IT’S A BOOK!!


Well, here we are at the end of the Tim blog. For more than two years now this page has been the go-to place for the latest on my writing adventures, but now it’s time to up sticks and move on to Phase Three of My Sinister Masterplan to Conquer the Universe!

From now on, if you want to know what I’m up to the place to find out is the News Page for my third published book, CRAWLERS.

Crawlers

As with the site for The Black Tattoo, this site for Tim, Defender of the Earth will remain live for the forseeable future. Feel free to drop me a line on the Guestbook, or send artwork via the Reader Art Page.

Meanwhile, Thank you. Yes, you, reading this! Having people come and find me on the internet – let alone getting in touch to say kind things about my work – is, I think, one of the absolute best bits of being a writer. So: Thank you. :D

Now: On with the sinister masterplan!

All best wishes,

Sam

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Having malingered, gleefully, for the full holiday period, this has been my first week back at the desk – and I’ve just had some brilliant news.

My PLR statement has arrived. PLR stands for Public Lending Right – a count of how many times my books are borrowed from libraries each year. Of course PLR is about money: fyi, each time someone takes home Black Tat or Tim from their local library I get a little over 6p. But to me, it’s more about how many readers I’m reaching. And for someone who’s only been in this ‘published author’ game since 2006, the figures are very encouraging…

The Black Tattoo was borrowed 4,694 times in the last year – that’s just here in the UK. I’m also delighted to say that Tim, Defender of the Earth is hot on its heels, at 3,767 times. Of course, Crawlers won’t have been out for a full year by the time of my next statement (the launch isn’t ’til April). But come next January you can bet I’ll be waiting anxiously to hear just how the youngest of my mutant offspring has been doing in libraries.

Being able to try books out for free at my local library has played a MASSIVE part in making me the reader and writer I am today. So the fact that my own books are in libraries right now, doing (I hope) the same for other people… that gives me an enormous thrill.

A HUGE thank you to librarians everywhere for the amazing jobs you do. And a very Happy New Year to you, reading this.

I’m glad to have got 2009 out of the way, aren’t you? Here’s to 2010, and whatever (else) it brings. :D

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

It’s time to reveal the cover of my new book, CRAWLERS, which is due to be published this April 2010

CRAWLERS_PROOF-1

I’m very excited! Hee hee hee!

In other news, by the time you read this the final two slices of my free, nasty story JETHRO’S ACE OF HEARTS will be live at Trapped By Monsters. For those who haven’t already, you can read it from the beginning, here.

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Here’s a cropped shot of the shelf where I keep my working editions – the ones that I take with me to my events at schools, libraries, bookshops, festivals, etc. That’s why Black Tat and Tim look a bit battered. But long-term followers of this blog might notice something new on their right. ;)

AndThenThereWereThree

The advance reader copies – ‘proofs’ – of Crawlers arrived this morning. These are rough, not-quite-finished versions of the book that will be given to booksellers, reviewers and other interested parties in the hope of generating some early buzz before the final version officially launches this April 2010.

To me, after two years of work, they’re something else, too. Now, for the first time, Crawlers is a proper book at last.

My disgusting, betentacled, mutant offspring (but its daddy loves it) is almost ready to slither forth out into the world with its siblings.

Today is a super good day. :D

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Just taking a quick break from PHASE THREE (third draft’s been a battle, but I’m getting there!) to share two things.

First up, look what came in the post yesterday…!

blacktatestonia

It’s the ESTONIAN edition of Black Tat! And it’s a particularly gorgeous item, too: a hardback with full colour endpapers. The idea of my stuff being translated always puts a grin on my face. HEE HEE HEE HEE!

Now: after a proper ‘ice cream moment’ like that, it seems like a good minute to give you a taste of the rougher parts of being an author, to go with the smooth. A couple of months back – he’s just given me permission to quote him – Xiaoyao, a young writer from Australia, asked me the following:

“There is a recent dilemma about my story. I just woke up one day, took a look at the word document and thought: “What a load of rubbish.” It just looked so bad, and I saw all my years of writing with disgust. I think that it was because the original idea started when I was really young, and the plot elements seem so childish now. It could also be because I haven’t done anything with the story for a term due to homework. The main thing is, I just don’t like it anymore. I think that it is too shallow.  I’m wondering what I should do. Should I just scrap it and start a new book with a deeper meaning, or should I continue until it’s finished, /then /start a new book? I’m not very sure; could you give me some advice? Thnx,
Xiaoyao”

If any writer tells you they’ve never felt this way about their work, they’re lying. Here’s what I wrote back:

Hi Xiaoyao,

I’m sorry to hear about your current project, and your feelings about it. I’m not going to tell you whether to give up on it and start again or not. I think the only person who can decide that is you. I can make a couple of observations, though.

