Monday, 27 February 2012

F------ Swearing

**Warning: this post contains a couple of spoilers. Do not read it if you haven't read Sunliner yet**

**Seriously - don't read it**

I made a decision when I wrote Sunliner which I kind of expected people to comment on. No-one has...but I thought I'd explain myself anyway. It may be that no-one has questioned it because the reasons behind the choice I made were so obvious to the people who've read the book, in which case I'm wasting my time. But its my blog so I'll write whatever nonsense I want in it. :p

The decision I made was to bleep out some of the swearing. Like this: "f--- you". (not really)

I did this for two reasons:
1) The book was inspired by the pulps of the 1950s and this kind of censorship was common in them. The writers wanted to portray the gritty life of criminals and cops but the publishers or the public (I'm not sure which) weren't quite ready for it.
2) Bleeping out a lot of the swearing meant that the swearing I didn't bleep stood out. This allowed me to highlight 2 particular moments. The first was a humorous one - the moment when JJ has a gun in Curtis's mouth and is trying to get him to talk. Curtis indicates he is ready and when JJ takes the gun out says: "Fuck you JJ. Fuck you straight to hell" (I thought it was funny anyway).
The second moment is a more shocking one. the moment when Rachel reveals the truth of what JJ did to Ellie that night in '49 with the hopefully chilling line "I fucked his wife, I might as well fuck you too."

So that's that. Did it work? You tell me.


The difficult second novel - what's coming next?

So, after 20+ years of trying I've completed and published my first novel, Sunliner (you've read it right? If not go to the homepage and click on one of the links top right then come back when you've finished it). I'm still doing a lot of work publicising it but I am of course also itching to write again.
Fairly on in the writing of Sunliner I had the idea for a prequel and a sequel to the book. The concept for the prequel was that it would explore the experiences of Rachel (the lead female character, but you knew that right?) in occupied Paris during the Second World War.
I started writing this soon after finishing Sunliner but didn't get beyond a few hundred words? Why? I was concerned that the period I was writing about was a very sensitive one and as much as I wanted to tell the story I didn't have the patience to do the research required. I'm certainly not giving up on the story, it still wants to be told, by I am putting it to one side for now. After my success writing Sunliner I'm keen to write something else as quickly as I can and that means keeping the research required to a minimum.
And so I've picked another tale for my next book, it's a contemporary horror novel set in Brighton called Eat. I'm keeping the plot under wraps for now but it's going to be a more extreme tale than Sunliner, a tribute to the horror novels I lapped up as a teenager in the 80s.
Keep your eyes peeled for a preview of the first chapter coming very soon.


