The Hunter Pre-Order Master Post

Where the magic happens

THE HUNTER, coming July 2018 from Headline.

THE HUNTER is a high-octane debut thriller that splices the pulse-racing action of James Swallow’s NOMAD with a lead as deadly as Gregg Hurwitz’s ORPHAN X.

In the ring, Cameron King is known as The Hunter. A celebrated champion. A warrior.

But when her brother, science genius Nate, deliberately crashes the car they’re in and vanishes without trace, Cameron is left with a career in ruins, a reconstructed body and one burning question: why?

18 months later, working to find bail-jumping fugitives, Cameron discovers a dead body – apparently killed with her gun. As a detective comes through the door, she receives a panicked call from her missing brother: ‘They’re coming, Cam. Get out.

Sucked into a lethal and sinister conspiracy hidden in the darkest shadows of power, Cameron is forced to fight her toughest, bloodiest battle yet – not only to survive, but to uncover the terrifying truth.

THE HUNTER is an explosive, page-turning debut with a blade-sharp new character who could trade blows with Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne.

Now that the news is out, it’s time for the hard sell.

Well. The medium rare sell.

You might not be sold on THE HUNTER just yet, and that’s okay. Release date is in July and we’ve got half a year to work on that. 

But, if you ARE sold on picking up a copy of THE HUNTER, please consider pre-ordering it. Pre-orders are pretty good for authors on the industry side – they count towards first day sales, provide a boost to initial order numbers – so…yeah. A pre-order would be doing me a solid.

You can pre-order from Amazon UK here

Alternatively, if you want to pre-order from Waterstones, here.

If you’re in Sweden and want a copy, Adlibris has you covered.

Or, if you just want to get in touch with your local bookshop or library to get a copy in stock for July, then that would be amazing.

Thanks a lot! 

 

The Hunter

'Heart-pounding' debut The Hunter to Headline

So, you are probably already aware that my debut novel, THE HUNTER has sold to Headline and will be released in July this year.

I just wanted to blog briefly to say a massive, MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has been liking and sharing and getting in touch to say congratulations. It’s been so weird moving away to Sweden and suddenly all the people that I used to see once or twice a year at conventions I now see…zero times a year.

Honestly, I am massively touched by how enthusiastic the response has been. The book news is great, but it’s all of you that have made my day. 

If I didn’t manage to get a personal response out to you through the day, my apologies. If I could have blown off classes to do it, I totally would have.

Thank you. 

Now let’s have some fun.

The official news release blurb is:

The book’s plot sees mixed martial arts champion Cameron King have her life upended when brother Nate deliberately crashes the car they’re both travelling in. When she regains consciousness, Nate has vanished without trace – leaving her with a ruined career, a reconstructed body and the burning question, why? Sucking Cameron into a nightmarish conspiracy, she must rely on her warrior training to battle her way to the truth.

But I thought it’d be fun to try and embellish that description through the power of GIFs.

First up, Cameron King. She’s a badass. How badass? Here’s a GIF of Rose Namajunas to give you a rough idea:

There’s punching!

via GIPHY

There are explosions!

via GIPHY

Technology!

via GIPHY

Car chases!

via GIPHY

Guns! Firing bullets!

via GIPHY

Excitement! Drama!

via GIPHY

All of this, and hand-planed cherry door!

Needless to say, I am lit up about the book being picked up. I’m going to try my best not to be obnoxious about it, but I think it’s fair to say come summer you’re going to have a hard time shutting me up. 

Happy beeps here, buddy. Come on.

The kit bag, ready to go.

I should probably be a lot firmer with my goals this year. I had a vague set of outcomes in my head last January, and that seemed to come together in the end (although I suspect with no help from me). I ended the year fitter, a little healthier, and with more words in hand than when I started.

Obviously, I kick off 2018 with a week of sinus headaches that leave me feeling like a useless sack of idiot whose list of things that need doing is growing progressively more insurmountable.

But, I have great friends and an awesome partner and if they can be upbeat, then damn it, so can I. 2018 goals it is.

Fitness

Getting to the gym seems to be the thing that slips most easily out of my schedules. Feel ill? No gym. Kids playing up? No gym. Got a lot of work on? Skip it. Swimming is easier to stick to because the classes are v expensive and missing a session involves asking the question: are you willing to lose that investment. But generally speaking, I think exercise has improved my quality of life across the board and it’s something to persevere with.

