144 Days and Counting

23 Apr

Sorry I didn’t post last week. That’s what happens when you have a 3 week old son. There are days when I can hardly remember my name. Anyway, I’m back now and in top gear. (My mental state as against the TV show.) 144 days after self-publishing my first novel, this is what I know.

  • Every time I publish one of these blog posts, I sell three books. Sometimes it’s four, sometimes two, but the average is a reliable three.  I noted in the last post that I didn’t sell any books when I took a week off to celebrate the birth of small Joe. I sold three books (two kindle, one paperback) in the week that followed that post. I didn’t post last week because small Joe is getting big lungs and he’s a night owl. Neither did I sell any books. I must have a little word with small Joe.
  • That last post caused a bit of a stir. It was attracting the usual flow of hits until I tweeted a number from the post. That number was 142. The tweet said that I reckoned self-publishing was costing me €142 a week. About an hour later it was my second most read post of all time. A lot of people were surprised that I could lose that amount of money. One friend asked if the tweet was just a clever headline. Here’s the thing – it was and it wasn’t. In the time it takes to write this post and do other blog promotions in order to sell the book, I could be earning about €150 for a paid article. I average €8 a week in revenues for the book. Do the math. Well, kind of. It’s not like I am turning away paid work to promote the book. I do it in my spare time. So yes, it kind of was a clever headline. If by clever you mean deliberately deceptive. That said, I think a lot of self-publishers don’t factor their time into their calculations because it would wipe out their profits. So the headline did the job of letting people know that self-publishing can be a costly business.
  • Blogger Roy McCarthy left an interesting comment on that post. He pointed out that the market is swamped by self-publishers, but a lot of them will continue because they love to write. That got me thinking. Because I also love to write. I get up early every morning to add another 750 or 1000 words to the sequel of Keep Away from those Ferraris. That hour or so before the rest of the house comes to life is my favourite and most creative part of the day. I don’t want to treat writing as a hobby because writing is what I do for a living. In short, I need to turn my writing time into money. If self-publishing novels doesn’t work out over the next few years, I will give it up and write  something that can pay its way. But for now, thanks to Roy McCarthy, I will make sure to enjoy my timeslice as a novelist every morning. It’s still a great way to spend an hour.
  • My new novel is taking shape. I’m 30,000 words in to the first draft and I hope to publish it early next year.  It’s a lot darker than my first novel. If Keep Away from those Ferraris was one long party, then this is the Hangover. That might make a good title. Except I think I already have a great title – Revenge of the Killer Ferraris. I can see that on a blood red book cover. What do you think?
  • I wrote a few months back that Des Kenny of Kenny’s Bookstore in Galway got in touch and ordered a box of books from me. The good news is that the paperback is for sale now on his website, at a great price and with free delivery worldwide. You can get your hands on a copy here.
  • Ok, profit and loss time. I have sold 168 copies of Keep Away from those Ferraris, with revenues of about €172. That’s me €1328 in the red  once I deduct the €1500 of production and promotion costs. And that’s without paying any attention to my €142 loss a week. So there go my plans to be the first Irish man in space. For now anyways.

Roy McCarthy blogs at http://backontherock.com.

You can read last week’s mildly controversial post here.

That’s all folks. See you same place next week. Provided of course that small Joe plays ball. And there are no guarantees on that front.

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130 Days and Counting

9 Apr

I might as well come straight out with the news. I didn’t get a chance to post here last week for the best reason in the world – we have a new member of the family. His name is Joe and he’s two week’s old. I am tired and ecstatic. He’s a little space-rocket of joy, just like his sister. His mother is as fabulous as ever – that’s pretty fabulous.

Joe’s arrival allowed me to test one of my key theories about self-publishing. You know the one I keep banging on about every week – the best way to sell books is to blog regularly. Obviously the only way to test this theory properly is to stop blogging for a while and see if it has any effect on sales. I stopped blogging for a week to stare at my new son. I didn’t sell a single book.

