Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Reflecting back on 2017. Looking forward to 2018.

This time last year I was hurtling towards the end of writing THE RISEN, the final chapter of The Darkest Hand trilogy and a project which had kept me busy for the last four and a half years.
It was a project which had taken me to France, Belgium, the National Archives in Kew, the worst weekend of my life in a clifftop caravan in Weymouth, and several years off my life, not to mention sanity, sleep and too much precious time away from my wife and kids.

I've hated the books, I've loved the books, I've wrestled and fought and hugged them. They made me weep with pain and occasionally giggle with pleasure. But at the very end, when I typed that very last line and closed the book for the last time, I cried for joy and at saying goodbye to a friend who had been my constant shadow every waking minute since that trip to the trenches in 2012.

THE RISEN came out in the UK and Australia in May, published by Duckworth Overlook, thankfully to the best reviews of the series, the premier Fantasy and Science Fiction review site, Rising Shadow, calling it 'one of the best achievements in modern speculative fiction', whilst leading book blogger, Yvonne Bastian, said it was, 'one of the most amazing trilogies I have come across.'

In February, the hardback edition of THE FALLEN came out in the US and Canada, published by Overlook Press, to almost universal praise. The literary press felt it was clearly a worthy successor to the first in the series, THE DAMNED, building on the solid base laid down by that opening book, adopting a more linear and fluid format that made for a smoother and even more enticing read.
The current plan is for THE RISEN to published in the US towards the end of 2018.

RIPPED is coming in 2018
Having neglected most people for the last four years, after finishing THE RISEN I then took six months off writing almost completely, recharging and turning my attention to RIPPED, a novel I wrote back in 2014, between writing THE DAMNED and THE FALLEN. A modern day Jack the Ripper killer is on the loose in London and DCI Kate Vouch is the only one equipped with the skills to stop him. But what happens when events in her past collide with events of the present to cause her to question everything she once knew and the very people she is trying to catch? It’s a big and bold novel, full of darkness and light, Victorian squalor and modern terror.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to draw on friends in the Met Police for their insight and direction as to police procedure, naming conventions, departments and language. I’ve a big editorial job still to do on the manuscript, but it should be terrific when finished. I’m intending for it to be published in the second half of 2018.

The NEW manuscript
Over the summer I started working with my agent on the next writing project. From a list of about 45 different ideas for novels, we drew up a list of nine, with two we both really liked; a World War Two thriller set at the end of the war and a modern murder mystery set in a village remarkably like my own village. Having written about war for the last five years, and wanting to push myself as I writer, I opted for the latter idea and have been burning the midnight stuff for the last three months on it. As you read this, I am close to completing the first draft. It’s dark, unsettling and might just be the best thing I’ve ever written. It might also have me run out of my village, but we’ll worry about that when we come to it.

Still unnamed, (I seem incapable of naming books), the plan is to publish in 2019.

2018 promises to be a really exciting year for me and my writing. There are irons in some red hot fires at the moment and, with three published books behind me now, I feel that I’m starting to get the hang of being an author. But the beauty of writing is that it keeps you on your toes, keeps you guessing and keeps you learning and striving for the next perfect line, next perfect paragraph, next perfect book. I’m still a long way off from that, but maybe one day I’ll get there.

Whilst this post is to let you know what’s happened in 2017 and coming in 2018 from me, it’s also a way of saying ‘thank you’.

Thank to everyone who has supported me, encouraged me, bought my books, left reviews, told others about me and my titles, and generally been there along the way. Writing is an isolating profession but with people like you, I never feel alone.

Wishing you a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. And, of course, if you’re stuck for a Christmas present I know the perfect thing!

Monday, 20 March 2017

First part of the End Notes for The Risen

At the end of each book of The Darkest Hand trilogy, there is a brief resume of facts, thoughts and notes on resources and texts I used in the research of that particular book. For those interested, here's part of the NOTES for The Risen, which helps explain my perspective on the lead into WW1, my thoughts on the conflict and why it was such an apocalyptic event.


It hasn’t been lost on me that, by chance, I happened to write The Darkest Hand trilogy over a period of four years and five months, the same length of time over which that the conflict of World War One escalated and then raged.

