Tuesday, 28 December 2010

In Review: 2010

Time for a quick review of reading and writing in 2010.

From a writing perspective, I had hoped to complete 2 books this year, but actually only finished one. My plan for next year is to not set myself a target... what gets written gets written.

Not that I haven't started another book - I have. In fact, I've started four more books, but that then got horribly confusing so I tried to concentrate on only one - which is fine until a story chunk from one of the others keeps you awake late at night and you have no option but to get out of bed and write it before it gets forgotten.

I guess my only wish for the oncoming year, then, is to finish something or, at the very least, make such significant inroads into one of the stories that I can actually see a potential end...

As regards progress of the completed books, they all fall into the "still waiting" category. It's frustrating but not exactly unexpected. I did, however, submit one of them for the Terry Pratchett Prize - short list for this won't be announced until the end of March 2011 so there's a bit of a wait until I'll know whether it's going anywhere.

Although I seem to have done less writing this year, I have done significantly more reading. It's an accepted fact that you can't write unless you read, but with only so many hours in a day it can be difficult to get the balance right. It's important, though, to not view reading time as wasted time. Reading may not advance my word count, but I do find myself much more critical of books I read now, constantly on the lookout for typos, poor grammar, cliches, lazy writing etc., and all of those can only help my own writing.

And so, without further ado, I'll announce my books of the year!

For me, I'm considering books I read this year, regardless of when they were published.

The "Non-Fiction" category only had a couple of nominees, but they were both outstanding. Without a doubt, though, the most stunning non-fiction book was "The Greatest Show on Earth" by Richard Dawkins. Every time I read anything Dawkins writes, I always learn something, and this was no exception. An absolute must-read.

Special mention, though, goes to "The Writers' Tale: The Final Chapter" by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook. A thoroughly enjoyable, deeply honest, read, a "must" for writers and Dr Who fans and hugely recommended for anybody who has even a passing interest in the creative process.

The fiction category is a little harder. I've read a decent amount this year, across many genres and there have been some amazing, hard-to-put-down books there.

The winner, though, was never in any doubt. It's such a clever book, a book that I would have been proud to have written, and a unique one too (which just happens to use a plot-device that I had considered but had thought unworkable: this book proved otherwise).

My fiction book of the year is "Wasted" by Nicola Morgan.

And there we have it. I suspect I'll be reading even more in the coming year, and much of that will be in ebook format. The days of e-publishing are well and truly here, a good five to ten years earlier than many publishers seem to have been expecting. E-readers such as the Kindle may not be quite perfect but they are only going to get better and once the pricing structure settles down (and I hope, as a reader, that it settles to a sensible level, because I certainly will buy more books if that's the case) and the public large understand just how convenient having one device is, e-readers are going to do for books what the iPod did for music - make them accessible, convenient and always at hand.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Hating Game

I'm delighted to be able to offer my assistance to a Twitter friend (in full and frank knowledge that I will probably do the same as and when my book gets published) on the day of e-publication. So, without further ado, I give you:

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/hNBkJk

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/hX2ieD

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at www.talliroland.com.


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Firebrand - Gillian Philip

I'm in a somewhat privileged position of being friends -albeit online friends - with a small number of authors, and thus am inclined to read their books when they are released (though I don't do so slavishly). I have, therefore, read a number of books which are outside my usual fare, most notably YA.

This puts me in a slightly difficult position. What if I don't enjoy the book? Do I lie and gush effusively? Do I remain tactfully silent? And, then, what if I really enjoy a book? Does my enthusiastic review of one book damn another by the very lack of such a review?

Yes, I know, I'm over-thinking this.

I've read a bundle of books this last year or so that would never have normally appeared on my radar and, without exception, have enjoyed every one. Not that there haven't been flaws or issues with many of them, because it's a rare book that doesn't have some flaws, but I cannot think of any where the flaws have spoilt the actual story. Inevitably, I've enjoyed some more than others, though.

I also have a bit of an issue with anything that is too hyped - for me, that means it has to strive even harder to achieve my own personal approval rating. In other words, I try not to be a bit of a sheep - I won't rave about a book just because others do (the same, incidentally, applies to films, TV etc). Firebrand is receiving the level of plaudits which made me more than a little apprehensive: Best Fantasy of 2010, for example.

So I was actually a little nervous about reading Firebrand. I've read another of Gillian's books - Crossing the Line - and loved it, but Firebrand is a very different book. Also, I don't read a lot of fantasy, and what I have read recently was a very hard act to follow: Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore (brilliant books, by the way, thoroughly recommended).

