Don't forget - I have ten free paperbacks left.
Drop me a line on the usual channels and I'll despatch a signed paperback, free of charge, after Easter. It's a lovely looking book and so far, it's been well reviewed.
For e-book readers, I'm on Kindle Countdown on May 4th.
You can avoid the Twitter Countdownquake by getting one of these, for free :-D
Here's an extract from Shiny Coin.
Well, its an outtake, but, really, it should have gone in.
I'm kicking myself.
I have this idea, oft expressed, that readers don't want long books nowadays.
Shiny, well reviewed so far, is under 70k words, but it is actually closer to 90k in uncut form. Contemporary dramatist, Terry Tyler, who has become a good cyber friend of mine in the past two years, commented in her review that the beginning was a slow one, like many of my books.
I wasn't surprised, nor was I offended: Many people say the same thing.
I guess this is how I roll.
One of my favourite books is Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon.
That opening is so funereal it is like reading backwards, yet the ending is utterly memorable, I realised that a slow, in-depth introduction was, in that case, a fundamental investment in the climax.
I have forgotten much of the beginning of that book, written in the nineteen seventies, but I have never, ever forgotten the ending.
Because of this, and some of King's best stuff, the early stuff, Rosemary's Baby (or any Ira Levin), and Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco, and films such as The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs (a major influence on Shiny Coin) and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, I write climaxes.
That's my be all and end all.
I want to make readers remember a climax for a long, long time.
The 101 bloggers and MA lecturers tell you to put your best stuff at the beginning.
I never understood that edict. A reader should trust a writer and they have more than enough evidence nowadays, with the free preview, swift reviews, and blogs and social media, to know what they are getting when they spend their two pounds or so on an ebook.
Those of you who are into horror will, of course, remember Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man and it's astonishing, unpredictable climax. Yet, the vast majority of the book (and the film) is an introduction to that ending. Nothing much happens. But I remember I didn't mind. I trusted the writer.
I knew something big was going to happen.
Times change and so do readers, it seems.
I support work on a Creative Writing course. One session, I put up three free Amazon introductions as part of an exercise in Literary Openings.
One, a popular Indie thriller - so poorly written I would have given up long ago if that were the extent of my ability - begins in the middle of the action, mid-torture, as it were, a young boy in a modern Nazi torture scenario, a bit of an Apt Pupil rip-off by the looks of it.
I was expecting my students to laugh along with me, (which is, in itself, a cheap and nasty populist gesture), but to my astonishment, they liked it - some decent writers among them too.
I took that away with me, still astonished.
So, when I wrote Shiny I resolved to be brutal, without compromising my principles. So I have taken notice of the market, what's out there, and come the drafting stage, I was savage.
I chopped 15k words from the initial draft.
Nothing superfluous survived.
Mark Twain's famous dictum was observed as if it were a Parliamentary white paper.
This extract, placed before the appearance of Toby Gifford, the nasty villain of the piece, would have slowed the beginning down even more so it had to go.
Yet, it explained, with minimum exposition, Carol's love of the night, and the darkness, and, again, without the need for explanation, it attempts to explain her love of the Gothlife too. It's a huge metaphor, which, I reasoned, would probably have been missed.
So I binned it on draft three.
I looked at it the other night and I found myself longing for the seventies and a world where people had time and patience. It probably should have stayed in.
PS: Oh, and beware; this extract contains a mother of a run-on sentence. I love a good run-on sentence. If it was good enough for Trollope, it's bloody good enough for YOU.
PPS: Aren't you sick of staccato sentencing yet? :-D
PPPS: I mean, like, generally?
That night. A time for sleep and for peace, but I never sleep. Cannot sleep for more than an hour or two at a time. When I was a child, I slept normally and safely, my father in the next room, but that ended in my teenage years and the insomnia continues to this day.
Yes, I nap in the afternoon after the bookshop, and I can fall asleep listening to my music or reading a particularly relaxing book, but I come to life at night and have done for the past four years.
I suppose it is only to be expected, of course.
I have taken the tablets and the pills and the ointments and the alternative treatments but none worked for me and thus, I embrace the night and work with it, confront its messengers, accept their offerings.
I once stayed with a girlfriend on the Kent coast, on the estuary, within sight of the nuclear plant on the escarpment opposite those calm seas.
My friend was from a prosperous family and their house stood sentinel, detached and severed, in the middle of acres of hop fields, rows and rows of orchards growing apples and pears and grapes and figs, and at night, as I tried to sleep, failing miserably, I cast my consciousness as far as it could go, but I could hear nothing and the night outside my window was a glorious, unequalled black.
I could see nothing and hear nothing.
Not rain, nor wind, not the hooting of owls, nor the crossing of geese, nor the passing of gulls.
I experienced nothingness, the intense silence of the void. I learned that the night was something to embrace and experience and it was a thing of sheer wonder. That somnolent, endless quiet, that eerie hush of the grave.
We sleep and we miss this.
That insight was a wonderful feeling; sleep was an option, not a necessity. In Kent, I stayed up all night, by the window staring into the void, listening to its nothingness and it felt like sleep. It felt like peace in my soul. It calmed me and by the time the first cock crowed and the sun began its crimson ascent into its natural domain, I felt wonderful. I may have slept for an hour. I may not.
My consciousness was calmed and somewhere in the distance, enveloped in the black of the night outside.
I simply could not get that where I lived, in Manchester, where there is no silence.
There is nothing but life and movement and noise.
I couldn't remember if I could get it in The Fields, my home town, but imagine my delight when I did finally come home and discovered I could.
I had forgotten how peaceful it could be here, in a town of old people, a country town, a town of conformity and order over chaos, a town of early nights and parish ordnances, of expensive beds and respectful neighbours.
It felt like peace in the middle of a conflict.
These nights can be as special as those in Kent. They can be silent and dark and peaceful. Nights here are like death might be, a darkness of contemplation.
At three in the morning, on a weeknight, no cars pass by on the way to Oxmouth or Follow Field, the drivers tucked up safely in bed. It almost seems rude here to drive past midnight. Streetlights are dim and there are no midnight walkers on my street, save the odd student full of themselves as they pass, and they are soon gone.
Night rain is the best, for an insomniac like me.
I can sit, in my armchair, my recliner by the window, my dad’s old chair, and watch the rain fall and better, I can listen to it, unsullied by the sounds we humans make and which they now call pollution.
In the darkness, the rain is even more glorious as it pitter-patters on my window and some nights, it is accompanied by a magnificent wind from all points of the compass.
I have, in the conflict of a summer night, walked into the garden and stood, naked in the rain, my pale, guarded, protected body exposed to the elements, rainwater pouring from head to my varnished toes, the moonlit sky, blue and black and scarlet, the cloudburst a foreboding omen, a warning from Thor, maybe even Odin.
I have stood there and felt each raindrop touch me, the accompanying wind in my hair, tendrils stroking my face like one of the hundred lovers I have foregone this past four years since...since...
Toby, who came from a different kind of night, a rampaging night, a horror night, a night of vampires and beasts and monsters; a night so cold, I could never embrace its beauty, because what beauty there may have been was coated in fear and loathing and nothing but.