Wednesday 6 June 2018

All change!

Well, here we are at a time of transition. My first four novels have all been horror thrillers for grown-ups, and my next novel is due out in September, under the different moniker 'SA Patrick'.

It's a children's book, being published by Usborne.

When I tell people that, they tend to look puzzled. Given my love of cosmic horror, maybe they expect this:

(Thanks to my daughter for that one!)

What they're actually going to get is this:

A Darkness of Dragons. It's based in the world of the Piper of Hamelyn, and it's firmly a tale of Adventure. Horror creeps in here and there, but then that's the way it should be. What kind of adventure has nothing scary in it?

I'm not sure that 'Adventure' is counted as a book genre, but genres are tricky things. When my first book Reviver came out, I'd often be asked which genre I thought it belonged to - Horror or Crime. "Thriller," I'd suggest, but that didn't seem to count. Crossovers had to be put in their place!

Maybe there's a book equivalent of the OCEAN personality traits (you know, the Big Five traits that gives Facebook a scary insight into who you are, just because you did that stuff about what kind of pasta you love and which My Little Pony you are). I know that Adventure would be one of the traits. I'm not sure I could get it down to five, but I think it'd be easier to find agreement. And who knows, it might even prove more useful than genre.

Back to the new book, though! Publication day is only a few months off. Preview copies have been sent out into the world, and the nervous wait begins to see what people make of it. Because for a writer, that's the most terrifying part of the publishing process.

I'll sit here and chew my fingernails for a while, if I may...

Monday 25 July 2016

Will Write For Food

Writing for a living is precarious.

When you’re working full-time, the extra money that comes from selling a book seems huge. Before I took the plunge as a full-time author, I had a stable job – one I enjoyed – as a games programmer. With a stable job, you know what you’re earning; you know what you get each month; you know that it’ll keep on coming.

Every year you hope for a raise, that little salary bump which, spread over twelve months, is a pittance – but it’s a pittance that means far more than the actual amount. Because it’s extra!

Just imagine what selling a book is like! It’s bigger than any bonus you’ve ever had, sums of money that mean you can afford the luxuries like, er, paying off your credit cards, having a decent holiday, finally getting a new car, or simply having a financial cushion you’ve never enjoyed before. Selling a book – and I mean the less-than-your-annual-salary reality, rather than the buy-an-island dream – changes your life in many ways. Your hard work is rewarded. Stick on your slippers, pat yourself on the back.

Taking the leap into writing full-time turns it all on its head. The money from writing isn't a bonus any more - it's all you get. It's food, it's rent. Payment is irregular. The schedule isn’t under your control. Things you rely on get delayed. Things you hope for don’t materialise.

Everybody – agent, editor, publicist, neighbour – warned me it would be hard. When I decided to do it, I only had the courage because I knew I could get back into programming if I had to.

Since Reviver came out in 2013, I’ve had a book published each year. Not this year, though, and that makes for some difficult choices – especially as, after much to-ing and fro-ing, the movie option for Reviver wasn’t renewed.

Reviver book 3 is nearly done (for release next year) and there are other projects in the pipeline, but this business is not a speedy one.

The prospect of a proper job looms.

I know I’d enjoy a coding job, but that’s not the point. Inevitably, it will take time and energy away from my writing. I’ve had the opportunity to be a full-time author, and I don’t want it to stop. Not yet. Not if I can help it.

You see, everyone told me how hard it would be, but I hadn’t quite expected to love it so much. I'll write for food, for as long as I can.

I still have a few dice left to roll. Wish me luck!

Fun with Rockets

On a brighter note, even though this year has been complicated I’ve had a few successes. One of these has come as the result of a writing incentive, a reward for hitting my daily writing quota: I allowed myself to work on another project.

What kind of project? Well, I spent 13 years as a games programmer, writing as a hobby. So there’s a certain twisted glee that, as a full-time writer, I’ve been writing a game as a hobby. Partly, I needed to make sure my coding skills hadn’t atrophied, but it turned out to be a great incentive to get the words on the page.

What kind of game? Given that all my novels have been supernatural horror, you might expect some horrible bowel-churning terror. But no.

Actually: colourful puzzle game for all ages.

It’s called Rocket Stage Boost, it’s finished, it’s free, and I’ve put it out on Google Play. (Yeah, sorry IOS folk, but I don’t have a Mac to compile it on.) There are ads, of course, but do give it a go, and naturally give it a five-star rating WHATEVER YOU THINK OF IT! (This is Google Play, after all, where anything below five stars means ‘rubbish’.) A warning, though. If like me you’re a bit OCD, you might find it a weeny bit addictive.

In a way, this game brings me full circle. Before I wrote Reviver, I’d always wanted to write a novel, and it had always evaded me. After plenty of false starts, at last I came up with something I saw through to the end.

