Sunday, 30 August 2009
Fortunately I’m very happy for this process to be brutal. It is a kind of bracing S&M textual intercourse.
I have set the book in probably the worst place on earth: Kivu in the Congo.
I picked the place for the mining fraud that is central to the plot as this place transcends the merely awful. The more I dug into the place, the more terrible the facts.
Hilary Clinton just visited and the reports are she was shaken. Enough said.
The centre of civilisation there is Goma, a city half buried in Lava on the edge of a lake filled with enough carbon monoxide that if it is released by an earthquake the gas will kill the couple of million people living nearby. The world’s nastiest volcano erupts nearby every two years. There are two other giant volcanoes standing by. So such an earthquake is a high possibility.
These massive towering doom-laden mountains are kindly in comparison to the destruction and mayhem created by man there. It is almost unbelievable that people try to live normal lives there.
Kivu a place so foreign and terrible, that it might be from another time or another planet.
It is an explosive setting for Jim, my hero from The Armageddon Trade to be tipped into.
In the next few weeks the final draft will be whipped into shape.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
You have to be obsessive-compulsive to write a novel. I at least like to believe I’m not the only driven compulsive writer out there. As such the Amazon charts are a particular torture for writers like me that are easily hooked by things that twitch. The Amazon charts are an addiction.
Writing a novel is a big job, a mountain of graft strewn with boulders of self-doubt that must be scrambled over time and again. For a first timer it is an almost insurmountable challenge.
So to see yourself finally in amongst the titans of fiction on Amazon feels like a warm Belgium chocolate massage performed by identical twin supermodels.
Perhaps the Armageddon trade will twitch higher, but soon enough it will fall Icarus-like from the heavens.
Unless of course you buy a copy, perhaps even several!
Friday, 21 August 2009
Richard, our WHSmith contact, took our passports, whipped us through security and got us 'airside' where people had checked in and were milling about anticipating their holiday flights. He couldn't have been more helpful and soon we were trying to convince passengers that we weren't pushy staff touting the Buy One Get One Half Price offer. I suppose it's a little odd being confronted by three authors siging their books in an airport bookshop but the reaction was overwhelmingly positive and some people even bought all three books.
Then it was time to gird our loins for the motorway traffic between us and our next rendezvous. At East Midlands Airport we got our passes for the next morning's 5 am start before checking in to our hotels, building a pyramid of champagne glasses in the bar and trashing our rooms. Well, it was mandatory considering the rock 'n' roll nature of the tour.
Special mention has to be given to Leigh Russell's husband, Michael, who got up with us and was our unofficial roadie -as well as our first customer. We had another productive morning and I got braver at thrusting my book into people's hands and getting a sale with limited menace. Perhaps it was my holiday shirt that poleaxed them. Again the WHSmith manager, Leigh and his staff couldn't do enough for us.
The best episode happened to Matt Lynn though. It's the sort of occasion that every writer anticipates. He was mid spiel with one customer when they told him they had already bought his book, DEATH FORCE, and were on page 80. They pulled it out of their bag to prove it and Matt signed it. How cool.
The three of us are signing 'airside' at Heathrow, Terminal 5 next Friday (28th). It's a Bank Holiday weekend so it should be quiet as the grave...
Richard Jay Parker
Having problems uploading photos and adding links this week so:
My signing photos: http://www.richardjayparker.com/events.php
STOP ME by Richard Jay Parker www.richardjayparker.com
DEATH FORCE by Matt Lynn http://mattlynn.co.uk/
CUT SHORT by Leigh Russell http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cut-Short-DI-Geraldine-Steel/dp/1842432710
And don't forget to check out the Curzon Group website here:
Monday, 17 August 2009
Between December 1855 and August 1861, Charles Dickens followed Little Dorrit, a social critique based on his hatred for debtors’ prisons, with the historical Tale of Two Cities and the sweeping contemporary drama of Great Expectations.
Shakespeare wrote historical plays, tragedies, comedies and sonnets. Picasso explored every possible way in which line, colour and form could be used to create art. Mozart composed virtually every form of music available in his time. Bowie spent the mid-70s changing his look and sound with every new album.
My point being, it has always been considered perfectly normal for creative people (and granted, I’ve picked some very, very creative people) to explore different ways of expressing their creativity. And audiences have gone along with them.
So why aren’t genre authors allowed to write more than one kind of book?
I ask because I write a character-based series. I have no complaints about that. I enjoy writing about Samuel Carver, my very own pet killer and the cast of characters that swirls around him. I’m extremely grateful for the fact that other people seem to enjoy reading about Carver, too.
