What if the end of this blog was just the beginning?

Well it is, in a round about way. As the official site is now up and running, this blog will no longer be updated. You can find all my usual stuff at cerialowe.com .

Hope to see you there soon, friends.

 

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The Road Taken…

The editing journey is almost at an end. That long, long road of review.

Today I submitted the final copy edits after a final re-read. There were so many things to consider and reconsider – what would I change if I were starting again. Mostly, not a lot. The story is makes it what it is – kind of like life. One fundamental change can alter the course of the whole journey completely. Sometimes for the better, but not always. It is, where it is.

There’s always things to tidy up – loose ends and ugly phrases, things that should have been done differently or better – but as it stands, it tells a story of where things are right now.

Which leads me to the next chapter. Something different, something new. Book two, currently in first draft will have a vibe of something else – because, through the process of Paradigm, I have had so many different thought about how the world could be in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian way. For sure, I think there will need to be coffee in book 2.

The whole review process has had me think about what’s important – to the storyline, the characters and the philosophy. I’ve thought about the readers, the reviewers, the publishers and the people who inspired this but in the end, sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s important to others – in a book or otherwise.

It’s the road you end up taking, for whatever reason, not the road that you don’t.

PARADIGM will be released by Bookouture on 13 June 2014 and will be available via Amazon.

Also, there’s a crazy new website at: www.cerialowe.com

 

 

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Paradigm: What if the end was just the beginning?

That’s the working tagline of the book, by the way, not just me trying to make a point.

So, last night I finished (what I hope) is the last round of structural edits. I introduced a new character, fundamentally changed an existing one and altered the ending. Like you do. But now, finally, I think it all hangs together. Without giving too much away, it’s the first part of a dual-narrator dystopian trilogy that explores the life you’re born into, versus the life you live. How much of who we are is decided by genetics, upbringing, choices that are made for us and, the weather. The one thing no-one can depend upon.

Which got me to thinking – how much of any of what we know can we depend upon? Nothing is fixed, everything is transitory. Change is everywhere. Sure, there are people who have always been there but were they always the same? Will they always be the same? Then all of that got a bit too intangible so I had a beer.

The two most exciting things about writing this book (aside from clinching the publishing contract) were

a) seeing the cover for the first time (and it is mighty fine, my friends, mighty fine) When we’ve fixed a publication date there will be a media reveal. #iamsoexcited and

b) writing the acknowledgements page. That, for me, really felt like the end of the book and the start of something new. I had to think about all the people that had supported, loved, cared for and listened to me and name them all. Well, not all, otherwise the book would have been twice as long. But thinking about the whole journey of the book made me more than sentimental. In the end, I decided to make an overall dedication to the person that inspired elements of one of the main characters, Alice. That person doesn’t know it yet but they’re going to be somewhat shocked, potentially.

Anyway, the point of endings is that they are almost always followed by the beginning. When the book is finally out of my hands and into the world, I think a part of me will be terrified of what people will think of it, and a part of me will be bereft at the loss of control and a part of me will be excited to start something new. Book two, presumably as it’s part of a trilogy. And possibly something else…

The point is, writing emulates life. It’s a bumpy, exciting, disappointing, strenuous, exhilarating journey. Except when you’re writing you invent the people you meet along the way and have them be exactly what you want them to be most of the time. Except, for me, Alice wasn’t like that. She was herself, even when I wanted her to be something different. There’s a moral in there somewhere, I’m sure.

So, the short answer to the ‘When can I read it?’ is – it looks like we could be on for publication in June.

In other news, the short story Scotch & Sundays will be appearing in Prole Magazine in April and, much further down the line, I will be appearing at Alderney Literature Festival in 2015. I will also be still working my ass off at my day job as a Programme Manager until the day comes where I quit Change Management for a better life.

