Sunday, 29 November 2009

Small world

The publication of Caligula now seems a long time ago but I had more evidence this week that the team at Transworld are still beavering away on my behalf. Foreign language publishing deals for the book hit double figures with the addition of Bulgaria to the list of Portugal, Turkey, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Serbia, Italy and Romania. None of them will make me rich, but there's a lovely feeling when you see how someone in another country has treated your stuff. I've got four so far and it's a toss up between Portugal (medieval-ish, arty, black and white) or Spain (almost sepia, wistful Rufus with lion on a chain) for my favourite. Looking forward to the Russian version. There's something about having your name in cyrillic ...

I did a piece about writing and how I got my break for a new online magazine WordsWithJam which is published for the first time this weekend. They gave me a great show, front page and all, and it's well worth taking a look at if you're into books and book people. Really professionally put together and lots of interesting writing. You can subscribe for free at

Monday, 23 November 2009

Write off

I can always write. Sometimes I write rubbish and sometimes I don't write a lot, but I always manage to make a bit of progress. Last week was one of the slow times. My excuse is the dreaded man-flu that glued up the brain and gave me a throat full of razor blades.

Still, I sat at the computer for a few hours every day and looked at the screen. If I'd been working on something fresh I'm sure I would have done more, but when you're trying to improve a story you've already written and have been wrestling with for a while its not quite so easy. Every time I looked at it I saw something different and every time my hand strayed towards the keyboard I felt like I was approaching an unexploded bomb. I changed bits, then changed them back again. Stared at the screen. Changed them back. Went for a cup of tea, pondered and then changed them back again. In the end I retreated into what I think of as an internet coma; wandering the world wide web in a haze of Google-induced self-hypnosis, teetering on the edge of the abyss that is Farmville or Mafia Wars.

Today, I'm back at work, full of enthusiasm, brain razor sharp, the words just fighting to trip off my fingers. So why am I sitting here writing my blog when I should be writing a book?

Answers on a postcard to ...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A Flying Start

I'm just back from Scotland's newest book festival at Lennoxlove  House, the home of the Duke of Hamilton near Haddington in East Lothian. Lennoxlove is the brainchild of Alistair Moffat and the team behind the successful Borders Book Festival and it got off to a brilliant start with sell-out crowds in the main marquee for writers as diverse as Rory Bremner, Martine McCutcheon, naturalist Simon King, Michael Morpurgo, Alexander McCall Smith and Kate Adie.
The house dates back to the 14th century and provides a magnificent backdrop for the festival throughout the day and night. Every room is packed with beautiful artworks and artefacts from the family's long, colourful and sometimes bloody history.
I was fortunate enough to catch Simon King's event and the affable Autumnwatch presenter provided a fascinating hour of anecdotes about his travels as a wildlife cameraman across the globe and encounters with the animals he so clearly loves, from otters to orcas. The story about his most dangerous filming experience - in Bristol City Centre - was hilarious.
The festival was held over two days but I don't think there's any doubt it will be back bigger and even better next year and I predict it will become one of the must-attend events on Scotland's literary calendar.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Sold out

The hardback of Claudius has sold out on Amazon and on the Borders website and apparently the publishers have no more supplies. I had an inkling of this over the past couple of months when the Waterstone's shop in Stirling had been waiting for six weeks for their order, and there were none at Wigtown when I was there.

So, good news and bad news, and one of those things you don't consider before you've been published. The good news is that Transworld will be happy the print run has been sold. But it leaves them with a dilemma: whether to print another 1000 and risk being left with 500 unsold, or accept that you're on budget and on target and leave it at that. I suspect in these straitened financial times it'll be the second option. There is a third option which they're talking about, which is putting the trade paperback (airport edition) into mainstream shops. Which brings me to the bad news. If that doesn't happen it means Claudius won't be available in a lot of places for another eight months and I won't sell any books. The paperback doesn't come out until July, along with my next book Hero of Rome. It seems a big gap, but again I suppose it's all part of the learning process.

I've completed the second re-write - or is it the third - of Hero of Rome, really just a few very reasonable cuts, and a couple of minor tickles. I hate to tempt fate, but I think it's the best thing I've done yet. An epic of triumph and disaster, courage, love and betrayal set against the background of one of the bloodiest contests of the Boudicann rebellion.