Eat - Chapter 1 sneak preview

"Come on, it'll be a laugh..."
Looking back later Simon wished he'd followed his gut and pushed back. Told her that no it wouldn't be a laugh. That breaking into an abandoned tower block that was probably full of rats and the stench of tramp piss wasn't his idea of a laugh at all. That he'd rather just spend Saturday in bed with her watching rubbish on the telly and drinking tea and eating cheese on toast and screwing. Saying no then would have saved a lot of pain.
But Eve smiled that smile of hers that always turned him to jelly and he knew all hope was lost. The problem he had of course was not just the smile, or even the idea of this urban adventure she was proposing to him, it was Jack. Handsome, muscled Jack with the tattoos and the winning smile and the ability to make everyone in the room look at him. Jack who Simon suspected Eve (his bloody girlfriend Eve) had a bit of a crush on. She certainly liked his company and laughed at all his jokes (a bit too much in Simon's opinion) and seemed very keen for them to go out with him today.
This whole stupid fucking expedition was Jack's idea and that was what annoyed him about it. The idea of exploring an abandoned building was bad enough but the idea of doing it with the man who annoyed him more than any other man in the known universe (i.e. Jack) made it even worse. Of course if Eve was going he had to go too, because the idea of her and Jack being together without him there to keep an eye on things filled him with a dread that was even more powerful than the irritation Jack awoke in him.
Simon supposed that the exploring bit might not be too bad. Might even be kind of interesting. Maybe. But Jack's presence would no doubt suck any pleasure out of the experience for him. Still, Eve was clearly set on going so he didn't have much option but to go along and make the best of it, rats and tramp piss and all.
"Okay," he said and this elicited squeal of delight from Eve.
"Thank you lover," she said and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Lying in bed with her, the morning sunshine creeping round the blinds and illuminating his room with a warm glow, Simon couldn't help but feel blessed to have her. She might be a bit of a pain in the arse at times, and prone to getting into fads and trends but she really was truly gorgeous. Truly gorgeous and therefore way out of his league.
He knew they made a bit of an odd couple. She was graceful and pretty; he was awkward and still fighting a war of attrition against his adolescent acne. She was tiny, 4 foot 10 even with her shoes on (flats mind, she pushed 5 foot in heels); he was 6 foot 2 in his socks. Eve comfortably fit under his arm if he held it outstretched and this was exactly the pose they were adopting in the picture he has as the wallpaper on his phone.
That shot had been taken by a friend of his a month or so ago, not long after Simon and Eve got together. They'd met at one of the bars on the University campus in Fresher's week; the two of them had been standing next to each other at the bar purely by chance. Both were queuing to buy drinks for the groups of friends they were with, flush with start of term finds and eager to get out and have fun and meet people. Kings of Leon was playing loudly from the speakers that dotted the walls and Simon found his fingers drumming along on the stained wood of the bar. Looking down at them he saw another pair of hands to his right doing the same thing, much smaller and more feminine hands with long nails painted elaborately. The click of the nails on the bar like a high hat accompanying the deeper drumming of his digits. His eyes ran up the wrists and arms and he saw that the hands belonged to an angel. A tiny blonde haired angel with big brown eyes who was staring back at him and smiling.
"You like them too?" the angel shouted, leaning into him to make herself heard over the music.
Simon found he couldn't speak so just grinned like an idiot and nodded. At that point the batman finished pouring the last of the three pints of cider he'd ordered and Simon nodded again at the angel, still struck dumb, and walked back to his mates who were sitting at a small table on the other side of the room. As he walked he mentally kicked himself for not staying and talking to her longer, asking her name even. Jesus, he was hopeless.
The fates smiled on him though and when he went outside for a cigarette 20 minutes later the angel was standing there too. She smiled at him again as he walked out into the chilly October evening and spoke. He could hear her voice properly this time, light and pretty with a hint if North London in the accent.
"Hello again," she said. "Bit quieter out here. I'm enjoying the peace almost as much as the fag." She gestured with the roll up she was smoking.
"Hi," said Simon, speaking to her for the first time and thinking he probably needed to say more than just that. "Simon," he added after a pause.
"No, Eve," the angel replied and laughed, not cruelly but in a way that made him feel a little more at ease. "You don't talk much do you, Simon? Strong silent type? Like Clint Eastwood or some other old guy?"
Somehow that broke the spell on Simon and he was able to respond with more than a single word. He realised this was probably a great opportunity to throw in a line about how he was struck dumb by her beauty (which would have been the truth); wasn't that what Bogart or Clint or, for god's sake, Robert Pattinson would have said?
He wasn't any of them though; and didn't have the guts or the swagger for a move like that so he played it safe.
"Sorry," he said, "I guess I'm still a bit overwhelmed by all of this." He waved his arm loosely over his head, indicting the university campus as a whole. He'd only been there a few days and guessed the same was true of Eve. Exciting as it all was it was a big change from the safety and comfort of home.
"God yes," she replied with a smile. "What do you miss most?"
"About home?"
She nodded.
"Mum bringing me tea in bed at the weekend probably." He said, hoping that didn't make him sound too much of a wimp. It obviously didn't because she smiled even more and the next thing he knew it was half an hour and a few more cigarettes later and he was suggesting they get a bottle of wine from the campus supermarket and go back to his halls to talk somewhere warmer.
"Like your bed?" she asked.
He blushed at that and said no although of course he meant yes.
"Shame," she replied, "I wouldn't mind a cuddle at least."
She had stayed the night and they had cuddled, her tiny frame snuggled up against his giant one. Both of them demurely still clothed in their underwear but his doing little to hide the painful erection he had. With what he came to recognise as her typical blunt honesty Eve commented on it. "You're not putting that near me," she said, "not on the first night."
At that he prayed there would be a second night and there was. And a third. And now a month on they were still dating and everything that went with it.
They might not be the most obvious couple, he thought as he lay there with her that Saturday morning, but when they were together he felt happier than he could ever remember feeling and when they were apart he felt sick. Was that love? Probably. He wondered if he should tell her? Not yet, he decided, she already had him wrapped round her little finger as it was. Which is why he was now going to be spending his Saturday traipsing round a derelict building for kicks. Bloody brilliant.

