Thursday, July 24, 2014

Monthly Round-up: July 2014

And I'm back for a look at what's been going on writing-wise in my world for the past month.

COMING SOON:

Edits continue apace on both DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL - in fact these have been keeping me extremely busy for the last few weeks. DEAD COOL is currently at a more advanced stage than DEATH SCENE.

It is looking likely at this stage that DEATH SCENE will have a mid-September release, and DEAD COOL will follow a month later. The good news is, pre-orders will be able to be placed and logged ahead of release date. The bad news is, I think this facility is only available to people in the US & Canada. My British fans are going to have to hold off until Autumn.

PROMOTIONAL NEWS:

I've been rather busy making guest appearances over the Internet over the past month. Here is a list of where you can find me, along with the links.

16 June - Susan A Royal (interview & blog swap)
17 June - Heather Fraser Brainerd & David Fraser (interview)
24 June - Heather Greenis (guest post)
25 June - The Poet's Fire (interview)
8 July - Helena Fairfax (guest post)
10 July - Mary Waibel (interview)

Convention-wise, I went to the Theakstons Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate earlier this month. I met up with a lot of other crime writers, and handed out postcards with the cover image of DEATH SCENE on. I also left a pile of them on the book swap table, where everyone seemed to be leaving their promotional cards, and I was happy to note that they all disappeared. Whether or not this interest will manifest into sales I don't know, but I am happy that the cover is attracting people's interest. That's the first step, anyway.

Next up is the Nineworlds Geekfest convention in London in August, where the writing group is running a workshop of writing exercises designed to beat writers' block, and I will be participating in a panel on 'Noir' fiction in all its forms.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

I've actually got three, and they are all at a bit of an impasse.

1) The Collaboration:
This is the 1960s crime thriller I am working on with hubby. We worked on the plotting together, and I have finished the first draft, which I have since passed to him to read. He is presently working on plot holes that we need to work out how to fix.

2) The horror novel:
I believed this one to be finished, and earlier in the year I was sending it out. But identical comments were coming back with the rejections, which made me realise it needs another polish. I have yet to sit down and redraft it.

3) The third Shara book:
This began life a number of years ago as the second Shara book, and lurched to a halt because I had not plotted it properly. I abandoned it and started writing the novel that would eventually become DEAD COOL. Recently I've hauled it out in an attempt to dust it off and give it another go. But I need to fix the plot problems first, and take into account the fact that Shara starts this novel in a different place than she original did, after the events of DEAD COOL. It has been calling out to me to get back to it. But I know that if I start writing it again without working out the plot problems first, I'm going to stall in the same place I did the first time around. I will say that it's not that I don't know who the murderer is, because I do. It's the middle bit that's giving me problems with this one, and the logistics behind how Shara solves the murder.

I am ashamed to say that in spite of having three works on the go, I haven't done much work on any of them for nearly three weeks. My excuse is that having two books to edit has been keeping me busy. But that's not a very good excuse.

I am setting a pledge to myself. By the time I come to you with August's update, I must have made progress on at least one of these WIPs.

Till next time, then...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Recalculating": Adventures at Film-Com

This past month, I had the opportunity to attend Film-Com, a "packaging, financing, and distribution market" in Nashville. Industry professionals included financiers, producers, writers, and attorneys. Film-Com wasn't a film festival, but it drew many film and TV people, particularly those looking for their shows or movies to be picked up for distribution.

My friend Amy McCorkle was there with her documentary Letters to Daniel. Due to good luck and timing, we scored a private meeting with a producer who asked me to send a copy of one of my books. I hope he enjoys it, but I'm also well aware that in Hollywood it's very difficult if not impossible to sell or option a screenplay or a book. If authors think it takes persistence to get published, it takes a lot more to deal with the machinations of Hollywood.

If I'm lucky enough to hear any good news, of course I'll share it. :-)

We arrived in Nashville on Tuesday, with our meeting with the producer Wednesday at 7 AM. Needless to say, I didn't want to oversleep and so got no sleep. We drove from Franklin, TN to Nashville via the interstate and a GPS that kept insisting I turn down a road we hadn't even arrived at yet. Needless to say, "Recalculating" was a term I heard more than I wanted to. On our last day, when we were headed to Titan Stadium, I gave Amy a print out of Google Maps and said, "We're using this." Unlike the GPS, we had no problem reaching our destination. Go figure.

Oh, yeah, that 7 AM meeting? We made it to the downtown hotel at 6:30 AM, and he was waiting in the lobby. I'm glad we didn't make him wait.

Wednesday was also a day for panels. Amy and I attended "How to Launch Scripted Television Concepts,"
"Documentaries - Financing and Distribution," "Features - Financing, Packaging, and Distribution," and "Genre Picture Funding," the last one focusing primarily on horror films.

Being a horror writer turned out to be an advantage and I met a few people who seemed to like that I wrote macabre. When I mentioned being old school (influenced by Hitchcock, Serling, etc.), they knew who I was talking about.

