Friday, February 23, 2007

Journal of the Plague Year

It's back to my old ways, I'm afraid, in that this is another post not about the novel. Or at least partially so. I'm currently being distracted from the great work by revising an old tome on the Black Death, originally published in November 2001. (Note that Amazon still show an early version of the cover that was never used, showing part of Bruegel's Triumph of Death. It was my suggestion that this image be used, which was later overruled by the forces of Middle England and New Labour etc etc.) The revised edition is due to be delivered at the end of this month, with it being published in Jesusland in May, and over here in Old Blighty in June. The current version of the cover can be seen here. Note that they have again ignored my wish for the Bruegel image to be used. (I suspect the hand of religious fundamentalism, or possibly the Leader of the Opposition...)

However, there is some connection between the plague and Elias, in that one of the main characters dies of it during the Great Plague of 1665. It also appears, offstage, in the first part, where it breaks out in Amsterdam during the winter of 1601/2, one of the series of harbingers that starts the novel. So, a nice little overlapping of paid hackery and Mein Verk!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

And the scores on the doors...

On Saturday the group met at Sue's new flat in Canonbury (very nice! the sort of London district familiar to Arthur Machen, I believe), as our local haunts in Fitzrovia were double-booked with the usual problem of salsa classes etc.

I unveiled the new beginning I wrote in early January in Inverie and got a largely good response. Absolutely no-one liked the first two (lengthy!) paragraphs describing our hero Jacob's walk through his home town of Enkhuizen, and I was subjected to a Comfy Chair experience in which Lindsay asked me to remind him of his 6 golden rules of How to Begin a Novel. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember any except for pace (which I failed at) and a hook (which came far too late).

He was good enough in his wisdom to remind me of the other four points that I forgot: have a strong image; show human interest; indicate the style of the whole thing and also hint at the overall themes. In fact, come to think of it, I did more or less make it on the style and themes front, but I did indeed fall down on the image and human interest elements, which only kicked in after the first two paragraphs were history.

So... I cut the opening paras, and it's a lot better. Thank the Divine Powers for writing groups, supportive feedback, and Sages from Frome.