I won't go into the story (so, not much of a review, then!) as it's easy to find that detail in the many other reviews online. What I will say, is this:

It starts brilliantly. Crossing the Line did the same - Gillian is clearly the master of the first chapter. Then, for some reason, it failed to completely grab me for a while - I'm not sure why, perhaps it was the choice of names, the use of Gaelic, which jarred a little (more on names in a moment). Then, suddenly, I found myself utterly absorbed.

There are a couple of genuinely shocking moments, the sort that leave you staring at the words in disbelief, and then compelling you to turn to the next page. Once you hit the first one, there's no going back; it's got you, hooked you, drawn you in.

And therein, I think, is the brilliance that has been so lauded. There are a number characters that really get under your skin (once you get used to their names!), that you genuinely feel for and, inevitably, a couple that you really, properly loathe (imagine the chorus of "Boos" had this been a play). Here, though, is my one other gripe: the Queen is called Kate. Kate? Really? Amongst the Eilis and Orachs and Sionnachs, now that I'd become used to them, Kate seemed wrong (and still does, even after the event).

But I'm splitting hairs. Odd to criticise a difficult to read Gaelic name, then foist the same criticism on a too-easy English name.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay, though, is to question why it's shelved in the YA section. Not that YA is, in any way, a problem, but this doesn't feel like a YA novel and I fear there is an audience of fantasy readers who will never discover Firebrand because it's sitting on the wrong shelf.

And that would be a real shame.

Monday, 1 November 2010


Today, November 1st, marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated - although National has now become International, but InNoWriMo obviously doesn't sound as good).

The aim is to write a 50,000 word novel (or novella, really) in 30 days. To be fair to the organisers, it's supposed to be a bit of fun, a way of sparking the creativity, a challenge. Nobody, realistically, expects a complete masterpiece at midnight on 1st December.

There are some, however, who frown upon NaNoWriMo, perhaps even consider it "beneath them". I'm sure some participants really do believe that bashing out 50k words is all they need to do to be published, and I'm equally sure literary agents the world over dread the potential influx of not-really-ready work to land in their InBoxes during December. But, for the most part, I think the detractors are missing the point.

I tried NaNo a few years ago. I think I managed about 15k words in ten days, so was roughly on target. Except for one thing: it was dreadful. Truly, truly dreadful. It actually had the effect of making me wondering if I was ever going to actually write a book at all; maybe that "everyone has a novel in them" adage really didn't apply to me. Having reached that conclusion, I gave up and have never felt the need to write again.

But, and this is important, that only applies to me. It's not that I can't write at that speed - I know I can. THE LONG SECOND was written in exactly 2 months and, at 115k words, meant that on at least one of those months, I wrote well over 50k words. And (in my opinion), it's actually a decent story.

And that's what was missing from my NaNo attempt: a decent story.

I now have three "decent stories" under my belt, and two of them took much, much longer to write. The fourth is proving equally protracted, but that's my focus for this November, to move this story along. Not at 1500 words per day, maybe not even at 1500 words per week, but at whatever pace feels right, at whatever pace the story reveals itself to me (and it's coming, it really it, after a bit of a "eureka!" moment last week).

So: if you're taking part in NaNoWriMo, I wish you good luck, and hope you enjoy it. Just remember that when you've finished writing, you haven't finished the book. If, like me, you're not taking part, then please don't look down on those who are - and I'd like to assure my many friends that (should my message be misunderstood, especially on Twitter, with its character limits) I'm definitely not looking down on them, and any use of the #NoNaNo tag (or similar) is not a protest against those who are taking part, but more a gathering place for those of us who might, actually, be feeling a little left out!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Deep Breath, Dive In

It's difficult to explain why the past few months have been so unproductive as there are so many small reasons that combined into an overall feeling of "Meh!"

Between the two of us that make up the entity that is Marshall Buckley there have been a number of changes in our own households, many small, some larger but the overall effect has been a distraction from the writing.

With the nights drawing in, and things (hopefully) settling down on both sides of the Atlantic, it's time to take stock of the situation, and one thing is clear: The writing has to start!

It's been a bit of a juggling match, trying to decide which project to pursue; at one time there were three separate books being written: a hundred words here, a hundred words there, but that proved unsustainable.

