Taffin on Balance: latest.

And now the job’s done. Ebook already on sale. Book due in bookshops in the near future. I hope readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Taffin is an old mate; it was great to pick up with him and inhabit his world again after so long. Moving on: new novel in progress daily. That’s what authors do. 

Just finished editing first set of proofs. Cover approved (brilliant). Publishers doing a great job. Amazing how much work needs to be done even after the main work is finished. 

As publication date gets closer, focus on detail sharpens up. Reliving the whole story, wondering whether to change a name here, shift a comma there or rephrase a passage of dialogue. Self discipline now requires relaxing muscle memory and LEAVE IT ALONE.

Taffin on Balance off and running now. Next I’ll see of it will be galley proofs. Strangely easy to move on to the next story (short? novel?) at this stage. Keep writing and you won’t have time to dwell on the time everything takes to reach tangible form. 

‘Taffin on Balance’ has taken first steps towards publication. This is a weird time. I’ve been here before but for some reason this one feels special. Perhaps I’ve forgotten – the latest one always does. The cover is clear in my mind (courtesy of a friend of my son’s who’s put it together for me); but the next stage is not so clear. That’s what makes life interesting.

My thanks to Paul Bishop and Gary Lovisi in the United States for their generous reviews of the three previous Taffin novels. I look forward to their opinions of Taffin on Balance. 

IT’S THE WAITING THAT GETS YOU. TAFFIN ON BALANCE will succeed or fail depending on the publisher. I have less control over its fate now it’s finished than I did at the start of Chapter One. Strange.

WHAT NEXT? In this sort of no-man’s-land period, instinct says put your feet up for a bit. Overridden in a heartbeat by another instinct that says: ‘The deck’s clear; write what you like; you haven’t put a foot wrong yet’. Well aware that I have at least five years’ work ready for attention. TAFFIN can look after himself while I line up the next effort. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

SO. What next? There’s a short story that’s nearly finished. Haven’t decided on the end – which suggests I may have to look at the beginning again. Ironically, I started this story before TAFFIN ON BALANCE and still haven’t got it right. SO. That’s next. 

TAFFIN ON BALANCE.

Strange how the dedications seem to have taken longer to write than the last chapter.  I have to thank my old mate AUSTIN LEGON, for supplying the final two words in the book: ‘Be lucky’. Finally though, I wish to dedicate Taffin on Balance to the memory of my lifelong friend BRIAN LECOMBER, Championship Display Pilot, holder of the Segrave Trophy, and unswerving supporter of the Taffin books from the beginning. Finding succinct phrasing for such a debt of gratitude will always present a challenge. God’s speed Old Chum. 

TAFFIN ON BALANCE is complete, edited, ready to go. This ought to be the ultimate state for a writer. So why am I wandering about, muttering, kicking things and eyeing up the drinks cupboard? The truth is, a group of fictitious characters are mates and I’ve enjoyed spending time with them. They’re all in fine shape. It’s the author who deserves your sympathy. Strangely difficult to let go but in a few weeks this book has to be out there, out of my hands. 

TAFFIN ON BALANCE is the title of my fourth TAFFIN novel. Two chapters to go and looking forward to tying up loose ends by the autumn. It’s amazing living with the old cast many years after TAFFIN first wandered into my subconscious. He has matured a little. He seems to have learnt more than his author in the intervening years.

Taffin moves slowly and thinks fast. No change there then. One of the great luxuries of authorship is never having to lose contact with old friends, and revisiting Lasherham after a long break is like hooking up with old mates. Three chapters in, they’re as fresh in my mind as when we first met.

New Novel.

Strange, when you come to the end after a couple of years on a new novel. It feels as if the characters you created have all deserted you. You’ve done their talking for them but they don’t need you anymore.

Starting a novel. Or two.

This is one of those moments ‘They can’t take away from you’. Problem: I have a dilemma. ‘The Road to Aversac’ is out on Kindle, following on from ‘The Hare Lane Diaries’. I’m now on the third in the series, tentatively called ‘Penfold’s World’. This was a reflex and I’m adding to it daily. But… At the same time I’m swept up in the idea for a fourth ‘Taffin’ novel.

This is keeping me awake at nights. Writing is a compulsion and I’m being pulled in two directions. Is it wise – or even healthy – to get immersed in two unconnected worlds at the same time? Don’t know. But I haven’t any choice but to give it a go. I’ll keep you posted.  Continue reading

The Road to Aversac.

My new novel has just been released. Putting the final word on it has been harder than I expected. However…

THE ROAD TO AVERSAC is rougher and rockier than anyone thinks.

When Jessica decides to leave England and relocate to France, her lodger, Rex, goes along to help her settle in. Their uneasy relationship, which began in ‘The Hare Lane Diaries’, continues as they adapt to the French way of life in Aversac, a town where the shadow of the fountain is the fastest moving thing in sight.

But Aversac is not as sleepy as it looks. The Mayor is determined to twin his town with a comparable one in England. He will not rest until his ambition is fulfilled and when the Twinning project starts, Rex and Jessica are drawn into a maelstrom of local politics for which nothing has prepared them.

Note: Town Twinning – French, Jumelage – a strange habit that starts when a town feels lonely and wants to make contact with the outside world. At such times a small group of locals appoints itself to look for a similar community in some other country – ideally one that offers holiday potential. Invariably the group will thrust some poor sap to the fore, blame him or her when it all goes pear-shaped and take the credit in the unlikely event of anything being achieved. 

