Is this thing on?

I'm back

Hello out there.

I hope you and your loved ones are coping with the world going crazy. While social distancing isn’t exactly anything other than what I usually practise, it’s pretty hard to focus on what’s going on. Is this the end of civilisation? Will there be an apocalypse, with looting on the streets?

I don’t think there will be, but I was seriously fearing it. A trip to a local supermarket on Monday morning, where pretty much everything was the most-stocked I’ve ever seen it, was pretty reassuring to know there won’t be Walking Dead-style looting.

And there have been a few good news items this week, in amongst all the selfish arseholes treating the lockdown as a holiday. The UK’s NHS will most likely avoid catastrophic overloading because of the lockdown, so if you’re unfortunate enough to catch it and need hospitalisation, then you should be fine. Also, there will be home antibody tests rolled out soon — basically, if you’re positive, you’ve had it and can fight it off if you get infected again. At the moment, because the levels of testing have been so low (but they’re increasing significantly), the data we have is pretty sketchy, so this will help give a baseline picture and influence the strategy in the future. And another positive is that the genome for Covid-19 is pretty simple and isn’t showing many signs of mutation — the reason the ‘flu keeps coming back is it has eight times as big a genome which means it mutates in the wild and keeps reinfecting.

So the end is maybe not so much in sight as a brief flicker of light right out there in the darkness that might or might not be a tunnel. We’re not sure.

I know it’s been a while since I did one of these. The trouble with frequent things is you miss one, you miss six months. I got quite busy with writing and editing the second Max Carter book, which should be out in a few months. It wasn’t easy, but having been fortunate enough to visit Seattle and the Pacific Northwest really helped with the sense of place and all that goo stuff.

Right now, I’ve been working on a lot of self-published stuff, with a focus on my Scottish books. This year, I’ve written two Cullen and Bain novellas, the first of which is out now. “City of the Dead”, with “World’s End” following in June. It’s an interesting format, as it lets me focus more on the bits of the story I want without hurtling towards a sizeable word count. And I think the scene-by-scene stuff is some of the best I’ve done, dark and funny, as all good Cullen books should be. So long as they keep selling, I’ll do more of them. I’ve got until May to come up with an idea for a third one, and keeping them on a quarterly cadence is pretty easy and it keeps you lot in Cullen, whereas I’d normally just not bother, as the prospect of 95,000 words in one go with him is just too much.

Anyway, I republished the first five Fenchurch novels after Amazon Publishing gave me the rights back. There’s a Lee Child quote somewhere about writing the front list to push the back list, something like that, but this will let me push the backlist without having to write a lot more under a deadline, which is something I really hate. I’d like to do another Fenchurch in December and have a solid idea for it. When I opened the proof files I had, the first two were PDFs so were just horrible to convert. In the end, I edited the first two books, the first from about 86k to 77k and the second from 95k to 81k, and they’re a lot better for it, a lot more punchy. And sales have been promising in the relaunch, so thanks if you’ve been spreading the word!

And right now, I’m working on the second Vicky Dodds book. Finally. Entitled “Flesh and Blood”, it’ll be out maybe 1st July if I can pull my finger out. I’ve had two contracts for it, both of which got swapped out for Fenchurch books, which just sold a lot more and the series had run cold. Since I got the rights back to “Snared”, edited it and republished as “Tooth and Claw”, the sales have been good enough to let me think about doing it. I’ve had two separate ideas for a sequel and developed an outline. The first cut in 2015 was based on the second novel I ever wrote back in 2007(?), entitled “Before the Fall” (it was absolute garbage) but took it in a very different direction. I subsequently bowdlerised it into Fenchurch 4, though it’s really nothing much like it. (I should have a look at it and see if there’s any interesting stuff in it). The second pass was summer 2018, and this is what I’m going through just now. Taking a lot of work to get it just right, but I’m tweaking my outlining method to focus on different things, ideally to make the editing easier, if not the writing!

Hold tight and keep it locked down! There is a light at the end of the tunnel.