I'm happy to say that the focus appears to have returned to the main project, the one that was already the most advanced and, after what seems like a real drought, the words are coming again. Not fast, not flooding out, but coming. There's still plenty of work to be done before this becomes cohesive, before the real story emerges (that's how we always write: the seeds of an idea and some characters and we watch them grow and develop), but it will emerge.

So, the other projects are sidelined one more, but they'll have their time.

I've tidied up the progress column on the right so there's only one entry for the current book (helpfully known as "Y"). At roughly 15% complete there's enough there to be going on with. Watch this (well, that) space.

At the beginning of the year I said that, ideally, I'd like to finish three books this year, but would be content with two. Barring some sort of miracle, that's not going to happen, but one complete and one in progress really isn't anything to get upset about.

I'm going to try to be more vocal here on the blog but, as always, if you really want an idea of just how much procrastination is taking place, come on over to Twitter and find me there: @MarshallBuckley

Saturday, 4 September 2010

A Bit of a Rant

Firstly, this is nothing at all to do with publishing, writing, editing or anything even vaguely related. So, if you only stop by her on occasion to hear about that sort of thing, you might want to wander away now.

But I just had to get this off my chest (a "grumpy old man moment", if you like).

Things that don't do what they are designed to do.

How many things have yo bought that simply do not perform as expected? Whether it be the can opener that opens cans so badly you are in danger of ripping your finger on the jagged edge, or the nail clippers that can't cut through the smallest of nails, or (my current rant) the vacuum cleaner whose belt snaps the minute anything gets caught in the brushes (no matter how quickly you switch it off).

All three of these are personal to me recently. Of course, every one of these has been a cheap purchase (though, of course, that's relative: a Ford car is cheap compared to a Rolls Royce, but you don't hear anyone saying "Well, you should have bought a Rolls" when your Ford breaks down, right?), but whether something costs a pound, or fifty pounds, or fifteen thousand pounds ought to be irrelevant. Does it, simply, perform the task it claims to perform?

I know the next response: take it back to the shop, get a refund (the Sales of Goods act protects you from items which are "Not fit for purpose"). It's not that simple: is it worth returning the one pound nail clippers? If not, where do you draw the line? If it's not worth the effort of returning a one pound item, what value item is worth returning? And, so long as you don't return the one pound clippers, the shop will keep selling them and the factory will keep making them.

My vacuum cleaner, subject of a few Twitter rants this morning, actually has a label on it which says "DO NOT RETURN TO THE SHOP. Call the Helpline." Really, that should have rung alarm bells right away but, in fact, it appeared to work very well. At first. Since then, however, I have spend more money on replacement drive belts that I spent on the actual cleaner. And it had to have a new brush bar after less than six months. And it needs another new one now, at just two years old.

So, buy a new one, right? Of course, but that's another £50 (for a cheap one) or £300+ (for a decent one) and no guarantee it will be any better. Price does not always equal quality. Well known brands are not always better.

Our fridge/freezer was replaced recently after four years of pain. It was a reasonably quality brand, but we lost endless fridge/freezers worth of food because of a major design flaw (the frost-free freezer would ice up, meaning the fan - which kept the fridge cool - would be unable to turn). A bit of research - after the event - made it clear this is a common fault, but the company is still selling the same (as far as I can see) design. We replaced it with 2, cheap, separate items.

I could go on and on, but I won't.

I won't name the fridge/freezer manufacturer here, since I'm not qualified to speak of the design fault (though I'll happily mention it be email if asked). Suffice to say, we recently replaced a washing machine by the same manufacturer because that failed to perform to expectations too. We still have a dishwasher, and that's faulty.

The vacuum cleaner? That one I will name, since it's fault is clearly demonstrable (and I've already named it on Twitter): It's Vax.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Quality Feedback

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I had a couple of very nice comments on my Friday Flash: A Very Ordinary Killer.

The Bestselling author Jill Mansell called it "Excellent", mentioning it in the same context as Jeff Lindsay's brilliant "Dexter" novels.

The hugely well-regarded literary agent, Carole Blake, of Blake Friedmann, called it "Chilling."

Frankly, I'm delighted to have that sort of feedback, and it has encouraged me to consider turning A Very Ordinary Killer into a full length novel... a little more back-story has occurred to me today.

Watch this space...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Letting Go

As parents, we all must steal ourselves for the day when our offspring decide to flee the nest. I can well remember how upset my mum was when I left home (I am the youngest of four), but I know her sadness was also tinged with pride that we were all ready and able to make our way into the world, and that the cutting of the apron strings was just another step on life's ladder.

