Wrapping Marwen and String City

String City by Graham Edwards - Coming Soon

I always have mixed feelings when I come to the end of a writing project. When things have gone well, there’s satisfaction at finishing the job, but there’s also sadness that it’s come to an end … plus a dusting of fear that I maybe I didn’t do as well as I could have done.

Welcome to Marwen posterThis week it’s a double whammy. Firstly, I’ve just submitted the final draft of my latest Cinefex article – a comprehensive behind-the-scenes story on Welcome to Marwen. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film is based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp, who facilitated his own recovery from a brutal beating by constructing an entire miniature town and populating it with dolls. His dramatic photographs of his one-sixth scale world went on to gain recognition in the art world, proving the power of art therapy and the indomitability of the human spirit.

It’s a powerful story, and Zemeckis’s take on it is extraordinary – just as you’d expect from the visionary director of Back to the Future, Forrest Gump and Cast Away. A huge swathe of the film is set inside the miniature world, following the adventures of living, breathing doll characters, each of whom has a counterpart in the real world.  The backbone of my article is the story of how the filmmakers brought that miniature world to life, from set design and cinematography, to the physical construction of miniature sets and dolls, to virtual production and motion capture, to the painstaking art of visual effects. Of all the articles I’ve written for Cinefex, this may be the one of which I’m most proud.

You’ll be able to read my Welcome to Marwen article in Cinefex 162, out mid-December 2018, and available to pre-order now. I’m extra-excited because, as part of my research, I interviewed Robert Zemeckis himself. Rather than include that interview material within the main story, we’ve decided to pull it out as a standalone Q&A. So, two ‘Marwen’ articles for the price of one!

String City by Graham Edwards - draft cover. Illustration by Vince HaigThe second wrap of the week has seen me doing the final edit on my new novel String City, out January 2019. Actually, I’m not quite there – I still have one last copy edit to do, hopefully before the weekend. But, to all intents and purposes, my work on this book is done.

The novel is a hardboiled detective tale set in an otherworldly metropolis where the usual laws of physics don’t always apply. It’s fantasy, it’s noir, and it whisks its wisecracking interdimensional gumshoe hero to some pretty weird locations, as he tries to solve a mystery that threatens not only the neon-lit city in which he lives, but the entire surrounding cosmos.

Endings lead inevitably to new beginnings, and the two acts of closure I’ve engaged in this week are no exception. I’m already lining up my next Cinefex assignment, for an article that will appear in our February 2019 issue. I’ve also made a start on my next novel, which I’ll be working on through next year.

As for what these two new projects are about … you’ll just have to watch this space.

String City – Teaser Trailer

 

Regular visitors to this blog will know I have a new novel out in January 2019, titled String City. To keep your appetite whetted, I thought I’d treat you to a teaser trailer, which features original music by my good friend Pete Riley. Thanks, Pete! Watch out for the full book trailer coming later in the year. Here’s the blurb:

String City by Graham EdwardsIn an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things, a gumshoe – a “stringwalker” who can travel between realities – is hired to investigate an explosion at a casino.

He ends up on a frantic chase to track down and retrieve an unimaginable power source, while staying one step ahead of the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god, and the mysterious creature known as the Fool. If he fails, all things – in all realities – could be destroyed.

Just another day in String City.

String City will be published by Solaris Books on January 24, 2019. Preorder your copy now.

String City – Coming Soon

"String City" by Graham Edwards - draft cover. Illustration by Vince Haig.

January 24, 2019 – put the date in your diary. Why? Because it’s the publication date of my new novel, String City. Huzzah!

Yes, I know, it’s months away, but the darn thing’s just popped up on Amazon, which means you can preorder it right now. Or, at the very least, admire the first draft cover design, which features a rather gorgeous illustration by the deeply talented Vince Haig. Can’t wait to see the finished thing in all its glory.

If you want to know what the book’s about, you’re in luck. My splendid publisher, Solaris Books, has prepared this tantalising blurb:

String City is a hard-boiled, interdimensional detective romp of high suspense and action. China Mieville meets Dashiell Hammett.