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How I write - the wonder of Dropbox

One of the main problems for writers who don't make their living from writing is finding the time to do it. The necessity of economics means that we tend to have day jobs as well and writing is something that gets done on evenings and weekends. If, like me, the writer has a young family as well, then the available time is reduced further.
So that's why I'm writing this at 6am while I'm walking to work.
Literally walking. I glance up every four words or so to check there isn't a lamppost or dog turd or pedestrian (rare at this time of day, in the route I take at least). Just dodged a jogger there.
I write on my phone (an iPhone, although the technique is certainly possible on any of the modern smartphone platforms) using an app called PlainText which is free with ads on the AppStore or £1.49 (I think) without. I happily paid the £1.49 after a few weeks of use because it's a great app.
The beauty of PlainText (and there are other apps that do this) is that it syncs with Dropbox, the wonderful free cloud storage service. What this means is that I can happily tap out a new chapter on my phone when I'm on my way to work or waiting for the kettle to boil or queuing in the supermarket and the text is automatically stored in the ether. When I get home in the evening and get the laptop out for a prolonged burst of writing all the work I've done on my phone is there waiting for me in my Dropbox folder. The syncing hasn't failed me once.
What I end up with is a series of separate .txt files, one for each chapter, which at the end of the writing process I can copy and paste into a Word document for uploading to Smashwords and Amazon.
Beyond that I have only one rule. Don't go back until the end. I write a chapter, review it once and then move on to the next one. The fact that each chapter is a separate file makes it much easier to resist the temptation to go back and tinker.
So that's how I wrote a 90,000 word novel in 6 weeks whilst also having a full time job and raising a young family.
And in case anyone is wondering, yes, a few paragraphs of Sunliner were written in the smallest room of the house.


The joy of being read

I've enjoyed writing for years and still remember the first story I wrote as a ten year old. It was called 'Robots Rule OK' and was about an intrepid space traveller who crash lands on a planet ruled by robots. It was homework and my teacher, the lovely Miss Haste, called it out in class as the best that had been handed in. The fact that I had a massive crush on her made that moment all the sweeter.
I've continued writing since then, with very little success, until this year when I completed my novel Sunliner. This is I think only the second thing I've ever finished. The first being a dark fairy story I wrote when I was sixteen or seventeen and which was heavily influenced by Angela Carter. That story was read and enjoyed by a couple of my friends just as 'Robots Rule OK' had been by Miss Haste and I remember enjoying their feedback. In fact I think I actually watched them reading it.
It wasn't until I wrote and published Sunliner though that I remembered just how wonderful an experience it is to have someone read and enjoy something you've created. My readership is still very small but every time I get a comment from someone about the book it puts a big smile on my face.
So if you've read Sunliner and let me know what you think of it thank you.
If you've read it and not let me know what you think of it then please do. And if you haven't then what the hell are you doing reading this. Go read the book dammit.



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Buy Sunliner for Kindle (UK)
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Hello - first awkward post

I've decided to kick off a blog in order to provide updates on what I'm working on and post various random (hopefully interesting) musings on things. I don't promise that this will be updated regularly but when I have something to say about my work I will say it here.

That was all a bit awkward, will get better from here I promise.

Olly :-)

Buy Sunliner for non-Kindle devices (iOS, Kobo, Sony Reader)
Buy Sunliner for Kindle (UK)
Buy Sunliner for Kindle (US)