Wednesday, May 31, 2006

You couldn't make it up.

I was very kindly invited to contribute something to un-made-up, a website devoted to 'True stories from the keyboards of real people', edited by the journalist William Shaw.

Well, it just so happened that only yesterday I witnessed something, or rather two somethings, pretty much perfect for un-made-up. Weird how the universe does this sometimes, isn't it? You might almost believe in fate.

As I said to Will, I was thinking of writing it up for the plog, but unfortunately I couldn't see a way to work in a mention of the book. And if I can't work in a plug, it doesn't belong on the plog.

Sorry. Them's the rules.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

There's no pleasing some people.

I see the Observer carried another piece by Robert McCrum fulminating about the parlous state of the British publishing industry. I have to admit I read it with apprehension, bracing myself for another attack on Macmillan New Writing. (Crikey, I thought, what if he has a go at my book?) But there was a different, though connected, target for his Olympian bolts this time: first time novelists who receive over-inflated advances.

Hang on. I'm a bit confused here. He didn't like Macmillan New Writing, which pays no advance, just royalties, to its authors. But he's against the so-called conventional route, which pays new authors an advance in proportion to the amount the publishers think they are going to make back out of the book.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Mr McCrum just doesn't like new authors.

So what is the ideal advance for a writer (first time or otherwise) according to Mr McCrum? He seems curiously attached to the figure of £250, provided it's accompanied by a long lunch at L'Etoile.

Whatever you say, Robert.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Hello Neil.

I went over to to let Neil know that my book had been paired with his book Stardust on my amazon page. For some strange reason, it doesn't seem to work the other way round. I.e., there's no mention of Taking Comfort on his page. Shurely shome mishtake?

I was also doing my bit to boost rashbre's review of Anansi Boys, now posted on Bob's Books, which if you remember is the most important literary website on the planet, and once ran an interview with me.

So, on the off chance that you saw my post, and followed the url here, 'Hello Neil Gaiman. Thanks for looking in.'

Friday, May 26, 2006

Kathryn Koromilas has been having fun.

Kathryn has written a review of the book in the manner of the book. It's very clever, very funny and, well, a little unnerving.

I like Kathryn's description of herself, by the way: "I'm a person who, mainly, writes. I also wonder about things, such as this absurd life. I like to read things that other thinking and wondering beings have felt important enough to write down."

Thank you, Kathryn.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ah the joy...

... of starting a book and knowing immediately you are going to love it. Which is to say I just started High John the Conqueror by Jim Younger this morning. It's drawn me in immediately with its vision of a strangely skewed alternative London and, above all, its wonderful, vibrant language. It's a special kind of happiness to feel yourself embarking on a book like this. I'm sure it's going to be a big hit. Well, it will be if there's any justice in the world.

I know Jim from a couple of writing sites I go to, writewords and zoetrope, and I've actually met him in person, as he came along to the Macmillan New Writing launch at Goldsboro Books. He's a lovely bloke and, from what I've read so far, a great writer.

I wonder what Jim's reading at the moment? Perhaps it's this book?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My own theory.

Yes, I've got a theory concerning the amazon ad at the bottom of the plog. Yesterday it was presenting plog-readers with three items to shop for: series 1 and 2 of Shameless, and a CD called Roger Bobo - Tuba Libera. If you remember, the idea was that a very sophisticated software program at amazon analyzes the editorial content of the blog and suggests items that it concludes will be relevant to people who find themselves here. As far as I understand it, no human agency is involved.

I think there are two possible reasons for the Shameless recommendation. 1) The software has very cleverly worked out that I am a shameless self-promoter of my novel Taking Comfort. Or 2) it's all because I've been visited by, and have mentioned, the anonymous blogger Shameless. As for Roger Bobo, obviously the software thinks that because you're interested in roger's plog you will also be interested in Roger Bobo. And presumably anything by any bloke called Roger.

It should have known better. After all, the only Roger-related product you're interested in is surely this one.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ads. Sorry.

I don't know if you've ever scrolled down to the bottom of the plog, but if you do so now, you'll find an amazon strip advertising three products. This is a bit of an experiment on my part, mainly undertaken just to see exactly what products appear in that strip. You see, the items are supposed to be selected to fit with the content of the blog. Some bit of software at amazon analyzes the editorial thrust of the plog, and throws up three items that it judges to be especially relevant.

So the last time I looked it was series 1 and 2 of Shameless. And a CD called Tuba Libera - Roger Bobo.

Okay. Explain that to me, someone.

I mean what does any of that have to do with this book?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I fell into a trap.

I'm reliably informed that Bob's Books is the most important literary website on the planet, (though which planet I'm not sure). Bob of Bob's Books had very kindly republished Rashbre's review of my book. In the comments below he had suggested "author-trapping" me by leading me to the review and asking me some questions which I wouldn't be able to resist answering, being a typically vain and egotistical author.

