Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Countdown to Caligula

Apologies for the prolonged absence, I was ambushed by the flu about two weeks ago and have since been struggling to rid myself of a kind of after flu flu that has sucked all the energy out of me. But enough of the medical bulletin.

Caligula is gone!

The typeset version of the manuscript appeared in the post just before I was felled by the lurgy and I worked on it for ten days or so before sending it on its way to Transworld with decidedly mixed feelings. That's it. There is no more I can do to it. No more rewrites or corrections. It's all down to the publishers' proofreaders. On the one hand there's relief that it is now, finally. truly complete. I've celebrated its completion about a dozen times now, and every time there was more to do to it after than before. But not this time. Now it's the book that people - people who buy books - will read. And that's scary. I must have gone through the typescript six or seven times and every time I had a different opinion about it. It's great. It's not. It's good. It's not good enough. People will like it. People will hate it. Totally irrational, I know, but something tells me it's what most people in this position feel. Still five months to go, it's going to seem forever.

So goodbye Caligula, hello ... the next book. Met Stan, the agent, today the only man apart from me who's set eyes on what I call The War God. And with a couple of minor reservations he likes it a lot, particularly the battle scenes, which pleased me, because they're big and bloody and epic, and I felt as if I was fighting them when I was writing them. You can smell the fear. The War God is finished - for the first time - now I plan to do a bit of polishing and get it to Simon at Transworld by the beginning of March. Another scary moment, but I like this book, and I think he will too. We're having lunch in London in a month - another first - so it'll give us something to chat about.

I learned something about the book business today that I should probably have known already. Stan has only a limited interest in The War God because it's already sold, part of the original two book deal. So he's happy to leave it to Simon and I to work on. He's more interested in the next project, the crime novel which he thinks has big potential. I thought it had too, but my enthusiasm waned when he got me to rip it apart and rebuild it. Then, halfway through, something clicked and I reconnected with the characters. I think it was when I started writing rather than sub-editing. The upshot is that we ran over a few different scenarios and now I can see exactly where the book's going and who does what to who. I like deadlines. The deadline for the new draft is the beginning of June. I can't wait to start.

I nipped into the YWO message boards today and I was saddened to see the site is going through one of those little civil wars it's prone to. Writing's about writing, not about complaining how long it is since you had a review or that somebody's given you lower marks than you think you deserve. The best things YWO taught me were patience and to roll with the punches. I suspect the second might come in handy in July.

Spent a great weekend in my old stamping grounds in the Borders at the weekend. Caught up with old friends (Shona, why did you let me drink so much wine?) and did a bit of hillwalking. We stayed in Melrose in a neat little hotel called the Townhouse (very stylish/great food) and I climbed the Eildon Hills, then walked down to the Tweed to look at the place where the Romans built an incredible stone fortress called Trimontium. The Borders Book Festival is in Melrose in June and I'm hoping to at least take in a couple of presentations to see what I could be looking at later this year or early next, maybe even take part in a workshop if I can wangle it. 'How to Roll With The Punches' sounds ideal!

Good health to all and avoid the lurgy.