But, right now, whether it’s the start or the end, no life is better than one where you love what you’re doing. And, right now, I do. #amnolongerediting

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Hashtag Am Editing: #AmProcrastinating #SocialMedia #2014

One of the best things about social media is that you get to see what other people are doing when they should be doing something else. Like watching my corporate colleagues posting cute selfies on Facebook when they’ve slipped away from their desks and knowing that the picture was blatantly taken in the toilets or viewing endless streams of other friends who are claiming to be doing chores but are clearly bolting back to the PC to check other people’s tweets between loading the dishwasher and getting the kids off to school. We are, inherently, existing in a culture of multi-task-mania. At least I know I am not alone.

For people who write, the hashtags #amwriting or #amediting generally indicate what they should be doing. Or say they are doing. But, by virtue of the fact that they are on social media, writing / editing is probably one of many things they are doing. Sometimes, for the whole day. Some writers are more productive on social media than they are on their books. Hundreds of tweets a day #am editing. #areyoureally? Some great, inspiring, exciting tweets and I suppose tweets #arewriting but not what we are supposed to or claiming to be. Guilty as charged. It’s a procrastination in punctuation shaped clothing.

So, with that out of the way, I really am editing. Without the hashtag, I really am. The final edits on the first of the three novels are well underway and by the second week in January, with a good wind and no social media behind me I will have all the feedback from my editor & publisher incorporated into the structural edit and a good third of the second book underway. The power of having an external reader’s feedback is amazing – it’s given me the opportunity to explore some areas of the trilogy earlier on and create full story arcs that span all three books. Although I have had some fairly confused periods during December, the dark fog is clearing. #amprogressing #honest

But the temptation to get sidetracked is powerful. Having spent eighteen months getting really invested in the short story market and with three new pieces being published in early 2014 (Looking for Amber in Writers’ Forum mid-January, The Spit & Swear Promise in The Rubery Short Story Anthology, February and Scotch & Sundays in Prole Magazine, April), it’s so tempting to do what I have become to know. I’m also toying with releasing a short story collection in 2014, including some new unreleased stuff. But it’s so different to the trilogy, I don’t want to confuse myself. And that’s easily done.

Plus, there’s the blog. When I set up this page a year ago, I had intended to update it much more often than I do but I had absolutely no idea that 2013 would turn out to be the year that it did! There was an aspiration to keep tinkering away at short stories and to maybe get something published – but I had no idea that a commitment to writing stuff that somehow reflected my thoughts and feelings would end up in an amazing publishing deal and some pretty incredible and totally unbelievable competition success.

But I digress. I have a week’s worth of edits left to complete and, yet again, I am on social media.

I am supposed to be editing, for frack’s sake. Have a happy, productive and creative 2014. Signing off.

#amdigressing #amnotediting #amgoingonfacebook #amtweeting #amhappy 🙂

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Dreaming the Life: On Book Deals, Fear and Nostalgia

On 22 November, I signed a 3 book deal contract with Bookouture for a dystopian trilogy set in post-apocalyptic London.

There, I said it. Or rather, wrote it. Since I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go on and on but one thing that’s become really clear to me over the last eighteen months is that it’s great to have a dream but if you don’t take any actions consistent with it, that dream will never happen. I’d always tinkered around the edges a little, writing bits and pieces but, since I was sixteen, I hadn’t written anywhere near the volume / quality of work required to make any kind of dream come vaguely true. 

I’m not saying that this is true of everyone but, when our dreams take a tumble, sometimes it’s really easy to give up. I know that I had more invested in being an aspiring writer than in a failed one, so it followed – if I didn’t really try then I would never have to deal with being a failure. My job / relationship / career / kids-I-don’t-have / travel could all be deemed to be more important than following what I have always wanted to do. And so I quite quietly and quite successfully dreamed of being an author, a writer. Until I got a wake-up call.

I won’t go into exactly what it was, but what I really learned about myself was that I was too afraid of failure, to try hard enough to succeed. And what if I did succeed and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be? If I had to face the disappointment of my lifetime ambition not being cracked up to what it was supposed to be, THEN WHAT? 

What was clear was how I had just let my dream of being a writer get hidden under my work, career, clubbing and other stuff. So I made a decision. I was going to try. And see where it got me.