So that's what happened. They got me. In fact, it was a pleasure to answer their highly intelligent questions, and the result was THIS INTERVIEW.

It's a real privilege to be the first author interviewed on the most important literary website on the planet (if we all say it enough it will become true), though maybe the man trap suggested by Rashbre might have been fun too.

The whole prank is discussed in another blog called Hoses of the Holy. I like that name.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Word of mouse.

The internet is the new word of mouth - or word of mouse, as you might say. I don't know what effect all these wonderful blog reviews I've been getting will have on sales. That isn't really the point, though naturally I want the book to do as well as it possibly can. I'm just pleased to learn that my book has connected with this or that individual reader, and he or she has felt strongly enough to share their enthusiasm with the world.

Anyhow, there's been another blog review. Take a look.

My favourite bits? I did like this: "The way in which Roger Morris controls and manipulates his narrative and plot through the device of taking these ‘souvenirs’ is deft and supremely well constructed as we are drawn more and more into Rob’s sometimes crazed perception of reality."

And then there was this: "Full marks to Macmillian New Writing for publishing this novel. Roger Morris takes many risks in his prose with his crisp style and repetition."

Oh, and I mustn't forget this: "It is an excellent novel and one I would recommend."

Thank you, Alan Roche, for writing the review. I don't know Alan from Adam. So it's amazing to me that people other than my immediate family and friends are reading the book and being affected by it.

And thank you, Jai Clare, for putting the review up on your blog.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What it's all about.

Here's a review posted on the writers' website, Writewords.

The comment at the end, by another reader, absolutely blew me away. As a writer, I can't ask for more than this.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A tale of two platforms.

Last night I shared a speaking platform with Mike Barnard, the publisher of Macmillan New Writing, and Marcelo Beilin of Trafford Publishing, to address the Oxford Publishing Society (OPUS).

The subject of the discussion was ‘Self-Publishing in the Internet Age’. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was doing there as I know nothing about self-publishing. Michael from OPUS explained that the society had invited MNW along to hear how a traditional publisher was responding to the challenge of the self-publishing revolution. Maybe those weren’t his exact words, but there seemed to be the feeling that self-publishing was something that publishers ought to be aware of. Rightly or wrongly, MNW was perceived as a response to it.

Anyhow, it was an opportunity for Mike (Barnard) to explain the thinking behind MNW, which could be described as a new model for publishing, and has certainly been confused with self-publishing by certain perverse commentators and individuals. Mike himself sees it more as a return to the most traditional form of publishing, in which the publisher has a direct relationship with the author.

Whatever Macmillan New Writing is, it isn’t self-publishing. A self-publishing company like Trafford publishes every book submitted to them, at a cost of on average £1,000 to the author. Contrary to what you may have heard from certain mischievous sources, Macmillan New Writing do not charge authors a penny. Nor do they publish every book that comes along. In fact, less than half a percent of submissions actually make it through to publication (14 titles in one year, out of around 4,000 submissions). Manuscripts are assessed by editors and professional readers. The books are edited to the highest industry standards. Marcelo revealed that no one at Trafford reads the books that they publish (apart from the typesetters). No editorial service is offered at all. The writer is in effect the publisher, responsible for the editing as well as the marketing of his or her book.

For me it was an opportunity to talk about the only subject I’m at all knowledgeable about: myself. They wanted to hear a writer’s experience of being part of this brave new publishing venture.

It was a bit daunting standing up in a lecture theatre (the meeting was held at Oxford Brookes University) in front of a room of publishers. But they were a friendly crowd. They laughed in all the right places and made me feel very welcome and relaxed. And the acoustics were amazing.

That was platform number one. Platform number two was the southbound platform of the Northern Line from Highgate. It’s where my novel starts. Because of that, one of the marketing ideas I’d discussed with Macmillan was the possibility of distributing flyers to commuters going into Highgate tube station. This morning was the day of distribution.

I was travelling from Highgate myself today. (It doesn’t always happen nowadays – if I’m dropping the kids off, I go from Finsbury Park.)

I saw the young lady handing them out as I approached along Priory Gardens. It looked like people were taking them, although obviously a few walked by without biting. As I got close to her, she proffered one to me. I declined. ‘No, it’s okay. I’m the author.’ We had a brief chat about how it was going. She’d been there since 7.45 and was down to her last bundle. I expected to see them littered throughout the station, but it wasn’t too bad. I spotted two on the platform itself, but that was all.

The wording on the front of the flyer was: ‘He takes the tube from Highgate. And takes comfort wherever he can.’

We’ll have to see if it has any effect on sales.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Shameless Review, no really...

