21 January 2013

My next book, Chilled to the Bone, isn’t out until April. It took a while to write and hasn’t been an easy process, not least because my editor didn’t like what I’d come up with to begin with and in all fairness, she was right. The original story wasn’t everything it should have been. She described it somewhat alarmingly as ‘flaccid,’ which took the wind out of this writer’s sails. But developing a kevlar-lined rhino skin is an essential part of any writer’s kit, especially when the 1-star reviews start to pop up, although I’ve had refreshingly few of them so far.

 Anyhow, writing Chilled to the Bone was a marathon affair, it had to be done fast as the deadline was closing rapidly, and it was all finally done and dusted at the end of last year. Why the hurry to get everything done six months before publication? I don’t know. I’ve long given up trying to understand why publishers do some of the things they do.

As I got my breath back, I suggested to my editor that it might not be a bad idea to write one of those e-novellas that every author now seems to knock out to ‘enhance’ their full-sized books. The idea went down well and I reckon she must have thought I already had it written, and I had to say that sadly it was still a bunch of ideas floating around in my head, far less a finished and polished piece of work.

It took a few weeks to write and it was a whole new experience. This is an e-book and there’s no paper involved so there’s no tight word count. It comes in at around 30,000 words, or roughly a third of the size of a usual book. I thought it would be fairly straightforward. Think again. It may be a third of the size, but there still has to be an idea behind it that has to be thought out. It still has to be written and there are still many of the same pitfalls as with a full-sized book, although there isn’t the elbow room to explore many themes or to go off on any wild tangents. It has to be a little more linear, straight to the point, and alarmingly around where I’d normally be getting properly onto a roll with a first draft, it’s time to start wrapping it all up.

On the whole it has been quite a refreshing experience. Writing at this length is very different in some respects and while it’s more restrictive in some ways, in others it seems to be remarkably liberating. I’m not sure how this will develop, but I’d certainly look at doing more of these e-novellas as this may be a way to explore stuff that my publisher would be inclined to be more doubtful about, a way of trying stuff out without the risks involved with paper, marketing and bookshops.

On the other hand, it’s slightly disconcerting to be writing in what feels like a throwaway format. At 30,000 words it’s an hour’s read on a decent bus or train journey to work and back. The novella sells at £0.84, which is just over one Euro or around $1.35. That’s less than the price of a hot drink in a high street coffee shop, which feels alarmingly little. It’s something to get used to, but it has to be kept in mind that this is a publicity exercise first and foremost, although it wouldn’t do any harm if it at least covered its costs.

Maybe this is the new normal? The arrival of Amazon on the scene not all that many years ago has changed the rules of the game and the rules are still being re-written. I can’t profess to be a huge fan of Amazon’s tactics or everything they have done, but they are the biggest show in town and you ignore them at your peril. It’s time to move with the times and adapt, or else find yourself out in the cold.


Oh, yes. It’s called Winterlude, and aptly for a miserable cold January under clouds waiting to drop snow, it’s set in the dead of a dark Icelandic winter.

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