That most terrible of conflicts, responsible for the deaths of, at the very least, 10,000,000 soldiers and 7,000,000 civilians, achieved no tangible benefits to mankind other than in the science of medicine. It resulted in the annihilation of an entire generation of young men, bankrupted nations, broke up countries, reshaped the contours of European countries, began the slow and ever steady decline in western religion and laid the foundations of resentment, distrust and hatred that eventually dragged the world into a second world war.

Whilst World War Two resulted in even greater slaughter on a far wider scale, one could argue, quite easily, that this conflict was a required and appropriate response to the rise of fascism from out of the disaffected melting pot of idealistic pride and anger resulting from Germany’s financial and territorial persecution after the Great War. No such excuses can be made for World War One. Its coming to be grew from the arrogant and warped ambitions of one arm of the same royal family, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, George V of Great Britain and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, all grandsons of Queen Victoria, all of whom controlled vast swathes of the world, all of whom eyed each cousin with growing suspicion and jealousy, all of whom, through industrialisation and mass production, were delivered the most monstrous killing machines ever known to man and the yearning desire the test them and their might against their kin.

Once unleashed, there was no way to hold back the tide of violence, destruction and hatred that swept across Europe, the Middle East and into Africa. The moment Germany advanced into Belgium and Russia into East Prussia, a series of events were set in motion which can only be described as apocalyptic. Millions of men, driven on by unscrupulous and arrogant leaders, implementing 19th century military tactics, whilst being armed with 20th century industrialised killing weaponry, resulted in mass murder on three fronts around Europe and on fields further away within Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. The result was utter carnage, a first world war, the largest and most terrible of conflicts in the history of mankind. A vision of hell.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

My top ten hints and tips for writing a trilogy

In my previous blog, I wrote about why you should write a trilogy. In this one, I give some tips I picked up along the way as to how you should write a trilogy. Of course, the beauty about writing is that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. So not everything on this list might ring true for you, dear reader, but certainly does and did for me whilst writing The Darkest Hand trilogy, published by Duckworth in the UK and Overlook Press in the States. And you may find that the suggestions, hints and tips work very well for when writing singular tomes, not just trilogies? I hope it’s of use.

Anyway, without further ado …

1. Start with that nugget of an idea which is truly unique
At the heart of your trilogy you need something that is unique and different, that’s never been done before, something you, as a writer, can get behind and more importantly your readers will. Your readers need to believe and share your passion to go all the way through all three books, just like you will need to writing the trilogy. If the central idea to your trilogy is just not big enough to stretch beyond a single volume, don’t try to use it write a trilogy. Filler descriptions and long meandering passages of action that go no nowhere will not make your trilogy good and very soon your readers will see that nothing in your magnum opus stacks up.

If you’re going to tackle writing a trilogy you need that big idea, something that holds up across all three books. It needs to be big enough to warrant three books dedicated to it and have enough wow and wonder to sustain the reader’s interest. The last thing they want is to be left with interest waning halfway through book two and resenting the time they have invested in your words. You want people to yearn to read the final volume, to be unable to contain themselves, barely able to wait for each volume to come out. Each part of the trilogy should ebb and flow with excitement and tension, increasing towards the final conclusion of each book. After book one, this should be ratcheted up for the second volume and again for the third. By the end of book three, you should be plunging towards a conclusion to beat all others, the reader unable to put the book down. And at its heart this original vibrant idea that no one has done before. It should act like an empowering beacon, pulling everything together.

The unique idea for my trilogy was to put werewolves into the trenches of world war one and build a world of Catholic Inquisitors hunting them. This scenario had never been done before and the inquisition gave the trilogy enough size and scope to expand and grow over the three books.

2. Be committed. Writing a trilogy takes time
Make no bones about it, writing a trilogy is hard work. It tests a writer in their plotting, characterisation, language, patience, determination and belief, not to mention energy and use of English like nothing else. In an industry where writing a novel is a huge task, writing three consecutive and interlinked books is infinitely more difficult. It’s not simply the sheer volume of words you need to produce, finding new ways of describing feelings, emotions, events and actions. It’s making sure that you write something that works as a whole piece, as well as within the individual volumes, something that is consistent in tone and feel across the entire work and that manages pace, both within each volume and across the entire piece.

