Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Life in the slow lane

Ah, the trials of working from home. For the past week or so since I sent the first draft to Simon I've been doing bits and pieces, preparing for events looking at new ideas and that sort of thing - but I haven't been writing, not real hard-graft thousands of words a day writing. The problem is that if I'm not writing I don't feel as if I'm working, which I know is daft.

This week I'm preparing a plot line for the next book and doing some reading and I promise to try not to feel guilty about it.

I also have a great new 'aviator' chair, so hopefully no more sore backs!

But its not all highs: Amazon has come back to haunt me. A couple of weeks ago Claudius was up in the top two or three thousand books and in the top 100 historical novels, in the past few days it has fluctuated between 10,000th and 60,000th for no apparent reason. On the other hand Caligula is selling pretty well. Time to give up watching the numbers again.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


I've had a really good week. Last night I gave a talk on writing and books up at Dunblane Public Library, about four miles from here, for Off the Page, the Stirling Book Festival. I'd been mildly stressed out about it for a couple of days beforehand because I knew I couldn't read a script for an hour and a bit. You always know there's a possibility you might freeze, but I decided to go with a few prompts and just wing it and it worked really well.

We had an audience of about twenty five or thirty and I'm pleased to say they loved it. It seems most writers just plug their books and read from them and it was refreshing to hear someone talk about the nuts and bolts of writing and being published. It was also another indication that the books have a growing fan base because quite a few of the people there had read either of both and were very complimentary about them. Altogether a very successful evening.

A week ago I was in Milngavie talking to a group there and again I got a wonderful reception from people who were obviously interested in the subject and who asked some incredibly perceptive questions, which I love, even when they're challenging.

Hero of Rome went off to Simon on Monday and I'll hear quite soon what he thinks of it. I've a feeling it will need a fair bit of work this time, but I'm up for it. I have a growing sense of obligation to the people who read my books coupled with a real determination to improve as a writer. When you first start writing you more or less only have to please yourself but when people start paying for your work it raises the stakes, you have to be a real professional.

Speaking of which, life away from the hamster wheel of daily journalism is fantastic. I've been putting in the hours at the computer and preparing for my appearances, but today the sun shone lunchtime and I downed tools and set off for walk up to a loch in the Ochil Hills behind Bridge of Allan. It takes you up through some fantastic woods and the views when you reach there are glorious. Huge dragon flies in red, blue and black hovered over the water and the trout were feeding on them. A buzzard soared overhead and I spotted a large hawk that wasn't a kestrel. A few deer were feeding in a faraway field near the little Iron Age hillfort I've developed a fascination for. Sheer magic!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Another first

Claudius has finally won its first foreign deal. Amber, the Warsaw publishing house which published Caligula before it was out in Britain has also brought Claudius, which presumably is a sign that Caligula has been a success in Poland. Let's hope its the first of many! I've also had word of another foreign deal for Caligula, from Hungary, which brings the number of languages to nine.

I had the chance to read Hero of Rome through from start to finish for the first time last week and I'll spend next week polishing it before I send it to Simon at Transworld. You're never certain when you're writing it, but I think the book has turned out really well. Strong characters, a beautiful love interest and a story worth telling. The central battle scene is on an epic scale, chock full of savagery, heroism and sacrifice and several thousand dead bodies, just the way I like them.

I should also take this chance to say thanks to Samantha, my publicist, who has done a fantastic job over the last year. She's off to work for another publisher and I wish her all the best for the future

Went for a run this afternoon in the rain, across the river and out onto the Carse of Lecropt. There's a mill lade on the way and I spotted a kingfisher flying along it. They really are the most beautiful birds and if I could find a way to properly describe that glorious flash of azure blue on its back I'd be a writer.

I'm off to Milngavie on Monday, the event starts at 2.30 if you can get along.