Now I’m excited…

Things are now proceeding with pace.

I received the manuscript for Ferret back from the editor’s yesterday, with only two flags raised, neither of which are red. Both potential libel, apparently… There are only so many things one can say about celebrities. I thought I was being insulting, but the editor thinks differently.

Ho, hum. No biggie.

Onward!

We’re aiming for e-publication in June, just waiting on the cover art.

Ferret in Highgate

Crazy Vignettes

Well, I finally finished editing Ferret to my satisfaction and during the read through noticed that the illustrations are not as well spaced as they might be.  Cue a mad panic and a half dozen vignettes, which I must say have turned out to be rather splendid.  So much so, I thought I’d post a couple for your delectation.

Cyrano in flight - cropped

One of those ‘oh, oh’ moments…

 

Centurion - cropped

Tristan goes bonkers…

Artwork Complete

This is the fourth and final illustration for the Ferret Files, as drawn by my good pal Richard Argent, over at Argent Art.

It’s been a long old slog, I thought it might take 9 months to write the novel – we’re now at 3.5 years!  Admittedly, the actual time I’ve been on the project full time is 8 months – about to take 3 weeks off and finally nail the sucker.  Then comes the scary bit…

Balloon Flight

Killed by Death

Ace of Spades

In case you missed it, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister of Motorhead fame passed away over Christmas.  The title of this piece is a reference to a song he once wrote, which is both ridiculous yet sublime.  I should start by saying that I’m not a massive Motorhead fan.  Ace of Spades – terrific song.  It throws open the saloon doors, strides in with menacing purpose, grabs you by the throat, drinks all your whiskey, smashes up the tables and leaves.  You can’t ask for much more.  Why am I not a fan?  Back in the early 80s, Motorhead played the Northern town in which I grew up.  We’d heard that they were the loudest band on the planet, so two of my pals John & Pil decided to have a competition – who could get the closest to the speaker stacks and lose their hearing for the longest.  Pil won.  He was so proud of the ringing in his ears, which lasted for three and a half days.  That was when I knew Motorhead were not the band for me.

LemmyI spent most of the early 90s hanging about the London rock and metal scene, watching as many bands as I could, going to backstage parties, studiously avoiding the gruff northern git in the cowboy hat, who by that time had grown a splendid pair of warts.  Nowadays, no self-respecting performer would do that – they’d be straight down the surgeon’s with a writ from their agent for their removal.   Not Lemmy.  He proudly announced they were a part of him, there to stay.  For my part, I have a bit of a wart phobia, caused by one of my school teachers, who had a very prominent pink growth on the knuckle of his index finger.  If you were naughty, he’d grab you by the nose and thrust his wart threateningly close to your eye, much to the revulsion of the entire class and the abject horror of his victim.  He did it to me once for late homework, and I never got over it.  Hence meeting Lemmy was a no-no, even though it was relatively easy, him being such an approachable guy at the bar.  Over the years, I’ve been to countless festivals where Motorhead were on the bill.  Every time I found someone else to see, to the point where it’s become a standing joke.  After 35 years of going to gigs, I’m still a Motorhead virgin.  I always assumed that at some point I’d accidentally run into them, they’d nick my cherry, make my ears bleed and I’d come to hours later in a dumpster, in a back alley, sore and battered, smelling of JD and coke.

That’s no longer going to happen.

lemmy heavenIt’s a week since Lemmy passed away and I find I’m still delving into his legacy.  For a bloke that I spent many years deliberately avoiding, where on occasion it would have been easier to run into him, he hasn’t half had an effect on my thoughts.  I’m sure it comes down to an uncompromising attitude and a determination to do things his way.   In an era of oh-so-safe homogenised pop bands with spray-on lego hair. waxed brow lines and perfectly managed, sugar-coated content-free interviews, he stands out a mile.  He had character; he lived a dozen lives in one lifetime; he was surrounded by a gang of loyal die-hard fans who he regarded as his family.  He had no time for political niceties, he told it as it was.  Coming from a Northern fishing town, I grew up with people like this: grizzled, hard drinking fishermen, all with tales to tell.  That industry is dead now, the characters long gone.  They don’t make real men like that any more, except maybe in Alaska and Siberia.  Lemmy was cast in a day when the rock and roll foundry made them one at a time, with rough edges intact.  Today, they mass produce acts using cookie cutters and a strict formula.

In closing, I’m reminded of the film/documentary ‘Lemmy’, where one of the interviewees states: “When the nuclear holocaust comes, all that will be left will be cockroaches and Lemmy.”  Sadly, he was wrong.  Like many others, I’m still in shock.  I thought Lemmy would go on forever and I’d finally get to see him perform on my 100th birthday.

RIP you rock and roll legend.

You did it your way.

