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Solaris have acquired the sequel, hallelujah! And Babylon Steel was reviewed, favourably, in SFX. Oh the relief.
I urge readers to buy a copy of that estimable publication; quid pro quo, and all that. It contains many an excellent article, apart from the review, (which I am in no way planning to have laminated, framed in gold, and hung over my desk. At least not until after I have finished the rest of the Festive Preparations).
I am now, inevitably, in panic-stricken rewrite of the sequel, and suffering the probably entirely usual fears that I will fail dismally, that people might enjoy the first one but will find the second one a disappointment and strike me off their reading lists forthwith and with opprobrium.
I also seem to be suffering, as the astute reader has no doubt observed, from some strangely Victorian influence on my prose style.
I think it’s the hat.
I bought a hat, recently. It’s a splendid hat, I like it a great deal, but it is high, and black, and has a tuft of feathers on one side, and in combination with a full-length, severely cut, high-collared black winter coat, does rather make me resemble a Victorian funeral mute. Elderly people look at me askance, and shuffle away down the other end of the bus.
(This may not be because I summon thoughts of mortality, of course; I may merely look like some ominously dark-clad and eccentrically-behatted person they would prefer not sit next to. I admit to occasional strangeness, but I swear I present no threat to the elderly – unless they should happen to read one of the sex scenes in Babylon Steel and suffer a fatal conniption as a result).
Clothes do affect my behaviour; a new pair of buckled boots gives me a piratical strut; a slinky dress brings out the inner vamp, in roleplay armour I get all butched up and start challenging half-orcs to arm-wrestling matches.
Hmm. If I bought a navy-blue power suit, would I become suddenly efficient, whisk through the undone paperwork cluttering my desk, phone all the people I should have phoned six months ago, and generally Get Myself Sorted? Alternatively, if I bought one of those cloaks that has a deep hood and goes all swirly when you walk, would I have no choice but to stand somewhere murky and brood a lot?
Maybe I should try the navy power suit thing. In the meantime, I would be fascinated to know if anyone else finds that the clothes they wear affect their behaviour.
I have a book.
Well, I don’t, I mean, I haven’t seen the actual physical copy of Babylon Steel yet, I haven’t held it in my hands. But it exists. It’s a thing, in the world.
This is very strange. Because suddenly, it’s real.
It hasn’t been real in the same way before. It’s existed as an idea, then as a few scribbled words in random notebooks and as a lot more words on a screen – a bunch of, what, spots of arranged light, electronic thoughts in a silicon brain. And the time will come, I think, when most books are bought and read as electronic files; that will be their ultimate stage of reality.
I admit I’m very glad to have a book that exists as a solid physical object. That was the reality of books I grew up with, and is the reality of most of the books I own or buy, still. It was my ambition, and I feel immensely lucky that it’s been realised.
But then, is a book actually real before there are readers? Which sounds rather postmodern, perhaps, but I feel there’s still another level of reality to come – the point where it’s read by someone who isn’t a friend, a member of my critique group, my agent or my editor. That’s when it not only becomes real, it becomes separate. And either people like it or they don’t. Either they notice it…or they don’t.
Now I get to see if it can survive on its own, a real thing, in a reality outside my head. And that’s scary.
A disturbing aspect of e-books has just occurred to me. If most books are distributed in electronic format, how will you check people out?
Back in the day of my not terribly flaming youth, (more one-ring gas stove than flaming, really) the fact that someone did, or didn’t, have a book collection was a pretty big pointer. No books at all? They might be hotter’n a smoking pistol, but I knew any relationship was doomed from the start. But if ereaders become the new shelves, how will you know if potential partners have anything more on there than the owner’s manual?
Ah, the moment of entering someone’s territory, being left to peruse the bookcase while they went to the loo or put the kettle on. Running a quick eye over the titles, one ear open for the returning footstep. Fantasy? Good; that much in common (but if there’s more than one Gor novel, run.) SF? Also good. SF but no fantasy…hmm. Potential arguments over the worth of stuff not based on Real Science. Classics? Good; again, depending. Only classics? Was this person going to tell me that SF and fantasy weren’t Real Books and I shouldn’t be rotting my brain with them? Because that was never going to end well. Crime? Yes, a good sign –as long as it wasn’t a serial-killer novel lying on a table with a notebook next to it and Post-its on all the grimmest pages. And if there was nothing but Mailer, Hemingway, and some magazine with guns on the cover? Oops. Sorry, bye.
There was more to check out than just the titles, too; were the books worryingly pristine? Either a bibliophile, which meant the relationship could end over a marmite fingerprint on a formerly spotless page (plus, I’ve never been able to get my head around the idea that the physical book is of more import than the story within) or the books had been purchased mainly for show, or as gifts, and never actually been read. Lots of books, all ordered on the Library of Congress system – with spine labels? And a catalogue? There might be an issue or two there. Nothing wrong with being organised, but there’s organised, and there’s obsessive.
