“Al, you have cats. So why are you so mean to them in your books?”
Oh, I don’t know… how about this bitch, Sally. The nutter who gets the zoomies at 4am for no reason, who will sleep at my daughter’s feet then run up the bed and over her head when I try to put her in the garage, who will look at me, meow loudly to be let out, and then walk away when I open the door. Or, how about today, when she was hiding in a box in the garage when we left to take the kid to school… so I stopped the car to let her in the house and she bolted, for no apparent reason, across the road and down the drain. Where she stayed underground for TWELVE HOURS! And when I ended up flat on my belly on the drain under the neighbour’s car trying to entice her out, the little bitch began purring and rubbing herself against the concrete walls (it was by torchlight so I guess romantic 🤷♂️). I could almost reach her but not enough to make a grab (I “could have” got her tail but didn’t by the way because I’m a fucking delight!) Then when I knocked on the door to ask old mate to move his ute he (sleepily) said “that cat?” and the little slag was waiting at our front door. So yeah, maybe that’s why I’m mean to cats in my story. Oh, and Sally is the nice one. Nyx is the bitch.
After the recent news that my book, Rock Zombie, lost its publisher (due to the publisher ceasing to exist and annoyingly not rising from the dead in a blaze of ironic glory) I am back submitting. Any writer will tell you that this is far from a fun process. It isn’t just the hard work of getting your synopsis, cover letter, bio, comparable titles, elevator pitch, and, you know, novel itself polished and ready, it’s the anticipation… the hope… the f*cking never-bloody-ending wait for a response! It takes a toll. Not to mention of course how utterly bizarre it is to have people read your work in the first place.
Everyone, please read my stories! Except, sort of don’t. It’s weird.
What you might not know if you haven’t put yourself through this particular wringer, is the added little addendum many publishers have in which they stipulate they will not accept ‘simultaneous submissions’. This means that if you submit your work to them you are doing so in the understanding that you are submitting only to them.
I guess I understand the reasoning; that if a publishing house goes through all the trouble of reading your work, liking it, debating it, deciding to publish it and then putting together an offer only to be told you’ve gone elsewhere, that could piss people off. But, honestly, it strikes me more like that one girl in high school who kept you on the line just enough to offer a glimmer of hope in a boob-filled future only for you to find out years later you never really stood a chance in the first place because some b-list celebrity came along and wrote a kids book/had a car with a CD player.
I might be mixing my metaphors here.
I think I have some issues.
Well, that is true… which is why I never submit to publishers who stipulate no simultaneous submissions. I received a form rejection recently that was for a book I submitted so long ago I actually forgot which one it was. I had to go back through my spreadsheet to find out. Sixteen months it took to get a response! Sixteen! Can you imagine waiting sixteen months on one submission and then going again?! Nightmare. And there are so many publishers you never hear from at all. That’s fair, that’s the game, but one at a time can go for burton.
And it’s a big however entirely deserving of the line break, centre-justification, and bold text… when I created a list of potential new publishers for Rock Zombie there was one that rose above the others, and though they didn’t stipulate no simultaneous submissions, they did mention they have a 21 day turnaround. Twenty-one days is far more manageable than sixteen months, and I really like them, so this one time only I submitted to just the one place. And now we’re on the twenty-first day (not accounting for time difference) and I haven’t heard anything, so I’m experiencing a little microcosm of the whole process. It’s lovely, I tells you! Just lovely! Gotta dig that hope!
Ah, what am I complaining about? I know the drill, I’m an old-hand at this now. I’ll be a little disheartened if I hear nothing at all, that’s true, but then I’ll just get on with it. Roll the dice again.
I love Rock Zombie. I think people will get a real kick out of it, and the honest truth is, I really want to submit it to the amazing publisher of The Book and the Blade, but as Parliament House Press have signed four of my books already and I submitted a fifth a few months ago, I think I might be pushing it! 😀
So, if the phone doesn’t ring tomorrow, I have a top ten list of contacts I’ll be sending Rock Zombie off to later in the week… but this time I’ll be sending them all together… because sod no simultaneous submissions.
And clearly, the fact that this is the second blog post in as many days means I’m totally not dwelling on it at all. No, not even a little bit.
Back when dad blogs were a thing, I was churning out posts on an almost daily basis. I’d write about anything and everything that took my fancy… and anything and everything people paid me to write about if I’m being honest. Now though, I’m not so sure what, if anything, I should be doing with this little website. I polished it up the other day and was quite chuffed with the way it looks on a PC, but on a phone it’s still a bit naff. I realise though, that people won’t necessarily care about that if they’re reading quality content… ummm. That brings me back to square one. As a wannabe writer, I want to concentrate all my efforts on creating books and short stories, not necessarily on blog posts. And I sure as shit have no desire to go down the route of get-a-real-job “influencers” and create content for content sake.
I’d rather shit in my hands and clap.
