Of signatures and agents

I am all spectacularly delighted to announce that my novel, Of Falls and Angela, is now represented by Leslie Gardner at Artellus.

2016, it seems, will be a year of exciting things. It’s barely two weeks old and I’m already squandering my year’s allowance of exclamation marks. You get four a year, remember. Watch this wanton extravagance:


Data Riker Picard carThat’s me committed to 12 months of modest expression. Totally worth it.

We’ve been working together on the manuscript for a while now and it’s feeling much, much stronger for it. Editing is arguably a game of diminishing returns on effort, with the final improvements being disproportionately hard to achieve. I’m talking about the fine-tuning here, the polish and sheen, when you nail that alchemical something – the last few per cent. And working with Leslie has made those last steps possible. I’ve been asked more astute and complex-to-answer questions about my writing in the last few months than ever before. I love it.

So here’s to 2016, and I’ll let you know any more exciting developments as soon as I can.

Cover reveal: Of Falls and Angela

Cover artwork is pretty exciting. I’ve always got a buzz out of seeing the announcement then finding that the new designs are in fact completely frickin’ ace. Like when I saw the clothbound edition of I, Robot from Harper Voyager, all those gorgeous original covers for Iain Banks’ books or Ad Astra by Wayne Haag.

Well, I wanted a go.

I have recruited the talents of artist Jordan Grimmer and designer Martin Cox to get me some tasty cover artwork for Of Falls and Angela which is being prepared for publication on 13th Jun (yes, that is a Friday and no, I’m not superstitious).

Jordan has made me a pretty staggeringly good bit of artwork and – aww shucks, I’m gonna say it – was great to work with as well. He’s your man for helping you develop the concept and delivering the goods. Just have a look below.

Martin is similarly talented but I’ve worked with him for years at the day job so I’m taking him for granted now. Seriously though, he’s another guru. For one thing, he’s our designer at Unsung Stories (including the branding).

But that’s enough ado. So, with no more of the aforementioned, here’s the cover for Of Falls and Angela. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Of Falls and Angela


Reasons to be Peaceful, 1-2-3

It’s time for a short apology regarding why it’s been so quiet here recently. Here it comes: I’ve been really busy, sorry! To give a bit more detail, here’s some news about the exciting things which have been keeping me busy. So in a very particular order:

1) Unsung Stories

What’s been eating my time most voraciously is the new science fiction, fantasy and horror imprint I have been setting up. Yes, you read that right. The day job now involves getting a fiction imprint off the ground. This is tremendously exciting.

We have two books due out soon, Deja Vu by Ian Hocking and The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley. These are both absolute crackers and I’m currently working with illustrators and editors to make sure they are flawless and beautiful to boot.

For those of you so inclined you might like to know that we’re also open for submissions.

Unsung Stories

2) Of Falls and Angela

The time has come for me to create a money-mouth situation which means that I will be self-publishing Of Falls and Angela in the coming months as well. I’m currently working with talented chap, Jordan Grimmer on some cover artwork which promises to be salivatingly good.

I’ll keep this blog updated as that progresses but expect publication soon

3) Book 2

Yup, I’m starting again. In my head it’s called The Many Little Deaths of Arthur Malory and it’s a near-future melodrama. I’ve drafted 15 out of 32 sections and it’s feeling much tighter structurally than Angela did at this stage. This one will be much closer to home as well as it’s about how we deal with increasingly porous social environments in the modern world, and the roots of anxiety.

Don’t worry, there’s a love story in there too.

Getting to know you

Draft 2 of Of Falls and Angela is very nearly complete. Aside from generally being a good thing for my sanity, this has proved a very interesting stage of the process. As I see it the broad mental epochs I have been through to date (with associated effects on my general mental well-being indicated in brackets) are:

  1. Tell people, ‘I’ll write a book one day,’ whilst doing nothing about it (General latent malaise on the theme of wasting your life)
  2. Start writing short stories (Excitement, quickly turning sour as you realise you do have something to learn after all)
  3. Get better at writing good like (Excitement returns, older, wiser and more cagey)
  4. Draft a book (More excitement, until you realise it’s nothing like finished)
  5. Re-draft the book and send it to people for input (Excitement because, no, you still haven’t learned. When feedback along the lines of ‘It’s good, but…’ comes in a faint despair at the work still ahead)
  6. Finish the second draft (Mild wonderment that you’re still continuing with it at all. And a bit of excitement)

I don’t know what comes after that, because I’ve only just finished the second draft. However, what I do know is that in order to get this far I have really come to know my protagonist – the eponymous Angela. I have also realised quite how much control I have had to give her.

To try and explain, without giving too much of the plot away, perhaps the most useful piece of feedback I got was simply that Angela’s reaction to a key event was unsatisfying. Given that it really was (Thank you hindsight, punctual as ever) this meant I had to rebalance the whole book, which in turn meant I had to sit down and have a long talk with Angela about who she really wanted to be. And that’s what turned out to be interesting.

My original vision of Angela was a precociously intelligent and sharp-witted girl who simply doesn’t realise her own worth, fractured by acute and specific insecurities. It worked in the original framework, except that as time went on that framework shifted and grew more complex. And because Angela is so intelligent she adapted to the complexity of challenges thrown at her. Without asking me. This, indeed, is probably the main reason why draft 1 wasn’t final; She had changed along with the world, but over-protective father figure here didn’t let her go.

So having had our conversation, I’ve had to do the right thing and let her spread her wings. It was at once liberating and terrifying. The former because as I did it I realised how much it improved everything, and how right it was for the book. The latter because I did have brief moments of wondering who was really in charge of the book any more. I have decided it is probably best not to ask these kinds of questions. I’ve seen the film, I’m not John Malkovich. I do know who Angela Pryor is though, and she kicks more ass than she used to.

