Monday, February 27, 2006

New website all about.... my book!!!

Okay, I realise I may be the only one who is genuinely excited about this, but the fact remains that there's a new website dedicated to my book, Taking Comfort.

Have a look see.

There's even a video clip of me spouting about the book. Dig deep and you shall find it.

It's a work in progress still. The video clip is a tad too long, and some type seems to have mysteriously dropped off. (Perhaps someone took it.) But it's getting there.

Now all I have to do is tell people about it. On that subject I had a wonderful suggestion from Debra Broughton, who has suggested that I print my url on teabags and give them away at Highgate Station. I love that idea, though it may prove a little tricky to execute.

By the way, Debra has very kindly interviewed me on her blog.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

All new download feature.

A lot of people say to me, "Why can't we download an extract from Taking Comfort from your plog? After all, the whole point of the plog is to sell copies of the book. If we could read an extract that might persuade us to buy the whole thing."

And to all those people I'm pleased to say, "Well, now you can. Please note the new 'Download an Extract' heading below the amazon box on the right."

A lot of other people say to me, "Why do you begin so many of your plog entries with 'A lot of people say to me...'? A lot of people don't say these things to you, do they? You just make them up and pretend that there are a lot of people saying these things to you. Don't you? Don't you? Admit it, you phoney. The truth is, hardly anybody reads your pathetic plog thing so it's preposterous to imagine these people constantly asking you things. Your sort make me sick."

Seems like I've been rumbled. I promise never to do it again. Unless, of course, a lot of people ask me to.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Me in The Times.

The Muswell Hill and Crouch End Times, that is. Is there another?

That's me, grinning inanely, holding a book. My book. Did you know I'd written a book?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I've been tagged...

By Jai Clare. Thanks, Jai. No really, I mean it, thanks.

So I have to make these lists, apparently.

Seven things to do before I die:

1. Learn to sing in tune
2. Learn Russian
3. Say exactly what’s on my mind
4. Visit St Petersburg
5. Win an Oscar for anything
6. Read every book every written, or die trying
7. I have a recurring dream in which I discover the manuscript of a book I’d forgotten I’d written, which turns out to be a masterpiece; number 7 is find that manuscript

Seven Things I cannot do:

1. Sing in tune
2. Compile lists
3. Sustain a logical argument
4. Be serious for any length of time
5. Dance the old-fashioned way (or the new-fashioned way, come to think of it)
6. Play snooker
7. Stay awake whilst watching really interesting documentaries on the telly

Seven things that attract me to my mate

1. Laughter
2. Looks
3. Lusciousness
4. Lips
5. Lucidity
6. Levity
7. Love

Seven Books I love:

1. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
2. Blindness by Jose Saramago
3. Life: A User’s Manuel by George Perec
4. The Odyssey by Homer
5. Middlemarch by George Eliot
6. Hebdomeros by Giorgio di Chirico
7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Seven things I say

1. Is it time for a glass of wine?
2. Shall I open another one?
3. Is it my round?
4. Are we staying here or moving on?
5. I just need to -
6. Right, where were we?
7. Curry then?

Seven Movies I've loved:

1. A Touch of Evil
2. Annie Hall
3. Raise the Red Lantern
4. Being John Malkovich
5. Anything with Alister Sims in
6. Station Agent
7. It’s A Wonderful Life

Seven People to Tag:
(I chose seven bloggers from the website

1 Anne Brooke
2. Sascha Zuger
3. Daniel Walker
4. Keris Stainton
5. Belinda Whitehead
6. Darren Coxon
7. Elspeth Graty

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Man talking bollocks, revisited.

I haven't actually seen a copy of this week's Crouch End and Muswell Hill Times. (Or should that be, Muswell Hill and Crouch End Times?) We didn't get one delivered this week for some reason. Such is the way with free sheets. It's all down to the discretion of those people who push around shopping trolleys full of newsprint. Some they deliver. Some they chuck over a wall.

Anyhow, I knew from Peter the photographer that the interview was due to appear on Friday, so when the paper copy didn't thud onto our doormat, I checked out the online edition.

Here's what I found.