Without such an early warning system (even though, on at least one occasion, I ignored mine completely) I can’t help feeling that us book-loving folk will lose a massive, secret advantage in relationship decision-making.
Yep, it's true. I just heard it on the train. I hear all the best insanity on the train. Apparently, the mere fact that yoga is connected with Eastern religions means that it's a doorway for the devil. Sit down, wrap your right ankle over your left ear, get your transcendental freak on and the very second you succeed in slipping out of your physical body, there's the Old Boy himself with a butterfly net, ready to grab your floaty soul and whisk it away to realms of eternal damnation. So the lady on the train was saying, earnestly, into her phone, as she passed on a tale of having recently snatched an unwary friend from the jaws of Yoga Evil.
Well, lawks, is all I can say. What next? What untold evils lurk in the realms of hitherto innocent-seeming alternative routines? Does acupuncture allow Satan to sneak in through all those convenient little holes in the dermis? Does holding crystals, perhaps, give him focus, acting like a magnifying glass on sunlight, permitting satanic influences to burn the goodness out of one’s soul, leaving only crisp and sooty baditude?
Anyway, I shall be jolly careful next time I buy some joss sticks, I can tell you. I mean, they probably don’t even put ‘inhaling pure SATAN’ on the label, or anything. And as for Bikram yoga, the one you do in boiling hot rooms? That’s obviously just a preparation for the fires. In fact, since I’m quite obviously hellbound anyway, what with all the alternative stuff, maybe I should try it out; it’s practically boot camp.
Tart cards! The tart cards have arrived, and they’re fabulous.
Perhaps I should explain. This was an idea for publicity for Babylon Steel thrown away as an offhand comment by writer Gary Couzens at a T Party meeting. ‘You should have some cards like the ones working girls put in phone boxes,’ sez he, at which I go, ‘You know what…’ and inform my publishers of said idea. They, bless them, leap upon it with glee and the result is a set of cards with, on one side, a perfectly respectable copy of the book cover with some very nice remarks by the lovely Mike Carey. The other side...well, see below.
I suppose it’s possible that umbrage as well as eyebrows may be raised in some quarters – but frankly, I am writing about people who work in the sex industry, however fantastical the setting, and a little tongue-in-cheek homage to those who do it in the real world doesn’t seem out of place to me.
I have what is very nearly the final cover for Babylon Steel - I'm waiting for the text. This is ridiculously exciting. The characters look so much the way I'd imagined them, I feel slightly disconcerted - it's as though the cover artist (the extraordinary Marek Okon) walked into my head.
If I go 'squee' any more often I think my co-workers may gag me.
Have, for some years, moaned about inadvisability of writing sequel before first book has sold. Have shaken portentous finger at friends who contemplated such folly. Have sternly turned back on beloved characters and carefully constructed worlds due to fear that first book will Never Sell, and writing sequel therefore clearly an exercise in futility. Nonetheless have longed for chance to revisit favourite characters like dieter longing for chocolate.
Then, Lovely Publisher buys book (wheee! OK am obviously not over purely childish excitement at this yet) and Expresses Interest in sequel.
Sequel! At last! Have already written outline, well, two paragraphs. Still, more than had when began first book. No problem. Can revisit beloved characters and put them through even more misery! Can explore dodgy byways and vice-riddled taverns! Can develop new and interesting vices with which to riddle said taverns!
Leap joyously for ancient laptop and hit keys with such vigour that down arrow key leaps into air like spawning salmon and disappears under bed.
Get a page in and frown. Not sure what doing, actually. Look at two paragraphs of outline. Remember all stuff must get in from previous book in order for current book to make any sort of sense.
Go back to scene. Rewrite first paragraph as is pants, and boring.
Repeat another 8 or so times.
Manage to stop rewriting first paragraph long enough to finish first three pages, trying not to infodump all over page, but suspect am failing. Read result.
Argh. Have started sequel not with high drama or low comedy or discovery of mutilated corpse, but with characters sitting around having what is, basically, long and dull committee meeting. And not in even slightly comic or murderous way.
Dear Goddess, have obviously been hopelessly corrupted by day job and will never write gripping word ever again. Publisher will hate me. Will be driven out into street with Manuscript of Shame in arms like fallen woman in Victorian melodrama. Will become victim of second novel syndrome (even though sequel would be fifth actual novel have written, but logic helpless in face of self-flagellation) and laughing stock of entire world. Well, bit of entire world that ever hears of me in the first place, anyway. Characters glaring at me, drawing rude doodles on company notepads, muttering about not even getting any sandwiches and passing notes under table.
