Wednesday, 5 December 2012

These Monkeys have Moved

We've moved to Shropshire! Due to unreliable internet connection there won't be another blog until after Christmas. So you'll just have to look at the picture to the left. I look just like that, but with less hair, older and eyebrows that aren't made from seagulls.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Guide to Interpretive Dance Pitching

Here are some basic interpretive dance pitching moves for you all. Just in case you wanted to dance your book ideas at agents.



Thursday, 8 November 2012

Neighbours


     The planet hadn’t been noticed. Hidden behind three gas giants, earlier surveys had missed it. But not this survey, with its bright eyed, rosy cheeked interns and large budget; they’d spotted it, circling the star Mu Arae. A super-Earth, in the goldilocks zone, only fifty light years away; it was too good to be true. The interns became excited and their professors became excited and there was some inappropriate touching in all that excitement and an announcement made to the world.

     Others shifted their gaze to Mu Arae and it was confirmed. A paranoid military turned their listening devices, antennas and satellites to the star.

     And they found a signal. Faint amongst the crackle and whine of the void, nearly undetectable. Others pointed their instruments, picking up the transmission and passing it on until it resounded around the earth. Scientists, mathematicians and polymaths analysed it, endless algorithms were run over it, rewritten and run again. Conferences were organised, speeches given, arguments put forward and fights lost in dark car parks as no-one really understood what the signal meant.

     Finally a bookshop geek came up with the answer. He’d created a genetic algorithm to translate ancient Greek texts and set it analysing the signal once Homer started to bore. He passed the results to the professors who read it and quickly organised a press conference. Those rosy cheeked interns and their professors, all kinds of scientists, and the bookshop geek lined up as the cameras stared at them, holding the eyes of seven billion people.

     The lead scientist stood up, sweating and scruffy. He waffled on about how exciting it was - the changing of human destiny - the first contact with extra-terrestrial life. He looked at the paper in front of him.

     The cameras waited.

     The scientist looked at the interns - apart from the one he’d touched inappropriately.

     Back to the paper.

     Back to the cameras.

     He loosened his tie, coughed and announced.

     “Please, keep the noise down.”

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Techno-geeky Nonsense #3: Author photo in Google Searches...Success

Finally it's happened! Google have picked up the author tags on my blog and linked it to my profile. My picture appears next to my blog posts in Google. Basically, I'm famous. Or I'll  get a big drop in visitors as my hairy mug puts them off.

It only took 18 months...

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 25 October 2012

At the Petrol Station of Insanity


Rain kamikazed into the windscreen as I pulled into the forecourt and up to the pump. I pushed the car door open and popped the petrol cap off. Despite hunching my shoulders, rain leaked down the back of my neck and I stumbled to the hose, pushing it into the car with a clunk.

Squeezing the trigger, I stared up at the station’s sign above me, a simple, red  image of the tentacle-headed monster god on a yellow background.

“ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn,” I chanted under my breath.

The hose shook and bucked in my hand. I turned away from the faint soul shredding wail coming from my slowly filling tank and stared at the sky. It boiled with cloud in every direction. I rubbed the palm of my free hand into my eye socket.

After a couple of minutes I released the hose trigger and pushed it back into place. I fixed the petrol cap into place and the wailing died away.

As I approached the counter the attendant looked up. He was bald but had the now traditional fringe of long hair around the side which had clumped together and looked like the tentacles of the monster god.

“That’ll be twelve hundred pounds,” he muttered, flicking a glance at the rain.

“They really need to do something about the price rises,” I grumbled, pulling my wallet out.

“The Reaper can only claim so many souls in a day,” the attendant said solemnly in a voice as deep as a forgotten well. His eyes rolled in his head and a little dribble trickled from his mouth. “Pray he does not come too soon for yours.”

I waited for him to recover then handed over my card.

“Sorry,” the attendant muttered. “I can’t help that. Possession.”

I nod and take my card back off him.

“Thanks.” I walk back and climb into my car. I push my fingers through my hair a few times as I wait for the engine to warm up before firing it. The radio burbled on.

…Today’s traffic report. Roads around Manchester are still gridlocked as the populace try to flee the Reaper. The Minister of Transport continues to say that the benefit of the Reaper of Souls far outweighs the drawbacks…

I pull off and head South. Hoping to escape the rain.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Book Pitch Rejections #2

I thought I'd post up some more recent rejections I've had from agents.

The Tangle Wood Disaster
The evil house developer Bryan Homes have bought Tangle Wood wood and plans to build a housing estate on it. Can Jimmy Acorn the oak sappling unite the warring tree clans and defeat the builders? Of course not, he's a tree.

Response from Copse Burning Agency: Very wooden.

Is this My Arse or My Elbow?
Picture book for kids that are likely to grow into middle managers.

Response from Tim E. Sheets & Associates: We're interested but would like to engage with some focus groups, run it up the flagpole  and see if it lights any bulbs.