Bear in mind I’ve averaged sales of around four books a week since I started this blog 80 days ago. So, case closed.  If you’re not promoting, you’re not selling. This needs to be put out there as a health warning for anyone thinking of going down the self-publishing route.  It takes a lot of time and effort to keep your sales figures ticking over. That’s time and effort you’d rather spend writing another book (unless you are actually insane.)

In short, right now, it feels like I’m wasting my time. Here are the numbers. A weekly sales rate of four books puts about €8 of royalties in my pocket per week. In the time it takes to write this blog entry, I could be writing an 800 word piece for a number of magazines and newspapers that publish my work. The fee varies from publication to publication, but averages out at around €150 per article. In other words, self-publishing doesn’t just cost the €1500 I spent on an editor, cover designer, promotion etc. for Keep Away from those Ferraris. It’s also costing me €142 a week just to stay in the game.

This, on the surface, is plain nuts. I’ve delved a little deeper into my strategy – it’s nuts there too. Joe’s first words could well be ‘my Dad has a shite head for business.’ That would be disappointing and not just because he learned to curse at such a young age

Here’s the thing. Self-publishing is a punt. It’s an enjoyable punt, but if you’re doing it to make a quick buck, then I’ve learned hard and fast that you are in the wrong business.

I am investing a small enough amount of money and large enough amount of time to build my brand as a writer over the next five years. The single most important thing in that process at the moment is not the sales of my current book. It’s the wordcount for my next book, a sequel to Keep Away from those Ferraris.

I’ve got some news for you on that front. That wordcount ticked past 25,000 words this morning. I had initially aimed to get it on Amazon for the end of November, to hit the ‘Someone gave me a Kindle for Christmas market’ (when what I really wanted was a weekend in Rome).

That timetable is beginning to look like a rush job. Here’s why. I plan to get my first draft of 75,000 words done by the end of July. My second draft, where I slash down the meandering sentences to up the pace of the story, should take about eight weeks. We’re into October now and I still haven’t sent it off to the editor. That’s cutting it very fine to get the book back for a final read, another final read, a proof read because I changed a couple of things in the last two final reads, another final read after that proof read and a week  lying down because I can’t take it anymore.

In short, I won’t have the book out to key reviewers in time for them to post a review for a December 1st launch. I didn’t bother with advance reviews the last time because I was lazy and arrogant. (There’s no point in dressing these things up.) So now I’m thinking the follow up to Keep Away from those Ferraris might have to wait until early  2015. But this self-publishing thing is all about changing your mind. So I could be back next week to tell you that I’ll have a sequel on the shelves in early November.

In the meantime, here is a reminder of the profit and loss for Keep Away from those Ferraris. I have sold 165 units of Keep Away from those Ferraris, with revenues at about €168 euro. That’s €1332 euro in the red after I deduct production and advertising costs. So I’ve abandoned my plans to be the first Irish man in space. For now.

That’s all folks until next week. I’m off to stare at my son and see what he has to say about the world. I hope it isn’t ‘shite’.

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A Spoof on the Irish Festival Season? Ok.

28 Mar

 THE TRAKEEN FESTIVAL OF BONGOS AND OTHER DRUMS

People come from miles around for the Trakeen Bongo Festival. They meet a lot of people going in the other direction. That would be the locals, getting out of town. You don’t want to be around when the bongos start. Or when the bongos stop and the people playing them start to talk. That’s no fun either.

There is an extra incentive to get out of town this year. The Committee has decided to break the world record for the number of people playing bongos in the one place at the one time. If there is one thing worse than a huge gang of people playing the bongos, it’s a huge gang of people who think it’s an achievement to get in the Guinness Book of Records. They’re not even doing it for charity.

Mind you, Bongo Barry won’t hear a word against the festival. He’ll be down in Trakeen all weekend, banging away on the drums with that special idiot face reserved for bongo players and people who mix up their medication. You can’t blame him. Without the bongos he’d be just another guy who has watched every single episode of Star Trek twice, by himself. With the bongos, he gets to score with gullible German young ones who think that a bongo player is a musician, rather than someone who couldn’t be bothered to learn the guitar.