I started on the short story competition circuit and had to read and write A LOT before I got a style that was worth developing. I wrote countless stories that even just a year and a half later, I am more that a bit embarrassed of. And with that came countless rejections and competition feedback that was *nice* but not really good enough. Gradually, over time, I got a bit better and started to get short-listings and placings in smaller competitions, and then national competitions. And then, everything started to take off.

When I received an email from Bookouture saying they were interested in publishing my book, I had to read it several times. Not only were they interested in the concept of my book and the world I had created but they had actually read it. Like, all 320 pages of it! There’s no other feeling in the world than somebody saying they like something you’ve written so much that they actually want to publish it. I guess it’s like someone wanting to marry your son or daughter. Or is that just a weird analogy?

So now begins a whole new journey. The final draft of the first book is due with my publisher in January and then, all being well, will be published in April. In addition, The Spit and Swear Promise, a story shortlisted in the Rubery International Short Story Award 2013 will be in print from (I believe) February 2013 in their anthology of shortlistees. I am beyond excitement at both of these prospects! In the meantime, some snippets of pre-published work are available by clicking here

What’s next? Well, so far, I am part way through making the changes my editor has suggested and about 10% of the way through part II of the Paradigm Trilogy. Watching the story arc over three books (which will work out at almost 300,000 words) is a terrifying prospect – and the potential for failure is huge – but not something I can entertain. Because now everyone knows what I am up to – there are even news articles on line about the signing (links to them are here). They compare my new work to The Hunger Games & Divergent. When I read that I knew I had to keep going. So I won’t stop – mostly because I can’t now 🙂

Anyways, that’s not to say this whole thing has been easy or that it is in any way over. What I have noticed is that wherever I am on this journey, there’s always somewhere else to get and someone better to be. And after that, there will be somewhere else. It’s stopped being directly about success or failure, as trite as it sounds, it’s about finding out what I will allow myself to be capable of, if I throw myself into it.

Things are already different. I am not the person I was a year ago, and definitely not the one I was two or three years ago. I feel I am getting back to something, returning to a past and doing something I should have always done.

I am nostalgic for the future*

 

*Fereidoun M. Esfandiary (FM2030)

 

 

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Those Were the Days: The 40 best songs from 1961 – 1969

In a brief break from writing, I have been spending the bank holiday immersing myself in the music of the 1960s – because ever since I can remember, I wanted to have been born in 1950 (I wasn’t – I was born in 1975): for the sole reason of being a teenager in 1967/8 and experiencing the fundamental shift in the music of that time. One of my earliest memories is of dipping my hands deep into a plastic carrier bag full of vinyl and feeling the slippery black grooves of the 45s between my fingers. Few of the records had sleeves; most were just stacked against each other in the bag that was desperately heavy for a seven year old. We had an old box-style record player and I used to spend hours picking out the records, lining up the stylus and listening to my dad’s collection of singles.

Add to that the fact that my dad is a talented guitarist, constantly strumming chords or complex riffs in his bedroom where the strains of The Beatles, The Searchers and The Hollies would wind through the house. And there develops my simple and unswerving commitment to love the music of the 1960s – in my opinion, the best decade for any music.

As he was ultimately the inspiration for my love of the 1960s, I decided to create the ultimate 60s compilation for my dad’s birthday.

Choosing the best of the best

I agonised over the choices and deliberated over what I should consider to be ‘best’ – should they be ground-breaking pieces of music? Number 1s? Have appeared in the American Billboard Top 100 songs of all time? Should I include one song from the most influential bands? What about songs with the same chord progression? (there are a LOT of them in the 60s). In the end I went with those songs that I feel are the best. By definition, this list is incredibly subjective – and to me, controversial. Regrets? I have a few.  There’s nothing by Simon & Garfunkel, which is almost criminal and needs to be rectified. I will choose For Emily Wherever I May Find Her (1966) which is the B-side to the song that comes a close second – A Hazy Shade of Winter. I could have picked between five and ten songs by The Beatles but I settled for two – one from ’67 (A Day in the Life) and one from ’68 (Lady Madonna). The release of the ground-breaking Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in 1967 has three songs that could be included in their own right but in the end I decided upon A Day in the Life.

