Jonathan Pinnock - Writer of Stuff

NO SOONER THE WORD THAN THE FICTION

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TAKE IT COOL Hits the Broadsheets!

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 12.16.48One of the essential activities for a writer who has just had a book published is to Google their own name at regular intervals in combination with the name of their book to see if any new reviews have turned up. For a writer lurking in the lower levels of the food chain, this can be a depressingly futile thing to do, but occasionally things can turn up, such as this lovely piece from Scotland’s The Herald.

Apart from a minor inaccuracy in the very first clause (I was actually in my early 20s when I came across the single), it manages to convey the essence of the book far better than I ever could myself. And that is more than you could ever ask from a reviewer.

Last Friday I was interviewed about the book by the lovely Freya Morris. You can read what I said here. And the very wonderful Itz Caribbean website are running a competition where you can win a copy. Get in, I say.

What else has been going on? Oh yes, my entry for Thresholds Short Story Forum‘s recent feature writing competition, which failed to make the shortlist and was thus mentally consigned to the dustbin of oblivion, is going to be published in September there after all. Not only will this make me very happy, but it will also come as a massive surprise to the subject of the piece.

Finally, I had an acceptance the other day from the very classy-looking Ariadne’s Thread magazine for my poem “Parable”, which will appear in issue 13, later this year.

Mark Watson’s “Hotel Alpha”

Hotel AlphaThose of you who have dipped into either Wickhampedia or – more recently – Dashipedia will realise that I’m a big fan of the idea that the content of a book can – and indeed should – spread a long way beyond the borders of the original physical source. And that’s why I was especially intrigued to hear of Mark Watson‘s new novel which just happens to be published today.

Here’s what Mark has to say about this, in the afterword to his new novel HOTEL ALPHA:

Hotel Alpha is designed to be read in two stages. There is the novel which you have just finished and, I hope, enjoyed – unless you’re one of those people who always flick to the back first. Then there are one hundred extra stories, which appear on a website: www.hotelalphastories.com. […] The extra stories span the same time period as the novel. They shine an alternative light on the plot, show the hidden links between some of its main events, solve mysteries, and give voice to some of the thousands of minor characters and dramas which make up the life of the Hotel Alpha while the main story is playing out. They can be read in any order and in any quantity. Or, of course, you can ignore them altogether – it’s entirely up to you.

Everyone knows that human stories are always bigger and more complex than they appear – the relationships and connections between us all are infinite, and a book can only do so much. The Internet, though, removes the physical limitations of the novel, opening up possibilities that have never before existed for readers and writers. We can now choose how much of a story we want to tell, and how much of it we want to know: in theory we can keep going forever. The one hundred extra stories of Hotel Alpha don’t quite go that far, and you as a reader probably have other plans for the rest of your life. But it’s a start . . .

Sounds cool, right? And just for you lucky people, here is one of those stories, right here on my blog. Read on…

Story 82: All Over the Hotel

Top ten reasons for sleeplessness in the Hotel Alpha, occurring in guests between 1965 and 2005:

1. General, unfocused sense of unease.

2. Noise from another room, or from the atrium.

3. Worries connected to work, finances, etc.

4. Worries related to romantic relationships, including marriage.

5. Woken up by strange dream or by unknown circumstances and unable to relax back into sleep.

6. Thinking too hard about need to sleep, paradoxically making goal unattainable.

7. Misjudgement of food or alcohol consumption leading to disturbed physical equilibrium.

8. Miscalculation of fatigue levels leading to too-early bedtime.

9. Body’s instinctive dread of relinquishing consciousness, as sleep too close a sensation to ultimate negation of death, against which human instinct automatically rebels.

10. Dripping tap.

Ten reasons for sleeplessness that have occurred just once in the Hotel Alpha between 1965 and 2005:

1. Allergy to detergent used to wash sheets, causing succession of 46 sneezes in two minutes, causing state of wakefulness impossible to shake off.

2. Fear of dark which cannot be admitted to new girlfriend.

3. Visitation of ghost, presumably in a dream.

4. Gout.

5. Hypochondria leading to conviction about imminent illness.

6. Partner’s wetting of bed.

7. Obsessive desire to solve riddle about getting a goat and some other items from one side of a river to the other.

8. Nostalgia for homeland, Transnistria, a part of Moldova which asserts its independence.

9. Person next door laughing indecently loud, and all through night, at rerun of 1970s sitcom On The Buses.

10. Once killed a man.

I really like that.

For more information, here’s a press release that tells you all about HOTEL ALPHA and here’s where you can find the other 99 stories. And here’s the obligatory link to the book on Amazon. I’m rather looking forward to reading it.

Getting Things Moving

In many ways, this is the worst time in the publishing cycle. The book’s been out for a week or so and you’re waiting for the reviews to start trickling in. If you’re sensible, you put everything to one side and get on with something else. If you are not sensible, you devote every waking hour to googling your name, the book’s name and the publisher’s name and every combination of the three, and wondering what else you can be doing to get the whole world to read the book.

