with an editor discussing one of my stories that needs some work before it gets to a publishable state. It was a really interesting couple of hours, getting a detailed perspective on how someone else reacts ‘professionally’ to one of my stories. I’m lucky, I think, in that so far no editor has said anything that I rabidly disagree with, and this was another case in point – lots of positive feedback and critique that I can use to improve the piece. It’s particularly heartening to realise that most of the critique was stuff I already suspected (I use far, far too many semi-colons; far too many; no really, I do; it’s just too much). I spent part of the week revising the story in light of the comments and have sent it off. It’s a tighter piece as a result – I’m not sure that I prefer the newest version, exactly, as I liked the earlier version as well (we parents are proud and uncritical!) but it’s certainly sharper and more in line with the criteria for the anthology. Reading this (third) version of the tale feels a bit like looking at a picture of the back of my head – interesting and…no, I’ve lost that metaphor, sorry. I think I was going to say that it’s something I know well but don’t see often, and it’s good to see it from a new perspective, but honestly I’m not sure. Oh well. Anyway, it’s another fingers crossed time, I’m afraid…
More good news of a more concrete nature: remember the creature feature story? Well, the first draft was good enough for the editor to accept it despite the story’s shortcomings (it needs to be longer, especially the climax, which is something I’ve heard before although I’m not saying in what context). Since then (and as is usually the case with the estimable Ghostwriter Publications), things have moved incredibly quickly and I’ve already got a copy of the proposed cover, which has appeared (as if by magic) at the top of this blog. It’s a good looking, eyecatching piece of art, isn’t it? It’s certainly garnered some positive feedback, anyway. And lo! What’s that? Look at the third name down! Marvellous! The book should be available on June 1st (that’s the plan, I think) from Ghostwriter Publications – there’s a link to their website at the side of my page – and I have to say, I’m enormously excited by it. I’ve never been named on a cover before, especially one that looks as fine as this. I’m beginning to feel like a real writer (whatever one of them is), and that this whole writing thing might actually be something I can do for a while. Weird. But fun. Definitely,
The novel work is going well, and that’s about all I’m going to say about that for now except for the fact that I was awake at 5 this morning bothered about a plot point and panicking because I realised my creepy intro chapter was, in fact, a plot barrier. Damn! Anyway, I’ll post more about this as and when I can. Me and Forrest like our secrets…
Actually, that’s about it for the writing. It’s all been rewrites and edits this week, which might be a metaphor for life if I could be bothered to stretch it. So, review time:
The promised review of Bill Hussey’s The Absence will be next week – I’ve been so knackered this week that I’m only half way through it. I will say that I’m certainly enjoying it so far, so unless Mr Hussey shoots himself in the foot in the second half, I think we’re on to a winner. It’s out now so can be purchased places.
I’ve just heard that my friend John Probert’s new book is out, so I’ll investigate and get back to you on that, although I think I can say on the evidence of his previous work that it’ll be a worthwhile and satisfying purchase.
Don’t watch: Bad Biology. This is Frank Henenlotter’s new movie, and it’s awful. Now, I’ll say here that I’m normally a big fan of Henenlotter’s and that Brain Damage is one of my favourite B movies because it’s smart, literate, well made, shocking, funny and sad. Bad Biology, however, is just stupid, lazy film-making, poorly acted and with entirely questionable sexual politics (and if you’re reading Mr Henenlotter, though I doubt you are, having a female lead character espouse cod-feminist philosophilcal ideas about women’s position in society as sex objects for men doesn’t then excuse you from treating women as sex objects throughout the rest of the movie – it’s not post-ironic, it’s just blokes objectifying women whilst and assuming that they all they secretly need is a good shag from a well-endowed bloke to make their lives complete!). This movie was a huge disappointment, and was (surprisingly, for a movie so full of nudity and sex) as unerotic as a bowl of porridge (don’t. don’t say it. if you find porridge erotic, keep it to yourself). Avoid.
The only other thing I’ve watched this week is my son’s new Postman Pat Special Delivery Service DVD. Well animated, certainly, but hyper and bright and simply too busy, and a poor comparison to the earlier series. Not only have the got a different guy doing Pat’s voice (sacrilege!) but it’s lost the thing that made the earlier series so good: peaceful, tranquil viewing that showed kids that calm was okay! A sad deterioration… Or maybe I’m just getting old?
