I’ve been talking to myself just to suggest that I’m selfish

One of my very favourite songs of all time – GETTING AWAY WITH IT by Electronic, the late 80s side project of NewOrder’s Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr, then late of the Smiths, featuring Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys – features the line “I’ve been talking to myself just to suggest that I’m selfish.”

What a curious way to start a blog post, you might think. Well, I might or might not be selfish, but I have been talking to myself. On purpose.

One of the best writing craft books I read last year was by David Morrell, author of FIRST BLOOD, the low-key novel that kicked off the Rambo mega-franchise (God, I hate that phrase). It’s pretty and very insightful, particularly if you ever sell your books to the Film industry (I’m not calling them movies). [No – I’ve not sold anything to Film/TV, so don’t ask.]

One of the techniques he uses in the book is to have a written conversation with yourself about a book, sort of like “Good morning, David. How are you today?” / “I’m good, David, though I’m struggling with my new book.” / “Tell me about it.” / “Well, I forgot to put a story in.” Something like that. The idea is you talk to yourself about the book, refining the questioning and the idea as you go but leaving an ‘audit trail’ (Argh) of what you’ve discussed, which could be minor fragments of things you can pick up on the way, or if you get into a dead end you can go back.

Anyway, I thought it was madness and forgot about it. Until I wrote FUTURE SHOCK, a sci-fi thriller I’ve been working on for a good number of years – I wrote it as a short story in 2009, I think, then dusted it off in September with a view to turning it into a novella. It turned into a novel. But I forgot to include a story. Good bits happened in the opening act, then the hero got a job and got bored and quit it and went on holiday (which meant I could show the world 150 years from now) then all the story was wedged into the last third. I tried unpicking it on Monday, having turned in a first draft of CRASH INTO MY ARMS, and came into a cold sweat and a grumpy mood. I couldn’t get it to work.

I had a look at maybe redrafting SHOT THROUGH THE HEART (which meant re-outlining the story from the start) then went to the gym in the evening and beasted the weights. Sitting in the hot tub after (at the gym, not in my house – I’m not like some authors), I started to think about the problem. Turned out I was having a conversation with myself about it in my head. I showered and got changed then sat with my phone and typed into Evernote while my girlfriend dried her hair.

And it worked. Over the next day, I had a conversation with myself where I’d ask questions and respond then chip away at the answer until I’d made things simpler and more elegant. I took a few goes at it, refining my questioning until I got to something resembling a story. But it’s all sorted now, I hope. I’ve got a very solid story now in place of the black hole at the centre of a lot of writing. A very weird experiment but it really worked and it’s something I’ll do again.

How does it work? I think one of the things that have worked for me in the past has been talking to people about problems I’ve got with my books, which gets me to a good place having talked about it. This is talking about it in a way you can review after the fact. Mr Morrell finds himself starting writing the book – that’s not my style, daddio, but it’s a good way of working, certainly to get the central idea concrete and go all Occam’s razor on it; usually plots fall apart because they’re too complex – good plots are simple ideas executed in a complex way. Everyone’s actions and motivations have to be clear. The other thing is I’m a professional writer now and writing dialogue is what I do most days, so it’s something I’m good at. It’s practise for that and it’s a good way of problem solving.

— Ed

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Writing craft interview with me

Just a quick note to say there’s an interview gone up with some chancer called Ed James over on Scots-American author Allan Mann’s website –

http://www.allanlmann.com/blog/insights-from-ed-james/

It focuses mainly on writing craft and how I manage the stupid number of projects I do, so it might not appeal to those looking for the release date of COWBOYS AND INDIANS or whatever…

Cheers,

Ed

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SNARED by Ed James – available for pre-order now

Screenshot 2015-01-12 12.31.13News at last!

SNARED, my Dundee-based police procedural starring DS Vicky Dodds, has found a home with Thomas & Mercer, part of Amazon Publishing. This took a wee while to get going but we finally signed the contract in August, did the editing between September and December and now it’s ready to pre-order. That’s pretty fast for a publisher.

