Archive for the ‘other books’ Category
Posted on December 18, 2013 - by MG
I do, however, have one publication this year and I’m ridiculously proud of it. Because for a former writer of Blake’s 7 fan fiction (IN YOUR FACE, CAITLIN MORAN!) there is no greater honour than to publish an official, licensed Blake’s 7 story.
The title is BLAKE’S7: ANTHOLOGY and the book features three novellas, each between 20-25k words, all set in Season 1 of Blake’s 7:
Berserker by RA Henderson
When the weapons research facility on space station Amber was shut down, something got left behind. Blake is determined to find out what…
Cold Revolution by MG Harris
Kartvel claims to have escaped Federation control – without bloodshed. But is all as it seems on this mysterious planet?
Trigger Point by GF Taylor
Infiltration and explosions are one way the Liberator crew can help the resistance on the corrupt planet Belzanko, but can a subtler approach work too?
The chance to have a story in this hardback publication came up last year, when my good friend and fellow author Una McCormack tweeted me about the Big Finish open submission. It was closing three hours hence. After a long day of working on a YA manuscript, I didn’t have time or energy to come up with something entirely new. I looked through all the Blake’s 7 stories I’d ever written for something I could adapt and extend into a novella. Most of my fanfics were set before the first episode (known as Pre-Way-Back), S3, S4 or after the final episode (known as Post-Gauda Prime). Clearly, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Also, like many fanfic authors, I used Blake’s 7 as a template to develop relationship stories, so I knew those were out, at least the plot-thin examples. Perhaps less commonly, I also used the fanfic as a way to experiment with different writing styles. (If you don’t have the cash for a Creative Writing course I can recommend this – homework for this week is to write a Star Trek:DS9 story in the style of Graham Greene!)
It didn’t leave me with many options for what might be adapted in time for the submission deadline.
I realized, however, that the events of a S1 episode Bounty could be used to set up a political conspiracy thriller involving most of the S1 cast. There were a few political conspiracy stories in my collection: Urbi et Orbi, The Real Life of Roj Blake and Cold Revolution – the first two heavily influenced by Mario Vargas Llosa and the third, basically a ‘Canadian shack’ story featuring Avon and Soolin.
In the end I went with Cold Revolution, a story set in late S4 during the time when Avon is trying to broker an alliance between anti-Federation leaders. In the original version, Avon and Soolin act as election monitors to a world that is set to cede from the Federation.
The version I wrote for Big Finish is a much longer version in which Blake’s crew become entangled in the murky post-Federation politics of a ceding world. In this version it is Avon and Cally who represent Blake as election monitors. No shack-located naughtiness for them, however.
Here’s the tagline again:
Kartvel claims to have escaped Federation control – without bloodshed. But is all as it seems on this mysterious planet?
For anyone with a memory that extends to the early 90s, it should be obvious that this story is an allegory of the Georgian Revolution. I wrote the original version not long after the events of that revolution, following an intriguing conversation with a neighbour who was one of the United Nations monitors at the first election.
Back in the early 90s I shared a multi-flat house with Oxford historian Mark Almond. When Mark disappeared on a frequent trip to an Eastern bloc country on some ‘official’ trip or other, he’d ask us to feed his cat. These trips were so frequent at one time that we’d ask him straight out if he was a spy. At which point Mark would smile enigmatically and say ‘The Secret Services would never use someone as obvious as me. I go on TV, I write in the newspapers. They pick people that you’d never suspect.’ ‘Ah,’ we’d say, ‘but that’s what everyone would expect. That’s why no-one would actually suspect you.’
It was a friendly joke. We sort-of-didn’t really think that a mild-mannered guy like Mark would risk his life or at least his freedom spying on the last remnants of the Evil Empire. Turns out that we were wrong. Mark was in fact risking a great deal – not spying but working as a cold war bagman, taking CIA money to dissidents in totalitarian countries.