In an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things, a gumshoe – a “stringwalker,” who can travel between realities – is hired to investigate an explosion at a casino. He ends up on a frantic chase to track down and retrieve an unimaginable power source, while staying one step ahead of the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god and the mysterious creature known as the Fool. If he fails, all things – in all realities – could be destroyed.

Just another day in String City.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know a little bit about the strange metropolis of String City already. It first appeared in my series of novelettes known collectively as The String City Mysteries, which chronicle some of my dimension-hopping detective’s earliest cases. If you’ve never read those original stories, don’t worry. The novel stands alone.

I’ll have lots more to say about String City over the coming months. Stay tuned.

Head, Heart, Blood, Guts

NotebookThere’s something bugging you, isn’t there? You’re thinking: “That wretched Edwards fellow has been suspiciously quiet about the fiction he’s writing lately. Has he found better things to do? Has he run out of ideas? Is he in a coma?”

The answers to the above questions, in order, are, “Yes (sort of). No. And no (at least, not when I last looked).”

The truth is, my naïve assumption that I could ghostwrite three novels in three years AND maintain my own output of new fiction was, uh, naïve. And since the ghostwriting is a paying job for which I’ve signed a contract in the requisite blood, sweat and tears, the ghostwriting comes first. (The fact that I’m having a whale of time doing it is just a big, fat bonus.)

So where does this leave the various other projects I’ve blathered about on the blog throughout the year?

Well, right now I have four live ones on the hook. My next opportunity to start reeling them in will come in the spring, during a six-month window of opportunity between ghost-books two and three. The drive to land all four is strong, but I can pull on only one rod at a time. To complicate the decision, each project is driven by a very different part of me.

HeadHead

My head says that, as soon as time and tide allow, I should get on with the sequel to Talus and the Frozen King. The novel is plotted, and I have around 20,000 words in the bank. The problem is that, having ignored it for several months, it’s started to smell. You know, the way fresh fish does when you leave it out on the counter. The stink isn’t too bad – yet – but it’s icky enough to make me believe my original plans for the book just weren’t quite right.

I’d always imagined that Talus, my Neolithic detective, would inhabit an ongoing series of short mystery novels, each well under 100,000 words, each self-contained, but with an overall series arc. Within this, book two was conceived as the middle story of a group of three. But I don’t think that’s the way to do it. I think I want to tell the next part of Talus’s story all in one go. I think book two will be twice as long as its predecessor, and cover a lot more ground.

That means one of two things. Either I have to start over. Or I’m thinking too much.

HeartHeart

My heart wants to write a novel I’ve had in my head for over fifteen years. It’s called Black Dog, and I’m enough in love with it that I want to write it right now. I also want it to be perfect, which it never will be.

I’ve known the story’s shape for a long time, but I’ve always struggled to find the way into it. My most recent draft – of the first five chapters – was getting close, but other pressures forced me to put it aside. However, the forced separation has brought us closer … and, I think, shown me the doorway at last. It’s a simple enough thing. When I tell you, it’ll sound like little more than a writer’s conceit. But I reckon it’s the key.

In my head, Black Dog has always been a sprawling novel, written in the third person, with multiple POV characters and a light authorial voice. But that’s not right. Sure, the story sprawls, but it’s really a very intimate tale, and I’m coming to believe that it wants to be written in the first person. It may even benefit from a “nested story” framing device – you know, like those classic fireside yarns in which the narrator first tells you he has a story you’re not going to believe, then proceeds to tell you anyway.

BloodBlood

My blood always runs faster when a project is near to completion. The fish on my hook with the quickest pulse is my weird detective novel String City.

Actually, the manuscript for this has been complete for some time, but I did an extensive rewrite over the summer that never quite got finished. I have just 30,000 words or so to revise for the damn thing to be complete, and as you probably know, when the end is in sight, there’s nothing you want more than to get there.

