Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Technology: Before and After.

Social Interaction













The Opening of Brentford Library, 1904.


Before & After


This blog post is not a social statement. 

I was bored.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock...

I have searched the darkest crevices of my mind for an analogy to describe the transitional period between being a self-published author and having my next book offered to publishers via my agent. And I'm buggered if I can come up with anything. It's a scary and frustrating thing to watch your online sales begin to dwindle to a mere 400 per month. To receive messages from readers, asking why I'm being such a lazy bastard and not putting my latest book out there. But my hands are tied. I have been launched, head first, into the grown-up world of literary agents and publishing houses. 

It's often said that the publishing world is a slow one. Hampered by meetings, conference calls and lunch breaks. But they also say you only get one bite at the cherry. And this, for me, is probably it. Gone, at least for the moment, is the breakneck-speed writing, the 14-hour editing marathons, and the freedom to hit the Amazon 'publish' button, complete with spelling mistakes and cars that change colour each chapter. 


My agency have been extremely busy over the summer. They have, amongst others, such best-selling authors as Alex Marwood (The Wicked Girls) and Anya Lipska (Where The Devil Can't Go), both of whom have new books coming out. So, I didn't play the diva and just waited quietly for word on 'Hunter'.

In a nutshell, my agent emailed me yesterday, saying the final edit was great, he loves the finished book, and it's now being sent out to UK publishers.

Will I get a deal? Who knows? They may not like my writing style. I may conflict with other authors already signed to them. Or, they may think the new book is downright crap. Whatever happens, I'll take it in my stride. I have no expectations. I'm lucky enough to live mortgage-free in a country that has a ridiculously low cost of living, especially compared with London and Melbourne. I don't have a day job to give up, and I don't have mouths to feed. So any deal I'm offered had better be enough to allow me to purchase another Ferrari, or it's Goodnight Vienna.

I'll let you know what happens next in the MLS saga.

Best regards,
ML Stewart 


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

And The Lord Said To Me...

...If you want to be published, you must cut off your legs.

And so that's what I did. Well, not quite. That's a bit of an exaggeration on my behalf. It actually went a little more like this...

Editor: Hunter's a great book and there's a fair bit of European interest in it.
MLS: But?
Editor: Well...hmmm...it's still a little too long.
MLS: Too long?
Editor: Yes, I'm afraid so, and that was the reaction of all the publishers.
MLS: So how much are we looking at cutting?
Editor: *pause*
MLS: *sips his Soho latte*
Editor: About 200 pages?
MLS: *sprays latte all over the cafe and into the street beyond*

Now, I've read about people crying over having to cut a couple of thousand words from their novel, or even a full chapter, but 47,000 of the little bastards is a challenge and a half. But it's done. Hunter is now the size of a normal book - 100,000 words. The drivel and a highly amusing, yet unnecessary, character have been removed. Hunter is now dark, gritty, brutal and bullshit-free.

I'll keep you updated when I receive the next round of bad news.


On Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cut The Fucking Crap!

Well, that's it. Yet another edit of Hunter winging its way through Yahoo space to the agent. 8,000 words less than the original version, but still a decent 145,000. Slap bang in the middle of all literary agents' busiest time of the year - the approach to the London Book Fair. Apparently my whimsical sense of humour is fine for self-publishing but perhaps not so suited to the more traditional market, especially when it's stuck in the middle of a tense scene.

Having just completed a 98-hour week, I took some time to reflect, over a few buckets of red wine, as to what it means to have an agent. Am I successful now? As I troll the Twitterverse and read posts by these excited new authors who have just signed an agency agreement and are therefore going to join this society and that society, to give them added credence, I think to myself...get a fucking grip, luvvie!  Nothing has changed. There's nothing to brag about. All you have is a supporter with good connections and a lot more knowledge than you. Someone who will assist with editing, to polish your turd and roll it in a bit of glitter. You still haven't made any money or sold any more books. Get over it! Come back and join the rest of us on Earth.

