Friday, 24 July 2009

Another week and no blog? What’s up with that?

So, as the song says, “another week over. And a new one just begun.” Okay, so John Lennon actually wrote “year” and not “week” and the week isn’t quite over yet nor has a new one quite begun, but you get the idea.

My last blog post was almost a week ago, and that was a fairly lazy “copy and paste” job from an post I’d made in the Love Romances Cafe last Monday. That alone should tell you what a difficult couple of weeks I’ve had. Work has been, and continues to be, very tough and it’s leaving me so shattered that when I get home all I want to do grab something to eat, slob out in front of the goggle box (as opposed to the google box) for a couple of hours before crawling into bed, falling asleep only to wake up six hours later and have to do it all over again.

And it’s not even as if there’s been anything worth watching on the goggle box. we had Touchwood a couple of weeks ago – 5 nights in a row and it was AMAZING – but since then picking have been pretty slim. Mock the Week is back, which is always welcome, but that’s about it. Oh, and Top Gear, but that’s on Sunday not during the week. Mind you, there is always the iPlayer.

So I’ve been watching the first five Harry Potter films in preparation for going to see it this weekend. I have to say, it’s remarkable how much Emma Watson has come on as an actress. By films 4 & 5 she’s actually acting and is almost believable. I’m looking forward to film 6 – it’s going to be hard for them to stuff up the story when translating it to film. I’m sure they’ll miss out a lot of important stuff, but it hasn’t really been missed in the other films so it should be okay.

I do worry about the last two films though. Particularly part 2 of Deathly Hallows which is where I expect Dobby’s death to slot in. For me, Dobby’s death and Harry’s subsequent digging of the grave by hand is a hugely significant moment. It’s very well written – probably the best written scene in the entire series – and had a massive emotional impact on me. I do worry that the scene will not have the same impact in the film for the simple reason that they’ve missed Dobby out of every film since the second, and so if you’ve only watch the films and not read the books you’re not going to realise how Dobby worships Harry or how much affection Harry has for Dobby (even if he is annoying).  In fact, if you’ve only seen the films, you don’t even know that Dobby has been working at Hogwarts for a couple of years.

But I digress.

I have been working on Eternally & Evermore. I’m just getting set to write the dramatic, cliff top conclusion which will be followed by a winding down coda to confirm the HEA. I’ve written  first draft tag line and blurb too.

Tag line - “Think that love will last forever? Think again.”

Blurb - When you’re young and in love, you think that love will last forever. Amy and Will think their love will last “Eternally & Evermore.” That it survive the three years they will be apart while they attend different universities. They are wrong.

Twenty years later and Will, now a successful lawyer, is invited to his school’s reunion where he meets Amy again and they realise that love does last a lifetime. That their love burns as strongly now as it ever did.

But the path they walk is not simple. Amy’s life has been tough and she harbours secrets that could prevent them from being together “Eternally & Evermore.”

So, have a good weekend everybody. I know I’m going to try to relax and kick back before coming back to the grindstone on Monday. See ya.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Yet another LRC set of interview questions

Last Monday was the second Monday of the month which means it was a Phaze Authors chat day in the Love Romances Cafe and, as usual, Dawn posed some rather interesting questions for us to answer. Here are mine.

What is your favourite movie of all time? The one where you can watch it and still get affected at the same spots each and every time?

Damn, Dawn, you may as well ask which one of my kids is my favourite. Of course, I only have one child, but that’s not the point.

There are lots of movies that still have the ability to affect me they way they did on first viewing, and one or two that have actually got better with repeat viewing.

The two “Bridget Jones” movies always make me laugh. Rene (I’m not going to try and spell that girl’s last name – you know who I mean) is fabulous – a truly inspired piece of casting even though us Brits were up in arms at the time.

But for that ‘melancholic’ feeling, I’d have to go with “The Shawshank Redemption”. It’s a difficult movie to watch because it can affect one so deeply, but it is, quite simply, brilliant. It’s also the only film that I can think of that’s based on a book (well, short novella) and is actually better than the source material (which is by Steven King no less)

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you have with you?

My laptop and a power supply so I could write. A razor & mirror (can’t stand having too much stubble). Is that two or four?

What is your favourite way to relax after a hard day working and writing?

Actually, writing is my way to relax. But a nice hot bath is a close second.

What is the one era you would love to go visit and why?

I’d love to have been around in the sixties. Beetlemania, mini-skirts, swinging London and all that. Yeah, I am Austin Powers deep down – Groovy, Baby. Yeah!

What is one historical figure you would love to chat with and why?