The Casual Vacancy at Snogwarts
When Prof Bumblemore dies unexpectedly, the idyll school of Snogwarts is left in shock. But what lurks beneath Snogwarts prim exterior is a school riven with sexual tension and spanking. It's Harry Potter with all the discipline it lacked and Snape as you've never seen him before, in a gimp suit.

Response from Throbbing Knights Agency: Completely inappropriate.

Don't worry, I'll be back.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Amazing Writing Advice #16: Getting The Word Count Right

Earlier this week a well respected agent mentioned a manuscript with a paltry word count of 313,455. Why so low, people? You need to get that word count up! There's a simple formula all publishers use when choosing a book:

Words == ££££££

You need to make sure you're manuscript is as long as possible. Now here are some tricks of the trade:

  1. Move any scene with dialogue into a big cave. Words echo, and echo words count too. Also the echoes make sentences more dramatic. Example, "Where's the tin opener? opener? pener? ener?" I've nearly doubled the word count of that sentence there and it sent more than a shiver down my spine!
  2. Give characters large objects to move. Then punctuate the conversation with "To me." and To you." This can last for hours. Trust me, I've seen it on TV.
  3. Have characters put together furniture (fits in well with the above). One character can then read out the instructions. If you really need to bump it up, have them put together a nuclear power plant.
  4. Make characters drive somewhere, have them play i-spy.
  5. Make one of the characters a teenage girl. They never shut up.
  6. Have one of the characters read another book. Paste that book into your book.
  7. Have them go to a nightclub. Include all the words from the songs playing.
  8. DESCRIBE EVERYTHING!
  9. Set it in the future where everyone has a binary name. One zero one one zero one one one looked at zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero one, "I'm stuck on you, Zeroie, like a robot stuck on a magnet." 
  10. Set it in a time loop like one of those bad Star Trek episodes. Repeat the first 50,000 words again and again until the robot realises what's going on.
Soon you'll have the minimum 500k to make your manuscript a must have for every editor in the business.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Stripping the Pitch

Nick drapes a friendly arm around my shoulders.

"Don't worry," he says, walking me through the grubby door. "The first time's always the worst."

Dark rickety stairs lead down into a small bright room crammed with people.

Nick pushes me through the crowd. I bump into a girl, her eyes dart up from her manuscript, flash contempt then return to the text. She begins whispering the same line over and over.

"...Blade Runner meets Harry Potter..."

"Here we are," Nick waves an old man from a seat and shoves me into it. "So you're all set?"

"Yeah, I think so," I reply, looking back to the girl. she's biting her lip, every finger is crossed.

Nick leans back against the wall, letting his head thunk against it.

"Look, Mark, there's no 'think so' about it. If you aren't ready they'll eat you alive."

A man with a clipboard waves at the girl and leads her through a curtain. Seconds later I hear muffled cheering.

The old man who Nick has moved is standing next to me muttering.

"...Star Wars with mice..."

"It can't be that bad," I say, but my whole body disagrees.

The curtain pulls back and the man with the clipboard waves at Nick.

"You'll be fine," Nick drags me to my feet. "Just don't let them rattle you."

The man with a clipboard looks me up and down.

"First time?"

"Yeah."

"Well, it's a big crowd tonight, just remember that's a good thing."

He holds the curtain aside and I walk out and squint against the bright lights. I'm on a tiny stage, only room for me and the sharp drop. Through the lights I can make out dozens of eyes staring up at me through the smoke and booze fumes.

The cheering starts. It knocks me back and I turn trying to find the man with the clipboard.

"What do I..."
Someone whistles, others start banging tables.

"SHOW US YOUR PITCH!"

I turn back.

"Look, I..."

"PITCH! PITCH! PITCH! PITCH!" the crowd cry out.

I freeze. The cries continue, someone throws a slice of lemon at me. It smells of gin.

I close my eyes, breathe and pitch.

"Oh, look at the hook on that."

"Yeah but the synopsis sags in the middle badly."

"Great voice."

"Not sure about the title."

I finish, and open my eyes. I'm no longer on the stage but in an alley. Nick is nowhere to be seen. Someone sniffs behind a bin and I see the girl, tears streaking her cheeks and manuscript.

A large shiny car pulls up at the end of the alley, one of the rear doors opens.

I climb in.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Amazing Writing Advice #15: Write the Truth?!

There's this bloke, let's call him Bob. He was waffling on about writing once and said,

"We have only one responsibility: to tell the truth."

What is he on about? You'll see fly-by-night authors banging on about the truth all the time, spouting off about how their story shows a universal truth. But I've read their books and, I can tell you, hardly anyone dies and there is nothing in there about taxes.

These people are trying to trick you, or maybe they're on mad badger drugs. The truth is boring and cruel. If you write about the truth you'll get a story about a boy who isn't a wizard, going to school. Or a girl who goes to school and doesn't have amazing powers and doesn't get adopted by the lovely (and, in the film, hot teacher). The mice won't talk, they'll die painful deaths after eating poison. The lovely black horse will be boiled into glue.  Danny's dad will be banged up and he'll be put in a home. The naughtiest girl in the school will get expelled. The pig would eat the spider then get turned into bacon. The Hardy boys would be found floating dead off the coast as a warning to other meddling kids...

