Friday 23 May 2008


I'm heading off first thing on Sunday until last thing Friday, 30 May. I'm hoping for some sea air and a bit of Cheshire countryside. I'm taking 75,000 words of a first draft of the crime novel with me, plus several very red pens. Wish me luck!

Tuesday 20 May 2008

Win some, lose some

Two emails from editors this morning. First up:

Thanks for sending that story along. It's not too bad, but our submissions are full, and we're not going to have the room to run it. Hopefully you'll be able to find another home for this piece. I hope you're able to think of us again in the future.

"Not too bad"? Yikes. I'd rather he'd said he hated it than implied it was mediocre. I think they call that damning with faint praise?

Here's the other one:

I received your submission a month after the deadline for Issue 2. However, I absolutely adored your piece, "I cannot carry a tune", and am going to publish it anyway. You have a talent for words, ideas and the way you relay them to your audience is unique and special. Bravo.

Literary Fever is a new venue for me. I'm bowled over by the enthusiasm. More than made up for the lukewarm rejection.

Sunday 18 May 2008

Flash fiction

I've just finished the first draft of a new flash fic for this week's WriteWords challenge. Shout out to fellow blogger, Tania Hershman, who set the challenge. Tania asked for a story in 300 words where, taken together, the first letter of each sentence spelled out FLASH.

Terrific challenge, and one I recommend to all writers out there. The trick is to allow the discipline (choosing words with the right letters) to lead you through the story. If I wasn't tone-deaf I'd liken the experience to composing a piece of music. It's a cast-iron guarantee against block, too. Most fun I've had writing in yonks. Thanks, Tania!

Saturday 17 May 2008

The devil's candy

Today I do not feel like a writer, so much. It's partly because my head is stuffed with an encroaching cold. It's partly because I wasn't able to write more than 700 words last week due to pressure of work. Mostly though I think it's because I haven't been reading enough recently.

The silliest piece of advice I ever read in a How to Write textbook (serves me right for investing in the capitalist chicanery that is the How to... publishing business) was Do Not Read. Books, said this lunatic, are the devil's candy! Beware the lure of reading when you ought to be writing! Possibly he was trying to counteract the usual advice which is Read: Anything and Everything! Or at least, selectively (but never less than exhaustively) within your chosen genre.

If you're going to give up reading you may as well give up writing. It behoves every writer to engage in, and understand, and enjoy their chosen craft. Don't give me that old argument about the danger of being unduly influenced by another author's style; it's part of our job to develop an ear for our own voice. Even if you write escapist fiction, you should do it from a perspective of active engagement. Personally, I'd rather write fiction which confronts reality head on. And this is what I like to read, be the methodology as fantastical as witchcraft. Give me a broad canvas and put a little poison in the picture, as Lucien Freud said.

I read to write, and vice versa. I think writers need to read more than anyone else. Reading refreshes our ear for words, it spins our expectations, throws our smug routine ever so slightly out of whack. Now I love my routine. But god knows it needs a shake-up every now and again. I've lost count of the number of times that I've reached deadlock within the confines of my own head (call it block, call it the numbing effect of the isolation that goes hand in fist with writing a story day in day out for months at a time) only to find it conquered by the reading of a critical line or two in someone else's work. Fiction, non-fiction, newspaper, glossy magazine - you name it. The pitch of my own writing frequency becomes so much static over time. I need to tune out and try another frequency, to get my bearings again.

So I'm going to take advantage of this house-bound, head-cold weekend and read. Iain Sinclair's collection of London vignettes, City of Disappearances (shout out to Ranald Graham: for so long my inspiration), and James Conan's City of Dark Hearts, and the transcript from the Japanese PoW camp where my grandparents and mother passed WWII.

Next week I'll return to the novel, with fresh eyes and ears.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

From the desk of my seven year old

Q. What did one snowman say to the other?

A. Can you smell carrots?

Saturday 10 May 2008

Burning up

Gah, this weather is getting to me. I know, I know, the rain was worse and it's lovely to be able to walk in the country and see bluebells and smell wild garlic and what have you. Only trouble is the heat eats my brain-cells and I can't think straight, let alone write. The photograph? Is my kind of hot. I'm useless with the other sort.

Friday 9 May 2008

It's my birthday!

And I'm also celebrating hitting 61,000 words on the novel. That's a fraction over two-thirds of the way through. The past three days have been great, the words just ripping out of me. I hope it's as exciting to read as it's been to write.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Friday 2 May 2008

Agent update

Didn't I say that May was my month? The biggest crime agent in the country wants to see my novel the minute it's finished. Talk about an incentive to get it done and done right. Terribly unBritish of me to trumpet blow in this way but I am made up!

Feed the writer!

Those great guys over at Every Day Fiction have set me up with a forum for discussing my stories and writing. The link is here, so please drop by and help to get the party swinging.

Thursday 1 May 2008

The Short Review

Issue 7 is out now. It features my review of Sophie Hannah's debut short story collection, and also reviews Crimini: the bitter lemon book of Italian crime fiction. Great stuff.

May Merry May

May is going to be a great month. I will celebrate turning 42 and entering my sixth Cycle of Seven years - in style. I will spend time with the people I love, and by myself. I will read at least one great book. I will write 20,000 words, maybe more. The sun will shine at least some of the time.

Yep, it's going to be a great month. It started well, with a couple of acceptances from EDF, and it's going to get even better. I feel it, in all the right places. Happy May, everyone!