Saturday 24 October 2015

The Samaritan - paperback cover

The mass-market UK paperback cover for The Samaritan is visible on all of the online book sites, so I guess it's okay for me to officially unveil it: ta-dah:

I really love it. Once again, as with the Killing Season mmpb, it's a slightly more overtly commercial design than that of the hardback cover, because this is the version that (hopefully) will be in newsagents and supermarkets and airports.

I think the whole design is great, from the font to the image, which really gets across what the book is about. Once again, I'm particularly pleased at the use of colour. As a new(ish) writer, it's still a huge buzz to find your book on the shelves, and the distinctive green cover of Killing Season made it a very easy book to find. I think this will do just as good a job. Fist-bumps all round for the design and marketing bods at Orion,

You can pre-order the paperback of The Samaritan now, or if you're happy with the equally-awesome trade cover, you can get it in hardback, trade paperback, ebook or audio right now.

Lastly, here's a great review from the Sydney Daily Telegraph:

"The Killing Season was a ripper. This is just as good."

Thursday 22 October 2015

The Dutch edition

I'm delighted that The Killing Season is published in the Netherlands today by Luitingh-Sijthoff, translated as Het Jachtseizoen (The Hunting Season).

Looks like I'm in good company; they also publish Stephen King, Dan Brown, Patricia Cornwell, Lee Child, George RR Martin, Jill Mansell and Danielle Steel.

Here's the blurb in Dutch, followed by an English translation. I always love the bizarre literal translations Google Translate throws up, and this one doesn't disappoint - I'm quite fond of the description 'blood exciting', but I love the fact that it's a strong, addictive new series - sounds like really good coffee, or a new type of heroin...

Het jachtseizoen    - Mason Cross 

Voor de liefhebbers van Lee Child: eerste deel van een ijzersterke, verslavende nieuwe serie

Het jachtseizoen is het eerste deel van de bloedspannende Carter Blake-serie van Mason Cross. Lee Child, bekend van de Jack Reacher-serie, noemt het 'mijn soort boek': spanning, avontuur, corruptie, complotten en een vleugje romantiek.

Het jachtseizoen is geopend: een ontsnapte, ter dood veroordeelde seriemoordenaar trekt een spoor van dood en verderf door de VS en een onconventionele FBI-huurling is de enige die hem nog kan stoppen. Hij krijgt daarbij hulp van een ambitieuze FBI-agente die worstelt om haar bestaan als alleenstaande moeder en carrièrevrouw met elkaar te verenigen. Samen leggen ze een web van leugens en corruptie bloot dat het hele land op zijn grondvesten kan doen schudden.

'Mason Cross legt een scherpe felheid in deze debuutthriller die leidt tot de komst van een van de interessantste helden uit de afgelopen jaren... Snel en krachtig verteld door een schrijver die een natuurlijke aanleg voor thrillers lijkt te hebben: het is niet te missen.' - Daily Mail

'Bloedstollend. Mason Cross combineert behendig een door adrenaline gedreven plot met een van de beste nieuwe seriepersonages sinds Jack Reacher. Bereid je voor om de hele nacht te lezen.' - Lisa Gardner

€ 16,99 Paperback / softback

The Hunting Season - Mason Cross

For fans of Lee Child: first part of a strong, addictive new series

The hunting season is the first part of the blood exciting Carter Blake series of Mason Cross.  Lee Child, known for the Jack Reacher series, calls it "my kind of book: excitement, adventure, corruption, collusion and a touch of romance.

The hunting season is open: an escaped serial killer sentenced to death draws a trail of death and destruction by the US and an unconventional FBI mercenary is the only one who can stop him.  He is assisted by an ambitious FBI agent who struggles to reconcile her life as a single mother and career woman together.  Together they uncover a web of lies and corruption that the entire country to its foundations to shake.