It goes on.

So whatever you do, don't write the truth. Make everything crazy and exciting and a big lie. Explosions should fill every page. Women should be hot and have awesome racks (this is what they mean by write for yourself). The men should wear no shoes and white vests. Cats should fly, dogs be detectives and caterpillars gangsters. Don't worry about the plot or meaning or anything like that, just avoid the boring truth. No one's interested.

All the best,

Mark

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Amazing Writing Advice #14: The Two Basic Plots and What They Mean

People say that every story can be boiled down to one of seven basic plots. Poppycock, you can boil them down to two basic plots, here they are:

1) The bloke you are writing about, well, he has to overcome some stuff and succeeds. Examples: Star Wars, Lethal Weapon, The Road, Pride and Prejudice, Neighbours, Lethal Weapon 2.

2) The bloke you are writing about, well, he has to overcome some stuff and fails. Examples: The Illiad, Lethal Weapon 3 and 4, The Bible 2: The New Testament.

So, what does this really tell, us? Yes, plot doesn't matter, all you need are obstacles. They can range from hurdles to Madge Bishop but they are what make a story great, random obstacles that confound your hero until he succeeds/fails completely. Some of my favourite hurdles are:


  • Hurdles
  • Madge Bishop
  • Armies of zombie kittens
  • Having to go to work
  • Michael Gove (keep him 'til the end and make him the puppet master bad guy)
  • Asteroids
  • Worms
  • Paper cuts
  • Megatron
  • A one way system
Hopefully these will help fire your imagination!

Cheers,

Mark

Friday, 3 August 2012

Reading Propaganda

Way back in March I took part in the Library Lobby and Hot Key Books wrote this blog about it. It talks about Lydia Syson's new book, A World Between Us and mentioned a Spanish Civil War propaganda poster with the slogan 'Read! To be educated, to be strong, to be human!'*

I needed to get a copy of that poster.

I searched the endless deserts of Google but to no avail. So, with the help of a designer I work with, I created my own.



Do with it what you will.

Cheers,

Mark


*Obviously the Spanish poster was in Spanish.


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Schrödinger's Submission

It's a little known fact that Erwin Schrödinger had a younger sister who was desperate to become a writer. She created the below thought experiment,  Schrödinger's Submission, years before Erwin even got a pet cat.

"A whole load of writers' submissions are placed into the slush pile. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the submissions are simultaneously successful and rejected. Yet, when an agent reads them, they will be successful or rejected."

For a while this was thought to a massive break through in quantum writing mechanics. Then everyone realised it was rubbish.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Five Great Things to Include with a Posted Submission

Are you old school? Do you send your submissions out on paper and laugh at  all the dead trees? Well how about including some of these things to make your submission stand out.


  1. Some glamour shots - sex sells! Don't worry if you're a bit droopy, the person that actually reads your submission probably hasn't seen a real human for six months and will love you instantly. Drawback: They will stalk and kill you.
  2. A horse's head - nothing says 'take me seriously' like this tired cliché. But it's sure to get the message across and you'll be signing a book contract in your favourite Italian restaurant before you can say 'sleeps with the fishes'. Drawback: Horse's heads are big and heavy, postage will be massive and you'll probably have to pay to get the postman's uniform cleaned.
  3. A fluffy kitten - so cute you'll make an instant impression. Drawback - it'll take several days to arrive so make sure you add some cat food and milk to the package.
  4. An inter-dimensional portal to the universe where you are already a massive success - Literally show them what potential you have, admittedly by going to the universe where you don't post people kittens. Drawback: You'll have to break into CERN to steal it. It might also cause a Resonance Cascade.
  5. Yourself - then you can talk through any issues they have there and then. Maybe take a kitten with you. Drawback: I can't think of one.
I'll be trying all of these in the next 6 months. If you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks I'm probably lost in the post, living off the last of the kitten meat.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Five Best Reasons to Write a Book

5. You hate your job - the obvious and easy solution to this problem is to write a book. No training needed, unless you can't write. Soon you'll have a bestseller on the shelves and be talking to Clint Eastwood about the script.

4. Kids' books need old fashioned morals - books today just aren't the same. They need to get back to the core values of honesty, intolerance and the supremacy of the British Empire. They don't even have the national anthem printed in the front any more.

3. You've spotted a gap in the teen vampire market - vegetarian film geek vampires that hum in the moonlight. Your heroine meets one at the cinema where she's saved from being drowned in hot butter. She's plunged into a world where vampires and projectionists are at war.

2.  It's a calling - writing runs in your family. You're great granddad carved gravestones. Grandma wrote over 4000 letters to her local MP, ten years after he'd died. Mum never forgot a family birthday card and there was the note Dad left...

