Saturday, 14 December 2013

spi cover draft 10

Now available for Kindle in the UK for £1.88 and in the US for $2.99 as well as in all other Amazon territories
The perfect Christmas present for anyone whose New Year's resolution is to self-publish in 2014. Or even to start writing something they want to self-publish in 2015.

So it's here! After more than four years in the making, this is my contribution to the how-to-self-publish canon, filling a gap where a book is both needed and allows me to bring together the various pieces of my own particualr take on this fabulous, mad, messy new world we find ourselves in the midst of.
This is a book about how to find out what really matters to you in your writing, and then to achieve it, steering the treacherous path of helpful advice, books, blogs, and setbacks that are as able to send you steaming in the opposite direction as speeding to your goal. I've drawn on my years of experience and the many mistakes I've made, allowing myself to get carried away and as a result carried wildly off course, only to wonder why I seem to be "succeeding" but feel, deep down, anything but a success.
What I want most from this book is for it to give you the confidence to be who you are. Each writer is unique, and their writing means something different to each of them, so any rigid "do this, do that" guide has to be taken with bioblical portions of salt, which is why this is not a book that seeks to tell you what to do, but rather a book that helpd you to listen to the most important voice of all: your own, and to use that voice, so often drowned out on the journey, as the steady compass by which to steer you course through a long, rewarding life of writing that is a success in the only terms that matter: yours.
This list of chapter titles will give you a flavour of the book.
1. The Pressure to “Succeed”
2. Why Do You Write?
3. Is Self-publishing Right for You?
4. Never be afraid to be you
5. Dealing With Self-Doubt
6. Dealing With Self-Belief
7. Handling Praise
8. Producing Your Book: Picking the Right Partners
9. Building a community
10. The Whites of Their Eyes: Giving Great Readings
11. The Long Haul

Monday, 8 April 2013

A Novel that has No Words

cover for ebook (click the cover or here to download the free pdf of Evie and Guy. If you enjoy it and/or want me to be able to do more similar things in future, you may Paypal whatever you feel appropriate but only if you can afford it, to
cover image © copyright Veronika von Volkova
Evie and Guy: a novel with no words.
When we tell the story of a relationship, we, and it, are judged by what we omit. By design, by ignorance, or just because there are only so many pages and so much time, the blank spaces tell a story every bit as true, as rich, and as important as the print marks meandering through them. Acknowledging that truth, Evie and Guy is the history of a relationship told through the white space of the protagonists’ most solitary act. It comprises simply of the dates, times, and duration in seconds (bracketed where the act was interrupted or unclimactic) of every act of masturbation in their lives. Our lives are so full of joy, despair, individual triumphs and tragedies so vivid they want to scream at the world until they are imprinted there forever in their splendour. But the moment we begin to tell our stories they become trapped in the dullness of a language constructed to reduce our joyful individuality to the whisper of restrained uniformity. I want to unpick the chains of language that keep each one of our stories prisoner within a patriarchal colonial prison outside of which we cannot conceptualise ourselves until we can conceive and express ourselves in ways that preserve the glorious individuality of each human spirit. Writing Evie and Guy, I wanted my shackles as author, my commentary on Evie’s life, to be utterly absent so that her life might have every space it is possible to afford it to speak on its own terms, and might also be lived anew with each reading. After four novels and countless poems and short stories, years of experimenting and thinking, this is finally the book I have always wanted to write, both older woman/younger man heartbreaking love story and contribution to the building of a poetics of hope.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Friday, 18 January 2013

Our problem is not "a bit of snow" but something more malign

As Britain once again grinds to a halt in the face of the weather, it is time to reflect that our problem is not, as many will say, that we can’t cope with a bit of snow. It is something far more malign. The government must be rubbing its hands in glee as the media will yet again act as willing accomplice in spreading and reinforcing the insidious mindset that sets worker against shirker.