I am not sensible.

On the plus side, I feel a lot more confident about TAKE IT COOL than I ever felt about either MRS DARCY or DOT DASH. Despite the fact that MRS DARCY made it as far as the W H Smith top 50 promotional racks for a few weeks, it was still fighting against a lot of negative feelings from some quarters. It arrived on the tail end of the Jane Austen plus zombies/sea monsters/whatever fad, and however much I tried to tell people that it was conceived a long time before all that and it wasn’t really one of those things AT ALL, no-one was listening. The first review, in the Gatehouse Gazette, was also pretty awful, which didn’t help, and no-one in the print media was sufficiently interested to review it at all.

As for DOT DASH, even though it did eventually get a nice four star review in the Independent on Sunday, I never felt entirely confident about it, mainly because I have a slightly semi-detached relationship with the short story world. This is largely because I have – as yet – no qualifications whatsoever to be writing anything approaching literature and also because I’m the bloke who wrote MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS.

But TAKE IT COOL comes with no baggage. It’s the first book I’ve written that I feel 100% comfortable about, and I really, really want it to succeed. I know my publisher is working as hard as I am (probably harder) but the truth is that – as with everything in publishing – no-one really knows what is going to happen.

It has, at least, started to get some nice reviews, starting with this from ace short story writer David Rose:

Any mention of reggae calls to mind the Conservative politician several decades ago who attempted to boost his street cred by talking about his love of it, but who scuppered all cred by pronouncing it ‘Reggie’. I did at least know how to pronounce it, but not much more. My point is that this book is not just for reggae buffs (if that is the term). It is intriguing, unusual and very, very funny. Apart from the main theme, there are riffs on the coolness – or otherwise – of the oboe, a cemetery in Portishead, and the graveyard of Stevenage. Even the secondary theme – the worrying possibility of ancestral involvement in the slave trade – while by no means flippant – still doesn’t dampen the wit. And there’s a happy ending (and who knows, maybe this book will do for Dennis what ‘Searching For Sugarman’ did for Rodriguez).

I honestly can’t think of a better, more off-beat summer read, with maybe ‘Total Reggae Summer Vibes’ in the background, and a long, cool drink. ‘Lovely stuff’.

It’s wonderful to hear that from someone who probably wouldn’t have picked up the book unless he happened to be a supporter of Two Ravens Press but absolutely gets it. So much so that he’s apparently ordered another copy for a friend. The momentum is beginning to build. We’re going to get this thing moving somehow.

Good Point, Well Made

We interrupt our normal service of adverts and other tiresome promotion of my wonderful new book TAKE IT COOL (available from all good bookshops and also by clicking over here —>) to bring you an extraordinary piece of Pinnock juvenilia that I came across at the weekend while sorting out some old files. This opinion piece was written for a school essay competition in which the three “best” entries (and the inverted commas are entirely deliberate) got to be published in The Bedfordshire Times. So this would be my first ever publication, although as far as I remember I didn’t get paid.

The subject of the essay was London’s third airport, a topic of considerable interest to the inhabitants of Bedford at the time as one of the proposed sites was at Thurleigh, not far away from the town centre. My piece bore the bold title THURLEIGH – MADNESS OR MARVEL? Unfortunately, I don’t have the actual cutting from the Bedfordshire Times (my parents having probably decided that it was best not to encourage me too much), but I do have my handwritten original.

This is my favourite bit, wherein I display a precociously practical approach to the problem, although with an alarmingly cavalier attitude to wildlife. Foulness, incidentally, was one of the many sites that have been proposed over the years for Thames Estuary Airport. It’s also one of the best place names ever.

Third airport

 

Mrs P’s only comment on seeing this was “I bet you were a right little tosser.”

I was twelve.

That George McFly Moment…

IMG_0875There are many reasons why ‘Back to the Future’ is a favourite among writers and most of them are, of course, to do with the sheer brilliance of the screenwriting. However, I think we all know which is the scene that resonates with us the most. It’s the scene where the now successful George McFly opens a box containing the book he always dreamed of getting published.

And however many books you write, it never, ever gets old. Especially when they’re as lovely as this one. It even has colour pictures in it.

So, I guess this is as good a time as any to remind you that there’s a button over here –> which will enable you to order a signed copy or two. Or if you’d rather have your copy undefaced, there are some other places you can order it from here.

Go on, you won’t regret it. It’s a thing of beauty.

Happy St Pinnock’s Day!

StPinnockThis is definitely going to become A THING.

As an aside in my new book TAKE IT COOL (you did know I had a new book out, didn’t you?) I make the suggestion that we should mount some kind of campaign to give St Pinnock a higher profile by posting this on our blogs every July 15th:

 

St Pinnock of Liskeard (also known as St Pinnock the Flamboyant, St Pinnock the Pungent and St Pinnock the Trouserless) is the patron
saint of Milton Keynes, Heligoland and headlice. He is also patron of nuisance callers, PERL developers and the worried well. St Pinnock is noted for the so-called Miracle of the Unwanted Cheese, wherein he succeeded in making an entire village’s cheese surplus disappear on a regular basis. He was canonised a few years after his martyrdom at the hands of a group of local dairy farmers following a dramatic fall in sales to neighbouring communities. His feast day is July 15th.

