Friday, January 18, 2008

When a publisher bought me lunch...

Extract from chapter 2:

‘Really? You begin in Nicaragua?’ said the yes woman. I thought she had read it already. Or at least my synopsis. ‘But you don’t seem that intrepid… The skin on your hands could make a handbag I might consider buying.’

I shrugged. ‘That’s always an option we could explore if the book doesn’t sell.’

‘Now, I have another lunch to get to,’ said their leader. ‘Read the rest of his book and bring me a report. I know we’ve been forced to talk to him, but look at it anyway.’

‘Who forced you to have lunch with me?’

‘That we will never tell you, I’m afraid.’ He stood up. ‘No, don’t get up, they still have to bring you another cognac. We’ll read it and we’ll probably publish it. But only because we have to. Are you happy? You don’t look it.’

‘I probably should be happier,’ I agreed.

‘Yes, you probably should. Okay, let’s go. The next one’s a science fiction writer who used to be a hand model. Marketing have a great idea for getting her hands onto the cover and making a logo as well.’

‘Is this Charlene Swann you mean?’ said the yes woman. ‘I love her hands! Am I going to get to shake them?’

‘Sounds like they’d make an even better handbag than mine,’ I said.

‘Of course. We’ll be seeing you, BB. If you don’t hear from us, look for your book in the smaller stores. And get an agent to handle the deal. Please.’ They left in single file, sweeping through the glass doors that swung open for them.

Agent watch update pt 1:

Well, Emmanuelle (no, not that one, at least I imagine it's not that one) wasn't into it enough: "Thank you for your query. I didn’t make the connection with your material that I would need to request more, but please keep in mind that another agent may feel differently."

Connection is a funny thing. We connect and disconnect. I can't listen to Fela this week but I love that man's music deeply.

On and on and on we go.

Friday, January 4, 2008

When I landed in Managua

I'm going to take you through my book via some extracts. Pull up a daiquiri. It opens in Nicaragua. Ahem...

Extract from chapter 1:

"His Peugeot taxi was functional, French and clean; the horn was perky and the motor seemed good for another few thousand miles at least. I asked him about anything: geography, weather, history, alcohol, women. As he grew confident in our bond, he tried to steer me towards certain types of clubs and hotels. ‘That’s not what I’m here for,’ I assured him, although it was not impossible that the after-midnight hours would find me somewhere similar, breasts on the stage, elbow on the bar and me a few rums to the wind.

‘Then what?’

He seemed surprised that anyone would come to Nicaragua for something other than exploitation of the poor. That’s the only visible industry, apart from commodities (tobacco, shrimp, lobster, beef, sugar, bananas, cotton, gold) that are mostly sold to two countries – the US and El Salvador. The country owes ten times what it brings in. There were very few lights by the main road and absolutely none in the streets beyond. We were headed for the Barrio Martha Quezada, one of several faceless centres in a town with no specific shape, but more of that later.

‘I’m writing a kind of Domesday Book,’ I told Carlos, but then I stumbled over the details. The original was list, property register, basis for the law, social snapshot: this would be more of a philosophy register. He nodded sharply, like he had just cottoned onto my real game. Of course, si claro, I was a religious nut! I carried on soberly, ‘A book about how global we need to become.’

‘Global,’ he nodded, playing air congas with his sawn-off thumb, moving it like lightning. ‘The business of the world?’

‘Business and culture…’ I mumbled, too engrossed by his thumb to sharpen my thoughts. He was not desperate to share my culture, but my business was another story.

‘I see,’ he said dryly.

Outside I saw beer ads up on the hoardings and old fading logos stencilled onto corrugated iron roofs. ‘What happened to your thumb?’

He answered, ‘War,’ in the same offhand way his US equivalent might say “home improvements accident” and his serious look dissolved into a goofy smile. Carlos jerked his head back behind him, towards the airport, towards the past. ‘Many years ago.’

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I wish I was back in Myanmar

Oh the stories I will tell... But it hurts to see the crackdown still going on.

Such a friendly and sophisticated people. Honourable too. So many things they put into the mirror that sometimes make us look at ourselves a little differently. Not necessarily badly, but hey.

In any case, I was born on a Saturday, so they tell me that's the reason for my uncertain soul. All I know is I certainly come to life on a Saturday, and there's one coming up.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Scenes From My Global Divorce

BB sent me this letter and I'm using it to kick off his blog:

"Well, I’m sorry but I wasn't ready for this divorce.

The other two were more like being banned from a bar; this one knocked me sideways. I started writing the book I’d been talking about. I travelled. I went to Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia and I wrote as I went, kept connected to my divorce by the most up-to-date technology available on my budget.

My idea – reached after reading Redmond O'Hanlon's Congo Journey and PJ O'Rourke's Holidays in Hell at the same time and drinking a little too much Tennessee whiskey – was to create a form of travel writing that took real places and tweaked them with my magically realistic view of the world.

So now I’ve finished the book of just over 100,000 words and it’s been an extraordinary year of denial and rebirth. As the replicant said in Blade Runner, I've seen things you wouldn't believe.

I’ve seen the furious storms of Burkina Faso, with the added inconvenience of having the spirit of Thomas Sankara lodged inside me and grumbling. I can tell you I got a whole new angle on being politically engaged.

I’ve lectured the people of Nicaragua on democracy, ending within a heartbeat of getting elected, within a whisker of being popped. I’ve glimpsed the eternity of the Eternal City – its cruelty, its inevitability, its traffic. I’ve played poker for strip clubs and hotels beside the Temple of the Jaguar in Tikal at midnight. I’ve handled the PR of a man who was suing God in the Deep South of the USA. I’ve carved an iconic band – an African Abba – from the different tribes of Mali and brought them over to London to try to make the word listen.

I’ve chased the reason for my divorce all the way down the length of Vietnam to the Mekong, finally confronting the man who convinced my wife to leave me.

You might have heard me say that “everything is way possible” - I had to convince people that was true. And it's all here in this book, which has come in at just over 100,000 words and is called ‘Scenes from My Global Divorce’. Adventures, deals, visions, visitations, thoughts, terrorists, musicians.

Enjoy the book!"