And so it is with the latest novel. Admittedly, I haven't spend 18+ years nurturing this, but nor have I had to deal with teenage tantrums and cries of "I hate you!" (that I might be dealing with those in real life is, of course, an entirely different matter), but it has been an interesting six months: good times and bad times; doubt and uncertainty and, finally, that warm glow that comes with typing the final words.

The editing process on this one has been painful. The timing of the World Cup didn't help as my beta-readers had their attentions drawn elsewhere. In addition, I can hardly demand to be their top priority, no matter how important their views and feedback are. Perhaps, one day, I'll be able to pay them for their time and then I can be as unreasonable as I want, though that might have an affect on how they view my work, so there's a bit of a flaw to that plan...

But, it's done. Finished. I've even written the synopsis (which I very nearly forgot, and only some suitably timed tweets - not aimed specifically at me - reminded me of the need to do it). And it is now on its way across the sea to our agent.

And so the waiting begins, again. This time, though, I'm ready. I don't expect to hear for a few weeks - probably not until early September (even though that seems like a lifetime away).

So, as we bid farewell to LAST MAN STANDING and wish it well, our thoughts turn to the next project. I'm pretty sure I know which one it's going to be; I've already written about 300 words of it, but I know they need to change as the character I've introduced is much more likeable than intended. As with every book so far, there's only the scantest outline of what this story is about, and it's very possible (as with NUM63R5 earlier this year) that this will barely get off the starting blocks before being returned to the ideas tank, and another candidate selected.

I don't think that's going to happen, though. All I need is a suitable abbreviation for it. Y'a is probably accurate, though that shouldn't be confused with YA (Young Adult fiction) because, if this turns out as expected, it's very definitely not for a younger readership...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Friday Flash (1)

I tend to stay away from short stories or flash fiction, but here is something that I thought was going to form a complete book, but which, I think, works better as a short story. (Though, who knows, maybe in the future...)

It's timing may be a little off, given some recent events in the UK, but as it is not based on them, nor inspired by them, I make no apologies. Any similarities to any person are entirely coincidental.

So, without further ado:

A Very Ordinary Killer

The trouble with most killers is that they want to get caught. They'd never admit it, but it's their vanity which leads to their capture. That desire for infamy, to be acknowledged, to see their crimes featured on TV all linked together, perhaps even to acquire a snappy nickname such as The Romney Ripper or The Cambridge Cannibal, all these things are the weaknesses of your common serial killer. On top of those failures, most serial killers stick to the same tried and trusted methods of finishing with their victims – their modus operandi – and their victims often fall into the same categories, be that just by gender or by some other selection criteria – prostitutes seem to have been the most fashionable victims recently.

Some killers even take delight in leaving clues to their existence, little taunts to the examining officers, perhaps obvious enough for the casual plod to pick up, or more subtle, the sort of thing that's only going to be detected by the forensic team after detailed examination of the scene. Some even revisit the scene of the crime – perhaps while the investigation is in its earliest stages, when the place is crawling with police – getting some kind of thrill by being so close to those who are doing their best to catch them.

Finally, it has to be said, most serial killers are psychopaths. That might be stating the obvious, but it's an important fact.

Because none of the above apply to me.

I kill because I enjoy it. And I'll never get caught because I don't let my vanity get in the way: I don't leave clues that taunt the police; I don't have a modus operandi; I don't discriminate when selecting my prey (male, female, young, old: they're all the same to me); I never return to the scene of a crime and there's never anything to link me to it in the first place.

And, of course, I'm not a psychopath.

I'm just an ordinary guy with a slightly unusual hobby. It's not really that far removed from those who enjoy fishing, or fox-hunting, or pheasant shooting, or like to conceal themselves in hides in the woods waiting for an unsuspecting deer to wander into their sights. Sure, some of those are frowned upon by certain members of society, the goody-goodies who refuse to allow anyone to indulge in a sport that doesn't fit their narrow criteria of acceptable. Those who enjoy hunting often claim that they are performing a service, keeping populations down, taking out the weakest of any pack, subscribing to Darwin's theory of Natural Selection: if that fish was stupid enough to take the maggot off my hook then it doesn't deserve to live. I could claim the same thing, I suppose, but then that would sound like I'm trying to justify my actions, and that might lead you to think that I'm a psychopath after all, because surely only a psychopath would attempt to put murder in the same league as fishing. So I won't. I won't attempt to justify myself to you, because I don't have to. I've already told you: I kill because I enjoy it. No further justification necessary. Case closed.