1. A god sent angels to tell you to write it - because all the gods and angels don't have anything else to sort out.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Book Pitch Rejections

Quite often I see agents mentioning on Twitter or Facebook or in their local pub what kind of work they'd quite like to see. Which gave me an idea! I could tell you what I've had rejected recently and by who then you can avoid submitting something similar to them. So here are my recent rejections:

'Where's my Boatswain?'
Pitch: Captain Higgs has lost his boatswain, and is looking all over the port for him. Eventually he has himself fired out of a cannon and he collides with the boatswain. Everyone gets drunk on rum.  27km wide picture book.


Response from Jenny Boffin: You've missed the boat on the Higgs Boson gig. Arf. Arf.


'Bob and his Farting Dog'
Pitch: Bob sticks a cork up his dog's bum and turns him into a balloon. They float off together on a wonderful adventure.


Response from Terry Trump Agency: Not enough farting.


'Daddy Boils the Ants'
Pitch: A little girl finds an ants' nest in the garden and her daddy pours a kettle of boiling water onto it. Picture book with pop-out boiled ants.


Response from Adam Dandy Associates: Inappropriate.


'Fifty Types of Wood'
Pitch: A young adult story about a girl who falls in love with her insulation tape obsessed woodwork teacher.


Response from Throbbing Knights Agency: Completely inappropriate.


All the best with your submissions.


Cheers,


Mark

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Amazing Writing Advice #13: Don't Write, Read

As a hugely successful writer I like to give back. But I also see other less established writers giving 'advice'.  A common theme of this 'advice' is that you should write.

STUPIDITY!!

What's the point in writing when you don't know how to write? And you don't know how to write, trust me. So what you need to do is go round the whole internet and read every article on writing, good and bad, making notes. Then read all the books on writing, making notes and attend every single conference and workshop there is, making notes.

Making notes is the only writing you should be doing during this time (if they are hand written you may want to rent some storage space and buy a large forest and paper mill).

Obviously there is some kind of paradoxical thing is saying that you should ignore the advice of all those people that tell you to write and thentelling you that you have to read everything else they've ever  said. In answer to that all I can say is... LOOK A TWO HEADED SQUIRREL!!

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Thirst - Part 2

The Thirst Part 1 can be found here.


Police buzzed around the village. Two officers sat in a car outside Josh’s house, others went from door to door along the street. Half the village searched the local woods and Dad joined them. He came back late and I hid, up on the landing, as he talked to Mum in the kitchen.

"No sign at all?" Mum asked. I could hear her filling the kettle, the tinny rattle then the scrap and creak of a chair as my dad sat.

"Nothing, we searched all over, and it’s true," Dad said. His voice sounded tight.

"Six?"

"Dave and some of the others are going to the traveller’s camp. Say they’ve stolen them."

"But the police have searched there."

Dad grunted. The kettle rumbled and clicked off. The sound of the hot water tumbling into cups rose up to me. I pressed my face against the banister. Five others had been taken. Five like Josh. Maybe some of my friends. I felt a little scared but mostly, mostly it was excitement.

I was kept in for the rest of the week; my mum didn’t even let me into the garden. I spent a lot of time on the web, looking at news articles and forums but there wasn’t anything apart from appeals for information. No one seemed to know what had happened.

Other than that I rattled around the house, playing my music loud, slamming doors, making as much mess as possible. I needed to drive Mum mad enough to let me out. I needed to find out what was going on. Finally Mum sent me to the shop. She pressed her mobile into my hand even though it was a two minute walk round the corner.

That’s where I saw Sara, on her own.

Sara was never on her own.

She was always with her twin sister, Jen. They went everywhere together. She looked different. Her hair uncombed, dark patches under her eyes. She wore a winter coat even though it was a blazing day.

I waited for her by the door of the shop.

"Hi."

She looked at me for a few seconds before she spoke.

"Hi."

"Where’s Jen?" I asked even though I knew. I knew when I first saw her on her own. I don’t even know why I asked her. She looked away, off into nothing then she looked back.

"They took her."

Seconds stretched out.

"They took Josh as well," I said, it felt inadequate compared to her twin sister. Jen stood watching me.

"Did you see them?" she asked slowly.

"I saw a girl and a baby in the fog. But they were difficult to make out."

Sara’s eyes flicked away again, looking off at something I couldn’t see.

"I was with Jen when they took her, right next to her. We both went out for the baby."

With a shiver I realised what she was looking at, she was looking back to the last time she’d seen her sister.

"I saw them. I saw them take her," Sara turned to me and I stepped back, there was so much anger and hate in her eyes. "I’m going to take her back."

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Shropshire

Everyone should go to Shropshire at least once in their life.

Shropshire sunset

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 31 May 2012

New Addition to the Family

Yesterday we gained a new addition to our family, a lovely little fella. Lauren's been really excited all week, I've been checking on the scamp, making sure he's OK before we took full responsibility of him. Every night I'd go out onto the roof and make sure the fat pigeons hadn't nibbled his face off. Finally, he was ready and I brought him inside and we washed his delicate little body. Lauren's eyes lit up as soon as she saw how he'd come out and she just wanted to hold him straight away. We let him get used to the flat for a few hours while we ate our dinner, then decided the get to know each other a bit better.