But I’d also always wanted to create a game. It had always evaded me. And after plenty of false starts…

Monday 20 July 2015

Lost Souls, and movie news...

Yes, it's been a while since I last added to my blog. Eight months! And in that time, the final final touches were added to Reviver book 2, which is now called Lost Souls, and the cover is below:

Release dates are a little complicated, as it's being published first in paperback in the UK on August 13th, but in the US it'll be out in hardback on November 3rd. Apologies to US readers for the three-month wait, which can only be put down to the unfathomable mysteries of publishing.

What can you expect in the new book? Compulsive reading, that's what!

And what have I been doing all year? Well, I've just moved house, and we're now in beautiful Cornwall, in the early stages of recovering from the trauma that house moves always bring. Beyond that, I've been spending my time on a handful of future projects, while grappling with the novelisation of The Returned season 2. With luck and a following wind, I'll get that finished in the next few weeks, and get to work on Reviver 3.

Now, movie news! Or at least, the imminent arrival of movie news. What little I know: a new Reviver script has just been delivered, and decision time approaches. A nervous couple of weeks lies ahead... I don't know who Legendary has entrusted the job to, but good luck to 'em.

All my fingers and toes are crossed, which makes typing hard; the last time I was this stressed, it was when Reviver was being hawked around publishers. Right now, though, all I can do is wait.

Monday 24 November 2014

Reviver Book 2... finished! (ish)

I put the finishing touches to Book 2 last week, you may be glad to hear. All done!

Well. Um. Not quite, let's be honest, but it's off to the copyeditor now, meaning it'll come back with a few queries, lots of small fixes, and probably a humungous plot hole or two being flagged up.

So it's finished except for one more very precise edit and then the page proofs, meaning I only have to go through the entire novel with a fine tooth comb at least twice more.

There has to be a writing adage that if you don't think your book is among the worst ever written, then you should probably do a few more drafts, because by the time it's printed a writer (a conscientious one, anyway) will have read it a dozen times. At least. (Much of which is rereading variations of the same paragraph as you tweak and rewrite and cut and...)

I can think of only one novel I've ever read twice, and I really can't imagine reading something twelve times through choice, let alone in such a short space of time. It's a painful part of the process, believe me, but the ultimate reward gets closer at every stage.

Now that I've been a full-time writer for a year, my daughter (who has similar aspirations) asked me how I felt about it.

Being a writer, I told her, is somewhere between 'dreaming awake' and 'stabbing yourself in the eye'.

I'm sure she thought I was being my usual tongue-in-cheek self, but in the final stages of a book it feels pretty damn true.

The working title for the book was Acolyte; the actual actual title has now been chosen, but I'll hold off telling you that until there's also a cover. Publication will be late Spring or early Summer next year.

You want to know a little about it, eh? Be patient!

Right now, I have to get started on Book 3. Also, The Returned book 2 will kick off when I get the super-secret scripts for season 2 in the new year. I may not sleep much...

Friday 31 October 2014

I Scry With My Little Eye

A fun experiment for all to try!

You’re bored, right? How about a dare? How about you look into a mirror on Halloween night and say something creepy? Maybe the Lord’s Prayer backwards? Or just say 'Bloody Mary' five times?

No? What, you think you're going to see something scary? Go on. I double dare you.

See, the thing is… It works. It really does.

I tried it.

First: the science bit

Your senses can be a terrible way to judge truth. It’s hardly news, but here are some of my favourite visual illusions to illustrate just how bizarre yet compelling these illusions can be...

In this one here, keep your eye on the cross and watch as the lilac circles vanish, and all that is left is a moving green circle that IS NOT REALLY THERE.

Next one! Stare at the centre of the image and move your head closer to the screen and further away, and remind yourself that it is a static image, not an animation.

Finally, watch the middle of the spiral for 30 seconds or so, and then look at something else. Your own hand, maybe. Do not freak out. Your hand is fine.

I’m guessing someone has made Halloween-themed versions of these. (And if not WHY NOT?? Slackers!) Clearly anyone of a ridiculously credulous and superstitious nature would be exposed to some severe heebie-jeebies as a result.

But hold on! Don’t think yourself immune just because you don’t consider yourself ridiculously credulous and superstitious - after all, nobody thinks of themselves that way. Ten minutes of being locked in the dark with some unknown thing, and most of us would crumble.

Fun for all the family

So, we come to the meat of our meal: Bloody Mary, the traditional ‘game’ of looking into a mirror in a dark room and scaring the bejeezus out of yourself. In some tellings, it’s no less than the devil who will appear behind you, ready to take your soul.

How old the Bloody Mary tradition is I don’t know, but there does seem to be a clear link with mirror-divination and scrying.

