Sunday, 30 November 2014

My review of 'Sins of the Father' by Graham Hurley

I seem to have been absent from the reviewing front lately. Not because I'd given up or couldn't find anything to read, but because I've been head-down and finishing two new books of my own.

One is 'Close Quarters', the follow-up to my first Marc Portman spy thriller ('The Watchman' - which is doing very well, thank you to all those who are reading it), and the other is called 'The Locker', the first in another series, which my agent has sold to an American publisher. More about that later. (It's another thriller, in case you're interested).

The fact is, I find it difficult in the hothouse atmosphere of finishing a book to do much reading with any objectivity. My head's so full of the current storyline and characters, that focussing on somebody's else's work is sometimes too much of a distraction.

Not that I'm exactly free of that now - both these books of mine being series novels, there are sequels to consider and write, so it's nose to the grindstone as usual.

BUT... I have to read something else occasionally, or I start biting the furniture. And by chance, the Shots Magazine editor, Mike Stotter, sent me Graham Hurley's latest police procedural, 'The Sins of the Father'. My review can be read right here.

It's a many-layered work, and right up there with all of Graham's work, so if you like a great plot, with some off-the-page characters, give it a try. It's a subtle work, is what it is.

And if you read the review, you'll find out what I mean.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

My latest articles in December's Writing Magazine

It's early days, I know, but the December issue of Writing Magazine is already on the street. And if you buy nothing else, you should at least get yourself a copy to read over the festive period and gee up your writing buds.

My 'Beginners' page is called 'Layer it On', and is all about building your story gradually with layers of detail. Rather like a form of editing, it means going back and reading over what you've written, but instead of merely correcting typos, look for where you can improve what you've got.

This not only helps with adding depth and colour to your writing, be it characters, dialogue or scenes and so forth, but it's a belter for quietly building the word count (and I don't mean with padding).

As an aside, I think I started doing this a long time ago, mainly to improve what I'd done (naturally), but because I found attaining the word count to be the most depressing part of the whole business of writing; thinking I'd written XYZ thousands of words, I'd discover I'd done half that.

But when I came to the editing bit, I found putting stuff right, while losing some words, actually increased the total because I was focussing more on improving the quality rather than the quantity.

Sum total: a big increase in both.

The other (and much more important) part of December's issue is my profile of author Marion Grace Woolley, whose gothic novel 'Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran' comes out in February.

Marion has a fascinating background working in Kigali, Rwanda, and proves that it's possible to write anywhere and far from home if you have the real writing urge.


Saturday, 1 November 2014

How to lose an argument

It seems that famous literary agent Andrew Wylie, (aka 'The Jackal' after his supposed hard-nosed approach to book deals), has jumped on the anti-Amazon bandwagon by equating them with ISIS, that well-known but hardly commercial terrorist organisation currently murdering hundreds of people they don't like in the middle east. (I quote from the Guardian although there are other sources out there covering this issue).

In an industry known for hyperbole and making stuff up, this pronouncement takes the biscuit for sheer crassness. The last I heard, Amazon hadn't killed anyone who didn't match their own world views, nor threatened to build a caliphate or done any of the other truly awful things in the name of religion.

Perhaps Mr Wylie was trying to make a dramatic point and simply got carried away by his own outrage.

Unfortunately, he's hardly helping the argument that's taking up a lot of column inches at the moment by sinking to such extreme insults... nor by the apparent irony of his stance.

If, as he claims, Amazon is 'buried... in the sand... publishers will be able to raise the author's digital royalty to 40% or 50%.... and writers will begin to make enough money to live.'

Huh- what??

Why will doing away with Amazon make publishers pay higher royalties? Is that all it will take?

And why would they? They haven't shown much inclination so far.

Also, does he really think killing off the world's biggest bookstore/window/publishers' marketing machine (and that's paper books as well as ebooks, don't forget, not forgetting everything else they sell) will help publishers in any way to become more beneficent to authors?

Again, why? All it will do is make their sales figures even tougher to reach. But it will also harm the vast army of self-publishing authors (which includes quite a few legacy-published authors like me who also self-publish some of our work because we see writing as running a business and we're trying to make a living, Mr Wylie). But of course, he doesn't care about self-publishers, because we add nothing to his agency bottom line. We give him neither a slice on advances nor a chunk on royalties earned.

But he should at least spare a passing thought for the paper business that has helped him become so successful.

Or maybe in his outrage he'd forgotten that point...