Strawberry Joe
So here he is, Strawberry Joe.

Obviously we took a few photos with him and admired his size and beauty. The first strawberry from our roof, a deep red, not too squashy with an awesome shock of green hair.

Tragedy
We were well proud.

But tragedy struck! Somehow he split in two. I had a knife in my hand, it might have been that. Somehow in that moment Strawberry Joe was gone and our grief overwhelmed us. Things went crazy, I...WE acted out of character. That's the only way I can put it.
A Strawberry's Funeral

We ate Strawberry Joe.

We didn't mean to eat this delicious, plump strawberry.

Maybe it was for the best, though I'm worried he might come back to haunt us.  Hopefully his brothers and sisters will fair better when they come in from the roof...

Cheers,

Mark


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Amazing Writing Advice #12: Plot and Structure

Plot and structure are really important. You can't have a story without them. So I thought I'd show you my plot and structure.

Here's my plot:


and here's my structure:


Cheers,

Mark

Friday, 18 May 2012

Clear Editorial: A Rambling Review Thing

Quite a lot of the time writing feels like standing in a pitch black room with an elephant while shouting, 'Crumpets!'; pointless, dangerous and you've no idea if you have or ever will achieve something worthwhile.

Good feedback is the stuff of dreams. But getting feedback from people that really know something can be tough (that'll upset the crit group, bwa-hahahahaha!). The occasional agent might send back something helpful like, "The eighth line of the first paragraph wasn't all bad" but generally they're too busy helping out the people that are good enough to earn them some money.

So that leaves editing services and things like that. There's Cornerstones and some others that I can't be bothered to look up right now as I'm on lunch and really want to read Nick Cross's impending blog post. There's also lots of independent editors out there offering to take a look.

All these cost money. Usually quite a lot of money (in relation to the amount of money that doesn't sit in my bank account). Also what if the editor you get really, really hates the type of book you've written? On a purely subjective level I mean. I'm sure they try to avoid this happening but the idea of it still gives me the fear.

But a few weeks a go the cackling crones of SCBWI who spend their time emailing one another and occasionally turning an unfortunate illustrator into a toad posted a link to a new service  Clear Editorial set up by Tim Deakin, who worked for Egmont before going freelance and also holds the land speed record for riding a penguin (only one of those two things is a lie).

Tim offers a top line report where you send him about 5 pages and a plot outline and he'll give you some lovely feed back. Then you can decide if you want a fuller analysis, if you like Tim or just pack it all in and try a bit harder at your proper job. And this top line report costs £39.99

Yes.

£39.99!!!!!!!!!


Bargain.

As for the actual service, Tim provided the feedback by the agreed time, gave a  couple of pages overview covering plot, style and narrative in which he said nice things, highlighted what needed work (I think he could tell I didn't have a plot when I started writing it and still didn't have one by the time I finished). He also returned the extract I sent with sort of line edit-y things on it.

In summary it was marvellous, like someone flicked the light on in that pitch black room, showed me the elephant was just a fluffy kitten and gave me a laptop to do some actual writing on.

And you know, £39.99!!

So check it out if you are thinking you need some guidance or feedback (and join a crit group as they are good).

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Amazing Writing Advice #11: The Welsh Book

The time has come to tell you people one of the most important rules known by writers. It concerns The Welsh Book. The Welsh Book must never have its name said by any author anywhere. You can't even write it, which is going to make this blog post a little tricky.

The Welsh Book was written by famous Welshman Roald Dahl (strong Welsh name, that) which is why it is referred to as The Welsh Book. Obviously I can't tell you the name but it sounds a bit like The Vitches.

The book is cursed as it contains real spells cast by the evil antagonists in it. If any author says the name of the book they will have their work refused by agents and publishers from London to Wigan. Their pens shall run dry; their paper go all crispy and yellow; their computers will take ages to start up; wine will turn to blossom Hill in their mouth; chocolate will become like rice crackers to them.

So never say the title of this book. If you do say the title your only hope is to quickly do the cleansing ritual below:

Turn three times on the spot,
Bend over and spit between your legs,
Chant, "Witches, witches, can't get me, you all smell of poo and wee."

It might work, it might not. But that's the best I can do for you.

Good luck!

Mark

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Submitting to Agents via Email: A Time-Line

Wednesday Night
7:51pm: Check submission meets all the agent's guidelines. Snigger at joke in covering letter. Hit send.

7:52pm: Refresh mailbox.

7:53pm: Refresh mailbox.

7:54pm: Check submission guidelines again. Notice sending it in .Doc or .PDF weren't optional. Reassure self that scanned writing on  beermats is fine.

7:55pm: Refresh mailbox. Promise to wait until after 8pm before refreshing again.

7:59pm: Refresh mailbox.

8:01pm: Open wine. Go on twitter. Notice comment by agent. Check their time line for any comment about your MS.

8:04pm: Make funny comment to agent. If they respond they obviously love your MS.

8:10pm: They must be too busy gushing over MS to respond.