So what was the best year?

The list is split over two CDs, starting with the 1961 classic Runaway by Del Shannon and ending with Space Oddity by David Bowie.  It’s listed chronologically by year and although there’s a little artistic licence in there with some of the recordings, I’m fairly happy that it reflects the best of the best decade.  A quarter of the songs come from one year alone – 1967 (of course) and 44% of songs are from either ‘67 or ’68. I could write some more stats but, quite frankly, only I would be interested in them. Some are chosen because they link specially to people (mostly my dad) or because they feature in my favourite films. I was first exposed to the excellent Runaway, for example, while watch Children of the Corn in the early 80s and Bad Moon Rising in An American Werewolf in London. Two of my favourite films: two of my favourite songs.

I could comment on every song and its personal meaning but these songs are classic in their own right, without me adding my own meaning to them. So here’s the list in all its glory (with a bonus track at the end). Enjoy.

CD1: 1961 – 1966

Runaway Del Shannon
Nut Rocker B Bumble & the Stingers
Breaking up is Hard to Do Neil Sedaka
Bad to Me Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas
Foot Tapper The Shadows
Stand by Me Ben E King
The House of the Rising Sun The Animals
I Get Around The Beach Boys
Needles & Pins The Searchers
Leader of the Pack The Shangri-Las
She’s Not There The Zombies
Love Potion Number Nine The Searchers
Tobacco Road Nashville Teens
California Dreamin’ The Mamas & The Papas
Concrete & Clay Unit 4 Plus 2
I Got You Babe Sonny & Cher
These Boots are Made for Walking Nancy Sinatra
Paint it Black The Rolling Stones
Bus Stop The Hollies
Good Vibrations The Beach Boys

CD2: 1967 – 1969

Ode to Billie Joe Bobbie Gentry
To Sir with Love Lulu
Ruby Tuesday The Rolling Stones
Puppet on a String Sandie Shaw
A Day in the Life The Beatles
The Letter The Box Tops
Waterloo Sunset The Kinks
I’m a Believer The Monkees
Itchycoo Park The Small Faces
Happy Together The Turtles
Son of a Preacher Man Dusty Springfield
Young Girl Gary Puckett & the Union Gap
Wichita Lineman Glenn Campbell
Those were the Days Mary Hopkin
Lady Madonna The Beatles
Build me up Buttercup The Foundations
Dream a Little Dream Mama Cass
Crimson & Clover Tommy James & the Shondells
Bad Moon Rising Creedence Clearwater Revival
Where do you go to (My Lovely) Peter Sarstedt
Space Oddity David Bowie

Thanks Dad – and happy birthday.  Now you’re no longer 64.

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30 x 30 Challenge

Who are you? That question is pretty easy to answer – I could say my name, that I am a writer, a friend, a partner etc. I define myself by what I know myself to be, and what I know myself not to be.

And what I know is that I’m no athlete.

I mean, not many of us are. Not professional athletes anyway. But I’ve never really thought like someone who was athletic or interested in sport. I’ve done a few 10k sponsored runs and played some badminton but that’s about it.  Because I know me – I’m not really the sporty type. I’m a WRITER. The indoors-y type. One that likes to read and sit behind a computer. And while all that may or may not be true, what is definitely correct is that I am not in my peak of physical fitness.

What is also true is that that it’s not what I am or am not capable of doing, it’s what I think and believe myself to be capable of. So, this is where the challenge comes in.

A month ago, I decided to think like an athlete and stopped smoking (albeit I told myself and am still telling myself that I can if I want to). This was inadvertently done to enable the next challenge happen – the 30 x 30.

It’s very simple  – it’s doing 30 minutes of something every day for 30 days. In this case, exercise. Today is day 5 and I’ve cycled, walked, run and swam for at least 30 minutes each day. A month ago I would have screamed at the thought of it.

It’s not about what I can do, it’s about what I think I can’t do and therefore won’t even try. Knowing absolutely that – rather than anyone or anything else – my biggest barrier is me is sort of illuminating.

Believing it though, is liberating. So, if I am not an athlete, what else is it that I am not?

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