So Bongo Barry will be there with his favourite bongo, three or four of those plastic bracelets to make it look like he’s interested in causes and his scoring beanie. The ladies will flock to Trakeen from Dusseldorf and Munich to make eyes at him. He is not to know that every last one of them is thinking “Bongo Barry is as close as I will ever get to das rumpy pumpy with Larry Mullen.” This is just as well.

THE CASTLEBEG ARTS FESTIVAL

American tourist Colleen sits in the B&B, updating her travel blog with impressions of the Castlebeg Arts Festival.

‘When Shannon and I saw the Facebook page for the Castlebeg Arts Festival, we said like oh my God this would be a totally awesome way to get away from the tourist traps and experience Ireland’s rich cultural heritage. We were like so wrong.

So like we arrived and went into this pub called How’s She Cuttin’. We asked the barman if he had any art on display and he pointed at two paintings on the wall. Both of them were of dogs playing cards. I said like cool, it’s clearly an allegory for bankers ruining the world. The barman insisted it was dogs playing cards. He seemed like angry.

Then this guy called Scooby or Scobie came over and said “are ye here for the auld art girls?” He could have done with a wash. Scooby offered to show us the highlights of the festival. He brought us to a space called ‘the hall’ which was showing a video on a loop of his brother Stinger doing donuts on the Limerick road.  When I asked Scooby if it was supposed to represent ennui in rural Ireland he said no, it was Stinger doing donuts on the Limerick road. Then he said “Jaysus, you’re irresistible” and tried to kiss me. I let him for a little bit.

Shannon asked what else there was to see. Scooby said Daft Deirdre had probably finished reading palms outside the Spar, so the only other thing was a “weirdo sculpture in the GAA pitch by some Dutch bender”. I didn’t like the sound of that. Shannon said she’d go with him. She’s like such a slut. Actually she just arrived back there after a fight with the ScoobMeister. Like, get this. They were making out in his Celica when he suddenly looked her in the eyes and said ‘Jesus, you’d be the image of Katy Perry if you lost a few pounds’. Tomorrow we’re going to this thing called the Rose of Tralee. Hopefully we’ll like see some culture there.’

THE DRUMSILAGE FAIR

Forget about The Gathering. Emigrants have been returning for the Kilsilage Fair since it was invented in 2004 to celebrate everything that’s good about rural North Kerry with three days of borderline alcoholism. They got rid of the committee last year because when it comes to three days of non-stop drinking, it turns out that Irish people are self-organising.

Things are looking tricky this year. They got a new Superintendent in from Cork who is hell bent on wrecking Kilsilage 2012 – he is opposing ‘de extension.’  Lar “Spud” Moriarty (FG) is on his feet at an emergency meeting of the Urban District Council.

“I would like to say this to Superintendent McCarthy. The Kilsilage Fair is built on de extension. Sons of the parish will not come home from Australia if they think the pint will be grabbed out of their hands at half eleven by some greasy Cork man.  Kilsilage men have been drinking their heads off until all hours since this festival began, and it never did anyone any harm, except for the time Billy Mike O’Shea drove to Shannon airport at 5am and demanded they sell him some duty free. Good man Billy Mike. What was the point in driving out the British occupiers if we can’t celebrate our unique rural communities by drinking until dawn? It’s a dark day for Kilsilage. I propose we march up to Superintendent McCarthy’s house like one of them mobs out of the Simpsons. All in favour? Right, that’s carried 2 to nil, no abstentions. Tell me Séamas, where are the other eight councillors.”

“They’re down in O’Reilly’s getting as much drink into them before the Fair in case we don’t get de extension.”

“They’re right too. I’ve always said the key to the Drumsilage Fair is preparation. And de extension.”

LOCHBEG MUSIC EXTRAVAGANZA

Eamon is having a shite day. If there’s one thing worse than hanging around town in the pissing rain with your three small children, it’s doing that when you’re looking at Crystal Swing on the back of a lorry.

