Still Life with Tall Weeds.

It happens to the best of us. That’s kind of all I have to offer today.

Almost a month ago I got the edit memo from Penguin/Razorbill, the publisher of my middle grades series: fifteen single spaced pages of structural suggestions for Darwen III. Anyone who thinks traditional publishers don’t edit books anymore haven’t been around the Razorbill folk, who are extraordinarily good at their job and as extraordinarily thorough. The downside is that such thoroughness demands a hell of a lot of work from me, and if I thought I was nearly done when I sent the first draft in, I was sadly deluded. In this case, I had known there would be some major changes proffered because we’d been chatting about them over the summer, and when the letter arrived I was actually relieved that the requested edits were not more extensive.

I should also say that a […]

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Why Books are Better than Movies.

Or, to be more accurate, why books are better than the movies which get made from them.

Okay, before we start, let’s not get all defensive. There are lots of great movies out there, and some of them are based on books. Some of those movies might even be better than the book they are based on. Happy?

But I’m thinking of something very specific, and it comes out of the various school visits I’m doing at the moment, because someone always asks when my book (Darwen Akwright, in this case) is going to be made into a movie. This is, the assumption seems to suggest, the ultimate accolade for a book, that the greatest thing that can happen (after getting an agent, a publishing deal, a bestseller ranking etc.) is Hollywood’s golden coronation. The book is dead! Long live the film!

Of course we all know that books don’t […]

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The best fantasy/sci fi novel of the last half decade.

Last week, like most of the MW regulars, I was at Dragon Con, an experience which–much as I love it—is thoroughly overwhelming: the tracks, the stars, the costumes, the events, the people…

And the books.

I had a moment in the dealer room, standing at the Larry Smith bookseller booth where, confronted by all those slick and stylish covers, I felt that particular blend of elation and ignorance.

I often feel these two at cons; there’s just so much stuff there I know nothing about, much of it intriguing, even thrilling, but all of it pointing an accusatory finger as if to demand what on earth I have been doing that has left me so little time for this.

Or that.

Or all of those.

So I’m gazing at this wall of books, aghast at how few I’ve even heard of, let alone read, and I’m feeling that rising sense […]

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Double Dragon Release!

Well, kind of.

The Dragon bit is that I’m at Dragon*Con today and thus won’t be as available as I usually try to be to respond to comments: readings to do, people to see, beers to drink. The double release bit—and I apologize but I’m going to hawk these today like a guy with a case of fake Rollexes—is that I actually have two books out this week!

Well, again, kind of.

The first, which actually came out yesterday is the paperback edition of my first middle grades adventure series, Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact (Penguin/Razorbill), which can now be yours for the measly sum of nine (count ‘em) bucks. The official target age range is 9-14, but I’ve had good feedback from readers who were a little younger than that and a lot from readers who were considerably older. You know who you are, and yes, your support […]

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Instant Transitions

I was struggling with a passage I was working on once in which I had a character sitting in a coffee shop chatting to a friend. I needed to make my protagonist remember something crucial about a crime scene. The problem was that the friend had no connection to the case and the scene was relaxed and upbeat. Getting my protagonist to suddenly remember what he needed to would not so much derail the scene as pack it with C4 and blow it up. Not what I was going for.

So I wrote and wrote and the scene got longer and longer as these two happy little coffee drinkers dragged the long dead conversation round to something that might finally provide a plausible segue into a reminiscence about the crime scene and our hero’s all important realization. It was interminable, and when the subject finally came up it still […]

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There’s Never Enough Time

I had a birthday last week. I stood in the garden of the house owned by Shakespeare’s daughter while a hoard of academics sung Happy Birthday to me. It was, it has to be said, pretty cool.

But, as those who know me best are all too aware, I’ve been having a midlife crisis since I was twelve (when my parents suggested that there were certain toys I should have grown out of). I’m into my life’s second half now: nowhere near overtime and the dreaded penalty shoot-out, but playing with one eye on the referee’s watch. (Don’t ask me the score: I have no idea). In short, I am more aware than ever of Time’s winged chariot rushing up behind me, and if standing in Shakespeare’s garden while people sing happy birthday to you doesn’t exacerbate that awareness, nothing will.

Shakespeare, as most of you will be aware, was […]

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The Discard Pile. Or, Learning by Doing

In 2001 I wrote what I thought was going to be my break out book, a wry coming of age novel with what I thought was a sharp, witty voice and a rich core story. After years of struggling to attract agents my first five queries led to three requests for the full manuscript, followed by two offers of representation. I accepted one and am still with her.

But she couldn’t sell the book. We had lots of near misses and flashes of genuine interest, even enthusiasm, but in the end, no one wanted to buy it. At the time I put this down to the book’s generic oddness and the idea that it was never going to be a mainstream hit. It didn’t really occur to me that the book just wasn’t very good.

But that, it turns out, was the case.

This week, taking a break between a […]

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