Be prepared to dedicate years of your life to your trilogy. Be prepared to read, rewrite, rewrite again, and repeat, not just for one volume but for all three books. Be prepared to love and utterly believe in your manuscript, even if you absolutely despise it, because if you don’t, that hatred will come across in the writing and the chances are, unless you have an editor breathing down your neck, you’ll never finish it.

It took me four and a half years to write the Darkest Hand trilogy, and during that time I rewrote Book 1, The Damned, twice, Book 2, The Fallen, nine times, and Book 3, The Risen, five times. That’s probably close to 1,500,000 words in 54 months. Like I said, trilogies take time, love, patience, grit and most of all belief.

3. Make a plan
When I started writing The Darkest Hand trilogy, I just jumped in and went for it. I knew points A, B and Z in the plot. The final scene I wrote in my head at the very start. But everything else came together like an unveiling adventure as I wrote it. This proved invigorating, exciting and daringly reckless, but also caused me no end of trouble and lots and lots of rewrites and drafts. I’ve already mentioned the number of rewrites I had to do above. As I my agent keeps telling me, if I learn how to write books right the first time around, it’ll make things a whole lot easier.

Had I properly planned the whole piece out, it definitely would have been an easier set of books to write, if perhaps not quite as fun. Daring? Absolutely. Foolish? Most probably! Wrong? Despite the pain, the exhaustion and exasperation writing without a clear plan, I’m still not sure it was! Every writer is different. Some writers like to plan the minutiae of a story before jumping in. Some have a sketch, a rough plan. Others, like me, have a start and a finish but no idea of what comes in between. That’s me. I like to be entertained and amazed, just like the reader, when I write. It’s far more entertaining to take this approach, but when the ideas aren’t flowing and it is 3am in the morning, the entertainment drains away pretty quick.

Were I to tackle the trilogy again, or another trilogy in the future, I will definitely plan it out, scene by scene, chapter by chapter to avoid lengthy demoralising re-writes.

4. If looking for a traditional publisher, don’t write the whole thing first!
Writing your trilogy is going to take years of your life. It will ruin friendships, your health and your sanity. It will leave its mark on you. You might never fully recover. Take the advice of someone whose first idea for the trilogy was rejected out of hand when my agent first read it and changed beyond all measure when finally published. Do not write the whole manuscript before sending it to literary agents and publishers. They will be very quickly be able to tell you if your manuscript and your ideas work or not. The likelihood is that you will not be able to see anything so clearly. If they don’t like it, all that work of yours will be wasted effort. Don’t put yourself through the agony of writing something for years that doesn’t manage to get through the door.

Instead write the synopsis for each of the books, write the first ten chapters of book one and, hell, maybe even the first book. Don’t write any more. Trust me, you will thank me if ten years down the line your second trilogy is accepted after spending only six short months on your first unsuccessful trilogy - some ideas from which trickle into your second hugely successful trilogy.

There is the argument that any writing which you do is good exercise, and I agree with that. Writing is like running in that any run is worth it and has some benefit, even if it doesn’t go well. But you want to be writing the best things and the things that you love, not stuck on projects you hate.

When I approached my agent, before they signed me, I had only a synopsis of the trilogy (this changed entirely as the project developed) and the first ten chapters of book one written (these changed entirely too by the time LAW signed me six months later after working with my agent and the manuscript).

5. Learn to write everywhere
Life is busy. School clubs, social gatherings, the daily job, weekends away, travelling, weddings, funerals, bahmitzahs, birthdays, there are going to be lots of things vying for your time and pulling you out of your favourite writing chair. Quite simply you’re not going to be able to write in the same place, day in day out. And yet, to get your trilogy done, you are going to have to. 

You have to learn to adapt, to shut out the outside world and find places on the school run, the kids’ evening club sessions, the lunch break at work, where you can sit and write, sneak in an hour here, an hour there, to keep your manuscript growing.

This is not just about learning to write in public places, it’s also about learning to, as soon as that laptop is open, snap into literary gear and write.

