Monthly Archives: October 2009

Debut Dagger

While I’m dropping names, I met Ian Rankin in Costa’s in Edinburgh’s George Street a few years ago. He was next to me in the queue for coffee. I’m ten years older than him and age gives you that extra bit of cheek and confidence. ‘Mr Rankin,’ I said. ‘Loved your last book.’
‘Fleshmarket Close, you mean?’
I nodded. ‘Met you in Manchester, you presented me with a prize. I was one of the runners up for the Debut Dagger Award. I was writing as Alan Frost.’
I didn’t expect him to remember me. He didn’t. At the awards we’d chatted for some time. I was living in Edinburgh at the time and I remember him joking that he’d rather I didn’t set any of my novels there.
No competition from me, Ian. Six years on and I still haven’t been published. I just haven’t been sending my stuff off. Perhaps I should try harder – not at writing, because I have no problems there. Try harder to get published, I mean. 
Rankin has a stock saying for prospective authors, ‘Keep writing!’
I came away feeling good, but kicking myself that I’d forgotten that he had just been awarded an Honorary Doctorate and I could – should, actually – have addressed him as Doctor Rankin, not Mister. 
Now that really would have been a nice touch.  

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Playpits Park?

Is writing to yourself better than talking to yourself? Debatable. No, it is probably worse. When you talk to yourself at least you can do other stuff, whereas writing to yourself takes time … like right now. One day someone else will read this. And then I won’t be writing to myself.
So why a blog? And why Playpitspark?
A blog because it might be a good way to get published (yes, okay, so that’s rubbish. I don’t expect a white knight – or a white dame – to rescue me from unpublished oblivion. It just doesn’t happen).
To be honest with you I am blogging because my daughter in law says I should get on the net. She reads about three novels a week and she loves my stuff. She knows I write because I love it and can’t stop myself writing, not because I’m a starving author in a garret who needs to sell books to live. ‘If you can’t or don’t want to get published,’ she said, ‘then just put it online so people can read it.’
So here I am.  
Ahh… so why Playpitspark? Playpits Park is one of my earliest novels, possibly my best. About 10 years ago I sent it to Random House. I got a reply from Simon King, the MD of Hutchinson, Century, Heinemann and Arrow. He had personally edited my first few chapters. He had read the whole thing. His letter to me was over a page long. He said ‘I like your writing. You will get published. It might take some time, but you will get there.‘ He also said he wasn’t sure what to do with my book because it appeared to be a children’s novel but there were real deaths. (Real deaths, yes… how times have changed!). It wasn’t supposed to be a children’s novel. I took his comments on board. I have rewritten it – ten years on!   
I read that Simon King has now retired. Good luck in your retirement, Simon. If it wasn’t for that early encouragement I might well have given up. 


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