Monday 30th June
Since I last posed my blog, I’ve had a week away on ‘dog hols’ with my wife, Lisa, and our faithful canine companion, Murphy, plus our good friends Andy and Michelle (who also answer to Broadside Bob and Mrs Bip, but we won’t go into that now). The four of us go away for a week once a year in the UK, finding a dog-friendly cottage so that Murphy can come too, which has the added benefit of allowing us to visit parts of our fair and sunny isle that we haven’t been to before. This time, we journeyed down to the south coast near Folkestone, and while I won’t bore you with the full details of our trip, suffice to say that booze, barbeques, long walks, and hot tubs all featured heavily!
But back to business – there’s been an exciting development with regards to my debut novel, Justice For All – my very first interview has been arranged! Last week, I received an e-mail from MIDAS, my publicity firm, requesting that I send through a photo of myself quick smart. I duly obliged, and just fifteens minutes later I was told that Arena Magazine, the popular men’s monthly, wanted to interview me for a piece on young and upcoming thriller writers. Talk about things moving fast! I’m to report to a secret location in East London on Tuesday 1st July for both a Q&A and photo shoot. A photo shoot! It seems weird just typing that out. When I first started working on the book I was leading a hermit like existence in my spare room chained to the keyboard, but now there’s a national magazine that wants to talk to me! I just hope the shoot isn’t swimwear…
Monday 23rd June
I'm away on hols at present - the blog will return soon ...
Monday 16th June
As expected, I spent most of last week finalising the latest draft of Blood Law (the sequel to Justice For All). The last thing I did before sending it back to my editor was to read through a printed copy of the novel. This was an interesting and useful exercise, as I hadn’t looked at Blood Law in some time (indeed, I’d already started work on the next novel in the Hunter series). Going back to something in this way enables you to approach it with a fresh perspective. Sentences that read just fine some months earlier suddenly don’t look quite right.
I find that I have a tendency to overwrite, so as I go through the editing process I generally make more cuts than additions – an odd word here, a whole sentence there – all of which help to tighten the prose and speed up the narrative. By the time I’d finished my read through I’d taken out 2,000 words or so, and the book was much improved as a result. Blood Law is now back in the hands of my editorial team at MIRA Publishing, and I hope they agree that it’s good to go!
On the social front, I’ve had a relatively quiet week after the excitement of the previous couple. Just one gig to report on – Lost Prophets at the U.E.A. I’ve been a fan of these Welsh rockers since the release of their debut album back in 2001, and the last time I saw them play live was on the main stage at the Reading Festival in 2007, where they put on a fantastic performance that had the whole crowd jumping. I therefore had high expectations for the gig, which may go some way to explain why I left the venue a little disappointed. While the band themselves were on form, and the lead singer Ian Watkins cemented his reputation as one of the best front men around, the sound was a bit ropey – too bass heavy, with either the vocals or the guitars (or even both!) getting lost in the mix. Ah well, you can’t win ‘em all, but as they’ve just been added to this years V Festival line-up, I’m hoping for a more incendiary performance in a couple of months time.
That’s it for now, as I’ve got a busy day in the garden ahead of me – erecting a shed!
Monday 9th June
I spent most of last week working on the sequel to my debut novel, Justice For All. The sequel now has a title – Blood Law – and I received my second (and hopefully final!) set of editorial notes from my publisher on Monday. The editorial process is always challenging. After working on a novel for a number of months, all you really want to hear from everyone that reads it is how perfect it is – to receive any comment other than ‘don’t change a thing’ is in truth a bit of a disappointment.
But in the real world, first drafts of a novel are rarely perfect (mine certainly aren’t), and the constructive criticism provided by the talented editorial team at my publisher, MIRA, is absolutely vital. The team came back with a number of suggestions for Blood Law, covering such topics as back-story, motivation, and exposition. I then evaluated these suggestions to decide which ones should be worked into the novel (most of them in this case), then made the necessary amendments. The final part of the process is a read through by yours truly, done the old fashioned way – printed out on paper, with pen in hand to mark changes. At this stage, I check to ensure that everything hangs together, and I make a number of small cuts to the prose as I go, generally to improve the pacing. I’m currently half way through reading Blood Law, and I expect to spend most of this week working through the rest.
On the music front, I’ve had a busy few days. First, Kids in Glass Houses at the Norwich Waterfront (a great gig venue), who were okay, but a little too pop-rock for my liking. Next was The Zutons at Thetford Forest – great setting, great set, great band. But these two gigs were just appetisers for the main event – the mighty Foo Fighters at Wembley Stadium. I’ve been a massive fan of the Foos ever since I saw them play in the tent at the Reading Festival in 1995. Of all the gigs I’ve been to, it’s the one that I wouldn’t trade for the world – packed to the rafters, sweat dripping off the ceiling, numerous appeals for calm – exciting, a little dangerous, and absolutely vital. But anyway, back to modern day. I travelled down to London on the Saturday with my better half, Lisa, and friends Jay and Chris, before finding a pub within spitting distance of the stadium where we were joined by fellow rockers Daz and the impressively hirsute Moff. Having downed a number of beers, we then staggered out, scoffed some emergency chips, then headed for Wembley.