First: books are long. They’re big projects and they take a long time, as you know. But I would also say that the attention they demand is constant. If – during a draft, especially the first – you take a break from them for more than (I’d say) about two or three weeks, then you run a real risk of losing momentum in just the way you describe. [I know that kind of constant commitment is very difficult when you're at school, or doing a full-time job. More on this later.]

Books, too, are an enormous leap of faith. In any book, there will always be points where you have doubts. You will wonder why you’re doing it. You will think that what you’re doing is rubbish. That just goes with the territory, I’m afraid. The trick is to find ways to get past it.

One trick that works is planning: if you know that your book is full of things that you’re excited about, that you’re going to enjoy writing, then that helps keep you going.

Another, as I say, is momentum: keep writing, keep coming back to it, keep moving forward.

Another important one, is accepting that whatever you write, it will not come out perfect first time. This, I think, is a crucial one.

Until you complete a first draft – until you’ve got the whole thing down and have written ‘The End’ – your focus should simply be on making forward progress. You must accept that some – even most – of what you will write is probably not that great, but IT DOESN’T MATTER, because once you’ve got to the end you can go back and fix it!

This, for me, means that when I’m writing the first draft of a story, I don’t allow myself to look back. If I look back, I will see only the lousy bits. I will start to lose hope. And that will only make the job of finishing the first draft even harder.

This is especially true for the first time you write a book. Because you’re not sure if you can do it – right? Each time you look back, there’s a weight of expectation: you’re hoping that something in what you see in your work is going to “prove” that you’re a proper writer. Human nature being what it is, all you’re going to see (as I say) are the lousy bits – things that make it seem like you should give up because you’re never going to get there. Ironically, you’re probably underestimating the most important part of your work and what it shows: YOU GOT THIS FAR. That is impressive. That shows you’re serious.

I believe that what makes a writer isn’t, in fact, things like a love of stories, a gift with words, a wild imagination – though those certainly help. I think what makes a real writer is the ability to keep going - the ability to carry on making progress, even though the destination is uncertain and sometimes you can’t remember what you’re doing it for.

Here’s something I love by Miyamoto Musashi, from The Book of Five Rings (translated by Stephen Kaufman). Musashi was the most famous swordsman Japan has ever known. He’s talking here about teaching himself swordfighting, but it’s just as true for writing:

“This is a very difficult road to travel and not many are made for it. It is frustrating, confusing, very lonely, certainly frightening, and it will sometimes make you think you do not have much sanity left to deal with the everyday surroundings of your world. Also, there is no guarantee that you will attain [your goal]. It must all come from inside you, without any preconceived notions on your part.”

Xiaoyao, you’re in full time education! Finding the time and the energy to write when you’re at school, or you’ve got another job, is very hard! I have enormous respect for the fact that you’re even attempting to write a book at this point in your life. So the first thing to do is to cut yourself some slack. What you’ve done already is extremely impressive. So don’t feel too down on yourself.

As to what to do about this particular story… as I say, that’s up to you. Can you remember why you wanted to write it? If the doubts about where the story is going are too strong, then you may be better off abandoning this one. There’s no shame in that. The first time I tried to write a book I had to give up after thirty thousand words. I felt crazy. I got so scared that this first failure meant I wasn’t a proper writer that I couldn’t sleep! But once I’d recovered, once I’d picked myself up, the next time I tried to write a book I was armed with the lessons I learned from that first experiment. I had a better idea of what to expect.

If you /do/ decide to carry on with this book, then the best of luck to you. But I would advise you also to remember my two other points above. Don’t leave the book for longer than two weeks. And don’t look back until you’ve reached the end.

There’s a third alternative. You could also accept that right now your schoolwork is keeping you too busy for you to attempt to write a book. That’s fine, too: concentrate on building up your skills with short stories for a while, perhaps? Then once there’s space in your life for you to commit yourself to the kind of long-term, regular schedule that a bigger project involves, then that’s when you next take a shot at this.

I hope the above is helpful, Xiaoyao. Let me know what you decide.

A week ago, Xiaoyao wrote back to me to say he’s carrying on.

Excuse me, but if I’m going to meet this deadline I should follow his inspiring example. :D

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Look at this!

timukmassmarket2

It’s the brand spanking new UK mass market edition of TIM, published this week!

As well as being a fair few quid cheaper than the first edition – a giant monster bargain, guv’nor! – on the back it’s also got some of the cracking comments and quotes that the book got when it first came out. My absolute favourite is the one by Finn, a young gentleman who kindly wrote a shelf recommendation about TIM for my brilliant local independent booksellers The Big Green Bookshop. In case you can’t see it above, it says:

“If you don’t like books with big scary monsters wrecking national monuments and giant cockroaches killing people, you will not like this book. I loved it.’ Finn, 12

-Thank you, Finn. :D

To celebrate, the monsters are allowing me out of the cave to visit a school tomorrow. Yes! Out of the cave! To interact with people who aren’t imaginary! -Ahem, I’m rather excited. Unless, of course, the visit turns out to be just some cruel April Fool prank of theirs, in which case I may have to batter out my poor remaining porridge brains against one of these handy stalagmites they have here. I’ll let you know one way or the other. Well, if it’s “the other” I guess I /won’t/ let you know, but you know what I mean. ;p

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Wotcher. Got a few different bits and pieces for you, this time.