But he isn’t the only thing I want to write about. Since, for family reasons, I am unable to take a holiday this year, I’ve been giving myself a working break by starting a stand-alone book: a psychological thriller, told in the first person by a protagonist who, like me, has no personal experience of violence, until it strikes right at the heart of his life.
I also have two historical sagas and a domestic comedy – what I call an ‘Up Against the Aga Saga’ – that I’d like to write. But the fact is, it will be extremely hard to find a publisher for them, because people want what they’ve already had, and that means more Sam Carver.
God knows far greater writers than I will ever be have had the same problem. Just look at the efforts Conan Doyle made to get rid of Holmes, or Flemings repeated attempts to leave Bond dead (or at least dead-ish_ at the end of his books. And I have to confess tot total hypocrisy, since as a reader I want Lee Child to write about Jack Reacher, James Lee Burke to keep giving me Robicheaux, and I bitterly resent Dennis Lehane for (apparently) quitting on Kenzie and Gennaro.
I can see the commercial argument, from the publisher’s point-of-view, too. It usually takes a while to establish a franchise in the minds of the reading public. So it’s vital to keep going – ‘Punch the bruise’ as Mandelson likes to say.
But how many franchises, in all honesty, produce more than half-a-dozen great books and ten reasonably good ones? And who lasts longer in general: the one-trick pony, or the artist who is willing to take risks, challenge his audience, but keep coming up with unexpected delights.
If anyone from Bantam is reading this, don’t worry: you’ll get your next Carver, as promised. But I’d like to give you, and anyone who reads my stuff, something else as well. Something new. Something that might just be better …
Thursday, 13 August 2009
Most people's check lists are the same before they go on holiday and ours is no exception. Except the fact that the best holiday reads are awaiting us at our destination in large stacks and that's where you come in.
We'll be signing books at Manchester Airport (Terminal 1 Arrivals WHSmith)
Midday - 2 pm on Friday 14th August and East Midlands Airport (WHSmith)from 5.30am - 10.30 am on Saturday 15th.
So whether it's Matt Lynn's gripping military thriller'Death Force,' Leigh Russell's thrilling introduction to Geraldine Steel in 'Cut Short' or my own dark exmaination of an Internet serial killer 'Stop Me' there's going to be something to pop everyone's corn on the Curzon table.
Our fellow authors Alan Clements, Tom Cain, Anne Zouroudi and Clem Chambers offer their own unique take on the thriller genre so why not swing by the Curzon Group site - http://www.thecurzongroup.com/Default/Home
or follow us on Twitter @CurzonGroup to find out more.
Richard Jay Parker
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Still, there are some important differences.
In both music and newspapers, the technology dictated the form. The 40-minute LP happened to be the length because that's what you could fit onto 12-inches of vinyl. The once a day mix of news, business, sport, crosswords and features that we call a newspaper came about because that was worked when printing presses and trains were the only way of distributing information. In both cases, the product itself was, to a large extent, created by the technology.
And so, when the technology changed, there wasn't much point to the product any more.
I don't that's true of the book. Okay, it's printed and bound, but it's just a narrated story and there have never been any technological rules about length (a novel, by the way, is a similar length to a dream) or format.
My point is that while digital music and digital news are in many ways superior products that isn't true of books.
A digital book might be cheaper, if the publishers choose to make it so, or free if there is file-sharing, but it isn't better.. And that's a crucial distinction.
To me the big challenge to writers and novelists isn't the e-book. It's the compter game. This is a completely new narrative form, and one that can be far more immmersive for the reader/player. But that isn't a threat. It's an opportunity.
- Matt Lynn
Monday, 10 August 2009
A rant by Clem Chambers.
As soon as I get to be an author, the internet rises up and begins the process of killing books.
The internet killed the CD, it is well along the path of killing newspapers. Movies are going 3D to forestall a piratical death and now books are about to tip into the abyss too. The e-book reader will be fatal to books and publishers.
Right now the book lives, but over the near horizon is a world of peer to peer book sharing enabled by a host of digital e-book readers. This will quickly kill book sales as surely as mp3 players slew the music industry.
Of course people contend that the music biz is doing just fine, but if you go to Midem, Europe’s key music biz conference, you can practically smell the decay. The conference is painfully dead.
The rock business simply does not rock anymore.
Sapped of life, the music biz stumbles on like a George Romero zombie. Broke, it is unable to innovate or invest. Drained of capital, it has been drained of invention. The decline has become a tail spin that is as yet unbroken either creatively or financially.