Rant definitely over now. Honestly. Promise. And on that note, goodbye.
I should have done this yesterday but I was part of a mad house, getting ready for Ben’s birthday ‘jelly and ice cream’ do with family and a few friends, so I’m a day late. Ho hum.
It’s a been a good week. I got a lot of positive comments about the last blog entry, for which many thanks – it’s nice to know that what I’m writing here isn’t just cluttering up the ether pointlessly. Cluttering it up but being read I can cope with; it’s being friendless and alone that bothers me! Additionally, I’ve finished two stories (well, finished them to first draft stage anyway). Both still need work, but I’m pleased with them. They have specific homes (i.e. anthologies) in mind, which has been good because it’s meant I’ve been able to carry on targeting my writing towards specific rules/remits, which is a skill I’m keen to develop. Both stories deal with things I’ve not really written about before (specifically, aggressive sex and marauding beasts), which has been good fun too. It’s been odd to realise that I’m entirely comfortable describing people getting their heads ripped off, but less comfortable describing a blow job; I’m convinced that says something very telling about me, but at this point I think I’ll ignore it and pretend that it’s totally normal! I have no idea if either story’ll be good enough to be accepted or not, but it’s been fun doing them. With luck, you may be able to read them one day.
The meeting about the novel was … interesting. It was a really positive experience, and although they don’t want it, I can understand why. What was gratifying was that the problems they pointed out with what I’d written were partly things I (secretly of course) knew they were there and partly things that made perfect sense when they were explained to me. At the end of a very positive half hour (during which time my novel was, gently, strangled and placed into the unmarked grave of interesting ideas with flawed execution) I was asked if I had ‘any other ideas’. Well, yeah! I pitched something I’d been thinking about a while, they seemed excited and the upshot is they want to see chapters as soon as possible. So, a novel may still be on the cards if I can write something that ticks their boxes. Here’s hoping…
My plan is to leave the two stories for a week or so, get some distance from them (and maybe show them to one or two trusted critics, who’ll be firm but fair and not too vicious) and concentrate on the novel. I know how everything starts, and where I want to take it, and what I’m aiming for (I’m not telling, so don’t ask!), and I’m looking forward to the new challenge. It’s all a bit vague, isn’t it? Sorry, but I don’t want to jinx things by talking about them in any more detail than this. You’ll just have to wait!
And now for something a bit more concrete: review time!
Main one this week is Let The Right One In – a pretty good vampire novel. This is atmospheric, smart, moving and intuitive about people, their emotions and the things that drive them but…but…but…it wasn’t quite what I expected, and I ended up slightly disappointed. This is probably because (at least in part) I heard really good things about this book and was looking forward to it a lot, but there also seem to be a couple of problems with it (SPOILER ALERT). One is that, for me, it doesn’t quite find the right balance between the social comment/decaying lives stuff and the bloodthirsty vampire stuff. What’s there of both is excellent, there’s just a little too much of one and not enough of the other. The other problem I had is with the ending (or rather, with the unsaid parts of the ending). I think that, since becoming a parent, I’m far more aware of the impact of what happens not just on the person/people involved but also on the people that care for them. In LTROI, I couldn’t help but feel really sorry for Oskar’s mum, who’s just abandoned at the end without so much as a reference. Surely Oskar would miss his mum a bit? Surely she deserves at least reference or a comment, as she wasn’t a villain in the book? This seems to illustrate (albeit mildly) a problem I have with some horror stories: they don’t consider the wider emotional implications of what’s happening. Action and sex yes, but emotional bleakness? Well, sometimes, but often only in passing or not in enough detail, which is a shame because I’m strongly of the opinion that the most affecting things are located there. Or maybe that’s just me thinking too much about this stuff… Anyway, this is still a good read and worth hunting out, and I’m interested in seeing what they do with the movie of it.
Not watched any movies this week, been working and writing too much. Maybe I’ll manage it this week. Also, keep an eye out – in the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing the second novels from both Bill Hussey and Joseph De Lacey (The Absence and Garbage Man respectively).
That’s it. I’m done. Get on with your lives.