The words come out of the newscasters’ mouths at times like these, advising safety, advising caution, repeating the warnings against “non-essential journeys” (whatever the hell that never-explained term means). Yet at the same time there will be stories of the plucky few, those who made it to work against the odds, the plucky backbone that personifies the blitz spirit. And in a completely befuddling illustration of false consciousness, there will be utter incredulity at the mere suggestion that this is a double standard.

This lionisation of the reckless, the thoughtless, and those with their life’s priorities askew is a very British thing. This is a culture where advertising regularly extols the virtue of products that don’t let something so mild as the flu get in the way of the day job. Where those who don’t want to inflict their norovirality on office mates are condemned as part of over the top health and safety gone mad. We are a country where you will regularly hear people talking about “human rights” as a negative.

And as those who for whatever reason live within walking distance of work continue to scoff at those who don’t or can’t, we will see stories of hardy nurses and doctors who braved the elements for the nation’s good. And we will be praising their pluck where any sane society would be seeing this as a starting point for demanding an end to second home ownership and the creation of affordable housing near places of work for anyone who needs it.

So before we come out with the usual platitudes, let’s take some time out to think. Why are we so quick to praise those who put their safety and the well-being of their families at risk? Why do we think it is fair and good to punish those who decide that sense and health and being there to care for those they love is a good life priority? Why is health and safety such a bad thing? Why are human rights terrible? Why do we insist on praising recklessness, on believing that work-life balance is only in place when the former utterly subsumes the latter? As we enter a new year, let’s use this time of weather-enforced reflection to put an end to a society who sees someone who works 100 hour weeks to build businesses as role models, let’s create a country where words like entrepreneurialism, capitalism, career dedication and “pluck” are seen as dirty signs of a society that has inverted the basic principles of humanity, where our first concern is the safety and wellbeing of the vulnerable, where we seek to build relationships not businesses, where those public services so essential that they must run come hell and high water are supported not by preying upon the consciences of individuals but by the collective will to create a housing infrastructure to enable it. Let us start the slow trudge out of a chill far more damaging than that brought by snow and ice and build a society where the fulfilled lives of all, starting with the most vulnerable and put-upon, is the priority that trumps all others.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Dreaming of Narwhals

Today is National Flash Fiction Day. I will be hosting a flash slam in Oxford to celebrate. I have also been judging flash fiction – for a super League of Extraordinary Authors competition – you can see my shortlist here and comment on your favourites.
And to celebrate in style, I’ve written my first flash of the year:
You are dreaming of narwhals again.
Last time it happened you woke at 2.56 am and scribbled “John of Patmos, your eschatology lacks narwhals” on a post-it and when you found it in the morning you were so pleased by the line, even though you didn’t have a clue what it meant, that you wrote a poem around it for a slam that night and everyone laughed at you but not in that “you’ve just said something really superficial but I’m going to wet myself because you said cock. Or Rebekah Brooks. Or Rebekah Brooks’ cock” way that people do at slams.
A part of you is trying to remind the you that’s immersed in the dream that the narwhals have not been channelled from the spirit world just to become part of your new masterpiece but of course the dreaming you tells that you to shut the fuck up and it does so so loudly you wake, confused, and scrawl on the bedside table in capitals with a coffee spoon
You fall back to sleep and find yourself in a dark room. A chandelier comes on and winks gaudily at you and you realise you are at the edge of the swimming pool from THAT scene in the Joan Collins film The Bitch. The pool is filled with the writhing bodies of copulating narwhals crying out as they orgasm
“If we’re a metaphor then so are you. You are a metaphor for the climate change that’s destroying our way of life. Just look at us. Look at the fin de siècle decadence you’ve brought upon us. Look at our horns! We’re Cetacean Dirk Digglers and the 80s are coming!!”
At an existential level you cannot accept the horror of these once innocent creatures descending into orgiastic drug abuse, shoulder pads and Reaganomics and all in a Paul Thomas Anderson film that’s not Magnolia so you place your hands on your ears. You are still screaming
When you wake, miles from anywhere, and you run home screaming, stopping only to steal a bible from a Christian bookshop because the talk of the fin de siècle has made you want to read the Book of Revelation.
That evening, calmer, you mutter through a performance of Rhinoceros “Fuck you, Ionesco, if my narwhals had been metaphors mine would have been a far better play than yours because mine would have had paddling pools.”
On the way home, two politicians you recognise from the news drag you into an alley. As their boots lay into you, you wait for them to turn into horned creatures of some kind, but they don’t. As you are taking your last breath the pain stops and you see the most wonderful sight. Dipping your toe in the water, you look back one last time, laugh in the politicians’ faces and cry
“John of Patmos, your eschatology lacks narwhals”