Books will go this way soon.
Sat on a flight from LA to London, 5% of the business class cabin was reading on a Kindle. The book reader is now a valid platform for books. Other readers will follow and the killer app e-book reader will have NO DRM (digital rights management.) People will be able to get their books off P2P systems for free, by stealing them. People won’t pay, just like most people no longer pay for much of their music.
Publisher apocalypse follows.
“Why do I have to pay £6 pounds for a book? Publisher margins are huge, everyone knows a book costs 50p to print.” the challenged reader will say.
“I like to download books and read some of them and if I like the author,” they will say with delusional narrative repair, “I will go out and buy them.”
The young reader will say, “I got it off the internet. Everything is free on the internet, why is this any different?”
The justifications will be legion but the fundamentals will remain simple.
If you don’t have to pay for content, you don’t pay for content.
Those who will whine about how untrue this fact is, will normally have lots of wonderful but unpaid-for music on their computer and lots of paid mobile telephone bills. Calling their significant others professing love and transmitting the fact they are coming home gets paid for, but the wonderful music they listen to on the way is stolen via a P2P network.
The book follows next.
I personally saw the effect of ‘copying’ in the computer game industry.
You could sell 2000 of an average cassette game; it could be cheaply and easily ‘tape to taped.’
As soon as the cartridge formats appeared, average game sales increased by 10 fold in volume, because it was hard to copy a cartridge. To top it, the cartridge game was five times more expensive. With this lucrative protected business model, the billion dollar computer game industry of $10m games development budgets ,was born.
PC games sell a fraction of what console games sell, for the same reason. It’s pretty easy to knock off a PC game. However, protect a PC game, ie World of Warcraft, and suddenly you have a $1 billion dollar a year game. (The game is protected as you have to have a subscription to a multiplayer server, a remote internet service, to play.)
Amazon kills bookstores, then e-book readers kill the book biz.
This is a murder that won’t be any mystery.
So what should an author do?
The only thing I can think of doing is to write material that can only be read in an environment hazardous to electronics.
Users hate to risk damage to their piracy devices. You see iPods at the beach but not many saltwater-prone Notebooks. Hopefully for some years, users will be scared to scratch their book readers with sand or get them slathered with sun-block or splashed with brine. As such from now on I better write summer holiday blockbusters.
I think perhaps a tale about a murdered child vampire wizard who was addicted to shopping, might be the answer.
“The Bloody Magic Pottery Shop” by Clem Chambers, anyone?
Check out my latest book The Armageddon Trade: http://tinyurl.com/r569dg
"Full of insight, it never lets up for a moment. Fresh as today’s headlines, it reminds the world just how close it could be to financial meltdown." Geoffrey Wansell, Daily Mail
Friday, 7 August 2009
Matt will be signing copies of his riveting military action thriller DEATH FORCE and Richard will be signing editions of his breakneck, debut thriller STOP ME.
On Saturday the 15th they will be joined at East Midlands airport by Leigh Russell who will be signing copies of her gripping psychological thriller CUT SHORT. The authors will be up early that morning and ready to sign books at 5.30 am til 10.30 am. Please be gentle with us.
Heathrow Terminal 5 signing is still to be confirmed for later in the month and the Curzon Group has already been apoproached to sign books in Ireland.
More info soon so please bookmark us and stay updated.
Richard Jay Parker
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
The Truth Behind The Kudos of being a Published Author.
I'm scrabbling cheerfully among the roots of the fame tree, confident that's the best place to be. The only reason I hanker after ascending the lower branches is ego. But when I'm on my way up the trunk, will I stop to enjoy the view? Surely there's a better vantage point if I can just reach that next branch . . .
There's an ambivalence to this aspiration, because I'm convinced that the further up the tree you climb, the less enjoyable the experience becomes. Look at the number of celebrities who Fall apart under the pressure. And sliding down the trunk of a tree must be a painful experience.
Why do so many people want to stick their heads above the parapet? There are hordes of people wanting to appear on TV (oh the holy grail that has become!) and, dare I say it, even more who are desperate to see their names in print. Literary agents receive more unsolicited MS than they can ever hope to read. (So if you receive a rejection letter, don't take it personally. Chances are the agent didn't have time to look at your life's work, let alone read it.)
And there are legions of self-published authors. Why do they bother? Then again, why not? University degrees, whiter teeth, titles, physique, everything is up for sale. Recently I met a woman eager to tell me that her pride in becoming a published author was going to change her life. She'd paid a few thousand pounds for this achievement of a lifetime. I didn't tell her that she was unlikely to recover her money.
