Sunday, 31 August 2008

No. 2 (What's a Kumquat?)

Are the recipes in mystic Pig analagous to the melting pot of contemporary New Orleans and the character's lives? Maybe. There's a lot going on in the novel, many strands of cause and effect; hyper-convoluted relationships and emotional attachments which get bent this way and that, tinctured by betrayal, disappointment, emotional abandonment yet flavoured by acceptance, devotion and absolute conviction through barbaric honesty. You only hurt the ones you love 'nall that. Or the ones you eat with anyway... I can't wait to get this book into the hands of reading groups. Obviously they'll all tell me it's s**t, I've no idea what I'm talking about and I'm a deluded fool but I've had numerous girlfriends tell me that and I'm still standing so bring it on :)

Mind you - I'm even happier to discuss the novel over this dish - what time shall I come round...?

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Cover Uncovered

Sure, I know - loads of you hate it. What can I say? After hours of arguments and food fights this is the one everyone loved a bit, and some lots. I was one of the 'lots' and as I have kind of a casting vote around here...

There's an epic poem at the heart of the novel. Don't worry, there's no actual poetry in the book (although I'm sure some of you would love that) but we wanted to convey the whole classical influence the poet is channeling . I mean, it's no Inferno but there's a medieval fire-and-brimstone allegorical quality that infuses the story proper and we needed to combine this with the human passion of the characters' situations. There are so many themes in the book it was difficult to make just one the the overriding influence. Hence the lack of an actual picture and the decision to go with an... evocation?

The stock will be uncoated so it will have a parchment-esque feel to it and I wanted it to seem 'basic' and archaic for obvious reasons. The font is called Millesime and has a rough, unfinished, urgent quality - the passion I keep blah-ing on about. Different sizes and colours - layers, arcs etc.

But mainly - I think it looks cool. So there it is. I think it has shelf-appeal anyway - don't you?

Another recipe next week by the way - the Sweet Potato Redfish with Kumquat mentioned before I think.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

System Down...

Ah - sorry. Was told that the ship I'm on had internet access so assumed I'd be able to continue posting- but sadly not. Am stuck in the Fjords - which are lovely obviously - but can't do any of the work I was meant to be doing.... oops...Back Friday :)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

All Sparkly and Stuff - The Final No

Yeah, this was another No. It had a certain 'Mardi Gras' quality about it clearly - it reflected part of the life of New Orleans for sure. But it just seemed too... chirpy. Chipper. Like those morning breakfast shows that, despite reporting the death of howevermany people in somedisastersomewhere, remain relentlessly upbeat. A distinct lack of gravitas in other words. And we need some of that sobriety when packaging a book that, whilst containing a lot of fantastic humour, deals a lot with mechanisms of coping with loss. Once we get past all the spangly packaging stuff I'll talk more about the multifarious issues the book raises- the heart / essence that gets me so passionate about this particular work of fiction and makes me want the world to read it, the work of this, I don't know, modern Mark Twain. Wait 'til you meet Willie - you'll see what I mean.

Anyone Seen a Bald Guy with a Lollipop? - Another No.

Or maybe a scruffy bloke in an Oxfam raincoat with a lazy eye? Yeah, so although there is murder in the book, it ain't no whodunnit. In fact we know whodunnit so the TV-movie California gumshoe effect this cover provided was no good either. Murder can be a crime of passion obviously, and passion is the major emotion in the novel, that's for sure but there are so many other themes in the Pig that the cover needed to reflect a bit more depth - I mean, it's not all about death fer cryin'outloud. We've got joy, redemption, friendship, devotion - in a way, it's a celebration of people's innate humanity in the face of despair. Not so much as would validate tomorrow's no-go cover attempt though...

Ooh, and then there's the sweet Potato Redfish with Kumquats... I mean it when I say this book is almost edible.


Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Another No (and the Crescent City Chocolate Cookies)

No no no no no. This instantly reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada for some reason. Not that I've seen it of course. (But I especially didn't watch it on my own, 11pm, New Year's Eve, 2006 - I checked the hotel bill; it just says movie...)

Everyone agreed though, it was more 'cocktails on Park Avenue' than 'murder, sex and chocoloate cookies in the French Quarter' so it was out. I'll put up the recipe for those chocolate cookies some time soon. I've sent them out to magazines but I doubt anyone'll be up for publishing them:

Actually - I wasn't going to post any of the recipes just yet; not until I had a good head of steam and the traffic justified it. But early interest has been such that I'll put the cookies out there now. If only because, as I say below, I have no idea about cooking and it would be great to hear how people get on. I've had a couple of friends make the dishes and of the cookies one loved them and the other said they turned out dreadfully. The most important thing to note is that neither offered me any! Anyway, here's the instructions:
I'm going to list all the recipes on the sidebar anyway - an easy access point for the hordes a'comin'...


Monday, 18 August 2008

Style Counsel... not. (The Ones that Didn't Make It)

To my continual consternation and disbelief it is often posited that I have little in the way of taste. Design and aesthetics are not my forte apparently. I know - outrageous isn't it? But because I actually do want Oleander's books to sell to people other than the workforce's mums we employ designers to do the actual work and then everyone (except me) gets to sit around and discuss which covers they like. I spend this time editing and stuff - proper work. Anyhow, due to the circuitous route taken by the Pig to get to this stage it was even more important to make sure its presentation was excellent so a number of options were thrown out before the winner was chosen. The two shown here are variations on a concept inspired by passion - a major, perhaps the major, theme in the novel. The smoke was to evoke heat, fire and sin - a little of the seedy underbelly of the Big Sleazy.