Monday, 12 November 2012

Some of These Things Are Beautiful

I am delighted to say that my first solo show, Some of These Things are Beautiful, will be at Cheltenham Poetry Festival on April 24th 2013.

“go out and live. And live. And go on living, because you never know when it’ll stop.” (Katelan Foisy, Blood and Pudding)

Some of These Things Are Beautiful is a lyrical, heartbreaking, but ultimately joyous picaresque across the neon-soaked night cities of the world in search and celebration of lost friends. With influences from Patti Smith and Gregory Corso to Amy Winehouse and The Kills, Some of These Things Are Beautiful is a memoir and a tribute to lives lived short, fast, and full. For people who have forgotten how to live for the moment and how to connect with each other, and a poetic tradition full of family and love that has forgotten how to write about friendship, this show carries a simple warning: cherish the friends you have while you have them. Because one day they will be gone, and all you will be able to do is try and fail to write poetry about how you wish you’d loved them more.

Dan Holloway is an award-winning novelist, poet, and journalist, and is the MC of touring spoken word show The New Libertines. His works deal with disconnectedness and the seeming impossibility of relationships in the modern world. In 2010 he won Literary Death Match with his story The Last Fluffer in La La Land, an account of the last human relationship.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Next Big Thing: Kill Land

The idea of this is that a writer puts up a post on his or her own blog answering ten questions about his/her work in progress, and then “tags” three – or five, depending on which version you see – other writers to do the same. Then, the writer posts a link to his/her “tagger” and to the people he/she is “tagging” so that readers who are interested can visit those pages and perhaps discover some new authors whose work they’d like to read. I was tagged by Jill Marsh, author of Raw material
I have loved Jill’s work pretty much since I joined the online writing community, and it’s been wonderful following her progress recently with Triskele, seeing everything come to fruition for her. She is a writer who conveys an incredible, intense sense of place, making the land into a central character in her books.

The writers I have tagged in my turn appear at the bottom of this post.

What is the working title for your book? 
Kill Land 

Where did the idea come from for this book? 
This book has been sitting there for longer than I can remember, waiting to be written. It combines the two things that are at the centre of all my books – how we define ourselves amid the fragmentation of our modern, virtual world; and the fallout from the collapse of the former Soviet Bloc. In this case I have taken three lives, one that is lived almost totally online, one that is the empty relic of a childhood torn apart in the dying Yugoslavia, and one that is lived completely off the grid. The lives of the three women intersect at one point – the body of a murdered charity worker who spent years in Kosovo.

