Sunday, 28 February 2010

Full-Time, (if Only Briefly...)

That other bit of news I alluded to in my last post was that - as per the title, and for a little while at least - I am now a full time writer.  My last work contract has expired, I don't have another one lined up just yet, so I'm taking the opportunity to concentrate on putting together my second novel.  With a bit of luck I'll have a couple of months of focused writing time before I drift back into the heady world of IT.  I have it pretty well planned out, so if I can get down 10'000 words a week then it should be just about doable. 

Anyway, before I do anything I'm finishing up some work-related training and then having a (believe me!) well-earned rest for a couple of days.  Since this is all a bit experimental and I have no idea if I can reliably write upwards of 2000 words a day, I'll likely keep posting in the interests of science and medical research...

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Sneak Peak of Survivor Guilt

Well, that should be sneak listen I guess, but that doesn't rhyme so well.  I announced back in one of those months last year that I can't be bothered to check that the marvellous people at Variant Frequencies would be podcasting my post-apocalyptic tale Survivor Guilt.  I've just now been lucky enough to hear a draft edit, which seemed to be pretty much complete except for the lack of an intro and outro.  And lo and behold, it's very, very neat.  It has sound effects!  It has background music!  It's has the coolest, creapiest crazed supercomputer voice of all time!

Okay, except maybe for HAL

Point is, the Variant Frequencies team have done a fine job, and I for one am giggling like a schoolgirl at the thought of hearing the final edit - which, by the by, should be available sometime next month.  With that and Andromeda Spaceways #43 coming out, not to mention some major but as-yet-undisclosed news that I'll hopefully find time to post over the weekend, March is already looking to be a good month on the writing front.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Endangered Weapon Faces Extinction

Some bad news this week, perhaps as mean-spirited cosmic penance for the week-before-last's truly awesome news: Mangaquake, the Futurequake Press comic that was to be publishing my strip Endangered Weapon B, is sadly no more.  This is a big loss for the ever-dwindling UK small press and a blow for anyone who likes stories about bears in robot armour pumelling Nazi space dolphins on the moon - which I guess is realistically just me. 

Well, the world may never know what it's missing, because I have absolutely idea where else to send it.  I will of course have a dig around, and hopefully find a new home for Endangered Weapon.  Kidding aside, I think it's a really strong script, and I'm not ready to give up on it just yet.  If anyone reading this knows of anywhere that might be interested in ten pages of somewhat Manga-inspired comedy sci-fi featuring grizzly on dolphin violence then I'd be hugely grateful.  Likewise, if anyone with comic art experience fancies a rather surreal illustrating challenge then please get in touch, either by leaving a comment or e-mail me at

Friday, 19 February 2010

Everything Must Go?

Something me and my writer mate Rafe McGregor often used to debate was the question of whether a writer should ever give their work away for free.  At the time, and perhaps partly due to a bad early experience, I was very much against it: even an imperfect story still amounts to hours, perhaps tens of hours work, and I didn't see how an editor could expect to receive the fruit of all that labour for nothing.  Rafe was more philosophical about the whole thing.  It can often be a huge slog getting a story hooked up with a paying market, and then the amount in question is unlikely to be life-changing.  Why sit on a story for yet more months, or attempt yet another polish, when said story could be out there being read?

We debated it back and forth and, buoyed by a few good sales, I decided on a hard-line stance - I'd sell work for semi-pro rates, (that is, at least a cent a word), or not at all.  Writing, like any business, requires a certain amount of financial investment - stamps, postage, paper and ink, and additional contributor copies don't come free - and even with those good sales, I was barely making a profit.  So why should publishers get away with the argument that they couldn't pay me because they wouldn't be able to break even if they did?  Nope, editors could pay or they could not publish my work.

Editors chose the latter.  There followed the worst dry spell I've had for sales since the day I started submitting.  And as the months edged by, inevitably, I began to question my position.  Might it not be better to get something, anything out, then to go the rest of my life without ever seeing my name in print again?