But in the end it was decide that with the red wine colouring it looked too like a Mills and Boon Romance - albeit one that goes beyond the bedroom door :) So we sacked it. More later in the run-up to the one that won...

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Hell is the Place Between Words and the World...

I read a lot of books. From the age of six I've been voracious - in reading at least... (It's a sad irony however, that I read a lot less now that I am a publisher than when I worked for one.) I love the occasional slow-burn, dawning realisation that you have a slice of greatness in your hands – that you're actually honoured to be a part of what the author's creating, if only in a passive sense. It doesn't happen often and most people can list on one hand the times it has – and those books will be forever stacked in their memory and on their bookshelf, well thumbed and a little tatty. It's something like that I guess:

Mystic Pig - the beginnings...

Like most of us I read blogs – I even have / had a couple. But, unlike mine, the ones I read are by folks who are intelligent and actually have something interesting to say. I was looking through archived posts on one a few months ago when I stumbled across a book review. The blogger had been swept away by it: “I finished this book (295 pages) in eight hours with only a bag of dried mango slices for sustenance, I loved it so much.”

As I searched, intrigued, further out on the bloglines I came across others who regarded it as 'an undiscovered classic,' 'criminally under-appreciated,' 'one of the best novels I've ever read' - many said that.

(Now normally I would link to the entries concerned but unfortunately there be spoilers and you really don't want to know the secrets if you're at all interested in reading the book – and you should be. Obviously, it doesn't take much nous to find them yourself with the info you have – so go ahead, spoil away. :-) )

Of course I now wanted to read it, badly, but it was out of print. Printed in the US in 2001 by a tiny press who shortly thereafter went out of business. By now my blood was tingling a little though so I searched and found a couple of used copies on Amazon but at $40 + shipping over here I wasn't quite sure. Luckily, there was also a cheap copy on Craig's List in Brooklyn. The guy who had it didn't think it was worth sending a five-buck book across the Atlantic even though I was offering to pay carriage. I eventually bribed him with a bunch of cash for his charity of choice and a copy of Night Climbers (of course by now Id spent more than if I'd bought it on Amazon). He sent it over with his best wishes to the Queen. Err, ok.

So I eventually had a copy of it. I picked it up and was instantly transfixed. I don't think I moved again until I'd finished it. The gut-wrenching honesty of the writing and its poetry-turned prose have the power to, just for a fleeting Friday, turn your convenient 21st Century world in on itself. There's an authenticity about it, a noir humour alongside such delicate melancholy. It wraps you seamlessly into a world, emotional and geographical, that you yearn to be a part of, that you want to run away from. What do you know about friendship? About belonging? About Love? Little yet, it transpires.

Oh, and every now and then the characters create these great dishes. Prepared and described in such a way that you're there in New Orleans getting your hands sticky too. I'm a bachelor; I know where the kitchen is and my cleaning lady tells me I have a dual oven and some hi-falutin' hob somewhere in there. Me? I know where the kettle is and that's fine. But in this book, one minute I'm laughing or crying – the next I'm making Chicken Etouffee! Seriously! heh. Anyhow, I'll publish the recipes on here every now and then - and you can tell me how they turn out.

I'll tell you more later but suffice to say I'm bringing it out on September 30th. I tracked down the author Richard Katrovas and, after surprisingly little flummery, we came to an agreement; I guess that was because he wants to see it back in print – and so do I. There were no electronic copies of it so it had to be re-typed, re-edited, re-proofed – everything; it took a while. It'll be a short run too because, well - I'm a tiny, poor, independent publisher - but I'll have a few thousand copies kicking around the place for when people discover this classic. Even if we only sell 12 copies I'll quite simply be inordinately proud to have made it available for anyone and everyone to discover – and through it to allow them to discover a little of themselves. In my sappier moments I feel that that's almost reason enough to have a publishing company...

So anyway – The finished book goes to the printer tomorrow and I'll keep you updated on its progress as well as posting some of the recipes, parts of the prose, any hopes of publicity, some of my dull ramblings – the usual. To begin with here's the cover blurb:

Hell is the place between words and the world...”

A modern romance for a fractured age, Richard Katrovas's first novel is a multi-layered mini epic that wholeheartedly lays its love on the line in the face of an abeyance of hope. Love for New Orleans; her secrets, her dark corners, her food. Love for life; its heroes, its villains, its also-rans. But above all, a love for Passion; its purity, its beauty, its inevitable consequences.

Consequences felt by both twelve-year-old Willie Singer, growing up, and middle-aged Nathan Moore, growing older. Two inhabitants of the Crescent City whose paths collide and ricochet through the dying of a local poet and the ramifications of his death-bed opus – an epic poem,
The Mystic Pig. For better and worse, their lives are forever altered.

Mystic Pig beguiles. Written in evocative and poetic prose it effortlessly wraps the reader in the sensual, vibrant atmosphere of the French Quarter and delivers them right into the complex lives of its characters – warts and all. It's a novel about life and love, death and despair, acceptance, denial, murder, sex – and fine cuisine.

Not necessarily in that order.

Til next time.