All posts in Ludmila My Love

Announcement: New book deal with Tor!

Seriously, keeping secrets just kills me. So… I’m pleased to announce I’ve signed a new book deal!

The deal is with Tor US for a new novel called Shadow’s Call, a dark space opera set on a distant, derelict space station, bathed in toxic radiation from a nearby star, where a washed-up Fleet commander must battle a sentient mechanical spider race and its sinister allies with the help of a long-dead Cosmonaut and a sexy but troubled celebrity asteroid-miner.

The deal was negotiated by Tor editor Paul Stevens and my (exceedingly kick-ass) agent, Stacia Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency, and includes North American English rights in physical and electronic formats.

Shadow’s Call is the Secret Project S I’ve been talking about recently, and long-time readers of my blog may remember this book from the original title of Ludmila, My Love.

Now, this deal is pretty cool – this is my first with one of the Big Six publishers, and it’ll be my first novel in hardcover. Shadow’s Call is due out in summer 2013 from Tor in the US. I’m excited to be working with Paul at Tor, and this clearly means I’m going to have to go back to New York for a meeting. And cake. As you do.

My thanks to Stacia Decker and to the original Ludmila beta-reading team!

Empire State delivered, more blurbs, and introducing Hell Space

Yesterday I handed in the final, copyedited manuscript of Empire State, and boy, does that feel good. I had about three weeks to take in the revisions, and I needed every day of that (bearing in mind I also hold down a day job, and a week of that was spent in Brighton!).

So there we go. Empire State, delivered. Next step is typeset and proofreading, and I should be able to see a PDF of the finished product pretty soon. The ARCs have also been printed and shipped, I believe!

Rounding off the last couple of weeks, I’ve updated the main Empire State page with three new blurbs!

“From the first explosive rat-a-tat-tat of bullets to the very last twist and turn, Empire State surely cannot be a début novel. Adam Christopher must be playing with us, as this bears all the skill and patience of an experienced master craftsman at work. The fantastical dreams of Verne and Wells mixed with the noir reality of Spillane or Chandler, this is a book that doesn’t play by the rules – and is all the better for it.”

— Tony Lee, Doctor Who comic writer and New York Times Bestselling Author.

“Adam Christopher maintains a punchy, bestseller prose style that keeps the action rocketing along, and protagonists that seem right both in their own setting, and appropriate to what we already recognise as super heroes. Empire State is an excellent, involving read, and it fully deserves to be the start of a new universe.”

— Paul Cornell, writer of Action Comics, Stormwatch and Demon Knights, and Doctor Who scriptwriter

With his debut novel, Adam Christopher creates a dark and gritty world, complete with with Prohibition-era gangsters, Tommy guns, and superheroes. Empire State is a story deeply rooted in noir tradition that hits you in the throat like a sucker punch.”

— Matthew McBride, author of Frank Sinatra in a Blender

With that all done, I took a much needed day off yesterday (the copyediting on Empire State ended with five 16-hour days, so I was a little beat), and today am due to start the edit on The Novel Formerly Known As Ludmila My Love.

Or, as it is now titled, Hell Space.

Hell Space is a horror space opera, with strange stars and ancient evils and forgotten histories. This is a project I’m really excited about, and I’ve given myself plenty of room to work on the edit.

So… time for coffee, and a fresh Word document, and it’s back into the story of Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland and the U-Star Coast City

Shazam! Or, how I handed in my next book.

That’s that done. Seven Wonders has been submitted to Angry Robot!

In the end I got it completed a week ahead of schedule, which is good timing as the edits on Empire State are due to arrive in my inbox today. I have two weeks to get through those, plus compile all the additional material for the book (acknowledgments, bonus features, etc). Once that is done, I have the rest of the year to work on my agent’s edits on The Novel Formerly Known As Ludmila My Love (seriously, I need a new temporary title for that… maybe I’ll just stick with Ludmila for now).