Maybe my approach is unusual. I never aspired to be an author for its own sake, never even considered writing until I had the idea for Cut Short. Once I began, I discovered that I loved writing, and sent my story to a publisher on a random whim. The publisher loved it and promptly signed me up for a series.
I fell into this world, clueless as Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole. Have I been lucky? I think so, but let's wait and see. For now, I'm enjoying watching Cut Short doing well on amazon ratings, and breaking sales records in bookshops I visit.
Those lower branches of the tree are almost within reach . . . but I've still got my feet on the ground . . . just.
Then again, I never did have much of a head for heights.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
It's traditional among authors to moan about the rising power of the supermarkets. But I'm not so sure. They may well be doing a lot of good.
I might be biased because my own book has been doing well at Asda - it has spent about six weeks now in their books chart.
But the supermarkets are doing two things that are really good.
One, they are making books really cheap. You'll pay less than £4 for a paperback in a supermarket, and that isn't just achieved by cutting the money going to publishers and authors (well, the author at least - they drive a hard bargain with the publisher). The supermarkets just don't need the same kind of margin that bookshops do - a 10p profit looks pretty good to Tesco, and is more than they make on a litre of milk, which weighs more, takes up more space and goes off after a couple of days as well. You don't need to know much economics to know that a cheaper a product gets, the more people buy it - and the more books get sold, the better for everyone.
Next, they introduce books to people in new settings. Most people go to the supermarket at least once a week. They can browse among the books, and occassionally find new things. We might like to imagine they'd spend an hour every week doing that at Waterstone's, but they truth is, they probably wouldn't.
For both reasons, the supermarkets are almost certainly increasing book sales in the UK.
Of course, there are some downsides.
They have a limited range, and they only stock a few books from the big publishers. The concentration of power is going to make it harder for new writers to break through.
And the publishers have become obsessed with them. When I was ghost-writing for Random House, all they cared about was 'what Tesco would think'. They even changed one writer's name becasue they didn't think Tesco would like what he was called. I thought they were being silly. Tesco would be happy with anything that sold, but they had become neutrotically obsessed with finding the perfect Tesco book.
But, that said, authors have to get out to where the books are. Personally, I'd love to be signing books and talking to customers and readers in Asda or Tesco. In fact, once we've got our aiport tour out of the way, I might make a 'supermarket tour' the Curzon Group project.
- Matt Lynn
Monday, 3 August 2009
OK, so the whole Bloodsport thing kicked off with a great piece in the Sunday Times Atticus column … which was swiftly followed by the pre-publication interview on The Rap Sheet (which should also link to the story itself from around 4.00pm London-time on Monday onwards) … and a bunch of blogs and trade-sites like Sarah Weinman’s Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind and Booktrade.info.
And so far – touch wood! – the tooled-up lads from Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, otherwise known as SO15 haven’t come crashing through the door on one of their 4.00am raids. So that’s a relief!
To me, what the whole experience illustrates is that authors today must accept that they are going to have to take responsibility for generating their own PR – which, I guess, the very existence of the Curzon Group proves. Publishers simply have too many books fighting for the attention of their PR staff, who are working in a media environment that could not give a damn about any author who is not famous, cute (esp. if young and female), or blessed with a personal tragedy so harrowing that it makes good copy, even in the absence of fame or looks.
So there’s nothing to do but fight a guerrilla campaign. Take risks. Work in ways that corporate publishers either do not understand or actively dislike. Because if you don’t – and this is a lesson I learned the hard way in the States – nothing happens at all … and then you’re really in trouble.
Plus you can have a lot of fun, writing short sharp stories and getting them out there – online or n conventional media – in a fraction of the time it takes to go through the process of publishing a book. Having spent almost 30 years, on and off, in Fleet Street, I love the buzz of getting a commission at lunch, writing it by 5.00pm and seeing it in the paper over breakfast the next day. Meanwhile a book idea can grow stale before ones eyes.
Last year, for example, I was thinking of doing a Carver book set in the City and/or Wall Street. It involved a gigantic international conspiracy to make stock markets and banks collapse … and while I was mulling over this notion, bugger me, that’s what went and happened for real … before Samuel Carver could stop it.
At roughly the same time I wrote a short story for the Daily Mail, based on Lord Carlile’s warning that Britain was in danger of terrorist attacks from the air. That was three days from commission to publication, and was probably read by 10, even 20 times as many people as have ever bought one of my books.
I guess what it comes down to is that the business of writing fiction is going though radical changes before our eyes.
And if we don’t adapt, we die.