Thursday, 31 December 2009

Best night of the year*

Here we are again, folks, another year flown by and a new one set to wipe the slate clean. MrsQ is working till about 1opm, so I'm off with the kids to our friends' house for a few snifters, and MrsQ will join in the fun later.

There's something fantastic about New Year's Eve, and it's long been my favourite night of the year*; it's a time for realising the true value of family and friendship, and for putting whatever crap life has thrown in your general direction behind you.

I'm quietly excited about 2010 - big plans, great opportunities - and plenty to look forward to. All the very best to those of you who kindly drop by to read my ramblings and I hope the coming year delivers everything you want it to.

Right, kids, let's party...

See you all next year!

(* a quick note - obviously, the best night of the year is my wedding anniversary, closely followed by MrsQ's birthday and the birthdays of the nippers. So NYE is now, in fact, about the fourth or fifth best night of the year. How times change...)

Monday, 28 December 2009

A look back on 2009

The thing about to-do lists is that they contain jobs that, well, have to be done. Anyone who knows me knows I like a good list. That's not to say that I'm any good at getting through them, but they sure are pretty to look at.

When 2009 arrived, I posted a list for the year on this here blog. It was ambitious, certainly. But I felt good about it. Twelve months down the line, and it makes for difficult reading; going through point by point makes me wonder what the hell I've been doing for the last year.

Have a shufty:

1. Send The Manx Giant to publisher. First draft is completed, work on second draft to start tomorrow, anticipated to be ready by January 31. Publication due for late 2009.
Done and dusted. Good start, although the time taken to complete the book had a knock-on effect on other projects, as you'll see...

2. Finishing touches to young adult novel, working title Quackenbush, polish submission package and start hitting agents. Submissions to start April/May.
Ah. Yes. Hmm, let's leave that one for now. Suffice to say, big fail.

3. Finish text for Nemesis Publishing website, and set up associated blog, which will be a warts-and-all look at getting a small publishing business off the ground from scratch. Website and blog should be up and running by mid-January.
Yes and no - the Nemesis website has been designed, but text has not been finished. Blog is up and running, although updates over the last few months have been scarce. Must do better.

4. Publish first edition of Vertigo short story anthology through Nemesis. Currently working with authors on edits for selected stories, publication due November 2009.
Close, but no cigar. The stories have been edited, the design completed (other than a few minor tweaks), and publication is set now for March/April. There was a reason/excuse for not hitting deadline - we agreed to publish a book for our local school, which celebrated its 175th anniversary, and this book was indeed finished and is now on sale (proceeds to the school). It was, however, slightly more complicated than expected, hence the delay on Vertigo.

5. Once Quackenbush is out doing the rounds, launch into next novel, the working title for which is Mr Stone. Aim is to have first draft of this completed by end of the year.
Another big fat fail. I did write a thousand or so words back in June, but Mr Stone still lurks patiently inside my brain.

6. Complete a batch of short stories and submit to magazines/anthologies/competitions. I’ve never focused on the short story format, but looking forward to the challenge.
Yeah, right. No chance. Moving swiftly on...

7. Develop script ideas – three in the melting pot, including two collaborations. Would like to have first drafts of two of the three finished by the time we’re singing Auld Lang Syne again.
Was I stoned when I devised this list? There was more chance of me getting round to clearing out the garage, which, as Mrs Q can tell you, is another constant on the house to-do list.

8. Lose two stone in weight. No, I won’t be cutting off a leg. A daunting peek at the scales on Dec 31 told me I was the heaviest I’ve ever been, period. With the big four oh just 15 months away, I want to be down to my fighting weight by April 4, 2010. Hitting 40 is going to be challenging enough for my state of mind without looking like this.
Hellfire. What was I thinking? The only good news about this is that, at last count, I'm a few pounds lighter, not to mention the fact that I have another three months before the day of reckoning.

So there you go. Not a particularly good strike rate. Yet as disappointing as the above might be, I can't be too harsh on myself. The last twelve months has seen The Manx Giant hit the shelves and the first book published over at Nemesis, while it's been a cool year for Family Q, not to mention a good and busy year over at Isle of Man Advertising & PR.

I've also been an occasional panellist on the Litopia After Dark podcast and I'm in the final throes of edting the first issue of the new Litopia ezine, Muse. So it's not as if I've been sat on my backside watching crap on TV.

Early in January I'll be posting my list for 2010, for which I will try to rein in my optimistic tendencies. Won't work, of course.

All the best for 2010 to those who stop by this blog, and here's hoping the coming year brings what we're all looking for.


Friday, 11 December 2009

In the beginning...

There's something stirring over at Litopia. Something sleek and beautifully formed...

A while back, one of the members suggested pooling our writing energy into producing an ezine, a platform where we could share ideas, advice, interviews, reviews and short fiction with others of the writerly persuasion. There has been plenty of scurrying behind the scenes in recent months, as first an editorial team was chosen, then a name for the mag, followed by design and layout and, finally, the content for issue one was drawn up.