It’s quiet. Too quiet…

It might seem like a long time since I mentioned The Book, and that is partly because it has been a long time since I mentioned The Book. The thing is that the entire process, from the first conception that the only thing stopping you writing a book is the fact that you haven’t started writing it yet through to an agent showering you with Smaug’s horde to try and woo you (that does happen, right?), takes a long time. For those with full time jobs on the side, a really long time.

So to give you a quick update, I’ve done pretty much nothing to Of Falls and Angela since the last post in March. What I have done, however, is farmed it out to various generous people who I trust enough to tell me which bits need the Old Yeller treatment. So I’m waiting (patiently! If you’re one of those generous people this isn’t a heckle!) for their feedback.

In the meantime, here’s a couple of things I wrote recently as part of the regular UKAuthors prose workshops, just as a show of willing:


Level 1 complete

This is a late post (see the Late Gig Review series for no explanations, but perhaps a little remorse) but a pretty significant milestone for me. You see, a couple of weeks ago now, following an unexpected burst of focus, I finished the draft of The Book (84,162). I suspect one of the reasons I have only just got round to writing this post, amongst other things, is that I’ve been waiting for the bit when someone tells me I haven’t really finished. Or I get given a book which matches mine too closely for me to avoid accusations of plagiarism  Or maybe Dropbox’s servers got wiped out by nihilist mutant cockroaches with a grudge against aspiring writers born of their own failed attempts to secure a publisher. You know, stuff like that.

Whatever though, it has been drafted. Indeed the girlfriend and brother are both amidst the flappy, unedited and hopefully satisfying rawness of the final three-quarters. Comments are already forthcoming, and confirming my own suspicions about which bits need work. Much more importantly, I can finally talk to someone about what happens in it!

This is one of the things that I haven’t read in the posts advising first-time novelists. There were reams of good advice about motivation, planning and persistence, but I didn’t find a single one that said: ‘Prepare to be full of intense frustration because you can’t talk to people about it without spoiling it for them, and corrupting your feedback. You want to talk to people about it? Back to the keyboard, hopeful monkey…’

So, fellow aspirants, I feel your pain. Think of me when you get strange looks from your nearest and dearest because they’re half way through reading it, you’ve asked them a question and all you can say to their answer is, ‘Yes, but- Wait, I can’t tell you that. Or that. Or that… Gah, just finish the damn thing already will you?!’ They’ve put up with you this far, they’re probably used to it by now.

As for me and my words? Well any child of the 1980s knows that level 1 is just the tease. Level 2 (the edit) will be that bit harder. As for the boss stage (find an agent/publisher), well let’s hope there’s a big red visual prompt that tells me exactly what to do when I get there.


This is a landmark kind of number, right? It means I’m three times as far in to this thing as I was a year ago which is a good thing. I’m definitely on the home straight, with about 10-15k to go on the main story and then the epilogue.

All very exciting, except that this week the day job has got a lot more immediately demanding and it will stay that way for a little while. So once again I’m left wanting more time in a day. Maybe I could give up sleeping? It’s only 15k, I could bang that out in a week, right…?

Keep it concise

There are lessons to be learned every day. Today’s lesson is this: When writing, keep it concise.

Sure, we all know about Hemingway. But when writing I use things like the following, all too frequently:

  • suddenly
  • now
  • turned to
  • looked at

I got called up on it today. I went back and looked again. I removed most of them. It looks better now.

That list shouldn’t be taken as exhaustive, of course.

Less is more.

42,375 – How to overcome writer’s block

So there was a bit of a hiatus in the last 9,000 words. This was largely down to me developing a block about how to handle one particular plot point. I know what I want to happen, but the specifics of making that plausible were getting away from me. It was becoming troublesome.

But the good news is that I solved it. That’s right, I’ve cured Writer’s Block! Well, for me at least. Do you want to know the secret? Because it’s not really a secret. I walked away from it. I totally left it alone and went and did something completely different. Didn’t spare it a single thought apart from the occasional pillow-bound moment of ‘I really should do something about that…’

Having done that I’ve come back to it and guess what? There’s a possible way through. Sure, I know I’ll have to review this section down the line because it’ll be a bit wonky, but then it was never going to come out right first time. We can’t all dictate 10 books of epic poetry like Milton. I won’t feel that bad.


This is definitely into the territory of ‘A third of a book’. Having finished a big freelance job for a friend (hopefully soon to be self-published – more info at www.silverwinter.com) I’ve started on my own effort again. The good news is that I’ve kept up a good pace in week 1.

I’ve also found that the break has been ‘A Good Thing’. It’s incredibly daunting contemplating writing tens of thousands of words and making it all tie up at the end. Part 1 was a sequential affair, led by the action. A caused B, B caused C, D and E provided insight and it all culminated in a rather exciting F. Part 2 isn’t so simple though.

One of the things that has always impressed me about any book (good or otherwise) is how the little details start to add up to create the complete texture of a novel. During my break I’ve found little moments, lines, fragments of dialogues and ideas for themes popping into my head. Timely writing down of these things means I now have a framework for part 2. It may sound blisteringly obvious, but it’s only when you start doing it that you realise how vital this process is. Unless you’re one of those absolute bastards lucky people with a eidetic memory it’s not possible to hold it all in your head. It’s like Palpatine, the more you squeeze your fingers around your dream, the more details escape your grip.

Which brings me to here, just over 33k words. It’s another beginning so the only thing to do is plough on and not look back until the draft is written. Now I’ve staked out some key points though, I’m hoping there inevitable edit will involve less structural trauma. Time will tell…