Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A video review from Pages and Pages Booksellers

A video review of THE OLD SCHOOL from Jon at Pages and Pages Booksellers Mosman.

If the reviews that follow are half as enthusiastic then I will be a very happy camper indeed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

First sighting of THE OLD SCHOOL in the wild

Thanks to Jon @ Pages and Pages Booksellers for the first pictures of THE OLD SCHOOL in a real bookshop.

What a great looking display. I'm sure I'm not biased in saying that.

If Pages and Pages is too far away for you to pop in and pick up a copy, then check out your closest local indie bookseller.

I'm hoping to pop in and visit Pages and Pages this week. Phone interviews and Book 2's demands notwithstanding.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The night before P day

Twas the night before P Day and all through the house ....... a bottle of red was consumed with a sticky date pudding chaser.

Yes, as of tomorrow THE OLD SCHOOL will be out and about on book shelves around the country. Lurking about like an unaccompanied minor, shuffling for space with all the other hopefuls out there, working hard to catch the eye of the browser, luring them into picking it up, reading the blurbs, scanning the back of book hook, perhaps reading the opening pars .... maybe deciding that yes, this one's worth laying down the cost of a couple of movie tickets for, this one looks like it'll be worth spending a few hours with over winter.

My job this week.

Stay at the task at hand - writing book 2. Putting one word after the other until I have a first draft that has a beginning a middle and an end - then rolling up the sleeves and really getting to work on it. Mental deadlines are to have a first draft ready for spring. This would be a full first draft for me - no one else is going to get a peek at it until we've been on many miles of walks and thinks and edits together, in the parks, by the harbourside and the pools around here. Pen and paper. Old school edits. Then hours spent at the screenface deciphering the pen marks, the lines and arrows and additions and subtractions of the edit.

So that's task one - task two is making sure I'm beside the phone at the appointed times to take the phone calls. Over the next few weeks I'm privileged to have the opportunity to talk to people in Western Australia, South East Queensland, Northern New South Wales, South Australia .... I get to come through the radio waves into people's cars as they wait in traffic, scoot home from doing the shopping or search for that car space. I have a few precious minutes to persuade them to stay a moment longer in their car, door open, one leg out, hands on the keys about to kill the ignition, listening right to the end because they suddenly need to know the name of the book.  They've been convinced that this book is going to be a worth a read.

I'm getting the chance to come into their offices, their workshops, their homes. To sit with them in waiting rooms at the dentist, the doctor, the physio. I've got a chance to distract them from the everyday world, to promise them the chance to shapeshift, to time travel, to make a journey in another's skin.

 I'm about to go to work in a way I never imagined.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Writing and speaking: is it like walking and chewing gum?

As publication day draws nearer my google calendar is starting to gather a few appointments.


It's a decidedly odd experience, (as a new writer about to be foisted launched onto an unsuspecting world) anticipating spruiking yourself and your book for a few precious minutes to an unseen audience. You need to seduce them. Excite them just as much as you were excited about writing the book. Convince them to part with what may be the equivalent of a couple of hours pay to buy it. Promise them that the hours of their lives they'll spending reading it will be worth it.

You find yourself listening carefully to podcasts of people you know, or authors whose books you admire as they strut their stuff on The Book Show. You wonder if you can maybe pick up a few tips. Then Malla Nunn, hypnotises you with the story she tells and the way she tells it. What a gorgeous voice - she could DO radio not just appear on it occasionally. And then you hear Lenny Bartulin managing to be funny, self-deprecating, spin a good yarn and promote his book in a seamless flow of intelligent wit and charm and think "Hang on, how did he just do that?" 

You listen to the big guns, the imports who rock up for the writers festivals: Lionel Shriver being alternately withering and razor sharp, you hear Richard Glover confess to being intimidated by her. Then you hear Christopher Hitchens, who even when he's contradicting his past positions, still manages to sound as if he has never seriously doubted anything he's ever said, thought or written. 
How do they get that kind of confidence? Maybe listening to them wasn't such a great plan after all, as by now, you've sort of curled up under the desk and decided you may never actually want to come out again. You're feeling the pressure to be "interesting" really starting to build up. 
There's a reason writers write, you see. They have some facility with words. But becoming the interview subject? That means talking to an audience off the cuff, on the fly and that's like  putting your first draft out there with no editing, no polishing - no delete button. And as most writers will tell you, no one but them usually ever gets to see the first draft!