I've been reviewed by another anonymous blogger. Shameless.

My favourite bit from the review? Well, I have to confess I liked this bit:

"This novel is very unique and original, and that's what makes it attractive. Inventive writing has been successfully merged with a page-turning plot, and so there is double pleasure. It is a fast, frenzied ride to the end and you find yourself not wanting to get off."

He also takes on one of the tosserati critics Macmillan New Writing, some broadsheet literary hack who had come out early to pour cold water on the whole enterprise.

"In one of the reviews I saw of this new collection, a newspaper critic complained that there wasn't enough "new writing" in the Macmillan New Writing line-up. I remembered this when I was a few pages into Morris' book and I wanted to say out loud, "if this isn't new, then the Pope isn't Catholic." You'll appreciate that I was in public, in Ireland, and so it just remained a thought."

And before you ask, I have no idea who Shameless is either.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Who invited Jeremy Paxman?

Really enjoyed myself in Hunsbury last night. (Joint reading gig with Cate Sweeney.) There was a really good turn out, despite the fact that the library was charging £2 a head. Kate O'Brien, the literature officer for Northampton libraries, explained that, bizarrely, they always get more people when they charge for events. I suppose people think if it's free it's not worth going to; if you have to pay, it must be something good. Plus the library have to cover their costs, and a small admission charge helps.

Anyhow, to make up for it they knocked a couple of pounds off the price of the books, so if you bought a book, you ended up quids in.

Cate being the local girl had plenty of support. She'd also managed to get herself interviewed on Radio Northampton so I'm sure that helped to boost the numbers too. I was delighted to meet some 'virtual friends' of mine from writers' websites writewords and zoetrope, Lexie and Tony. Thanks to them for making the effort to come along and give support. Other than that, there were a fair few people who neither of us knew. In other words, members of the general public.

We both said a bit about our books and then read two extracts each. I did go with the All Day Breakfast and The Tetley Teabag. After we'd done our readings there was a question and answer session. Lots of good questions. People seemed to be really engaged by what we had said and read. There was one guy who asked me a bit of a Jeremy Paxman question: 'I noticed in the bits you read, you tend to repeat certain words. Is this deliberate - a conscious technique - or are you just trying to fill the page?' I had to laugh. It did give me an opportunity to talk about the style. I do use repetition - it's been said to good effect. It's a way of mirroring the way thoughts loop round and repeat themselves in our heads. To be fair to him, the guy that asked the question did say 'It's very effective.' It was a funny moment - and I don't think he meant to be rude. Provocative, maybe.

There were lots of other questions too, very interesting and thoughtful ones. You obviously get a high class of reader in Northampton. The event ran on a little bit later than intended, which I think was a good sign.

I'm told we sold all the copies of the books they had. I can't quite believe it, but if it's true, it's great.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Whoo, I'm going to Northampton.

Tonight. To do the reading with Cate Sweeney. (7.30, Hunsbury Library, if you're anywhere near.)

I had the usual last minute crisis about what to read but I think I've decided now. I'm going for the Pret A Manger All Day Breakfast and the Tetley Teabag. I think. The Tetley Teabag seems to go down well, even though all that happens is that one of the characters makes a cup of tea. I've never read the All Day Breakfast before, so that's a bit of an experiment.

I'll let you know how I get on. Starting to get a bit nervous now. The general public. I hope they're nice in Northampton.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

In praise of frozen peas.

On the advice of my osteopath Norman, I've been lying on the floor three times a day for ten minutes, holding a packet of frozen peas to my back. It's worked wonders. I can now get my socks on without shooting pains going all the way up my spine or help from Rachel or one of the kids.

However, this is not a personal blog. This is a plog, the sole purpose of which is to encourage you to buy a copy of my book. So what have the healing effects of frozen peas got to do with that?

Well, it's long been my view that the best writing is borne out of pain. However, in this case, I think the pain was borne out of the writing. Too much sitting in a cheap Ikea office chair at a badly configured work station. (I should have gone for the highly adjustable Unifor i Satelliti S200 which Rob Saunders is fortunate enough to have as his desk in the book.)

While we're on the subject of frozen peas, Joyce Maynard revealed in her memoir At Home In The World that J.D. Salinger used to have them for breakfast. How did I find that out? I googled frozen peas and J.D. Salinger, of course. Now if anyone does the same, they may find their way to this plog. Google trap number 3.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Now you can see me speak on Amazon!

There's a link on my amazon page. Look for the little sun icon just below the front cover image.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Unselfish Cate.

Cate Sweeney, author of Selfish Jean has very kindly invited me to join her on a reading gig she's organised in Northampton next week.

It's on Thursday evening, the 11th May (God is it May already?), 7.30pm at Hunsbury Library. If you know Northampton that will mean a lot more to you than it does to me.

