demislw - not dead

Report Of My Death : Greatly Exaggerated

No, I'm not dead.

I made a pact with the devil regarding my second book: "Winners", and opted not to write a single word anywhere apart from the draft that is now sitting in my Scrivener being picked-apart, rewritten, and polished.

It's in great shape, if I may be so bold. Way further along than the first was after the first draft; a win for my own education/development, even if it's still a long way from sitting on your collective Kindles. Can't wait to share it. While I'm proud of having finished "The Brave" (still querying!) I've planned this second one to be a far different beast. "The Brave" was me determined to exorcise a whole bunch of autobiographical ghosts, trying to write a good book but not thinking of where it'd go when it was all over. "Winners" is me determined to simply tell a good story - a cracking yarn - very conscious that yes, I'd like this published, thank you very much (vs. 'whatever - I just want to finish a novel'). Already I can see the difference in the eyes of any friend or colleague I corner with a beer and run through both pitches. With The Brave, they say "yeah... cool... " but sorta glaze.  With Winners, they smile and nod, and usually say "that'd make a great movie", followed by the customary follow-up "have you thought about self-publishing?" (Me: "Yes. And no." Insert long-winded reply about having faith in the additional manuscript-honing talent that pursuing traditional/hybird path brings...)

That wasn't all I've been up to. Two short movie gigs (both Marvel properties, not-so-oddly enough). Quite a lot of travel (Spanish mountain hikes, fishing on Norwegian fjords etc.) not to mention coding and managing the tech/site/social end of Cat's epic East London dining/delivery pop-up project, which has all gone well.

So sorry, vanity domain. I've neglected you.

However, the near future already has its series of buzzwords: declutter. Slash and burn. Simplify. I'm quite busy shuffling a number of things around ( / out ) of my day-to-day/week-to-week at the moment, in favour of a cleaner, more focused state. The wind's been blowing that way for a while. This site will stay, of course. It kinda has to. Those were the rules, and those haven't changed.

Hopefully I'll be back to posting semi-regular again, and not just this pseudo-journal personal crap either. Maybe.


But not yet.

Enjoy your summer, folks, as I'm sure as hell enjoying mine... (August : Rome, Morocco...)


Watch this space.

Big Smashy Things

To cut a long story short, while I've had a great couple of months edging my novel forward after a successful and revealing round of beta-reading in Dec, other areas of life have intervened, and suddenly - a change of plan - I'm back for another round of vfx madness with my buddies at DNeg.

A sideward step for the novel perhaps, but not a backward one - the past couple of months I have also been quite busy setting up the additional business arms I have been hinting at over the last several months, now fully up and running (despite not having officially launched), paying clients and all. Even with a return to VFX, the virtual businesses are a solid step toward future-proofing my writing career; whenever the time comes to step away from the film stuff even further, there'll be something to keep food on the table besides the gamble of hoping a successful book might do that - from here on in I can focus on improving at the craft without necessarily needing treat writing like 'a job', something I always hated as a musician.

2014 is shaping up to be an interesting year. I've set up a company, had a pile of people read and critique my book, about to move into a (bought and paid for) new flat in East London, and somehow already squeezed in a movie or two... January has most certainly not been an unproductive month. (Side note: I could always do a little better on that 'blog more' New Year's Resolution...).

For now, I'll leave you with a little taste of the movie I've started working on this week :

Page Break

It's been a busy November. After several very solid crunch-time weeks getting my upcoming novel The Brave ready for a team of readers to break, it's out there, being picked through, chuckled at, and critiqued even as I type this.

No matter how much I prepared myself for the day it would finally leave my laptop, it was still an unexpected and difficult moment - sitting there, finger poised above the send button on a bunch of emails, waiting to send the baby off on its first day of school. The feedback has already started trickling in - largely a good list of constructive picking-apart which I'm largely taking aboard in order to make The Brave a better book (and without too much work) - valid points, all. I expected there'd be fights and tears, but those haven't come. (Still... early days - nobody has finished yet...)

For now I'm trying to forget about the book, the disastrous number of typos I'm only just starting to notice, and focus on the next phase - agents, my pitch, and how to get it out there. There's still going to be some work to do once the team have delivered their numerous verdicts, but it's been nice getting out of the word-space this week and back into the cold, boring reality of finding the right home for the toddler once it hits its teenage years. Mind-numbing stuff. Staring at a billion literary agents' websites, poring over the likes and dislikes of the numerous strangers' biographies (all those heads I need to get right inside), staring at their mugshots, trying to see if I 'feel the vibe'. It's fun in its own way, but difficult - I know how busy these people are, and I don't want to waste their time with a book or a relationship that's not going to work out. I've got a strategy at least. I don't know if it's a good one, but like any great casino gambler will tell you, coming up with a thoughtful game-plan before putting in the hours is the only way to get results.