Then his gorgeous next-door neighbour Chloe taps him on the shoulder and says “I think the mother is giving you the eye.”  “Chloe you’re hilarious” replied Eamon, over doing it a bit.  You’d overdo it too if you ever saw Chloe sunbathing out the back in her black bikini. Especially if your wife snuck up behind you and said “you haven’t a hope in hell Eamon, don’t forget the bins.”

This festival is starting to pick up. Flirting with Chloe should help ease the pain of standing through 30 minutes of Mickey Joe Harte followed by ‘a surprise guest superstar’ who is probably just Bressie.

“So what brings you to the Lochbeg Music Extravaganza, Chloe?” said Eamon, when he really meant to say “why don’t we just dump our kids right here and shag off to Spain.”

“Bressie.  I’m telling you Eamon, I’m married with two kids and I’d still like to take him to a room in that new hotel by the roundabout and cover him in maple syrup.”

“Is that all you’d like to do, Chloe?” said Eamon, without thinking.

“Hardly Eamon, hardly” she whispered and gently slapped him on the shoulder. Eamon hadn’t felt like this since the German channel on cable started showing porn back in the 1990’s.

Except then his eldest daughter turned around and said “Dad, stop trying to score with Chloe will ya, she’s so out of your league.”

Eamon turned to Chloe, mortified. Chloe turned to Eamon and said “she’s right Eamon, I so am.” Bitch.

CNOCKNOCK MOON FESTIVAL

Noreen is all go. She never thought that her small ad in Druid’s Monthly for the Cnocknock Moon Festival would attract over 1000 new-age types to her little Mayo village. As she grandly announced to her husband when they started to arrive at their campsite: “There’s one hell of smell off these hippies, Fergus Staunton and it’s the smell of money. Go out the garage there and open another box of those crystals we bought from that mad little Chinaman in Galway – the hippies can’t get enough of them.”

She lowered her voice. “And then go up to the back field and check if the cement has set on the two standing stones Johnny put up last night. The hippies are planning to go up there tonight and dance around like gobshites to get in touch with their inner child.  Jesus Fergus, people would believe anything. Come back then and I’ll give you your dinner.”

“Is it lentils, Noreen?”

“My arse.” At this point an attractive young hippy approached the reception desk. She ran out and hugged him for longer than necessary because she is on her third reading of Fifty Shades of Grey and Fergus hasn’t been up to much since the operation.

“How can I help, you gorgeous hippy?”

“I was just up at the standing stones there Noreen. Very impressive. How long ago did the Celts perform their rituals there?”

“Oh, it was ages ago. A thousand years at least.”

“ Wow. It’s amazing that they were able to work with cement.”

“Oh, we had a very advanced strain of Celt here in Mayo. Could I interest you in a crystal?”

“How much?”

“I’ll give you a box for free to sell on to the other hippies as long as you don’t say a word about the bit of cement.”

“Done.”

“Fair play to you. And there was I thinking that every last hippy was a gormless eejit.”

“You’re good crack Noreen.”

TASTE OF DRUMLOCH

Pauline doesn’t fancy the stalls at the Taste of Drumloch.  When she heard they were going to celebrate local eating habits, Pauline assumed there would be a chipper and a place where a pleasant lady puts a plate of bacon and cabbage in front of you and says ‘now so’.

She did not expect sushi, weird bread, cupcakes, crepes, macaroons and worst of all, organic vegetables. It is a well-known fact that Drumlochians like their veg with lashings of pesticide.

She strode over to the stall. “How much for the carrots?”

“They’re a euro each.”

“Christ on a bike. Why are they so expensive?”

“Because we don’t spray them with anything.”

“So you want me to pay more because you couldn’t be bothered your arse to make them safe. Feck that.”

It was then she spotted festival organiser and all round snotty gobshite Clive Smyth at the next stall.

“Well, would you look who it is. Clive Smyth selling that great Drumloch delicacy, sweet chilli sauce. Truly Clive, it is our culinary gift to a grateful world. Welcome to Drumloch, home of chilli sauce, macaroons and raw fish.”

“There’s no need to be like that Pauline. The purpose of the festival is to educate people like yourself and broaden your horizons. Did you not see our slogan on the way in – ‘It is far from this you were reared’.”