Just one of the thousands of cool and hip authors out there
who don't want to be my friend :(

I used my Twitter account the other day to try and appear professional by following some newly-published authors, but the fuckers didn't 'follow' me back, so I removed their sorry arses from my computer screen. I now follow zero people. Which means I'm missing out on weather updates from Britain and numerous links to Guardian and other left-wing articles, but to be honest, I don't give a shit. They're welcome to their little cliques and retweets of each others gushing reviews. because while they're pissing about doing that, maybe knocking out 500 words a day, I've got my head down banging away on the keyboard like a maniac, pacing back and forth, tearing open the darkest parts of my mind for ideas, and guzzling loads of wine.

I like my agent. God, that sounds so pretentious 'my agent', like I'll get my people to call your people, yah? But I do. He's great. He's Irish and appears to be a little like me in his no-bullshit approach to doing things. During our first phone call, he mentioned 'whimsical' scenes in the book, as I talked about above. He then went on to politely suggest I reconsider some of them. The conversation went a little like this...

Agent: I think some of your whimsical, flights of fancy scenes are possibly out of context in the midst of a highly charge and tense scene.

MLS: Such as?

Agent: Such as when the inspector and DCI have kept a vital piece of information from DS Porteous and she wants to know what it is, as does the reader. Then you go off into a comic strip from The Beano.

MLS: Is that a bad thing? It relieves the tension.

Agent: That's not the point to relieve the tension. Not in the middle of the tense climax.

MLS: Should I remove it?

Agent: [tiptoeing around the situation as he isn't sure if I'm a luvvie] I think, if you're happy to remove it, then perhaps, yes.

MLS: Should I remove more of the whimsical events that take place in the middle of serious situations? Like the prison officer who looks like a female Spongebob on steroids?

Agent: [Still being polite] I would think about revising that one, too.

MLS: [And I meant this. I wasn't bothered in the slightest] Why don't I cut out all of the stupid stuff?

Agent: [A sigh of relief] Well...

MLS: No, seriously, just tell me. Be honest. Should I strip it all out.

Agent: Yes!

MLS: Every last bit?

Agent: YES! Get rid of the whole fucking lot. It's ridiculous!

He didn't actually say that last bit, but I think he was glad we weren't going to spend weeks arguing over degrees of whimsicality. I now have a huge document entitled 'Hunter - Cutting Room Floor - The Crap Bits.' I have pasted the above mentioned comic strip scene at the end of this blog, for those of you desperate enough to even consider wasting your time reading it.

One thing I hate, especially when I'm busy, is an email which goes on and on and on until the sender eventually gets to the point. So here's an example of one I received from my the agent the other day. I had to agree to the wording of a synopsis for Hunter, which was brilliant by the way, so I told him so. And he replied.




Seriously. No messing about. Just that. I'm sure as our working relationship develops, messages will become somewhat condensed...


I love it. No air kisses. No luvvieisms. Just pure 100% business. And that brings me to my point. Business. That's all it is and all it ever will be. A cold hard business. When a publisher signs a new writer, someone inevitably gets dropped. Only the strong, the creative, and profitable will survive. Many authors spend months or years having agents and no book deals, and they can belong to every writers society on the fucking planet. Someone drinking champagne at his book launch tomorrow may be the barman in three years time, who knows? Success rates are low and I'm sure survival rates are even lower. 

So, no. I'm not hosting an 'I got an agent' banquet. All I'm doing is getting on with business, and I'm 20,000 words into it already.




Here's the crap bit: Remember, the atmosphere is very tense. This is a major murder investigation involving a terrifying serial killer. DS Porteous needs to know what has been discussed behind her back...and then. Ta Da!

The Mysterious Case of the Misplaced Male Information.
By Liz Porteous (author).