For now it's a great distraction. The coming weeks are likely to get icky as I keep polishing, incorporating reader feedback, and trying to stay positive about the steep curve of rejection I'm about to start stumbling up, but even with all of that I'm still loving the hell out of this process. The crazy long weeks I've been putting in lately meant that suddenly I'd absorbed the entire book into my head, and can picture it as a whole beast rather than the individual sections I'd been working on in the past - a funny zen absorbency situation, just like Neo and his kung-fu. I kinda know the deal with it now - how the book really is, as opposed to how it was as a plan, and what the aftertaste is once you put it down. There are plenty of things about it that I'm not in love with, but it feels like something at least, warts and all. While there were a few moments I cringed at the craptacular, but there were plenty of others where I laughed out loud or felt genuinely stirred. I'm happy. I've learned a lot, and already have plenty of thoughts as to what I'll do better writing the next book. Yes, there's still a pile of that self-doubt rolling around as always, where I'm still asking "Is this good enough?", hoping trained eyes will see enough promise to throw their talents into the manuscript and make it a book. But for my part, I'm happy. It's not finished, but writing a book is something I've done now - the rest from here is a new and different process, one laden with a whole new set of mysteries. 

Anyway, can't sit here blabbing on all day. This phase might be nearly done, but the toughest hurdles are yet to come...

Wish me luck.

Tipping Point

Ok, so I'm back. Last post was July, but who's counting?

Things got a little crunchy on Thor : The Dark World, but I went with it, without complaint, knowing there was a substantial writing break coming once it wrapped. Normally I'd be whining like a baby about a bunch of lost weekends and strings of back-to-back 18-hour days, but not this time. The work was genuinely satisfying - a really fun show to have been on for all sorts of reasons, and I hope it shows.

But, all this talk of Thor is SO last month. October is all about "The Brave". For the patient few who have followed it's meandering journey from afar these many long months, the wait is nearly over. I'm predicting several more weeks before I can release a beta draft to a few testers, but release it I will. Enough is enough. While it's far from a perfect manuscript, it's starting to read like 'a book', one which is about ready to have a shot at standing on it's own two legs, just see what sort of feedback it generates in the wild.

I am still looking for a few more literary randoms out there to donate some reading/commenting time to the cause, in particular "near-total strangers" who don't know enough about me or my history to be able to pick the book up stone cold. (No offence to the rest of you - you're either on the readers-list already or not, based on some really boring demographic criteria. Hell, I've got to save some of you to actually buy the thing...). By all means hit me up if you read a lot of books, won't be upset by the swears and typos, and have your interest piqued when I say : "one man's year-long journey back to relationship enlightenment, set in a quirky, globe-trotting world of sex, drugs and men in kilts". (Hey, so I haven't locked down my final pitch yet. So shoot me.)

For the rest of you, watch this space. I've got some big things in the works - not just the book - and a whole lot of non-vfx-filled time to do it. 

Until then, here's some music to get you into the appropriate frame of mind: Training Montage! :)


The Prisoner

I've already mentioned my obsession with filling up with random street observations. Since moving to London - a city where a lot more tends to happen on the footpath than a lot of other places - the folder has been filling up with even more snippets covering everything from street brawling, more crazy people talking to themselves, interesting new slang, declarations of love, lovers' arguments and even a couple of celebrity cameos.

The point is still to keep amassing this stuff for no other purpose than to mark and remember these glimpses into other people's lives, fodder for future scribblings. Completely lacking context, sure,  but this exact lacking it what makes it such a perfect catalyst for the imagination. Take this one for instance - written down back in May, discovered again today amongst the mess as I rummaged through the folder during a long render-wait:

"Early afternoon - sunny. A crowd of people is bottle-necking the Euston Street footpath-traffic. I think it's the media the way it's clumping in a tight circle, but there are no cameras. In the centre is a ragged-looking older man - a little hunched and twisted - being hugged in turn by every person in the crowd. Passing even closer, I notice he's old-school handcuffed, locked up hard by some Victorian-looking steel. The crowd are his family and old, old friends, all except two. One, a bearish type in a plain suit holding him tight by the elbow. The only other pair of eyes not on the cuffed guy belong to another man lurking right up the back - staring at me like cold death, tense and ready.

The prisoner looks tired and just a bit overwhelmed. It's like he doesn't want anybody to even be there (embarrassed?) but at the same time trying hard not to crack/melt and show how glad he is to see them, saying "y'all right" over and over as each person steps forward to smother him. The couple of teary women in the group must be his sisters. Family at least, not lovers. A couple of the men are trying to keep it together from behind the safety of their sunglasses. All  of them are of his own generation or older.

