All posts in The Suicide Tree

19th March, 2011: Pineapple for hire

Sometimes it does feel like my entire life is divided into the bits when I’m not trying to write 1,000 words, and the bits when I’m trying to write 1,000 words. I’m not complaining, exactly – this is my choice, entirely. But sometimes you need a day off.

Friday was my day off. I had day gig work to do, of course, but the sun was shining and I just chilled out.

See, already I’ve forgotten something. Friday did involve some writing-related stuff – a couple of emails to Angry Robot about character names, and I checked over my chapters and synopsis for The Suicide Tree and sent those off to the publisher. My beta readers all seemed to really dig what they read, and doing a final pass I quite enjoyed the story myself. So we’ll see what happens.

But in terms of wordcount, there was no action to report.

I did, however, read a really cool book. All My Friends Are Superheroes is short – 108 pages – and is really not even a novella, just a long short story. But it’s very sweet, very strange, and very cool. It’s romantic and funny, and I heartily recommend it to anyone whether they’re interested in superheroes or not. In fact, the superhero aspect – while adding a great deal of humour and originality – is entirely secondary. This is a love story, and a very unusual one. It’s great. Get it. Read it in an hour or less and see if you’re not smiling at the end of it.

Now, today is a writing day, and also the first day this year the weather has been good enough – and it really is a gloriousy sunny day – to get out and about and go look at something old.

One of the reasons we moved from New Zealand to the UK was to experience the rich history this country has. People who are from the UK tend to take it for granted, but that’s entirely understandable – if you’ve grown up surrounded by this kind of stuff, then obviously it’s just how it is. New Zealand does have an interesting history, but it’s on the short side, and in terms of physical objects of any age (like old houses), it’s lacking.

My wife and I are members of the National Trust, and each year try and get around as many properties as we can. Since last year we’ve moved south a little, which has opened up a whole new region of the country to us. Today was Attingham Park

…and it was awesome. I love this kind of things – huge country houses filled with history, paintings, art, furniture, taxidermy (a collection of 82 birds from South America in this case), usually set in amazing grounds which, given the size of the UK and the compression of the inhabited spaces, are vast. That’s me in the black jacket between the columns.

History is full of quirks, and discovering these is all part of the fun. Today I learnt that the pineapple which was the centrepiece of an elborate table setting in the great dining room at Attingham was, in the 18th century, hired out around the various country houses in the area whenever a banquet was held, so exotic and expensive was the fruit.

I love that. A pineapple for hire. I’m sure there’s a short story at least lurking there somewhere.

15th March, 2011: I have a book deal!

Sitting on this news has been hard work, but today’s the day.

I’ve signed a two-book deal with Angry Robot for Empire State and Seven Wonders. From the official press release:

Press Release

15th March 2011 ~ For Immediate Release

Angry Robot unveils debut author – recruited from Twitter

Those busy metal fellows at dynamic SF publishing imprint Angry Robot have pounced upon the debut novel of British-based New Zealander ADAM CHRISTOPHER.

Christopher is well-known to many at the heart of the British science fiction community through his strong presence on Twitter, under the nickname @ghostfinder. It was through reading his posts that AR first became aware of him – a lesson to other prospective authors, perhaps. In keeping with Angry Robot’s emphasis on the new channels for promoting all of its authors, he will of course continue to promote his work via Twitter.

The deal, for world rights to two novels across all formats, was done between Christopher and Angry Robot editor Lee Harris.

EMPIRE STATE is a story of superheroes, and a city divided in two. Detective Rad Bradbury picks up the trail of a murderer, only to discover that the world he has always known is a pocket universe, recently brought into existence by an explosion of phenomenal power. With a superhero on his tail he crosses into a city that bears a remarkable resemblance to his own – a city called New York. There he uncovers a deadly threat to the Empire State, and finds that the futures of both realities are at stake.

Lee Harris of Angry Robot said, “It’s always a great feeling when you find a new author – especially one with Adam’s talent. Empire State is reminiscent of China Miéville’s The City & the City – the existence of superheroes within Adam’s world serving to underline the very human struggle for survival. We’re pretty excited.”

Adam Christopher added, “I’ve been following Angry Robot ever since their mothership landed in 2009, and they quickly became one of my favourite imprints. Over the last couple of years they’ve built a brilliant list of authors and titles, and to be part of it all really is a dream come true.”

Empire State will be published in January 2012, with a second superhero-themed fantasy, Seven Wonders, to follow before the end of the year too.

:::

More information can be found at angryrobotbooks.com and Adam’s site adamchristopher.co.uk … and of course via @ghostfinder and @angryrobotbooks

Angry Robot is a new genre publisher, bringing readers the best in new SF, F and WTF?! All titles are released as paperbacks and in all major eBook formats. Distribution is through Random House (North America) and GBS (UK). Angry Robot is part of the Osprey Group.