 

The (In)competent Secret Society

knights_templar

I’ve been fascinated by secret societies ever since I read a book called ‘The Holy Blood & the Holy Grail’, back in the 80s.  Dan Brown took the fabric of this investigative piece of work, added a plot and called it the Da Vinci Code.  If you happen to be a fan of the secret society genre, you’ll find that the Knight’s Templars, the Freemasons and the Jesuits are pretty much responsible for everything that’s happened behind the scenes from the twelfth century onwards.  In fact, the more you read, the more brain knots you’ll end up with, as each author argues persuasively that it was their favourite society who were responsible for this or that event, and not another author’s.  Fast forward to today, and the vast array of secret organisations attempting to control the world are mind boggling, including in their number the Trilateral Committee, the Knights of Malta, Skull & Bones, Bilderberg, etc.  All of these societies are presented to the layman as totally omnipotent, in control of our lives from the day we’re born.  Occasionally, member’s lists sneak out, and lo & behold – everyone who’s anyone is a member of them all.

Before I go any further, let me state that I am not and never have been a member of any secret society, although obviously, if I was, that’s exactly what you’d expect me to say.  D’oh!  I was once a member of Round Table, but that’s: a) not a secret club, and b) a charity organisation.  What I discovered from that experience is when you throw a load of successful businessmen in a pot, add a framework for the purposes of imposing order, and stir, what comes out the other end is not necessarily as successful as its constituent parts.  This is mainly thanks to infighting and vested interests.  The same can be said of Parliament and the Senate – MPs and Senators do what is right for them and their backers, not the people who put them in power.

Back of the US one dollar bill.

Back of the US one dollar bill.

Given that this is how things work, I have to ask whether the idea of the all-seeing, all-powerful secret society that cannot be beaten and never makes a mistake is fact the truth.  Perhaps that what they want you to believe, because the truth would shatter their carefully concocted image.  Certainly, if everyone who’s anyone is a member of every society going, then their vested interests will conflict between societies, causing proceedings to grind to a halt.  Plus, the Anyones will never have any time to do any real work, because they’re so busy with their secret society schedules, they can’t fit the day job in.  Just a thought, but it’s one I like very much – the incompetent secret society that blunders its way through history, screwing up every major deal it’s involved in.  When they try to hint how powerful they are, even that continually goes wrong, with the result that they’ve never been mentioned in print for the whole of their 200 year history.

City of LondonWith most of the protagonist Vs Secret Society plots, the hero is desperately trying to outwit the bad guys and solve a mystery before their men get him.  Now flip that on its head.  What if the protagonist is a member of an incompetent secret society who find it difficult to recruit new members because no-one has ever heard of them.   The only thing they’ve been able to do is infiltrate the world of finance (City of London), and they’ve made a massive dog’s dinner of that, thanks to corruption, vested interests and plain stupidity.  This is the world in which Ferret finds himself – he is that protagonist.  And he’s had enough of taking ridiculous orders, he wants out.  What happens when one tries to leave an incompetent secret society that has a habit of handing out concrete flippers to those who want to leave?

You’ll have to read the novel to find out.

 

It’s a Wrap

Ferret in London

Ferret in London

Thirty months ago I set out to write a novel, not really having a clear idea of where to begin.  Being the sort of chap who learns best by doing, I threw myself headfirst into the task of producing a framework with major plot points.  It took six weeks to create the novel’s back story and the character arcs.  The writing commenced shortly afterwards and I proceeded at pace, adhering assiduously to the plan.  Two months in, I published some excerpts to this blog and after considering the feedback, realised that what I’d proposed was: a) far too long for a first book; and b) was not going to fly in its current form.

Rather than soldier on, I changed track, rethought the plot and cut the size down, turning one book into two.  In the process, I was forced to edit out two of my favourite scenes.  That really hurt.

The first draft took nine months nearly full time.  I spent roughly 4 days a week, 8 hours a day writing, and 2 days a week reading advice columns, character hints and other writer’s blogs.  All very useful stuff and I urge anyone who’s struggling with a first draft to do the same.  The ending was all a bit rushed, I needed to get it finished so I could go back to work.  So much was missing, so many loose ends untied.  That was June 2013.

Steady, cowboy

Steady, cowboy

Two years later and the second draft proper is finished, with the ending now complete.  One of the advice columns I read – I can’t remember who said it, or I’d post a link – but paraphrased it goes like this: think of yourself not as an author but a pilot.  The audience has climbed aboard your plane, participated in the take off, flown the flight.  If you’ve done the catering right, they’re all still aboard (apart from the ones who freaked and parachuted out early on).  Now, they’re trusting you the pilot to land the effing plane, so you better not disappoint.  In the case of Ferret, the plane has an outbreak of snakes, there’s a pair of armed terrorists aboard, food poisoning has incapacitated the flight crew, the landing gear is jammed and there’s a storm directly ahead.  Oh, lordy…

