Weddings and Seven Eight and chewing nails.

The wedding was great, such fun, and daughter and son-in-law are now getting thoroughly sunburned in South Africa, presuming they survived the dive with Great great whitesWhites which she’d set her heart on. I’m being very optimistic and assuming I’d have heard by now if they didn’t. They were going to be in a cage, after all, what could go wrong? (And yes, I saw Jaws too. Hush.)

So, once the excitement of the wedding weekend was over, and the hangover had finally subsided, I wasted a few days getting used to the silence and a few more listlessly doing some bits and pieces and have suddenly realized that my latest book launches in days and needs at least some help from me, eek. Apart from anything else, it had to go from the returned Edit-my-book version into Jutoh format, so the weekend has been spent doing that, and reading the Kindle simulation, and making changes, and re-reading, and making more changes, and today is the final final read-through and it gets loaded on Amazon tomorrow. How scary is that? Frankly, terrifying. I’d recruited more beta readers than ever before and two of them fell by the wayside. That’s not a good start! The ones who finished it, liked it and think it’s the best so far. Really? Five Six will always be my favourite, but then right at the moment Seven Eight is so familiar to me I have to do all the editing tricks in the book (reading it backwards, changing the font size, putting it in columns) just to prevent my jaded eyes from saying yeah, yeah, we’ve read this before, can we move swiftly on?

seven eight finalI do love the Festival, and the book is partly a celebration of the Festival. And Fiona Bentwood swears and smokes and is bitchy, she’s the antagonist but I sneakily rather like her. I really did enjoy writing the final third of the book more than any of the others, but I broke some writing rules with the opening scene and I nervously suspect that will come back to bite me. Keep it simple, the experts say, and quite rightly. The Festival is crowded, and lively, and the opening scene is crowded and lively, and those two beta readers faded on me (just never responded at all) and my nerves are shot. I’ve included the opening on its own tab in this website, and if you read it, and have some useful advice (other than, you know, ‘scrap the whole scene’ because it sets up most of the activity in the book so I can’t) you should definitely feel free to let me know. Preferably before I load it tomorrow night.

I’m doing a soft launch at a lower price up to the official launch, in the eternally optimistic hope of getting a couple of reviews on there, and will soon be twisting beta reader arms to post reviews, but the rest of the pre-launch promotion has pretty much been torpedoed by the wedding. Five Six got a proper planned detailed launch and outsold both the previous books in their respective first weeks so I have no-one to blame but myself if poor Seven Eight falls flat on its colourful little face. It is a book born in my first (and last!) NaNoWriMo, but most of the fifty thousand words written then had to be stripped away ruthlessly, scrubbed, and slotted back in new ways; if not discarded altogether. Writing under a deadline was absolutely horrifying and lends itself far too much to quantity over quality, the editing was a nightmare. It is still the longest book in the series so far and definitely rambles a bit too much in the Exposition but that’s to lull the reader into an easy doze as they are ushered gently past clues and red herrings. I want alert readers to spot the murderer, of course I do.  That makes the traps more exciting. But it can’t be too easy. Moving swiftly on . . .

(Ah, just seen the good news on Facebook—they survived the shark dive. Phew.)

Nothing succeeds like excess. (May include flesh-eating aliens)

I heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time last year. This year I tried it. So did 302 THOUSAND others.  Writing 50K words, for the NANO 2013-Winner-Square-Buttonsake of writing 50K words, was an odd experience, but I knocked out the basics of my 4th whodunit in the process and feel obscurely uneasy about writing my first ever potboiler. When I had written my quota I went to the relevant forum on NaNoWriMo to record it. I was – surprised – to see how many books had met that target on the first day of November. One day, to write 50K words.  Gosh, those must be good books.

It got me thinking about how we overdo, well, everything. Every good idea becomes a fad, then the norm, and then excessive. Doing something the original traditional elitist way – oh, take the above example, pouring heart and soul into a book over months and even years, polishing it lovingly, and finally, after setbacks and rejections and re-writes, getting it published – becomes the exception to the rule.

I’m as guilty as anyone, no mistake. No finger pointing here. But it did start me thinking about what defines excess.  In my childhood, best beloved, as a family we sent and received up to thirty Christmas cards, because we were at the other end of the world to most of the large and scattered clan, and if you couldn’t spend family time together, you at least wanted to be in touch. Last year, I received I don’t remember how many, but over a hundred, most from people I didn’t know. Quite interesting, mind you.  Fancy Mary’s husband being called Urgen, and who would have guessed she had daughters called Bliss and Supreme?

typistWhen does more become too much?  Christmas cards, how many is too many? Will I make eight – no, nine – cards by hand, write long chatty letters and enclose photographs?  Unfollow all the people on Twitter who interest me not at all and hope that my favourite few will do the same and we can go back to the fun chats we had a few years ago, you remember, when getting a 50th follower was genuinely exciting ? Reduce my Facebook to people that I know?  Grow my own vegetables, go fishing, set snares, slaughter my own livestock, or even just cook every meal from scratch instead of a few times a week? Ask my daughter to reconsider planning children because there are too many people already? Delete my own books and start a campaign for everyone to delete theirs? Er, no.

Instead, my predictions for the future.

Christmas card scanners will become the next gimmick, and people will scan and email their card(s) to everyone they know. The cards received will play in a constant loop across your choice of computer screen, TV screen, or a viewer mounted next to the holographic Christmas tree. There will be several hundred of them. Really expensive holographic cards will project3D images of family waving and smiling, and the youngest members of said families playing in the snow or on the beach (delete as applicable) / performing on musical instruments / singing or telling jokes.

A new social media called Chatter will allow you to select the categories in which you have an interest, and will automatically join you to everyone else in that category. This will instantly give everyone several million interest-sharing friends.

GM food patties of high nutritious content, available in nine exciting flavours and four distinct colours, will be delivered to every household on a weekly basis. Luxury foods will be available, at a huge price, from select outlets. They will inevitably be dried, frozen, pickled, preserved or tinned (canned). Youngsters reading old books will feel slightly queasy reading descriptions of raw food, while their parents will feel a momentary pang of nostalgia. Those who insist on keeping hens, or growing their own fruit or vegetables, will be considered slightly alarming eccentrics, and newspapers will run frequent stories on how many of them die of salmonella or eColi poisoning.

Books, magazines and newspapers will no longer be printed at all and readers will be encouraged to hand in the books on their shelves for recycling. All electronic books will be assigned to categories, where accredited reference books, including school books, have the highest rating.  The lowest category of books will be the cheapest and largest, but books that earn above a set amount will move to a higher and more expensive category. Readers have to complete a detailed registration form and will then be offered a selection, starting with the most expensive, in their favourite genre. They will be expected to complete a response before they can buy the next; (a) could they finish the book just taken, (b) was it fit for purpose, (c) was it correctly categorized, (d) would they recommend it. Their answers will shift the books up or further down the popularity lists.

Many more people will be born. In about twenty years time flesh-eating aliens will start gathering hungrily around the planet.  People with money or connections will be concealed for the duration of the emergency, with a good supply of GM patties and dried, pickled, preserved and tinned food. When they emerge there will be a few million at most, and their health will be permanently affected. It will take a thousand years for the human race to recover, along with new religions and new political structures, possibly overlapping.

There could be a book in this. last straw