Sunday, 19 May 2013

The jury's in

Well, yup - after a little playing about with 'African' backgrounds over the past few days, the elephant won, even though you maybe can't see it too well. And yeah - dark and mysterious just like the subject matter. Really it's down to the detail of that hoary old hide with lichen-like pores, dusty and dry. I've been that close to a live and very much kicking elephant many a time from the back of a land rover and it never fails to thrill.

Gotta love 'em!

Monday, 13 May 2013

And they all lived happily ever after?

In fairy tales they can, but what about 'grown up' fiction?

As you've probably gathered I've finished writing the first draft of this book. And it's been edited and had a degree of 'as you go' proofing courtesy of spell or grammar checks which are, of course, not entirely reliable, whether or not you're sticking to English English or American English. I'm lucky in that my professional background was in print and web publishing for the public sector and so I use all the fancy desktop publishing software necessary to get this novel looking like a 'proper' book. So I'm now in a fairly enviable position as to being able to pick and choose how to get Safari Tales 'out there', once it's been given a really thorough final dusting down edit and review - which is where you, dear reader, may already be involved...

With the core writing work completed, I'm currently off on a traditional publishing route hunt to see if I can get some savvy and perceptive professional support, so it's submission or query letters time (are they the same thing? They seem to be more concise in the US ><) and I've currently been to 3 literary agents to get a definite 

'no thanks, not with us - but good luck anyway!' 
and have emailed 2 more who're are considering my 130K+  package and ought to get back to me sometime towards the end of June. 

I have 3 more literary agents shortlisted to approach through snail mail, but am now seriously considering not bothering with that at all, not just because it's probably a waste of postage, but because there is a much less fraught and controllable trail to follow in this, not necessarily enlightened, digital age. Self publishing sounds really scary until you start looking into it and have some minimal expertise in how to use Word and export in PDF format. There are outfits out there, including the esteemed, who'll happily take your opus, along with an ISBN and help you turn it into an ebook or even a proper hard or paperback book. 

There's also the warm and comforting thought that once all writers were self-published and even after commercially mass-produced publishing was possible some of our greatest classic and contemporary authors, among them Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and even Stephen King, all toiled alone at some stage of their respective careers to get themselves 'out there'. Without a kindly literary agent or adventurous publishing house giving them editorial support while they made their names. Or taking their cut - although of course you do need to add your local tax collecting body to that list, even if you're doing it all yourself. The latter is certainly enough to send most people screaming to the professionals, so they don't have to worry about the financial vagaries of being able to successfully string some words together creatively. So all they need to do is concentrate on the writing for hopefully the next book, and the next.

But that's in fairy tale land again isn't it? They say everyone has a novel in them, but of course when it comes to getting that novel out and available for reading by the general public for £10 or thereabouts, not everyone is going to do it. Or even be able to do it.

So, having made it this far I'm not about to give up within sight of the 'kill'. By the end of 2013 Milele Safari will be well on the way to being 'out there', in production, or, hopefully, for sale. Watch this space for more happy ever afters!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

An African Journey

My own 'proper' African Journeys started in September 1987 and the last time I went there was near the end of 1997. I'm talking sub-Saharan Africa by the way - the classic photographic safari that began in Kenya and then took in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia and, finally, Zambia. Those ten years did not change my life immediately, but they left an indelible mark on me on all kinds of levels, however the abiding one was wonder and respect for this capricious, beautiful planet we're privileged to live on.

The idea of writing about Africa actually started in earnest for me on that last holiday in Zambia, as I was sitting in a rustic gazebo overlooking the Lufupa river trying to sketch some hippos. Yes, a gazebo - it had a thatched roof and no walls and some garden-style chairs. The hippos weren't co-operating so I got myself another mug of coffee from the thermos, turned the page and started to write a true story from a leopard's point of view. That was the first shaky outline of the Watching chapter in Milele Safari inspired by a mother leopard and her two cubs that we'd seen tucking into a bushbuck in the middle of a thornbush on our very first safari in Samburu, Kenya.

Then real life kicked in and I didn't do very much with those few hundred words for a long time, just adding a bit here and there, or changing something or, more often, losing it altogether whenever the 'mood' took me, which was not very often. Things changed in 2005 though, as I fell ill and embarked on what turned out to be a permanent break with the world of gainful employment. A lot of the problem was in my head and writing again started to be something I had a lot of time for, because it was a therapeutic refuge for me. I finished Watching and began to think about other strange and wonderful experiences, or 'magic' moments I'd had, not necessarily on safari; but it turned out a lot of them were in fact centred on different parts of the Dark Continent and an idea for a series of themed short stories along the lines of The Canterbury Tales began to form. And inspired the highly original working title for the book of course (Safari Tales), although I knew from the outset that I was going to explore the true meaning of the word safari through the various stories. OK - I admit I was also tempted to spell Tales as Tails, but that was too stupid right? Better than Safari Bums though - a throwback to our first safari where a lot of the time our photos as an album collection could have been entitled Bums of Africa because that's what we saw most of some days...

And here we are in 2013 and I've finally got the first draft and edit done and dusted and so I've progressed to getting in feedback and reviews from literary friends scattered across the globe and starting to get serious about pushing my baby out there. Hello blogdom! I use various writing styles in the Tales, but the main warp holding the weaving together is a diary/journal style for 2 of my central viewpoint characters, so this is as good a place as any to use a sorting centre for various things among which will hopefully be a dialogue with the readers that I'm hoping Milele Safari (An Eternal Journey) will attract. 

We'll see anyway - enough for a first post. I'll try and get something more fascinating added soon. This year, I promise!