Saturday, 7 January 2017

Some nice reviews

Every now and then it's nice for an author to report that someone, somewhere likes their book. It's a natural thing because you've put in a lot of time and effort, and you like to think that it's gone down well out there.

Here's a trio of reviews that came up just recently of my latest book, 'THE BID' - the second in my new Gonzales & Vaslik series.

An unnamed reviewer with slight reservations comes from Publishers Weekly. My initial thought was, is there a problem with gunfights, car chases and other stock thriller elements? But you can't win 'em all, and I'm grateful for the review because it's a whole lot better than being ignored.

The second comes from Fresh Fiction review's Viki Ferrell, and is the kind of response that makes it all worthwhile. I especially value her lovely comment ,"We can always expect an exciting thriller from Adrian Magson, and THE BID is no exception."

And again from Fresh Fiction, this time from reviewer Tanzey Cutter, with the immortal words, "THE BID is thrilling suspense at its best."

There are some truly lovely people out there and I'm very grateful to them.

I also had an interview piece about 'The Bid' by fellow author Alison McMahan in the International Thriller Writers monthly newsletter, The Big Thrill. You can read it right here. (That's not me on the horse, by the way, and I wouldn't look as relaxed as Greg Hurwitz does if it were; horses and I don't mix well).

This interview gave me a chance to talk about other aspects of my writing, too, especially touching on the long build-up to becoming a full-time writer. Hopefully, after 21 books in print, most of them thrillers in the spy and crime genres, I'm getting it right and readers find them entertaining and enjoyable.
Thank you, Alison, for your time and patience!

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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Review: 'Paradime' by Alan Glynn


PARADIME

Not a new book exactly - it came out in May last year - but new to me and one I was asked to review. I'm glad I was, because it turned out to be very different to what I initially thought.

Conspiracy thriller would be too easy a label. But there's certainly a conspiracy at work here, along with an innocent dupe who's not quite so innocent... nor entirely to blame for what happens to him.

It's a good one and you can read my review on the Shots Magazine website.

You can also see where to buy it right here.

Go for it - it starts slow but will draw you in.

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Latest Article in Writing Magazine

January's Writing Magazine is now out and available, with my latest 'Beginners' piece called 'Courting Success' - or, as the strap line says, Make Your Own Luck.

Easy to say, of course, but on the surface, not that simple to carry through. But is that right?

If you look at the basic message, like any task or job, writing successfully gets better and easier the more you do it. Sounds trite, but I firmly believe it. And where some writers go wrong is completing a project, then sitting back to await the results.

That way lies disappointment. You have to get on with the next one - straightaway.

Courting success in writing is a bit like courting in the romantic sense; you have to try more than once if you want any chance of finding someone you really want to spend time with. Unlike romance, you also have to be professional and be prepared to write something new over and over again. (And no, that comparison probably doesn't really bare too much inspection - but I'm sure you understand).

Do it consistently, and editors will get to know that you can turn in the goods and meet deadlines.

Until then, however, don't sit on your laurels. Finish one project, punt it off - and start another. When I was writing short fiction years ago, it wasn't uncommon to find I had 30-40 stories out there on submission. It wasn't a scattergun approach, but my way of not agonising uselessly on what I'd done, but of getting on with the next potential sale instead. Not so easy to with books, but the idea is the same.

As the old saying goes, the harder you work, the luckier you'll be.

This is likely to be my last blog post for 2016 (unless I get a whizzer of an idea that needs airing), so I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the best of all years to come in 2017.

Happy writing, too, of course.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Writing for Beginners (23)

The story-teller's apprentice.

A plumber friend of mine was recently talking about when he started out in the profession many years ago. He began as an apprentice - what in some trades is known unbecomingly as ‘an oily rag’ - to an experienced plumber. This introduction to the noble art of water-and-waste management meant he was given all the fetch-and-carry jobs, such as running off every few minutes for whatever materials were needed (including a one-way pipe and a long stand), digging trenches, drilling holes… basically, whatever the plumber required him to do. One of the worst jobs, which he hated due to suffering mild claustrophobia, was clambering about in gloomy lofts.

In time, of course, he realised something the plumber hadn’t told him: that all these ‘apprentice’ jobs were merely a run-up – a taster – to the real work, and that whatever he learned as a beginner would stand him in good stead. Because while he might not like fetching and carrying, or crawling about in confined spaces on his hands and knees, it would soon become second nature. And, as well as being instructed formally where all the pipes went so that the system worked efficiently, he was learning subliminally, too.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. I’ve met quite a few writers who have launched into their very first book without actually putting pen to paper in any other way. No short stories, no articles – probably not even a letter home to dear old Mum. I haven’t personally met one for whom it has worked, although I’m sure they're out there. But for most writers, it’s not that simple. One way or another, you have to do an apprenticeship.

