12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it



Open Mic Opportunity in Edinburgh

Doctor Who Open Mic Night Edinburgh 2013Are you a poet or penner of short fiction?  Have any of your poems or prose ever included aliens, time travel, jelly babies, or copious amounts of running?  Then have I got the Open Mic Night for you!

Organised by my good friend Andrew Blair and the chaps behind Blind Poetics*, the truthfully titled ‘The Doctor Who Open Mic Night’ is coming to Edinburgh pub The Blind Poet on November 25th.  Join performers Kevin Cadwallender, Tracey S. Rosenberg and Russell Jones as they celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of Doctor Who through spoken word.  And as you do it, you can help raise money for The Lullaby Trust, an amazing charity that supports bereaved families.

Open mic slots are available if you want to perform – email for further info – but the organisers would like to make it clear that you don’t have to perform 100% Doctor material:  ‘anything even tangentially related, be it sci-fi, time travel, weeping angels, things-being-bigger-on-the-inside or Jon Pertwee, is totally cool.’

Meanwhile, if you just want to go and have a listen, that’s likely what I’m going to do.  Unless I spend the next week finally committing that Ode to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart I’ve been composing to paper… But I fear I’ve said too much.  Anyway entry is free, although as discussed there is the option to donate to the Lullaby Trust (they are suggesting a very reasonable £2).

If you fancy coming along or know someone else whose cup of tea it is, please help spread the word – join the Facebook event, share this blog post, and generally make a lot of noise.  Like Kevin Cadwallender might do:

Hope to see you there!

When: Monday 25th November, 7.30pm
Where: The Blind Poet, 32 West Nicholson Street, Edinburgh

*Those chaps are Roddy Shippin and Alec Beattie, and you can keep up with Blind Poetics, a monthly night of spoken word, on Facebook and Twitter.

More Questions

Further questions from Edinburgh-based writer and tweeter Andrew Blair.  I have decided to answer these separately because they’re not really related in any way.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by your research into genre fiction? For example, has Dark Romance proved to be more than pale women kissing vampires?

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much from Dark/Paranormal Romance.  I rather thought that most of it had been churned out in a cynical manner to jump on the Twilight bandwagon, and as such I assumed that all such books would be full of unsympathetic teenagers and deeply misogynistic male role models.  My plan was to make the genre readable by imbuing it with my special brand of humour/Scottish realism.

However, I am pleased to report that my suspicions were overly cynical.  The PC Cast excerpts I found online, for example, were much better than expected.  I’d go so far as to say they were entertaining, which is more than can be said for Adventures in Forks as it is seldom known.

Having said that, the main thrust is pretty much pale women kissing vampires.

What do you think of the World Book Night coverage from the BBC, and its putting of Literary Fiction at the forefront?  You remember World Book Night, with Sue Perkins going around hairdressers in Edinburgh and asking people why they hadn’t read Dostoevsky…?

My decision to put off doing Literary Fiction until December was taken at least in part because that meant it was the furthest away.  Putting LitFic at the forefront of anything strikes me as silly, because it automatically alienates a vast section of the reading population who want something a bit more gripping than flowery prose about beautiful landscapes.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy or appreciate Literary Fiction, but it’s hard going at times.  And I resent the suggestion you get from commentators on some of the programs the Beeb have shown that writing genre fiction means you aren’t as clever or as profound as a literary author – it’s more about storytelling priorities.  Personally, I can forgive a big of unpolished prose if the plot and characterisation keep me interested, whereas LitFic is all about form.

Just out of curiosity, as a writer and bookseller yourself, what do you make of the coverage?

Poor Prose

I received a text from my other half this morning which read:

My new favourite line from a book: “the birds in the oak trees knew nothing of totalitarian regimes or the cares of humans.”



On one hand, this put me in mind of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Brian: Consider the lilies…
Woman: Consider the lilies?
Brian: Oh, well, the birds then.
First Man: What birds?
Brian: Any birds!
Second Man: Why?
Brian: Well, have they got jobs?
Third Man: Who?
Brian: The birds.
Second Man: Have the birds got jobs?
Fourth Man: What’s the matter with him?
Third Man: He says the birds are scrounging!
Brian: Oh no, no, the point is: the birds, they do alright, don’t they?
Fourth Man: Well, and good luck to them!
Second Man: Yeah, they’re pretty!

On the other hand, it threw me on to the horns of a furious dilemma.

Well, not that furious.  But it made me wonder, should it give me hope that lines of prose like that one make it into print?  Or should I find it depressing?

Surely, if people are publishing books with lines of prose that are laughably awful, someone at some point will publish one of my books, which are at times not too bad at all.  There again, maybe readable books in which incidents of humour are deliberate rather than unintentional are not what the modern publisher is looking for?  Based on the evidence above, it’s hard to tell.

Still, I’ve no right to fall into a quandary over this.  After all, my favourite line in a book comes from a Torchwood story by Dan Abnett, and was almost certainly not intended to be as funny as I found it.  The line in question is:

“Tosh’s new leather jacket was very cool beans.”

How that got past first draft stage, never mind editors, proof readers and the like, I do not know.  Perhaps they liked it because it encapsulates the way people really speak an’ that – even though it wasn’t presented in the context of character dialogue?

Or maybe they didn’t notice, because Abnett churns out about a book a week into the assorted Doctor Who and Warhammer empires and there simply isn’t time to read them all.  Either way, I love it, and as such am in no position to badmouth poor prose.

But that doesn’t mean I wish to write it.  Not deliberately, anyway…

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