I look around to see which courthouse we are in front of, but the modern chrome and glass facade belongs to a hospital. To my eyes the prisoner suddenly seems much more tired, that embarrassment now seeming much more like preoccupation. I wonder how many years he's been locked up, as they're showing. Not just the bags and lines and crooked posture. More how dated everything else is;  the hair and facial expression of a young 80s crim slapped onto the decaying body of a tired, old, sick one - a rusted time-capsule. 

One last hug and he disappears in behind the doors without a look back, alone bar the brutes at his elbows."

Does he already know he's dying of cancer, or is he on his way in to do the tests that will eventually tell him so? Is he even sick at all - some worse injury concealed under his clothes? Why did his family choose to congregate in the street just to catch him for those few seconds in between getting out of a car and walking through the doors of a hospital, knowing full well they weren't going to accompany him inside? Will they be there when he comes out later? More to the point, why am I feeling sorry for this guy? What put him in prison in the first place? Was he sad because he was dying, sad because there were less people meeting him than the last time (like, no Dad), or sad because this would be the DNA test that will prove he was locked away an innocent man, those years now lost?

I've got piles of this stuff. Every entry spitting forth a hundred human questions, each begging for some back-story. Most of it is just taking up bytes - ordered clutter, digital hoarding, and feels a bit like insanity when you look at the pile as a whole. Or perhaps it'll be these same snapshots that find their way into a scene or a character and lend a three-dimensionality that pulls the entire story together, sparking the next big thing?

Hell, if nothing else, they've spurned a new blog post. That, and an anonymous, lonely-looking prisoner has a couple more random strangers on the Internet thinking about him tonight.


Words, words, words.

I finished reading The Brave last night. After taking a few weeks off after finishing the draft - just to clear the air - the read-through took a lot longer than expected, in part due to how much more closely I was paying attention to it than a regular novel-smash. Also, I took a lot of notes.

The verdict? 

It's a book. Definitely a book. Particularly from about half way to the end it felt like something, albeit a messy kind of something. Having said that, the first few chapters are a different beast; five chapters in, I was actually starting to feel something close to despair. I finally understood what they mean when folks describe their early drafts as utter rubbish. Salvageable, yes, but still rubbish. If it weren't for the fact I seemed to find my stride at a particular moment in the book, then hold the same level fairly consistently through to the end, I'd be heavily entering the murky realms of self-doubt.

Once I did get to the end, I was pleased. Proud even, if one is allowed to be at such an early juncture. It's definitely a "first book", in that it's not that complicated, not that heavily layered, and the subject matter is fairly straight-forward, but at the same time I did find myself entertained, chuckling at some of the characters, and feeling for (at least some) of the characters. It's hard to read something you've been so immersed in for so long, but if anything, the fact that it had taken me so long to write afforded me a certain distance from particularly the earlier half of the book, and I did find myself coming into certain scenes quite cold, unable to recall exactly how I'd written through. There were no surprises (beyond a couple of classic typo's... I actually used my own name in dialog at one point by mistake, twice on the one page.... who knows what that was all about.... The annotation (for correction) I left in the margin was simply : "LOL"...) but I did feel I was reading certain lines or paragraphs quite fresh.

Hopefully, for the last time. Now shit gets real. The next time I sit down for a scheduled writing session, it's game on. I know what I need to do to pull the early structure back into line. I'm absolutely GAGGING to get finished with the structural reshuffling and start looking at each and every paragraph, sentence and word, and working on my economics. I'm really, really looking forward to ditching - entirely - the chapter now formerly known as Chapter Three, razed ruthlessly and dissolving back into the ether from whence it came by the time I do the next full read.  

Exciting times, though who can tell? The whole process so far has proven that yes, I enjoy the hell out of writing, but that life does indeed get in the way when you're still trying to hold down a day job. I wonder if I'll get there? To that place where I'm actually smashing out words all day long, instead of smashing out slap-comps for the shooty-bang-bang car-chase action movie? (Side note : not that I'm not enjoying vfx at the moment. It's strange - I've had a complete revival of enthusiasm for the job since getting to London. The change was as good as a holiday, and while I still do plan on moving on eventually, I'm not hating my days at all right now.)

I shouldn't get hung up on the time it takes though. Nobody else is. I'm getting a few "shit... how long have you been working on that now" comments of late, but internally I'm pretty aware of how long this stuff takes now, especially when you're only getting to it for a few hours a few times a week.

I'll get there. It's still a steaming great mess, there'll be hair-pulling, grunts, speaking in tongues and moments of madness, but I will get there.