Sometimes he went as an election monitor for the UN. Returning from the election which was won by Shevardnadze, I asked if the election had been honest. Mark smiled a smile somewhere between cynicism and sadness and told me ‘Not remotely. I could have voted myself – a man with a gun asked me if I wanted to vote. When I pointed out that I wasn’t Georgian he just said “the whole world wants to vote for Mister Shevardnadze”.’
I was reading a lot of Mario Vargas Llosa’s political novels in those days, and writing a lot of B7 fanfic. It struck me that Blake’s 7 had a great deal to say about 20th century revolutionary politics. Especially the first season.
Mark Almond’s anecdotes about Georgia had me wondering what would happen to our heroes if they’d ever found themselves in that situation. The external environment of a ceding Federation world would be far more dangerous to an election monitor than anything the UN faced.
The loser of that faked election was Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the winner was the West-friendly Eduard Shevardnadze. The media referred to Gamsakhurdia as a ‘warlord’ – which sounds bad, n’kay? There’s a warlord in S4 of Blake’s 7 and he’s a total psycho. Yet according to Mark, this ‘warlord’ was the true people’s choice, not the apparatchik former KGB man, Shevardnadze.
Interesting, I thought. Very Blake’s 7 – things aren’t what they seem, even when the good-guys seem to have won. Too good a setting to resist!
Avon should have seen it coming, right? Of course he did, yet as ever he talks himself into following Blake’s suggestions. The fatal charisma of that crazy revolutionary!
I also fancied an opportunity to tell a B7 story set on a relatively low-tech, non-fantasy world. You see a lot of primitive societies in Blake’s 7 but too much of societies with people who throw rocks and live in mud huts, not enough of low-tech societies who have at least late 20th century tech. Surely there’d be more a spectrum? Or low-tech worlds with some high-tech, the way you get very simple African villages where mobile phones and TV are normal?
Next time someone asks me if I have ever published anything for adults I won’t say ‘But of course! You mean you haven’t read my chapter on fibroblast growth factors in Molecular Endocrinology of Cancer?’. I will say, ‘hell yeah, a Blake’s 7 story, IN YOUR FACE Caitlin Moran.’
Anyway, there it is, my one official Blake’s 7 story. Thank you to Big Finish for publishing it and paying me actual money to write B7! (If you’re tempted to read the others you’d have to dig up some pretty old fanzines. And also know my fandom pseudonym *grin*.)
Posted on January 8, 2011 - by MG
I know, the New Year ’round-up’ should refer to the previous year. But I’m exhausted just thinking about it. In general, I’m starting the year tired. “Why do we have New Year?” my Teenage Daughter asked me. “How is it a ‘new beginning’? If you commit a crime on Dec 31st 2010, you’d still be punished in 2011.”
So it is with seasonal illness. If you spend the Christmas/New Year period suffering repeated attacks from viruses and secondary sinus infections, you start the year exhausted.
Lots happened last year and mostly very good, luckily for me. But with a diary that is getting packed out, I’d rather look ahead. So here are my forward-looking highlights of 2011.
- My sister’s wedding. Little Sister is getting married in Melbourne, Australia, giving me a lovely excuse to visit.
- First ever visit to school in Europe (outside of UK). Looking forward to meeting the students of College Leman in Geneva!
- Publication of Joshua Files book 4 – DARK PARALLEL. The photo shows the stack I’ll be sending off today to winners of the New year’s prize draw and to some book bloggers who have expressed special enthusiam for Joshua.
- A decision about After Joshua, What Next? If you follow this blog you may have heard me refer to Ultra Secret New Project. Well, New Editor has now read the manuscript and given me some pointers about how to improve it. So it won’t be much longer before I find out… (AL Kennedy saved me the bother of writing about what it’s like waiting for an editorial report over Christmas in her blog post Waiting for book ‘go’… Basically – what she said.)
- Teenage Daughter’s UCAS application is in. Will there be offers? Will she get the grades? Is this the year when my Firstborn Leaves Home?