Besides, who among us can claim to have no so-called vices? We all have skeletons in our closet, sneaky little thrills that we enjoy when we think nobody is looking: the wife who hides chocolate out of sight of the children and her husband; the husband with his pornography addiction; the man with a penchant for prostitutes; the vegetarian who can't get enough bacon. Small, perhaps, but secret thrills nonetheless, things that they'd be ashamed to admit, that they are terrified of having exposed because of what others will think of them. And why? Why should the opinion of anybody else matter? So you like bacon? Go ahead and eat it! You like porn? Go, get yourself off. It's nobody's business but your own.

I just happen to like killing people. It's my thing, my dirty little secret. I like the moment where they take their last breath and I see the light go out in their eyes – assuming I get to see it, because that depends on what method I use. I like the thrill of the hunt, stalking my prey – but only when I plan it like that, because other times I just love choosing a victim at random, someone who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (for them, that is – right place, right time for me). I like the blood, when I spill it; I like the feel of the knife on flesh, or the sound of the gunshot, or the silence as they slip away, starved of oxygen, with the rope tight around their neck.

There's so much to enjoy, really, I'm quite amazed it's never really taken off as an acceptable past-time. There are so many different personalities out there: you get those who resign themselves to their fate and die with dignity (I'm very fair like that, if that's how they are then I'll accept it and finish them off quickly and cleanly); then you get those who will plead and beg and offer you anything, absolutely anything, if you'll let them go. It's shocking what depths they'll plumb in their desperate attempts to survive. The most surprising are those that seemed, on the surface, to be so normal, so straight-laced, so respectable. The things they offer would certainly not be repeatable in front of your grandmother. Money and possessions are the favourites, but a surprising number will offer sexual favours – and that goes for the men as well as the women. And, of course, every single one will promise faithfully that they'll keep the secret, they'll never reveal my crime to anybody, will never speak to the police, will forget it every happened and carry on with their lives as before. Utter rubbish, of course, but it's moot anyway: I never let anybody go. Never. Once I have them, their fate is sealed, they are as good as dead.

The only variables are how and when. There is no if.

Not that I'm averse to taking up their offers. I've amassed a good few quid over the years, mainly in small sums as anything too big would arouse suspicion. I've been offered houses and cars too, but I never take those for the same reason. And as for the sexual favours? Yeah, I've taken a few of those too, mainly from the women though there have been a couple of men. You have to be careful, though: always use a condom, can't afford to leave any evidence behind; never take oral sex – though that's a very common offer, but is fraught with danger, an open-invitation for them to inflict serious damage, probably give them time to escape too. There have been plenty who I'm pretty sure would have gone through with it, perhaps even enjoyed it, and I know I would have too, but it's too risky. So, straight-forward sex, or maybe a bit of hand relief, is all I allow. Sometimes they even seem to enjoy it, too; maybe they think there's a better chance of being spared if they do. I don't make unreasonable demands – they don't have to look at me, don't have to try to enjoy it, don't have to kiss me – but if they offer it, I'll probably take it; I am a man, after all. Don't try to tell me you wouldn't, if you were in the same position.

So, I suppose you're wondering how I got into it? When did I start killing, why, how, where? Those are the questions I'm going to answer. I'm going to let you get inside my head, to see what I see and feel what I feel. Then you'll understand.

And then you're going to die.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Waiting Game

Everybody - at least everybody in the publishing world - knows about waiting.

For many, the worst is when they submit their queries to agents and have to wait for a response - often a rejection, but eventually (at least that's the aim) a request for partial, full or an offer of representation.

Then comes the wait once your agent submits your MS to publishers. And, believe me, that's can be a long wait, and something that you have no control over. It might be a week, a month or a year before you hear anything - if you hear anything at all. It's a wait I don't think you can ever get used to, but you have to accept that it's just the way the business works.

But there's another wait: the wait for feedback from those much closer. At the moment, that means waiting for the beta-readers to comment on the latest MS. Is it worse than the other waits? Probably not, but it is difficult, because this is the first time you'll hear any comments on the viability of the work. I'm sure most writers are wracked with fear that everything they produce is garbage, and we are fragile souls, so we need (I mean, really need) that feedback.

You can't rush it, of course. These are, in the main, people who are doing you a favour. They're not being paid - except for being given a free book - so when they say "I'm reading something else, I'll get to it next" or "I'm away this weekend, I'll look at it next week" or "I had the kids last night, didn't get a chance to read it" there's nothing you can do except smile sweetly and mutter with as much conviction as you can muster "That's okay, no rush" while dying slowly inside from a terminally neglected ego.