For more information, review copies, interview and feature requests contact Mike Ramalho (mike.ramalho@angryrobotbooks.com or +44 (0) 186 581 1325).

Well, what can I say? I’m not lying when I say this is a dream come true – it really is. I have literally dreamed of getting a book deal, and I’ve been pinching myself ever since I signed the contract.

My new author photograph at the top there was once again taken by the brilliant DC Sterne. We spent an extraordinarily cold afternoon just before Christmas stalking some railway foot tunnels in Levenshulme, Manchester, which produced some excellent shots. I’m quite in awe of their skill, and they have my eternal gratitude in granting permission to use that picture. You can find DC Sterne on Twitter, and their website is here.

The news is up at Angry Robot, I have my own author page, which you can see here. Also, over at Floor-to-Ceiling books, I’ve given my first ever interview, where I talk about Empire State and a bit about the whole process from the initial contact with Angry Robot to signing the deal.

So, yesterday was a little busy, as I’m sure you can understand, but I did manage to get some words down on Hang Wire. Today I’m aiming for the 2k.

Project: Hang Wire (serial killers and superheroes in San Francisco)
Words today: 1,044
Words total: 40,070/100,000 (40%)
Total words for 2011: 72,023

The first beta-reader return of The Suicide Tree sample chapters came back as well, and I took a look at the problems and typos they spotted. I was very pleased with their response, so now I just need to wait for the rest of them to send their commnets back.

Phew. What a day!

14th March, 2011: We have normality

“I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.”

So wrote Douglas Adams in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It occurs to me that despite the first book being one of my favourite ever, ever, I’ve never actually got past book three in the series. Hmm. I think I should rectify that.

Anyway.

Routine. I love routine. I am a routine person. Me and routine get on like a house on fire. Disturbances to the routine annoy me. Returning to routine is like coming home.

Today I returned to routine: 2,000 words a day. As I said at the beginning of the year, if I can manage 2,000 words a day then everything else will flow. And I mean everything. Two thousand words a day is nearly three-quarters of a million words a year. With that kind of rate of production, you can really carve something good out.

As I type this I’ve only just done 1,044 words on Hang Wire, but that only leaves 956 to go later today. I split my writing into two sessions, as I find around 1,000 words is as much as I can comfortably write before I need to do something else.

Getting back to Hang Wire is interesting as with so long spent editing and working on other things which had rather more pressing timelines, I didn’t really remember the story that well. Or rather, I remember the story just fine (and I have an outline anyway), but I didn’t really remember what I had typed. After reading the last couple of scenes back, it was pretty clear this particular sequence wasn’t working and possibly isn’t needed at all, so I added a “to be continued” footnote and then went on with the next chapter. When it comes time to edit – and not before – I’ll encounter this sequence again and can then decide what to do with it.

I never edit while writing. Move forward, not back. And who knows, I could have spent a day fixing this sequence only to discover this time next month that the ending of the book requires something be seeded earlier in that very sequence. All that editing time will have been wasted for precisely zero progress.

Move forward, not back.

Yesterday I finished the edit of The Suicide Tree sample chapters. Overall they came to around 11,000 words, which was about 1,000 words more than when I started editing. Of course these chapters don’t quite fit the “don’t edit while you’re writing” rule, because I’m not writing any more of the book now unless it gets commissioned, and I need those sample chapters to shine. Of course, if I did write the whole book, those sample chapters may well need some tweaking at the end anyway. But that’s part of the risk.

Those chapters are out with my beta readers, and fingers-crossed I’ll be able to submit them by the end of the week.

11-13th March, 2011: Crisis on Earth One

So says the poster on my office wall, anyway (the cover of Justice League of America #21 from April 1963). Nothing quite so dramatic here, except for the fact that I haven’t blogged in two days, nor have I done anything writing-related (ie, writing, editing or planning). Remember when I said that if I don’t make a 2k day I get crotchety?

I think it’s because of the heavy week I just had – I didn’t consciously decide not to do anything, I just kinda… didn’t do anything. But, y’know, sometimes you need to recharge the batteries and reset the routine.

Today looks like another wet and grey Sunday, so the plan is to work some writing/editing schedules out. I’ve had a couple of things come up which need to take precedence soon, so need to work those into the gameplan today:

  • Need to finish editing the sample chapters of The Suicide Tree, send them out to my beta-readers, then revise as needed and submit to the publisher. I’m going to aim for Friday March 18th for that.
  • Hang Wire needs to be wrapped up – I’ve got 65k to go (ie, most of the book), and I had planned to get it finished by the end of March. This isn’t going to happen, clearly, but in theory 65k should be about 30 days. So at a quick glance on my wall planner, if I can get the first draft done before EasterCon (April 22nd), I’ll be happy.
  • Read faster. I read three books in January, one in February, and it’s now the middle of March and I’m still on book five.