It’ll be out 28-Apr-2015, priced £3.99 for the ebook and £8.99 for the paperback. The ebook is available for pre-order on Amazon NOW (the paperback will also be available through other retailers) -

Amazon UK | US

It’s the best thing I’ve done (in my opinion), building on all the Cullen novels and doing something extra with that. And with a lot less swearing. Vicky was a pretty interesting character to write and seems to be quite well liked by the early readers.

Hope you enjoy it.

Cheers,

– Ed

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Ed James’ five favourite novels of 2014

I’ve been really bad at blogging last year. Too much writing and editing. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more. So, here we go – I’ll have my review of 2014 coming up later in the week sandwiched with this and some big news (if you’re on the mailing list, you’re going to get it today).

Anyway, my favourite books of 2014… It was a tough year, reading-wise, as I was doing so much writing and self-editing. I couldn’t look at words in July. I just couldn’t process them, but that’s another tale. Anyway, I did manage to love some books, so here’s a list of the top 5 things I did enjoy. As you can see, my tastes are reasonably diverse…

Notable mentions go to Alex Sokoloff (HUNTRESS MOON) and Craig Robertson (RANDOM) [always good when the nice crime writers I meet actually write awesome books, though those books were published a few years ago] and the four Stuart MacBride novels I read this year (one of the very few writers who I can’t find anything I’d edit). Also OLD MAN’S WAR and REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi, which really freshen scifi for me, tight stories rather than tracts of “world building” harking back to the glory days of Philip K Dick, when scifi novels were as long as other novels and not the sort of thing you’d use to prevent entry to your property. I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten about… Oh, Douglas Lindsay’s third DS Hutton novel was a damn good read.

Anyway, the top 5 is as follows –

5 John Scalzi LOCK IN
I’ll be honest and say this has possibly the worst opening in a book I’ve ever read. Well, that I didn’t give up on. That it’s on this list should show something… One of my favourite TV shows of the year was the sadly cancelled ALMOST HUMAN, and this filled that void – a future police procedural. The buddy cop pairing of the seasoned female cop and the avatar of the locked-in male officer gave a new take on the dynamics and showed a plausible world, rather than dumped forty pages of tell about it. Really enjoyable. After that first chapter.
Amazon Link

4 Joe Abercrombie HALF A KING
I have an uneasy relationship with fantasy novels. The works of JRR Tolkien really left me cold – I took about six goes to get past the nonsense with the dwarves in THE HOBBIT and the tedium of THE LORD OF THE RINGS in book form makes the films seem that bit better (yeah, shove it) – and I’ve never really got into the genre, aside from some China Mieville and Michael Moorcock. This book was my entry point – focused and immediate storytelling from the start, the world of the SHATTERED SEA shown rather than told. This is aimed at a young adult audience, so it’s maybe a bit light and relies on too many coincidences, maybe, but it’s certainly hooked me on his work. I’ve spent the first couple of weeks of 2014 getting stuck right into his earlier (and better) works.
Amazon Link

3 Eva Dolan LONG WAY HOME
I write police procedurals for a living. It’s hard to read them without either 1) wanting to edit the hell out of them, 2) picking at the research errors or 3) not ripping them off. Ahem. This is one of those books that came out of nowhere and just blew me away. Very modern, and reflecting the racist hell England is in danger of becoming. Not afraid to tackle big issues and her style is electric when writing immediate scenes, a masterclass in letting the reader sense the book.
Amazon Link

2 Gerard Brennan UNDERCOVER
I started this not expecting much but it soon gripped me from the sheer pace of the start. A tight tale of kidnapping and greed, Brennan doesn’t try anything flashy, just delivers a solid tale and does it well. Vivid characters, sharp dialogue and action I could be more than bothered to follow (I usually skip action scenes). It gives a fresh spin on Belfast, the Troubles only a looming menace to its gangland children. (Note – this is published by Blasted Heath, co-run by my agent, but I don’t think there’s a conflict of interest.)
Amazon Link