Cate's book is very funny and she's an exceedingly entertaining reader. My book is this one.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Google trap 2.

The Di Beradino classic, The Snoopy ring binder, The Twirl mug, The Yves-rocher Yria Extreme Comfort Lipstick bronze, Pringle socks, The GN 2100 Microboom Mono Headset, The Unifor i Satelliti S200, The Prêt à Manger All Day Breakfast, The Benjys napkin, The Evian Natural Spring Water 0.75l Nomad bottle, The Jammy Dodger, The Nobo Brainstormer Flipchart Pad, The Ideal-Standard Space btw wc, The Hugo Woman fragrance, The Mulholland Brothers Messenger Bag, The pint of London Pride, The Sabatier Au Carbone 8 inch Carbon Steel Chef’s Knife, Sloggi Basic midi briefs, Blue Hawk Plaster Coving 127x2000mm, The Xpelair integral timer remote switch operated extract fan, The Philips AJ3120 radio alarm clock, The Nike Air Zoom Elite running shoes, The Flexi Classic 1 small dog 5m retractable dog lead, Whole Earth Organic Corn Flakes, The Tetley teabag, The IBM ThinkVision L170P flat panel monitor, The Montblanc Meisterstück Le Grand fountain pen, The Unifor Progetto 25 screen system and the TAG Heuer Kirium Ti5 Men’s Chronograph, The Securicor security box, The unbranded handkerchief, The 5 Star Document Wallet, The Tracy Island movie tie-in toy, The Jonelle Egyptian Bath Sheet, The Cobra Premium Beers, The Eurocopter EC135 Advanced Police Helicopter, The Martyn Gerrard window, The Marvelon® contraceptive pill, The Barbour Harris Tweed jacket, The Sony KV-20FV10 20” WEGA TV, The BODYARMOUR UK Police Concealable Body Armour vest, The Initial 2-Fold Hand Towel, The Bic biro, The Google™ search engine, The Yves-rocher Yria Lip Contour Pencil brun, The BT Synergy 3105 cordless digital phone, The Ikea Grundtal dish drainer, The Starbucks Coffee cardboard cup, The Pizza Hut pizza delivery trestle, The Nokia 6610i mobile phone, The Arofol Plus® self seal postal bag, The L.K. Bennett kitten heels, The Faithfull Steel Shaft Claw Hammer 16oz, The Nissan Bluebird 2.0GS, The Yale P1037 door chain, The i’coo Platon threewheeler


Vote for Councillor Adje.

It was a week ago today that I did my reading in Hornsey Library. Haven't written it up yet - except to leave a brief comment below.

My excuse is I've been a bit busy with other stuff (there's stuff besides plogging? surely not?). Plus I've had a bad back which has limited the amount of time I can spend comfortably sitting in front of a computer. I've been just about able to check my amazon rating, maybe the sitemeter as well, before falling onto my knees and clutching my cheap Ikea office chair - not out of affection, or any Rob Saunders-like need for comfort, but just because it was the nearest thing available. Anyhow, a friend has given me the number of an osteopath, so I hope to sort that out soon. Thank you Clive.

The reading went well, I think. There were people there. Some familiar, friendly faces, but members of the general public too. The best indicator of how it went was the question and answer session afterwards, which went on for quite some time - and actually had to be cut short by Bill from the library, so that we could all make an impression on the wine.

(Incidentally, Bill told me that the library had taken eight copies (I think he said eight!) and that six had gone out straight away. I was pretty chuffed about that.)

A group of writers from the local word4word writers' group were very interested in the whole Macmillan New Writing initiative. I pointed them at Will, the editor from MNW who had turned up, and saw some frantic scribbling of email addresses.

A lady came all the way from Wood Green. She'd seen a poster in the library there. She bought a book and very kindly said she was going to recommend it to her reading group.

Someone else who turned up was the leader of Haringey Council, Councillor Charles Adje. A very nice man. A very very nice man. He didn't stay for the reading itself (we're in the middle of an election campaign after all) but he did stay long enough to buy a book and have me sign it. Given that no one from any of the other parties turned up, and given that he was also prepared to have a smile (I wouldn't say 'laugh') about what was going on in national politics, he's got my vote.

As Jeremy Hardy has said, voting Labour at the moment is a bit like wiping your arse. Not a particularly pleasant thing to do, but the alternative is far worse.

Anyhow, that's enough politics. Charles Adje for Prime Minister, I say.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rashbre reviews.

The mysterious Rashbre shares his or her thoughts on reading Taking Comfort.

I have a feeling that I ought to know who Rashbre is. I thought perhaps I did know who Rashbre is but it turns out I was wrong.

Whoever you are, Rashbre, thank you!