A lot of the interviews that have been lined up are for radio, by phone. Takes me back, along time ago (pre Sydney Olympics). I was a newly-returned-to-Australia-ex-cop in need of a job and I applied for a position with ASIO. They were recruiting analysts. I didn't know if I could be an analyst, but it sounded interesting and it was based in Sydney, working on Pre-Olympic stuff. I sent off my application to Canberra and scored an interview, by panel, over the phone. 
It was bizarre, Sitting on the lounge at home, hearing different voices asking the pool questions. From the echoing timbre I guessed they were sitting around a table, leaning in towards a speaker phone. I felt totally off balance, being unable to see anyone, or imagine the room, or pick up on the body language. Those anti-nervousness strategies - like imagining the interview panel naked - don't work so well when you can't see them. 
I must've done OK because they sent up some paperwork for the next step. It was a pre-screening security document and to say it left no stone unturned would be an understatement. By the time I got to page twenty-something and it needed the names and addresses of all the friends and acquaintances I had met overseas, I'd decided that I was just not that into ASIO. The thought of friends, who'd extended kindness to a traveller in Africa, ending up being subject to some kind of security screening, in order that I could land a job seemed just bit too much to ask.
So, while I'm not expecting any ASIO style interrogations, it did get me thinking. Maybe book promotion interviews do have a fair bit in common with job interviews. I guess you'll know if you got the job when, one day, you see someone sitting opposite you in the train, or beside the pool, and they are totally engrossed in your book.

I reckon I'll call that job satisfaction.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tools of the Trade - pen, paper and places to write in

It's easy to get obsessed with the right tools for the job, a new computer, a new laptop, a new bit of software  and as you can see from my book trailer - I'm easily distracted by new software, the shiny baubles of the computer bound. Of course, all those toys provide wonderful reasons excuses to procrastinate.

In all honesty though, the most important tool for my trade is a notebook - a paper one - and a pen.

I don't go in for the expensive, fancy notebooks. They intimidate me, they're a bit too nice. I keep thinking that at this price, I better make every word count. That's not how I write. And that's why I go for supermarket cheap and fat, so that I can write a lot. I can write my way into a character, or into a scene. I can write stuff that sometimes won't survive beyond the notebook but had to be written because I had to know it, even if the reader maybe doesn't.

Now, I know I'm going to fill up quite a few of these little devils before I'm through and I don't want to be worrying about the expense. So they have to be fat enough that I can write freely, even if a fair bit of what goes in there never makes it into the final draft. And if really random stuff pops up, I turn them upside down and start writing notes and ideas at the other end.

My notebooks go everywhere with me, so they get beaten up and battered about. A notebook has to be small. It has to be tough and tiny enough to be able to travel with me, knocking about in the bottom of the bag, a pen tucked into the spiral binding, close at hand in case a line of dialogue appears that I realise is the way into a scene, or a plot twist or complication should suddenly clunk into place.

Cheap and cheerful for notebooks and the same goes with pens. I like the glidey ones that can race across the paper. When I can move the pen fast I feel like I have a better chance of keeping up with the writing going on inside the head. (Though I do often spend many frowning moments later trying to decipher my scrawl). I buy pens in bulk when the supermarket has them on special, no loyalty to any one brand, and then I try to make sure that I have them rattling around in all of the various bags I might leave the house with. I lose them regularly, so again, no fancy expensive pen for me.

I bought a half a dozen hard-backed notebooks a few years back but soon discovered that they're too heavy for carting about day to day. They have become the designated notebook that I use to record characters breakdowns and plot points for the novel; notes on events of the time period I'm working with; or bits of research I've done - all tabbed into different sections, with enough pages left either side to grow and add to them. I transfer these reference type bits and pieces that have occurred to me when I'm out and about from the travelling notebooks into this bible.

Once I've got a fair bit in the notebooks, I'll sit down and start to write on the computer. There's something very satisfying about dipping into these handwritten notes and then watching them grow, change and take on another life as they are transcribed into the binary world. It becomes a second draft right there and then. 

I've noticed that when I write directly onto the "screen" I'm much slower. I stop and tinker en route, fussing over word choice, fussing over sentence structure, all important of course but they do tend to stymie the flow. When I write on paper the story dominates, not the editing, the characters talk and think and feel and I tend to get out of their way. 

Then, sitting at the computer, notebook propped up on the messy desk, it is here, at the transcription stage, that the editor comes out and fiddles with the work, the first of a long series of sweeps over the material, brushing, polishing, snipping and embroidering. 

But, you want to know the very best thing about writing in a notebook with a pen?

Well, your office can be here:

A pen and your notebook and you can swim laps, plot and plan, then take up a position in the shade and watch the harbour go by in between filling up the pages.

Or you can remind yourself how good the Bún bò Huế at Dong Ba is, spattering your notebook with spots of red broth as you soak up atmosphere along with the noodles.

And of course you can always just go and walk, sit quietly, 

..... no phones, no email, no distractions of the household 

... and lose yourself in story.