Monthly Archives: February 2010

Flip reverse

First of all, sorry that tonight is another tiny update. Normal service should be resumed tomorrow.

I was planning to finish my individual cover letters for literary agents today, but instead, on the insistence of my little sister who came round, I played Heavy Rain for seven hours in a row and managed to finish it. There’s a lot to write regarding the things that do and don’t work in that game (thankfully more of the former than the latter), so I’ll collect my thoughts before figuring out exactly what I want to say.

My weekend days have flipped around because of the extended play session, so finishing off the cover letters now moves to tomorrow. The three chapter sample is ready (major thanks go to the chosen few, who’ve all given me valuable feedback and encouragement), the synopsis is ready, so I’ve just got the cover letters to nail now.

I did, however, read the submission requirements today for one particular agency I was thinking of querying, and thought that they were more than overkill. Some weird biography thing, then conducting research on the success of similar titles to your own (and there I was thinking that comparing yourself to anyone else was a bad idea – which I still believe it is, by the way), and a very strange, chapter by chapter analysis of your novel – as well as a cover letter and “half-page” outline. All necessary, apparently. To a certain extent, I can see why asking for comparatively onerous things could be an advantage for an agency – you make sure that those submitting are serious, and hopefully get rid of a lot of the chancers – but I have to say that those submission guidelines have seriously put me off them.

Three chapters, synopsis, cover letter. If you can’t make a decision based on those, why on Earth not?

For the agency in question: form rejection. Shame.

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Freaky Friday

I have two cats. I love them very, very much indeed. They’re beyond awesome. But I’ve never created a website in honour of them, in the classic Geocities sense of the word. Other people, however, have no such qualms.

Maybe they should be commended for worshipping their pets to the extent that they will act as an online channel for their thoughts and dreams. Maybe I should be jealous that I can’t articulate what my cats are saying as eloquently as these people can. But after looking at the website below, it’s probably just as well:

Oh. My. God.

It’s very nice. It’s an affectionate portrait of catties. But maybe we’ll now think about administering some psychotropic drugs. Just in case, you understand…

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Quick Impressions: Heavy Rain (PS3)

I haven’t got a lot of time tonight to write about it, but I’ve played the opening few hours of Heavy Rain and thought I should at least put something down.

So: it looks great. Storyline works well. Direlogue (sic) can be pretty bad. Voice acting’s very hit and miss.

But those are just the bullet points. It’s quite an experience to soak up the atmosphere of the world that writer/director David Cage has created. While there are some pretty obvious control flaws, and issues with Cage writing for his second language (script doctor quite obviously required. I don’t understand why Cage didn’t employ one, tbh), the texture (and I’m not talking about graphics here) of the piece is really quite something, unlike any console game I’ve played – and yes, that includes his previous release, Fahrenheit.

Even Agent Jayden’s sci-fi glasses (which in this month’s demo seemed like a rejected gadget from a particularly ludicrous episode of CSI Miami) work well in the full game, and the flashiness of the tech behind them is a nice contrast from the more old-fashioned investigative methods of Private Detective Scott Shelby.

The real standout so far is Cage’s direction. While it’s in danger of coming across as a cheap shot to say that he clearly wants to be in Hollywood, here it’s actually a compliment. He has a very good director’s eye, and a nice line in framing particular shots and angles. The QTE fight sequences are thrillingly exciting, there’s already been one outrageously effective fake-out that made me gasp, and I’ve felt tense, sad and angry in different scenes in response to the action happening on-screen, so he must be doing something right.

Check back in a few days for a full article about Heavy Rain. For now, I’m already looking forward to my next session with the game. It’s a goodie, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Rational Hatreds #1: Comic Sans

An occasional series in which I present the rational case for hating something…

Ah, Comic Sans. It’s so nice, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. Comic Sans is evil. It’s about as welcome in my house as Herman Van Rompuy is at a UKIP convention. It’s a creeping, insidious, unprofessional scribble that has no place in official documents. “Wait… official documents?!” you say? Yes indeed.

You see, it’s not only on leaflets for primary school jumble sales. I’ve seen it used in minutes for important meetings. I’ve seen it in marketing materials. I’ve even seen it on sets of accounts Yes, proper accounts, submitted to Companies House! And the primary spreader of this filth? Charities.

It’s true. My love for this country’s wonderful charities, which do so much valuable work for local communities, is being slowly eaten away by their fast-expanding obsession with Comic Sans. It’s like going to see Peter Gabriel in concert, only for him to perform his covers album. In full. Twice.

I’m sure it’s meant to be seen as a cuddly and lovely font that implies warmth and caring and I’ll take your big donation now, please. But it’s not. It’s as cuddly as Nicole Richie on hunger strike, as lovely as a polystyrene sandwich, as warm as the heart of a serial-killing penguin, as caring as Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, and I’ll give you some money when you bloody well start using Arial like everyone else, alright?

