Saturday, 25 October 2014

Welcome to the Octagon Kindle Freebie



For the first time ever, Welcome to the Octagon, a Fight Card MMA novella, is free to download on Kindle. And it's a UFC weekend! I mean, come on! Just because our hero, Conor McGregor, doesn't have a spot on UFC 179 doesn't mean you can't get your fill of Irish fighters. This Belfast set tale of underground MMA and predatory gangsters will rattle your dome worse than a well-placed roundhouse.

Don't believe me? Here's a little love from the great Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders:

"Brennan knows how to keep a story moving, planting narrative hooks toward the ends of his chapters and throwing in at least one character wrinkle unlikely to have shown up in an old-time boxing story. But what may have impressed me most is his engagement with MMA, a sport until now shoved somewhere back in my consciousness next to street luge, half-pipe, and bicycle motocross. MMA is compounded of styles and techniques taken from many fighting sports, and Welcome to the Octagon is full of observations about the resulting complexity and the demands it places on the fighters.

"Welcome to the Octagon has heart, humor, and respectful engagement with its subject. What's not to like?"

Read the entire blog post (and the fun debate in the comments section) right here.

And get your copy of Welcome to the Octagon at the relevant Amazon territory:

UK
US
CA

If you want me to add your territory, just leave a comment and I'll edit the post.

Freebie offer ends 29th October 2014.

Here's a little more info on the wee book:

FIGHT CARD MMA: WELCOME TO THE OCTAGON

Belfast 2013

Mickey The Rage Rafferty has gone through some tough times, but he's not ready to tap-out just yet. The Belfast widower has to take care of his eight-year-old daughter, Lily. However, his main talent is fighting and the only way he can make enough money off it to support his girl is to take dodgy underground matches paying off in bloodstained cash. Mickey’s trainer, Eddie Smith, doesn't approve. He wants his most promising student to step into the cage as a real martial artist, not as a fool for thugs and gangsters.

With Eddie on the verge of cutting him loose, Mickey is up against the cage – crushed between fast cash and a legitimate career. Mickey has some big decisions to make and some even bigger opponents to face.

The MMA life can be harsh, and it’s never easy ... Welcome To The Octagon.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Go! Get Your POV On



Have you seen the movie Go (1999)? It's on Netflix (as is Swingers which has a directorial connection with Go), so if you haven't and you have access to it, I highly recommend that you check it out.

You see, I've been asked a few times about my influences. I usually tell people that life is my influence. This sounds a bit wanky and artsy (those aren't always the same thing) but to my mind it's true. Also, it's really hard to choose a writer who influences your writing when there is so much talent out there, especially since I cast my reading net quite widely. So if I didn't say, "Oh, I'm influenced by everyday life, really," my answer would be more like the question, "Have you read this guy, this girl or these people?" The response to that would be a blank stare. I'd ask you, "Have you seen this bunch of movies, then?" and list off a load of flicks that were based on books I've read and enjoyed. More blank stares. Then I'd move on to original screenplays, TV series, cartoons that my kids force me to watch... yadda, yadda, yadda.

Everyday life it is, then.

Except I re-watched Go for the first time in years. Possibly a decade. Apart from the fact that the movie has aged incredibly well, it's also a hell of a lot of fun. And behind that fun is a shitload of technical prowess in terms of writing (I'm a writer blogging about this from the perspective of a writer BTW so I'll not go into the great job the cast and crew did as well), from which a writer in any form could learn a trick or two.

For instance; I watched it over three days as a lunchtime treat to get away from the current manuscript once in a while. The structure of the movie lends itself to this style of viewing beautifully. The same timeline is basically retold three times from three different perspectives with the last ten minutes of the flick devoted to tying the movie up. Shot from Ronna, Simon and Adam & Zack's POVs respectively, it's basically a tale about having a little too much craic and the trouble that can bring.

As I watched, laughed and shook my head at some of the characters' exploits, I got to thinking that this was the style I'd been going for in the Point series of novellas (of which only two have been released so far -- there will be more, count on that) and the hapless characters that inhabit that universe. They're not particularly bad people (the protagonists, I mean, not the scumbags they get mixed up with), but they are pretty loser-ish.

