That Difficult Fifth Novel

Having just passed the 30k mark on my work in progress, I thought I’d post an update and an excerpt. The Man Who Sold His Son is by far the most difficult book I’ve written so far. normally I sit down at my PC and just type about the movie I’m watching in my head. Aside from a little research and some plotting before hand, there’s hasn’t been a lot more to the writing process for me than that instinctive and spontaneous approach.

This book, though. It’s my difficult fifth child. The plot is more complicated and precarious than any I’ve written before, and I’m finding that for long periods I sit and take notes and make maps of plot points and events to join together and work through. getting t all straight is hard work. the actual writing comes as easily as ever, but the process of getting to the point where I’m ready to go is more complex. I’m unsure if that’s making the book a more rounded read, or just a bastard to write. time will tell.

The following excerpt comes from my upcoming fifth novel, The Man Who Sold His Son, a new addition to the Lanarkshire Strays series Due for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing, Summer 2014:

MHSHS-Lanark-strays-feet copy

Interlude 

Some years ago…

 

Garth felt an impulse rack his little body, sending another spasm of intense pain through his neurones. He felt the pain travel along his chest and down his spine. Unable to respond to it, the ten-year old merely observed as it travelled to his toes and left as quickly as it had come. He felt a pang of regret as it left him. He experienced so little of anything physically these days; these spikes of intense pain were becoming old and welcome friends. They reminded him he still existed. The only other things that tied him to the world were the voices he heard. People moving around his bed, talking, discussing him. Wondering aloud if he could hear them. He certainly couldn’t respond.

Doctors, nurses, his father; they discussed his future, or lack of it. They argued over treatment, whether to continue or if the time had come to turn off the motors and pumps that kept his lings inflating and his blood circulating. Part of him wished they would. Part of him was ready to go somewhere else. Not yet, though. He had his voice to cling to. His father’s voice.

 

I think it’s time to consider the removal of the viral particles from his spinal fluid.”

“That’s a very risky option at this stage. He’s unlikely to live through the procedure.”

“He’s not living now. This isn’t life. He hasn’t breathed alone in months. There are no detectable traces of brain activity. It’s over; it’s time to switch these machines off… With a sample of the virus, directly from his spinal fluid, we could make huge progress in understanding this virus. Maybe prevent what’s happened to Garth from happening to anyone else.”

“I still think that if we can give him more time, we should.”

“He’s been this way for eighteen months. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but Garth’s condition is unlikely to change. This is a totally unique, totally new virus we’re dealing with. It has properties we’ve never seen before in a pathogen of this type.”

“I know. I just wish there’s more we could do, other than keep him comfortable.”

“This young man’s contribution will change the lives of millions, maybe billions. This is the right thing.”

 

Garth Listened to them, smiling to himself. It’ll be over soon. At least I’ll get to help other kids. Other people. He took his mind elsewhere, to happier times, years before, when Mum was still alive. Before her illness, before dad lost himself in his work and put Garth into a boarding school. Garth watched images of his mother and father flashing across his mind’s-eye. Happy smiles, hot chocolate, racing through long grass in meadows filled with summer flowers and love. His family.

Would mum be waiting for him? Would his dad be alright alone, or would his son’s passing make him even more detached, more fixated on his business. He couldn’t know.

 

He was being moved along a corridor. The lights overhead flashed through his eyelids. Suddenly the gurney stopped and the metallic sounds of surgery began. A mask was pressed to his mouth. He tasted rubber and unfamiliar gasses. Garth focused on the voices again.

 

“How long until he goes under?”

“Seconds. He’s probably under already. If you’ve anything to say, do it now. He won’t hear you, but if you don’t, you’ll regret saying nothing to him before he’s totally gone.”

 

Garth felt a warm fluid flow over him. All pain was gone. He could move again, he could think again. He was free of the dulling effect of the morphine. He was free, period. As he moved into his mother’s arms he heard his father’s voice whispering into the ear of what used to be his body.

 

“You’re going to make me a lot of money. Goodbye, Son.”

 

————————–

 

 

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr Ennis. He’s gone.”

“Right. Get me that sample, Doctor. I’ve got work to do.”

 

The veteran surgeon pushed back his dislike for the man beside him and made the incision into Garth Ennis’ spine. Ten minutes later he watched, sickened, as the businessman’s eyes brightened when he handed him the small vial of spinal fluid.

“He could’ve had another few months, you know.”

Ennis held the vial of his son’s fluid up to the light and stared into it.

“My son’s contributed more to medicine with this sample than you have in your entire little career, Doctor. This…” Ennis held the vial up for him. “This, will change the world.”