I doubt it will ever get better. When (not if, you understand) something gets published with the Marshall Buckley name on the cover, I'm sure the wait for reader feedback (and, hopefully, reviews) will be just as tortuous. I suppose this is just practice for those times.

Monday, 7 June 2010

And We're Done

As in, the completion of the first draft of the current book, known as LMS (interestingly, I'm still of a mind that its working title isn't right for it, but I haven't come up with anything better).

I had a target of 80,000 words. I tend to lose count close to the end, so the target is a very loose thing. The book will be as long as it needs to be. That this one finished at 80,118, so close to target, was quite a shock.

Now it goes to edit and review. I've written before about my process for this as it's a little unothodox and probably much quicker than for most. Because the book is reviewed and corrected chapter by chapter as its written, there isn't a massive rewrite about to take place.

Unless, of course, my other beta readers find massive holes or (perish the thought) think it simply isn't very good.

Tonight will be a quick run through using Word's spelling and grammar checker, then off it goes to beta readers (2 electronically, one will receive a printed, bound copy which I'll put together tomorrow). I won't look at it again unless I receive corrections by email. Once they've all finished, sent corrections and any comments, I'll sit down and read it through for the first time, making any more corrections along the way.

Assuming all is well, it will be sent to our agent before the end of the month - that's about 3 weeks to go from first draft to final. Not bad, eh?

The biggest question now, of course, is 'What next?"

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Just popped by...

...to say I'm still here, working hard on 'LMS' which, if you look at the progress bar on the right, is shockingly close to completion.

It's been a bit of a struggle this one: started off well, lots of ideas, raced through the first half and then some. Then it all started to fall apart. Well, not exactly. I just got a bit bogged down, and couldn't quite see the road ahead. This happened for a while on the last book (BROKEN) too, so I wasn't too concerned, but it is irritating.

There are times when you wonder how something you enjoy so much can make you feel so fed up.

And then comes the moment where you see where it needs to go, like a little ray of light pointing the way, and all is forgiven.

So, it's nearly there. I'm writing the crucial, final scenes right now, and then all that's left is the ending. Both of them.

Yes. Two endings, but only one will make the final draft. I'm just not sure which one, yet.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Long Silences

I apologise for the extended radio silence. It's sometimes difficult to think of what to post here, especially when concentrating on writing the actual book.

It's been a productive month, mainly. LMS is coming along nicely after a periods of uncertainty, which I think it much the norm at about this point. It's not as if there is any doubt over the potential that the book has, but it continues to evolve and, as yet, the ending has yet to be determined. There are still the six (or so) options I've alluded to previously, though it probably comes down to a choice of two serious possibilities. At the moment I'm keeping an open mind (though I obviously favour one - but Chris favours the other).

I've been thoroughly transfixed by the impact of the volcano eruption in Iceland and the effects on European air-travel. As I write, UK air-space is still closed, along with much of the near continent, but the airlines are now disputing the necessity of this action. I can see both sides - and I've read the account of BA9 over Jakarta in 1982 (the website www.ericmoody.com is currently over limit, can't imagine why, but I urge you to read it!), but the airlines are claiming their test flights are experiencing no issues.

Frankly, I'm just happy that I have no plans to fly anywhere anytime soon.

The travel chaos has had an unfortunate effect on the London Book Fair. In all honestly this year is the first time I've even been aware of the fair. Somewhat selfishly, though, the absences could work in my favour. My agent (amongst others) suddenly finds herself with more free time than expected, and some of that could well be used to harass (nicely) those editors who are still reviewing THE LONG SECOND and BROKEN.

Every cloud, and all that. Including volcanic ash clouds, apparently.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Anyone for Cake?

Today, 16th March, is my birthday. More specifically, it's my official birthday.

Marshall Buckley's birth actually came as a surprise. No advanced warning, no expanding waist-line, no visits to ante-natal clinics. One day: nothing: the next: Hello World. It was not, in truth, a difficult birth. Surprising, yes; difficult, no.

Like many newborns, Marshall Buckley went for some weeks without a name. Of course, many were tried but they didn't seem to fit very well. Often, the comment was made that "there is no rush", but over time, the lack of a name began to prove problematic.

It wasn't until nearly 2 months later - 8th May to be precise - that the name was agreed upon and Marshall Buckley finally assumed his new identity.

Marshall Buckley is one year old today.