8:15pm: Finish wine.

8:25pm: Realise twitter joke to agent was just stalkerish and crazy. Pour vodka.

8:26pm: Refresh mailbox...

9:32pm: Refresh mailbox. Decide to check from another computer just in case this one's broken.

9:48pm: Reread covering letter. Notice four spelling mistakes and the joke is racist. Finish vodka. Shout at mirror. Collapse.
Please, sir, Can I be published?

Tuesday Morning


9:48am: Arrive at work late and reeking of booze. Refresh mailbox...

11:28pm: Refresh mailbox. Get suspended indefinitely as, "Mind seems to be on other things and not the heart surgery".

4 Weeks later
10:23am: Form rejection. Weep.

10:26am: Plan murder of agent.

11:32am: Start new book written on napkins stolen from KFC.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Books that Say Fart on the Front

In no way am I stuck for a blog idea!

Here are some books with 'Fart' on the front and my in-depth, expert analysis.



Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder has FART right in the centre to draw the eye immediately. This book is screaming that it's about farts and doesn't care who knows.


On Your Farts, Get Set, Go! is similar to Jo Nesbo's effort with the eye catching FARTS but this time they've worked it into an amusing pun and given the word FARTS a much more stinky look. I'm a little worried by the slightly subliminal CIA operative with a gun, is this some kind of secret brainwashing attempt?!

Will Farts Destroy the Planet has a cover where FARTS plays second fiddle to DESTROY and is clearly aimed to make you panic-buy the book and some corks.

Farts Happen is just weird. Why did they choose the camel? And an eskimo?! The cover design reminds me of those weird religious books you get where it all starts off happy but by page ten god is burning you if you don't obey him. I do like the style though.

So that was some books with FART/FARTS on the cover. I hope you enjoyed them.

Cheers,

Mark

P.S. Next week's blog will probably be Lauren apologising for this week's blog...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Kickstarter Appeal: Robot Agent

So instead of doing something interesting tonight (like go to a fancy book launch in London) I'm at home trying to save money. But I think you'll all agree that the best way to save money is to make money (or rob people*). With this in mind, earlier today, on Nick Cross's blog, I mentioned maybe he could build a robot agent instead of finding a puny, human one.

People liked this idea.

So below I have my blueprints for version #1 of my Robot Agent and some of the technical specs. if you have any questions, please, don't hesitate to ask. Obviously I'll be requiring around about £1 million to complete this project and I have a pledge scale below and what you'll get for that pledge.

Pledge Scale

  • £100 - Robot Agent will represent you at one meeting with an editor/publishing professional of your choice.
  • £500 - Robot Agent will be turned on and represent you at one meeting with an  editor/publishing professional of your choice.
  • $1000 - Er, two meetings?
  • £50,000 - Robot Agent will turn up at a minor literary event of your choice and rampage. You can specify one target in particular.
  • £10,000 - As above but a major event.
  • £500,000 - Robot Agent will be let loose at the next London Book Fair and capture as many editors as possible for your manuscript to be presented to or to be forced to fight to the death in a giant spinning, flaming cage full of weasels.
  • £1,000,000 - Robot Agent will publish your book and force everyone in the world to buy a copy, every day, until you die.

Click on the image to see Robot Agent in its full glory!

Technical Spec.
  • Runs on a 486/Windows 95 box I have lying about in my loft.
  • Cogs and pistons are important and vital.
  • Wine tank carries 50 litres of wine for emergencies.
  • Chocolate is also carried for emergencies.
  • Speed estimates of 240,000,000km per second.
  • Probably indestructible.
  • Spiky.

Ladies and Gentlemen, place your pledges!

Cheers,

Mark

*Don't ACTUALLY rob people, ok?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

FREAKS!

As someone who has been called a freak quite a few times (badge of honour) I have been intrigued by FREAKS (written by Caroline Smailes and Robert Mitchum Nik Perring, illustrated by Darren Craske) since I heard about it.

It's an invisible girl just in case
 you can't see her.
It's a selection of short stories featuring characters with unusual super powers; from a zombie hair dresser (look! she's there on the front, top right!) to a photocopying woman. Hold on, she doesn't just photocopy stuff, that'd be rubbish. She can duplicate herself. Such possibilities...

Sorry, drifted off there, so yeah, over 50 weird stories that twist the super power idea, helping you forget just how boring spider-man and Superman really are.

If you've got some ideas for super powers yourself you can tweet yourself into a competition to win some awesome prizes. Full details on Nik Perring's blog. I'm thinking I'd have wasps for eyes!