Impressively, the only person so far to have read and reviewed the book, Pete Sutton, has followed these instructions to the letter. This is how cults begin, you know.

Publication Day!

Take it Cool Cover with groovesIt’s been a long and twisty journey, but today sees the publication of my fourth book, TAKE IT COOL, by the wonderful Two Ravens Press.

I recently found the first draft of the first chapter that I read out at the Verulam Writers Circle, and the file is dated March 2005. However, I must have had the idea before then, because I seem to have started buying Dennis Pinnock’s records again in June 2004 (‘Woman be Fair’ / ‘Fair’s Fair’ from Action Records in Preston, via GEMM). So that makes it over a decade since I started out on this mad quest.

Why did it take so long? Probably because I had no idea who on earth would be interested in such a thing. Sure, whenever I read bits of it out to my friends, they’d say encouraging things, but that’s what friends do. I had no idea if the general public would be remotely interested (I still don’t).

I lost count of the number of queries I made to agents and publishers, but I’m pretty certain it’s in excess of 60. However, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t been through all this before. MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS went through at least 40 rejections before Proxima picked it up. This is not unusual, by any means. I know a lot of published writers and the only thing they all have in common is that they’ve stuck with it, even when the whole world seemed to be against them.

Anyway, the book is out now. I’m bloody proud of it. I think it’s entertaining, informative, funny and poignant by turns. You can read the first chapter for free here, and you can order signed copies from the panel at the side here —>, or direct from the publishers, or indeed that Amazon place. Go, go, go!

And for all my writing friends who are still trying to get that first (or indeed fourth) deal, this is the only thing you need to remember:

Review: The Stonehenge Letters by Harry Karlinsky

51V9ce7Dc3LJust over a year and a half ago, I reviewed a most unusual book by Harry Karlinsky entitled The Evolution of Inanimate Objects. After reading that one I was intrigued to see what he might come up with next – or indeed if it was a complete one-off.

The good news is that he has come up with something else, and the even better news is that it is just as bonkers. As soon as I heard about it, I wanted to get hold of a copy, but because by TBR pile was already overflowing, I held off buying for a while. But when Scott Pack, who runs The Friday Project, the book’s publisher, was offering free review copies, I could no longer avoid adding to the pile. But just to be sure I wasn’t really adding to it, I snuck it to the top.

The Stonehenge Letters is a similarly peculiar mix of fact and fiction as the first book. The premise is that Alfred Nobel, as a result of an unrequited relationship with the remarkable Florence Antrobus, wife of the heir to the estate that included Stonehenge, develops an obsession with the mystery surrounding the monument. This obsession develops to the point where Nobel secretly offers a further prize to existing laureates for the best solution to the mystery.

And then the fun starts, as various luminaries – from Theodore Roosevelt to Marie Curie – pitch in with their submissions, ranging from the highly plausible down to the frankly daft (Rudyard’s Kipling’s contribution is particularly feeble). Sigmund Freud also provides an entertaining commentary via footnotes.

This isn’t by any means a conventional novel at all: there’s no plot development to speak of, and no real conclusion at the end. But the whole confection is great fun as well as informative and oddly thought-provoking. I’m still pondering what a weird old fish Nobel was, and how extraordinary it is that the prizes named after him are still so highly thought of. Highly recommended.

Dashipedia

I meant to do this when DOT DASH came out, but I didn’t have the time and I thought it was a bit self-indulgent. Well, I still don’t really have the time and it’s certainly still self-indulgent, but I’ve done it anyway. I’ve created an entire Wiki devoted to DOT DASH, explaining how all the stories came into being. There’s some fascinating stuff in there, such as this entry on The Amazing Arnolfini and His Wife, which went from an exceptionally lacklustre initial showing to a slot on BBC Radio 4. Have a dig around anyway and see what you think, and pass it on to all your short story writing chums.

And now that I’ve got that out of the way I can think about what I’m going to do by way of a website for TAKE IT COOL…

Paradise Found Wanting

Didn’t have time to post about this before I went off on my hols (and very nice they were to, thanks for asking). Anyway, here’s my poem “Paradise Found Wanting” up at the ever-excellent Ink, Sweat and Tears. Don’t think it really needs much by way of explanation…

Not much else to report, apart from the fact that my frankly rather puerile flash “The Sixth Generation” is going to be included in the forthcoming National Flash Fiction Day anthology “Eating My Words”. There will be more details on how and where to purchase in due course. Having been one of the judges for the 100-word competition, I can say with hand on my heart that there will be some seriously good stuff in there. As well as my piece.

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