Truth be told, it’s the most fun I’ve had in years.  Well, since IBM declared me persona non grata for producing a series of films, with the participation of their top brass, which supposed the firm was run like the mafia.  They terminated my contract and tried to impound and incinerate every one of the DVDs.  Fortunately, they failed.  Anyone who know me knows that every once in a while I have to create some noise and cause trouble.  It’s a genetic trait – I blame my father for instilling in his children a healthy disrespect for the establishment and their organs of justice.  Company newsletters were my thing for a while.  Three times I went too far for the liking of management, collecting one written and one verbal warning.  Fidelity Investments took great exception to a piece about tattooing barcodes on the back of their employee’s necks and checking them in and out with a barcode reader, for security purposes.  Shortly after that I moved on to short stories published in various magazines, regarding working practices in IT, with names changed to protect the guilty.  The guilty may not have spotted themselves, but their co-workers did, which forced me to switch to a series of pen names.

All in the Edit

All in the Edit

Ferret ups the ante considerably.

Whilst it is a work of fiction, it takes many real life experiences garnered from hanging about with consultants, working in high finance and on confidential government projects.  I’ve not set out to spill any secrets, merely write a tale of how these organisations behave under the covers.  Believe me, this is a full-on cage rattler – lord knows, I’ve taken enough time to get there.

I’m now commencing the final edit, which I’m really looking forward to.  I know from making movies, that the editing studio is where those six hours of footage become 5 minutes of freaky fun.  Hard work looms, but I can’t wait to see what comes out the other end.

 

Musical Influences

music is what feelings sound likeI’m a big listener of music, always have been and if I need to escape from the world for a while it’s the headphones that I turn to.  Judging by the number of people I see on a daily basis wandering around the city, on public transport and even down the gym, I’m not alone in this pastime.  With so many people on the planet tuned into their favourite sounds, it will come as no surprise to learn that fictional characters have musical preferences too.  Let me put that another way: if you’re writing a character and they DON’T have a favourite tune or band, you’re missing a trick.

Personally, I’m a fan of singer/songwriters with a story to tell (Neil Young, Bob Dylan), symphonic rock (guitars plus keyboards and an orchestra), and plain old guitar driven rock.  In years gone by I’ve listened to practically everything from high tempo punk to stoner rock with its gyrating, sludgy bass.  Somewhere in-between comes the Seattle sound, led by Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

I find with music that certain songs act as an anchor to certain feelings, and simply playing the right song takes you back to the right head space.   Conversely, if you have a favourite song that you used to listen to with an ex, it can be too painful to listen to that track or album for years on end.

Resistance is Futile

Resistance is Futile

The Ferret Files is a mix of high finance meets secret societies meets government conspiracy; the right band to get me in the Ferret headspace is without a doubt Muse.  Matt Bellamy of Muse is a musical geek who loves a conspiracy theory, which is just perfect.  The other band I listen to a lot is Nightwish, a Finnish female fronted rock act who deserve to bigger internationally than they are.  Fantastic live.

In order to tell the story, I’ve chosen a number of characters who each have POV chapters.  When writing, it can be tricky to flip between them and get in character.  As each of them is a different person, with differing musical tastes, one of the tricks I use is anchor songs.

Ferret’s anchor song is ‘Uprising’ by Muse.  Cyrano, his drug dealing tricky best mate’s anchor song is ‘Somebody Put Something in my Drink’ by the Ramones.  Marcus, the gay government official is anything by Kylie, but specifically ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’.  Juliet, Ferret’s posh girl-gone-bad girlfriend has a thing for bad boy rockers, so it’s Guns N Roses for her, ‘You Could Be Mine’.  Damien, the confused Account Executive who wants to tread the boards, but daddy would disinherit him – he’s fond of Les Miserables.  Flamen Dialis, High Priest of Jupiter – he listens to Pink Floyd.

conflictFor me, my character’s differing musical tastes help me to feel the conflict brewing between them, and ultimately it’s conflict and conflict resolution that drives any good story.  If everyone listened to the same music and wanted the same thing – well, there’s no point in me picking up a pen.

Cyrano, for instance, with his love of fast tempo punk is never going to get along with Marcus, who’s busy secretly prancing about in feather boas.  He’s also going to have a thing or two to say to Ferret about liking safe pop/rock.  Ferret & Marcus on the other hand, they get along just fine.  Whilst Matt Bellamy of Muse isn’t a true bad boy, he is quite bonkers, so Juliet will live with this while dating Ferret, just as Ferret will live with the odd bit of G’N’R in his life.  Cyrano and Juliet: funnily enough, they’re instantly drawn to each other, and such an attraction is never going to sit well with our hero.

Have a great week.  And while you’re at it, have a think – what’s your theme song?  What single song sums up who you are, your wants and desires?  One day you’ll have to make a fabulous entry, and that’s the song that you’ll want playing.  By all means, leave a comment and let the world know what it is.  In the meantime, never underestimate the power of music to evoke powerful, positive emotions in both you and others.