- My first London Book Fair. Big trade fairs make me dizzy, as I learned when running an IT business. Without a stand to focus on or a conference speech to make, I get terribly baffled and have to go and lie down. So I’d foresworn never to attend a Book Fair unless invited as a speaker. I’ll be talking alongside Francesca Simon (author of Horrid Henry) about school libraries, in an event run by the School Libraries Association.
- Book deals! My fingers are tightly crossed for two ridiculously talented friends of mine from very long ago. Sarah Hilary (crime writer) and Christian David (author of a rollicking historical biography-fiction) are both writers who secured literary agents last year. They are now working on edits prior to the big submission process – to editors! I won’t be happy until they are recognized for the huge literary talents that they are.
It’s a particularly lovely set of events. No lurking gremlins as yet. However, I find it easier not to look too far into the future. The plots of my own stories almost always involve calamity striking the minute everything seems to have gone calm. Not that I enjoy such a rollercoaster in my own life. I try to make lemonade when served lemons. Nevertheless, it gets increasingly tiring, all that lemonade-making. That’s what they don’t tell you about getting older. Yes, you get wiser and more experienced, so lots of things are easier. But your energy levels diminish.
No wonder people turn to magic beans and nutrional supplements and exotic exercise regimes. If only all it took was Berocca.
However, I am still aching pleasantly from the weights I did at the gym a few days ago. I will change nothing! Maybe lose a little weight to look good in the Diane Von Furstenberg dresses.
Happy New Year!
If you haven’t seen it yet – here’s the draw for the advance review copies of DARK PARALLEL. Once again I’m assisted by Matt Barnard from Summertown Starbucks.
Posted on September 13, 2010 - by MG
It’s been quite a while since I blogged. Apart from having family and friends visit and move to Oxford, I’ve been busier this summer than I usually am.
Busy with writing and busy with researching!
As I type this I am 74,000 words into Ultra Secret New Project. I haven’t written an uncommisioned novel since Jaguar’s Realm (I’m still holding onto that by the way, in case you’re wondering, haven’t decided when the right time is for Jaguar to hit the world…). I remember blogging about the final stages of writing Jaguar’s Realm and this feels a bit like that.
2. Someone had better publish this book after all this effort to write it…
Usually I do all my research trips before I start writing a novel. In the case of Ultra Secret New Project, however, I visited the two foreign locations during the writing itself.
The first location is shown in this photo. At the bottom of the photo you can also see my two Brazilian friends, Ana and Deborah. Loyal travel companions and veterans of an MG Harris research trip, (they’re mentioned in the dedication of Zero Moment), Ana, Deborah, as well as Ali and Kizzie, once again braved foreign lands to scout a location with me.
But where in the world are we?
Prize for the first correct answer in the comments – a Joshua enamel badge and a signed Invisible City postcard.
Posted on January 18, 2010 - by MG
Except that, as several readers have already pointed out to me, ZERO MOMENT is now being sold on Amazon.co.uk, Tesco, and Waterstones (in the stores too). Some readers have already bought it, read it and sent me lovely comments – thank you!
(Would be nice if you would put nice comments on Amazon too, that would be RIGHT lovely.)
Meanwhile what does an author do in the run-up period?
1. Plan a ZERO MOMENT launch party. It’s back to Blackwell’s in Oxford, but with more guests and more cakes. I am planning a marathon cupcakes making session, and am choosing four different types to make. Might do a poll, heh heh.
2. Gloatathon! Tracking the progress of Joshua as it starts getting published around the world. The Vietnamese edition of INVISIBLE CITY made their top ten paperback list, according to one blog. Nice reviews are appearing on blogs about the Indonesian and Spanish editions. Lovely, kind bloggers!
ICE SHOCK, which isn’t yet published in the USA, made a Top 12 Young Adult Books of 2009 on a US book blog, Semicolon. (And was also nominated for a Cybil – Middle Grade Fiction Award.)
