Weeks and weeks of chest pain and coughing and bronchial oysters go by and I decide it’s time to surrender and call the doctor. I don’t often visit the GP. I kind of believe in the body as a finely tuned self-healing tool. I was prescribed a course of antibiotics once in my life, and didn’t take them because, FFS, it was just a cat scratch. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and all that. So I call the surgery and ask for an appointment. The earliest they can see me is IN TWO WEEKS. My doctor, apparently, is on holiday. Can I see someone else? (I reckon, because I never darken their door, that when I really do need to see a doctor, they should shove the trainee cadavers who are always wearing a trail into the waiting room carpet down the pecking order) I can, but I have to call again tomorrow morning at 8am. Cue visions of old things with various ailments sitting by the phone, arthritic talons poised above the redial key at 7.59. I’ll probably have to stab my phone for hours before I get an appointment at an inconvenient time with a doctor who would much rather be on holiday than listening to the rattle and wheeze of my breathers. And then I’ll be put on antibiotics.
Which I won’t take.
I’d like to think that these words, my first as a 41-year-old writer, were even more coruscating and insightful than usual.
No? Right, I’ll get my coat…
Listened to Navigare, by Simon Scott (thanks, Nick).
It was my birthday… give me a break. Despite not managing anything over the past two days, I’ve just noticed I’ve hit 40,000 words.
The last day of a convention and I don’t stick around, not when there’s a five-hour journey involved. I was out of Brighton by 9am.
Woke up late. And felt like something that should not be allowed to exist had laid eggs in my chest that were beginning to hatch. I’ve had what I suspect is a chest infection for the last few weeks and a long night of alcoholic drinks and cold air had done its best to set my recovery back. I managed to traipse over to the hotel in time for the James Herbert interview at noon.
I’m in two minds about James Herbert. I read him a great deal when I was in my teens and thought his books were terrific – shorter than your average horror novel, they zipped along nicely – but as time went on and my reading broadened, I found his writing style wasn’t what I was looking for any more. The last novel of his I read was Haunted, back in the late ’80s or early ’90s I read it in an evening. He does have that ability to drag you into a story and keep you going. An amazing knack, and one I wish I had a fraction of.
Anyway, the best bit of the interview came when Neil Gaiman, who was asking the questions, referred to the slew of imitators that had crawled out of the woodwork after Herbert’s The Rats became an overnight success in 1974. ‘Guy N Smith, for example,’ said Gaiman (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘and all I can do when I pick up a Guy N Smith novel is laugh out loud.’
‘I think he’s in the audience,’ Herbert said. He was. To be fair to Neil Gaiman, after a stunned moment, he rescued the moment brilliantly…
After the interview I met the splendid John Berlyne for coffee and a chat and then attended a panel later in the afternoon in which various writers tried to explain how they positioned themselves in terms of whether they were horror writers, and Simon R Green merely droned on interminably about how great he was. After half an hour of this I was starting to feel pretty grim. I was due to be on a panel in the early evening but I knew I was not going to make it. I made my excuses to the organisers, had a wander around the Lanes for a while, buying little presents for munchkins and Rhonda, and got back to my B&B by 5pm. I tried to do some writing and failed miserably. I was a Brighton crock. I thought a little nap might improve me to the extent that I would be able to attend the Quercus launch at 10pm (keep an eye on Tom Fletcher, a very good, young British writer whose The Leaping is out imminently), but then I woke up at 1am and that was Saturday gone…
I wrote those words freezing in the park in Brighton’s Regency Square, blasted by the wind coming off the sea. I spent the afternoon at a series of publishing parties, drinking far too much free white wine. By the time the party on the pier kicked off at 9pm, I was ‘refreshed’ to say the least. A quick scoot on the ghost train and another drink or two inside before I had to rush back to my B&B, pick up my laptop and head straight to the reading café at the Royal Albion. I made it with seconds to spare and was pleasantly surprised to see a decent amount of people waiting to hear me read (these things can go either way… in the past I’ve read to a room containing six people, two of which were staff and three of which were known to me).
I read the prologue and the first chapter from Loss of Separation and it seemed to go down quite well. In the bar afterwards I enjoyed a good chat with some of the audience, most of it to do with flying and how safe it is when it goes well and how dangerous it is when it goes wrong. I don’t want it to stop me from travelling, but I’m relieved when I know I’ve got a long, long wait before my next flight. I fly to Dortmund at the end of April…
After breakfast (in bed) I found my narrative suddenly split in two. I’d been charging on with one strand of my hero’s story only to suddenly realise that there was a bit I needed to tuck in earlier on, so I found myself with two leading edges to deal with. It meant that the word count came a little easier this morning.
Listened to: Biosphere
Currently reading: The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – this rather lovely edition:
There are a few worse feelings than having to get out of bed before 5am… but not many. Five and a half hours of motorway (is it me, or are there more roadworks now than ever before?) and I reached the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton with 200 copies of London Revenant for the delegates’ bags. At least there were some friendly faces to greet me. Old pal Michael Smith, über-editor Stephen Jones and the laid back, affable Amanda Foubister, chairperson of the WHC 2010 committee.
I dumped the books, found my lodgings and went for a walk. I wandered around the Laines for a while, sucking up the ghosts of Pinkie, Dallow, Spicer and Cubitt, and bumped into another old friend, Peter Crowther and his lovely wife Nicky, then had a bite to eat, bought some bribes for the boys back home, then went back to the B&B and fired up the old MacBook.
Writing those 704 words was like hauling my own tripes out with a rusty hook. I intend to sleep well tonight and wake, refreshed tomorrow (they serve breakfast in bed at this place). I must write a Graham Greene-sized amount every day. Even with the inevitable hangovers. I must…
It was all going swimmingly, and then I hit a chapter break. New chapter, change of pace, you can see the brick wall coming but there’s nothing you can do to stop yourself from slamming into it…
Oh well. Slowly onward. Another BTGG day. Just.
I’m in Brighton for the World Horror Convention from tomorrow. So what better place in which to write at least a GG-sized amount every day.
By the way, following on from yesterday’s post, if anybody is seriously interested in Fiction Factory, email me at ficfac [at] googlemail [dot] com
I’m privileged to have attended Arvon’s Lumb Bank writing retreat twice as a teacher over the past few years. Any writer who wants to spend a week in beautiful surroundings with like minds should think about signing up for one of their courses. They’re not cheap, but they will pay you back immeasurably with good memories, encouragement and, hopefully, some good writing tips.
There are some little tricks of the trade that I passed on during my stints at Arvon (and in Fiction Factory, my online writing group… contact me for details!) that I find can perk up your work if you feel it’s not going well, or if it’s reading a bit flat. Simple, effective exercises, such as reading your work out loud to yourself (you’d be amazed at how different the written word comes across), writing three pages using sentences no longer than six words, writing a story without using a single adjective, writing a story (in fact, writing an entire novel) without using adverbs (which are Satan’s pointless prose addition of choice). Most of these exercises encourage cutting. Less is more, and all that.
Anyway, I tend to overload on adjectives in my own work and then do a bit of pruning afterwards. Adjectives are buttered toast in the grammatical kitchen. Very nice and lots of fun, but too much can leave things looking a bit tubby…
Listened to: Insomnia by Biosphere and Diamonds Are Forever (Extended OST) by John Barry.