But why? Well, like the plumber’s apprentice, you learn more about any craft simply by doing it. And even though a lot of what you do might appear mundane, even uninspiring (and we all go through that), there’s no beating getting in at the sharp end. Because while you’re plugging away, you are beginning to absorb skills, habits and knowledge about the art without thinking about it. And in doing so, you are learning how to assemble all the requirements for making a story come together.

Doing the groundwork. Like the apprentice, you have to make sure everything is ready before you begin. Yes, in writing, you can do some research as you go. But the job is so much easier if you don’t have to keep breaking off in mid-flow, thus spoiling your concentration.

Pacing yourself. You may be desperate to finish a scene or story. This could be because of time constraints, or because the sheer excitement of a good scene threatens to take over. And while this is a wonderful feeling for any writer, you have to learn to temper your enthusiasm and not splurge out the ending all in one go. To do so might ruin what should have been a gradual build-up of tension. The main rule is, don’t cut corners, no matter how tempting.

Alternative routes. Occasionally, you may find yourself up against a brick wall with no easy way through. Learn to look for an alternative, instead of automatically junking the whole thing (although that, too, might be an option you have to consider). Essentially, find out what works for you, and it will stand you in good stead for the future.

Having enough material. The story must have legs – not padding. Have you got the storyline, plot, characters and scenes to last? Or will you run out of material halfway through? Building a synopsis or chapter plan might help here – as will experience.

Quality control. Unlike the poor apprentice, you won’t have a plumber looking over your shoulder. But if you can develop a critical eye for your own work (most easily learnt through analysing what you like about other writers) you will find yourself checking your output as you go, thus avoiding some of the more obvious mistakes.

Pride in your work. This should be a natural development, because everybody likes to think they’re getting better as they go along. Hopefully, the more you write, the more you improve.

Learning to take criticism. Whether it comes in the shape of a refusal letter from an editor or the comments of a writing tutor, it’s something all writers have to face. And like the weary apprentice, after a hard day slaving over a U-bend, being told something isn’t right can be depressing. But that’s all it is; it means it’s not right. So fix it. Even if you do decide to junk it and start again.

Stretching yourself. Don’t settle for the easy jobs. If you only ever write short stories aimed at magazines, enter competitions once in a while. Try a non-fiction project. It might not be what you want to do all the time, but working on something different, with different demands, can be a useful challenge.

Don’t hide in the attic. Like the apprentice hoping that if the plumber can’t find him, he won’t be landed with another job, keeping your writing to yourself won’t help you grow. Get it out there. Submit it to agents, magazines or websites, show it to writing group members and friends. Good or bad, feedback is essential if you want to know - and learn by - what others think of your work.

TOP TIPS

·       Like any other job or craft, writing has a learning curve. This is best served by doing it.
·       Learn the rules of market guidelines and presentation, and you will move forward a lot faster.
·       Be professional in your presentation, language and attention to detail.
·       Study your competitors and analyse how they do it.
·       If offered advice, accept it and learn from it.
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Taken from my book 'Write On! - the Writer's Help Book' - Accent Press - available in p/b and ebook

Do you know a writer who might benefit from this book? If so, check it out here.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A lovely review of 'The Bid' by BOOKLIST


"In the second in the Cruxys Solutions series, globetrotting investigators Ruth Gonzales and Andy Vaslik (who were introduced in the widely praised The Locker, 2016) are in the U.S., looking into the disappearance of one of the world’s top experts on military drones.
Meanwhile, the missing man is rather upset to find himself being held captive in a small room by people who, he’s assured, have some nasty things in store for him if he won’t do exactly what they say.
As we follow these two alternating plot threads, we gradually put together a picture of a terrorist plot that could spell disaster for the U.S. The question, of course, is whether Gonzales and Vaslik can beat the clock and stop the villains.
With some intriguing characters (especially private-security experts Gonzales and Vaslik—a nice mix of superheroes and regular folks); some snappy writing; and a timely story, the novel should find a large and enthusiastic audience among fans of Daniel Silva and Alex Berenson.
Devotees of the author’s Harry Tate novels should have no trouble switching over to this new series, too."
David Pitt
BOOKLIST Reviews - December 2016

'The Bid' - the second Gonzales & Vaslik mystery thriller - JANUARY 2017 in ebook and p/b.

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Friday, 25 November 2016

Latest Articles in Writing Magazine

AS we're now heading scarily fast towards December (and next month's issue of Writing Magazine is already available on bookstands and online), I might as well give a heads-up in case I forget later.

First, my latest Beginners piece, 'Turn to the Dark Side', deals with giving your characters some rough edges. That means your heroes, not merely the villains.

You often hear actors say that slightly dubious or downright bad characters are the most fun to play. Well, the same is true when writing them; you need to get some fun out of your writing, and giving them that little extra to make them stand out can help you do that.

It helps to make sure your characters on either side of the fence are not unremittingly the same all the way through. A little moral looseness - even vulnerability - helps them become real, as does an occasional touch of humour, especially the dark kind.

