Back the book or the writer gets it!

I named this blog Blackwatertown after a book I was writing. Ta da! Finally, the book, Blackwatertown, is written, edited and on it’s way to publication with Unbound. But I need your help. (Yup, that’s me in the video, being held at gun point.)

Blackwatertown is a thriller set in a sleepy village on the Irish border in the 1950s – and tells what happens when a maverick cop goes looking for a killer. (More on the website.)

Unbound is a new kind of publisher. A hybrid taking the best of new approaches and traditional mainstream old-style publishing houses.

Old-style means books must pass a quality control test – are they good enough to publish? It means the finished product is professionally produced, whether in print or digital. It also means it goes into high street book shops as well as the likes of Amazon.

New-style means crowd funding. The book is good enough, but is there a market? Let’s prove it through advance sales. Once the funding target is hit, production begins (copy editing, proofing, cover design, printing, distribution.)

Iconic thriller writer Frederick Forsyth with his recent book The Fox

The book, Blackwatertown, is ready. It has some stellar reviews from readers and well known names – like Frederick Forsyth. Yes, the same fella who wrote The Day of the Jackal. That fella. It’s all on the book’s page on the publisher’s website – along with an excerpt, other reviews and details of how you can support it.

There are various ways to back it. Sharing it on social media, telling your mates, generally talking about it. All good. Pledging – an advance order in other words – for an ebook or paperback – even better. And every pledger gets their name in the book. This is where you do it
https://unbound.com/books/blackwatertown/

You can even sign up to extras like naming a character. But not the dog. Doggone it! A lovely person has already snapped up the right to name the daring dog that threatens to derail a political career at a pivotal plot point. (I do enjoy a little alliteration.)

So, for all of you who’ve urged me in the past to get on with it – I have. Or promised to support/pledge/buy it – now you can. Please do. And thanks for all the encouragement over the years gone by.

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Filed under art, blackwatertown, history, My Writing

Graham Norton – Can celebrities write good books?

Graham Norton is on the latest We’d Like A Word podcast and radio show that I present with Stevyn Colgan. We know that celebrity sells books, but do celebrities write good books? Books worth reading? I’m thinking fiction in particular.

I’m asking because although Graham Norton is well known as a comedian, a TV chat show host and forever immortalised as Fr Noel Furlong in Father Ted, he’s also an author. Two novels – Holding and A Keeper. I’ve read both. But are they any good? (Spoiler alert: They are. Especially A Keeper.)

Martine McCutcheon – yes, her off Love Actually

And even if Graham Norton can write, (he can), what about other celebs who’ve done it. Like Martine McCutcheon, who had a terrible public hammering for her efforts, and for whom I have a soft spot myself. And fair play to her for actually writing The Mistress herself. Unlike another celeb author who, when asked if she had written her novel herself, responded: “Write it? I didn’t even read it.”

There’s a celebrity authors subsection of Irish comedians who definitely can write fiction. As well as Graham Norton, you have Sean Hughes (The Detainees) and Ardal O’Hanlon (The Talk of the Town). But anyone else?

So you’ll be wanting to hear me and Stevyn Colgan and Graham Norton chatting about his books, how he writes them, the influence of Ireland and his Mum, and how linked they are to his public comedic personna. There’s a competition too, but you have to listen to hear about it. Click on the link here, or search for We’d Like A Word wherever you listen to podcasts.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your best and worst experiences of celebrity authored fiction.

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Creeps and how to use them to your advantage

Here’s a writing tip from an expert – Scandi Noir thriller writer Will Dean. He has what he calls a “creeps book”, in which he notes down anything odd, unsettling or eerie he encounters. Each time he writes a new book, he sifts through them and sprinkles them through the narrative. It works especially well with dialogue and things seen by characters – a distinctive scarecrow that gives ones one an uneasy feeling perhaps – something to set a tone without having to spell it out.