I would like to run at a 5 min/km pace over 5k and (stretch goal!) 10k distances. Right now I’ve got an inconsistent 5:20-5:30 trend on good days, but I think with a good wind and a kickass playlist, I can make it happen.

I don’t have goals in mind re: weights, but I do want to start building a programme that is a little less slapdash. Part of that means managing a workout diary, and putting together a training programme. I feel like the mix of compound lifts and bodyweight/resistance band stabilisation work is paying off right now (no injuries! no joint pain aside from this weird shoulder thing I’m working on!) so by spring I want to have a better overall idea of what I’m doing for any given session. The worst workouts are the ones I don’t plan ahead for.

Swimming: I would like to be able to do that this year. The current standard is more of a “almost but not quite drowning”. Needs work.

Books and writing

I need to read more. I always need to read more. It’s the other thing that falls by the wayside when other stuff comes up. Mostly I find myself falling asleep by the time I get eyes on the page.

Solution: use your commute, idiot.

I’m writing a thriller about a copycat killer who turns out to be something much, much worse than that, and really that should take me through to the summer if I am really lucky (unlucky, or “more likely”: the autumn). I would LOVE to be able to write something else either towards the end of the year or concurrently (spoiler: it won’t be concurrent) because I have a sharp, really nasty and completely fun fantasy story that I’ve been chewing on for what feels like two years now and I really want to just get it down on paper.

So…the thriller will happen. Anything else will be a bonus.

I would love to do some short fiction or a novella or something for audio, but we’ll see. I spent a long time writing a good half

million words of short fiction only to have no real idea what to do with it. If opportunities show up, I’ll pounce on them. 

Other

I want to spend more time working on that cookery thing. Just being a bit more willing to break out the cookbooks, or to spend a bit more time on prep and make our meals that little bit more special. Good food is just worth the effort, you know?

So. 2018. Let’s make it happen.

Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Back on the new project train. 

I’ve been swimming a lot, joined a gym, spent a lot of time with the kids. Mostly I’ve been avoiding the blank page. I knew I wanted to write something, get one of the new things down and done and once I had ten, twenty k in the bank then that would be it settled, that I would have come past the point of no return and this would be the WIP.

The actual work of it eluded me. Whenever I did write, it felt like I was being smothered. I reread some of the stuff I wrote and it’s almost there on the page – that reticence, the vagueness of every name and line and interaction. The unwillingness to commit. It’s not bad stuff. It’s just empty. It doesn’t go anywhere, and so it’s not worth following.

So I dumped it all in a corner of my writing folder and reorganised my notes and played some computer games and exercised some more. The swimming is coming along really well. I lifted one hundred and twenty kilograms, which is a ridiculous number held up against the mental image of my 2014 self tipping the scales at almost half that weight, fainting at work. I came back to the writing slowly.

It’s another thriller. I had the Hinterkaifeck murders in my mind for a time, the strange, isolated vision of a whole family unaware of a killer in their home, haunted by the poltergeist movement of objects, strange footsteps…and then all killed in a single night, matter-of-fact with mattock-blows, like the killing itself was less the purpose than an unfortunate side effect of something stranger that we will never fully understand.

It felt like the spark that set it in motion, but it took me a long time to find the momentum. I was too concerned about how of the killings, the mechanism of them, and while that has a certain nuts-and-bolts importance in terms of the writing, it’s really not important at all. The question is: why?

So, I came up with a story that lies in the past as much as it does in the present. A past tied to the brush scrub roots of American existence, half-exposed and white-raw from winds cut hard with salt from the pan; a past tied to the dispossessed middle children of manifest destiny, left stranded by their forefathers in a landscape so barren it might as well be the surface of the moon. A madness borne of frustration – a hatred swallowed deep and stewed, bit still held between the teeth – until it rises up into a hatred of everything new, everything modern, of all the things that have risen up like the unwelcome palm of some great giant, pushing you once more to the sidelines.

How would you even go about killing the future? How would you kill a giant so large that it spans the world?

So. I best go write it.

The Bourne Equivalency

Photo by Jason Betz on Unsplash

It’s a hard old life for a writer. I get that (eight years of trying my ass off, I get it), but I do heave a little sigh when I see people caving in and dropping a guilt trip on their social media following.