His name is Bill. He wrote a few plays and is generally considered to be quite good at what he did. Can’t remember his last name but he was from just down the road from me. Well, about an hour’s drive away on a good day.

Out of all your books, do you have a favourite one? If not, then which one is closest to your heart?

You know what I said earlier about choosing between my kids? Actually, I do have a book closest to my heart – and it’s the one that isn’t published by Phaze. It’s not published by anyone actually. “Reunion” was the first ‘new’ piece of fiction I wrote after joining “The Fishtank” and all I learnt there. It’s available to read for free on my website. You can get it here.

What character out of all your books is the closest to your personality?

To some extent all my male leads, Matt from Reunion, Adam from Kissed by a Rose, Chris from Lost & Found, and David from Charlotte’s Secret, have a big chunk of me in them. I suppose to some extent they are all idealised versions of me. They act the way I‘d like to think that I’d react (although I probably wouldn’t) in the same situation.

What do you feel is the most important aspect a new author should remember when writing/creating their own stories? Any advice for aspiring authors?

First, put your heart and soul into it as you’re writing but maintain enough distance from the story and character to be dispassionate about making changes when you need to. I guess that’s the hardest part of writing – you need to learn to accept that something you’ve written or a character you’ve created just isn’t up to scratch. It’s really, really hard to do, but it’s also really important to be able to do.

You also need to develop a very, very thick skin. You’ll be shot down at all time from all angles – just look at the stick that Dan Brown and JK Rowling takes. New writers get it even worse. So you’ll need to thicken up that skin pretty quickly.

The last thing is slightly different. Listen to your characters. The best characters will tell you what they would do (or not do) in any given situation. They take on a life of their own in your head. So listen to them – they know themselves better than you do.

Have you ever been nervous over reader reaction when a new book come out? How much does reader response mean to you over your books? What do you hope readers get from your books after they read them?

I’m always nervous. Hell, I get nervous when I send new chapters to beta-readers. What I want the readers to get out of any given book will depend on the book, but you do want to hit the right notes and get the ‘right’ reaction out of the reader.

How long does it take to write a book for you? Is there much research involved in your stories?

I only write part time, so it takes me longer to write a book than it would take a full-time writer. Kissed by Rose took me nearly two years. My current WIP, Eternally & Evermore, is going much quicker. I’ve been working on it solely since around February and I’m in the ‘home stretch’ of the first draft. I’m hoping I can finish it before the end of the summer.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Isn’t it weird when…

Stuff happens. You know, freaky stuff. Stuff you didn’t expect.

The other day, I was browsing the interweb, as you do, looking at nothing in particular, if you can count naked ladies as nothing in particular, when I came across (meaning I found – nothing sexually unseemly) a page of thumbnails of some of the photos of a set by the website of glamour model (okay, porn star) Lexi Belle.

And the weirdest thing happened.

No, not that. Get your minds out of the gutter. What happened was that several of those photos – the head shots, in fact -  hit me like a sledgehammer because they were almost exactly the image I’ve been carrying around in my head of the heroine of my latest WIP, Eternally & Evermore.

I swear, it was incredible. There was these stunning photos of an already beautiful young woman, made up and styled to be very, very glamorous and all I could think of was how much she looked like Amy looked to me as I wrote about her.

Okay, so Lexi has hazel eyes and Amy has blue and Lexi has dark roots while Amy is a natural blonde, but those things aside, it WAS Amy staring out of the screen at me with a sexy, smouldering look.

And I knew. I knew I had to have her on the cover of the book. I know, I know, I’m getting ahead of myself because the book isn’t even finished yet, so downloading that photo and turning it into a cover (compete with a change of eye colour) was not the most productive use of my time, but it made me feel good.

Now, as good as I think this cover looks, I know I can’t use it. The photo is almost certainly copyrighted so I’d have to get a release from the copyright holder, which I wouldn’t have the first clue how to go about doing. But I can hold on to it while I finish the first draft and revise the subsequent drafts.

On a different note. I’ve had another hell of a week, which is why this is my first blog post of the week. Still, the week is over now and I can relax for the weekend. Who knows, I may even get another couple of thousand words towards the end of my WIP.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Marc Reads Chapter 5 of “Kissed by a Rose”

Yes, you read the title right. This is an idea I had a while back and I had wanted to do it for the launch of the book back at the start of June, but what with one thing and another, I never got around to actually recording it.

But, now, I’ve found that time and I can present me, yes ME, reading chapter 5 of Kissed by a Rose. It’s the chapter where Adam and Chloe meet for the first time and I’ve used it as a text excerpt before, but now you can here me reading it. It sounds almost like it did in my head when I wrote it – only without the odd fumbles and mistakes.

