Blank Pages, Kind Words, Publisher of the Year


The year is winding down which means in Japan the temperature has dropped at least ten degrees overnight and the hot-water bottles have come out of storage. The Japanese claim to have four seasons but really spring and autumn are just transitional periods between an insanely hot and humid summer and a winter colder than a Donald Trump welcome.

I’ve been hard it at on the reading and reviewing front, and it’s a wonderful thing to be paid to read books, but for the moment my to do list is clear and I can focus on getting stuck into some books I’ve been saving for just such an occasion. I must say it’s delightful reading solely for pleasure again. Books by James Robertson, Ray Bradbury, David Peace, Ursula le Guin and Doris Lessing have been calling me and finally I can answer. I’m keeping the newest David Mitchell aside though, Slade House, for when I go to Okinawa in January. A new David Mitchell novel is a thing of wonder and since this is a shorter one I’m planning to spend one whole day of my holiday immersed in his fantastic (in every sense) world.

Talking of reviews, In The Empty Places, the book I edited with Lorena Sosa for the Bantuan Coffee Foundation received this glowing review courtesy of Gutter Magazine. As they say: ‘If you’re a fan of short stories this book is for you. If you’re not yet a fan, the artistry, validity and urgency of the short fiction in ‘In the Empty Places’ makes it a good place to start.’ There are a few copies of the first edition still available over at the website.

Also Gutter related, my review of Jackie Copleton’s A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding from issue 13 has been posted online. You can read it here.

Last night (November 26th) my publisher, Freight Books, won the coveted Publisher of the Year award at the Saltire Literary Awards. Congratulations to Adrian, Robbie, Laura, Fiona and all the other wonderful people who make Freight tick.

On the writing front, my third novel is going through one of the many stages of pre-production it takes to get a book on the shelves, this time copyediting and proofreading. For those who don’t know it basically involves a third party who has never seen the book before combing it for typos, slips, errors and wildly inaccurate claims. Writers get way too close to their work and often can’t see a tree despite it clearly being a massive tree right in front of them (seriously, you’d be amazed at some of the things that slip by us) so this is a vital step. After that there’s the matter of the cover (I have no input here, so I’m impatiently waiting like a child before Christmas to see what the Freight designers have come up with) and then telling all you lovely people what it’s called and what it’s about.

In the meantime I’ve started writing book four. I’m about 16000 words is, so very early days, but it’s yet another complete change in style and direction for me. While First Time Solo was a war novel / coming of age / campus novel (none of the reviewers picked up on this but in my head FTS is a campus novel without an actual campus), Silma Hill is gothic horror, book three is contemporary domestic drama / science fiction (in that it’s fiction about scientists) so naturally book four is magical realist noir. The start of a novel is a strange time when you have the blank page and endless possibility but can fall victim to false starts, wrong turns and metaphorical banana skins. I’ve found with my other books that the first 20/30000 words are tough and come in fits and starts but after that something clicks and I get into a rhythm and things start to flow. So at the moment it’s a case of bum on seat, Scrivener open in front of me and hit my daily targets, trusting in the process.

Talking of which, back to work.


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