Like the host of a party that ran a little out of control viewing the morning-after desolation through hazy vision, the independently-published author has a little tidying up to do once the hectic final stages of production end and the latest book is finally out there..
With PI Flynn 6, Dog Waltz, now published it's time to start clearing up.
I generally succeed with this approach but there's always a final few glitches even at the proof-reading stage, entailing emergency patches and consequential re-proofing of the offending sections. And it's amazing how glaring inconsistencies can leap right out at the end, reminding the author of the thing he hopes the reader will never realise: that his story, and every small detail within it, is fiction, so that cause and effect are not seamlessly connected as in real life. A careless author can have his or her characters change height, hair colour or model of car in the turn of a page with no scientific explanation for how this could possibly have come about. In the case of the Eagle Eye receptionist cum admin and payroll executive, Lucy May, sudden changes may be expected. In most other narrative instances they are probably mistakes and need correcting no matter what the stage of proofreading or how close to publication day.
So when book production is finally complete, when the new novel is finally available to the reader, there's usually, in my case, some due diligence required in the tidying up. I need to store all late-arising notes and checks, along with the necessary recording of character detail that will carry forward to future instalments in the series. Continuity fails between books are no more desirable than those within a single story.
So that's what keeps me occupied once a book is out, along with all the non-writing-related jobs that have been pushed aside in the final busy week or so.
And only after every spilled drink has been mopped, stains wiped out, plates and glasses cleaned and cigarette butts tossed in the bin is there finally the silence and time to think of the next one.
Actually, I plan in advance as much as I can so the “next one” may be already planned and even up and running in early draft form, though there is nothing like the overlap the mainstream publisher demands of his or her authors where the writing might be two books ahead of the published titles. Independence brings a more serial approach: finish one, start the next.
But in the present case I've hit a divergence from the process. Because I've still not decided on which of three directions to go with my next outing. I still don't know whether my next novel will be Flynn No 7, a second stand-alone crime thriller or an entirely new series.
Actually, the series I mention would not be entirely new. The option I'm looking at is a prequel to PI Flynn's adventures. Flynn started life in the author's mind as a Metropolitan Police detective, with some interesting cases sketched out for his investigation. In the end, I opted for the simpler task of following his adventures post-police as a private investigator where the reduced dependency on detailed knowledge of the police organisation and procedures, and of related constraints, promised an easier ride. Retrospectively I believe this was a good decision. Still, there were some juicy investigations and even juicier political conflicts lined up for the earlier DI Flynn that would ensure he had the rough ride the reader so enjoys, and I'm still hoping that those episodes can be brought into the light.
The question is always: when is the right time? There never seems to be a right time to break off a series that readers seem happy with. But as a part-time writer I do the thing for fun, and it's no fun thinking of all the great ideas sat wasting on the shelf for want of a little risk-taking.
I'm hoping to get the next book out in Sept 2022, and if I deviate from the PI Flynn series that will be put at risk, with the distinct possibility that Chase Street wouldn't open its doors again before late 2023. The “Back sometime soon” on the agency's glass has never seemed less reliable.
So my next job is to take a hard look at the options. I've got until the end of October at the latest to make a decision and be sure that the story I've selected is viable. Probably only fellow writers with experience of working up plots from nothing will understand how tight a schedule that is. The writing itself, if I make the right decision, should be easy.
When (meaning if) I manage to lay out my plans for the next three novels I'll detail them here.
Always subject to proofing revision.
Followers of the P.I. Eddie Flynn series who check in here occasionally may be forgiven for thinking that I've gone AWOL. Blogs at two and a half year intervals aren't exactly stretching the author's PR resources, but then again the last time I looked the author didn't have any PR resources. Not of the time variety, anyway.
Time is something many of us had in abundance this last year and it sounds like it was the perfect opportunity for authors to race ahead and work their way through their upcoming lists. Sadly, not all such authors actually did race ahead - in my case I've actually spent less time writing as other things have taken priority. My output has remained stubbornly at one book per year.
Being independent, that annual cycle covers the whole thing, from selection of the story that best fits the catalogue (yes there's a list of candidates, Flynn and stand-alone crime/thrillers) through research and writing, editing, design and layout and proof reading. As an independent, you're not shielded from any of the process (up-side: you're not shielded from any of the royalties). Working every stage of a book with endless other priorities and distractions means that one-a-year is about as fast as it gets.
And within the list of “other activities” are those peripheral to the writing, such as reader email response, writing-related communications and admin, plus website maintenance and... blogs. I always answer emails, so no saving possible there, and all the other stuff is needed except for the blog and the hour or so it takes to update. But what's an hour or so in the scheme of things? Well, when you add a few of them together you get a few hours-or-so and that's a few hours-or-so that I could be writing. You get the picture.