The new stadium is very impressive. When I walked out onto the pitch (we had standing tickets, of course) I was struck by how compact and high sided it was – kind of like a modern day Coliseum. The place was sold out and the atmosphere was electric, and when Dave Grohl and the boys walked on at 8.15 the roars were near deafening. They played for a little over two hours, blasting out hit after hit. Personal highlights were the massive singalong for My Hero, the mosh for All My Life, and the emotional set closer Best Of You. And did I mention the surprise guests (actually not that much of a surprise, as the internet was rife with rumours beforehand) – Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin! They joined the Foos on stage for two songs – the incendiary Rock and Roll, on which Taylor Hawkins sang and Dave returned to his former job of skin-thumper, and the folk-tinged Ramble On. A treat? You betcha.
I’ve seen the Foos play live more than any other band, and I could never grow tired of the experience. I’ve watched them emerge from the ashes of Nirvana to become the biggest rock band on the planet, seen them play in venues that hold both a thousand and the best part of a 100,000 people, and practically worn out their CD’s through over listening. Their music has been the soundtrack to my adult life. Mr. Grohl – I salute you.
Monday 2nd June
Last week, I journeyed down to London to meet Louise Swannell of MIDAS P.R. Louise is the account director charged with publicising my debut novel, Justice For All, and I’m happy to report that my book looks to be in very capable hands. I met Louise in a coffee shop close to the theatre district, where she gave a quick dummy’s guide to the art of publicity, with me playing the role of the dummy. She then went on to quiz me about my writing, my background, my inside leg measurement, etc, as she searched for angles about me that might interest the U.K.’s media tycoons.
Publicity is the lifeblood of any new author, as no one’s going to buy that debut novel you’ve been slaving away on for years if they’re not even aware of its existence. Trouble is, the competition to get a book review or personal interview is staggeringly fierce, and that’s where people like Louise come in. Having shown me the lengthy list of people that she’s already sent an advance copy of the novel to, she went on to explain how from this point forth she’ll be badgering them at every opportunity until they a) read it; b) fall in love with it; and c) agree to help spread the word. I in turn shall be doing everything that I can to make her task easier – I think my first task is to befriend some A-list celebs at the earliest opportunity!
But while garnering publicity from the UK’s media outlets is vital, so too is that most invaluable of commodities – word of mouth – and that’s where you come in. One person tells another, they tell another, and pretty soon the word starts to spread like tiny ripples across a vast lake. If you could see your way clear to mention me, my book, and my website to anyone you know (and anyone you don’t!) then I’d be eternally grateful. And please feel free to join me on Facebook and MySpace where I’d be more than happy to add you as a friend – the viral marketing campaign starts here!
But as anyone who read last week’s blog will be aware, I didn’t travel to London solely to discuss the publicity needs of Justice For All. No sir. I went up the day before with my wife, Lisa, and my pet monkey, Daz (he’s not really a monkey – he’s more of a missing evolutionary link) to see the legend that is Bob Mould, former Husker Du and Sugar frontman and now a critically acclaimed solo artist. Bob was playing live at Koko’s in Camden, and this was to be only the third time in my life that I’d see one of my all-time rock music heroes.
We arrived mid afternoon to take up residency in Dingwalls at Camden Lock, then spent the next few hours soaking up both the warm summer sun and a fair few beverages of an alcoholic persuasion. Once we’d checked to make sure that we still had the use of our legs, we stumbled down to Koko’s just before nine p.m., our number at this point swollen by one, as we’d be joined by Damon, an old school friend of ours (there – I’ve mentioned everyone that was present – the things you have to do to keep people happy…)
It was the first time I’d been to the venue, and boy, was it stunning – a nineteenth century old-style theatre like building with three (or maybe four?) levels encapsulated by ornately decorated balconies, having hosted such diverse luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, The Sex Pistols, and Madonna throughout it’s 100-year existence. Bob came on and proceeded to drown the interior in a sea of white-hot guitar, the melodies pummelling their way into the crowd’s subconscious like a cruiserweight on steroids. Tracks from each era of his lengthy songbook were included, with those from Sugar’s 1992 classic album, Copper Blue, sending yours truly into raptures. Two hours later the curtain came down, and we exited into the night air to find that we all had a good dose of tinnitus.
After seeing first Public Enemy and then Bob Mould within a few days of each other, I’ve really been on a musical high, and next week I get to complete the trifecta, as I’m off to see the Foo Fighters at Wembley Stadium! Before that, I’ve got a couple of local gigs to attend – up and coming Welsh rockers Kids in Glass Houses followed by Scouse soul revivalists the Zutons. In between all this revelry, I’ll be working through some revision notes on the follow-up to Justice For All…promise!