GutsGuts

Next year is the 20th anniversary of my first novel Dragoncharm. It’s been out of print for years but now, for the first time, I have a complete etext version of it. In 2015, I want to self-publish it in digital form. Doing that will require me to (a) proof and copy-edit the text (b) design a cover (c) format and publish the ebook (d) promote it.

My gut says, “Do it!”

So there you have it. Head and heart. Blood and guts. Four parts of my body competing for attention while my poor old fingers continue to slave away with the paying work. Four fish wriggling on the hook. Which will I attempt to land first?

Kodama – a String City micro-story

String CitizenLast summer, I live-tweeted a piece of micro-fiction called Kodama. It’s an ultra-condensed story set in the twisted world of String City. The Twitter account I used to broadcast the story – @stringcitizen – never picked up many followers so I’ve collated all the tweets and run them together here as a single narrative.

There are plenty of folk out there experimenting with Twitter fiction. One of my favourites is @jeffnoon. Kodama was my first attempt at presenting a coherent story in bite-sized chunks, and I’m not really sure how effective it is, especially having lost its ‘live broadcast’ gimmick. It may also too much on familiarity with the String City universe – which is a weird place at the best of times. If you think it works, let me know with a comment below. And don’t hold back if you think the story stinks – I can take it.

Kodama

3.01pm Isembard Farthing’s in the office. String City’s shadiest lawyer. Hired me to serve an eviction notice.

3.05pm The Mayor wants to evict a kodama. Kodamas are tree spirits. This one lives in an oak tree outside the new City Hall.

3.10pm The oak tree blocks the sun outside the Mayor’s window. Guess why the big guy wants the kodama evicted?

3.15pm Checked the planning records. City Hall opened last month. The oak tree’s 7,000 years old. Due to be felled. This job stinks.

3.20pm Walking to City Hall. Wearing snowshoes. The drifts make String City look like it’s been iced by the gods.

3.25pm Standing under the oak tree. It’s forty storeys high. Two blocks wide. In autumn they evacuate the neighbourhood.

3.30pm I brought a Teach Yourself Kodama phrase book. Tried an opening incantation. No response. Tried kicking the tree instead.

3.35pm The kodama’s materialised. An old woman’s face moulded in the tree bark. Big as a Buick. Eyes like pools of sap.

3.40pm I served the kodama with the eviction. She chewed it up, spat it out. Now the Mayor’s Guard’s turned up. With guns.

3.45pm Isembard Farthing’s appeared. He’s talking on a two-way radio. The Mayor’s voice is coming from the earpiece.

3.50pm The Guard’s setting explosives round the tree. Sap’s gushing from the kodama’s mouth. Melting the snow. Also the street.

3.55pm Turning my coat inside out. Once, twice, three times. Now it’s made of sap-proof gaberdine. Up to my knees in acidic tree-juice.

4.01pm Sap’s still rising. City Hall’s lower storeys are dissolving. So’s the Mayor’s Guard. Glad I’ve got my coat.

4.05pm The kodama’s speaking to me. It’s asking if my coat’s got pockets. At first I don’t get it. Then I understand. I say yes.

4.10pm The explosives have gone off. The oak tree’s toppling. Giant roots breaking through the street. Time to run.

4.15pm The tree’s falling on City Hall. The Mayor’s running out. He’s naked. So’s his secretary. I give him poor odds on re-election.

4.20pm Woke up in a snowdrift. Flying branch must have knocked me cold. The oak tree’s down. City Hall too.

4.25pm The Mayor’s in cuffs. Farthing’s vanished. Typical lawyer. Damn shame about the tree. Snow’s started coming down again.

4.31pm Back at the office. Pulled a broken branch out of my coat pocket. Something’s still in there: a single acorn.

4.35pm There’s a face in the acorn. An old lady. The kodama. She says thanks. I say no problem.

4.40pm My office is shabby. There’s a desk, a filing cabinet, a coffee machine. Now there’s a plant pot in the corner too.

4.45pm The acorn’s started to grow. Give it 7,000 years it’ll look pretty fine. Ever seen a sapling smile? I have.

4.50pm Reckon I’ve earned a shot of bourbon. Time to kick back, wait for my next case. And watch the oak flowers grow.