In my time writing The Darkest Hand, particularly with the final book, I wrote in, but not limited to, trains, planes, train stations, pubs, sports clubs, night clubs, coffee shops, in the street, in hospital, in dentist waiting rooms, in supermarkets and in a farm barn.

6. Prepare your friends and family for what is about to happen
Writing a trilogy demands sacrifice, not just by you, but from your family and friends as well. They will have to sacrifice time with you in order for you write the books. They won’t see you, sometimes for long periods of time.

The rule here is if you’d rather go out with your friends or family than stay behind in your office or your bedroom and write, then give up now. Trust me, you won’t finish your book.

I’m not sure exactly how long I spent writing my trilogy. I would hate to have added up all the hours but I suspect something around 3,000 hours is not an exaggeration regarding time spent on writing and editing the books. Two months after submission, my wife and kids have pretty much accepted me back into family life.

7. Use copyreaders - who will say horrible things
Writing is an isolating experience. It’s why many of us writers like to write! The isolation gives you the opportunity to visit the parts of your mind and imagination you rarely ever visit and to discover things about yourself you never knew. Writers tend to know themselves better than most people, simply because they spent so long in their own heads!

However, spending time on your own does nothing for your sense of perspective with your writing, your quality control and whether you’re, quite literally, losing the plot. You might have an inkling as to whether the stuff you’re writing is falling short of where it needs to be, but really you need use copyreaders whose judgement you trust to read your stuff and give you their honest opinion. And by honest, I mean honest, You don’t want to use people who say only nice things. This is a waste of their time, as well as yours. You need people who will be honest with you, because only through their honesty will your writing getting better and with it your books.

I’m a firm believer in the opinion that the reader is rarely wrong. Okay, sometimes they might miss the point of why you’re going in a certain direction, misunderstand a change in theme or not notice the evolution of a character trait. But if they’ve shared the journey with your writing from the outset, they will, for the main, be valuable allies in perfecting your manuscripts.

I used a team of four copywriters whilst writing the trilogy. Not all of them stayed the course (partly because of all the insane number of exhausting rewrites!), but most stayed long enough to make sure I set off in the right direction at the beginning.

8. Give yourself a deadline
Unless you have a deadline to complete your trilogy, I don’t think you ever will finish it. I’m not saying that because I don’t think you’ll have the commitment or the dedication, dear reader. I’m saying it because if you’re not up against time constraints, and you love your novels so much, you will rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and never finish. Everything, in your view, will need tidying up and perfecting. Nothing will ever be good enough to publish.

When I wrote Book One, The Damned, I wrote it without a deadline, because, though I had an agent (half way through) I had no publisher interested. What this meant is that Book One is bigger, lusher, full of carefully, hopefully, beautifully constructed passages, lovely words and vibrant scenes. I’m immensely proud of it, but is it a better book for all this description, scene and character setting? It’s certainly a different book to Book 2, The Fallen and Book 3, The Risen. Those two books were written to a deadline, and I think it shows. I’m not saying they’re not as good. In fact, many people have said they’re much more exciting and certainly more focused. The difference is I had to get on and get those later books written, with no time to dawdle, to dream, to ponder and rewrite and then rewrite again.

A deadline makes you focus and work to complete your manuscript. A deadline makes you get it done, still allowing time to write the best book possible and then to edit it into something blistering.

9. Keep up the momentum
Writing a trilogy is a task of herculean size and effort. It’ll take supreme effort, determination and stamina to complete. It’s a marathon of words and, just like running a marathon, you’ll need to find the pace to write the whole thing and within the pace a rhythm to keep putting each foot, each word, after the next.  

To build up this rhythm, you need to get into the habit of writing every day. Ideally you should try and write at the same time every day, because your brain loves to know what’s coming and when it needs to be active. So if you can dedicate, for example, one hour on the daily train commute, one hour on the return commute and one hour between 9pm and 10pm, you’ll be well on your way.

Between books, you need to take a break, to stop, take stock, admire what you’ve achieved, refresh the brain and creative juices, before going again. If the break between books is torture, and you just want to get going again, that is great sign! Embrace it. Store up the passion and desire to write for the moment you do start again. When you do, keep going, don’t stop, because if you do you’ll loose the impetus with the books.