“Ok so Clive, tell me what’s so great about your sweet chilli sauce.”

“Most people buy it as a cure for constipation.”

“Give me three bottles. And don’t be going around town telling everyone I have trouble on that front. You snotty gobshite.”

THE RAVE IN KILSNAVE

17 year old Sophie didn’t ask to be born. And she certainly didn’t ask to be born to Ken and Rosie, who were ravers back in the day and have now  dragged her to the Rave in Kilsnave. If there’s one thing worse than hearing your parents having sex, it’s watching them relive their youth.

Kilsnave is a boutique rave. That means expensive wellies, over-priced noodles and thirty somethings looking for the toilets with the kind of fervour they used to seek out Crackpot Charlie back in 1993. Crackpot Charlie, that guy could sort you for anything.

Ken’s shrink warned him not to take drugs at Kilsnave because he’ll only end up hating himself again. So he downed four  double  espressos, soared for an hour and now he’s muttering “this will end badly” at a group of nervous looking  Swedes.  Sophie reckoned she could not be more mortified until her mother stood up and started dancing.

“Jesus Mum, stop doing whatever that is and sit down! I couldn’t be more embarrassed.”

It turns out she could. Rosie produced a whistle and luminous wand and started shouting ‘summer of love’ at the sky. Sophie turned to her father, more in hope than confidence. He had his arm around some shady guy in a beanie shouting “If it isn’t Crackpot Charlie, the cause of and the solution to all my problems.”

Sophie tweeted “It’s the Summer of Mortification.” And headed back to her yurt.

BALLYHICKEN FESTIVAL OF HORSES AND LADIES

Niamh surveys the field in the bar at the race course. “I’m telling you Regina, if I don’t land a fella at Ballyhicken this year, then I’ll marry Donal.”

“You mean Gay Donal from college.”

“The very man. His father told him the other day it’s grand he’s gay but he won’t get  a square inch of the farm if he doesn’t get married in front of the entire parish. I said I’d do it for forty grand and two semen samples. He said fair play.”

“But won’t you miss the sex?”

“What sex? I can’t remember the last time I had sex.”

“Didn’t you have  a quickie with Cocky Con at the Galway Races.”

“I did, but I can’t remember it. Feckin’ mojitos. In fact I can’t really remember the last few times I did the dirty deed, just that they were all at race festivals and I was standing up.”

“Like a horse.”

“Oh Regina, you’re gas.”

“You know Niamh, if it’s a husband you’re looking for, you’d be much better off playing hard to get.”

“I try my best.”

“So what happens then?”

“Mojitos. I better cut them out before I get a name for myself.“

At this point Cocky Con walks over and says “well, if it isn’t Nympho Niamh.”

“Well, Regina, it looks like I got a name for myself. I might as well text Gay Donal and tell him we’re game ball. In the meantime Cocky Con, go up to the bar and get me the mother and father of all Mojitos. I might as well go out with a bang, says you.”

 THE SLIEVEHALLY SHOW

The theme of this year’s Slievehally show is tolerance, diversity and show jumping. For the past seventy years it has been just about show jumping, but these days Slievehally is a designated eco-village. Which means it is home to 70 families who read an Irish Times feature called “Slievehally: It’s like Ranelagh with fields.” The upshot is that for the first time in its history, the Slievehally Show features a Pride Parade.

The guests of honour are Chad and Langley, two gay members of the New York Fire Department in full uniform. Let’s just say they are getting a lot of attention from the culchies.

“Get ‘em off, ye gorgeous Yankee firemen” shout the two Moriarty sisters, half-mad from a new alcopop called Off Your Tits (please remember to drink responsibly.)

“Sorry to disappoint you ladies, but we’re gay.”

“Go away out of that. If ye were gay one of ye would definitely be dressed up as a red Indian, like in the Village People.”

“I think you meant to say Native American.”

“I did not. It’s definitely the Village People. You’d think a gay person would know that.”  Chad and Langley hurry along, agreeing they will never leave Manhattan again, unless it is to go the trendy parts of Brooklyn.