Detective Inspector Anchor squirmed in his chair as their eyes locked.
She tried, God how she tried, not to give him any telltale sign of how she felt inside. The smile remained on her face, but started to twitch in the left-hand corner, quickly spreading to her eye. Her cheeks began to ache.
“Well, it’s like this…” he said.
She could see he was obviously embarrassed, almost hear his mind racing beneath that onion-like dome. Cogs engaging and whirring, like an observatory telescope moving into position, before the roof slides apart. Or the Numskulls from the Beano comic she’d once seen as a tiny girl. Her parents had hidden it in a plastic box on the kitchen floor, and buried it under some white gravel and awful tasting chocolate, next to the cat food and a plastic scoop. She’d only noticed it because Dennis the Menace’s face was still sticking out, albeit a little scratched.
After unearthing this buried treasure and whilst feasting on the meat-flavoured confectionary, she’d become engrossed in the reality that was before her. Your head is filled with tiny offices and little men control everything you do.
She could feel her bottom stinging and the howls of “she’s only gone and eaten the bloody cat shit!” as she imagined DI Anchor’s brain-staff running around in panic.
‘What are we going to tell her?’ The manager’s voice boomed across the PA system.
‘Tell her it slipped our mind,’ called Charles from the White Lies department.
‘She’ll never believe that,’ said the newly-appointed Head of Reality.
‘So just tell her the truth,’ cried an exasperated Norman, Chief of Accounting.
 The End

Sometimes, I even amaze myself.

Disclaimer: ML Stewart acknowledges that not all authors read The Guardian and hold extreme left-wing views, although most do. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On a More Serious Note...

I'm glad to inform you I have just been signed to the dynamic and forward-thinking Mulcahy Associates literary agency of London. I now have some serious editing to do on the latest novel, Hunter, before I become an instant billionaire and purchase the internet.

I have also opened a Facebook page, which can be spat upon HERE.

I now consider myself to be a serious author and shall therefore shun you all for the foreseeable future.

The Right Honourable ML Stewart
(World famous author and owner of France)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Sometimes Wonder...

...am I being too irreverent regarding this whole writing lark? Should I be divulging pearls of wisdom instead of taking the piss? Should this blog resemble the other 7.9 million out there, guiding you through the muddy minefield that is self-publishing and pounding away on a keyboard eight hours a day? Should I change my bio photograph to something a little more professional? Perhaps don a set of half-moon spectacles and look studious in front of bookshelves filled with Hilary Mantel novels and a carefully placed copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Or the side lit, menacing-in-a-dark-room look. You know the one, where a table lamp is placed to one side, effectively making the author look like a scary thriller writer (not to be confused with a writer of scary thrillers). 

Would my time be better spent rubbing spacebars with the literati who frequent the multitude of writers' forums, discussing the 'craft' and bragging about my latest book reaching the number one slot in Amazon's Japanese Origami for the Partially Disabled chart? After all, fifty forum friends equals fifty glowing reviews. And to quote the late, great Sebastian Horsley: "I like reviewing books because it makes me want to read them." The same man who famously mailed his own excrement to a critic. I could use said forums to showcase my literary genius:

Bookworm 1972 says: 

Wish this snow would bugger off.

CharlieP says:

Day off work tho. LOL

ML Stewart says:

Twas with a heavy heart I did peer through the misted windowpane this morn. The landscape beyond, whilst I slept, had been fashioned like dunes of sand; bleached white by a century of sun. A paradoxical notion when one realised the garden was, in fact, blanketed in benumbing snow. 

Bookworm 1972 says:

Fuck off!

Perhaps seriousness breeds seriousness. Maybe people would take me seriously if I wasn't so flippant, and used longer, more complicated words...like sycophant and incorrigible.

A serious-looking and therefore successful author.

