Category Archives: Books

Trio 1 publishing on November 5, 2015 (Stories 1-3)

The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes (cover)I can now confirm that the first three stories of Rising Apes, Falling Angels will publish on November 5, 2015. They will form a standalone trio (Trio 1) called The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes.

Each story focuses on a particular theme: fraud in “The Man in Gray Tie,” consent in “(He) Said, (She) Said” and plagiarism in “The Last Page of Friendship.” Well, plus a little cheating, lust and murder!

The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes will be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com (in Kindle, nook and iBook formats).

Roll on November 5, 2015!

Videos live on YouTube (Stories 1-3)

Parkgate Press You Tube ChannelThe videos for Stories 1-3 are now live on YouTube. All three are viewable here on the Parkgate Press YouTube Channel. They are narrated by my slightly mad brother, Frankie. He’s even created his own corner for reviewing my stories, and called it, well, Frankie’s Corner.

Each video corresponds to the story from The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes, with a tag line that reflects that story’s theme. For example, Video 1 is titled “Have You Ever Gambled and Won Something You Couldn’t Afford?” since Story 1, “The Man in Gray Tie,” is about a man who fraudulently pushes the prices up at auctions. He gets what he deserves, but not before he wins something he couldn’t pay for….

Video 2 is titled “Have You Ever Crossed a Line of Decency You Shouldn’t Have?” and reflects the theme of consent in Story 2, “(He) Said, (She) Said.” It’s a story about consent, set on a London college campus close to Tottenham Court Road. Do you believe what he said, or she said? Who drank too much, but who slipped away in the morning?

Finally, Video 3 is titled “Would You Go Into Business With Your Best Friend?” and reflects the theme of plagiarism in “The Last Page of Friendship.” Two Seattle women want to write the Great American Short Story. Have they got what it takes? Who is prepared to go further than her best frenemy?

Should I Write in British or American English?

British and American EnglishIt’s not an easy decision: which version of English to use (and lose)? George Bernard Shaw famously referenced Britain and America as “divided by a common language.” The question is where to put the stress, on ‘common’ or ‘divided?’ Ultimately for consistency, a choice is needed.

This would be easy if readers contained their reading habits within national boundariesnot so today. I struggled with this decision while writing my first two novels, The Knight of New Orleans and The Murderess and the Hangman. To avoid any compromise, I actually produced two versions, one with British English and one with American. I now see this as impractical. What do do in the future?

I was born and brought up in England, but left for the US twelve years ago at the age of twenty-six, so I feel pretty healthily split between the two ‘languages,’ healthy enough to feel that my decision isn’t rejecting one side of the Atlantic. Yes, British chums, I’ve decided to write entirely in US English for The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes onward, namely for all my short stories. Plus for my novel American Con Artist.

The reason? First, I live in America, and second, most of my readers by consequence know me as based in America. That’s pretty much the top and bottom of it. Approximately half my stories are set in America, half in Britain, and I will always return to both countries in person and in my fiction. My first novel was set in New Orleans, but also took place in New York, London and Paris; my second novel was set mostly in London, but my third will be split between the US and the island of Ibiza. So arguably I retain a European-American balancing act in terms of location.  But I had to make a decision about the language, and while I’m not at all comfortable leaving British English behind in my fiction, it’s an exciting challenge to write in American English correctly.

At the same time, I cannot help but use British-isms as they get called here: the phrases, the lingo, the slang, and the sayings will always be with me. So this is the compromise: while I write technically in US English, I think and express the style of my writing in both British and American English. I just can’t help the British voice sneaking in, even while I focus on the American precision at the same time. While one loses the ancient idiosyncrasies of British Englisha strange kind of comfortone gains the precision and directness of American English.

My advice to writers is to make a choice, and write solely in that kind of English, and there are countless versions of English around the world. You will end up with the regional and local inflections of your writing voice, reflected in the voices of your characters. One rule that hasn’t changed is that characters and their backgrounds are more important than the pedantry of linguistic accuracy: there is no absolute 100% accurate version of English. It remains an evolving beast, a living animal at any point in time. So embrace the multiplicity of English! Try and unify your chosen ‘normalized’ version to within one national boundary, for the sake of consistency alone, but don’t expect your readers to see your style as anything but multiple. How else would you be an individual writer?