Writing update – a tactical retreat

NotebookFor the past month or so I’ve been forging ahead on a new manuscript, a sequel to my neolithic detective novel Talus and the Frozen King. The story’s well plotted and I’ve been having a ball putting down the words. Seventy pages in, it’s become painfully obvious they’re the wrong words. So I’ve dumped them all in an archive folder, sobbed quietly in a corner and made ready to start again.

There’s a strong argument to say I should just carry on. Storm the first draft as if it’s the Normandy landings and rely on the medics to patch up the damage later. Trouble is, I set down on the wrong beach. Better to make a tactical retreat and come in again, this time when the tide’s right and there’s a favourable wind. In layman’s terms, that means a few weeks from now.

In the meantime, I’ve picked up a manuscript I wrote a couple of years ago called String City. It’s a fantasy novel about a private investigator who’s good with dimensions (some of you may have read the short fiction I’ve written about him). This time it’s the ending that’s broken. Serendipitously, at the same moment I stalled on Talus and the S_____ S____ (no, I’m not giving the title away yet), I finally worked out what was wrong with String City.

I’ve given myself the next few weeks to reshape it. First I need to write around 20,000 words of new material for a brand new finale. Then I need to track all the continuity bombs this will inevitably launch backwards through the narrative. By the time I’ve done that, I might actually have something worth reading.

And I’ll be ready to invade the stone age again.

The many lives of a writer – 3

The Wooden Baby illustration by Michael Komarck

Most people are like cats – they live not just one life, but many. Writers are no exception. Here’s how my third writing life saw everything change.

Life 3 – Size Isn’t Everything

After cutting the cord with Voyager Books, I wrote a dark fantasy novel called Panopticon. The title referred to a magical prehistoric structure that, from the outside, appeared to be unbroken stone. When you went inside, however, you found yourself faced with twelve windows, each of which looked out on another world. The story was told through the eyes of an illustrator called Armstrong Campbell who discovered that, just by drawing what he saw, he could summon living creatures through the windows and into our world.

I wrote Panopticon longhand in half-hour bursts while sitting in a train carriage on the way to my day job. A totally different way of working for me, and a process I came to love. It took about a year. When the manuscript was done, I packaged it up and sent it along with my bibliography of published work to a longish list of agents I’d compiled. I got a little interest and plenty of rejections, and finally hooked up with Dot Lumley of the Dorian Literary Agency. Dot duly sent the manuscript on a tour of likely publishers, none of whom liked it nearly as much as we did. [Read more…]

The String City Mysteries book trailer

I just spent a happy Saturday afternoon putting together a book trailer for The String City Mysteries. Video by me, music courtesy of Kevin McCleod (featured tracks are Epic Unease and Scheming Weasel).

Just published: Syren

Syren by Graham EdwardsThe third of my fantasy detective ebooks has just rolled off the virtual production line. Like The Wooden Baby and Dead Wolf in a Hat before it, Syren is that most handy of things – a novelette. It’s the perfect length for the writer (so much quicker to produce than those pesky novels) and just as convenient for the reader who needs something to read on the train, or in the park, or in the bath (just don’t drop your ereader in the water or you’ll die a horrible death … wait, do those things run on mains electricity or not?)

Talking of electricity, in this latest story, my wise-cracking gumshoe comes up the business tycoon who runs String City’s power plants. You don’t want to know what he uses for fuel. There’s also a beautiful woman who happens to be half-bird. When she sings, for the sake of your everlasting soul you’d better hope you’ve got your earplugs in. It’s a tricky case, mostly because it hinges on that most mysterious of things.

Love.

Syren is published by 40k Books.

The Wooden Baby

The Wooden Baby by Graham EdwardsDang, but things move fast these days. No sooner do I update the blog to trail The Wooden Baby than I have to write another post to announce its publication. With that in mind, I’ll keep this short and simply direct you to the page that tells you all about my new ebook, a short story available now at a bargain price from the gorgeous 40k Books. If you want to skip the info and just buy the damn thing, here are some links:

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