That’s what I currently have on my plate, in addition to those couple of other things. Part of my planning today is to work out how those couple of other things fit. I need to think about these for a bit, so once I’ve got them programmed in, I’ll let you know.

Reading may seem less important, but actually it’s a vital part of the writing process. You have to read in order to write. I’ve noticed in the past that when my reading slows, my writing does too, and it’s never the other way around. The first month and a half of this year were very productive, and I was also whizzing through books. Then I got stuck in Firestarter, and everything else slowed down too. Firestarter has actually picked up now I’m past the first 150 pages, but I haven’t touched it much. So, finish Firestarter by the end of March. I have a house full of books to read!

So what am I waiting for? Time to jump to it!

10th March, 2011: That neverending week? Still here.

It may seem rather dull to be blogging about nothing during what has become my busiest work week in forever, but… okay, look, I’m blogging daily. Deal. Here’s a video of a dog doing the salsa.

Happy? Actually… yeah, let’s watch that again.

*ahem*

So, editing? I have managed to squeeze some in and have hit page 11 out of 36. So far, so good. I’m hoping now to have it done by/over the weekend, as I really, really need to get this sent off early next week. It’s pretty grim and odd, but I think I’ve hit the right kind of tone (ie, pretty grim and odd).

In other news… there’s a poster for Game of Thrones, the forthcoming HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series. I’ve never read the books (although I have them), but I am looking forward to this series. HBO have a reputation for producing exceptionally high quality TV shows, even if I find them a little… relentless, shall we say, after a few episodes. But here the source material is solid enough (so I am told), even though I’m not quite convinced about casting Sean Bean as Boromir Ned (the guy’s name is Ned?).

The good news is that here in the UK we get the episodes just one day after they are screened in the US (19th and 18th April, respectively). Finally, somebody gets it!

9th March, 2011: The week that never ends

And it’s only Wednesday, right? Busy busy. Busy busy is good in some parts, but bad in others. Tonight I was forced (FORCED) to eat a very amount of Chinese food and drink a pear cider (not actually perry, I don’t think). Forced, I tell you.

So there’s no blog action here, but over at EscapePod, I give a little rundown of two forthcoming British SF/genre awards. Go check it out!

Editing? On hold. This isn’t according to plan, but I did say this week would be busy. Here’s to the weekend… wait, I’ve got TWO more days to go? Oh man. On the plus side, I have managed to get a lot of writing admin stuff done, which included sorting the paperwork on another short story which I’ve just sold. I mentioned this on Twitter the other day, but I’ll have more info on that shortly.

8th March, 2011: One of those weeks

I told you I was going to be busy. This is one of those weeks where these blog posts are going to be kinda short.

The draft sample chapters of The Suicide Tree, once compiled and exported from Scrivener, come to 36 pages in MS Word. Although I’m planning on getting them edited by the end of this week, I only managed three of those pages yesterday. I’ll be attempting more today, when I get the chance, but this week the day gig has to take priority as I’ve got a number of urgent projects on.

Well, what’s one week?

But I can at least start my edit tally: 3 pages down, 30 pages and 6 days to go (assuming a finish of next Monday).

7th March, 2011: Focus

This week is going to be hellabusy, so I’m going to be brief.

Yesterday I didn’t hit 2k on The Suicide Tree, but I did finish the first draft. Hoorah! This comprises chapters 1-4 of the novel, and together with the synopsis will be sent off just as soon as the chapters get a good edit and redraft. Hopefully that’ll be the end of this week.

Project: The Suicide Tree (post-apocalyptic horror in storm-battered Louisiana)
Words today: 1,833
Words total: 10,946 (sample chapters only, no specific word limit)
Total words for 2011: 76,922

As I realised last month when I was editing Ludmila, My Love, it is foolish for me to try and do more than two things at once. I’m sure many writers are capable of true multitasking, but for me I find single-project focus works the best. The sample chapters of The Suicide Tree need to be perfect, and perfect means focus. Until those chapters are ready, The Suicide Tree is the only project I have.

6th March, 2011: I am Jack’s grinding envy

This is what I was supposed to be doing – updating the blog in the AM over coffee (or tea). For some reason it slipped my mind.

So, yesterday was a 2k day on The Suicide Tree. This project – which is just the first few sample chapters – is getting a little larger than I anticipated, but my characters have been misbehaving a little and not following the outline. Actually, that’s not true, they’re doing what they are supposed to do, but they’re talking too much and thinking too much.