I do log the time I spend writing (because I plan it and keep track) and if I look at productivity during relatively uninterrupted periods I see that the pace achieved would actually support publication of two novels per year without those other distractions, and I do keep eyeing that statistic, wondering whether things could be accelerated in future. Because they need to: I've two lists of stories waiting - the Flynn series and the stand-alone crime/thrillers mentioned above - and the struggle to select becomes more difficult with each book. I don't want to defer the next two stand-alones further but dare I interrupt the Flynn series which is actually bringing an income and - implied by the income and more importantly - has a readership who don't want to wait more than twelve months between instalments? I know from my own reading experience that once you're onto book four or five of a series you're there because that particular set of stories works for you, and you've developed a kind of addiction to slipping back into its familiar world periodically as an escape from the real one.
And talking of stand-alones, the single one I've released up to now - The Watching - is selling only slowly, and whilst 80% of Goodreads ratings are very positive (four- or five-stars) the book was the first to massively displease some readers to the extent of their begrudging even a single star. The book is very different from the Flynn series and maybe that is part of the problem. One of the inspirations behind it (thinking waaaay back) was Ed McBain's Candyland which was a similar departure from his 87th Precinct series and also took a critical panning, so I guess I'm in good company. Personally, I loved Candyland as a great stylistic narrative. But when the negative reviews pop up on Amazon there's no doubt that they affect sales. I read one review (I read them all, sooner or later) that wondered if The Watching was my first attempt, and criticised the book as difficult to read due to its lack of punctuation. Well the book was far from my first attempt and as far as I'm aware there's not a single sentence un-punctuated between the covers - although the sentences are longer than I'd use in the Flynn series, which is a stylistic thing for that series.
Can a simple change of style really throw readers off to the point where they find a book “unreadable”? I guess it can.
But I'm not worrying too much: several of my favourite literary novelists are panned by readers who just don't get along with the style. I recall Faulkner and Golding, amongst others, ducking the rotten tomatoes of knowledgable readers. So I won't be feeling too constrained in my next diversion from the Flynn series (as an independent, of course, there's no marketing dept to block me). Stand-alones are waiting in the wings. The conflict between them and the Flynn series is simply one of time and that's a conundrum I haven't figured out.
Hence, coming back to my original point, the blog-light website and AWOL author: just be assured that I've been here and the word-processor has remained fired up and working and that many more Flynn books are planned.
A final word, since I'm here to announce the very next one: we've set a September date for the publication of Flynn 6, Dog Waltz, and if you're reading this blog then there's a chance you're interested. If you are, and if you do read this latest book, I hope it gives you the escape into a familiar world. If it does, and if time passes quickly and entertainingly before your return to reality, then the book is a success and the series is a success.
September 15th is the date. Keep a look out.
If you've been waiting for the appearance of the fourth P.I. Eddie Flynn case file you'll be glad to know that we've finally gained access to the back room at Chase Street and pulled out another confidential folder from his high-security storage area. The result is Slow Light, published 25th November.
It's been a while since the last Flynn novel but as my email list readers will know I've taken a break to write a stand-alone crime novel The Watching, which came out in May this year (2018). The break, and concentration on both writing and a thousand other things, including a necessary renovation of my website, also explains why the site has been a little quiet the last year or so.
Now, the Eddie Flynn series seems to be selling very steadily, which tells me that readers are enjoying it, so why divert to something else?
The answer is that I started writing crime because I enjoy that, and what I enjoy (the type of story and narrative style I like writing) does spread over quite a spectrum and the only reason that Eddie Flynn has become the mainstay, apart from my having a key to Chase Street, was that when I wrote the first story back in 2012 it was selected by Moth Publishing as a winner in their bi-annual Northern Crime competition and was published with my signature on an options contract to deliver more of the same.
The deal fell through - Moth are a small independent and found that they needed to be frugal with their ongoing commitments to further titles - but the second Flynn story was mostly written and the momentum kind of kept me going right through into the third book. But at that point I took a breather and reached for my "pending" files, which contain more than a few stories waiting to see light of day, not all of them involving detectives, and out came The Watching. By necessity the book needed plenty of research and then validation by a friendly lawyer, and the gap before I was ready to start on my next in the Flynn series stretched more than I intended.
But Slow Light is a short and simple novel and we've made up some of the time and here it is. I hope you like it.
And the next book... that's another Flynn, as yet untitled. We're aiming for Autumn 2019, though the schedule for this one might be a little shaky since the story is a little longer and more involved than Slow Light but all here at House On The Hill will do our best. After that it's another break and another stand-alone, a crime thriller that's been lurking in the queue for at least two or three years, getting meaner with each delay. That one will be brought out in cuffs in 2020. That's my plan, anyway.
Until next time, thanks for reading,