Well, the end is nigh. It’s taken me roughly 703 years, but I’m nearing the conclusion of the Orion trilogy. The next few days should see it wrapped up and handed over to Kathryn (wife/editor/satnav device) for a first read. It’s pretty exhilarating seeing all the threads coming together and I won’t be writing anything else for a while, so I’m savouring every word. The book has taken its toll on my writing shed though. A revolting fungal growth has spread across the walls and I’m sure it’s not from this world. I should just have time to rattle off the epilogue before a three-headed worm consumes my swivel chair. (Does house insurance cover that kind of thing? Or would it be classed as Act of Worm?)
It’s only as I reach the end of my woodland adventure that I’ve discovered a book that could have given me loads of new ways to say leafy. Holloway is an infuriatingly well-written collection, produced by Robert Macfarlane, Stanley Donwood (illustrator) and Dan Richards. It’s a beautiful paean to the sunken paths and hidden greenways of our oldest woods. It’s short enough to read in an hour or two, but every word is a gem. Macfarlane and Richards seem incapable of writing a dull line. If you’re looking to clear your head of Christmas fug, but can’t be arsed to leave your armchair, this is the book for you.
My other top tip for ridding yourself of the morbid mince pie blues would be this perfect little spine-tingle of a pop song, from Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Ha! I’ve turned into one of those spoons who blog about how rubbish they are at blogging. Awesome. I’ve got a string of excuses though, honest guv. 2013 is turning out to be busybusybusy. On top of starting a grown up new job I’ve had an obscene amount of fun playing at the last of Cable’s comeback gigs. We filled the Garage in Highbury with some of London’s most attractive, tasteful, elegantly attired gentlefolk and then let them sing most of our songs for us. Nice work if you can get it. The Cables have now returned to real lives (I promise!) but what a great way to finish our mini comeback. I’m out of shot in this video, over to the left, so it can’t in any way be egotistical of me to post it.
I’ve also been hammering away at the second Orion novel, Tears of Isha, and it’s almost ready to give up the ghost. I’m on the final chapter and just have a few more grisly ends to tie up before the first draft can wing its way to the editor, Mr Nick Kyme. This book has been a lot more fun to write than the first one. Not sure why. There’s a strong intestinal flavour to the story that makes it really quite disgusting to read, so that’s probably it. (Sorry in advance, proofreaders.)
My final excuse is that work commitments saw me spending last week in Chicago talking to lawyers. Not the best reason to visit a city, I suppose, but before the flight home I had time to dangle my feet over Lake Michigan and get really cold, so it wasn’t all bad. I think I could really have done with some kind of pink, furry cowboy hat. I wonder where Will Oldham got this one from?
The British Fantasy Society are saying some nice things about Vaults of Winter, here, which should be just the help I need to find my way through the sequel, Tears of Isha. I’m into the second half now, and finally starting to see the wood for the trees, as it were. Setting up so many plot strands and characters in book one has turned this into something of an epic journey – certainly my most involved piece of writing so far – but it’s been great fun indulging myself. My first novel took me four months to write, but this beast is going to be more like a year in the making. The cover, by Slawomir Maniak, is already out there on the interweb, and looking very pretty.
Ha! Who’d have thunk it? People remembered Cable and Cable remembered how to play. I bet even Nostradamus didn’t predict that. Now I can head back to reality knowing that Cable isn’t just about lawsuits, money or bitterness. Thanks to everyone who kept a place for us in their record collection and trekked across the country to see us. I don’t think any of us expected such an incredible response. It was all pretty humbling.
Before the gigs we managed to cram in a few rehearsals at our old room in Derby (an unbelievable shit tip called The Bakery). A photographer friend of ours named Brian Whar spent one of the days with us and took some pictures. I think we needed him there to diffuse the tension as much as anything (we weren’t convinced we could actually play the songs) but he also snapped some great photos while he was there. I’ve included a selection below and you can see lots more of Brian’s work on his own site when he gets back online in the new year.
I was talking to someone this morning about my latest novel. She said some very kind things, but the first point she made was how dark the book was. We both felt this was the most important aspect of the story.
It occurs to me now, as I daydream over a cup of black coffee, that in genre fiction it’s crucial, at every juncture, that an author can claim their work is ‘darker’ in tone than any previous fiction based on the subject matter – or at least darker than their own previous work. Obviously we’re not talking about dingy lighting in the prologue or how much of the story is set in a broom cupboard. No, in this context, ‘dark’ just means ‘better’ and it’s become a cardinal rule.
If you want to reinvent a superhero, don’t announce that you’ve produced a much lighter tale than any previous films. And it really wouldn’t go down well if you said you’d focused on the more positive aspects of the character. Even the Harry Potter franchise garnered a little critical acclaim when the tale took a ‘darker’ turn. I wonder if this has always been the way. Were adventure stories always judged on their bleakness? Is there a critically acclaimed Biggles adventure that gives an insight into his tortured soul? Or is there some great significance to the fact that we will no longer accept stories unless they reinforce our worst fears about human nature? I think I’ll just put some milk in my coffee and lighten up.