And that’s why it’s a rational hatred…

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Block Party

My article on stammering for The Guardian a couple of weeks ago could easily have been ten times longer, given my experiences, and something that happened tonight gave me further pause for thought.

A friend of mine was asking me about my novel. Now, I can describe it over email until I’m blue in the… er… keyboard (as certain unlucky people will attest to), and write endlessly about the themes and the characters and the plot and what this means and what that means and so on. But if I’m just asked to verbally describe the premise of the book, then even though I know exactly what I need to say, I usually can’t say it. As in, I physically can’t say it.

This isn’t a slight stammer, hesitation or repetition. It’s a full-on, “lights are off, vocal chords ain’t home” jobbie. In stammering parlance, I believe this is often referred to as a block, where the person speaking simply can’t get past a certain word. Unfortunately, in my case when describing the novel, it’s often the first word, and it’s less a simple block than it is an entire fucking game of Tetris.

Luckily I had a laptop near me tonight and quickly found the synopsis for the novel, getting the friend to read the first couple of paragraphs to find out what it was about, which saved my blushes to a certain extent. But the existence of this block worries me. Why do I find it so difficult to actually “talk” about my writing? What, psychologically, is going on here? I don’t entirely know, and the reason it’s a worry is that if by some miracle the book gets published, at some point I’m going to be asked to talk about it or… God forbid… read some of it out. And, believe me, I do want to play the marketing game as well as I possibly can.

So what am I supposed to do in that scenario if the problem persists? I have to somehow find out exactly what’s causing this particular difficulty and overcome it, as I can see it causing me stress down the line. Not fun.

In other news, the rewrite of the novel’s opening is getting very good feedback indeed from the trusted few (better than I could have hoped for, to be honest), and so with a fair wind, it’s looking good for the proposal package (typically an individualised cover letter, full synopsis and the first 3 chapters) to go out to some literary agents on Friday. This blog will go “dark” when it comes to revealing the progress of the submissions, unfortunately, because The Mirroball is easy to find with a bit of research, and it wouldn’t help for one agent to know if I’m rejected by others, or if I’m hopeful for representation from one in particular. All will become clear in the fullness of time when I have something to announce. (Complete and total failure would also be announced, glass-half-empty fans!)

Exciting times, though: the end of one journey and the hopeful start of another. We’ll see if I’m still optimistic about it all in a few weeks’ time.

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I was going to write some scintillatingly witty critique of the New Labour spin machine’s bullying of the anti-bullying woman, and Krishnan Guru-Murthy, and Five Live presenters, and probably some guy off Sky News. John Prescott gets everywhere on days like this, you know – brandishing his shouting and allegations and rattling off the slurs like he’s got a chronic form of libel Tourettes.

But I’m scared. I know what happens if you write anything about Gordon Brown that’s perceived to be bad. Your life gets dissected like you’re a sprat who’s checking in on the junior science lesson, and I don’t know if I can take it. I don’t want the world to know about the time I nicked a penny chew and ate it in front of the shopkeeper when I was five years old. I don’t want it all over the papers that I occasionally wear blue shirts, which clearly makes me a Tory stooge. I don’t want some apparatchik looking through my bins (it’s too easy, they’re only collected once a fortnight). Writing about how everyone in the Westminster Village knows that Andrew Rawnsley’s tales are probably true and… no, I can’t. I nearly started doing it again, then. I’ve got to stop myself. Who knows what might happen to me?

All I want is a quiet life. So I’ll just let the politicians get on with it, and I absolutely will not (will not) point and laugh. Just in case.

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Achievement Unlocked

Today I planned to do three things:

1. Eat Roast Lamb.
2. Watch Sherlock Holmes.
3. Write the new opening to my novel.

Most days I plan to do loads of stuff and don’t achieve any of it. But today, somehow I can check off all of the above.

And even more amazingly, the lamb was lovely, Sherlock Holmes was exciting, and the new opening seems… well… good. I’m baffled, frankly. There was one sequence in particular that I already really like – it’s character based and revelatory, and turned out exactly how I hoped it would. For the first draft of something new, that’s more than a blessing. As a whole, the new stuff is probably a hideous mess – I’m still way too close to it – but a couple of trusted writey people will be delivering judgement soon, so fingers crossed.

It feels good to have it all down, anyway, no matter how much editing is required this week. It only took a number of hours shutting myself off from the world, completely ignoring everyone, but isn’t that what writing’s about? Whisper it, but the proposal package for the novel could actually be sent out this week. That feels… good. And, yes, also baffling. I’m fast running out of excuses not to do it. And that worries me. But if that’s all I’m worrying about, then things can’t be too bad.

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