"Mason Cross puts a sharp fierceness in this debut thriller that leads to the arrival of one of the most interesting heroes of the past few years ... Quickly and powerfully told by a writer who seems to have a natural talent for thrillers: it is not to be missed." - Daily Mail

"Blood-curdling.  Mason Cross deftly combines an adrenaline-driven plot with one of the best new series of characters since Jack Reacher.  Prepare to read the whole night." - Lisa Gardner

Saturday 10 October 2015

Structuring a novel in Word

Nerd alert: if format, structure and the intricacies of Microsoft Word bore you, probably best to skip this one.

Recently, I was chatting to some other writers, comparing notes on how we write our novels. Being writers, we weren't talking about the ephemeral, arty stuff that you tend to get asked about at events...
What inspires you?
Do you base any of your characters on real people?
and the ever popular
Where do you get your ideas?
(I always liked Harlan Ellison's response to that one: he simply explained to people that he orders them from a company in Schenectady, New York.)
No, we were talking about the nuts and bolts: how we structure our books as we're writing and how we alter that structure when we're revising and editing.
It can be a major pain to restructure your book during edits, particularly when you have to move one chapter to a different place, or insert a whole new chapter. Either way, you're going to have to go through and renumber all of your chapters, and hope that this will be the last time you'll decide to mess with the running order (it usually isn't).
Quite a few of the writers I know use Scrivener, because along with many other cool features, it lets you do stuff like this automatically. However the problem is you still need to get the novel back into Word when you start the back-and-forth process with your editor.
It occurred to me that Word might be able to do some of this stuff by itself. Microsoft is great at including all sorts of advanced functionality and then not really telling people about it. After a spot of Googling, I discovered that I was right.
Disclaimer: this is how I do it, not necessarily How It Should Be Done. Also, this works on standard versions of Microsoft Word for PC, but I've been told the same technique doesn't work on Word for Mac, presumably because Apple revels in making life difficult for deviants who like to experiment. However I'm sure someone out there will have a Mac-hack.

Using Headings to structure the document

First of all, use the Heading format to structure your document. This only takes seconds, and will save you a ton of time later.
To do this, click on your chapter name, whether it's 'Chapter 1', or simply '1', and format it as a Heading. Word lets you have a hierarchy of headings, but I only ever use H1, because in my book(s), all chapters are created equal:


(My chapters are normally longer than this, by the way. Although sometimes not by much.)
If you keep formatting each chapter title as a heading, you'll quickly notice that each one appears in the navigation pane (usually on the left hand side of the document). If you can't see the navigation pane, Hit CTRL+F as though you were trying to find a word or phrase in the document, and then click on HEADINGS:

You'll notice an immediate benefit: if you click on any of these chapter numbers formatted as a heading in the navigation pane, you'll jump straight to that part of the book - no interminable scrolling required.

Using a sequencing field to automatically renumber chapters

The next tip is a little more advanced, but only a little.
It involves using a field instead of text to number your chapters. This means you can tell it to number each chapter in sequential order.
1. To insert the field, delete the chapter number, leave the cursor in the same place, and press CTRL+F9 to insert curly field brackets:
2. Then, type the phrase "seq NumList" (without the quotes) between the curly brackets
3. Repeat for all chapters:
4. Select All and press F9. The chapter numbers will automatically update sequentially (both in the document and on the navigation pane):

The great thing about this is, you're not forced to give any chapter a number. So if, like me, you have occasional interlude chapters outside of the regularly-numbered chapters, you can make them part of the chapter structure with the Heading format, but you don't have to include them in the numbering sequence. So you can have 1, 2, 3, FIVE YEARS AGO, 4, 5, 6...

Here's the cool part.

5. If you decide Chapter 4 should really be Chapter 2, just click and drag in the navigation pane, and the entire chapter will move position in the document:
6. Select All, hit F9, and because you've used fields for the chapter numbers, the chapters automatically renumber in sequence, as if by magic:

Important: don't do what I did a few weeks ago and accidentally delete your entire 100,000 word novel while in Select All. Thank God for backups.
If you want you can download this template with the formula field already in.

Final thought: does any of this actually help, other than the obvious time saved copying and pasting things around and renumbering chapters? Yes, I think it does, because it lets me sit down and look at the book from a god's eye view.
I can have a chapter breakdown on hand and immediately jump straight to the chapter I'm interested in. If I decide the prologue should really go at the end, I can do it in a couple of seconds, click and drag.
It gives me a bit more of the illusion that I'm in control, and if you ask any writer, they'll tell you that you can't put a price on that.