Retire hurt to watch Buffy DVDs and remind self how entirely brilliant Joss Wheedon is. Feel even more useless. Fall into bed and pull pillow over head to block out voices of characters still stuck in meeting and now definitely annoyed.
Wake up next morning and open document with trepidation. Characters still there, with arms folded, glaring at walls and refusing to look at me.
Move stuff around, trim dialogue, etc. Scene, however, still boring.
Decide to abandon scene for now, start next one and hope inspiration will fall on head.
Characters leap up with obvious relief, shove each other out of way in haste to leave meeting, go to bar and start fight.
Am on way to dentist appointment, feeling grumpy, when receive call from Lovely Agent. "We have a deal with Solaris to publish Babylon Steel," says agent.
Self: Mpph gweek squee!
Now Even Lovelier Agent: I'm very pleased for you.
Self: Wargh! Bibble! Fizz!
Loveliest Agent Ever in Universe: We'll talk later.
Bus Passengers: Who that strange woman?
Get off bus, grinning madly. Want to hug everyone. Restrain self from informing glum-visaged population of dental surgery of own sudden triumph and Conquering of World, as seems unfair. However, still grinning.
Cannot stop grinning even in dentist's chair, to confusion and slight irritation of dentist, more used to self being whimpering wreck at mere sight of Instruments. Grin remains fixed throughout poking, scraping, filling etc.
Am quite glad to discover, on entering work, that vocabulary has returned from realms of wibble, and immediately inform co-workers. Co-workers charmingly pleased for me. Email writer's group who are also charmingly pleased, with much metaphorical pumping of fists in air etc.
Realise, with slight qualm, that several co-workers now want to read book. Inform them that it will not be out until next year, and warn that contains Scenes of Naughtiness, as is, after all, set in brothel. Some slight widening of eyes ensues as co-workers look at me in New Light. Wonder what they will think when get to bit with Kittack, my lizard-man. Will invoke Biological Fact about lizards, if need be.
Also slightly worried what they will think about heroine's extreme acts of violence with sword, and occasional graphic descriptions of gut-spillage. Still, never know, co-workers may be turned on to whole new world of fantasy fiction, which can only be good thing.
Manage to calm down long enough to do some work. Afterwards, go out to celebrate arrival of new Head of Department, who is very nice chap, and attempt, without noticeable success, not to babble about self for entire time.
Wake up next morning, having had further celebrations with darling Significant Other, who is also charmingly pleased for me, and realise have hangover; but suspect is allowed today. Also, still grinning. Face quite tired, now. Realise have Much to Do; must write sequel, must go on Facebook, become familiar with Twitter, (feel as though have been doing nothing but twitter for last 24 hours, but obviously Not Same Thing), await further instructions from Publisher, (squee! Have Publisher!) deal with Proofs etc., and generally prepare for Life as Published Person. Slightly scared, but still, grinning.
(I used to write a monthly column for Absolutewrite called Errata. I have decided to do my blog posts in the same style - at least until I get bored. Any comments welcomed...)
Agh. Am having slump. Intended to go running. Should not be put off exercise by mere rain, but was - rain not, in fact, all that mere. Rain still pounding down 3 hours later and has probably washed away most of garden by now. At least if garden gone won't have to sweep up 3,000000 slimy leaves covering it last time I looked. Also intended to do at least 2 hours on rewrite. Instead, did utterly necessary and minimal housework, caught up on 4 months' worth of messages on F'book, then went floomph.
Am still floomphed. Was convinced could work on new novel and rewrite last one in tandem; after all, new novel going apace, words fountaining out like nobody's business (many of which no doubt complete rubbish in need of zapping at later date, but make wordcount look good). Was thinking had finally developed Self Discipline and Organisation; would no doubt finish first draft of new one and rewrite of old one in mere weeks, have whole new series planned by end of year and redecorate flat in meantime while possibly also saving world.
Hah. Forgot small matters like necessity of adequate performance at day job, and sleep. Also fact that am no longer Spring Chicken, indeed am barely even Summer Chicken - more 'Un Poulet d'un Certain Age' as French almost certainly don't put it. Have now floomphed twice in one week. Will Not Do. Something must give.
Cannot however bear to put either project to one side; fear new novel will languish, nay, flounder even, if neglected for too long. And have become addicted to ego-boost of nice plump wordcounts. But beloved rewrite novel also needing care and attention and besides, is fun. What to do, what to do? Only one possible solution. Must move from 'minimal cleaning' to 'emergency cleaning' i.e. only done when no clean clothes/forks left. After all, no-one ever published housework.