Marching behind them by himself is a small nervous man dressed as a parish priest. In fact it is the parish priest, Fr. O’ Mahoney. The organisers of the parade never told him it was for gay pride. That will teach him to give a sermon attacking the blow-ins from Dublin as “pinko queens who think the Irish Times is some kind of bible.”

Behind him on four inch heels is a furious Packie Delaney. Packie spent three hours getting ready so that he would look just his hero like Cheryl Cole. Finally he was about to fulfil his dreams and become the talk of Slievehally. Until Fr. O’ Mahoney decided this would make the perfect time to come mincing out of the closet in his little black number. Well feck it anyway.

 DUNMARA REGATTA

Trev sits aboard his 25 footer, idling on the breeze just at the entrance to Dunmara harbour in West Cork. Another fabulous day’s sailing with people who are no strangers to red jackets and Range Rovers. Now comes the downside of Dunmara Regatta – going ashore to mingle with muck savages and people who live in semi-detached houses.

At least he isn’t the Commodore of Dunmara Yacht Club, who has to stand up on the back of a lorry and address the slack-jawed crowd, with their mortgages, second-hand people carriers and looky-likey docksider shoes they bought in Lidl. Still, Trev will probably have to stand around with Clive and Basil and applaud the daft townies for having a three-legged race. Those freckled yokels probably think noblesse oblige is a racehorse.

Seriously, what’s the point in bringing together a collection of refined people with sailing tans if they have to mingle with a gang of PAYE workers in sports-gear? The whole point of sailing is to get as far out to sea as possible and away from the type of Ordinary Joe who thinks he’s arrived because he joined the golf club. Trev feels really sorry for people in the golf club. So near and yet so far.

Still, Trev has one thing to look forward to. The riff-raff will eventually wipe the ice cream off their red-faced urchins and head back to their estates to watch Britain’s Got Talent on Sky Plus. And he can finally go home and straight in to the arms of the Italian au pair. Life would be unbearable without Francesca. Especially since Trev is 5 years of age and his mother is forever off to Marbella with her friends.

As they say in Dunmara sailing circles, it’s never too early to be a complete and utter snob.

 

 

 

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Why, What and How I Write

24 Mar

This week’s post is part of The Blog Tour: What, Why and How I Write. It’s basically a grenade – I answer the four questions below and toss a nomination at three of my favourite bloggers to say now it’s your turn to do the same.

Thanks to Catherine Ryan Howard for lobbing one of her three grenades in my direction. I don’t pick up every grenade that lands in my foxhole. It’s just that Catherine’s excellent book Self-Printed was my spirit guide when I entered the self-publishing world and now I do everything she tells me.  I should add my three nominees have agreed to post their entries next week and no bloggers were hurt  in the production of this writer-chain. You will find Catherine’s details and my three lucky nominees at the end of this post.

What am I working on?

dfw-pf-kaftf-cover-smallI am currently writing the sequel to my debut novel, Keep Away from those Ferraris. I am at 23,000 words of a first draft, with the aim of writing THE END when I hit about 75,000 in early July. The book picks up the action in Ireland after the economic crash. I didn’t plan to write a sequel to Keep Away from those Ferraris until a friend said he would love to spend more time with Johnny Ferrari. That was good enough for me. I don’t want to give too much away about this sequel, mainly because I’m making it up as I go along. (That’s writing for you.) But suffice to say the tone is darker than the last one and a lot of people keep disappearing in large hotels. Oh, and the working title is Revenge of the Killer Ferraris. I wonder what the cover should look like.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Genre is a tricky business. My advice to first time writers is to have some idea of genre before you start out on a book – or an idea of the Amazon categories where you will place the book. That will help you in terms of pricing against the competition, cover design and choosing potential reviewers. That said, the danger of writing to a genre is you follow the conventions of that genre so tightly that you disappear into a digital forest of similar books on Amazon.

I originally put my book in the crime/thriller genre because a crime is committed and I hope it is thrilling. That said, it isn’t like most other books in that genre. You know the ones where a group of missing children are kept in the basement of a house in Cleveland Ohio by a charming psychopath who is eventually foiled by a dry-drunk cop struggling to make a go of his second marriage.