The end result will appear at the end of January 2010, when the first issue of Muse will be distributed via email and be available for download at Litopia.

For some reason I still can't quite comprehend, the editorial team asked me to take on the role of editor for the first issue, which was a privilege I was only too keen to accept. Each Muse will have a theme running throughout, and each will contain a corner dedicated to a particular genre. It being the first issue, and it being the start of a new year, we've gone with 'beginnings' as the theme, and I've chosen crime as the genre focus.

My spare time over the next few weeks will be taken up with Christmas partying, eating turkey and editing articles for Muse, in addition to penning a few too. It promises to be a fascinating first issue - we have main interviews with Lee Child and RJ Ellory, not to mention contributions from the likes of Bernard Cornwell and MG Harris.

I had the pleasure of interviewing both Lee and RJ, and very different experiences they were - I had to phone Lee in New York and rapid fire the questions across in the space of half an hour, and with RJ we fired Q&A back and forth via email over the space of a couple of weeks. Both have some fascinating insights and views into writing and publishing, and their respective backgrounds in writing couldn't be more different.

There will be columns, articles, publishing news, reviews, cartoons and a Q&A/agony aunt column with a Stig-like mystical guru, whose identity is so closely guarded that nothing short of a £50 bribe will reveal it.

The bottom line - if you're a writer, Muse is a must. But it's not just for writers; if we do our job right, it will provide a cool insight into the publishing world for those voracious readers among you.

I'll blog more about Muse as the deadline, and publication date, approach. If you want to get on the distribution list, drop me an email at johnquirkbooks(at) and I'll do the rest.


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Indecision is getting me down. I think.

I've been feeling a bit flat over the last few days. In fact, it got so bad on Sunday night that I powered down the laptop at 9.35pm and told Mrs Q that I was off to bed. I've not seen a look on her face like that since I told her I'd mopped the bathroom floor, and that was three years ago.

I was struggling to put my finger on it, the reason for this flatness. I was tired, but that's not usually enough to cause my energy levels to shut down. At first, the only thing I could attribute it to was the fact that The Manx Giant was out in shops, and after the buzz of Saturday's book signing at the Lexicon, I was coming down from a literary-induced high.

The hole in this theory is that I have another signing this Saturday (Dec 12 - Waterstones, 1,00pm to 3.00pm if you're passing) and there's good coverage in local press and on the radio (you can have a listen to one of the pieces here - Wednesday shows, Shiaght Laa, 11 mins 45 secs in, lasts for nine minutes). So the buzz is still there.

It hung around me like a dirty big rain cloud for a few days, until it finally became clear to me on the drive into work this morning.

With the Giant done and dusted, I'm now free of writing commitments for the foreseeable future, other than the occasional freelance piece for magazines. After four years focused on first The Manx Connection and then the Giant, I can now turn my attention to the itch that will not go away - fiction. So, with a host of projects at various stages of development, you'd think I'd be ecstatic and raring to go.

If only it were that simple. The truth is, I don't know what to do, at least for now. If anything, I've got too many options and I can't see the wood for the trees. Do I jump right back in at Quackenbush, the young adult adventure, which is about 8,000 words away from completion of first draft, but the mother of all edits away from actual completion? Or do I tackle Mr Stone, the literary-fiction-turned-conspiracy-theory-thriller that I've been unable to dislodge from the back of my mind for many months? Or, do I return to the original itch - crime fiction, and a couple of starts I've made in that genre?

There are others, but those are the ones leading the torment of my poor mind. Quackenbush is the obvious answer. However, it needs such a major rewrite and edit and the thought of tackling it is, at this moment, rather terrifying. That said, the first draft is so bloody close to being finished, surely it makes sense to carry on?

Mr Stone is an intriguing idea and, in terms of pitching it to agents/publishers, could be the one to raise an eyebrow or two. Yet since I started taking writing seriously, crime has always been the genre in which I wanted to make the breakthrough. And that's not all.

If a writer is good enough, and lucky enough, to snag a deal with a publisher, the chances are they will have to continue to write in that genre; for example, if your debut novel is a dark crime story about a character with great series potential, you can be pretty sure your second - and third - book will be a dark crime story. Unless you are supremely talented with a strong followng already hanging on your every word, you won't suddenly be able to write a comedy sci-fi and expect to have it published.

So I find myself wondering what kind of books do I want to tie myself to, at least for the foreseeable. That probably all sounds very melodramatic; let's face it, the chances of selling the first manuscript is very slim, at best. And to do so before you have your second and third books (in any other genre) finished is so slim as to be barely visible.

So earlier tonight I told myself to wise up and stop being so damn precious about it. I do need to take a commercial viewpoint on all this, because at the end of the day an agent wants to read something he or she knows can be sold. But I can't beat myself up about it. I need to make a decision, and start writing. Sooner or later, I'll reach the end. And that's when the hard work really starts.

Now, about that decision...