1 Nic Pizzolatto GALVESTON
TRUE DETECTIVE was the TV highlight for me this year, that rare show we’d catch as near to live as to be able to fast forward through the adverts. GALVESTON is what the show’s writer did before, a noir so dark it sucks all light in. I read this in one sitting on the train to London in March when I was in the middle of the editing slog, having done a full redraft of FIRE IN THE BLOOD, and it’s testament to the quality that it dragged me put of my funk and made me focus on just reading. Incredible.
Amazon Link

I’m trying to read a lot more this year, so maybe I’ll get up to a top ten…
— Ed

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What the Allstars feel is the real deal…

Untitled

Lo-Fidelity Allstars – a cracking band

Just got a note from Amazon saying I’m October’s 14th most borrowed author in the UK – get a nice wee drop of cash for it. Many thanks to any Kindle Unlimited users who’ve borrowed the books.

(In other news, I’m beavering away on other projects ahead of shutting down body and mind for Christmas – I’ll do some more enbloggening soon)

— Ed

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WINDCHILL out now

Finally – the book’s out now. Available from Amazon – http://mybook.to/edjameswindchill – £2.99/$4.99/fractions in other currencies.

— Ed

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WINDCHILL – ten days left / excerpt

WINDCHILL-Kindle-2014-09-27-smlSo, that’s the editing done for WINDCHILL now. The book is now uploaded and firing through the Amazon pipes – for some reason, they want ten days grace (previously it’s been 12 hours or so).

Been a bit of an ordeal this one – as ever, I underestimated the amount of work involved, but we definitely got there. My poor editor, Rhona, has been tearing her hair out and sighing as much as one of my early drafts.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s bought the book ahead of any reviews – the sheer number is mind bending. Given this is my day job, it really helps quell the pre-release jitters.

This has been an experiment with the ability to pre-order – Amazon let me trial it in April when I didn’t have any books due for release before they pushed it out to every KDP user. I’ll blog about my experiences once the bugger’s out.

Oh, and Crime Fiction Lover have it on their radar of new releases. One of my very favourite review sites.

And here’s something for you, the first chapter –

He tried to keep in the shadows as Steven opened the front door. Blinking, he stepped back as the taxi swept past the house before it trundled up the hill, headlights illuminating the wet street. He waited for it to pass and the dim glow of the street lights to return. “Can you not hurry up?”

A man passed them on the opposite side of the street, coat tucked tight against the rain, looking overweight. Had he seen them? His breath quickened.

“Got it.” Steven fumbled with the front door, finally nudging it open. “Sorry about that. Too much to drink, obviously. Come on in.”

“Thought you’d never ask.”

Steven looked down at the cream carpet in the long hall. “Can you at least take off your shoes?”

“No.” He smiled before walking through to the living room, flicking on the mother and child light by the sofa, but remained standing. “I’m fine as I am.”

Still standing in the hall, Steven reached down to untie his own laces. “Can I get you a drink?”

“Now that would be good.”

Steven marched across the wide room, switching a side light on. He paused in front of an oak cabinet behind a leather recliner, like he was going to say something, before pulling down the horizontal cabinet door, revealing a sizeable collection of spirits bottles. His hand hovered over them before settling on a whisky, black label embossed with silver. He sniffed it then poured healthy measures into a pair of glasses. “Here you go. Hope it’s still to your taste.”

“Dunpender, right?”

Steven took a sip and nodded, eyes staring into space. “Right.”

He took the glass and wandered over to stand just to the left of the window, before sniffing the drink. Pure darkness. “Still think it’s the best whisky in Scotland, Steven?”

“I like it. Get through a bottle every month.”

“That’s a lot of drinking.”

“Helps with the stress. You know how it is.”

“Don’t I just.” He finished the whisky in one, the liquid burning his tongue and throat. Sucking in a mouthful of air, letting it dampen the heat. Bliss. He held the glass up to the light and inspected the lines of the crystal.

Steven finished his dram and put his own glass down, hand shaking. “What is it you want?”

“A chat. One that can’t wait. It’s important.”