The set-up is simple enough. Sit in a dimly-lit room facing a mirror. You need to be able to see the detail of your face clearly. (Candle light is traditional, and the placement of the candle behind you is suggested, but I found that I could see bugger all that way. I had it in front of me, just to one side.)

Next, look at your own face. After a reasonably short time, you will see things. And they may be terrifying. Look long enough, and hideous gargoyles and demons await you.

Sounds great! Where do I sign?

Here is the Wikipedia link for the ‘game’.

Note that one of the explanations given for the effect is Troxler’s fading, which is exactly the same mechanism as in the lilac-circles illusion (the first one linked to above). But now we're not just talking about little lilac circles - we're talking about parts of a face vanishing, and our finely-tuned facial recognition systems scream at us that we’re seeing something that is just plain wrong.

If Troxler’s fading is the best explanation (I reasoned) then the most important thing would be to fix the eyes on one spot and try not to blink. The tradition isn’t very specific about technique, but when looking at a face it's more natural for your gaze to shift from eye to eye and around the features, rather than lock onto some fixed point, making the effect unlikely to occur.

The longer you can manage to fix on one spot, though, the stronger the effect could be. Those gargoyles and demons might be within reach. So I gave it a shot…

What happened to me

No doubt about it, I came away impressed. Troxler’s fading was, I think, the key mechanism. I was very aware of parts of my vision ‘dropping out’, and of how that effect lead directly to the more unnerving aspects of the experience. Small movements of the eye away from the fixed point could break the effect at once, while rigidly fixing the gaze meant the effect came on very quickly.

But what did I see? I'll list the notable results of various attempts...

The first thing that happened was that my eyes, and the region around them, seemed to brighten. The eyes were staring, and angry.

Next came a clear aging effect, which is commonly reported; my face looked haggard. Yes, more than normal.

My nose lengthened into a hook, and the staring eyes started to scowl.

The eyes darkened, malice within them. My right eye became an empty socket. Everything else disappeared, then: a blank face, staring back, leaving just the angry eyes.

My mouth widened, stretching out as my nose hooked again.

One of the most impressive moments: both eyes became empty holes, and I beheld an eyeless corpse. And not my corpse, mind. Someone else.

The experience was rounded off by an ancient malign face staring back at me, twisted and deformed.

(Oh, and then I thought I saw a spider on the wall behind me, just as the candle went out, but ignore that.)

Overall, it was a fascinating thirty minutes. I suspect I won't do it again.

As for my soul?

Well, it was perfectly safe, and I promise I wasn’t possessed. But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

I did record my session if anyone is interested. Forgive the poor quality (low lighting is a key part of the process) and the rough-and-ready editing to remove the lengthy pauses and chop 30 minutes down to 6.

Anyway, I have to get going - things to do! The Guardian of the Abyss awaits! Hail Choronzon!

Thursday 30 October 2014

The Returned first review

The first review of my adaptation of The Returned has arrived.

" addictive read. It’s one of the most compelling novels I’ve read in a long time."

"I read it in just 24 hours, resenting any attempt to take me from it, such as work, food and sleep."

"...written by a hugely talented author who has real flare for spinning a supernatural tale. I cannot wait for Acolyte, the provisional title of the superb Reviver sequel."

"[a] truly unputdownable, jawdropping novel."

I'll take that!

So, you were wanting something to read at Halloween? Go on, buy a copy...

And don't forget, the Kindle version of The Reviver is just £1.19 at the moment, complete your Halloween experience!

Saturday 11 October 2014

The Returned

My second book has just been published: the novelisation of French hit TV show The Returned.

I really enjoyed writing this - a whole new experience, to take somebody else's baby and turn it into a novel. I worked damn hard on it, and as always I hope it's a compelling read.

I'd love to hear from those fans of the show who read it. It's a faithful adaptation, but not slavishly so, and I'll be interested to know if readers like the differences.

Now, people keep asking me when the Reviver sequel will hit the shelves, and currently it's set for this June. That's only a year later than originally planned!

But, yeah. I feel an apology is in order. OK, I did write a whole other book in the meantime, but the major rewriting on Reviver #2 took far longer than I'd expected.

I think that's a general rule of writing. I can just picture my editor's expression every time I sent her another earnest email saying 'it'll just be another two weeks! Promise!'

Sure it will. Ahem.

It's coming, though... The original title Acolyte may change, so watch this space.

Meantime: buy a copy of The Returned! If you don't, they'll put me back in the cage again.

On Sunday night I'll be in London to present an award at the London Horror Festival. I'll report back afterwards and let you know how I get on with that dreaded 'public speaking' thing.

Oh yeah, almost forgot - the Kindle price of The Reviver is £1.19 at time of writing, so now's a great time to buy a copy of that, too, if you haven't already. Cage, see? Remember the cage.