'Good' characters with a bit of 'rough' about them can be exciting to write, too, because you can play with this extra facet and make them far more than one-dimensional.

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My New Author profile this month is Jules Grant, whose debut 'We Go Around in the Night and are Consumed by Fire' was published by Myriad Editions in April.

Depicting the lives of an all-female street gang in Manchester, and written by a former barrister who knows the area well, it was, in Jules' own words, 'great fun to write', reflecting what I said in the Beginners article above.

Available on Amazon here.

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Monday, 21 November 2016

Writing for Beginners (22)

Believe in YOU.

(Taken from my book 'Write On! - the Writer's Help Book' - Accent Press - p/b and ebook)

It’s not unusual for people meeting famous writers they admire to say afterwards something like, ‘He/ she was so ordinary!’

Now, whether there was a suspicion beforehand that said famed author might have a spare head tucked under their arm, or a silicon chip in place of a brain, I’m never sure. Ten to one it means the author was found to be surprisingly genial and down-to-earth, rather than so far up themselves light couldn’t penetrate the surrounding darkness.

Ego – or lack of one – aside, it helps to reflect that successful writers (and how you measure success depends on you) are, for the most part, ordinary people. They breath the same as everyone else, they survive the same daily rigours of life and,  as my sainted old dad used to say about VIPs, they have to get out of the bath for a pee, the same as the rest of us.

So what’s so special, then, that gets these other people published?

Let’s ignore for the sake of our blood pressure, the celebrity writer. It’s a fact of modern life, and pointless getting too worked up about people cashing in – or being shown how to cash in on their supposed fame by a smart agent/PR expert. It’s like saying, ‘If only I’d been born taller/thinner/blonder/smarter/faster than I am.’ (tick whichever is applicable).

It didn’t happen, so suck it up.

(Actually, if I may confess a childhood wish here, I always wanted to be 6’2” tall. Don’t ask me why – well, okay, I’ll tell you why: my fictional hero, Simon ‘The Saint’ Templar was that height, so I figured, why not? Of course it was nonsense; but when you’re only eight years old and 3’ 6” on a bucket, it’s allowed. Did I hang like a bat from doorways in the vain hope that I’d stretch a bit? I tried it once, but succeeded in ripping the beading off the doorframe. The resultant lecture from my father convinced me that there are only certain things you can change. And ruining a perfectly good doorframe wasn’t going to work.

In other words, you have to make the most of what you’ve got.

In writing, success in getting published is usually down to luck, hard work, persistence and producing what the market wants. But it also needs a hefty measure of self-belief.

I know a couple of people who will never drive a car as long as there are spots in front of their eyes. It’s not because they’re dim-witted or have the coordination of a mud puddle; it’s because they simply don’t believe they can do it. Yet those same two people do all manner of other things in life without a second thought, purely because in their subconscious, they think – or assume – they can. No doubts, no lingering fears – they get on with it.

Looking up at successful authors and thinking ‘I couldn’t do that’, can prove a real problem for some people. Lump on top of that all the other fears and self-doubts we’re prone to from time to time, and it might become almost insurmountable.

But there are certain things you can do to put yourself in the right ballpark.

Write for the market. Recognising that there are things you can write which will probably never be published is one thing. In other words, produce what the market wants, thereby getting your foot on the ladder and building a track record. If, once you’re there, you want to take a punt on writing something outside the mainstream, that’s your choice. But you have to get your foot in the door first.

Be professional in your attitude and approach. Mavericks who write in green ink on both sides of the paper, then insist on phoning an editor the day after posting the manuscript to see if they’ve syndicated the idea around the English-speaking world without telling the author, are prone to disappointment. And yes, they do exist. Freelance writing is like any other job: treat it seriously and professionally, and the approach will usually be reciprocated. It still doesn’t guarantee publication, but at least you’ll be closer than otherwise. The alternative is like turning up for the office party wearing a creepy smile and a suit made of cling-film; it won’t get you asked back.

Be prepared to write to order. Most writers try all manner of things along the way, be it poetry, short fiction, articles, comedy material or books. Much of it is to find out what they can or cannot do; others do it because they like to vary their output.

Don’t be precious. Be prepared to accept criticism. Yes, it’s your baby and you’ve spilled blood getting every creative word on paper. But if an editor says they want changes, be prepared to consider it and, if reasonable, do it. It might be the only chance you get.

Keep writing. Writing one story and sitting back to wait for results is a sure-fire way of getting old and disappointed. Write another, then another. Submit them and if they come back, review them and send them out to someone else. Activity breeds results and inspires more ideas.

Assume that everything is possible. Don’t even give a moment’s thought to doubt – or doubters. Nobody can guarantee you success, no more than added height, brains or beauty. But neither should you promote obstacles for yourself by thinking ‘I can’t do that.’

TOP TIPS

·       Be professional – turn in the best work you can.
·       Don’t try to cut corners.
·       Don’t be precious about your work - be prepared to make changes if asked.
·       Study the market and follow any guidelines.