And the same applies to anything interesting and potentially useful that you see, hear, hear of or.. smell perhaps?

But enough of me – here’s Will himself. Have a look/listen. It’s about a minute long.

You can hear more of Will Dean, me and Steve on the podcast at https://anchor.fm/wed-like-a-word/episodes/2–Will-Dean—the-author-leading-the-British-invasion-into-Scandi-Noir–Nordic-Noir-e3k730/a-acjt4q

The full podcast with Will Dean is here.

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We’d Like A Word…

We'd Like A Word - with Paul Waters and Stevyn Colgan

…about all sorts to do with authors, books, readers, editors, publishers, agents, lyricists, poets and script writers. We’d Like A Word is the title of the new fortnightly podcast and radio show I’m presenting with my mate Stevyn Colgan. Steve’s an interesting fella, ex cop, ex QI elf, ex Met Police Problem Solving Unit, cosy crime fiction writer with a wealth a odd personal anecdotes.

Our first episode is out today! The topic: Is Scandi Noir still Scandi Noir if the writer is a Brit? And the excellent star guest who is taking part in this episode is Will Dean, the author of Dark Pines and Red Snow, the first two books in the Tuva Moodyson thriller series. The books are set in the Swedish forest – which is also where Will lives in reality. He built himself a cabin in the woods with trees and moose for company.

106F1571-CD8F-4825-8C50-4E1AB0C15B29His books are gripping, atmospheric, convincing and refreshingly innovative. And he’s a very accomodating interviewee, revealing much about his technique and tricks. Watch out you don’t find yourself in his creep book.

You can hear the podcast by clicking on the link below or searching for it wherever you listen to your podcasts. (We’re also lucky enough to be broadcast on Wycombe Sound FM 106.6 in England.) You can find out more at the We’d Like A Word website or follow us on Twitter or Facebook @wedlikeaword

Your input, comments, questions or competition entries are welcome. You can email via wedlikeaword@gmail.com There’ll be a new episode every other Thursday.

We have some other great guests coming up too – Graham Norton (can celebs write good fiction?), Anthony Horowitz (giving life after death to characters once their original author is dead – James Bond, Sherlock Holmes), Adrian McKinty, Aidan Conway, Denise Mina, Brian McGilloway, Belinda Bauer, Dr Erica McAlister (The Secret Life of Flies), Eoin McNamee, David Quantick, Gerard Brennan, Alan Drew, John McCarthy, Shiulie Ghosh, Angela McMahon and many more.

We may be, ahem, a little rough around the edges to begin with, but I hope you give it a wee listen some time. (In the image link below won’t load, the Will Dean episode is here.)

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Happy Easter (especially to all gay 14 year olds)

Paris tray rotated

My fascination with Paris dates back to the map on the tray my Granny used to carry the tea pot and cups. The tray is in my kitchen now. (Manover brand. Made in France.)

Happy Easter to you. Though it might not seem that way, I’ll admit. What with attacks on people and churches and whatever I’ve missed on the news just now. Thank goodness there are positives amidst the gloom.

Some of those appalled at seeing Notre Dame go up in flames were energised to raise funds to help rebuild three less famous historically black churches, damaged in suspected arson attacks in Louisiana, USA. Here’s Ruth Jack’s fundraising page.

There was very sad news from Derry where a young investigative journalist, author and LGBT activist Lyra McKee was shot dead, seemingly by dissident Irish Republicans. She was covering a riot in the city when shots were fired towards police officers where she was standing. As Susan McKay wrote in Lyra’s memory: “Let no one dare say that she died in the cause of Irish freedom. Lyra was Irish freedom.”

Lyra McKeeLyra – you pronounce it LEE-ra by the way – was great in various ways. She left us this Letter to my 14-year-old self that she wrote in 2014, on the subject of being a gay teenager. I’ve lifted the text from the Pensive Quill blog. Here it is:

Yesterday, I tweeted a response to the hateful homophobic comments made by a Northern Irish pastor, James McConnell. Mr McConnell said: “Two lesbians living together are not a family. They are sexual perverts playing let’s pretend.”