I imagine the world of self-published authors to be a little like a food drop mission to a starving continent. A military transport airplane cruises high above the barren, dusty plains. Piloted by a publisher, the co-pilot a literary agent. Far below, a million hungry faces stare heavenwards in desperate hope. The cargo hold opens. A parachute unfurls and begins its graceful descent. 50,000 writers are crushed in the stampede. But one person is inevitably going to catch that falling Smartie. That person will have the longest arms, or the deft ability to knock every other bastard out of his way. 

Perhaps changing my writing environment will alter my way of thinking. Clear the empty wine bottles away. Empty one of the ashtrays. Begin smoking cigars instead of rolling baccy with a picture of a gangrenous foot on the packet, which doesn't actually put me off smoking, although, admittedly, I smoke in bare feet now - so I can administer health checks on a regular basis.

Maybe I should utilise my Twitter account to more purposeful ends. I could follow a couple of thousand authors, thus boosting my 'follow backs', and learn what everyone else eats for breakfast, or how bad their three-year-old's cough really is.

But then where does it stop? I'll just become a clone, and start writing acknowledgements at the start of my books, as though I'm one of those famous authors with all the bookshelves behind them: This book is dedicated to Great Aunt Jemima; from whom I stole £1000 to pay for the new laptop, and without whom, none of the crap you are about to read would have been possible. I'll run the risk of becoming one of the back-patting, jolly Kindle brigade...

The Pen is Mightier says:

Great news, friends. I just sold my first e-book in India.That's ten sales this year, and it's only December :)

Writing Addict says:

That's wonderful news, TPIM. Well done, old chap. You should include that in your bio: International author. Ooh! It may become a Bollywood movie. How exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! O/T how are your houseplants doing?

ML Stewart says: 

[This post was removed by the cuddly forum moderator for extreme use of profanities.]

Where the hell would it all stop? Would I end up buying an e-reader myself? A Kindle, or Kobo, or iPad thing. Jesus Christ! I might even start writing reviews. Can you imagine? Me! Reviewing other people's work. My God, it would be a disaster. Authors across the globe would be committing suicide. Killing their beloved pets and families before turning the gun on themselves. There would be Waterstones' Martyrs: Strapped with dynamite as they search the A to Z for their books and see its the only slot still full, not even thumbed through, not a dog ear in sight. 

The more I embitter myself by reading what's out there on the internet, the more I feel like the proverbial square peg and round hole. Call me a cynic, or a hater, I don't mind - a judge at the Old Bailey once called me much worse, but I think every angle of life needs someone like me. Albeit for a limited time.The three-legged dog that bites the postman's arse; or the crazy drunk on the street corner who directs traffic. 

And, therefore, I think I'll continue to take the piss until the postie whacks me with a rolled up newspaper, or I get hit by that oncoming bus.

Available soon from an author near you.
The Amazon #1 best seller in the Japanese Origami for the Partially Disabled chart. 
Priced at £0.04 for readers in India. 

Let me leave you with the best, worst review I have ever received. Obviously from someone with a Kindle...

fionafrog: 2 out of 5 - The Facebook Killer (Part 3)
I don't like it but had to finish it! 17 March 2013
Utterly grim but totally compelling. Not my sort of book at all and yet ... I simply had to read the final part. What on earth is wrong with me for getting into it in the first place. The things that happen in this book are revolting!! So why I had to read it, I don't know but I did.

The author has clearly tapped into a side of me I don't know myself - but I don't like me very much for being fascinated by it.

Over and out,

Disclaimer:ML Stewart acknowledges there are many talented and successful self-published authors in the world. He only takes the mick out of those who waste their time promoting their wares and bum-chumming instead of writing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How too RIGHT a proper bo0K !

The internet is awash with advice, instruction and "rules" about writing books. Much of it adhered to by many aspiring writers, all of it ignored by myself.

In the following waste of your time, I will offer some tips and an insight into the way I, myself, write. And as some of you, who are so desperate for entertainment that you read this blog on a regular basis, will know, I've sold one or two books over the past eighteen months (unlike some of the advice-givers out there).