In a few interviews and conversations I've asked about the direct influences on Breaking Point, the most recent Point novella. I answered with reference to the movie Pineapple Express. I would have preferred a prose example, but I couldn't think of one. And if I'm honest, I wasn't altogether comfortable with that comparison anyway. Pineapple Express is far funnier than anything I've written. The darkness is there, as it is in most of my work, but I can't compete with those chuckles a line delivered by Danny McBride or Seth Rogen can get. Go, though... it has a lot of laughs in it, as well as the hectic storyline and somewhat more realistic idea of consequence. Go is the movie that I should really compare most of my writing to. And if I did that more often, I think I'd write better books.*

Trailer:



*Disclaimer: By no means am I damning my work as substandard, by the way. I'll leave that to the critics who, for the most part, have been very kind to me. And I'll keep the artistic anguish, if and when it occurs, to myself.

Breaking Point - Chapters 1 and 2



Can’t Get No Sleep
Brian Morgan stood by the side of the bed and looked down at his girlfriend. It wasn’t even midnight and she was dead to the world. Still breathing, but dead to the world.
He gripped the edges of his pillow tight.
Rachel O’Hare didn’t snore. Her breathing never seemed to catch a steady enough rhythm for it. At random intervals she made a noise, somewhere between a sigh and a moan. Brian wondered if that meant she was dreaming. And if so, did she suffer the same nightmares he did.
“I love you, Rachel,” Brian whispered, half-enamoured by the idea that she might be able to hear him. “But sometimes I don’t know whether to kiss you or kill you.”
And he meant every word of that shitty cliché.
Even if he didn’t have the guts to do the deed.
Brian gave his aching hands a rest and hugged the pillow to his chest. He studied Rachel in the faint strip of light cast by the bare bulb in the ensuite bathroom.
She still managed to look pretty, even with sleep-lines, a slack jaw and a string of drool running from the corner of her mouth to the pillowcase. Her face would convince the most cynical that she was one of the innocent ones. Brian knew different. So did his dead brother.
He rounded the bed and gently laid his pillow down on his side of the queen-size. On his way to the ensuite, the loose floorboard creaked. Rachel gasped and the mattress springs clicked and boinged.
“Brian?”
“Aye.”
“Coming to bed?”
“Going to the toilet.”
“Come to bed after.”
“Aye.”
He had no intention of trying to sleep. It didn’t matter. Rachel would have no recollection of asking him by the morning. They’d been through this more than once before.
Brian checked the mirror above the sink and ran his hand over the stubble on his head. He still wasn’t used to the look or the feel of his new haircut. The clownish curls were gone for good. He appeared older, harder and more serious than he felt. Maybe a little thinner too. He forced a smile and saw the ghost of his old self in the reflection. Then he let the well-worn frown take over again.
“More muscles to smile than frown? My hole.”
He threw some toilet roll into the bowl to soften the sound of his pissing. When he was done, he shook off and tucked in, but didn’t flush. He washed his hands, ignored the toothbrush and left the ensuite without pulling the cord to turn off the light. Rachel preferred to sleep with it on. It would suit him better if she didn’t feel the need to get up and turn it back on again.
Brian made it down the stairs with the balance and poise of an alley cat on a razor wire-topped wall. He knew by now which ones made the most noise and how much weight the handrail could take before the loosened spindles groaned.
In the kitchen, he closed the door gently, took a bottle of beer from the fridge and his tobacco tin from the medicine cupboard. He popped the beer open with his teeth and thumbed the lid off his tobacco tin. There was plenty of Golden Virginia, and a couple of packets of rolling papers. He didn’t realise he was so low on weed, though.