I said: “People like Pastor McConnell made 14 year old me feel like I was better off dead, rather than deal with the shame of being gay.”

I rarely use this blog for anything other than professional work/journalism-related matters but a number of people asked me to write a blog post summarising what I said. Someone remarked that maybe some 14 year old would read it and take hope. So I decided to write a letter to my 14 year old self, 10 years later, as a 24 year old looking back. 


“Kid,

It’s going to be okay.

I know you’re not feeling that way right now. You’re sitting in school. The other kids are making fun of you. You told the wrong person you had a crush and soon, they all knew your secret. It’s horrible. They make your life hell. They laugh at you, whisper about you and call you names. It’s not nice. And you can’t ask an adult for help because if you did that, you’d have to tell them the truth and you can’t do that. They can’t ever know your secret.

Life is so hard right now. Every day, you wake up wondering who else will find out your secret and hate you.

It won’t always be like this. It’s going to get better.

In a year’s time, you’re going to join a scheme that trains people your age to be journalists. I know the careers teacher suggested that as an option and you said no, because it sounded boring and all you wanted to do was write, but go with it. For the first time in your life, you will feel like you’re good at something useful. You’ll have found your calling. You’ll meet amazing people. And when the bad times come again – FYI, your first girlfriend is not “the one” and you will screw up that History exam – it will be journalism that helps you soldier on.

In two years time, you will leave school and go to a local technical college. Don’t worry – you’re going to make friends. These will be your first real friends in semi-adulthood, the people who will answer your calls at 4 O’Clock in the morning. In the years to come, you’ll only keep in touch with Gavyn and Jonny but you’ll remember the others fondly. When you’re 17, you’ll tell them your secret and they won’t mind. It will take courage but you will do it. Gavyn will become Christian and you will fear that he will hate you but one afternoon, you’ll receive a text message saying: “This changes nothing. You’ll always be my friend.” Accept him for what he is as he has accepted you.

You’ll go to university, like you always planned to, but you’ll drop out because it reminds you of school where people were cold and you had few friends. The campus is just too big and scary. But this experience will be the making of you. You’ll be making your way in the world for the first time. Through this, you will meet the people who become your best friends. They’ll help you replace all the bad memories with good ones. For the first time in your life, you will like yourself.

Three months before your 21st birthday, you will tell Mum the secret. You will be sobbing and shaking and she will be frightened because she doesn’t know what’s wrong. Christmas will be just a couple of weeks away. You have to tell her because you’ve met someone you like and you can’t live with the guilt anymore. You can’t get the words out so she says it: “Are you gay?” And you will say, “Yes Mummy, I’m so sorry.” And instead of getting mad, she will reply “Thank God you’re not pregnant”.

You will crawl into her lap, sobbing, as she holds you and tells you that you are her little girl and how could you ever think that anything would make her love you any less? You will feel like a prisoner who has been given their freedom. You will remember all the times you pleaded with God to help you because you were so afraid and you will feel so foolish because you had nothing to worry about.

You will tell your siblings. No one will mind. Mary will hug you in the food court in Castlecourt as you eat KFC together and tell you she’s so proud of you. The others will joke about how they always knew. They will all say some variation of “I love you,” “I’m so proud of you”, “This doesn’t change a thing.”

You will feel so lucky. You watched James get thrown out of his house after coming out to his parents. You were in Michael’s house the night his Mum said she would “beat the gay out of him”. You will feel guilty for being the lucky one and getting it easy in the end, even though you went through hell to get there.

You will fall in love for the first time. You will have your heart broken for the first time and you will feel like you might die of the pain. You won’t. You will get over it.
Right now, you’re wondering if you’ll ever be “normal”. You are normal. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not going to hell. You did nothing to deserve their hate.

