Back once again

I’ve been away. Sorry. It wasn’t anything you said. I should perhaps add that I’ve not been ‘away’ away – I’ve been here, I’ve just not been posting, and that is bad of me. So what do I have to say for myself? Nothing. That’s right nothing. I don’t have to answer to you. You’re not my real parents. I hate you. God, I wish I’d never been born. [stamps upstairs, slams bedroom door].

Sorry about that. I’m not sure what just happened. Anyway, I need to bring you up-to-date. What’s been happening?

Firstly, the book has sold pretty well. I got a massive boost when the lovely Zoe Ball gave me a plug on BBC Radio 2 (see the video I cobbled together and have placed at the foot of this post). I had sent Zoe the book on the off chance that her son Woody would enjoy it, and lo-and-behold, about 6 weeks later I get some lovely words and orders from Milliways (I am reliably told) went through the roof.

The book is now about to be reprinted (freshly emblazoned with some a quote from Zoe on the back cover) and will hopefully find its way into Waterstones in the near future.

In the meantime I have been working on the follow-up book, The Revolutionary Kind. I am still hoping that it will be out by the end of the year, but that is looking like a tougher and tougher challenge. How To Fill A Black Hole took me a loooong time to write and while I will be much, much quicker with TRK, I think having it on the shelves within a year of the first book was being a little over eager, especially when you consider I am still working a full time job at the moment. Still, I will push on and, fingers crossed, thy will be done.

As for the story, is there anything I can reveal? Well, it will be different in tone and a different type of story. I don’t want the books to become repetitious so each one will be bringing different themes to the fore. I don’t want to say much more at the moment, but if anyone has any specific questions, ping them my way and I can answer them. Or ignore them. You know, one or the other.

In the meantime, I intend to try to update this blog once or twice a week, keep it ticking over. It’s a good little warm-up exercise for the rather larger writing project at hand, if nothing else. I’ll probably be sharing some thoughts about various books, tv shows and films I have read and seen, things like that.

Stay tuned.

And now, Zoe Ball:

Release the Houn… Books!

So. I am now counting down to the day of release. Except I don’t have a final date yet. Milliways Books have got their website up and running. You can download the first three chapters of the book for free, just to get you started. We’re working on the basis that this will prove to be the child friendly version of crack McDonald’s Happy Meals World of Warcraft something that is aimed at adults but I can mention on a blog post that might, at some point, be read by a child and that is really addictive. The point being, if you read the opening 3 chapters you will be desperate to read the rest. Because it’s really good, see?

Anyway. The website features links to Southampton Hospital Charities as Milliways are generously donating £1 from every copy sold on the website to the charity to be used in the children’s funds at the hospital. It also features a place where you can buy the book (£7.99 – a veritable snip, get yourself two, one for weekdays and one for Sunday best) and some other bits and pieces.

You can also see the brilliant cover there. But then, you can see it here too. Where, you ask? Why here:

The Marianna Voyages i: How To Fill A Black Hole cover

The Marianna Voyages i: How To Fill A Black Hole

See – good, eh?

And not only that, I have gone and set up a fan page for the book at Facebook. And another one, all for me.

It’s all go.

Anyway. The cover is done. The typesetting is almost complete. It should be off to the printers within the week, which means that it’ll be available for sale by the end of September. Probably earlier. I just don’t know how much earlier.

Now, I should probably get round to doing a proper post about something more writerly – some analysis of a filme or TV show or book or something, perhaps revisit my 3D post from before and update you on my thoughts. But not right now, I’m afraid. Sometime soon, when my life isn’t quite as dominated by releasing my first book. Which is kinda taking over at the moment.

Until tomorrow…*

*By tomorrow I merely mean some later date, much in the same way that the word was meant in the song over the credits of The Littlest Hobo.

I’m Back, Baby!

Yes, it’s been a long time, and yes, this is a new location, but I am back and slowly making this place look just a little bit nicer. So why the absence and why have I returned? Well, an awful lot has happened since March 2010, things which kept me away from updating. Nothing bad – in fact almost entirely good – a lot of it personal, but just a little tiny bit of it is worth mentioning here…

So… I mentioned in my post Name Me that I was struggling to name the book I had been working on, and I gave away a few clues to the subject matter of the book. At the end of the post I came up with a title – How To Fill A Black Hole – and asked what you thought. You got back in your droves (no one said anything) to let me know this was a great title and so it stuck. Now, one of the strange things is, I genuinely did come up with that title as I got to the end of the piece. It wasn’t all set up, that was a real eureka moment. Well, maybe not eureka, but it did just come to me then. I’ve subsequently discussed it with a lot of people in the real world and the overwhelming feeling was positive, though a few voiced concerns with it which I won’t go into here. The point being, in my head it stuck. And that fired me on to get the book completed*, which is one of the things that has kept me away from here…

The next step was contacting agents and trying to get somewhere. I worked out a decent query letter (in my eyes) working from various tips I found around the web. No one could agree on the best way forward, but I kept it pretty short and to the point, made sure I included everything that was asked for in the appropriate formats and fired everything off.

No joy.

The response was virtually universal:

It’s good but it’s not for us.

Now, from my scriptwriting days I know that agents can certainly send messages which make their feelings clear, but these weren’t negative in as much as they sounded mildly personal, as opposed to a standard template, and didn’t seem to suggest there was anything wrong with the writing. About as positive as a rejection can be really. No, the issue seemed to be a belief that it would be difficult to place. This is something I can believe as my own research into the target market (children’s sci-fi, if you remember) showed that there is nothing really quite like this. Specifically I asked in bookshops about books for my “nephew” who “loves Star Wars and Harry Potter” (yes, I invoked HP) and the best they could offer was Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Diana Wynne-Jones. All good. Indeed, in many ways great. But none of them really captured the spirit of what I was going for. So I knew I had an open goal, but it’s also something that might scare off publishers. There is no proof that this will sell, and it’s a risk averse-publisher’s market at the moment. If only I was an overweight stand-up comedian who’s hasn’t had a TV show in 7 years, maybe I’d have got a seven-figure deal. Oh well.

I didn’t want to end up on the notorious slush pile, lying in hope at home for months on end until some university work-experience staff-member read the first 4 pages and decided “No, this is not the future for BIG PUBLISHER PLC”, but some local networking found a small publishing start-up, keen to find something interesting to open their account with. We discussed the book and, long-to-short, it’ll be out in the wild in a month(ish). It’s been a hectic couple of months getting everything together and ready, but we’re nearly there. The final drafts of the cover have been done and it looks amazing – I am hoping to have something to put up on the blog soon. One of the great things about working with a small, local publisher has been how we have been able to work together on concepts that will be different and eye-catching – the kind of non-generic cover that BIG PUBLISHER never seems to want to use because there’s always a picture of a tree that hasn’t been seen with a green tint yet. So I’ve been hands-on with the cover, though my art skills are nil, and it is brilliant, I have to say. Local designer Gary Frost has done an amazing job.

Working with this yet-to-be-named publisher (well, they have been named, just that until the website is up and ready to go, they shall not be named on this blog) has led to some really interesting marketing ideas for getting the book out there in the public consciousness too. More of which will also be coming later.

So there is an air of mystery around all of this, for which I apologise, but hey, I’m back, and that’s the main thing.


*Yes, the Name Me post says I had five pages to go. That turned into about 60, with a chunk of rewriting too, so it was a bit more than anticipated, but it’s made the book a better beast.