Thursday, April 11, 2013

making my way through

As you may have noticed, I've ditched the numbering system.  Forgot what it meant anyway.  Days 'till Christmas?  Days 'till The Ashes?  Days 'till Harrogate?  That's right, days until the Theakston's Old Peculier crime writing festival kicks off - that was it.

Actually, to be more specific, post Harrogate 2012, I set out a plan that would play out over a year and yield me, with any luck, an agent and publisher for my current book.  I had an idea to document that progress over this blog, take you all along on a ride towards success!  Fact of the matter is, I have hardly been able to keep up my novel writing, let alone this blog (apologies for that).

Up and down . . . and back again.  There's no other way. 

The past 8 years working on this novel has been a challenge - I have learnt so much from the heartache, the frustrations and the good times.  Yet, still no completed book.

If you took out the time factor, I am actually very happy with my progress.  The plan was to go through the book one last time (5th draft) with an eye to tightening up the story and reducing the word count.  With the elimination of a major character (BA-BOOM!), I am achieving this.  I liked the character but he rarely appeared but was often mentioned - kind of like Keyser Soze (but not).  Anyway, he's gone, and with him, so far, 40,000 words.  Almost as much as I had written down in NANO writing month many moons ago (and no, these were not the same words that were deleted).

So: 250 pages in, I've managed to cull almost 40 pages - and it reads like a dream now.  Not a wet dream, but satisfying nonetheless.

Meanwhile - Harrogate approaches . . . a deadline if I ever needed one.  I'd feel a total failure if I went to Harrogate this year without a completed novel.  Not in terms of being able to shop it around, but in terms of saying - yes, I've completed it; instead of "getting there" or "one day at a time" or laughing nervously and reaching for another Theakstons.

There's no real plan that will work, trust me, I've tried plenty.  The only approach is to write everyday, make sacrifices along the way (to the Writing Gods), and maybe take a few days off from the paying job to get some momentum going.

Goal is still the same: finish it off before Harrogate.  It's achievable, no doubt, and more importantly, I have no choice.  I'm a writer, as painful as it can get, and there's no backing down.

More to come . . .

P.S.  Very keen to start something new too - I have a plan (concocted with the help of the better half).  More on that later - hopefully not too much later. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

196 . . . debut dagger 2013

The weekend before last, it was my 2011/12 tax return.  Last weekend, it was my 2013 Debut Dagger submission.

The tax return was piss easy; the Debut Dagger was not. 

But what a feeling it was when, on Saturday 2 February, at 5pm GMT, I became the 393rd submission in the CWA Debut Dagger competition.

The Debut Dagger is a competition for unpublished authors with a grand prize of £700.  Many of the shortlisted authors over the past 14 years have reached that most coveted of goals: publication.  So the money is good, but the exposure is better.  There's no guarantee of a contract as part of the competition, but the shortlisted entries, including, obviously, the winner, will be seen by top agents and publishers, thus increasing the chances of securing the dream of every budding writer.

A synopsis and up to 3,000 words of the opening chapters were required as part of the submission.  When I started on my submission at the beginning of January, I knew this was not going to be an easy task.  I was happy that completing the opening chapters would be manageable even though the first two chapters of my 5th draft were waaay over 3,000 words; it was the synopsis that had me slightly worried.

Back in 2009, as part of my successful Dragon's Pen experience at Harrogate, I submitted a synopsis to a prospective agent.  It was a steaming pile of poo, predominantly due to the fact that I hadn't completed the novel and had some story structure issues that I tried to cover up in my synopsis.  A disappointing result, but I learnt a lot.

Now in 2013, I've pretty much completed the novel and story structure is not an issue, so building up the synposis should not have proved a problem.  It wasn't a problem, but still a challenge.  The main part of that challenge was summarising the plot into 1,000 words.  Not an easy task.  But I did it - and I am happy with the end result.

So after many quick reviews and spell checks and grammar checks, I hit "Submit", paid my £25, and released my novel out into the wild, wishing it good luck and godspeed. 

Shortlist will be announced in May 2013, winner in July.  I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, the game plan has changed . . . more later.

Friday, November 09, 2012

110 . . . house proud

At the start of last week, Dingo and I were looking to move. Not back to Oz (sorry Mum), but from our apartment.