Stony Tony
Tony Barnes clicked pause on the instructional video. He backed away from his laptop to give himself enough space to perform the move. The Praying Mantis techniques seemed a little easier to pick up than the Crane styles he’d been studying the day before. The wide stance better suited his lower centre of gravity and there were fewer high kicks. He really needed to work on his flexibility. The ability to perform an impressive roundhouse kick was a must if he wanted to attract prospective students.
He held his hands up in a classic boxing guard then hooked his wrists so that his fully extended fingers pointed to the ground. Already he felt like the noble praying mantis. The technique looked dead flash without being too difficult. He’d download a few more of this particular kung fu master’s videos to emulate.
Tony unleashed a flurry of strikes. He wasn’t entirely sure, but he had a suspicion that he might break his own fingers if he hit somebody with his hands angled this way. That wouldn’t be good. He went back to the desk and took his spliff out of the ashtray. It needed to be relit. He sparked it, drew deep and thought about Praying Mantis kung fu. It looked the part, but he wasn’t totally sold that it would work for him. Still, it’d be a nice wee demo technique.Maybe try some Tiger style next.
Tony rattled the phrase into his search engine and clicked on the first result. It amused him that so many of these supposed kung fu masters were American. Where were all the little old wise Chinese men?
He bookmarked a video that featured a man with an impressive biker’s beard and a solid round gut that was just a little bigger than his own. The joint had burned down to the roach. He took a last pull that almost roasted his lips and held it in his lungs for half a minute. His vision darkened at the edges and he exhaled.
Time to roll a fresh one.
Tony pulled open the desk drawer to grab his bag of weed and his papers. He tutted when he saw that there was barely enough in there to fill a single-skinner. His stash was tapped out. He’d have to skim a little off the stock.
Don’t get high on your own supply? Bullshit. Spread the skim over enough baggies and he’d be sweet. A true stoner customer wouldn’t sweat it even if they did figure out their deal was a little light.
But he’d have to call Malachy about topping up his personal stock.
His mobile rang. He drew the knackered Nokia out of the pocket of his silk Chinese suit, checked the caller ID and smiled.
“Malachy. I was just thinking about you.”
“And did money feature in those thoughts?”
“Yeah, sort of. I need more stock.”
“You still owe me for the last three orders.”
Three? He hadn’t realised he’d gotten that deep into debt. He forced a confident and cheery tone.
“Yeah, yeah. No worries there at all, man. I’ll sort you out. Expecting the cash to flow in when I start this new thing I’ve gotten into. Soon as I get paid the money’s going straight to you.”
“You’re telling me to wait, then? Hold off a few days? Is that it?”
“I’d never tell you to do anything, Malachy.”
“Great. I’ll be there soon.”
Malachy cut the call and Tony slipped his mobile back into his pocket. He looked about his living room. The only thing of real value was his laptop. And it was a year old. Depreciating by the second. He needed it, too. It was his gateway to the world of kung fu. Without it, he couldn’t keep abreast of the techniques he would teach when he opened his club.

Tony hit play on the Tiger style video. He hoped to God it was effective and easy to pick up.


Want more? Visit the Blasted Heath website for ebook links.
But you might want to read The Point first.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

UNDERCOVER - Chapter 1

Chapter 1



If you're standing between me and the goal, you're not my friend.
Rory Cullen, CULLEN: The Autobiography


Cormac Kelly nibbled on the inside of his ski mask. He'd been given the only one without a mouth-hole and it was driving him nuts. The damp fibres irritated his lips. He'd already swallowed four or five little balls of chewed wool but couldn't stop himself from biting off another tiny piece. They stuck to the walls of his dry throat. He'd be hawking up hairballs all night.
It didn't matter what line of work you were in, the new guy always got the crap. A ski mask with no mouth-hole, a dinged-up old Ruger Security Six revolver in serious need of a clean, and the shittiest job – babysitting.
The kidnapped man slumped in the middle of a bare mattress pushed up against a damp wall. The boy sat slightly apart from his father. His knees were drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around his shins. His head tipped back to rest against the wall. He hadn't uttered a peep since Big Frank had scared him with a few dummy digs for the camera. Once or twice the boy had glanced at his father with disappointment etched deep in his face, as if he wondered how his guardian, his hero, his protector, had let them get into this mess.
And it didn't look as if Daddy was going to spring into action mode any time soon. Although the boy wouldn't understand it, this was the best thing his father could do for him. Heroics got people killed.
Big Frank blundered into the room. He moved without grace and his footsteps clapped like thunder. The boy tensed at the sight of the juggernaut who'd bullied him for the camera. Built like a silverback on steroids, Big Frank would scare the life out of most men. Put him in a ski mask and he became the stuff of nightmares. His lips stretched wide as he treated Cormac to a craggy-toothed smile through the mouth-hole of his ski mask.
"The boys are waiting for the bitch at the cottage."
The father's frame tensed. He breathed deep but didn't complain. The boy shot a death stare at Big Frank. Looked like he was ready to jump up and lamp the giant. Fiery wee bastard.
Cormac kept an eye on the boy as he responded to Big Frank. "Great."
"Aye, she'll be scared shitless. That wee video turned out a beezer."
"Okay."
"Amazing what you can do these days, isn't it? I mind a time when you'd have to send fingers through the post to get what you wanted. Everything's digital now."
"Aye."
"It's like living in the future."
Cormac could see that Big Frank's brainless chatter poked at the boy like a rusty spike. His little fists clenched up into white-knuckled knots of fury. He was bound to do something stupid if Cormac let the oaf ramble on.
"Would you put the kettle on, mate?" Cormac said. "I've been gasping for hours."
Big Frank took a step back. "Get away to fuck. You think this is a day at the office?"
"Don't know, big man. Aren't you the one gabbing away like we're on our tea break?"
Big Frank's teeth disappeared behind a tight-lipped slit. He turned in a clumsy half-circle and headed for the door.
Cormac couldn't resist a parting shot. "And tell that other fat shite-bag to come in here and do a turn. He's not even offered me so much as a toilet break."
"You can piss yourself, you wanker."
Big Frank clattered out of the room and slammed the door behind him. The father and son flinched, though Cormac thought he could see the trace of a smirk on the boy's face. He was tempted to engage the young fellah in some idle banter but knew it to be a bad idea. So he went back to chewing on his damp balaclava. It passed the time.
###