I enjoyed Film-Com. It was well-organized and the volunteers rocked. Not to mention, I love Nashville. If the chance arises to attend Film-Com next year, you'd better believe I'm going.

But this time, I'll be staying in a hotel downtown. :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Monthly Round-Up: June 2014

In an attempt to try and be more diligent in my writerly blogs - which are technically supposed to happen once a week, on Wednesdays (sorry, I'm a day late) - I am endeavouring to make the round-up post a monthly feature.  This will be a regular update on forthcoming releases, works in progress and promotional appearances.  Without further ado, here is the news for this month.

COMING SOON:

The MUI re-release of DEATH SCENE is at line edit stage so progressing well. Still no confirmed release date, but likely to be end of June.  Watch this space for more news.

Edits on DEAD COOL are also progressing.  This is scheduled for release in the Autumn, so it's likely to be September/October time.  My editor has been enthusing about what a good read it is, so I am feeling encouraged.

PROMOTIONAL NEWS:

I've been busy with the publicity train this month, with two guest appearances in the first half of June, and I'm talking about DEATH SCENE and my writing process in both.  Marsha R West features me as her Tuesday author chat and I'm also chatting to fellow crime writer Joan C Curtis this week on her Joan Says blog.  Joan and I are clearly on the same wavelength - not only do we both write crime, but we have both got the same idea for blog names (since mine began life as Sara Says).

Next month I will also be attending the Theakstons Crime & Mystery Conference at Harrogate, Yorkshire, to hang out with other crime writers.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

I am nearing the end of the first draft of the 1960s crime thriller.  As this is a collaboration with my husband, I will be handing it to him once the first draft is done, for him to do some work on it.  We've never collaborated on a project before and this one is in an early stage, so it will be a bit of a learning curve for both of us.

And the third Shara book is currently demanding quite loudly to be written.  So I would like to get started on that soon.

That's about it for this month.  Further updates to come in July!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Books, Books and E-books

Ever since I first learned how to read, I have spent much of my time with my nose in a book. I was starting to read by myself by age seven, I think. That's a good 37 years ago. I have devoured a great many books in that time.

In recent years there has been much debate about the format of books - hardback; paperback; e-book. In my own personal library, there are more paperbacks than anything else. But this is largely because I have been a commuter for the last 25 years, and most of my reading has been done on the train to and from work. Paperbacks are much more transportable than hardbacks. In the last four years or so I've had an e-reader and have been collecting e-books, and it won't be long before they overtake the number of paperbacks, even given their relatively recent appearance on the market.

I also possess a number of hardbacks in my library. Most of them have come my way as gifts, from someone who wants to buy me the absolute latest novel by one of my favourite authors, and who feels that a hardback is a more substantial gift than a paperback. I also have hardbacks that are personalised and signed by the author, because I went to their signing session and bought the book.

Ultimately the format is not as important as the words in the page. Books can transport you into another world. They are an escape from everyday life. They are the key to you becoming someone else, even if just for a few hours.  A dashing and brave hero. A magician with superior intellect. A hard-bitten cynical cop. The daring captain of a spaceship. Whatever you want to be, the words of a novel can take you there.

And yet the format of a book still matters, even though it shouldn't. Many people insist they don't like the idea of e-books because they prefer the feel of a 'proper' book. As if e-books are somehow not 'proper' books. I must admit I was a tad suspicious about them myself, until I got my first e-reader and realised how wonderful they were. No longer do I have to weigh down my suitcase with half a dozen books when I go on holiday for two weeks - all I need is my Kindle, and I have all the books I want. If I finish reading a book on the way into work, I don't have to lug another around another for the journey home, I just open up another book on the Kindle. My handbag is much lighter with the Kindle in, instead of a paper book. I am someone who has a book with her at all times, no matter where she is going. And a Kindle is so much easier to transport. It will practically fit into a pocket.

My e-reader has also allowed me to buy more books.  I browse the 99p books in the Kindle e-book store almost daily.  Quite often if I am intrigued by a book's cover and blurb I will decide to take a chance on it because it's not a lot of money to part with, and it might lead me to discover a wonderful new author.  One click is all it takes to buy that book and transfer it to my Kindle.  It's ready to begin reading mere seconds later.  And best of all, I don't have to find shelf space for all these new books because they don't take up physical space.

Yet in spite of this, I haven't stopped buying paper books. I will go to signing sessions and buy hardbacks. I will browse second hand book shops and buy books that take my fancy. I still browse book shops, heaven forbid, and take a punt on a new author's paperback simply because the cover and blurb on the back attract me. And I don't think this will ever change.

As a lover of books in all formats, it worries me there's still some resistance to e-books - occasionally even from publishers, though this is getting better. Only this morning I was reading an article in the news stating that e-book sales are predicted to overtake paper book sales in the UK by 2018.  And a spokesperson for a particular publisher was quoted about how e-books have revitalised the book market, with the technology to make e-books available on tablets and so forth making reading accessible to people who never used to be book buyers.