Life will not only get easier, it will get so much better. You will walk down the street without fear. Teenage boys you’ve never met will not throw things at you and shout names. Your friends will be the best anyone could ask for. You will be invited to parties. You will have a social life. You will be loved. People will use words like “awesome” and “cool” and “witty” to describe you and you’ll forget the times the other kids said you were “weird” and “odd” and a “lesbo”.

You will do “normal” things. You will spend time with your Mum. You will go to work and pay your bills. You will go to the cinema with your best friend every week because that’s your ritual – dinner then an action movie where things explode. You will fall in love again. You will smile every day, knowing that someone loves you as much as you love them.

Keep hanging on, kid. It’s worth it. I love you.”

 

 

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YOUR new year’s resolutions (‘cos I’m sick of setting them for myself)

From the excellent Hark! A vagrant.

From the excellent Hark! A vagrant.

In the biblical book of Matthew, we’re asked: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust/mote/speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log/beam/plank in your own eye?”

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? It’s easier. It’s always easier to give expert advice on other people’s problems than to sort out one’s own life.

Does that make me a hypocrite?

Well, according to the bible – yes. But let’s quickly skip over that and on to the part where what you’re about to read is actually gentle benevolence from which you all will benefit. So buckle up. Here is YOUR list of new year’s resolutions…

1. Feed your brain  – Subscribing to Brain Pickings – A library of cross-disciplinary interestingness and combinatorial creativity – where else will you learn about what is love or the sleep habits of great writers?

2. No limits just epiphanies – That’s a lyric from this song Best Day of My Life by American Authors.

3. Expand your musical tastes – Subscribe to the World Music blog.

4. Get more kooky clever funniness in your life from Hark! A Vagrant.

5. Or just a quick smile from I Know I Made You Smile. (And he’s got a book out too!)

Happy New Year

6. Trying looking at things differently – with the help of Variations on Normal  http://variationsonnormal.com/

7. Ask for me help – If you’re lucky you’ll get it from guys like these guys. I’ve been helping a small boy do something amazing and these guys helped a lot with the campaign…

Ramana in India

Grannymar and Fionn from Autistic and Proud and Emma and her adventures of an unfit mother and Polo in Ireland

Maxie and Laurie and Barbara by the sea in the USA

Icewolves of Europa and Life in the Slow Lane and Swazi at Chocolate is not the Only Fruit in Great Britain.

8. Make more effort to appreciate those other people who help you, who you might have temporarily forgotten. (OK, that’s aimed mainly at myself. No list is ever complete without it’s omissions. Or in other ways, no list is ever complete. Hmm… that’s sounds resonantly philosophical.)

9. Never be daunted. Something good might happen. Especially if you wait till the end.

10. Try to avoid the mother of all hangovers descending upon you – starting with tomorrow. Or more properly, tonight.

What’s that you say? Still not satisfied? Oh, you want to know what I’ll be doing Continue reading

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It was Christmas eve, babe…

Sons of the Desert - they look Christmassy, don't they?

Sons of the Desert – they look Christmassy, don’t they?

You may recognise those lyrics – they belong to what used to be one of my two favourite Christmas songs (along with the Sons of the Desert cover of Lonely This Christmas – they’re not the US country band – I saw them in a pub at the Elephant and Castle years ago).

But this past year – my new favourite Christmas song has been The Spirit of Christmas by Fynnjan – see past posts.

Well, the Christmas charts have come and gone. It’s too soon the assess Fynnjan’s impact. But I’ll tell you, oooh… next year.

In the meantime, thanks very much for your support with the Fynnjan campaign and for dropping by this blog. Best wishes to you all. Happy Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. Good times to everyone.

And here’s a lyric from Fynnjan that seems appropriate…

“…seeing the people that I love, is why Christmas is the best.”

(And a good reason to behave like it’s Christmas every day.)

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