When I was writing the trilogy I was running a day job too. I wrote one hour every morning between 8am and 9am, one hour every lunchtime and two hours every evening. I didn’t this religiously, seven days a week. I usually took my break between books in January, but only because my hand-in for books 2 and 3 to my publisher was at Christmas.

10. Wiser after the event
Be warned. As each volume of the trilogy is completed, the subsequent volumes don’t get any easier to write! If anything the books within the trilogy get harder to write the further you get into them, with expectation, exhaustion and the searching for new ways of saying and describing things compete alongside trying to tie up all those loose story ends!

You’ll become morose and disenchanted with the whole experience at many times throughout the project, particularly if the pressure is on (because of your agent, your publisher or your own self-enforcing deadlines) to finish it as quickly as possible.

I found that at the book launches of Book 1 and Book 2 I was too filled with this feeling of dread and concern for the next book to come and how far I still had to go to really enjoy the experience of celebrating these releases. I am hoping Book 3 will be a different experience, but, after completing the final volume, it’s taken me weeks to appreciate the achievement and even now, months on after finishing writing, I’m still rather jaded by it!!

Writing a trilogy is all consuming, it never gives you a moment’s peace for all the times you’re writing it and it’ll compromise your friendships, your health and sanity. But, for all that, it’ll also be the greatest thing you’ll ever achieve!

If you’re still undaunted about writing a trilogy after reading this blog, I am delighted. Good luck and may the words flow easily across all your pages!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Why write a trilogy?

Writing a novel is not easy. Look at the number of people who have tried to write one and failed. It takes persistence, determination, belief, motivation, ideas, (lots and lots of ideas!), faith and courage, a good year of your life and a steely skin to handle all the rejection, criticism and ridicule from readers, critics and family alike.

So, considering how hard it is to write a single novel, why would anyone in their right mind want to try their hand at writing a trilogy, three interlinked books dragging the reader through a lavish set up, an intriguing middle and a jaw-dropping, heart-pounding finale?!

Well, quite simply because it’s great fun! Yes, it’s a demanding and a, at times, depressing undertaking that takes up years of your life (for me it was just over four years of my life given over to The Darkest Hand trilogy). It probably helps if you’re lacking a little in the sanity stakes (don’t worry if not, you will be by the end!) and that you love the idea of tackling projects few others would ever consider taking on or question that you could ever finish.

But there’s nothing like that sense of achievement when you’ve produced, made or done something huge, and writing a trilogy is huge. Not much comes bigger, in a literary sense, at least.

Writing a trilogy opens up a whole new side to yourself, things about you that you never realised; your ability to manage thousands of facts, juggle timelines, organise teams of bit part actors, ‘become’ your main characters in thought and voice, and, perhaps, most importantly of all, discover that you do have the talent, the patience and the strength to stay the course and finish your epic work.

You learn so much about yourself when you write a trilogy and, if you do manage to finish it, you’ll admire yourself more than you ever did before (the hating yourself phase will pass over time) and find you walk just a little taller amongst your peers.

Remember: many try to write a novel and fail. Even fewer consider a trilogy and of those who do take on the task, only a tiny percentage of those finish it.

Write a trilogy, and you’re in an elite exclusive group of writers within the whole of the world.

But writing a trilogy is much more about discovering about yourself and what you can achieve. It’s about discovering a world, YOUR world, the one that you’ve created exactly as you want it. Trilogies are about world building. With a novel, you become a sculptor of a story, but with a trilogy, you become a god!

In a standard novel, you have anything between 80,000 and 120,000 words to tell your tale. It’s enough to tell a good story, but there’s only so much you can say within that number of words. The pages, paragraphs and lines have to focus on the characters, the predicaments within which they find themselves and what they do to get themselves out of them.

Now, give yourself 500,000 words and suddenly you have the scope and opportunity to go big, bigger than anything you can fit in a single slim volume, big enough to explore every aspect your world, the places, the cities, the climate, the ecosystems, the different people, races, trade agreements, wars, fragile peace treaties, past atrocities and bitter crimes against whole countries, heaven or even hell. The world, quite literally, is your oyster.