You can probably find FREAKS all over the place, but here are some links if you have to use the internet:

The Book Depository
Amazon Paperback
Amazon Kindle Edition

And as a special treat for you, here's a taster:

Invisible 
[Super Power: The ability to make oneself unseen to the naked eye]

If I stay totally still,
if I stand right tall,
with me back against the school wall,
close to the science room’s window,
with me feet together,
pointing straight,
aiming forward,
if I make me hands into tight fists,
make me arms dead straight,
 if I push me arms into me sides,
if I squeeze me thighs,
stop me wee,
if me belly doesn’t shake,
if me boobs don’t wobble,
if I close me eyes tight,
so tight that it makes me whole face scrunch,
if I push me lips into me mouth,
if I make me teeth bite me lips together,
if I hardly breathe,
if I don’t say a word.
Then,
I’ll magic meself invisible,
and them lasses will leave me alone.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Early Influences

This photo surfaced of me in my, cheeky-smiles, still-had-bouffant-ginger-hair, school days. I'm not sure what the book is but I think it has a pirate on the front. I still like pirates. There's the influence on the rest of my life, right there.



There's no real point to this, I just thought you might want to embarrass or mock me in relation to this picture.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Amazing Writing Advice #10: Editing

I know, I know, editing is for losers. 99% of the time you can bang out a 140,000 word manuscript in a couple of days and that manuscript will be good enough to be published. You should just spang it off to your editor of choice and phone up moments later demanding it gets published before Christmas. That's the only language these people understand.

But sometimes you'll pick up a subtle signal, maybe a couple of editors will have taken restraining orders out on you, this'll tell you something is up. You need to smooth a rough edge of your work. Because an editor will take any excuse to reject your work, that's how riddled with hate-for-talent they are.

So you sit down to review your work. But how?

Firstly you need to think of words as how they are. Editors and poshos will tell you words have funny names like verbs and nouns and adjectives...etc. This is just to confuse you. Words can be divided into three types:

  1. Thingy words - the names of things
  2. Doing words - words for something happening.
  3. Words of Power - all other words (called Words of Power as it sounds cool).
I have the Words of Power!
So with Thingy words you should try to come up with slightly better names. No one wants a hero called Mark. It's a rubbish name, call him Devron or Chase or Zac. These names are cool. If it's a scfi or fantasy book remember to add some random apostrophes and colons, maybe an @ sign as well if it's scifi. So for example D'evron: or C'h'a's'e or Z@c.

Real places just call them what they are, if you want extra tension add 'of doom' to the end. The library of doom, the park of doom. See, instant tension.

Doing words are the most important words, they should be replaced with much longer words that mean roughly the same thing. Also try to use some really archaic words, especially if it is a bit of a flowery book about feelings with lots of meaningful silences.

For the Words of Power add loads more, they have the power!

This will make your work indestructible when faced with the editor of doom.

Cheers,

Mark


P.S. If you attended the Amazing Writing Advice Residential you will shortly be hearing from my lawyers. Hopefully we can avoid any further unpleasantness.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Up on the Roof

So it's March and Summer must be here in the UK. Then again it'll probably snow next week, so while it's shining make hay. Or sit somewhere sunny. I've been sitting on my roof. What's this got to do with writing? Nothing. But there you have it. Here's a picture of the roof 'garden' I've created.



Not a bad place to read and edit.

Though I didn't half crack my head on the window climbing out there this morning...

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Thirst


There is a place adults have forgotten. A place they leave behind in childhood, a place of terror from which the creatures come. Nameless horrors only hinted at in half forgotten fairy tales told by aged grandparents. Every child comes across these creatures. Most get just a glimpse; a shadow in a mirror; a shiver on dark stairs. But some of us face them several times. Some of us don’t just get a glimpse but have the horror wash over us like a tidal wave. Some of us go looking for them.

The first time for me was summer a few years back. The days had been hot and endless until the fog rolled in, thick and yellow, I watched it from the lounge window with my dad.

“I’ve never seen fog like it,” he said.

“Pollution,” Mum said from the sofa.

The fog enclosed our house so I could no longer see the end of the garden. It brought silence, no more birds singing or the shouts from kids down the road.

“Time for bed,” Dad said placing a hand around my shoulder. Summer days felt strange, going to bed while the sun still blazed. But the fog brought a yellowy twilight with it.

My room was stuffy, the air felt like swallowing socks as I breathed. I cracked the window open hoping for a cool breeze and climbed into bed. Despite the heat I pulled the duvet over my head, making it dark enough to need a torch to read. Sometimes tradition is important.

I’ve forgotten the book; I just remember that it gripped me. I was so lost in it that it was a while before I noticed a noise. I lifted my head but there was silence.

I turned the page. I heard it again and shivered, like I do now just thinking about it. A baby wailing out in the fog.

I pushed the duvet off and climbed out of bed.

The wailing continued.

I pulled the curtain aside and looked down onto the garden. The fog hung thick and yellow, darkening as the sun dipped. At the far end of the garden stood a figure, a girl I think, though it was hard to tell. In her arms she held the baby. I couldn’t see it clearly but I knew it was the wailing baby and I knew the girl was looking up at me.

She placed the baby on to the grass and stepped back, disappearing into the fog.

The baby wailed. I needed to go to it. I wondered why Mum and Dad hadn’t fetched it, I could hear the murmur of the TV below. Maybe they couldn’t hear the baby over it.

It’s screeching cut through me and I turned, pushed my feet into my shoes and headed for the door.