My book is more of a black-humour satire on what happened here in Ireland when the rest of the world said here’s 100 billion euro, see what you can make of it. (Thousands of empty housing estates as it turned out.) If Amazon ever introduces an Irish Crime Thriller Sex Comedy category, then my work will have found a home. Until then you can find it in Crime Thriller, Financial Thriller and Humour categories.

Why do I write what I do?

Along with novels, I write for newspapers, TV shows and advertising agencies. (Regular readers of this blog know the benefit of this extra work –  otherwise I’d be living off half a tin of beans a month. See here for a diary of my sales figures.)

In one way or another, all of my writing is a first person look at what it’s like to be alive in Europe in the early part of the 21st century. That’s what I know. And it’s true what they say –write what you know. It is also why Keep Away from those Ferraris and the sequel is written with first person narrators. I think it makes the story more immediate and allows my characters to call it as they see it. There is a temptation to give worthy and meandering sermons when I write in the third person. I hate that in a book.

How does my writing process work?

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Where the magic happens. Every now and again.

I have a busy week. My paying jobs (newspaper columns, TV and radio work) come first because I can’t live on blog posts, new twitter followers and selling three books a week. So I get up at 6am to write an hour of the novel every day. I manage this about three times a week because we have a 20 month old daughter and she has yet to show any real buy-in to my writing schedule. (We’re working on it.)

I don’t have my story worked out before I start. I like Martin Amis’ description of writing as the process of solving a series of problems. So I usually start with a few characters and a problem that needs to be sorted out in a limited timeframe. Every time the story starts to lag, I introduce a new problem or kill off a character. That’s because I like novels where there is something happening as against someone spending three pages describing a waterfall. This process gets me a first draft of 75,000 words.

The second draft is an ironing out process where I make sure that the plot works, the characters stay real and the tone rings true. (I wrote the first draft of Keep Away from those Ferraris sporadically over three years. The second draft involved patching up a narrator who went through three separate personalities in the course of the first draft.)

The third draft is a tightening up job. Make the sentences shorter. Get rid of those stray commas. Hunt down and kill those adverbs. Slaughter all repetition. The fourth draft is a ‘can I live with that’ read-through. That’s where I get rid of my embarrassing sentences.  There must be quite a few of them – by the end of Draft 4 I’m down to about 68000 words. After that it’s off the editor, a final read-through, publish and endless riches. I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

Ok, Who’s Next?

Here are the three bloggers who will reveal all about their writing habits on their blogs next Monday.

Lorna Sixsmith Author Pic

Lorna Sixsmith

Lorna Sixsmith’s book ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?’ was inspired by one of her blog posts ‘Advice to those thinking of marrying a farmer’.  She is, of course, married to an Irish farmer. She loves social media and has moved from teaching secondary school students to teaching businesses how to use social media effectively.  Lorna blogs at Irish Farmerette and  Write on Track.

Carmel Harrington

Carmel Harrington

Carmel Harrington is the bestselling Irish author of Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, published by HarperCollins.  She has won several international awards including Kindle Book of Year and Romantic eBook of Year in 2013. Her second novel, The Life You Left will be published 19th June 2014.  A native of Wexford, she lives with her husband Roger and young children Amelia and Nate in the beautiful village of Screen.  You can find her at www.carmelharrington.com

 

Karmel Knipprath

Karmel Knipprath

Karmel Knipprath is a 24year old caffeine addict, book blogger and aspiring writer, who spends most of her time rereading battered Stephen King novels, while waiting patiently for JK Rowling to bring Severus Snape back to life. Karmel blogs here.

 

 

Catherine Ryan Howard? Who is she again?

catherine

Catherine Ryan Howard

Catherine Ryan Howard is a writer, TV-watcher and coffee enthusiast from Cork, Ireland. She’s self-published a couple of travel memoirs, Mousetrapped and Backpacked, which she followed up with the obligatory ‘how to’: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. Now she does social media stuff for a major publishing house and is working on a novel she hopes someone else will publish. She currently divides her time between the desk and the sofa and wants to be a NASA astronaut when she grows up. (She’s 31.) You can sample her blog stylings right here.