I hope you enjoy it. And if you do enjoy it, I hope you go and buy the book to read the rest of it.

Oh, and please tell me what you thought of my “performance”. Who knows, if enough people like it, I might even record another chapter or two.

So, hit the play button below and turn up the speakers. Or put your headphones in if your at work. (I should warn you, it’s about 15 mins long)


ps, if you really, really like it, e-mail me and I’ll send you a copy for your iPod. lol

Friday, 10 July 2009

Based on a Novel by. . .

Firstly, may I offer my apologies for my absence for the past week or so. It’s been one of those “real life” things again. Just too damn busy to blog. anybody who followers me on twitter and has heard me moaning all day will tell you what it’s been like.


Did you read the interview I did with Nick Gilmartin? If not you can catch it here. The main focus of the interview was on my writing romance (albeit erotic romance) but being a man. Men writing romance is still very unusual. Men reading romance is unusual too for that matter.

But one question I was asked was…

Would you be happy to see your work turned into films, in the genre of Tinto Brass or Jess Franco? (Google them)?

And I answered.…

You know, I’ve even ‘cast’ a couple of my stories. Of course, I can’t really see Kiera Knightly wanting to take on these roles unless some of the scenes were toned down a bit. Rachel Stevens might go for it though since her singing career isn’t going too well right now. I live in hope. (funnily enough, I cast myself opposite both of them. lol)

But, actually, it’s even worse than that. I haven’t just cast film versions of my novels and some my short stories – I’ve directed the whole goddamn movie in my head. Everything, from the opening credits (featuring my own movie production company’s logo – a company that only exists in my head), through the tense expressions of love and steamy sex scenes to the power ballad playing as the end credits roll.

I guess I’m a frustrated movie maker as much as I am a writer.

And I’m wondering, do other authors do this? Or is it just me? Do I do this because I’m a child of the 80s/90s where visual media – film, TV and music videos – has been such a huge part of the culture?

Hell, I remember getting up at 6am to queue up to see the first Tim Burton Batman movie on the first Saturday of its release even though the first showing wasn’t until after midday. My friends and I were first in the queue.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a very ‘visual’ writer – that reading my books is almost like watching a movie. And I can see it myself in much of what I’ve written over the past few years. I also see it in the ‘process’ of my writing. I often say when asked that when I write it’s as if I’m observing the characters play out a scene in my head and I just write down what they say and do.

Some books feel as if they’d make good movies because of the way they are written. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter is a case in point. It’s obvious from reading them that they’d make good movies. They are still better as books than the movies that have been made – but the movies are pretty good too.

Other books don’t translate as well – either because the film makers didn’t do a good job or because the books just weren’t written to be filmed.

And still other books/stories actually benefit from being made into films. Anyone who’s ever seen The Shawshank Redemption and read Stephen King’s short story on which it’s based can attest to that. Controversially, I also that that The Lord of the Rings benefitted from being films. It was lucky that the film makers were all die-hard died-in-the-wool LOTR fans, but the films are just so much more accessible than Tolkien’s tome to a great many people. Don’t get me wrong – I love the book, I just can see how some people would struggle to read it. And while the films are very long, they are very, very watchable.

So, which of my books do I think would make the best movie? Hard to say. I can see how they could all be filmed. But I suppose given it’s length and the greater freedom that length would afford the screenwriter who is tasked with translating the book to screen, I’d have to say that Kissed by a Rose would make the best movie.

At least, it will until Eternally & Evermore is finished and gets a release.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Interviewed? Me? Yep, It’s true

I’ve been interviewed by Brit Blogger Nick Gilmartin. You can read it here. Don’t forget to leave him a comment and tell him I sent you. ;-)

Nick came up with some great questions – some I’ve never been asked before – and I really enjoyed answering them.

Still, I’m not sure I’m thrilled with being compared with Saddam Hussain. You’ll have to read the interview to know what I’m talking about.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Joy of Tesco

There is a report on the front page of The Times today which claims that Tesco may be the surprise buyer of Northern Rock. For those who don’t know, Northern Rock is the bank taken into government ownership in early 2008 BEFORE all the other banks started to fail. They were running short of funds and customers started queuing up outside branches to withdraw their money – the first run on a bank in Britain for many, many years. It was taken into government ownership to safeguard the remaining depositors, much to the chagrin of the shareholders.

There are other potential buyers in the market, but the fact that Tesco is there, looming large, I actually find quite scary.