Issues with the guys in the flat directly above us - early Monday morning romps depriving us of our sleep - have been going on for some time now, severely affecting our wellbeing. We were at the point where moving out felt like our only option.

We were dead serious, to the point of attending a viewing and sitting down with our mortgage broker. But it took less than 24 hours for us to conclude that this was not what we want. We love where we live, everything about it, everything we have done to the flat to make it our own. Christ, how could we abandon Club SF? That bar rocks.

So instead of moving, we are determined to make it work by looking into other options to deal with our inconsiderate neighbours (yes, weapons are involved).

If there was any shadow of a doubt about staying put, last Saturday night's shindig put the debate to rest.  We had a large group of our friends over for pies and beers before heading to The Oval to watch a game of Aussie Rules footy.  The Oval is about a five minute walk from our place, or a twenty minute stumble on the return, as we found out.  Great game - close one - shame I can't remember watching half of it and I was in the toilet when the winning goal was scored.

Almost all our friends returned from The Oval to our pad and we opened Club SF and the good times rolled on into the wee hours, fuelled by a lovely Thai curry, cocktails galore, and a danceathon to end all danceathons.  After a big clean up, the place returned to its former self - our home - and we sat on the sofa thinking, Hell no, we won't go.

Can't leave London (again, sorry Mum).  Love this city.  We had the pleasure of watching Skyfall (new Bond movie) in a lovely private cinema just off the banks of The Thames in Pimlico.  Movie was awesome, but so was the night - free glass of champagne, free martini (of course) and a lovely dinner at Altitude, a restaurant on top of Millbank Towers giving an amazing 360 degree view of London at night, coloured by pre-Guy Fawkes fireworks.

Oh and before that - a speedboat ride along The Thames:

The big tower in the vid is a five minute walk from us in Vauxhall - and further along is MI5 (James Bond's place of work).  We jetted further east with great views of the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and my favourite, Big Ben.  Only a four minute ride, but it was a brilliant.

Love London!!!  Love our home!!! Love Mum too!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

38 . . . the vanity game by h.j.hampson

About time I started reviewing the books that I read, especially given the cauldron that has been bubbling since Harrogate about sock-puppetry, paid for reviews and cyber bullying.  (More on my views on this later).

Here's the latest book: met the author at Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.  After speaking to her and hearing about her debut book, I downloaded it immediately on to my mobile phone while balancing a pint of Theakstons.  Didn't work; in the morning, the book wasn't on my phone.  Rectified that quick smart and finished the book in good time. 

Check out my  review below (produced totally free of monetary reward):

The Vanity Game is like reading a trashy celebrity mag, poring over an entertainment website, or watching reality TV – pure indulgent entertainment!  There’s sex and drugs and rock and roll – “celebrities” behaving badly – and its loads of fun.

A great debut from H.J.Hampson – she really captures the life of the D grade celebrity, the overpaid footballer, the 15 minutes-too-long of fame, and the industry and media that feed off them.  The dialogue is witty and quick, the characters enjoyable, and you do feel like you are peeking behind the curtain of celebrity stardom as it is today.  Although the central plot of the novel is intriguing and quite original, it’s the scenes of photo shoots, roof top parties and expensive debauchery that really kept me reading.

The protagonist, Beaumont Alexander, is not exactly a likeable character though.  He engages in a number of acts, especially in the first few chapters, that can turn readers right off.  I did find it hard to sympathise with the multi-million pound footballer and gained more pleasure reading about his suffering and the crazy world that threatens to consume him.  I could be wrong, but I think that’s intentional: for what other reason do we enjoy seeing photos of celebrities in uncompromising positions and read stories of falls from grace?  It’s bloody entertaining!!!
Check it out here: Amazon UK

Friday, August 10, 2012

19 . . . simon finally on line

Discovered a few days back that David Simon is finally on line with a new web site.  He's had the rights to the web address for a long time but only now has he started to use it.

He has started out by populating his blog posts with old articles and essays - a bit a rehash one might say, but for someone not living in America, all this is pure unseen gold from Mr Simon.  Very interesting stuff indeed, as expected.

That said, I still do miss The Wire big time.

WARNING: Language, violence and worst of all, SPOILERS!!  If you have not seen all 5 seasons, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT watch this video, feel me?  Otherwise, enjoy!