Monday 5 October 2015

Bloody Scotland 2015

Belatedly posting about this year's Bloody Scotland festival, which was my third time at BS, and possibly the best yet.

The weekend got off to a good start with the reception at the old town hospital, where I chatted to some familiar faces like Steve Mosby, Craig Robertson and Neil Broadfoot. After a quick dinner, I caught up with Jon Wood, Orion's fiction publisher  and fellow thriller scribe Steve Cavanagh, and we adjourned to shoot some pool.

I quickly realised why Jon had suggested this particular activity, and was backed up by one of his more noted authors.

Steve held up creditably, I remembered why I don't play pool.

Saturday was busy. After checking out the display in the bookshop...

...I realised I had left it too late to get a ticket for either Denise Mina or the New  Blood event, but managed to get to see Chris Brookmyre, who was brilliant value as usual. I spent most of the day in the bar (it was work, remember?) catching up with the rapidly-growing list of cool writer and bookish types I know, including Eva Dolan, Helen Giltrow, Susi Holiday, Steph Broadribb, Liz Barnsley, Sarah Pinborough, Simon Kernick, Ian Rankin, Tom Wood, Douglas Skelton, Craig Robertson, Alexandra Sokoloff, GJ Brown and James Oswald.

I caught Steve's Breaking the Law event late in the day, which was good fun as expected. With a Yorkshireman, a Belfaster and a New Yorker moderated by a Kiwi, it had the distinction of being, as Angela McMahon pointed out, the most strongly-accented panel of the festival.

After an excellent dinner in the Maharajah with Jon and Angela from Orion, we headed along to Stirling's cutely-named Curly Coo pub for one of the newest fixtures in the Bloody Scotland calendar: Crime at the Coo. This was a fringe event to the main awards dinner, but as it became clear whenever I asked anyone, it was the place to be on Saturday.

A stellar lineup of crime writers took a spot to do - as the incredibly-detailed brief had it - "something different". So among many, many other things we had Doug Johnstone accompanying Val McDermid on guitar, Chris Brookmyre reading a story, Steve Cavanagh doing poetry, and one of the high points of the weekend, the Slice Girls performing 'Cell Block Tango': an appropriately murderous number from Chicago.

I pitched in with my own "something different" - reading the classic one-star review The Killing Season got a few weeks ago, which also doubles as a handy summary of the book. Once again, I felt an awesome sense of pride that something I wrote could inspire such a fantastic hatchet job.

Sunday morning, and I suddenly remembered I still had a panel to do. Before that, I dropped in on Pitch Perfect - an annual event where half a dozen hopefuls each have three minutes to pitch their novels to a panel of publishers. All of the books sounded intriguing, and in the end there was a three-way tie for the winning entries. It all made me feel very glad that I didn't have to go through that terrifying experience.

I caught up with my co-panelists in the bar ahead of our thriller panel, and then it was time for Tom Wood, Gordon Brown, Simon Kernick and yours truly to take the stage. Once again, I was the newbie on the panel: Tom had four books under his belt, Gordon five and Simon an impressive fourteen.

It was a lively discussion, ranging from how we carry out our research to how we got published. Between us, we seemed to have been rejected by just about everyone in the business before finally landing a deal, and I was left awestruck at Simon's determination in particular: he spoke about shrugging off literally hundreds of rejections before finally getting a yes. It's certainly paid off for him. All of us were rejected a lot but refused to give up, so the message seemed to be it's important to be a stubborn bastard. There were some great questions on research and the benefits of a cover quote from Lee Child.

After that, we signed some books, posed for a Usual Suspects-esque lineup with the concurrent Edinburgh crime panel of Neil Broadfoot, James Oswald and Doug Johnstone.

A ticking clock on the babysitter meant I missed the big football match (I'm told it was a hard-fought draw this year), and just like that, Bloody Scotland was over for another year...