I won’t labour on about “If you’ve ever enjoyed my tweets, then…” too much. They’re…your tweets. I mean there is something funny, insightful, or informative to be found on there every day but, really?

The real eyetwitch moment for me is the evergreen, “for the price of a fancy coffee, you could buy my book.”

I don’t get that equivalency. I just don’t. Where are you buying your fancy coffees that they’re so expensive? Where are you getting these books so cheap? (note: I have seen an example that ups it to coffee and a croissant, and another that opts for “hipster sandwich”, which is a whole other layer of social commentary – we congratulate one another over cool but ultimately unnecessary notebooks, but God forbid I want to treat myself to a sandwich that’s 90% horseradish and makes me SEE THROUGH TIME).

Is it because of the saturation of corporate fancy coffee places? I am painfully aware that my basic existence – smartphone and all – is propped up by a world of exploitation so vast that the building of the pyramids seems like small potatoes by comparison. My coffee cup will exist in landfill long beyond my lifetime. Are books published by mainstream publishers somehow less corporate? More responsible? What are you really telling me with your appeal to ditch the coffee and pick up a book? Am I really sticking it to the man, or am I just meant to imagine I am?

Or maybe it’s the experience of the book, so much deeper than the shallow, ephemeral nature of the coffee purchase. They get so cold, so fast, those fancy coffees. But then it’s a different kind of experience. When I’m not at home with the kids, I’m in the home-work-commute cycle. Why shouldn’t I choose to momentarily break free of it and shoot the shit for a couple of minutes with the part time barista who’s also a drummer and has a young family like mine? Is that less authentic than the escape a book offers?

I buy books. I buy coffee. They are separate and not equivalent things. I try to budget responsibly (and fail, mostly). I will happily throw people a signal boost. I will totally enthuse about a cool idea. I will review books when…honestly, I review books when I’m on Amazon looking for an ironing board cover or something and I see the sidebars stuffed with books and I think, “oh yeah I should do that”. I just don’t need to be told that I’m making the wrong choices, because it’s not a choice and there’s nothing wrong with a fancy coffee.*

 

*ANY fancy coffee. You want something that glows dayglo orange under a cap of whipped cream and sprinkles? Fucking GO FOR IT. Live your best life. I believe in you.

2017, and other strangeness.

It's my desk! MY PEN! It’s been a year, almost? 

It’s been a year. And if you had asked me to guess at what that year would hold, I would have been flat-out wrong.

I tried to write a novel. I also tried to sell a novel, but that’s a different story.* The novel I tried to write was a tight, character-led thriller about a professional bounty hunter finding a dead body instead of the person they were trailing, they are accused of the murder, and the hunt for the real killer begins…

But the further we got into the dumpster fire that was 2016, the less real that story felt. The America I had set it in was changing, and my story was oblivious to it. Untouched by it.

And in the tech world, stories kept cropping up that caught my eye. People queuing at a Maker Faire to have subdermal implants injected into their bodies. How companies use metadata to track you. How apps on your phone listen to you to predict your searches. The stratification of society regressing to the point where companies no longer see people as consumers, but as product.

And so the story changed. It had to. Because I couldn’t sit and think about security and surveillance all day long and not write about it. So a banker became an information broker, a chase where my bounty hunter uses the tricks of the trade to evade capture became a chase where evasion was almost impossible because the methods of tracking are so advanced that even the most dedicated individual will struggle to stay lost in a crowd.

And the world it takes place in – one that is almost identical to our own, perhaps five years down the line – has changed too. What was a parade is now a protest. What was an indifferent public is now an engaged one.

It’s a different, darker America that I am imagining in the new book. What’s changed along with it is that there are plenty of people pushing back against the dark. Those people I didn’t have to imagine.

Not sure where I’m going with this? Fine. I’ll try again.

It’s Person of Interest meets The Winter Soldier

Anyway. Back to it. Stay good.

 

*the moral is, yet again, close but no cigar. So it goes. 

Kingdom’s Fall, and self-promotion.

When you create anything yourself and put it online, you have the option to simply leave it, and see what happens, or you can promote it. And…well…self promotion is something of a challenge to the British. We tend to face it like this:

Bravely ran away, away...

Really, I hate doing it. I’m proud of the things I’ve made, and yet telling people about them goes against every instinct that has been drilled into me about being polite, letting people go first, not making a big fuss: the triumvirate of British thinking. It goes against the grain of my general feeling that social media should be a place to connect and less to advertise.