1- You will need (in no particular order)
a) A brain.
b) An imagination to go with the above.
c) A pair of working lungs and a pulse.
d) Some form of contraption with which to write. I, personally, use a folding computer with buttons.
e) Lots of spare time. This phrase is in the past tense because when you begin writing, the 'spare' part disappears.

Okay, so you've checked every item off the above list. If you only have one working lung, this should not inhibit your writing ability, so don't let that put you off. Although certain amputations may be a hindrance to your end goal.

 Next, you will require a story. Many people in the fabled land of Amazonia will tell you to plan out your storyline in meticulous detail, planning each chapter before you even begin writing. They suggest 'character sketches' so you know exactly what your heroes and villains smell like, and what colour underwear they don on any given day. Hmmm...bollocks. In my humble opinion this is a surefire way to end up with cardboard characters, unflinching and reacting strangely to situations as they arise. A character writes the story alongside you. Their moods change, even their opinions, as the story progresses and fills out. So to have a rigid preconception of every character is a no-no. Okay, let's say Mr X is tall, muscular, with black hair and a missing ear, but that's where I leave it. I know, roughly, the part he plays in the whole affair and I want him to tell his story, to evolve throughout each scene and glass of red wine.

There must be a beginning, middle, and end: Fair enough. I suppose there has to be, but I tend not to know the middle part. Sometimes the end isn't exactly clear, either. In fact, I usually don't even know where to fucking start! Each book I write begins with an idea. A vague notion of ... let's say: "A man's wife and daughter are murdered. The killer gets off. Man wants revenge. Uses social media to hunt down killer's friends and family." And that's it! So what I do is put pen to paper, fingertip to button. I know the story starts with the protagonist's family being murdered, so let's get on with that. After all, there's probably a week's worth of writing there alone. As I write, I think. I see the characters taking on their own form and personalities, and this influences the next set of events, and so on and so forth. I once tried to plan a book chapter by chapter, but it went arse up after chapter 1. So I returned to the organic method of writing: Make it up as you go along.

I've said it before on this blog, as have many other writers: If the author doesn't know what's going to happen next, how can the reader?

Don't write for writing's sake. I hear of so many self-published authors who cut swathes from their books during editing, sometimes two or three chapters, sometimes more. And my question is: What the fuck were they doing there in the first place? I would rather spend a couple of days not writing than bash out ten thousand words of utter crap. When I edit my books, I'll be lucky to delete a couple of paragraphs, and these are always highlighted in red, meaning I wasn't too sure about them to start with. But usually I end up adding around 5,000 words to the story as a whole. Clarification, enhanced description and maybe filling in a plot hole here and there. In my opinion, make every word count. Having said that, if you then submit your book to an agent or publisher, they may well say your book is too long and it needs to be trimmed, chopped, or even halved. Writer's block isn't really writer's block, it's a period of time when you have to pause, take a step back and actually think about where you're going with this. If you've come to a roadblock, it's because you've got lost and driven the wrong way. Reverse! For God's sake don't just keep ramming the barriers hoping there's something good on the other side.

Beware of burglars. WTF? Seriously, it's all very well saving your work as you go along, and very admirable having a duplicate copy on that USB, which was still connected to your laptop when Barry the Smackhead from the Broadway Estate decided to pay you a late-night visit. But when you wake up in the morning and there's excrement all over your living room walls, your wife's granny's jewellery has been swapped for a gram of heroin, and the place looks like poltergeists had an all-night rave; the first thing you're going to see is the empty space where your laptop used to be..and the USB...and the book you've just spent six months writing. It sounds like paranoia, but it has happened before. Plus, I know Barry the Smackhead, and he's a bastard for dishing out one-star reviews, so be warned. On a more serious note, though. Viruses can cause the same distress (except for the excrement and jewellery, of course), as can corrupted USBs. So email the book to yourself. I have a backup email account, too. At the end of each day I email the Word document to both accounts. Think of it as storing it in a cloud. Okay, thanks to Barry, you have to buy a new laptop to continue writing the book, but at least you won't have to start all over again. Oh, and by the way, don't make the same mistake as I did with FBK1. Do not save various versions. For some reason I did and ended up publishing a totally unedited copy to Amazon. See the 1-star reviews for proof. This isn't an excuse . I actually did it, and when I realized (by which time it was too late) I considered cutting off various body parts.