“Why?”

“It just is.”

“Come on. You dragged me from the pub to hear whatever it is.”

“You’ll want another drink.”

“Do I?”

“Aye, I think so.”

“I’ve had a skinful already.” Steven turned his back and poured out another measure of Dunpender, his head bowed. “Fine.”

He spotted a crystal quaich, Dunpender 100 etched into it, next to another tall bottle matching the design but gold replacing silver. “Nice little trinket you’ve got there.”

Steven ran a finger over it and nodded. “Cost me a pretty penny.”

“Disappointed you’re not opening that one for me.”

Steven sighed as he looked down at his glass. “Like I’ve got anything to celebrate.”

“Quite.” Taking a deep breath, he set the empty glass down on the dark brown window sill. He lashed out, connecting the base of his hand with the back of Steven’s neck, forcing him against the cabinet, fingers clutching at the glass doors. Steven fell forwards, grasping for the hinge as he sprawled across the machined wood flooring, the bottle of Dunpender tumbling and smashing, a pool of gold liquid forming around his prone body.

Stepping forward, he followed through with kicks to Steven’s stomach, head, balls. He kicked the head again. And again.

He knelt down, breathing heavily, fingers crawling up Steven’s throat, clasping the pulse point. His heartbeat was faint.

Still alive. Good.

*

He dropped the toolbox in the middle of the living room, the trail of oil muddying the bleached wood of the floor, before sifting through the tools inside.

Pliers. Excellent.

Hammers. Two of them. Which one? The ball-peen for definite, its small head giving precision. The claw hammer was all about brute force. Maybe he’d need both.

He rummaged through the second layer of tools, finding a long cord, the sort used on a drying green. That’s the ticket.

He got to his feet and untied the kitchen cloths on Steven’s wrists, replacing them with the cord, the solid knot at the back of the chair just out of reach.

Breathe. Slowly, deeply. Take your time.

He picked up the glass of water from the coffee table and tipped it over Steven’s head. He didn’t wake up.

He raised the hammer, bringing it down on Steven’s middle finger.

Steven’s eyes shot open. He screamed, a primal roar from the pit of his gut, his gaze darting around the room.

The noise curdled his own stomach. He swallowed, his throat constricted. “So you’re awake then?”

“What the fuck are you doing?”

“Come on, Steven, you know what I’m doing and why.”

“I can pay you.”

“Can you really?”

“Please, how much do you want?”

“This isn’t about money. At least not to me. No, it’s about the betrayal of trust.” He reached for the pliers, gripping the fingernail on Steven’s left thumb and yanked. The scream turned his stomach anew.

*

One, two, three…

Two minutes – one hundred and twenty – that’s all he’d allow himself to enjoy his work.

He stayed in the shadows, watching the yellow flickering in the living room and kitchen windows at the back. The briefest smell of charcoal and petrol.

Glancing around the street, he couldn’t see anyone.

One nineteen, one twenty. Time up.

A cough. Somewhere to the left.

He looked around. There – a fat man stood a few doors down, focused on his phone as a small dog ratted around the bushes of the compact front garden, cocking its leg as it sniffed the air. It was the man who’d almost spotted him as Steven made a hash of getting in.

The dog sensed him, its brown eyes locking on, its mouth curling.

He stepped back into the shade. The dog’s bark rattled around the small space.

“Benji, will you bloody quit it?”

One, two, three…

After sixty he peered out, the phone’s backlight illuminating the man’s face, thumbs working at the screen, the dog pulling the lead tight.

He clenched the claw hammer, hoping he wouldn’t have to resort to another murder just to get away.

“Come on, Benji.” The man tugged at the dog and led him inside.

He let out a breath, watching it mist in the cold air, before walking off. He headed for home, his work complete.

He allowed himself another glance at the house, the flames now visible and obvious to anyone who cared to look.

Pre-order the book from Amazon – http://mybook.to/edjameswindchill – £2.99/$4.99/fractions in other currencies. The pre-order price will be maintained for 90+ days.

— Ed

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