So, what is the purpose of having a website? Let’s be honest, it’s so much easier to just knock things up on social media, but I do like to waffle on every now and then. So, I guess that’s what I’ll do… I’ll waffle on (Please note, Exhibit A)… a newsletter if you will. I’ll not bother doing a subscribe to me, email type of thing, because we all know I’ll forget. But I will try to post regular(ish) updates about what is going on. At the very least, it’ll be nice for me to look back on in the future when I’m sitting around a table playing poker and smoking cigars á la Michael Connelly, Stephen J. Cannell, James Patterson and, umm, Richard Castle.
Which is kind of what I’ll be doing today… heading into the city to meet up with a group of amazing Brisbane writers. So, there we go… news(ish)… in a letter(ish) format.
When we had the launch party for The Book and the Blade, my mate Mitch did an awesome job of MCing, filling any potential awkward silences on my part by asking questions. One of those question was, what are you working on at the minute? The answer then (and still now) is a comedy fantasy called, Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Orcs?! This is a story that came about after a conversation with a friend’s partner (now also friend) the first time we met. We were chatting over a mutual love of Lord of the Rings (of course) and he mentioned the scene from the movies where the orcs shout, “looks like meat is back on the menu, boys!” We talked about the implications of this one small line. Not the cannibalistic tendencies of the orcs as evidenced by the word ‘meat’, but the deeper implications of the word ‘menu’. The idea ran from there and tickled around my brain for about a year. I finally started writing in November 2022 for NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). I wrote mine and Stu’s conversation down as best as I remembered it as part of a prologue and went from there. In November, I wrote 51k words. Then I didn’t look at it for four months.
For the last two weeks, I’ve largely been bed-ridden, and certainly housebound (which is shit! I’m on holidays!) so there’s been very little else to do apart from think about, and occasionally write about, orcs. We’re now up to 68k words, the prologue has gone, and I think we’re approaching the final act.
The story is a massive piss-take, while also being a love-letter of sorts, to my beloved fantasy genre. It contains every trope you can imagine; from the golden-haired hero to the nefarious dark lord, to elves in forest and dwarves in mountains, to witches, wizards, trolls and unicorns. Speaking of unicorns…
The main protagonist of my story, however, is none of the characters mentioned above. This story is written from the point of view of a young orc called Gary, and his best mate, Frank. They find themselves, as the tropes of their world dictate, pulled from pillar to post across a fantasy-scape that leaves no cliché unturned (or subverted). This, ladies and gents, is what happens when you devour Gemmell, Eddings, Pratchett, Tolkien, Brooks, Jacques, Cornwell et al from a young age (while also developing a sarcastic-prick trait a mile wide).
But I like it. Sure, I get the feeling I might have gone a little “too Alex” with this one, but it’s only the first draft and it isn’t finished yet. Who knows how things will pan out?
Oh, and fun fact, my wife tagged me in this post this morning…
My reply was “are you f*cking kidding me?!”
For those keeping track, a similar thing happened a month after I finished writing Rock Zombie (still, by the way, in some sort of publishing-development hiatus) a story about a zombie and ghost coming from the same dead guy. Kel found a meme shortly after with damn near the same idea!
I’ve decided this demonstrates one of two things – I either have my finger on the pulse in an almost savant-like manner, or I have never had an original idea in my life.
Hopefully, there is enough unique humour and bastardisation of Latin to get me a pass with Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Orcs?! (The dark lord who dies in the very first chapter is called Dark Lord Dominus Tenebris III… translation… Dark Lord Lord of Darkness III. Pratchett, it is not! :-D) And if that isn’t enough, my world has a wall, no one has done that before, right? Look, I’m not messing around here… it’s called The Threshold… you have to cross it to get to the main highway… The Road of Trials.
Additional fun fact; I did something stupid today (I know!). One of my favourite podcasts is called The Failing Writer’s Podcast, and in their first episode of season 3, the fellas put a call out for anyone willing to send in the first three chapters of a work in progress. They haven’t decided what they will do with any they might pick…critique it? read it out? take the piss? review? Either way, I figured, sod it, why not? Nothing might come of it, but it will be fun to find out if I really have gone too Alex with this one. We’ll wait and see.
Anyway, so that’s what I’m up to. I expect to finish the first draft by the end of April. After that, who knows? If you’re working on something yourself, please let me know!
It has been an interesting few weeks to say the least… Arthur was published on 28th Feb, we had an amazing book launch on 11th March, I threw Albert into the world on the 26th March, work ended on Friday, and I got sick Friday night (this is like the shittiest version of that Craig David song).
On Saturday, I am heading to Emerald to hang around the wonderful new bookshop, Highland Books, and talk a little bit about Arthur… but this morning, I received notification that Australia Post, in their great wisdom, have decided to delay the delivery of my author copies by a week. No reason. No explanation. Just a mocking little green badge that says ‘On Time’. On time, my arse! So, there’s a very real chance I will be heading to a book signing with ONE copy of The Book and the Blade (the reason for the signing in the first place!) and ten copies of Albert the Great Australian Dragon (the daft, local story I self-published for a laugh).