UPDATE: I am giving away three ebook copies of Keep Away from those Ferraris today. To enter, find my Facebook page on the right-hand sidebar and follow the instructions in the top post. Oh, and by the way, the answer to the competition is Fizzy Wizys. They sure are fizzy. I’m extending the closing time of the competition to midnight tonight, EST.

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The Beard is Looking Very Last Year

21 Mar

I can’t stop looking at myself in the mirror. It’s ok, I’m not what Cork people call septic. It’s just that I’m not sure about my beard.

It wasn’t always like this. I grew it five years ago as a Christmas present for the wife. She was always telling me how much she likes a man with a beard. I was a man without a beard who had ordered her a Christmas present on the internet that was due to arrive in early January.  That would have been one icy Christmas. I stopped shaving.

The beard has been part of my furniture in the last five years. And now I think it’s time to go. The problem, as you have probably guessed, is bicycle polo. It’s the new thing apparently. As the name suggests, it’s polo for people who aren’t rich enough or poor enough to own a horse. There was a feature on it recently in some newspaper weekend supplement. Even before I panned across the photo of guys playing the game, I knew we would be talking wall to wall beards. That was a tipping point for me. I never want to be mistaken for the kind of guy who plays polo on a bike. (I’m not the type to play it on a horse or in a pool either. I’m against all polos, even the mints.)

I blame the hipsters. There might be only four of them operating out of a doer-upper in Stoneybatter. But they have taken over the country. Just as the wife got my beard for Christmas, it looks like every guy in Ireland gets a beard for his 21st. That’s fine except I haven’t been 21 for quite a while. In short, my beard is age inappropriate. It’s like a hoody on your granddad.

I reckon the beard cycle is about 40 years. Irish guys in their 20s and 60s can wear a beard without looking out of place. It doesn’t work that way for my generation. For example, mine was one of three beards at our class reunion a few years ago. (I went to a boys’ school before you ask.) Beards never took off with my lot because Gillette made some really good ads back in the 80s. This was before Lynx Africa was guaranteed to get you the chicks. Back then Gillette showed us a guy in a towel getting felt up by a supermodel.  We all took up shaving.  Of course a 1980s beard was also a bit Wolfe Tones and we were keen to leave that behind. I bet you the rise of Sinn Fein among middle-class voters is linked to the return of the beard. Someone should write a paper about that. You might even get a book out of it.

Anyway, back to my beard. Hold on to it and I run the risk of looking like a sad bicycle-polo-playing wannabe hipster in his late 40s. That’s the case for shave it off and it’s a pretty strong case.

The case for the defence is pretty strong too. I like the sound my beard makes when I give it a scratch. I can’t wait to get trimmed once a fortnight. Why? Because of the Cookie Monster. Our 18 month old daughter is addicted to him. It’s not like he is on 24/7 in our place. But his demented biscuit eating has come to represent the chaos that goes with having a toddler around the house. My beard trim trip into town is a chance to escape all that.  I enter a Zen like state of relaxation when the Turkish barber is doing his thing. I need that in my life to balance out the Cookie Monster.

Another plus is my beard does great work on any sign of a double chin. On top of that, it makes me look a bit dodgy. That’s handy because without it I look like a mild-mannered type with doormat written on his chest. And then there’s the wife. She still loves my beard. On the other hand she’s so distracted with our mad toddler that she probably wouldn’t notice if shaved it off.

I can’t make up my mind. My guess is that I’ll be clean shaven in six months.  There is just one thing that might stop me from pressing shave. And that’s shaving. The mad toddler means that at 7am every morning I’m like a zombie who slept on a bed of Xanax . Taking a sharp implement to my throat at that hour isn’t just a drag – it’s dangerous. So I might bide my time for now. But you can take this to the bank. If Bearded Bicycle Polo becomes an actual thing rather than a one off in a weekend magazine, I’m going to reach for the razor. I’ll never be a part of that tribe.

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