81,929

Thanks to everybody who was able to make the launch of August Falling. It was always going to be tough for some, given it was Father’s Day. But there was a great turnout. Also, a big thanks to Pantera Press, Pantera’s Marty Green (the emcee), and Buck Mulligan’s (a fantastic venue).

During his emceeing, Marty referred to me as a ‘prolific’ writer. It’s also an adjective my boss, Blaise van Hecke, has used when referencing me during writing workshops we’ve run together. I’ve never thought of myself as ‘prolific’. I’ve just thought of myself as somebody who wants to sit down and write, regardless of whatever format I’m writing at that time, and regardless of what else is happening in my life. I actually look back and lament some of the times I could’ve have been much more active.

Although I’ve had two books published, I’ve actually written many, many more. I wrote a couple of fantasy books by the time I was twenty-one. One, ‘The Warriors’ Triangle’, was book one of an intended four-book epic (I was going to be original, rather than write a trilogy or quintology). The other, ‘Midnight’s Dawning’, was a standalone fantasy epic with a novel (as in innovative) format (which I’ll play close to my chest). At approximately 260,000 words, ‘Midnight’s Dawning’ could be three books. One day, if I ever have the time, I would love to go back, break it into three, revise it – although part of me dreads what my writing must’ve been like back in 1991 – and submit it around.

There’s been other novels, or anthologies. Some have been outright rejected. Some have gone close to being accepted, and I rued at the time the near misses, but now celebrate that they’re not out in the world to embarrass me – not that they’re bad. But I don’t think they’re great. Some of them are (or have become) the sort of manuscripts you’d prefer never saw the light of day. However, there are a few others that I’d like to take out and revise – again, it comes down to time. And while some of these manuscripts vie for my attention, they’re competing with new things I’m writing.

While I’ve been struggling with my work-in-progress, I’ve also been working on a couple of screenplays, partnering-up with some actor-friends and hoping to get a couple of projects off the ground. It’s interesting, though, that those screenplays are strictly action genre stories – there’s a physical goal the characters are pursuing. Just Another Week in Suburbia and August Falling are considered ‘literary fiction’, which is more about characters trying to unfuck themselves.

TFSoLY has been a mess the last two weeks, as I’ve jagged on this one scene. I tried to write past it, but I began to feel that writing it like this was taking me the wrong way, and to continue would’ve resulted in a lot of wrong writing – wrong scenes, wrong turns, wrong development. So I cut a chunk of words (hence why my word count is less than it was last week), rewrote the scene and rewrote it and rewrote it, and then even overwrote it – going through it again, but padding it out. Now it finally feels as if I’m back where I need to be with the story, although I’m a bit concerned about the end I’m trying to manufacture.

I know how it’s meant to finish. I don’t always. Usually, I’ll have little-to-no idea, and work it out as I go along. It becomes as much a discovery process for me as it would for the reader. But with this one, I’ve known from before I wrote the first word how it is meant to finish – the query is trying to get the characters there to that spot, keeping that journey causal, and making sure it maintains the suspension of disbelief.

That means everything to me. Every action has to feel authentic, (as well as) a result of cause and effect. Characters might make bad decisions, but they at least need to be genuine decisions – something you could really believe somebody would do.

If I don’t feel I have that verisimilitude, then I can’t go on, and won’t go on, until I find it again.
 

82,367

While most people would think that a book is the product of one person – the author – it’s actually the sum total of a number of people, i.e. the author, definitely the editor, as well as an assortment of alpha readers. Unlike a movie, which’ll finish with four or five minutes of credits acknowledging everybody from the actors to the director to the caterers, a book has only the acknowledgements to (this may be a surprise) acknowledge anybody who’s had any input into the content.

So there’s some people I would like to give a personal shout out to – people who read early drafts of August Falling (well before it became August Falling) and whose contributions helped shape the book’s development.

Let me begin with Blaise van Hecke, who tirelessly reads everything I write – sometimes, she reads several different drafts. Blaise always puts herself in my headspace (and yet she’s still sane) and tries to help me get my stories to where I want them to go. This is pivotal. I’ve seen feedbackers who take over and drive the story in a direction incongruent with the author’s vision, so it’s a special talent to sync to the author’s wavelength.

Then there’s Kim Lock, who I met in Queensland during the 2013 Hachette Manuscript Development Program (for which Just Another Week in Suburbia was shortlisted). Kim always provides a perspective that nobody else has, and – moreover – it’s gotten to the point that if she’s scribbled on a hardcopy suggesting cuts, I cut unquestioningly.

Bel Woods is another who not only always offers fantastic feedback, but has such a great understanding about publishing trends and what’s hot and what’s not. We’ve repeatedly talked about publishing for hours on end. Given the breadth of her knowledge, some publisher should snap her up as a commissioning editor.

These three have read lots of my manuscripts. They must groan when they hear I’m working on new book, knowing that at some point I’ll ask them to read it. (I hope when they groan it’s not because of the book’s quality.) They’ve also offered encouragement and assurance through the journey – invaluable when rejections have battered me around.

For August Falling, I would also like to thank Helen Krionas, who read an early draft on her phone. She suggested the elimination of one character (which I was toying with at the time) and also helped me query pacing issues and the depth of the relationships involved. (You’ve got to really appreciate somebody who reads an early draft on a phone.)

Also, to Tom O’Connell; I think he read it the mundane way – on his computer. He helped give me another male perspective (especially on some of the emotionally rawer scenes), and helped me understand what was working with August and what wasn’t. Tom’s another talented editor who should get snapped up by some publisher (although he’s asked me to play the title role if the book is ever adapted, so he may be looking for a career change. No problem, if I have that power.)

All these people are talented authors in their own right with their own unique voices. Blaise and Kim have already been published, and I know that they will continue to produce books that will be widely read. For Bel, Helen, and Tom, it’s just a matter of time, and I eagerly await seeing their books on shelves.

Finally, thanks to my editor, Lucy Bell. Although we had some robust discussions on August Falling, I appreciate her keen eye, detailed feedback, and patience. While we didn’t always agree, I did consider all her suggestions (although I might have attacked some of them laterally) and August Falling is an infinitely better book than the draft Pantera Press first accepted.

You’ll read about these people in the acknowledgements (← hint to buy the book), as well as others who helped me.

I appreciate you all, and thank you for helping me with my writing.

 
Don’t forget! My launch is this Sunday – 2.00pm at Buck Mulligan’s!

Postscript: Still slow going on my work in progress, thanks to co-facilitating a weekend writing retreat at work, picking up a nasty bug, having that nasty bug develop into Erbola or something on Tuesday, and some unexpected computer problems.