HZGVDn7So British.

But it’s something I need to get a handle on. I don’t expect Kingdom’s Fall to do immediate, earth-shattering, fantastic business. That’s ridiculous. It has done quite well on Wattpad – far better than I expected – and yet it hasn’t seen the kind of traffic that makes people sit up and notice it. It’s still a good book. I still want to tell the story that I started when I made it, to have that world unfold around the characters as every decision comes back round and shows them how much bigger everything is.

As it stands, it might do okay as a loss leader onto the second and third book. Which…is where we run into a problem. Books two and three aren’t written yet. I was very busy having surgery, and recovering from surgery, and becoming a dad, so all I managed to do was to write two other books.* So I have this small audience, I have this book, and I have to somehow maintain their attention until book 2 is done.

Which I think I have the solution to. A lot of Kingdom’s Fall didn’t make it to the page. A lot of the sequels doesn’t really fit into the shape of the book. There is an excess of stuff. So what I’ve been doing is turning it into a series of short stories, each about 2000 words long, and I’ll be posting them up on Wattpad. Some will feature the main characters; some will feature new characters; and some will just serve to add some more texture to the world. And, by the time I have exhausted them in 2017, I should have a draft of book 2 to work with (at least, that’s the idea).

This is your expression right now:

2hqc9Qt

And so that’s why you’ll keep seeing the Kingdom’s Fall cover on my feeds, in spite of the fact the novel is done and I am so very, very British. Because I’m trying to keep it alive, and to overcome my own hesitations about it, I’m giving something away with it.

I really hope you enjoy it.

Kingdom’s Fall is now available on Kindle

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01AX849PK

US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AX849PK

All of the Kingdom’s Fall short stories will be appearing on Wattpad through 2016.

h589O

*One of which didn’t sell because Weird Western, it turns out, isn’t a real “debut” genre. But you never know. If there’s someone out there looking for a Weird Western that follows a teenage girl genius, a trans opera singer, and a mercenary gunslinger as they flee East from the girl’s mother and her empire built on mad, radioactive** science then…drop them my name, you hear?

**and genuine. It might not have happened in the order and places that it does in the book, but all the science is stone cold 19th Century REAL.***

***I still want this book to sell. I love it so much.

 

NaNoWriMo 2015

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

I have a lot of love for NaNoWriMo. It’s enthusiastic, encouraging, inclusive, and – most wonderfully of all – embraces even a failed attempt as having value. Also, it was how I met up with the York NaNo group, who are genuinely very lovely and were great company while I lived in Yorkshire (and continue to be through the magic of the internet).

So this year I’m going to fail NaNoWriMo.

I’m not even mad about it. Previous winning attempts at 50k have been me buckling down on a WIP and just *getting it done*, because there was nothing between me and the end of the novel other than getting my arse in the chair and just doing it.

This year? I had a title – The Raven and the Red God – and a rough idea of what I wanted to write about, and…that was really about it. I don’t know what it is about my head this time, but I actually needed to start writing before I could decide what I wanted. And what I wrote? Wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It was too generically fantasy, too serious in its tone. I liked the beats I was laying down, but everything else failed to fit.

So I stopped writing there, before I went any further. Things had to change.

First, names. The names were just whatever came into my head, a mix of Scots and Scandinavian names. I went hunting for sources and came up with a better list of possibilities. A few careful find and replace commands later (yes, yes, find and replace can be a problem but under 20k? It’s easy to check them all) and I felt much better about how the names matched their characters.

Then, characters. It was a bit thin on the ground with people – essentially turning into a two-hander. I sat and brainstormed some scenes and came up with a new roster of people to add, and how they would be introduced.

Then, the world. I wanted a highland setting, and a little less civilised than most fantasy. I imagined a world a little closer to an ice age, and people who had just started to settle after generations of nomadic movement. I looked at Pictish and Dalriadic settlements, the tribes of Bhutan and Yunnan, their clothes and buildings, their rituals and habits. I started peeling away the standard trappings of a pseudo medieval fantasy world and started down a different path. Some of it will remain – the common language of fantasy writing demands some touchstones, if only so readers can orient themselves – but largely this will be a different world.

Folklore. I’ve always treated magic with a fairly light touch. Here, I decided to take things in the opposite direction, and really go all out with the magic that fills and shapes the world. The characters might not understand how it works, but they know they are living in a universe of strange and often terrible things.