Happy deliberating over local, regional and national languages(s). The question never quite goes away!

New website…www.mattfullerty.com

Historical and Crime Fiction

At last, I have revamped my website. It’s officially relaunching today, with all new bells and whistles.

The most exciting new development is the videos section. Currently there are four videos available, with five to follow. Together they will make the nine videos to accompany the nine stories in Rising Apes, Falling Angels, my first collection of stories. The videos are narrated by my brother Frankie from London.

There’s now a section where you can contact me. Often people don’t want to switch over to their email: hence the message form. I get the message delivered directly to my email. As they say in America, write me.

Otherwise, the website has lots more information about my two novels, The Knight of New Orleans and The Murderess and the Hangman. There’s also a section (under Future Works) about my upcoming new novel, American Con Artist, about the painter, forger and illegal immigrant on the run, Elmyr de Hory. Go track him down.

Thanks for visiting www.mattfullerty.com.

Meet Frankie…my brother…the video narrator

frankie1.2Meet my brother Frankie! He’s done me some really big favors in my life, not least agreeing to read my stories (after much cajoling on my part, and the agreement I’d buy him an all-expenses paid trip to America). Watch this space, Frankie!

Frankie is a video commentator on my stories, which he delivers with astute honesty, sometimes a little too much honesty. I value his opinion, even if it’s negative and cynical. The boy speaks from the heart. If he doesn’t like a story he doesn’t just say so, he tells you why. Now that’s feedback.

So far, Frankie has appeared in four videos for Rising Apes, Falling Angels, my first collection of nine stories. No doubt he’ll also appear in the remaining five videos.

Voila Frankie’s videos and links to the associated stories:

Trio 1, The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes:

Trio 2, A Slice of the Adirondacks and Other Capers:

Trio 3, Driving the Bully Home and Other Dreams:

Drafting…the door closed and the door open

Drafts...the door open and the door closedIt’s only recently that my drafting process has reached a steady state. I used to not think about drafts at all, or re-draft continually (even worse). I now realize that Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King) has the two best approaches to the drafting process. The man knows.

If you’ve read King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, you’ll know the following. There’s no better book about writing: it’s concise, entertaining, and the advice clearly works. Note to self: read it again. The second half is equally gripping, detailing the story of King’s comeback from being badly injured after being hit by a truck, his personal road to recovery and, of course, back to writing.

The first idea is King’s notion of “two drafts and a polish.”  I was surprised to discover that after experimenting with various approaches, I’ve ended up in the same place. All my stories and novels pretty much go through two drafts and a polish. The first draft is to get the story out, the skeleton, to get from beginning to end, preferably through the middle. The idea is therethe “situation” (another King-ism)and surrounded by the other most important elements, the characters, the setting, and the story. On the second draft, you tighten and expand, but you are also daring: throw out whole sections, or add new scenes. The (reread and) polish is just what it suggests: the rough edges smoothed out, words cut, transitions improved, and the mechanics double-checked.

In conjunction with “two drafts and a polish,” the second idea is to write with the door first closed, then opened. The door is not literally closed (but it helps). This is also King’s idea: to write with the door figuratively closed is to seal yourself off from the world. The story is entirely yours, with no input. No one is looking over your shoulder. No readers. Just you and the page. The writer’s paradise and nightmare in one…. But then, after you have the first draft, you let the world in. In other words, you find a reader, you seek advice (always a revelation), and you listen to the feedback.

I actually do something more developed, but essentially the same. I allow feedback during a first draftI open the door early. This means I get to test out my idea, ideally strengthen it, before a first draft is complete. It can sometimes create a better idea.

For example, I was stuck with how to continue my story “A Slice of the Adirondacks,” set in the vast Adirondack State Park in upstate New York. My wife is from Ithaca, New York and has visited the Adirondacks her whole life. So I sought early advice while writing the first draft.

A Slice of the Adirondacks” is a story about neighbors and the threat of abduction. Some kids go missing and a creepy old man who swims the lake each morning is implicated. But what really happened? Getting a sense of the geography of the area helped me to finish the story. I needed to know what would happen to Walter (the old man) and Chester (the boy) at the end.