Take, for example, The Hobbit. It is a magnificent story, but very focused on a single adventure. ‘There and back again’ it was co-named (with the title The Hobbit), and that’s because that’s exactly what it told the reader. A story about going to one place, and coming back again from it.

But The Lord of the Rings, that is an entirely different proposition. ’N (for Necromancer) is not child’s play,’ as Tolkien himself said when it was done. The trilogy gave him the time, the words and the pages to allow him to bring his entire world to life in the minds of his readers, a world that was as huge and as rich our own real world. As a result, LOTR is something far richer, far deeper, darker, more terrifying and wondrous than The Hobbit, far more epic than a single novel could ever be.

This ‘space’ to write, this opportunity to reach beyond the confines of a precise story, is a huge honour and privilege that only a few writers choose to take on. It’s not easy. It might well be the hardest thing you’ll ever attempt to do (it was for me), but once done, when you sit back with your cup of tea (or something stronger) and toast your achievement, that feeling is quite unlike anything else.

In the next blog, I will talk about ‘What I’ve learned by writing a trilogy’, complete with hints and tips as to how to approach, write and complete a whole trilogy.

If interested in reading my work, my trilogy is called The Darkest Hand, published by Duckworth Overlook (in the UK and Australia) and Overlook Press (in the US and Canada). The Damned (book 1) and The Fallen (book 2) are available now in the UK from all the usual places and all good bookshops, whilst the third final part, The Risen is released in May. The Fallen is released in the US and Canada in February 2017.

You can also download the free novella prequel to the trilogy, The Hunted from Amazon and iBooks.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

What’s next in 2017, and beyond, for me and my writing?

So, The Risen, the third part in The Darkest Hand trilogy, is written! It's with my editor at Duckworth who's editing the manuscript and, once done, we'll then work together over the next couple of months to tighten everything up.

But when it's finished and sent to print, is this the end of the road for Tacit and the Catholic Inquisition? Well, never say never. I’ve loved him and Isabella, and all the other characters within their lives, and have felt very honoured to have been allowed into their world. But after living, breathing, fighting and feasting with the unruly lot for over four years, I’ve rather had enough of their company. When I finished ‘The Risen’, I was exhausted, wrung out, ground down at my desk.

It’s time for a long break ...

Three weeks on from finishing I’ve really enjoyed not having to get up early to write, enjoyed not feeling guilty when I’m doing something other than writing, loved reacquainting myself with family and friends, delighted in saying ‘yes’ to every social invite I’m still offered.

For all that, this is most definitely not the end of the line for my writing. I have ideas for other books (none of them related to The Darkest Hand, I hasten to add) and two of them I think are definitely worth pursuing.

I also have another novel already written. Entitled ‘Ripped’, I wrote it between 'The Damned' and 'The Fallen' in 2014 and it quite possibly might be the best thing I’ve done. It’s a modern day Jack the Ripper copy-cat killer thriller, but one with a lot of heart (not just those removed by the serial murderer) and one which asks, and maybe tries to answer, some of the bigger questions of life; who are we, why are we here and where are we going?

I will probably return to ‘Ripped’ next, whilst making final editorial amends to ‘The Risen’, and then plan to start work on my next book in the summer. Whatever the new novel turns out to be, it will most definitely assuredly not be another trilogy or have a werewolf in sight!

'The Risen', the last in The Darkest Hand trilogy, is written, and other bits of New Year news