Okay, so you've now finished your book. You're happy with it. Old Marjory Butterfield from number 11 has read it and says it's magnificent. You ask her for a list of spelling mistakes and other observations, at which point she suddenly remembers that she forgot to remember why she was reading the book in the first place. But she liked it nonetheless, bless her. This is where we face two lines of thought...

1- Many people are of the opinion that you should leave the book, and forget about it for weeks, if not months, before returning to it with a fresh mind. Now, this to me makes no sense. The book is fresh in your mind. The characters are still in your head, and I, personally, go straight back to the beginning and start editing. I read through each book three times. The first time - for flow. I read it as a reader would. When I spot errors, be they spelling, grammar or continuation, I don't stop, but merely highlight the offending passage in red. The second read through is a thorough check of the aforementioned problems. This stage took over a month for The United kingdom of Islam, and encompasses characterisation, tightening sentence structure etc. Then the third reading, by which time I inevitably regard the book as the most boring piece of shit imaginable, is another, slow read through, to catch the ones that got away.

2- With the advent of Amazon, everyone is a reviewer nowadays. Every little old granny and her oxygen mask thinks they work for the New York Times or The Guardian (God forbid) and what they'll tell you is exactly this: "Could do with a good proof reader," "Needs an editor!" And who the fuck's going to pay for it, you old bitch? Not you, that's for certain. With your sixty-quid Kindle and 10,000 free books stored up like a fucking squirrel waiting for the end of the world.

A picture of a shocked old woman 

Freelance editors are expensive, and sometimes as much use a Salvation Army charity collector outside a mosque. So what do you do? Well, you can distribute your book among friends, family and colleagues in the hope that they're a little less illiterate than yourself, or you can self-edit. I do this. I tell everyone that I pay an editor, but that's a lie. It was a get-out-clause for when I published Kingdom of Islam, I would then have some imaginary person to blame, but, as it turns out, I didn't need one. Almost 155,000 words of perfection. Even the great and famous Stephen Leather said it was 'written like a pro'. Maybe he meant a prostitute, I'll never know.

Self-editing is quite tricky and very time-consuming. I have problems with hyphenation, placement of colons and semi colons etc. but I get around it by researching some of the better grammar and writing forums online.  If I'm not sure about a phrase I've used, I'll close it in quotation marks and Google it. Thereby searching for the exact phrase. Be careful with this technique, though, because often the first pages which pop up are from fanfiction sites, and they're about as useless as you and I. But if you're confronted with pages upon pages from leading journalists, excerpts from classic books etc. You know your phrase is probably going to be correctly worded. This is also a good technique to avoid unintentional plagiarism.

I won't go into book covers. With today's downloadable free software, Photoscape for example, there's no need to have a square cover plastered with a 1980's font.

And that, as they say, is that! That's how I do it anyway. Cheap and cheerful. The worst thing you can do is to rush. I have in the past and paid a heavy price for it. There are millions of books out there on the market, and one more won't make a jot of difference, or put a penny in your pocket, unless it's the best you can possibly make it...oh! and try to be original.

I am by no means saying all the information out there on the I'vegotanopinionnet is to be ignored. There are plenty of useful sites, none of which I've visited, that will tell you how someone who has sold five books thinks you should write. And my advice is to shop around. You can take a little piece from each and put them together until you're happy with your way of doing things. Or...you can just do what the fuck you want!

This (unedited) blog is all 'in my opinion' and if anyone wishes to argue against my methods, please do so with someone who actually gives a shit.

Love you all.