Three whole months might sound like a long time for revision, but I’ve blocked out this amount of time just so I have some space to get things right. Maybe the edits will only take a month, which will be great. But I’m not going to rush, and it’s nice to have that flexibility if I need it.

So just for today – until that Empire State email arrives – I’m going to relax and read a few comics, and – day gig aside – enjoy a couple of hours off.

2nd May, 2011: Pre-trip to-do list

We’re off to New Zealand for three weeks tomorrow, but I understand they have the internet out there so I’ll still be online occasionally. The blog may become a little sporadic, and there’s no way I’m organised enough to compose a month’s worth of posts and schedule them to auto-post. Besides, I’ll be wanting to post photos and stuff from the trip.

Yesterday I sent off a bunch of stuff to my agent – some revised chapters and a synopsis for a potential future project, and the revised full manuscript and synopsis for Ludmila, My Love. I pretty much met my timelines on those, which (as planned) just leaves me with one current task – finish the edit on Seven Wonders. While I don’t need to deliver this to Angry Robot until October, it still needs to go through a beta-reading period and I want to have plenty of time in hand to do the expected edits and rewrites, as well as handle anything unexpected that might crop up as I give the manuscript another pass.

I’m hoping to have that done by early June, and then once that goes off to my beta-readers I’ll be able to get onto the next projects. I’ve got two firmly in my calendar.

First is a top-to-bottom rewrite of my steampunk novel, Dark Heart. This was the first novel-length fiction I wrote, and apart from being, well, not that well written, I also made a whole heap of bad decisions regarding that book. The major problem is two-fold – not only is it first-person from the point of view of pseudo-Victorian characters, it’s epistolary in format.

First-person faux-Victorian means the whole thing is packed full of fluffery and baroque language. I remember this being very hard to write at the time, and certainly now it’s not a style I’m interested in. Having written four novels after Dark Heart, I think I’m starting to find my style and voice, and looking at Dark Heart now, it doesn’t sound right. It’s me putting on a voice and writing unnaturally – acting, almost. While some writers can do this very well – just think of the wonderful baroque style of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – it’s not my bag. The book needs to be rewritten in third-person to my own style, although keeping in mind the period detail.

Epistolary is an interesting form, where the story is told via letters, diary entries, etc – Dracula is probably the best example of the style. However, it’s very much an acquired taste and while it made sense one hundred years ago, when communication was via letter, it is less relevant – and interesting – today. So that has to go as well. The story, plot and characters of Dark Heart are good (or “crazy-awesome”, as my agent said!), so rather than just trunk the thing forever, it’ll be good to rework it.

Although I haven’t done a project like this before, I’m hoping it won’t be too traumatic – after all, I’ve essentially got the most thorough and detailed outline you could imagine: an entire manuscript. So with that in mind, I’m going to be strict and stick to a maximum of two months on that project.

Because after Dark Heart is the next new book, and one that I’m dying to get stuck into: Night Pictures. This is a story of missing people, parallel universes, television hacking and the phenomenon of street light interference. I’ve got a feeling about this book – okay, that sounds kinda wishy-washy and pretentious, but hey, it’s true. I haven’t done the outline yet but I have a stack of notes that, from today onwards, I’m going to try to add to in some form every day.

All of that – plus edits on Empire State, which are due to arrive – will probably take me to the end of the year.

Busy is good!

1st May, 2011: The wonderful world of editing

Hmm. Been slack, and no blog updates in two days. The post-EasterCon week has really thrown my routine out!

The last couple of days I’ve been focussing on getting Ludmila, My Love re-edited, polished, and out to the door – in fact, this should happen today. The final phase of editing is always the longest and the most headache-inducing, for me anyway, as it’s the time when you need to read the whole book again. Top to bottom, beginning to end, to make sure everything is okay and that the edits you’ve made all fit in properly.