Tesco is by far the largest retailer in the UK, the third largest in the world by volume and the second largest in the world by profit. It’s reckoned by some that one in every four pounds spent in Britain is paid over to Tesco in some capacity. The one-time food retailer is now vast, selling everything from TVs to DVDs and from Petrol to Car Insurance. They even already have a ‘personal finance’ division selling loans, credit cards and savings products. So the purchase of Northern Rock would see them enter the current account and mortgage markets too.

With Tesco also putting Costa Coffee branded areas in their shops and already supplying pharmacy and optician services, AND putting out the idea of offering Estate Agency and Legal and medical services IN STORE, it could soon be possible to ‘pop in’ to Tesco to buy a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk and walk out having purchased a house from the estate agent, with a mortgage from Northern Rock dealt with by a lawyer in a Tesco uniform, then get some new glasses, see a doctor about that dodgy knee and get the drugs to cure it, pop back to the lawyer to write a will in case you die on the way home, before sitting down to have a coffee before filling up the car insured by Tesco with Tesco petrol before driving back to the house you’ve just put on the market and expect to sell within a couple of weeks.

Tesco is, in my opinion, just getting too damn big. I can envisage a time when this country ceases to be the United Kingdom and gets re-branded as United Tesco or Tescain. For me, it’s worrying that one business could have such a dominant position not just in one market, but in almost all of them.

Think books. Most of you will know me as a writer. I write e-books, which are sold globally online and I don’t have anything ‘in print’ so to speak. But here in the UK the print publishing market is now dominated by Tesco as the largest retailer of books. It’s not that they carry all that many titles, you’ll still find a hell of a lot more in a Waterstones or even a WH Smiths, but Tesco sell the largest volume because it’s easy to pick up that new bestseller everyone’s talking about when doing your weekly food shop. So while it’s a great sales boost to get on the Richard and Judy reading list, it’s probably more important to publishers to get a book onto Tesco’s shelves. This is why, I believe, we’re seeing more and more ‘celebrity’ books. Tesco want to fill their shelves with names and faces that the general public recognise and so that’s what the publishers give them.

A good thing for literature in Britain? I don’t think so. But I digress.

The thing about Tesco is that, unlike the other ‘big’ (comparatively small) supermarkets, you see just about all sorts of people in the stores, regardless of ‘social class’ or income.

There are five other ‘major’ supermarkets in Britain. Sainsbury’s, Asda (owned by Wal-Mart, the worlds largest retail – but number two in Britain), Morrisons, Waitrose (a part of the John Lewis partnership) and Somerfield. Then you have the ‘low cost’ retailers from the continental Europe like Aldi, Lidl and Netto.

Now, each of these other supermarkets have very clear images and a very distinct type of person who shops there. Waitrose, for example, holds a Royal Warrant as the ‘Queen’s Food Supplier’, although I doubt very much that Liz ever actually pops down there to get the meat and two veg. But the type of people who shop in Waitrose tend to be of a higher ‘social class’ and don’t mind paying the extra five pence per tin of Heinz Beanz. I’m trying to pick my words carefully here so as not to offend anyone, but you know what I mean. Sainsbury’s would also tend to attract those of higher than average earnings.

Conversely, the customers of Asda and Morrison’s, who market themselves as ‘costing less’, would have a much lower household income, if you take my meaning.

And yet, in Tesco, you’ll see all of these types of people. Prime example, last night I had to ‘pop in’ to Tesco, which is on my route home, to get some bread, ham and bottled water. Somehow I managed to come out having spent nearly £25, but we won’t go into that. What I found when I got the the till was a very well-dressed, nicely made-up middle-aged woman in front of me and a family behind me that consisted of a father with short, bleached spiky hair and a vest that showed off his thick arms and tattoos, a young boy who looked like he hadn’t washed in a week and a mother who was… How can I put this? You know how some women look really, really good when they are pregnant? They look elegant and have a ‘glow’ about them. While pregnancy just makes some other women look even more trashy than they did to start with? She was one of the second type.

I couldn’t quite believe the contrast in the people either side of me in the queue. And this is where Tesco’s power lies. They attract all sorts. and then all sorts keep going back. It is, frankly, the best business strategy of the last twenty years. and they just keep getting bigger and bigger.

So, maybe, one day I won’t be writing for the Britwriters blog or attending the BritLit convention. Maybe I’ll be writing for the Tescwriters blog and attending TescLit 2025. Who knows? I don’t , but I sure hope it doesn't happen. And I hope the government can find a more suitable buyer for Northern Rock. But given it appears that Gordon Brown wants to get shot of the bank before next year’s election, somehow, I think TescBank will be the next big name in the mortgage market.


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