What genre does your book fall under? 
I don’t really know. Literary fiction I guess, with magic realist elements, maybe – Keph, a street poet, believes that she can sense when someone is about to die (and she then latches onto them to get to their innermost secrets, out of which she fashions poems so that she can keep their memories alive), and Bex, a disaffected rich teenager who spends most of her time in chatrooms, believes she can summon the souls of the dead by playing the violin. Those things aren’t treated as paranormal, they’re just – if they’re real – part of our world. Sort of the way the porous boundaries of our world work in Murakami.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
Dani, the Kosovan refugee and now a detective working the murder investigation, would be played by Olga Fedori, who played Frieda Petrenko in Holby. The other two characters – I’d have to choose people from the poetry scene – I’d love Kate Tempest to play Keph. I don’t know about Bex, but someone in the alt lit scene would be great.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
Three women’s lives come together when a charity worker is found dead in Oxford and slowly unravel as we are led into the darkest recesses of Europe’s recent history and the human heart.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
Strictly self-published!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
I’ve been trying to write it for about three years and now I’m ready. I aim to finish during Nano.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Ooh, very hard to say. Np by Banna Yoshimoto for the mix of the banal and everyday, the slightly surreal and the stomach-turning; Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher for the intensity of the interplay and the use of sex as a painkilling distraction. Of course Dubravka Ugresic’s Ministry of Pain, the book about the break up of Yugoslavia and its consequences. Stylistically, like a lot of my writing it’s both lyrical and minimalist in a mix of Murakami and Tao Lin way, and structurally it’s got a lot in common with some of the Kundera books I admire most like The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and Immortality. It might be easier to do an “if you like this you’ll like” playlist, which is what I usually do to get something of the mood and feeling of my books across – for all I love the conceptual and experimental, my work is deeply emotional, and the emotion the reader feels is the thing that matters most:
Video Games
Come to Daddy
There There

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
I think much of it comes down to being a student from 1989 onwards, first with the fall of the Berlin Wall and then following the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, the imploding of Yugoslavia and the horrors of Kosovo. All that and a burgeoning fascination with Young British Art.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
Well, people who have read my work before will be pleased (or sickened) to learn that the usual motifs are there – there’s an exhibition at an art gallery where the laws of physics are suspended (I don’t think I’m capable of writing a book without a supernatural art gallery any more. I don’t think I’d ever want to read a book without one, and when I do read books without one, that’s always the thing I think would make it better); there is also no discernible plot, no attempt to resolve the undiscernible plot, lots of loud music and few if any physical descriptions of the characters. Other points on the Dan’s writing checklist – no male characters of any note or roundedness other than dead one, lots of music, set in Oxford, very few scenes set during the hours of daylight, the occasional highly graphic piece of sickening ultraviolence in amongst general gentleness, lots of action takes place online.

 *** The following three writers are all exceptionally talented, which is why I am tagging them for The Next Big Thing.

Dianne Greenlay

Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, Dianne Greenlay saves lives by day (she is a physiotherapist in a remote sole charge clinic as well as a retired EMT and frequently hears from her patients, "You gotta help me with this pain - it's just killin' me!" - so she does, and they seem to live through it), and she tells lies by night (as any entertaining fiction writer would do). She is also an amateur playwright and Creative Director of a long-running community theatre group.
Her debut novel, Quintspinner - A Pirate's Quest is the first book in an intended trilogy, and the pirate topic came about as the result of a Google search gone wrong. Quintspinner has gone on to win multiple awards in Best YA, Best Commercial, and Best Historical categories.
Dianne is fluent in at least her mother tongue and she thanks her fierce english teachers for that. More of her thoughts on life can be found at .

John A A Logan

John A. A. Logan is the author of The Survival of Thomas Ford (winner of a Special Award in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBooks Awards 2012), and Storm Damage. 
His fiction has been published by Picador, Vintage, Edinburgh Review, Chapman, Northwords, Nomad, Secrets of a View, and Scratchings; with reviews of his work in Scottish Studies Review, Scotland On Sunday, The Spectator, and The Hindustan Times.
His work has been published internationally in anthologies edited by A L Kennedy, John Fowles, Ali Smith, Toby Litt; and he has been invited to read his work at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
John blogs on the 11th of each month for Authors Electric, and is also a member of the League of Extraordinary Authors, and the Alliance of Independent Authors (where The Survival of Thomas Ford is currently “Book of the Month” for November)

Cameron Lawon

Cameron is originally a Scot but now naturalised French. Writes in several genres under different pen-names and has two new full-length novels coming out at the end of the year. Passions include motorbikes and dogs.