Titles: the Great Dilemma.

I have titles in my head for stories I haven’t written yet. They cry out for exposure, ready to lead the reader into uncharted pleasures. Some will be written; others will be wasted. The irony is, I’m on the last few paragraphs of a new novel and I still haven’t got a title for it; not one that gives me that electric buzz, anyway.

The problem is overchoice. I have functional titles that do the job. I have surreal titles that stamp the novel as something it probably isn’t. I have jokey titles; the novel is, after all, a kind of comedy about a French village trying to twin with a village in England, and all my research suggests you CAN’T MAKE IT UP. But the dilemma is haunting me day and night, so I thought I’d let you know.

A title can make or break a book. It is the first tool of marketing – your first shot at making an impression on someone you may never meet but who you hope will settle down with your book and later, we hope, recommend it to everyone they know.

I’m still wavering, but the title must be firmed up in the next couple of weeks. And once that decision is made, it’s permanent.

Whatever I come up with, I hope you’ll read it.

Where did three months go?

Blogging ground to a halt before Christmas. Why? Take a wild guess. But here comes the self-congratulation: I’ve written eleven chapters of ‘The Road to Aversac’ in the meantime and have started galloping towards the conclusion. Not happy with the title but not willing to expend too much brain power on it until the book is finished. THE TITLE IS ALL-IMPORTANT AND WHAT FOLLOWS IS EVEN MORE SO…

The Diversionary Force

An old mate used to talk about something he called The Diversionary Force, an ever-present spectre waiting to leap out and distract you the moment there’s any danger you might achieve something important. For writers, The DF is lethal. Its power lies in the fact that there is always some plausible, legitimate demand on your attention, something you must get done before you can start the day’s writing. And with any luck, when you’ve done it, you’ll have forgotten the searing insight you were about to explore.

In the world of DF, the Inbox is King at the moment. It’s almost impossible to open an email that requires action without dealing with it straight away. I suppose it’s the same misguided instinct that prompts some people behind desks to answer the phone while they’re talking to you and keep you standing there for ten minutes while they have a conversation with the person who couldn’t be bothered to turn up and talk personally.  I digress – (y’see? I was about to expose the Diversionary Force, when it tried to lead me off in another direction).

Today’s DF for me is the bottom left hand drawer in my desk which I find is stuffed to the top with old crap that needs to be thrown out. It’s in my penumbra while I’m working, so I can’t ignore it and the OCD side of my nature is saying “Get it done, then you can write in peace”. Yeah, right. The truth is, I’m having trouble with Chapter Nineteen of THE ROAD TO AVERSAC, and it’s going to take effort to crank up the brain and address it. Far easier to clear out a drawer. SO… no way. The book gets my full attention. The Diversionary Force is beaten for today and the left-hand bottom drawer will have to stay stuffed.

Days off.

There are days when I don’t feel like addressing the blank page. They are a rarity, but I can’t help wondering why they exist at all. So when the current work seems to be ignoring my efforts to engage, instinct says explore the reason. Conclusion: it has to be built into the writer’s nature. I imagine racing drivers have days when they don’t feel competitive, and deep sea divers wake up some mornings and just fancy poling a punt down the river by way of a change…  Even so, I’ve spent long hours in lecture theatres assuring students that drive and will-power will get them there every time.

If I were doing one of those horrible presentations (downstairs room in a conference centre off the M40 – you know the kind of thing) I’d head this: ROUTINE. DISCIPLINE. FOCUS. A cohort of smart, bespectacled graduates would assume enthusiastic body language and prepare to take notes. I would deliver a scathing assault on those who aspire to be writers, with assurances that without extraordinary qualities their chances are roughly those of an aardvark winning the Grand National.

I would tell them that at the very least YOU MUST WRITE EVERY DAY. Days off don’t work: you lose your thread; you leave characters lying about all over the story and forget where they were, what they were doing and what the devil they meant by it anyway; you can even forget their names. When you return to The Work after days off,  it’s like getting to know them all over again.

So DAYS OFF are not acceptable. What’s my excuse? Oh, there are many of course. I had a lot on my mind (Yeah, right); I was feeling under the weather (Yeah… same); relatives arrived from Australia (Really? People generally respect your work ethic, so don’t take shelter under that one). The truth, as we all know, is I JUST DIDN’T FEEL LIKE IT.

So shrug off the guilt, admit you were (a) at the seaside (b) temporarily stunned by falling masonry (c) very drunk, and get on with it. As I aim to, right now…

This has been a private lecture aimed at the mirror. I always keep a mirror on my desk – partly out of vanity, mainly because it’s the best piece of equipment for writing dialogue.

The next bit…

The beginning of The Next Bit can hit you without warning. When this happens, everything else has to take second place. I had to interrupt a long session of gazing at the view and get this down immediately…

“When you’ve gone to the trouble of charging up the laptop for a good session on the patio outside our living room (Jessica’s living room, to be exact), angled the parasol so you can read the screen without benefit of glare, found some comfortable cushions for a garden chair and settled in for an afternoon’s writing with a carafe of the local Red and a glass at your elbow, what you don’t need is a visitation from Attila the Wasp with an entourage of his close relatives.

I don’t like wasps. When one of their number is paying close attention to my ear, making a noise like a two-stroke with no baffles in the exhaust and ignoring my urgent instructions to piss off, I can’t concentrate on anything else. Why can’t they apply themselves to finding useful careers and leave me to push the boundaries of literature in peace?”