Lydia Gallagher stepped onto the cast-iron doormat of the cottage and rummaged through her handbag for the key. Her rain-soaked hair clung to her face. She wished for an umbrella, gave up the hunt for the key and hammered on the door with the side of her fist.
Footsteps thudded on the other side of the windowless slab of oak and she brightened in anticipation of John's welcome. It had been a long day and she craved a decent glass of Pinot. She turned to wave her taxi away. Its tail lights disappeared behind the hedging on the side of the main road.
The door creaked open. Lydia gazed deep into the twin barrels of a sawn-off. The shotgun's hollow stare watched without passion. She took one step backwards. Gravel scrunched under her heel.
Run.
But she couldn't.
Lydia looked over the sawn-off at the gunman. Eyes as dispassionate as the shotgun muzzle nestled in the peepholes of a black ski mask. She raised her hands.
The gunman reached out and grabbed Lydia's lapels with his free hand. He kept the shotgun trained on her face and walked backwards into the hallway. Lydia followed without resistance. She listened out for her family. Nothing. The light in the kitchen was out. A telltale sign that Mattie, her son, hadn't mooched in the cupboards for a pre-dinner snack. Whatever was going on had started a few hours ago.
"Where are they?"
The gunman said nothing. He yanked her into the living room.
The television played on mute. Two more masked men sat on the sofa and gazed into the pale blue light of a documentary about sharks. They didn't look up at her, but Lydia noticed one of them lift a handgun from the arm of the sofa and thumb a little switch on the side. Acknowledgement enough.
She tried again. "My son. My husband. Where are they?"
The silence crept into her bones. She could have screamed, but it seemed wrong. Like belting out a football chant in a chapel.
The first man shoved her into the armchair closest to the TV – furthest from the door. He stood in front of her. Lowered his sawn-off.
"What the fuck do you want?" Lydia was hyper-aware of her London accent in the eerie calm. She could feel the panic take hold of her heart. Claw at her lungs. Tie knots in her bowels.
The man with the sawn-off leaned forward and back-handed her across the face. Instinctively she kicked out at him. Her leg arced upwards as she aimed her shin at his groin. He parried her kick with his knee and slammed the palm of his hand into her forehead. The dull thwack juddered her vision and shoved her head against the back of the seat. She blinked away black dots. The pain faded quickly but left a hangover of weakness and humiliation.
The men on the sofa shifted forward and perched on the edge of their seat. With elbows on knees, they watched. Lydia tried not to think about what they might be expecting to happen. She squirmed. Needed to pee.
"Take off your shoes."
The gunman's Belfast growl matched his mask.
Lydia raised her hands to ward off another attack. "What is this? I don't… Are you an IRA man?"
He swept her hands to the side and slapped her again. It stung like he'd shoved her face in nettles. One of the sofa jockeys sniggered.
"Shut your mouth and do as you're told, wee girl."
Lydia kicked off her heels. The tingle of fresh circulation in her toes didn't bring the usual relief. All she felt was fear and confusion. She didn't understand why he wanted her shoes. Maybe he was worried that she'd try and hit him with one of them. She prayed that he wouldn't ask her to remove anything else.
The gunman punted her shoes into the corner of the room.
"Give me your handbag." In his thick Belfast accent it sounded like he wanted her hawndbeg.
Lydia handed it over. He studied the brand logo on the buckle.
"Is this a real Lewis Vuitton?"
Lydia paused a second before she nodded.
He curled his lip in distaste and tossed the bag into the corner with her shoes. The contents clattered.
"Now your coat."
"How far is this going to go?"
"Don't flatter yourself, love."
Lydia struggled out of her knee-length coat. She was afraid to stand in case she earned another slap so she shifted from side to side as she dragged it out from under her bum. Just another indignity.
The gunman threw the woollen coat into the corner and moved to the other armchair. A black canvas holdall sat on the cushion. He unzipped it and poked around inside.
Lydia's skin tightened into gooseflesh. The house was cold. It smelt wrong. The scent of strange men.
The gunman pulled a smartphone from the holdall and handed it to one of the sniggering sofa jockeys. "Get the thing working."
He tapped the screen a few times and passed it back to the gunman. He brought it to Lydia and dropped it in her lap.
"Watch."
Lydia picked up the phone and squinted at the little display.
A masked man stood over Mattie – her thirteen-year-old son – with his fists curled. Mattie scuttled backwards on all fours, his mouth pulled back in a ghost train grimace.
Lydia sprang out of the armchair and launched herself at the gunman. She clawed at his eyes and caught a handful of ski mask. The gunman danced backwards and batted her hands away. He was light on his feet and skilled. Lydia shrieked and stepped up her attack. Swung arms and legs at the dancing bastard. He sidestepped. Buried the butt of his sawn-off into her solar plexus. Air whooshed from her lungs. She wheezed and crumpled face-first into the carpet. Hitched her breath, sputtered and pulled her knees under her chest.
The ten seconds of footage from the video clip played on a loop in her mind.
She cried.
A rough hand seized a fistful of hair from the back of her head and hauled her to her feet. She tried to strike out behind her with the heel of her shoeless foot. Earned a kick in the backside for her troubles. Hot breath blasted in her ear.
"Settle yourself."
The fight drained from her and she sagged. The gunman practically held her up by the hair. He led her back to the armchair and dropped her into it.
The gunman adjusted his ski mask and sighed. "Your son hasn't been hurt. Yet. Neither has your husband. But we will hurt them if we don't get what we want. Hurt them a lot and then kill them. Let that sit with you for a second or two. See how it makes you feel."
Lydia gripped the arms of her chair. She opened her mouth to speak.
The gunman raised a gloved finger to the lower part of his ski mask. Lydia clamped her mouth shut.
"Now, Missus Gallagher. You listen to me and do exactly as I say."
She swiped fresh tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her suit jacket. "Okay."
###