I’m trying to go totally paperless now, but I made the mistake of using iBooks on my iPad to read the manuscript and make notes. As I should have remembered from Empire State, the more notes and highlights you make in iBooks, the slower iBooks becomes. By the halfway point, page turns were taking several seconds, which is ridiculous.

Fortunately Anne Lyle mentioned another app on Twitter just the other day – iAnnotate PDF, a PDF reader and mark-up app that allows you to do almost anything to a PDF, from highlighting and comments through to notes and even freestyle handwriting over the document. More importantly, it’s superfast at everything.

Best £5.99 I’ve ever spent, as it turns the iPad into a powerful editing tool. This means I am now, truly, paper-free.

And once Ludmila is out of the way today, I’ll be able to switch back to Seven Wonders.

17th April, 2011: And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

I’ve mentioned before that music plays a big part in my writing and also in my writing process itself. While I may gain inspiration of songs or lyrics (Hang Wire, The Wasp in the Lotus being two very obvious examples), I also listen to music while writing and editing.

It’s entirely appropriate then that last night and went and saw one of my favourite bands, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (I’m keeping that all in capitals because I’d get lost trying to do sentence case on their name). It was a marvellous (and very loud) show, and it was completely coincidental to (but a cool way to celebrate) the fact that I’ve just completed the bulk of the beta reader edits on Ludmila, My Love.

Most of that book was editing, you see, to …AYWKUBTTOD – in particular their new album, Tao of the Dead, and in particular particular the track Summer of all Dead Souls. See, lots of “dead” there. Quite apart from liking their music, this suited the tone of Ludmila. I warn you now: Ludmila has a lot of dead things in it.

I think when editing, selecting music that fits the mood or tone of the fiction can be of great benefit. Empire State was edited to the Inception soundtrack, which helped with tweaking certain plot twists and reveals as the music at times felt like it was really driving things forward. That’s not to say the resulting book won’t work unless the reader is listening to the same soundtrack – far from it – but it heightened my own awareness of what I wanted the feel to be, so as I was editing I was able to really focus.

Music for writing is a different kettle of fish. I know people who write to film soundtracks (like Inception, for instance), but that doesn’t work for me – a film soundtrack is designed to ellicit emotional responses and create moods. Once you have written your book and know its rhythms – the ups and downs, highs and lows, then you can try and match a film soundtrack. Inception was an ideal match for Empire State. But when writing, I a film soundtrack places all the cues in the wrong places, and brings in feelings and tone at the wrong time. When you’re writing, I don’t think that’s a good influence, because while you may have planned those ups and downs, etc, you don’t really know where they are (or why they are where they are) until you’ve actually written the thing.

But that’s just me. For writing I tend to listen to internet radio – Indie Pop Rocks on Soma FM, for instance, which plays the style of music I like but rarely anything I recognise. If I try to write to familiar music, it is too distracting.

So, back to last night. My attempt at gig photography:

Hey, it was dark. That’s my excuse.

Conrad Keely – he in black shirt playing the guitar there – is also an artist/illustrator, and is responsible for all of the bands design and artwork. Some of his exquisite pen drawings were available as numbered, signed prints. When I saw the steampunk airship diagram, I really couldn’t resist:

I mean, come on. It’s a mad steampunk airship, drawn by one of the two leads of one of my favourite bands, signed and numbered by him. That is cool. Actually, before forming a band, Conrad wanted to be a comic artist… which gets me a-pondering the artwork for Seven Wonders

14th April, 2011: Ludmila beta

I’m deep in revisions on Ludmila, My Love at the moment. I’ve found this period of tweaking – which hopefully I will get done by the end of the month – requires a totally different mindset to regular editing.

When you edit, you read and correct, read and correct, RE-read and correct, improving the work as you go. The changes from draft 0 to 1 are the most major, obviously, and from then on it is a gradual process of polishing.

The “beta edit” is different. Here you have comments, corrections and questions from a number of different people. Now you have to check each individual one, and assess them before making a decision. For typos, missing words, or other such obvious things, that’s easy. But other times the comment may be far more complex.