Did I really say all that stuff? Well, possibly. But I said a lot of other stuff as well that got edited out - naturally, they wouldn't just transcribe the telephone conversation, I know that! But the problem is, without the stuff that's left out, the stuff that's left in sounds a bit, I don't know, odd. Or maybe that's just me.

And I've really got to work out a plausible answer to the question, "How long did it take you to write?" For some reason, people seem obsessed by this question. I have to say, it's one I dread. You see I did write the book very quickly. I'm not sure how quickly, exactly, because I wasn't really paying attention to how long it was taking me. I just wrote the thing.

And I had been thinking about it, and working out the storyline, for a long, long time. How long? I have no idea. Years. We're talking years.

But the actual writing of the text was quick. Absurdly quick. Embarrassingly quick. The kind of quick that you wouldn't believe. It was there and I just wrote it down, like dictation.

I feel bad it was so quick. I don't even want to talk about how quick it was. I wish she hadn't asked me that. And I wish when she'd asked me I'd said something else.

Six weeks, jeez. Why'd I have to go and say six weeks?

Mind you, it seems William Faulkner claimed to have written As I Lay Dying in six weeks, though the truth may be closer to eight. That makes me feel better, somehow.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


My six-year-old son Luke loves the postcards Macmillan sent me to help promote my book. However, he does seem to feel that the front, which features the book’s cover, could be improved upon.

I found one where he’d scribbled out my name with a heavy black biro and written ‘Luke Morris’ in the teabag.

Apparently, he wants to take the actual book in to school for a ‘show and tell’ session. Yes, well, we’ll have to see about that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The story behind the books.

My publisher, Mike Barnard, of Macmillan New Writing has written a book. Actually, I believe he’s written a number of books, but this latest one is all about Macmillan New Writing. It’s called ‘Transparent Imprint’. Subtitle: ‘How a publisher’s decision to tell the truth to authors stirred up a storm’.

Here’s a bit from the blurb:

But what was the real genesis of the imprint? How was the decision made to devote a list exclusively to first-time novelists? What were the terms and conditions offered to authors? How were they treated? How were the books chosen? How were they produced cost-effectively? Who are the authors? What are the books?

Yes, there’s a bit about me in it, which Mike was kind enough to send me to have a look at. A strange experience reading about yourself in a book. You can’t quite convince yourself that it is you who’s being referred to. Especially when I discovered that Mike had read my manuscript through in one sitting. I remember him saying that he had had a slipped disc while he was assessing a lot of the submissions, so he had probably read it lying on his back on the floor. There's dedication for you.

The proceeds will be going to charity.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Local author has local photo taken by local paper. Locally.

Today Peter the photographer came round to take my picture for the piece in the Muswell Hill and Crouch End Times. He rang me just before our appointment to let me know he was running late. He had had to photograph a one hundred year old man and it had taken longer than anticipated. It occurs to me now that this might be a standard excuse he uses whenever he's late for anything, but at the time I accepted it. It seems like the sort of thing a photographer for a local paper might be called upon to do.

While he was on the phone he asked me if I had a toolbox. I was a little worried. I wondered if there was something wrong with his camera that he hoped to fix with my set of Philips screwdrivers. But no. He had to take a picture of a toolbox, preferably with a pair of hands delving into it, for something his paper was doing. He wondered if I would be willing to provide the toolbox, and act as model while we're at it. I couldn't see why not.

"He wouldn't ask Salman Rushdie to do that," was my wife's comment. But, you know, having met Peter, I think he might. And he might just get Salman to oblige as well.

So he turned up and we went to the loft, my study, and I struck a number of rather self-conscious poses in proximity of my book cover. I decided right from the outset that there was no point trying to look natural (how can you try to look natural, anyhow?) because this was a very unnatural act I was involved in. I was plugging a book. So the best thing to do was to... uh, plug the book, as blatantly and, if necessarily, as cheesily, as possible.

Peter tried me with a few nonchalantish poses. Arms folded, and the book somehow just, well, there in one hand, popping up, like a... well, like something you hold with your arms folded. (Have you ever held anything with your arms folded? I thought not.)

It was a valiant effort, but it didn't really work. More honest were the ones with me mugging shamelessly as I clutched the book to my cheek. The happy couple. "I think it's probably one of those they'll end up using," said Peter as he previewed the shoot for me at high speed. I tried not to look. We're in the realm of 'whatever it takes' here.