Cormac had almost gnawed himself a ragged mouth-hole when Paddy waddled into the room. Paddy weighed about as much as Big Frank did, but he was made up of doughy fat that drooped from his bones like custard in a condom. His arms were always in motion as if they couldn't find a casual spot on his soft body to rest against. Paddy was the lame duck of the crew. A blood connection with the boss was the only thing that booked him a place on these jobs. And yet, he still ranked higher than Cormac.
Paddy brandished the hi-tech phone that they'd filmed the boy and Big Frank on. "I've the woman on the blower. She's to talk to the kid."
Cormac flapped his hand at the boy. Paddy walked past the father to hand over the mobile. The boy took a deep breath before speaking.
"Hello…? Yeah, it's Mattie, Mum." He screwed up his face. "I'm fine." Then he glanced at his father, his young face hardened. "Yeah, he's okay too."
Paddy snatched the phone away from Mattie's ear and pressed it to his own. "Right, that's all you get for now, missus." He disconnected the call.
Cormac nipped across the room to cut the departing Paddy off at the door.
"Lend us the mobile for a bit, will you?"
Paddy gave Cormac one of his watery-eyed looks. His nose twitched visibly under his ski mask. "What for?"
"I'm bored shitless here. Wouldn't mind a wee tinker on it to pass the time."
"You going to call one of them dodgy numbers, big lad? Heavy breathing and all that?"
"Fuck off. I'll just piss about on the apps or something."
"What are apps?"
Cormac shook his head. "Can I have it or not?"
Paddy shrugged and handed over the touch-screen phone. "Whatever. Just don't get too distracted, all right? You're meant to be working."
"No sweat, boss."
Paddy puffed his chest and his considerable man-boobs strained the front of his black cotton shirt. Suitably inflated by an ounce of respect, he gave Cormac a curt nod and waddled out.
Cormac turned his back to the family, gave the phone a quick once over, then flipped open a tiny flap on the side of the casing. He took a miniscule memory card from the watch pocket of his jeans and slipped it into the slot. A few taps of the screen later and he had the video of Big Frank threatening Mattie on the card. He ejected his little piece of evidence and tucked it back into his watch pocket.
A present for his handler.