When I ordered author copies in the past, they have always arrived within a week. This time, I placed the order over two weeks ago… so there is still a small chance it’ll work out… but it’s also Australia Post, so who knows?
For those of you in the UK, Australia Post is basically the same as Royal Mail… in EVERY way.
All I can do now is… wait. What’s that old poem? Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to not jump on Twitter and call Australia Post a bunch of twats…
There is literally nothing I can do to make things work out. So, I might as well write, right? At least I can control the things that happen on the page… but even that isn’t entirely true. Yesterday, a main character in my wip died under my tippy-tappy fingertips and I didn’t see it coming. It is a very strange moment indeed when your brain slowly catches up with the words appearing on the screen and you realise where the end of the sentence is heading. I didn’t plan on killing he/she/it. And I certainly didn’t plan on it happening in such a brutal and sudden fashion (I’m pretty sure I used the words fucking eviscerated). It really works though. It’s a good scene, it made me chuckle, but honestly, it’s really buggered the rest of the story. Where the hell do I go now he/she/it is dead?
So that’s what I’m going to focus on today… where to take a 50k word story now one of the main characters is spread all over the ceiling… you know, the things I can (mostly) control.
But if anyone knows the secret cheat code to make Australia Post work more efficiently, I’d really appreciate a whisper in the ear.
At one point on Saturday I found myself sitting on the floor of a raised stage while all around me people I knew, people I’d just met, and people I’d never seen before talked and laughed and drank together. The pub was full, a long narrow hall of arcade machines and graffiti-covered walls pressing folk together to share tables and seats… something that could not have happened a year or so ago. Another book was thrust under my nose by a workmate whose grin told me he thought the whole thing was just as ridiculous and surreal as I did. We both laughed and I took another drink… a pint glass in one hand… a pen in the other. That was my name on the cover. My book.
“Sign this for me, mate!”
Saturday saw the launch of The Book and the Blade, and it was absolutely magic! For a few hours I stood, or sat, or leaned against Street Fighter II in a packed pub and talked about a book I wrote. I was surrounded by amazing people, and we were all there for something fun… and creative. The walls were covered in art, arcade games and pinball machines offered a nostalgic soundtrack, and for a short while I lived a dream.
In hindsight, I should have prepared. The writer should at least have written a speech, right? But I didn’t, and so when my friend, Mitch – our impromptu and excellent MC – introduced me to the crowded room I took hold of the mic in what might have been nervous fingers. But they weren’t… not when I got going… not when it mattered. It felt like the most natural thing in the world and I loved it! My wife and friends had made magic happen! I stood on a stage and looked out at the faces of people I knew and loved… friends and family from all over the country who had made the trip, new acquaintances I met in an online writing group who were even more awesome in real life, lovely guests, lovely strangers, and even a few amazing ex-students. Complete magic! It was a whirlwind. I started by thanking everyone but then gave special thanks to my wife… I read the dedication from the start of the novel and explained the truth behind it… the facetiousness… the tongue-in-cheek-ness.
All the best ideas are Kels. Including, and this cannot be stressed enough, to actually have a book launch in the first place!
It almost never happened.
I’m one of those strange characters who can seem a complete extrovert but will quite gladly do nothing if that is an option. I’d already written the book. Hell! It was already published. Doing nothing seemed to be a viable option to me… not to Kel. Only a month or so earlier to this mad day she convinced me to say yes to a launch. I remember the look on her face when I said, ‘Okay, babe. Make it happen.’ There was that smile I love so much followed by the frown of business and she got to work. She called Amy and that was that… game over, Al. Just turn up and do as you’re told!
(If you were there you would have met Amy! She was everywhere! A total legend! I hear her and Mitch even walked through the airport yesterday carrying a poster, still advertising my book!)
So, I did just that… as I was told. I stood up in a room full of people and spoke about my first novel… and I had a bloody great time! When there were gaps that threatened to spread into awkwardness, they were jumped on by Mitch and others who threw questions at me and the whole thing seemed so natural and wonderful that, honestly, I can’t quite believe it really happened. We sold every book and every single bit of merchandise (we had merchandise! Ridiculous!), we gave novellas away, and I signed my name wrong a hundred times, and it was just bloody lovely. People laughed and smiled and even applauded! (madness!) And then it just kept going… social media exploded (in a safe, localised and contained kind of way) with people saying the most wonderful things, and as much as I’m usually reluctant to write stuff like this for fear of tooting my own horn and sounding like an arrogant twat, I figure there are some instances where it’s okay, right? This was one. It was magic. And I loved every second.
My little book is in the world now. Officially launched. In the hands of the gods.
Kel tells me I have to stop being so self-deprecating when I finish these things or when I create ads on social media. “Stop saying I hope you enjoy my book… unless it’s shit”. That sort of thing. So, I promised her I wouldn’t. Not this time. This time I will absolutely not end by saying I hope people don’t think my book is shit.