Yes, it's true! ‘The Risen’, the final instalment of ‘The Darkest Hand’ trilogy is written!  It’s been an epic four year journey, which began in the market square of Arras, France, at the end of October 2012 and ended on Sunday December 18th 2016 in my little office in the middle of Wiltshire.
It’s taken me from the killing fields of Belgium and France, around the world a couple of times, into Hell and the violent logic of Inquisitors. I’ve witnessed first hand the terror of the soldiers of the Great War, the claws and jaws of werewolves and the corruption that power brings.
And I’ve survived, if not quite completely intact - my eyes have blown (I now have to wear to glasses), I have a stoop from the thousands of hours spent writing the many manuscript revisions and a lump on my spine from bad posture, my belly has expanded, contracted and expanded again after years of self-inflicted abuse looking for inspiration and creative release, and sanity has been stretched perhaps once too often to ever return entirely back to where it should be.
The second in the series, ‘The Fallen’, took me 16 months and 9 rewrites to complete, and I thought that was hard work. But it turned out to be a walk in the park compared to the complexity, depth and twisting machinations that eventually became ‘The Risen’. But the most important thing is it’s written! The one thing I wanted to achieve in my life, to write and publish a fantasy trilogy, is almost done.
I’m immensely proud of the final volume. It’s suitably epic, it’s hopefully satisfying to read and it should shock and entertain in equal measure.
It comes out in May this year in the UK and Australia, and the US and Canada in 2018.
So the Great War and The Darkest Hand trilogy all started in Sarajevo in 1914. ‘The Hunted’ is the prequel to the trilogy and documents events on that fateful day at the start of the war. It’s also readers’ first introduction to Inquisitor Poldek Tacit and the Catholic Inquisition.

Since its release, ‘The Hunted’ has been downloaded several thousand times by UK and Australian readers and has been an iBooks No. 1 bestseller. I am delighted to announce to my US readers that it is now available to download for FREE on iBooks and at in the States!
Happy New Year!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

10 things I learnt about myself by getting published, and things I would have liked to have known before I was

I got lucky.

The journey from starting my manuscript to getting it published was remarkably short. Two short years. And I do mean it when I say 'lucky' because luck plays a huge part in getting published. Of course, you need more than just plain old 'luck' to have a publisher pick you out from the millions also trying to get spotted. You need to be able write, and write well, but 'writing well' can mean far more than putting good words down on paper. It means being smart about the way you go about writing, about pacing yourself, how you know when to continue with a manuscript and when to change tack, as well as how to approach agents and publishers.

My debut novel, The Damned, came out in May 2015 (UK and OZ) with Duckworth Overlook, and will be published in the US and Canada in May this year with Overlook Press. It made it into the Book Depository's list of 'Best Books of 2015'.

In my time as an unpublished and then published writer, I've met a number of published authors and they're all completely different. None of them fit the same mould, other than it's clear they've been tested in some way by the experience of getting published and its left its mark upon them. It's also clear that they possess that vein of iron determination and grit about them. They've fought for, and they've survived the experience of, getting published.

I'm not sure if, like them, I carry this mark of getting published, an ambition I'd held since I was eight. But there are things I have learnt about myself that I never knew since writing and there are things I would have liked to have known before I had begun.

So here's a list of 10 for you, budding author, of what I've learnt in my journey so far;

1. Your first, second, and possibly third, manuscript will be rubbish
When I first started writing 'sincerely' I spent four years slogging away on my frankly ludicrous first manuscript that was to be 'my masterpiece'. Consisting of two towers and a band of dwarves (you can immediately see the problem here), I worked on this monstrosity for more hours than I care to remember, caressing every page, every line. It wasn't a total waste of time, because it helped me to begin to find my writing voice and proved to me that I loved sitting on my own in a chair writing for hours, days and weeks on end. However, I know I would have been far better setting myself shorter writing challenges and seeing where my direction best lay, rather persevering with my Tolkien-ripoff. Also, don't worry about finishing your first novel until you know it's something you genuinely want to put your name to. Writing, at the start, is about finding your edge, your voice, your love. The Damned was the first novel I ever completed.

2. Write your manuscript quickly, then rewrite it
In the early days I wrote and rewrote every page until I was utterly delighted by it, until it was, in my warped opinion, perfect. Then I moved on to the next page or scene, did the same, then the next, etc etc and so forth. What a ridiculous way of writing a novel! Writing is like art. When an artist sits down to paint, they don't work up in precise detail one part, then move on to the next. The five year old child at pre-school does this. The artist roughly sketchs out the piece, then they get in the tones, then initial colours, building up and up until the piece is finished. Writing is exactly the same. Write your first manuscript lean, get it mapped out, and then go back and rewrite over the bones.