 Paperback UK and US

Ebook

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Oscar Wilde (160 Years Young Today)

I might be having a similar kind of day today:


Future Posts



I'm up to my neck in a manuscript right now, but I plan to take a breather from it next week (I'm at the point where the questions raised need to be answered -- the mysteries need to be revealed) and then I can maybe do a little blogging.

So, before I forget all the topics I want to blog about (and before I make my lunch), I thought I'd turn this blog post into a list of posts-to-be-written. Some will be made available for guest posts. I receive lots of lovely invitations from people who run better blogs than mine, and I really have to follow up on them.

Topics/titles:

Writing and Happiness
Academia
Teaching Creative Writing (should/would/could?)
The Rory Cullen 'Auto'biography
POV in the movie Go (1999)
More on Behaviourist POV
I'm Going to Bouchercon! (Long Beach, 2014)
Wordcounts, Record-Keeping and Taking it Easy on Yourself (may be a two or three-parter)
Belfast Noir
A Review or Two of NI Crime Fiction
Please Don't Send Me Books Without Asking (unless you know me and it's a gift)!
Deus ex Machina

I'll add to this as the topics re-occur to me. Feel free to request one for your blog, and I'll see what I can do. And as always, if you're a Northern Irish writer and you want to be featured on the blog (most likely in the form of a Q&A, though I host guest posts too), then drop me a line. I'll get back to you eventually.

Peace.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Paperback Pricer

EDIT, 13/10/14: You snooze, you lose (out on saving a couple of quid). I've put the price up to £8.99. Still a quid cheaper than it'll eventually be. Might even set the price at over a tenner to take advantage of Amazon's free delivery, but for now, it's £8.99.

It'll be a couple of hours before the Amazon page updates, though, so you still might get it for £6.99 if you get clicking right now.



Ahead of a bricks and mortar launch for the paperback version of UNDERCOVER, I've managed to put together a version that I'm proud of through a print on demand service. That means a great version of the cover thanks to those generous professionals at Blasted Heath (thanks, Kyle!). Blasted Heath were also cool enough to send me the mega-edited and proofread-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life version of the manuscript. I've also paid for professional typesetting. And I've been assured by people better qualified than me that I spent my money well in this area.

The launch will be in early December. I'm sure you can guess which independent bookshop in Belfast has given me the go ahead for this. Really looking forward to it. Here's the thing, though. I know many of you wonderful UK and Ireland readers out there can't shop in Belfast. Also, I wish that I had some way of sending out free proofs without imagining that I've set fire to a wad of money that should set aside for household expenses.

So, what can I do?

Work with what's available. I can't offer free books, but I can lower the price for a few days so that I don't actually make a royalty on it.

Well, if I'm completely honest, I've set it at a royalty so small that I'd have to sell 143 copies to cover the typesetting, which was a deeply discounted "mates' rates" fee to begin with!

But, yeah. Boo hoo, right? So I'll not make a living out of paperback sales just yet. That's fine. I've mostly put this version of UNDERCOVER together to please those who prefer an actual book to an e-reader. And I honestly don't mind losing out on a little money so long as there's food in the fridge. There is.

So, until Sunday night (or Monday morning depending how quickly the price update applies), you can get UNDERCOVER as a real book for the lowest price I can set it at.

£6.99.

And what's the standard comparison? A cup of coffee? You'd maybe get three large Americanos in a half-decent coffee shop for that price. You wouldn't get two pints of lager for £6.99 at your local pub unless there was a promotion on. You definitely can't get a fish supper for that price in the town I live in... do I need to go on?