I'm not someone who gives books to charity shops when she's re-read them.  Maybe this is a selfish attitude, but I like to have books available to re-read at a future date.  Going back to a favourite book is like visiting an old friend you haven't seen in a while.  Hardbacks do make this a bit problematic, though, when most of my reading is done on the move.  I'm in the process of re-reading Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski books, and the next book on the list is BODY WORK. My copy of this is a hardback, signed to me personally by Sara because I met the great lady herself at the UK launch for this book. And as she is one of my favourite authors of all time, I will treasure it. Having paid £15 for this signed copy, I don't particularly want to have it bashed about in my bag on the train, or dropped in the bath, or whatever. Ideally I'd like to keep the hardback on the shelf and have a electronic version to re-read, but this would mean having to pay for a second copy of a book I already legitimately own.

I'm sure I'm not the only reader out there who likes to have shelves surrounded by books, whilst enjoying the convenience that an e-reader brings to the reading experience.  I'd like to see publishers bundling a free e-book version of a novel with every hardback edition sold.  That would certainly encourage me to buy more hardbacks to fill up my bookshelves at home, and I'd still get to enjoy the convenience of my e-reader on my daily commute.

A few years ago there seemed to be much suspicion in the publishing world, and a widely held view that e-books would see the end of paper books.  I maintained then, and still maintain now, that there is room in the world for e-books and paper books to exist together, and there does seem to be more people acknowledging this now.  But there's still a way to go before e-books and paperbacks are truly equal.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The End In Sight

I got the early train into London this morning for an early-morning Starbucks writing session - something I have not done in a while, it must be said.  In fact looking at my writing log made me realise the last writing session was dated 16 April - over a month ago.  I will say at this point I am rather anal about logging my writing sessions, noting word count and date of every one.  It helps me keep track of my monthly word count, and also how long it takes me to finish each draft.  But it also makes me aware of how long it's been since the last session.

Why the gap?  The end of April and beginning of May was manically busy in the day job, and I was also working on edits for both DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL, which made it hard for me to get my head around working on the WIP as well.  And then I was away for two weeks.  I did actually take the Netbook away with me, with the idea that if it was raining I might get some time to sit in the hotel room and write, but well...the weather was glorious and the writing didn't happen.

Anyway.  Now I am back home again and trying to get back into my usual routine, including the early-morning writing sessions.  The current work in progress is the 1960s crime thriller, and this morning was a good session.  I've been wrestling with the climax of this one, but now I feel that the end is in sight.  The novel still needs a great deal of work - I am not deluding myself about that.  But I am nearing the end of the first draft.  And I've always seen the first draft as putting the scaffolding in place.  Once you've got that, you can start the real building work.

The main issue with this novel will be research.  It's set in 1967, and spans San Francisco, London and Vietnam.  This is not an era I was alive to witness, but there are plenty of people around who were, and they'll notice if I get it wrong.  The parts of the novel set in Vietnam - which is effectively the final section of the story - is proving particularly tricky.  This was a very emotive point in history.  In particular I want to know what Long Binh looked like in 1967.

Research has never been my strong point, and I've never let a mere thing like getting the facts right stop me from getting stuck into the first draft.  Of course, this generally means a great deal of changes between the first draft and future drafts.  Fortunately, the Internet has made doing research a great deal easier than it used to be.  A quick search has revealed that there are a lot of personal accounts and photos from soldiers who lived through the Vietnam war out there in the public domain, and careful research will help me ensure I get it right.

For me, the most important thing is to get to the end of draft 1.  I'm not there yet with this WIP.  But I can just glimpse the light at the end of the long tunnel.

After that, the real work starts.  Doing the research, getting the facts right, sorting out the plot holes, working out what's not working and what's not in the novel that should be.  But all that will come later.  For now, I'm focusing on getting to the end.  And I feel like I'm almost there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Double Duty

I set myself a pretty challenging goal yesterday. Enter Exterminating Angel in a screenplay contest. Deadline? May 31.

Yeah, pretty audacious. If nothing else, it forces me to work on a self-imposed deadline. That's the problem when you don't have any books under contract. It's easy to put revising or writing off, thinking, well, I don't have to worry about a deadline. And those days can pass into weeks, months, etc. You get the idea.

Do I expect to win this contest? No. Although the last screenplay contest I entered, I made it to the second round, but no farther. Must be doing something right.

My interest in screenplay writing started in college, when I met a fellow screenplay writer, who has gone on to option and sell several screenplays. But I didn't start writing one until a few years after graduating with a BA degree in English. Poetry and short stories dominated my writing, and while I still write short stories, I rarely write poems.

Granted, my early screenwriting endeavors suck. I have to admit I think the screenplay adaptations of Death Sword and Exterminating Angel are better than my first three efforts. Of course, I had the material available so I didn't have to come up with settings or dialogue. But one of the things about adapting a screenplay lies in understanding what should and should not be included. For example, no interior thoughts. Sure, one could use voice overs, but a general rule is if you can't see or hear it, it doesn't belong on the screen.

Meantime, I should hear about another screenplay contest I entered, although I doubt I'll move on to the next level in that one.