For those of you that are new to the story, that's not a mistake. I really did mean one year old.

Because (of course!) Marshall Buckley, the author, is really a combined entity. Two become one, if you like. My biography would probably read:
Marshall Buckley lives in the UK and Canada and is married (twice!) with five children, four dogs and three cats.

Is this any clearer yet?

It's been an interesting year. What started out as a very vague post on Facebook, something along the lines of "I have an idea for a book. Would anyone like to help me write it?" turned into a 115,000 words novel in 8 weeks. Just a few weeks later the offer of representation came, from Lora Fountain, and contracts were signed in September.

Meanwhile, the sequel was written (85,000 words) and sent to Lora. Both are currently under submission with a number of publishers both in the UK and abroad.

The third book in the series was started, and put on hold. A fourth book was started, and also put on hold, and a fifth book (the current WIP) currently stands at 40,000 words.

Of course, all that's missing is that elusive publishing contract. But hopes are high, and these things take time. You can be sure that any news will be shared here.

For now, please join me in my birthday celebrations. Here's to more, much more, of the same!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

World Book Day & TIMERIDERS

As this week was World Book Day I felt somewhat obliged to visit my local bookstore and purchase a couple of books. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any independent stores near where I work so I had to settle for a visit to Waterstones. I don't have anything against them, but I would have liked to have supported an independent.

Unusually, for me, I didn't have any specific titles I was looking for - well, except one. My shop visit coincided with the release of the short story collection 100 Stories for Haiti and I figured that was a suitable purchase for World Book Day. Unfortunately, not only did the store not have any in stock, they could not even find it on their own system (which was a little odd as I found it on their website when I returned to my office). So, that remains on my "to buy" list - and I urge you to do the same.

The titles I did pick up were not really my usual fare, and I feel slightly guilty that two of the three were so well known that they did not really need my support. Nonetheless, I do feel that I should read WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Steig Larsson, if only to understand why they are rated so highly. I've not started WOLF HALL yet, my wife has snagged that (much more her thing), but I have started DRAGON TATTOO.

I have to admit, had someone given it to me, I probably would not have persevered beyond the first few pages. To me, it starts rather slowly and rather dully. Only when the key character - Lisbeth - is introduced does it seem to pick up. But it's really too early to pass judgement at this stage.

My final selection was one I certainly would not usually have read - TIMERIDERS by Alex Scarrow. It's a YA novel, of which I have been reading too many recently, but its subject matter is worthy of attention as (and I'm not giving anything away here) time travel does feature in my first book - THE LONG SECOND - so I was interested to see how Alex handled what can be a tricky subject, not least dealing with the infamous Time Travel Paradox. (Again, I'm giving nothing away by saying that he deals with it by ignoring it. Nothing wrong with that, frankly).

But the real reason I wanted to pick up the book was in recognition for the way he handled himself recently when the book was criticised on another blog I regularly read - Catherine's "Reading Whilst Writing". Cat, in fairness, simply stated that "it wasn't turning out to be very enjoyable" and had put it to one side for future reading. Hardly scathing criticism, but there have been numerous occasions recently where authors have embarrassed themselves by reacting badly to any criticism. When Alex responded, I was expecting another car-crash moment - but was astonished to see how well he handled Cat's comments, showing real maturity and reason in his response. For that reason alone I, and many others, vowed to buy his book.

And my verdict? I really enjoyed it. I admit, I'm closer the the likely target audience (being male) than Cat, though sadly I'm a long way from being YA myself, and that may have made all the difference. Or, it could have been the whole time-travel connection. Regardless, I have little to criticise, certainly nothing worth mentioning here (except, perhaps, that I would probably have ended it a few pages earlier, but that's just me!). There were, in fact, at least a couple of genuinely unexpected twists - and for those, I salute you, Alex.

I thoroughly recommend TIMERIDERS (and that is something I say very rarely).

In other news, the current WIP is progressing nicely. I've revised the target word-count down a little, to 80,000, which puts it about 50% complete. If it goes longer, that's fine. The only difficulty? The ending. There are currently six or seven possible endings, all of which are very feasible even at this stage. I have a feeling this one is going to surprise me...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Moments of Clarity

The basic premise for the current WIP was determined many months ago, although, like everything we've written so far, it has evolved significantly from the initial idea that was swimming innocently around the ideas tank. Of course, many elements have remained (like the name of the main character) but others have changed beyond recognition.