Purchase the UNDERCOVER paperback here:

UK
US (and ROI, I think...)
CA

Monday, 6 October 2014

An Interview - Nathaniel Joseph McAuley


Belfast-based poet and recipient of the 2014 ACES Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. His debut pamphlet “The Dyer’s Notes on Indigo” was released early 2013. He currently facilitates poetry workshops for INST Belfast.


What are you writing at the minute? I’ve actually just finished a piece for the Aspects festival. It was a long sequence set in the Garden of Eden, written from the perspective of Adam as he begins naming all things — pre-Eve. Kind of the birth of science. It’s been a tough auld trek. It’s one of those occasions when the subject matter becomes like traditional form — there’s an in-stone template you have to adhere to and it takes you directions you’d never usually consider. Can you give us an idea of Nathaniel Joseph McAuley’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day? I find it near impossible to write in the day time. I forget sometimes though. If I’ve a deadline on the go there’ll be days I’ll near tear my hair out during the morning and afternoon trying to produce something. Once 6pm hits, I can usually get a good 3 hours of good writing done. So, the whole day kind of leads up to 6pm when I’ve a piece due. So, time’s not always a friend of mine — over the past year when I was able to buy the time, I’ve found it overwhelming. What do you do when you’re not writing? I’ve a real love of conversation more than anything — if I’m not writing I’m usually socialising. I’ve a pretty active spiritual life also. I’ve no real hobbies to speak of, any hobby I’ve ever had (music, poetry etc) has become a job, something to be thankful for.
Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the poetry scene? I’ve been asked this a few times recently — I still don’t know whether to answer and give the impression I’m not a greenhorn myself. I’d just say not to get caught up in the traditional ideas of what it is to be a poet — if you take yourself off into a forest to write your epic, fair play, but its perfectly fine to be cocktail bartender who loves Neil Diamond. Which writers have impressed you this year? I’ve spent this past wee while reading up on the Irish and British poetry that I should have been reading during my years in university, when I was more interested in North American and Afro-Caribbean poetry. So, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and especially Michael Longley. What are you reading right now? I’m reading a great book about the history of gin and its social implications on 18th century London — Gin Glorious Gin, by Olivia Williams… Plans for the future? …for a new project — more on that later though. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently? I would have taken myself less seriously sooner. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience? Before I knew what constituted half decent poetry, I wrote a poem for a girl who was more than aware of was constituted half decent poetry. It was not a half decent poem.

Thank you, Nathaniel Joseph McAuley!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

UNDERCOVER Paperback (and some tl;dr economics)



Okay, people. It's here.

The one question I constantly get asked about my books is, "Where can I buy the paperback?" If you're a local (local to me, at least, or within a reasonable drive to Belfast), the answer is easy. No Alibis Bookstore, all day long.

Here's the thing, though. Most of the people who ask me, don't go to bookshops. Usually they're just asking me out of politeness.

Now, I've worked with (and had a publisher or two work on my behalf with) the larger chain stores. They're not even entirely massive chains, but once you start introducing managers and people who work with spreadsheets and guys with calculators glued to their hands (not a criticism -- some of these people could lose their job without that stupid digital abacus), then things get complicated. And I have a complicated enough life. I'll not chase down some accounts payable keyboard monkey to claim the 50p I'm owed for the one title of mine they sold some time last year.

So, as magical as it is to walk into a random shop and see that my title has been stocked without me having to stalk half of the store's workforce, I'm not going down that avenue with UNDERCOVER.

Here's what I'll do instead:

I'm going to ask No Alibis to carry a small number of copies of UNDERCOVER for me (and hope that Dave is cool with this). And that's it. If you don't want to deal with Amazon (a word I don't use in independent bookstores for many of the same reasons that I don't drop C-bombs in chapels or churches), you have to deal with No Alibis. This will happen in October(ish). I haven't decided whether or not to sort out an official launch yet. I've a feeling the No Alibis BELFAST NOIR launch (date to be confirmed) will be adequate. But we'll see.

The other thing I'm going to do, is purposely make the book more expensive to buy via CreateSpace/Amazon. It'll be set at a 9.99 RRP. No Alibis will sell SIGNED copies a little cheaper.

But here's the thing. Just to get things moving a little, I'm going to allow it to sell at £8.99 for a few days. So, if you want a slightly cheaper copy... go here today and pick it up.

This isn't any grand marketing scheme or a well thought out financial tactic. I simply priced it incorrectly by mistake when I set up the Amazon page. Take advantage of my hamfisted generosity.

