Nearly There

DucksWhen I decided to write a novel, I had no idea it would take so damn long to get all those pesky ducks quacking from the same hymn sheet.  I started in earnest in November 2012 and now we’re in July 2016.  The Ferret Files is due for release as an e-book the first week of August 2016.

So what have I learned over this time?

  1. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  Many moons ago, I had a meeting with Micheal Jacob, who was head of the BBC’s commissioning arm for new shows ( I was trying to get a sitcom off the ground, with a bunch of pals) and he asked me in the very first pitching workshop we did what it was I really wanted to get made? Well, I thought about it, and thought about it some more. He looked at me knowingly, and said: “It’s not this show, is it?” And he was right. His advice was to find an idea that I truly believed in, then refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer. Whatever it took, believe in it, live it and make it happen.  Ferret is it. When I decided to set-to writing, I spent some time going through all my old notes dating back 15 years and rediscovered the fabulous furry Ferret.  There were a dozen one-off stories and to begin with, I tried to weave them all into one book.  Clue: it didn’t work.  So I took the best story I had and made it into the first novel.
  2. I can’t write and do a full time job.  Tried it, it doesn’t work.  The only way for me to write anything other than magazine articles, reports and short stories is to go at it full-tilt, full time.  3 years and 8 months sounds like a long time, but that’s elapsed time rather than time actually spent on the project. Broken down, Ferret has taken 42 weeks to get from idea to finished item, which I think is pretty good for a first novel. Of course, I’ve also broken the cardinal rule of being a first time author – don’t give up the day job…
  3. Get a support network.  Early on, it was Twitter and WordPress.  Then, when the manuscript had progressed sufficiently, friends and family, not forgetting the artist of the piece, Richard Argent. There was a point when I was hiding behind the illustrations, as in asking everyone what they thought of pictures rather than the text. Every writer goes through periods of self-loathing and hating the novel, it’s part of the creative process. Miraculously, whenever I was having a down period, a picture would appear, either in draft or completed form.  Knowing that someone else gets the characters was really important.  I can’t thank Richard enough for those lifts, especially as he didn’t even know I needed them.
  4. Do it for the love of Art, not the $$$. Enjoy what you do and make your finished work an expression of you. If I’d wanted to bring Ferret in cheap, I could have lost the artwork. But, I wanted to do something unique. Personally, I think the finished novel is better with the pictures – feedback will tell.  One change I made in the final draft, after talking it over a lot, was to remove the names of celebrities and replace them with text such as: ‘a well known English footballer and the ex-popstar missus’.  It’s a detective novel, go work it out. If you’re still stumped, go look at the illustrations. Russell Brand is brilliant.
  5. Find a good coffee shop. Not the Amsterdam type of coffee shop, somewhere where you can take your laptop, have a decent cup of coffee and experience life.  Remove those headphones, and watch and listen. Writing is a solitary occupation, and when you get blocked-up no amount of internal dialogue will unblock you.  It has to come from outside. Most of the situations and characters I create as an author are based on real life scenarios, either things I’ve experienced or stories people have told me. Occasionally, I borrow stories I overhear. Sometimes I borrow people. A coffee shop is a good place to start. If anyone asks you what you’re doing, tell them. At some point, you’re going to have Ferret2to talk about your work and practice makes perfect. So bat some ideas about, see what kind of feedback you get. Strangers are often far more honest than those who are close to you.

That’s it for today.  Now, where did I put my pint of Fursty Ferret?

 

What’s in the Box?

The Ferret Files

Thanks to Richard Argent over at ArgentArt, we now have a cover.  I’m very pleased with the result, which took a lot of work to get right.  It’s not what I originally had in mind, but that simply didn’t work in the real world – and besides, this is much more fun.  Richard took inspiration from Will Eisner’s work on ‘The Spirit’ comic.  The composition is spot-on, and there’s a lot going on, hidden in plain sight which relates to the novel.  You’ll have a great time decoding it all, I’m sure.

For now though, the big question is what’s in the box?

You’ll have to read The Ferret Files to find out.  Not long now, honest.  I know I’ve said that a few times over the last six months, but this time it’s true.  I had a misfire with a copy editor who didn’t perform as expected, so had to draft in a replacement, who did a much better job.  However, it’s cost me two months in wasted time to find another editor and work through all the comments.

Fingers crossed – I’m aiming to be ready for the first week of July.

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.