The surgeon bored holes into Ennis with his eyes. He’d made allowances for Ennis, these last few months. He’d ignored the man’s clinical manner, his coldness towards the comatose boy. At times it had felt like he’d been protecting the boy from his own father. Since succumbing to the virus, this new virus, and slipping into his vegetative state, Garth had lain in the same bed, in the same room, in his care. Garth’s father visited every day, but said nothing to the boy. He didn’t kiss or hold him. He barely looked at the boy’s face. Gavin Ennis would just sit there for hours, tapping away at his handheld computer; working. Making plans for the genome of the virus that was killing his son.

The surgeon made excuses for Ennis’ demeanour. He knew the family history well. Ennis’ wife had died from meningitis three years back. His small business was in trouble. Having created synthetic gametes that nobody wanted, Ennis Company looked to be going into liquidation. Simply, no-one wanted to have children conceived using synthetic sperm. Ennis had expected single, career women who’d left it too late or couldn’t find a partner to jump at the chance. Or married gay couples, but there just wasn’t the interest. People had chosen to use the DNA of a stranger or relative rather than Ennis’, lab creations.

The man was on his knees. Dead wife so young, his son dying so very young. The surgeon had found plenty of reasons to excuse Ennis’ behaviour, until now. The callousness of Ennis’ actions today clawed at the surgeon’s conscience. He felt a fool for having made allowances for this man, who had effectively used his dead son for profit.

Injecting all the venom he could muster into his voice, the surgeon spat out,

“You sold out your son to get it. I hope it was worth it.”

Ennis had already turned and begun to walk towards the exit.

The surgeon headed in the opposite direction, his next task, the disposal of little Garth Ennis’ remains.

 

End of Excerpt

You can find Mark and his books (including the Lanarkshire Strays series) at Amazon UK and Amazon US

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Somebody’s Hero – Writing process and Cast List

I began work on the follow-up to Naebody’s Hero a few weeks ago.

Having now completed the planning and research phase of the new book, Somebody’s Hero, I’m moving into the writing phase. This normally lasts around 90 days for me. 90 days of writing when everyone’s asleep, during spare moments on the train, in coffee shops, during my lunch break or in the early hours.

I’ve learned to be very productive in very little time (1000 words a day is my target. I never fall below this and frequently exceed it) and to write by instinct. There’s always time to rewrite later.

I’m not the sort of writer who plans out every chapter. I have a beginning, middle and end (sort of) in mind and I take the book a chapter at a time and see where the characters go. This is the only way that I can write and helps put an unpredictability into the story as I don’t know what’s going to happen until it does.

Plenty of writers have much more detailed plans for writing their novels, using percentages and mechanisms etc, but this is the most natural way for me to write.

Here’s to 90 days of torment and fun.

Here’s an early cast list from Somebody’s Hero:

Somebody’s Hero (SH)

Dramatis Personae:

Frank McCallum Jr – Born in 1952, joined the Marines at 18 and MI5 at 21. Currently on loan to SvetlaTorrossian-Vasquez, at the American National Security Unit (NSU). In SH Frank Jr is 49 years old.

Arif Ali – Former al-Qaeda recruit, current British Intelligence asset. Born in 1983; In SH Arif is 18 years old.

Svetla Torrossian-Vasquez
– Head of NSU, an American Intelligence agency which oversees all others. In SH, Svetla is 49 years old.

Robert Hamilton – Hero. Born in 1973. In SH Rob is 28.

Frank McCallum Sr – Retired Marine and British Intelligence legend. Born in 1930, joined Marines at 17 in 1947, joined MI5 at 20. In SH Frank is 71.

Mike O’Donnell
– Born 1962, Joined the CIA at 25, joined Homeland Security at 30. In SH Mike is 39 years old.

Kim Baker – Retired head of CTA. Born 1944; In SH Kim is 57 years old.

Jack Foley – Head of CTA, Kim’s Successor in the position. In SH, Foley is 50 years old.

Naebody’s Hero is on special offer at 77p in the UK and 99c in the US until the end of April 2013.

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Music and Stories

For me, music has been a constant soundtrack to my life. Key events, loved ones, hard times and great times all have a song or album as a soundtrack. Books and movies are no exception.

Little wonder that my own debut novel was so driven and influenced by the music pof the times it’s set in and passes through.

Here are the three songs I chose for each “Act” of the book and why:

In part one I quoted Huey Lewsi and the News “The power of love” :

“Make a bad one good.

Make a wrong one right.

The power of love will keep you home at night.”