So, with the end of November approaching, I am nowhere near 50,000 words, but I am much happier about what I am writing. Which is more than enough for me to be happy with.

 

Now a real killer…would’ve immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun.

Zorg Oldies-but-goldies

Almost 20 years since The Fifth Element came out? Man. Still a great film, though. Visually speaking it’s as mad as a sack of badgers but somehow that works wonderfully in it’s favour.

I don’t do writing advice. It’s not a thing I feel qualified or comfortable doing, chiefly because as far as my writing goes (and if you’ll excuse the layered puns that add a special level of cringe to the cliche) I’ve been literally making it up as I go. But this week I was asked to advise a student who is doing Creative Writing as a project, and I felt honour-bound to at least try. The gist of it was that he was going to write a novel. Or a novella. He wasn’t sure which it would be, but he was certain he would do it. Although first he had a plan to write. And an outline. And character profiles. And an essay on the themes of the novel. Because how else would he evidence it, if he didn’t have all these things?

I got the feeling there was an expectation of validation attached to the proposal more than anything else, but I tried my best to be honest. Here’s what I said.

– Put your arse in a chair, your fingers on the keys, and write. Keep doing that until you finish the book, because you will learn more about the process of writing a novel-length piece of fiction by finishing one more than anything else. And when the time comes to present your evidence, that stack of words – even if it’s a first draft, even if ninety percent of it is trash that you hate on a second reading – is worth more than essays and profiles of a novel that doesn’t exist.

– Don’t say it’ll either be a novel or a novella. They are different things, and you write them in different ways. A novel is a deep-sea dive. It takes skill and stamina to do it, and you spend a long time on that dive slowly uncovering something that was thought lost and bringing it back, whole, to the surface. Writing a novella – writing all short fiction – is like freediving. You dive down with nothing but the gasp of breath you took when you started. Every sentence simmers taut with the desire to surface, and the need to go deeper.

There was more, but it was on the specifics of his pitch and isn’t really mine to repeat. I thought what I’d said was sensible enough; he looked at me as though I had grown an extra head.

I can’t blame him. At that age, I wouldn’t have listened either.

Here’s your shovel. Start digging.

nqkBVjH

Sorry for the massive GIF. I just love it.

Have you all signed up for Maggie Koerth-Baker’s Fellowship of Three Things? You should: it is excellent. A very brief weekly email shot of interesting facts or observations from her year-long Fellowship at Harvard. It’s how newsletter content should be – whenever it turns up in my inbox, I am pleased to see it, and genuinely interested in the content.

So this week’s one had an interesting quote contained within it. It’s taken from Ava DuVernay’s Keynote Address at the 2013 Film Independent Forum (you can watch the entire thing here, if you like *cough* Alasdair I know you will *cough*).

All of the time you’re spending trying to get someone to mentor you, trying to have a coffee, all of the things we try to do to move ahead in the industry is time that you’re not spending time working on your screenplay, strengthening your character arcs, setting up a table reading to hear the words, thinking about your rehearsal techniques, thinking about symbolism in your production design, your color pallet.  All the time you’re focusing on trying to grab, you’re being desperate and you’re not doing.  You have to be doing something.  Because all of the so-called action that you’re doing is hinging on someone doing something for you.  

I love this quote. Last year was a tough year for writing (hell, every year is) and not insignificant amount of my time was spent navel-gazing in the most unproductive manner possible. For several reasonably long stretches, I just stopped altogether, because every time I sat down at the keyboard all I could think – all I could hear – was, “not good enough.” More insidious was the follow up thought, “what will people think of me when they discover I’m not good enough?

Weird thing to think, but that’s the human brain and a lifetime of social conditioning for you.

And I was wrong to do that. Yes, I got rejections. Yes, I felt incredibly disappointed. But maybe I could have wasted a little less time staring into the depths of my belly button wishing for validation, and a HELL of a lot less time worrying about what people think of me. I mean, we could even take stock now: my brother gave me a Goddamn kidney. You could not ask for a more direct and concrete proof of your value to another person when they spit out one of their internal organs on your behalf.

I don’t think there’s a resolution to be drawn from this, but I have been thinking more closely on how I react to my failures, my triumphs, and about what I actually want to do.

I want to write amazing things. I want to be better.

So now I’ve got to go and do it.