I have exactly the same attitude to gloating about nice reviews as I once had to good results with my lab experiments. Celebrate them while you can! One day the reviews (or results) will not be so good…
3. Plan the Krispy Kreme FaceBook party. You need to be on the Joshua Files FaceBook Group to come to this, but it would be lovely to see some of the Oxford-based Joshua readers.
4. Meet Lovely Editor to discuss her notes for the manuscript of Joshua #4, DARK PARALLEL. Yes! It’s written and I am now poised, poised I tell you, to move to a second draft.
5. Pitch Quite Secret New Thing (hereafter QSNT) and Top Secret New Thing That I Only Just Thought Of In December But Which Is A Sort Of Major Rewrite Of Jaguar’s Realm (hereafter Top Secret New Thing or TSNT for short). Where am I on this? I have the opening chapters of QSNT which I am rewriting with suggestions from Mr Agent and today I wrote chapter 3 of TSNT.
I don’t know what I will write next! The new MD of Scholastic Children’s Book’s will soon hear both ideas…and decide: which one is best? Or at least, which one is best, next.
So as you see I have been busy. Don’t forget to join the Joshua Files FaceBook Group!
Posted on May 4, 2009 - by MG
Subtitle: Yet another self-indulgent writerly blog post about the process of writing, probably nothing you haven’t read elsewhere, sorry…
I know that a couple of my friends who read this blog are writers too, so I thought I’d actually write some posts about the process of starting a completely new project.
Over the last year I’ve been mulling over an idea for something completely new that I could work on post Joshua. I know Joshua is only on book 2 but I’m already starting Joshua 4 and planning Joshua 5. For me the major part of the Joshua experience will be over by next year.
So last year I started to ponder a question: could I write a crime novel for children? I wondered why there isn’t a really high profile mainstream crime series for children. I wondered if the genre actually lends itself to children and young adults.
Maybe it doesn’t. There are some big problems after all.
- Crime is usually motivated by some very adult issues. Things that have little places in the world of children, frankly. So a children’s crime story could be about theft, or something like revenge for a huge injustice. But the best crime stories are about murder…so how do we get around that?
- The detective figure is not a natural hero. Smarter than everyone around him/her, the detective must see what others cannot, ideally without turning into too much of an arrogant pig. A child detective would have to be that much smarter. And readers don’t empathize easily with preocious children.Writers of adult crime stories get around this by making us sympathize with the detective through their flaws; drunkenness, loneliness (divorced, single parent), utter wierdness, or by making them into such wise genial figures (MIss Marple, Madam Ramotswe) that we cosy up to them.This isn’t easy to do with a teenage detective.
You could probably solve many of these issues by using humour, but that’s been done. What I wanted to know was – what would it take to make the detective novel work for children, without making it about larks, serious yet also thrilling and adventuresome?
I thought about this for some months. I came up with an idea that I thought could work. During my book tour in 2008 I bounced the idea around with a few of the Scholastic staff who accompanied me. They thought it could work too.
More tweaking of the idea, over months, adding elements into it, exactly like a potion. First comes the problem…the need or lack. Then comes the possible solution…a dash of this, a snippet of that. All borrowed from sources where they work. (I never said I didn’t steal and borrow. I do it all the time!)
After almost a year I had something that is about 60% there in terms of structural elements and conscious influences. Like Orson Scott Card advises, the basis is a cross of two ideas, actually, three, although not in equal proportions.
In a coffee shop with my new editor, I discussed the idea. We’d just seen some people we knew as we passed Trinity College, Oxford and our discussion had turned to something relevant to my idea. It was probably the right time to have an expert listen to the idea, because I believe the plot outline and concept had only recently gained coherence.
My editor was most intrigued by the idea. That’s a good sign that it’s worth pursuing further. Mr Agent, of course needed no persuasion. An editor’s interest can’t be argued with…