3. Write every day
Whilst it took just two years to get published with The Damned, from first writing it to seeing it on the shelves, the journey to this point took me twenty years and over a million words. Writing is rarely something which hits like a bolt from the blue and empowers the writer to produce award winning prose from the start. It's like any skill, you have to work at it and a lot of this time feels soulless and pointless. But like elite athletes, you need to put in the shift if you're going to shift any units. I didn't write everyday. In fact, there were long periods of my life when I stopped writing completely. The longing and the ideas never went away, but I just, frankly, couldn't be arsed to write - and I regret this now. Would I have managed to get published sooner? Possibly, although see point 10. However, writing is a joy and I know I missed out on a lot of ideas and fun by not writing when I was doing something else. Which leads neatly on to…

4. If you'd rather do something else than write, give up and do something else
If you'd rather be out having fun than sitting at your desk and writing, give up and go and be amongst your friends and family. Writing is not a choice, it's a calling. Writers write, not because they have to but because they must. I felt it when I was eight years old and heard 'The Hobbit' read to me for the first time. It was like a calling. I understand why some people believe in God. It's as if a light comes on inside you, something which guides and commands - exactly the same as you feel as a writer. If you don't feel this compulsion, this drive, I suspect you won't make it - and you'll hate the journey trying to make it.

5. Be prepared for a long assault. Things don't happen quick
Someone once said to me, 'Writing a novel is like a war of attrition. You just have to be stronger than your book.' Novels take a long time to write. You should expect to put aside a year of your life to writing your novel. On top of this, you need to plan it (see point 6) and you need to research it. Once written, you then need to tout it around the agents and publishers. You might get lucky, like I did, and catch the eye quickly, or it might take years to get noticed. Whilst frustrating, if writing is your calling (see previous point), you will accept the time it all takes (begrudgingly, none the less.)

6. Embrace rejection. Love criticism
People in industry know best. You might not necessarily agree with them, but you have to listen to them and do as they suggest. You can be arrogant after your fourth bestseller. Up until then, listen and do as your agent, your editor or your published best friend mentor suggests. Don't see rejection as a bad thing. It's as much part of the industry as split infinitives and plot red herrings. Use it to guide and improve your manuscript. I've had some classic rejections. They've all been right and have helped in some way for me to become a better writer.

7. Plan your novel
The first two novels I wrote, The Damned, and a second unconnected novel straight after my first book, which might one day see the light, I wrote with no plan on paper, just a plan in my head. I got lucky (there's a theme here!). They were stories I had to write, and I knew how to write them. But luck runs out, as it did with me and Book Two of The Darkest Hand. I got myself in a pickle with it, a pickle which tormented me over and over again. The writing of the sequel took me too the edge of insanity and, at times, over it. Take the advice of a once broken man, plan your novel, and then write to this plan. It's so much easier and will allow you to concentrate on the quality of the writing, rather than on working out what's coming next - and if you're losing your mind.

8. Don't write for the money
I never set out to write for fame and fortune, so I'm glad I went into it with this knowledge already understood. But some people do write believing that they'll get published and never have to work again. The sorry truth is that only 1 in 10 published authors survives on writing alone. The average book sells 250 copies in its lifetime. It's not a business where you are likely to make any money at all. If this sounds unpleasant, scroll back to point 4 and reread. Remember, you write because you're commanded to, not because you see it as a cushy life everyone wants. It mostly likely will never be.

9. Always carry a notepad
Ideas come from the most weird of things and the most strange of times. Always have a pad at hand to jot them down. From the smallest idea, great things can grow. Writing is hard enough. Don't make it harder by trying to chase the good ideas in your head which have slipped just beyond your reach.

10. Magic happens, you just won't know when.
Magic is real. I know, because I've experienced it first hand. Sometimes you sit down and the book you're working on literally writes itself. The words come from somewhere inside you, a little magical store of them in your soul out of which they flow. Other times you can slog away and achieve nothing, and then this magical world reveals itself again and you power through. Whole parts of the Damned I read now and think, where did this come from? My second novel, I read it and think, did I really write this? I can't remember doing so! Magic. It happens. You'll never know how or when, but it happens. When it comes, harvest it, dear writer. Harvest it!

Good luck!