First up, I was delighted to see a certain giant monster make a topical appearance in the current issue of one of my favourite magazines, namely Private Eye. Their ‘In the City’ column traditionally examines shady goings-on in London’s financial district. So imagine my surprise, when….

HEE HEE HEE! :)

Next up, here’s a question from Matthew – yep, the same Matthew who made the awesome Chinj pic from the previous post! – who really got me thinking when he asked:

After finishing The Black Tattoo and studying Hinduism, I wondered if the Dragon, the Brotherhood and the Scourge had any links with the three Hindu gods Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva, ie Brahma – the Dragon; Vishnu – the Brotherhood; Shiva – the Scourge. I was just wondering and thought I would point it out.

Wow.

Um, to be honest with you, Matthew, the short answer is ‘no’. Hinduism had no direct influence on Black Tat – or none that I was conscious of, at least. While I’m familiar with some bits and pieces of Hindu mythology and theology, by the sounds of it you know more about it than me! But I’m sure I was influenced unconsciously by it – as I am in everything I write, by everything in the world around me.

Nothing that anyone writes or creates can ever be completely original. Whatever you do will be influenced by things that have been done before – including the things you’ve experienced or read about, the things you learned from, let alone archetypes, standard elements of a creative work such as, for stories like Black Tat, heroes and villains.

For a long time, when I was younger, that fact used to bother me. The impossibility of making something that was completely new was very frustrating. Sometimes it even seemed like if I couldn’t be completely original then it just wasn’t worth the bother of creating anything. But then I changed my mind.

Everyone has influences – a vast, bubbling mixture, some elements of which an individual won’t even be aware of. While you can (and should, I think) add to the mixture – expand your influences, by experiencing and discovering and finding out about as much as you can – there’s no subtracting from your influences or getting away from them. There’s no going back.

But here’s the thing: it’s the mixture that makes us different – the particular combination that gives a creative work, or even a person, their own special style and flavour.

The expression of that mixture in a way that excites me – and, I hope, other people! – is what I chase after in my stories.

I wish you the best of luck in chasing yours.

Lastly, while we’re talking about Black Tat, here’s something very cool that arrived in the post this week. It’s another edition, this time published in German!

As you can see, like the US paperback, my German publishers Blanvalet have gone for the classic black on white look first developed by the design team at Random House Children’s Books UK (yay!) – isolating the figure of Charlie [actually posed by Mr P's son, Ian, fyi!] from John Jude Palecar‘s awesome painting. But that red sticker on the front is a cheeky new twist! If you can’t read it, it says “‘Kotzende Fledermause? Ich bin begeistert!’Neil Gaiman“. For a translation of that quote – and the story of how I got it! – check out this interview. Hee hee hee HEE!

Meanwhile, on the same day as my copies arrived (how’s this for speed…?) the first comment from Germany came in on the Black Tat Guestbook. If you’re reading this, Vanessa, thank you very much indeed for your kind (and beautifully expressed) words!

Floof. A longish post this time, but it’s deliberate. Fact is, I’m about to go intermittent on you again while I return to PHASE THREE, so I wanted to leave you with a decent meaty chunk to chew on while I’m off back down the story-mine. As ever with a first draft, there’s a lot of work to be done. But I’m doing what I love, so I’m not complaining! Hope you’re doing the same. :)

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Hee hee hee! I’m very happy with this: it’s a new feature for the Tim site in which the mighty Katie WebSphinx herself explains how she achieved its look – and how /you/ can cause Tim-style Kaiju Carnage of your own!

Katie is the pulsating brain behind pretty much everything you see on my sites. But when she and I first started putting ideas together for the Black Tat site she decided she’d prefer to keep her shadowy genius in the background, Ninja style. Having Katie’s words (and feet!!) out here front and centre for all to see is, therefore, a unique treat – but it’s a particularly timely one, right now, as she’s about to take off on maternity leave.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say an unspeakably gigantic THANK YOU, KATIE! And to wish her, Mr Will, and the impending Sphinxlet(!) much love and all the very best.

Meanwhile, look what just came through the door…!