The wailing stopped. I turned back to the window. The fog swirled and lifted. I could see the garden.

No baby.
No girl.
No wail.

I stood, confused, wondering then climbed back into bed.

The following day I heard Josh from next door had gone missing. His younger sister said he’d gone to get the wailing baby.

His parents had heard nothing.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Amazing Writing Advice: The Residential!!!

Finally you can get what you've always wanted; a long weekend with me, learning direct from the master, over some of Lidl's finest wines, whiskies and pork scratchings. The residential course is for up to twenty people, hosted in my studio flat overlooking what used to be a stream in Slough.

The residential starts on Friday night with a relaxed BABATA (bring-a-bottle-and-take-away) session so we can all get to know each other. No pizzas or soft drinks, all wine must be 14% or over.

The Saturday morning session is 'Dig to Plot Victory' where we get to plot on my plot! I'll explain the best ways to plot a book while you dig my allotment. Refreshments of squash and carrots will be provided.

Lunch at King Kebab. Vegetarians and dog lovers should make their own arrangements.
Put your back into it!

Saturday evening is a character session in the Three Tins pub. Pick a local and build a story around him. Pints mandatory, stab proof vests optional but recommended.

Saturday Night recreational trip to Bongos Wine Bar.

Sunday Morning 'Utilising Experience on the Page'. I'll write a short paragraph capturing the torment of a hangover.
4 of your 5 a day

Sunday lunch, Frazzles and Star Trek.

Sunday Afternoon "Voice, finding and keeping it" I'll talk about how to make sure you don't lose your voice once you start visiting those libraries, schools, festivals, nunneries.

Sunday night - gifts and departure. Upon receipt of a suitable gift and review I'll return your car keys.

£1990, non refundable. Bring a sleeping bag, the shed gets drafty. Book early to avoid disappointment!

Cheers,

Mark

Friday, 24 February 2012

2000AD is 35: Borag Thungg, Earthlets

Do not be scared, Tharg the Mighty has not used his infinite power to take over my blog.  Today 2000AD is 35 years old and it's time I saluted it's brilliance and role in inserting so much of the awesome that fills my head. When I was young the majority of American comics seemed to be square-jawed heroes with secret identities  who fought their former friends who had become evil after getting splashed with some acid. 2000AD provided a much harsher, thoughtful and interesting universe. So here is a guide to some of my favourite thrill-power.

Firstly, there's Tharg the Mighty( see above) who is the editor. Hyper Geek has a great summary of him.

Judge Dredd
Most people who've heard of 2000AD will associate Judge Dredd with it. Ignore Stallone's mostly terrible film, the comic is much more varied and interesting. I once read Dredd as described a s a two-dimensional one joke character but he's much more than that and the comic is as well. It's less about Dredd and more about Mega-City One, one of the richest Dystopias I've ever found. One that's full of the mad and the prophetic.

Dredd for most of the time is fairly shallow as he shoots and beats his way around the city. But some of the stories reveal much more depth. A Letter to Judge Dredd and America being to favourites that look at the power and weakness of democracy and the fascist police state that the Judge system is. America is particularly good as it doesn't fall into an easy "good vs. evil conflict" but makes both sides flawed.
I am the Law!

My particular favourite Dredd story is The Pit which shows you Dredd as you've never seen him before, behind a desk! Dredd's resentment at being moved from off the streets gives the story a lot more insight into his character.

The ABC Warriors
The ABC Warriors are a team of robots who set about spreading Khaos through the Termight Empire. They're interesting due to the diversity in the group, and the conflicts between them. The hatred of Blackblood for the  leader and warbot Hammerstein and the super-cool sniper Joe Pineapples; the way Mongrol and Mek-Quake fight just for the hell of it; Deadlock's fickleness and how it annoys the rest of them.

Deadlock - probably my favourite
ABC Warrior

What particularly appeals is that for the most part humans the enemy and the Warriors are trying to return the universe to a Khaotic state. The stories are a lot of fun.

What I find interesting is how my favourite warrior shifted over time. It started off as the patriotic and noble Hammerstein, flirted slightly with the coolness of Joe Pineapples and the cruelty of Blackblood before currently settling on Deadlock (though I still have a thing for Blackblood, I'm a baddie at heart).

My favourite story has to be The Black Hole.


Nikolai Dante
Nikolai is a thief and lover in a futuristic world where imperial Russia rules earth and an interstellar empire. Nikolai's life is turned upside down when he discovers he's the bastard son of one of the great families of Russia. But he takes most of it in his stride.

Nikolai Dante is much like
my earlier life
The universe is incredibly imaginative, from the technology, to the society to the aliens. Nikolai is a great character, flawed, loveable and incredibly annoying at the same time. It really is a great read.

Anyway, I could go on but my lunch hour draws to a close.

 I stopped reading 2000AD 10 years ago or so as I couldn't afford you. Maybe it's time to renew my subscription.

Here's to 2000AD, I hope there's another 35 years of thrill-power.

Cheers,

Mark