Partly because I love the track but mostly because the era that part one of Bobby’s Boy is set in is encapsulated so well in the memories that this song envokes. All the good stuff and all the bad are brought to the fore of my mind’s eye in the openeing 5 seconds of this song. The quote also evokes the love I wanted Tommy to encounter and be changed by

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NMph943tsw

The second act of the book was introduced with the quote

 

“Oh I would never give up and go home,

 beaten and broken.

 No, I don’t know who I am anymore,

But I’ll keep on chasing those rainbows.”

 

from “The Only Enemy that Ever Mattered” by the wonderful Hopeless Heroic. At this stage of the book, tommy was departing on the trip of his life, but he was every bit as much running from his past as he ws barrrelling towards his future.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eau7ojfX7_E

The last song I used was intended to show the wish to start all over again. Tommy’s been fantasising for so long, and he now lives in a world once more he wishes wasn’t real , but is. The video is a perfect fit also.

Coldplay – “The Scientist”

“Nobody said it was easy.

No-one ever said it would be this hard.

Oh, take me back to the start.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqWLpTKBFcU

Bobby’s Boy is on FREE PROMO until tomorrow

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1347132445&sr=8-2

 

 

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Nae’body’s Hero – Update

So far writing this book has been a very different experience to writing Bobby’s Boy. It was much easier having just one character’s point of view to convey.

It’s proving a challenge to effectively think like three different people; to enter the minds of my three main characters each of whom are so very different to each other and to me. So far it’s been fun stretching myself and my writing is most definitely improving with the new experience.

In many ways it’s much more fun being more than one person in type.

The main drawback at the moment is that I’m being sucked into the character’s minds a bit too much. I’m getting a bit obsessive and thinking constantly day and night about the story and the people and about moving both forward.

It’s a weird thing entering a fictional character’s mindset, thinking like they do, writing it down and then switching to two other people.

Kind of carrying three other people around in my head at the moment everywhere I go.

Good fun, despite the potential for split personality disorder.

So far I’ve introduced my three main characters and am now beginning to shape their personalities to prepare for and move them to where they meet.

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How I self published: Part 4: Marketing

Should I use Amazon’s Kindle Publishing, Smashwords, Goodreads or POD services like Lulu and Createspace?

The simple answer is to use them all, but I advise a staggered approach. Here’s my strategy for maximising exposure of my books and hopefully sales:

Before publishing my debut, full-length novel, “Bobby’s Boy”, I put together a short (100 page) non-fiction book titled “Paddy’s Daddy” (a series of short-stories linked together from related blogs which I’d written over the course of two years, detailing my fall into and recovery from severe depression) and self-published it on Amazon’s Kindle platform. I did this around two weeks before publishing my main project, and for two reasons:

Firstly, I wanted to experience the process of self-publishing on the initial platform I planned to use (Kindle). I wanted to learn the ins and outs of formatting the text, cover design, enrolling in Kindle Select, and the foibles of having a book on Amazon and (hopefully) selling.

Secondly, I wanted to use this wee project as a way of getting my name out on Amazon and hopefully gather a few positive reviews in preparation for my main book launch.

This strategy worked well for me. I shifted 450 copies of the book in one week (80% on free promo), found the book connected to others frequently (“people who bought this also” section) and was fortunate to receive 11 positive reviews for the short-story collection.
The book achieved its purpose of exposure, and is still doing modestly well. In hindsight though, I’d have left at least a month between book releases.

I also put “Paddy’s Daddy” out as a paperback using the Createspace facility. To date, not a single paperback has been sold. I’m rather glad of that as I made a hash of the inside formatting of the paperback and the cover was blurred. I learned some valuable lessons about the proper use of this site, which was the whole point. I would go through the Createspace process again for “Bobby’s Boy”, but would take more care to create the perfect interior and exterior, possibly I’d hire help for the cover. I will be replacing the paperback of “Paddy’s Daddy” in the near future with a more suitable version.

So, on to Smashwords, Goodreads, Lulu, Apple, B&N, Nook etc:

My strategy has been to use the Amazon Kindle Select free promo option (like the hoor it is) for the stipulated 90 days sentence, after which my books will both be placed on the virtual shelves of all the above outlets. Why wouldn’t I?

The way I see it is that I’ll use Amazon and its Select program for initial exposure, see out the 90 days, and then put my books in as many “shop windows” as I could find. If you want to sell books, you’ve got to make them available to every customer, on every platform, right? Why limit it to one (massive) outlet in Amazon?

I’ve got until June until my Kindle select sentence is served and between now and then I’ll be publishing “Bobby’s Boy” as a paperback using Createspace in the US, and Lulu in the UK.

(Oh, and I’ll be writing my next book, “Naebody’s Hero” too.)

Bobby’s Boy is available on Amazon now:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobbys-Boy-ebook/dp/B007SGTHVC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334825845&sr=8-1