What does this mean? Well, two things: that I’ve got strong characters – they’re starting to act and think on their own, which means something is working. Secondly, these sample chapters will need a bit of chopping when it comes to the redraft. This is generally always the case – it’s easier to write too much and carve out something really solid than write not enough and have to patch it up. The old clay on the wheel analogy again. I do need to get this finished, however, and soon. I’ve got about 65,000 words on Hang Wire to write by the end of the month. Also, by the looks of things, I’ve got a couple more things coming in around then that will be new to my schedule, resulting in a few other things being pushed back. This is fine though as it will allow some extra time to get the plot and outline of Night Pictures, the next book, worked out before I start on it. Note to self: find the real title of that book!

Project: The Suicide Tree (post-apocalyptic horror in storm-battered Louisiana)
Words today: 2,034
Words total: 9,113 (sample chapters only, no specific word limit)
Total words for 2011: 75,089

The other day I finished Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. I’m a big fan of the film – it’s in my top five films, easily – and have always meant to read the book. At a hair over 200 pages it’s was a nice, short read while I took a break from Firestarter by Stephen King.

Now, Fight Club is an amazing book. Amazing. In his introduction to King’s Night Shift collection, mystery writer grandmaster John D. MacDonald said “you read everything with grinding envy or a weary contempt”. He’s right, and Fight Club is one of those books that make other writers – like myself – despair. What’s the point in even trying when writers like Palahniuk have a natural talent for words which is part-genetic, part-occult science? Fight Club left me blinking at the page in surprise nearly every time I turned a leaf.

But here’s the thing. The film is better. It’s unusual, I know that. Usually adaptations, whether for TV or the cinema, are very much watered-down versions of the original. Most novels are far too long to adapt fully, resulting in something which is nothing more than an echo or afterimage of the source material. Sometimes adaptations share nothing but the name, diverging a long, long way from the source.

Short stories work better – The Mist, by King again, was made into a fine horror film in 2007. The film does differ from the original, but in this case works better – King himself even said that he liked the ending of the film more than his short story.

And so with Fight Club. Fight Club, the film, is more cohesive and satisfying, and Chuck Palahniuk agrees. As brilliant as the book is – and it is – there are parts where it doesn’t quite flow properly. Palahniuk wrote the book on 10-minute breaks at his day job, sometimes only managing a single sentence a day. While this is a terrific lesson for all writers that anyone and everyone can find the time to write (lack of time being the number one excuse for most people who say they want to write but…), this process sometimes shows up.

The film fixes this. Things which didn’t sit properly in the book were reworked for the film, and improved. Palahniuk himself is on the DVD/Blu-ray commentary along with director David Fincher and stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, and he agrees. The film is better than the book. This is particularly evident in the story’s major plot twist (which I won’t reveal here). Although I had seen the film and knew it was coming, in the book it feels very much like an anticlimax. On screen, no matter how many time I watch the film, the twist always makes my head spin. It’s all in the set-up and pacing of the reveal. In the book this is mostly absent.

Of course what you don’t get from the film is some of the breathtaking prose – some of the best bits are in the film, as part of Norton’s narration, but not all of them. This alone makes Fight Club a worthwhile read for anyone, but particularly writers.

Try it. You’ll learn something.

3rd March, 2011: The long and winding pitch

Another 2k day. As this is now the norm – should be the norm – I’ll stop harping on about it. The sample chapters for The Suicide Tree are about one-third done, I think. I just have a dramatic showdown to draft (and redraft, and redraft… I’m getting performance anxiety about this scene already, as it’s a biggie) and then it’ll be straight into an edit. The sooner I submit this pitch the better.

Project: The Suicide Tree (post-apocalyptic horror in storm-battered Louisiana)
Words today: 2,076
Words total: 7, 079 (sample chapters only, no specific word limit)
Total words for 2011: 73,055

Also today I started making notes on what will be (I think) the book I write after Hang Wire, which has the working title of Night Pictures. I’ll talk about that a bit more later this week, but suffice to say for now I’m surprised already at how complex this story is going to be.

There was some fairly big news announced yesterday – Stephen King has a new novel coming out in November this year, entitled 11/22/63. Yes, that’s the wrong date format for those of us outside the US, and interestingly his UK publisher Hodder don’t seem inclined to change it. Well, I’m sure we’ll cope. Anyway, this one is a time travel novel, and although the concept sounds very old-hat, this blurb actually sounds pretty gosh-darned hot:

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

I can’t wait for this – I think I’ll have to break my chronological publication order readthrough of King’s catalogue to read 11/22/63 when it comes out. Under the Dome was brilliant, and this is said to be another 1,000-page epic. I do find it quite amusing that while everyone was busy reading Under the Dome, and King was out on tour asking people what he should write next (either a sequel to The Shining or the next Dark Tower novel), all along he was writing another doorstop epic. He wasn’t writing it in secret, not really, but certainly only those in the know knew (if you know what I mean) about it until yesterday.

So, cool cool. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any limited editions that are released – there are both US and UK limited signed editions of Under the Dome which now cost quite a lot on ebay to get hold of, so if I’m going to get something I need to be in quick.