In this situation, several things have to be considered – has the writer (ie, me) screwed up or left something out; has the beta-reader misunderstood or misinterpreted what was written, and if so, is that their fault, or my fault? Have all the beta readers picked up on the same thing, or is it just a one person?

Through Empire State, I accepted about 50% of beta reader comments, and so far it looks to be the same for Ludmila. Of the rejected corrections/suggestions, half again are down to personal taste (where, for example, the writer and the reader disagree on specific wording of a passage), and the other half are more about misinterpretation. Misinterpretation by the reader requires careful checking, otherwise you fall into the trap of “My god, how can you NOT know what I mean?” (never a healthy position for any writer!). But of the misinterpretations that are ignored, it’s usually because the beta reader has been reading too closely and has missed cues or statements, leading to confusion later. When reading a book for pleasure, the reading is faster and cues and their reveals are read in quick succession, with no confusion. That’s just the nature of reading critically versus reading for pleasure.

Of course, when more than one beta reader spots the same problem, then something really does need fixing!

All of this make the beta edit a time consuming process. Even a single question mark on a single word can take a long time to untangle – just yesterday, in a scene which features the hero, Ida, wandering around a disused section of the space station Coast City, there was such a query about Ida hearing a sound. This took the best part of a half hour to fix, as I had to figure out where the missing cue was (and is was missing, in this case) and how to insert it without totally screwing up the structure of the scene.

But Act One is done. Three more, and 17 days, to go.

12th April, 2011: One book down and the year ahead

Well, after hammering out 4,278 words yesterday (amazing what you can do when the end is in sight), I finished draft 0 of Hang Wire. The manuscript weighs in at 90,447 words, which is 10k below target but still within the accepted 80,000 to 110,000 for science fiction. I tend to add 10,000 words at the redraft anyway, and I suspect I may add even more for this book as the theme changed halfway through, and I have a fair bit to go back and add in. That’s why this is draft 0, not draft 1. This one will go in the trunk until next year.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 4,278
Words total: 90,447/100,000 (90%, although complete)
Total words for 2011: 120,428

I also finished 10 days ahead of my self-imposed deadline, which means I won’t have the guilt of not writing anything during EasterCon.

So: yay! But I must admit I’m at a loss as to how to celebrate. Jen Williams has some thoughts over here, but as I don’t drink or smoke I may have to settle for… cake! Cake is good.

While it’s only April, the rest of this year is looking very busy already. Taking stock of projects, I have to fit in the following:

  • Revise Ludmila, My Love based on beta-reader comments, write a synopsis for it, and deliver both to my agent by April 30th. Hopefully this won’t take too much work – I’ve got all but two sets of comments in and most things are minor.
  • Edit Seven Wonders, allow a beta-reading period and further revisions, then deliver to Angry Robot by October. This deadline may be months away, but it’ll arrive sooner than I think.
  • Re-write Dark Heart and deliver to my agent ASAP. I mentioned on Twitter last night that I was contemplating a “secret project”, and this is it. Dark Heart was the first novel I wrote, and while the story is solid, the writing is less so. After chatting to Stacia about it, we agreed that the best way forward is to basically strip everything out of it bar the plot and characters, rewrite, top-to-bottom. I’ll talk about this later when I actually start work on it, but I’m feeling a lot happier about this book now I know what needs to be done.
  • Outline, write, edit, beta, correct then deliver Night Pictures by the end of the year. The timeline is still fluid on this project, which will be my next novel written. I’ve shuffled it down after Dark Heart, and it’ll be an interesting exercise to turn around a novel – including edits – so quickly. I’ll have a better feeling for this once I actually start writing it – I certainly don’t want to rush it, and it may be that this slips into 2012. We’ll see.
  • Edits/rewrites on Empire State for Angry Robot. I don’t know when these are expected, although no doubt I’ll know more after EasterCon.
  • Finish Godless by year end. Doable, considering I’m only writing half of the 100,000 words. Again, more planning will be possible after EasterCon.