Anyhow, once we got that out of the way, we got down to the serious business of the toolbox. First, let me say, Peter was very admiring of my toolbox. "Do you do a lot of this sort of stuff?" he asked. For a moment, I wasn't sure whether he meant modelling toolboxes or DIY. It was the latter, I think. I had to confess I was pretty much a light-weight on the home-improvement front. Peter looked disappointed, but we pressed on with the shoot regardless.

Apparently, the picture of me with my book will be in this week's paper, which comes out on Friday. I've no idea when the toolbox shot is going to run.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Danger. Man talking bollocks.

Yesterday I was interviewed by a journalist from one of the local papers. The Muswell Hill and Crouch End Times. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a very influential publication in these parts. Oh, yes. Very important paper, let me tell you. Read by all the best people. I even look at it myself sometimes.

Anyhow, a very nice lady called Lucy asked me some extremely sharp questions over the phone. And I gave what I’m sure were some incredibly dull answers.

Maybe I didn’t do too badly, although I can’t for the life of me remember a single interesting thing I said. I kept asking Lucy, “Is that all right, or was it just bollocks?” (Actually, I think I said “nonsense”, as I’m quite polite.) She was very reassuring. “No, no, fine,” she insisted. “You’re doing fine.” I’m sure if anyone can make me sound intelligent, she can.

And it wasn’t as if I was caught on the hop. I actually rang her back after she’d contacted me, so I should have been prepared. You’d have thought so. But even the simplest question, such as “How long did it take you to write it?” had me umming and ahhing hopelessly. “Well, you see, that’s a difficult question…” I had been thinking about the book for a long, long time. It had been mulling over in my mind for years. But the actual writing was very quick and intense, maybe just a couple of months. But that, you see, just sounds ridiculously short to me, so I’m always wary about mentioning it. Ah, the difficulties of talking to the press.

Given that she was calling from a local paper, she was naturally interested in the local aspect of the book. So I talked about my love of Queen’s Wood. And how I get the tube from Highgate. And about a certain curry house in Crouch End that features in the book but is no more.

But then I quickly had to correct any impression that the book is autobiographical. It’s such a complex process, that of creating a fictional character, and a complex relationship between author and character. And it’s hard, somehow, when you’re on the phone to a journalist to do justice to it. So God knows what I said. I’ll just have to wait for the article to appear to find out, I suppose.

Anyhow, it proves that the Macmillan publicity machine has kicked into action. I’m bracing myself for the next one. Maybe I’ll have some more considered answers worked out by then. Or maybe I’ll just talk bollocks again.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Aliya Whiteley on Macmillan New Writing.

Aliya Whiteley is one of my fellow Macmillan New Writing authors. Her own novel, Three Things About Me, comes out in July, I think. Though it's available for pre-ordering right now.

In the meantime, to get you in the mood, you can play a little game of Three Things About You with Aliya over on her website.

Find your way to the discussion forum headed 'Three Things About You'. Then simply post three things about yourself, one of which is a lie. Aliya tries to guess which is the lie. If you outwit her, you win a rather splendid bookmark. Mine recently arrived. Yes, I won. I think most people do. As Aliya herself said: "outwitting me is only slightly more impressive than outwitting a patio, as I am the most gullible person in the universe."

Aliya's also written an article about Macmillan New Writing which has been published on Sarah Weinman's website.

Today's my birthday, by the way. (46. Don't.) I got a jumper, a masterchef cookbook, and tickets to Mike Leigh's play, and ooh all sorts of other stuff you wouldn't believe. (A chest infection, for instance!!!) Coincidentally, my latest order from Amazon arrived today, as a kind of extra birthday present to myself. It's Charlie Williams' crime novel, King Of The Road. I haven't read any of Charlie's previous books, but I know him from the writers' website Zoetrope. It looks good - English noire. Sounds very dark and original. Can't wait, though I'm currently working my way through Dostoevsky's The Adolescent, which, believe it or not, is very funny.

By the way, as an extra extra birthday present to myself, I have decided not to plog my book today. Doh! Seems I just can't help myself.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

So here it is.