The moral: arguably, drafting involves adapting writing rules. Yes, even those of Stephen King’s. But I still do two drafts and a polish, as Mr. King advises.

What have you guys learned about drafting? First and second drafts? Polishing? What about the writing advice during the ‘door open’ moment? Does that invariably improve the story, or over-challenge the original idea?

Introducing “The Last Page of Friendship” (Trio 1, Story 3)

Rock, Paper, Scissors --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisThis story was inspired by two events, the first being a visit to Seattle,which plays a large part in the story, from downtown and the Space Needle, the infamous drizzly weather, to the ferry over to Bainbridge Island, a secluded an affluent enclave where you wouldn’t expect bad things to happen.

The Last Page of Friendship” is the tale of two middle-aged women, old friends who have reached a plateau in life: married, bored, and seeking career revitalization. What better way than becoming writers for redeeming their flagging egos, shoring up their reputations, and giving a competitive jolt to their friendship. Only things go too far…

Which brings me to the other aspect of the story, namely a percolating interest in the case of Juliet Hulme, who along with her adolescent best friend, Pauline Parker murdered Parker’s mother, Honorah Rieper. The fact that Juliet Hulme went on to become best-selling crime novelist Anne Perry, is another twist in the real-life tale. (Her story was adapted into Peter Jackson’s 1994 movie Heavenly Creatures starring Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey).

Rather than involve intervening parents, “The Last Page of Friendship” makes the women middle-aged, and uses Seattle as a backdrop. The engine of the crime is their literary rivalry, which could only form in the cauldron of an over-intense friendship. People seem to be more ardent on oneupmanship when it focuses on those in their inner circle. A little schadenfreude never hurt anyone. 🙂 And these women are not used to losing.

What could possibly go wrong?

The importance of readers for work-in-progress…

Importance of ReadersWriting for years, I’ve learned the hard way that I make mistakes. Lots of them. In fact, it’s so easy to make mistakes, you can spend all your time correcting past ones when you should be writing new material.

Errors are there to be corrected, but wouldn’t it be far nicer to write on, a little less haunted? James Joyce once said: “I don’t make mistakes. My mistakes are the portals of discovery.” I love the sentiment, but arguably I’m not James Joyce (last time I looked).

One answer is to try and get readers for your work. In the past, I’ve baulked. What, showing my work to someone? I had to get over this. If you can’t show work-in-progress, how will you ever release writing to the big, bad world? My advice is to just get two readers.

Why two? Well, it’s enough to manage. Not only do you have to write to a schedule, you have to incorporate their edits. That’s the idea: they comment at the macro level (characters, story, setting) and micro (language, pace, typos), and you have to interpret it all.

I’m very grateful to my two readers currently offering feedback on Rising Apes, Falling Angels. I offer them a small fee per story, and in return I plan a schedule of turnaround dates. I leave it open what they work on exactly: I’m happy for them to read the story, and focus on whatever strikes them as needing most work, including what I did well (something!). It’s good to know what you write well, in order to write more of it. Of course, it’s even better to know what’s pretty poor, in order to rewrite or cut.

Readers also notice factual and continuity errors. One of my readers noticed a continuity mistake in (He) Said, (She) Said, a story about consent (or perhaps lack of) from The Man in the Gray Tie and Other Crimes. Here’s the reader’s comment:

Alsoyou make such a deal out of Danny not having his watch on at the bar and on the walk home but you say that he clicked his watch on after the non-rape-rape encounter…not sure if I misread this but I think you may have made a little slip up.

Of course, in a story where facts and point of view are paramount, I hadn’t intended the error. Danny will no longer have a magically appearing watch, given he never brought it out to the bar in the first place.

Just as important, readers pass opinion on believability and levels of excitement or apathy.

Ultimately, having readers of drafts ‘in your corner’ is a social connection for the isolating business of the daily writing grind. It’s a way of connecting with ‘real readers’ (which they are too, of course). That’s what writing is all about“only connect,” as E. M. Forster said.

So bringing the process forward is both professional and a step toward answering messages from more people, once the time comes.

Happy reader hunting!