And that pretty much fills my calendar up until the end of 2011. By heck, I’ve a job of work to do. But what a great job it is!

6th April, 2011: Stats and EasterCon update

Earlier today I posted my review of Firestarter, so this is just the obligatory stats post, although featuring a bonus EasterCon. Woot.

Seems the EasterCon schedule has undergone a major rejig, and of the three panels I was scheduled for, two have been cancelled. This just leaves me with Comics for Beginniners, which is on Sunday at 10am in the Earls room. It’s a shame the Social Networks panel has been cancelled – I think this would have been one of the highlights of the convention, given the growing importance of social media for writers, even since this time last year. Among other panellists, it would have been a great opportunity for me and Angry Robot editor, Lee Harris, to discuss how exactly I got a book deal via Twitter – for those who had got in touch saying how they were looking forward to hearing more about this, sorry! But please do come and find me in the bar.

Yesterday was a 2k day on Hang Wire and I also finished up a synopsis for Dark Heart, my steampunk novel, and sent that and a couple of sample chapters off to my agent. The rest of this week is going to be devoted just to Hang Wire, although if I get any downtime I’ll be making notes on the next book, Night Pictures. I’m itching to write this, and even have the first line in my head – but I shall resist starting anything until the first draft of Hang Wire is complete. I had planned to start the final run on Ludmila, My Love this week, but several of my beta-readers have asked for deadline extensions, so I’m now hoping to get that polished off by the end of April

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 2,151
Words total: 74,780/100,000 (74%)
Total words for 2011: 104,761

2nd April, 2011: March madness

So 2011 is now one-quarter gone… and what a quarter it was! To paraphrase a line from Firefly, I feel like I’ve done the impossible and achieved two dreams – to get a book deal, and to get an agent. It still feels very surreal, but I’m very grateful for the opportunities those two achievements represent. This is just the beginning of a big long adventure!

I’d been in negotiation with Angry Robot since February, but the beginning of March was when everything was made official. With Stacia taking me onboard on the very last day of that same month, March was certainly an eventful one.

During the month I also:

  • Continued work on Hang Wire
  • Wrote the synopsis and sample chapters of my post-apocalyptic horror The Suicide Tree and submitted them to a publisher
  • Had my shorty story The Walker appear in Hub magazine
  • Began working up notes on my next book, Night Pictures

So, pretty busy. But busy is good. Busy means things are happening. April looks like another packed month, although a little more relaxed, I hope. I need to:

  • Finish the first draft of Hang Wire
  • Attend EasterCon, where I’ll be on my first convention panels ever (!)
  • Prepare the final draft of Ludmila, My Love based on beta-reader critiques
  • Complete a proper outline for Night Pictures
  • Write full synopses for Ludmila, My Love and Dark Heart

I’ve also got two other things on the horizon. One is to start the final edit of Seven Wonders, which I am due to deliver to Angry Robot later this year. After that edit it needs to go through my beta-readers again like any other novel.

Secondly, as mentioned in my April list above, I’m going to unearth Dark Heart, my steampunk novel and the first full-length novel I actually wrote. This has been edited, at least in part, but the draft is still fairly rough. I’m going to get this ship-shape this year.

Yesterday I didn’t hit 2k on Hang Wire, but that was because I spent a large chunk of my writing time preparing a project status list for my agent. I’ve got a lot of material stashed away, several pieces out in the world, and a few things planned ahead, so compiling the list took a little time. But it was useful exercise for myself, as well. We’re off to New Zealand for nearly all of May, and while I’m going to try and get some writing done as usual, my writing time will be unpredictable and I’m not going to force it. I need to take that month into consideration, hence a project list is very useful in helping plan my work for this year.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words yesterday: 1,133
Words total: 66,422/100,000 (66%)
Total words for 2011: 96,403