I took a photo of my book.

Why did I take a photo of my book? Probably because I realised no one else was going to. Hey, I've never had a book published before. I'm allowed to be excited. I'm sure I'll get over it. One day.

Not any day soon, though.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What's with Wikipedia?

My name is Roger and I'm addicted to googling. It gets worse. One of the things I google, obsessively, is myself. I will google myself. And then five minutes later I will google myself again. To see if I have creeped any higher up the hierarchy of Roger Morrises that populate the virtual space.

One of the other things I google is Macmillan New Writing. To see what anyone is saying about us. If anyone is saying anything about us.

I'm familiar with most of the articles available online that have been written about the imprint. More importantly, somewhere deep within me, I know what order they will appear when I google those magic words. And the order itself is comforting. It is the order of the universe. Or something.

Anyhow, tonight a new article came up. Someone's put something about Macmillan New Writing in the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Here's what the entry said:

Macmillan New Writing is an imprint of the British publishing company Pan Macmillan. Designed to attract previously unpublished authors, it offers aspiring novelists 20% of royalties from the sale of their book but no advance on signing. According to an article in The Guardian, Macmillan New Writing also requires authors to pay for their own editing, beyond a certain amount of copy editing that will be performed by the publisher. The first six books from Macmillan New Writing are due to appear in April 2006.

Okay. Thanks for the mention, but does anyone check these facts? (That's a rhetorical question, to which I already know the answer.)

Anyhow, I couldn't let it stand, so I clicked the edit button and added a little entry of my own:

Macmillan New Writing do not make writers pay for editing, and never have. This widely reported myth is the result of a wilful misunderstanding put about by members of the literary elite with an axe to grind. Macmillan New Writing did suggest to some, but not all, rejected authors that their work was in need of some editing before it could be considered for publication. At the same time, they passed on details of the society of editors and proof-readers, some of whose members provide editorial services at a price. Whether or not the writer did anything with this information was entirely up to the writer and would certainly not guarantee publication. Macmillan New Writing books were professionally edited by experienced and senior fiction editors to the highest industry standards.

So now I see they removed my addition from the main article and put it in the talk section, labelling it a 'rebuttal' of the Guardian article. They've put up this message, which I presume is only visible to me:

Hi there. I removed the paragraph you added to the Macmillan New Writing article, since it is unsourced and looks a little odd there in the "References" section. You're welcome to integrate it back into the main body of the article if you can provide a source; it certainly sounds like material that should be covered.

Well, providing 'a source' is a little difficult because I am the source. I will have to go back there and tell them that I suppose?

Maybe I should mention my book.

Sometimes it’s hard being a writer.

People often ask me, ‘Of all the forms - the novel, short story, creative non-fiction, memoir – which is the hardest?’

Well, I’ll tell ya. It’s the postcard. Jeez. What do you put? I mean, it always sounds so banal, and there is nothing worse, for a writer, than sounding banal. There’s no point protesting, ‘Look, it was my intention to sound banal!’ Other people can sound banal, but if you’re a writer, you’ve got to aim for something else. Like profound. Or acerbic. Or transgressive.

I like the idea of the transgressive postcard. ‘Fuck you’ instead of ‘wish you were here’. Or maybe it would be to send someone a dirty postcard, by which I mean one you had defaced in some unspeakable way. But that would be a performance artist’s postcard, not a writer’s.

Anyhow, it’s hard. Harder even than those messages you have to write when the leaving cards get circulated at work. People expect a little bit more from a writer. Especially when the postcard is one advertising the book you’ve got coming out.

This I know, because earlier this week I sent out the first of my huge stack of glossy Taking Comfort postcards that Macmillan New Writing printed up for me. It’s going all the way to Santa Fe to my friend and fellow blogger Richard Cooper. Let me just say, it was a titanic creative struggle and it just about wore me out for the whole week. You may have noticed the blog’s been a bit quiet.

So what did I put? Well, I wasn’t in a particularly profound, acerbic or transgressive mood, unfortunately. But after a lot of looking deep within myself, interspersed with long periods spent gazing reflectively out of the window, I settled for ‘Greetings from a chilly London.’

Sorry Richard.