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


How to Get a Literary Agent – LBF 2013 seminar

I just came across this recording of one of the London Book Fair sessions, entitled How to Get a Literary Agent. It’s really worth a watch if you’re aiming at a career as a writer but you don’t already work in publishing.

A lot of it is familiar to tired old hacks such as myself because it applies to any publishing project. But if you’re not used to thinking about the entire product – for instance considering the life cycle from manuscript to sales/marketing – and have mainly been focused on the writing to date you should watch. Remember, publishing is a business. There’s a point about 17-18mins in where they mention a rejection along the lines of:

Best book I’ve read in 6 months. Loved it. Can’t sell it.

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…?

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 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…

A life of their own?

I’m currently on a self-enforced hiatus from my writing project on account of some freelance work. Aside from providing some always helpful cash, it’s has also giving me some time to plan the next part in terms of narrative and characters involved. Lots of notes are being taken, lists are being compiled, snippets of dialogue recorded before they evaporate, etc…

One of the thoughts that keeps coming back to me is about how the creative process works though. A conversation with a friend had some time ago came back to me. My friend was telling me how he had written a book once and found his characters most uncooperative, often pulling him in unplanned directions without his involvement. I found it a bizarre idea at the time, after all, who’s writing the thing?

Since then I’ve heard other takes on it. One person plans everything in great detail before writing a single word, another writes with pen & paper (already so archaic, eh?!) to slow herself down and force her to focus. Me, I’m increasingly finding that the trouble is getting the words down fast enough. The overall direction is planned in advance, and the details, well I make those up as I go along.

So where does that put me on the spectrum? It sounds like I’m a planner, feverishly recording everything before a word is composed, but it doesn’t feel like that to me. In fact, since I’ve been consciously thinking about it I’ve realised that new characters don’t get made up by me – they’re already there. I think through the scene, plan how it will go and what will happen to my protagonist and there they are, waiting patiently for me to get round to them so I can note their appearance, their defining characteristics, who they already are.

I do mean this quite seriously too, perhaps these are people I’ve met along the way in life, but they are the ones who wheedled their way into my book. In fact, all it seems is left for me to do is to put them somewhere and hopefully give them snappy lines of dialogue. So with my hand on my heart, Lode, Alphard, Regulus, Jonathan, Chloe Claire, Magic, Laurie, Dave and all the others I haven’t even met yet, I’ll do the best I can by you. I hope it does you justice.

A return to (the submission) form

Some time ago I gave myself a list of things to do. Now, barely 6 months since the last murmurings in this particular thread of the ether, I can give some kind of a sensible update!

  1. I have bought a flat. For those of you out there who are considering it, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. The sense of side-stepping fiscal entropy, and being able to make reasonable and mature decisions about your abode without having to run it past a cankerous letting agency is truly euphoric at points.
    For those of you who have already purchased a property, good Christ Almighty isn’t it stressful?! I have discovered all sorts of shockery that is entirely permitted within (perhaps even subliminally encouraged by) English property law. The Scottish system sounds vastly preferable!
  2. 28k words later I have finished Part 1 (of 3) of something that could perhaps be described as a novel. It’s not the one I originally planned to write. It’s something completely different, in fact. I’m not sure if this is a good sign or a bad sign. I often think of it as just a fact; a persistant fact that has currently hit the heady heights of 1/3 of the target. It’ll do.

I’ll see about getting more methodical here too as well. There are lots of things to consider about the writing now, and I feel I have hit a pleasant amble, if not a full stride…