It’s the all-new Portuguese edition of Black Tat! It’s published by Edicoes Gailivro in their Mil e Um Mundos series (which also includes Stephenie Meyer, Anthony Horowitz and the especially awesome Geoff Ryman!) and it’s very handsome large format paperback. I was particularly delighted to note that ‘yuck’, as in my dedication, ‘To Laura, “My heart is in my hand …Yuck“, appears in Portuguese as, wait for it:

‘…blargh.’ :)

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

For the next couple of months my life is mostly going to look like this:

The end of the school year means no more visits for a while – which is good timing for me, because in September (eek!) I’m due to hand in the first draft of Phase Three of my Sinister Masterplan to Conquer the Universe. I’ve been working on it seriously for over a year now, but the next two months are the crunch. Yep, it’s time for me to focus on writing my next book.

My posts here may become a bit (as in ‘even more’!) sporadic. Well, as I mentioned on the Black Tat news page last time things reach this point there’s probably only a limited amount of ‘I sat here making things up and occasionally tearing the last of my hair out‘ that you’d be interested in hearing, anyhow! But if I’m not updating often enough for you over the rest of the summer, then I’m sorry. Rest assured, like the cheesiest (and best) kinds of villains, I will be back. ;)

-Couple of last things before I sign off, though…!

First up, contracts! To my great glee and delight I’ve just signed a deal for Tim to be translated into German, and I’m about to sign another for Black Tat to be published in Romania! I love the idea of my stories being translated into different languages, so this makes me very, very happy! HURRAH! :)

Next, here’s a lovely message I got this week through my Bebo page, from Jakub, who kindly writes:

“Dude you’re seriously so amazing (you were in the libary at elthorne i was there)
seriously you really inspired me……..i really want to like make a rock band in future and be the drummer in the band (i play the drums).
could you give me some advice?
oh and you dont have to answer this….but what music do you like?

P.S your books are awesome dude……….”

Aw, thanks Jakub! I’m blushing! ;p
Actually as a drummer (as long as you’re good at it, of course!) I think you’re in a good position. I’m a guitar player, and I can tell you there are loads more bands looking for drummers than there are ones looking for guitarists! So you shouldn’t be short of opportunities to chase that dream if you want it.

The problem, of course, is the other stuff.

Like writing, being a musician is not a steady life in terms of planning a long-term future, and that can be a problem for some people. The chances are you will have to put up with poverty at some point, and probably for what feels like a long time (learn to love veg – veg is cheap, tastes nice, and keeps you alive!!) You will have to work a day job (mine, a bookshop, was mostly fun but very badly paid) You will also have to deal with relatives – and probably many other people – who will think that you are completely mad (and like I think I said at Elthorne, they’ll probably be right!) But if you have a dream, your dream, and you’re prepared to work hard for it, you should definitely chase it. Life’s simply too short to do anything else.

As to music, well: www.last.fm/listen/user/othersam/pla…

That’s a list of things I recently picked out on Last FM – soundtracks, drum and bass, crackly old blues and other stuff I like. …But like the advice above, it’s just my opinion! ;)
Best wishes to you,
Sam

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

My, my, what a lot of updates I seem to be posting lately! But I’ve got to tell you about these:

First up, here’s a wonderful review of Tim that was forwarded this morning from my UK publishers. YAY!

‘REX AND VIOLENCE:

Forget your Dark Materials, Eragons and Narnias. If ever a children’s book deserves to be given the big-screen treatment, this is it. Just imagine slipping into your cinema seat to watch a colossal dinosaur (the eponymous Tim – Tyrannosaur: Improved Model) ripping Big Ben from its foundations before lobbing it at its foe, a scientist whose use of nanotechnology has resulted in him becoming an Earth-destroying monster. Then picture said bad guy picking up the London Eye and slamming it over Tim’s scaly head. Michael Bay, are you reading this?

Sam Enthoven’s action-packed book tells the story of Tim and the two children who get caught up in his unintentional carnage (the big lug is a sweetie at heart, y’see.) Enthoven writes with charm and humour, while Tim is as loveable as any London-smashing behemoth can be. It’s a stupendous – and thoroughly British – read, but would look even better on screen. Anyone fancy whipping up a screenplay? Go on. It’d kick Transformers’ ass…

Four and a half stars out of five, from JAYNE NELSON at SFX Magazine.

You know what? As it happens, I do have a piece of not-entirely-un-film-related news bulging up my sleeve here. My lips must remain sealed for the time being, but watch this space. HEE HEE HEE HEE!

Meanwhile, take a look at the bottom of this blog post (oh: erm, for anyone reading this from Amazon, you’ll either have to check the Tim site or take my word for it…!)

Yep: as of today, and thanks to the unspeakable genius of The WebSphinx, there’s now a ‘signature’ at the end of each post, with quick links that will take you to one or other of my websites’ Guestbooks. We reckon this is a better system than the traditional ‘comments’, because it’s safely anonymous and the entries won’t be tied to specific posts. I love getting messages, so drop me a line! :)

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

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