It's now at that stage where the real point of the story comes to life... and we're suddenly not absolutely sure in which direction it needs to be taken. So, a little brainstorming took place via email and instant messenger, the result of which left us with 6 (count 'em!) possible story lines (not including subtle variations).

At the same time, we're being asked for a synopsis of the story by our agent who is already excited by the prospect, even before it's finished. No pressure there, then.

I was three paragraphs into the synopsis when I wrote what is (in my opinion) the killer opening line. Yes, that's right, the Killer Opening Line (TM) was three paragraphs in. Naturally, paragraphs one and two were immediately victims of the delete key.

But that was the easy part. We already know how it starts, it was putting the meat on the bones which was more difficult. And then, after some thought, appeared another Killer Line (TM). On the back of that, came a Killer Twist (TM).

That moment of clarity was sheer bliss. A real moment to be savoured and enjoyed.

Since then, the story has gone nowhere, for all sorts of reasons (not least being forced to attend a gathering of writerly folk during the week. Oh, rain your pity upon me). Oh, and trying to work out the dynamics of the new, clever story line.

This coming week sees me at home as the children are on half-term. I have this grand idea that I shall awaken at the usual time and sit hammering the keyboard in the few quiet hours before they arise (we're a family of night-owls, we don't do mornings). I'm hoping that, at some point, the moments of clarity from this last week will magically transform into a Killer Storyline (TM).

The only downside? Even I'm not prepared to hit the wine (to aid the creative process) at that time of the morning...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Do you hear it?

No, not the sound of silence, the silence that accompanies a lack of blog updates. I mean the tap, tap, tap of keys on a keyboard.

I'm sorry for the brief hiatus, I had every intention of posting updates on a weekly basis at least but it doesn't always work out to plan, especially when the writing gets in the way.

So, it's a good thing, really. I'm not blogging because I'm writing. You'll see from the panel on the right that there are now two Works In Progress. I'm not sure if that's ambitious or just plain stupid, but after a good start on Book 3 I found that main character of Book 4 (not part of the series) calling out to me, demanding to tell his story.

Damn those crazy voices in my heard, needing to be heard.

Book 3 is far from abandoned, it's just not receiving the same level of attention as Book 4 right now, but it will.

But, for now, Book 4 is having its turn in the spotlight, and I suspect it will remain there, determindly selfish, until completion.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

On The Cusp

I didn't intend to blog about this yet, for fear that even mentioning it would be tantamount to placing a jinx upon the whole thing. Of course, because of that, I'm not going to given any details other than to ask a question I once asked before (albeit on my Facebook page):

Is this it?

At the time, a few people raised concerns. Was "it" a bad thing? Did "it" mean that I was disillusioned, unhappy, or - dare I say it - suicidal?
Of course, the answer to all the above was a resounding 'no' (and, in case you're wondering, still is).

But, the last time I asked, the answer turned out to be 'yes'.

There are some fingers being silently crossed for the same answer this time.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Best Laid Plans

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, things don't turn out as planned.

With two books of THE LONG SECOND series safely finished, polished and safely on submission (well, almost, BROKEN, book 2 is being submitted tomorrow), thoughts were turning to a new book, and a change of setting.

We'd already spent a little time setting up the characters and back story for NUM63R5, but when it came down to writing it, I ground to a halt, just 300 words in. A few sleepless nights later and the story was still refusing to reveal itself. A few emails were exchanged, ideas proposed and dropped, and a small plot-hole refused to stay adequately filled.

Time, then, for a break. With every intention of walking away from the keyboard for a week to wait for inspiration to strike, I went to bed. And couldn't sleep. Again.

Only, this time, it wasn't NUM63RS keeping me awake, but Book 3 of THE LONG SECOND series.

Today, thanks to the mysterious workings of school inset days (2 children at home, one at school - you can imagine how happy school-attending child was about that), I found myself unexpectedly with uninterrupted keyboard time. Both other children were taking advantage of an extra day of holiday and remained tucked up in the warmth of their beds (and especially good idea as the heating failed to come on this morning thanks to a blown fuse... I can feel some expensive electrical work coming on), leaving me with that rarest of things: time to myself.

And the words? Oh, they came. Thick and fast. 4,500 of them until I had to go out and collect school-child.

I'm a little stuck now, not 100% sure where to take the story from here, but considerably more hopeful of something creative occurring than I was 24 hours ago.

So, for now, NUM63R5 returns to the Ideas Tank, like a lobster spared from the pot, to swim amongst the other ideas in there, until it gets another shot at the limelight.