All the above applies to copies sold in the UK, I should say. I'm not great with conversion rates and whatnot, so if the price of the paperback version of UNDERCOVER looks particularly inflated in your territory, let me know. Chances are my deficit in knowledge of global economics is to blame. Also, if it's worth my while and not a fucking rigmarole, I'll try to work something out for book festivals, but if you want me to start printing off invoices and all that shite just so you can not pay me for over a year, don't expect me to waste my paper or ink.

Links for purchase of UNDERCOVER:

UK
US
CA (link currently unavailable)

The rest of you, use Google. If that seems dismissive to you, please feel free to let me know, but to the best of my knowledge my books only really get noticed in the above territories.

Things you should know before you part with your hard-earned cash:

The cover is gorgeous
The book feels nice in your hands
It's been edited and proofread to within an inch of its life
It's been typeset by somebody who knows what they're doing
I wrote it

4/5 ain't bad.

Did that all sound a bit grumpy? I've not allowed myself a weekend off in a while. Blame it on that.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Best Year Ever

These posts don't usually materialise until we get a little closer to Christmas. However, I've started measuring my time in academic years now that my life pretty much revolves around the PhD I'm working on.

On 20th September 2013, Culture Night, I escaped my dayjob for at least three years. It was magnificent. My colleagues, either encouraging my crazy plan or just plain happy to see me get out of their lives, gave me a nice send-off. Lunch, generous gift, drinks. The hangover was monumental. If I'm honest, I was a little sad to be leaving. It wasn't the worst job in the world, by any stretch of the imagination. It just wasn't my first choice.

Writing is.

But it was weird at first. I didn't warm up to this full-time student and writer gig for a few months, really. Sure, I had more opportunities to read, wrote quite a bit, spent more time with the kids and whatnot. But it all seemed weird. Like I was throwing a sickie from work rather than settling in to my role as a bona fide scribe. I'd say it took until late November or early December to get into the swing of it. And by then I was convinced that I'd wasted half a year. Maths was never my strong point.

Other obstacles popped up throughout the year. I'll not list the details, but basically I thought that I'd become an utter writing machine this year. It doesn't really feel like I've managed that, though. I always feel like I'm playing catch-up. Always.

So, in an effort to calm my twanging nerves, I thought I'd list the significant stuff that I managed to do over the last 12 months. I'm hoping I surprise myself.

Started work on two novels (one for the PhD, one for me; both still unfinished)
Figured out that working on two novels simultaneously is silly
Attended the Killer Books festival in Derry (early November)
Released my novella, BOUNCE, in the form of a free booklet at the festival
Released the novella, BREAKING POINT, through Blasted Heath
Worked on edits for UNDERCOVER, a novel to be released by Blasted Heath in a few days
Wrote and sold some short stories; including spots in Belfast Noir and Streets of Shadows
Read like a motherfecker
Attempted to master academic writing (with marginal success)
Attended various courses and events through QUB
Hosted an event at No Alibis; the launch of Helene Gestern's The People in the Photo
Passed my PhD differentiation
Landed some funding from Northern Ireland screen to work on a screenplay based on my novella, WEE DANNY
Decided to go to Bouchercon 2014 (Long Beach CA, baby!)
Joined a gym and stuck with it long enough to get in shape
Started a health and fitness blog (then ignored it over the summer but continued to train!)
Signed up as a Teaching Assistant in the School of English (and will begin teaching at QUB in October)
Went on holiday to Portstewart
Took part in a panel at the On Home Ground festival
Spent more time with the family

There may be a couple of things that slipped my mind that belong on the list, but looking at that now... I'm feeling pretty chuffed with myself. But I also need to be careful about getting too complacent, I reckon. And I should be wary of distraction and procrastination. Writing has to be a priority this year. I have to finish the PhD novel to leave myself time to work on the trickier academic/critical element.

I'm hesitant to post this now. It all seems a little braggadocious...

But feck it. I'll compromise. I'll post it on a day when the world only wants to read about the Scottish #indyref, I won't include an eye-catching image and I'll not share the link on social media. I'll just leave it here and look at it from time to time. When the nerves start twanging and I start to freak out about not getting enough done now that I have so much more time on my hands. It'll be cathartic, right? Or I'll freak out about not getting as much done this year. Most likely the latter. I'm a tube, like.