Needless to say (since it's obvious from some of the things I've had out recently) I changed my mind.  I realised that payment can come in more forms than just the financial, especially when the difference is only one of a few dollars.  I'm not, after all, writing to get rich at this stage.  If I was I'd be an idiot.  I'm writing to build a career, to train myself to be a better writer, to understand the industry, to bring myself to the attention of editors, and if I can possibly make a little pocket change on the back of that then that's great.  But I want to get my work read.  I don't want to kill a story that I'm sure people will enjoy because it's out of line with current fashions.  I want to enjoy what I'm doing, and part of that enjoyment comes from having work published. 

Moving into 2010, I suspect another rethink is on the way.  I'm pleased with how the Kings of the Realm anthology turned out, for example, but having to buy my own contributor copy from the US left such a dint in my wallet that I'll think seriously before submitting to a non-paying antho again.  Also, I've shifted the vast majority of my back catalogue over the last few months, and am writing less and less short stories as my focus shifts more to novels. 

So, for the record, here are a few alternate forms of payment I've accepted or would have considered over the last few months:

- Having someone podcast my story. 
- Having someone illustrate my story, particularly when that story's a comic script.
- Having my story appear in a well put together magazine or collection full of work by writers whose work I enjoy.
- Having my story edited by someone who really knows what they're doing.
- Having my story reprinted so it can find more readers.

All of these things can, and have been, as or more satisfying than cold hard cash.  And here seems as good a place as any to mention Stephen Theaker, who's published my stories in both Theaker's Quarterly Fiction and the British Fantasy Society's Dark Horizons, who's written convincingly on this very subject, and who I suspect I'll keep submitting to simply because he's a pleasure to work with and I always enjoy the magazines he puts out. 

Finally, a note as to what I'd strictly avoid. I've come to think that there's very little to be gained from any magazine that takes my work and sticks it on their website without paying me.  There are some great paying webzines out there, and I've been fortunate enough to work with some of the better ones, but I find it hard to believe that readers will flock away from venues like Flash Fiction Online and Chiaroscuro to ones where the editors have so little faith in the work they're presenting that they refuse to pay even token amounts for it.  The same goes for non-paying electronic anthologies.  I don't doubt that many of the people behind these have the best of intentions, or that they genuinely mean it when they promise to bring writers exposure, but experience has led me to think that those promises are nevertheless pretty hollow. 

Anyway, if anyone has further thoughts on this question, or an approach that radically differs from mine, then I'd be interested to hear about it...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

News, Reviews, Odds and Sods

Just a few bits and pieces I wanted to mention while I remember...

First up, I finally have my copy of Necrotic Tissue #9 - with my Caretaker in the Garden of Dreams as editor's pick - and am currently wearing my entirely stylish Necrotic Tissue T-shirt, which by the way I fully intend to wear to FantasyCon if I manage to make it this year.  Anyway ... I can't recommend these guys enough.  NT is gloriously lurid and pulpy in design, and I'm looking forward to digging into it.  Also, Caretaker got a fantastic accompanying illustration, and I've mentioned before how excited I get by being fantastically illustrated.

As a tenuous tie-in, NT #9's cover is by the hugely talented Nick Rose, who was recently interviewed on Diabolical Plots, which is fifty-percent the home of David Steffen, who recently commented here at Writing on the Moon and mentioned that he'd listed Stockholm Syndrome in his top ten of Pseudopod.  Which is quite an honour, really, given how much great stuff Pseudopod have put out.  You can see the full list here.

Last up, I found a review of the Zombonauts anthology, and while it doesn't mention my Fear of a Blue Goo Planet I thought I'd post it to back up my comments from a couple of posts ago.  I think Jay's review is spot on, and although I'm only about half way through I'd pick out Amanda C. Davis's Two Things as a favourite too - some lovely, witty writing there, and a slyly understated ending.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Jenny's Sick at Lightspeed

It's always nice when these blog post titles make a degree of sense.  It seems perfectly likely that Jenny (whoever she might be) would get a little green around the gills if she was travelling at the speed of light.  And, by coincidence, I've just sold my story Jenny's Sick to new pro-rate market Lightspeed.

It would be hard to exagerate just how awesome this news is.  To give an idea, though, a few facts: when it launches in June of this year, Lightspeed will be the sisterzine of the established and hugely respected Fantasy Magazine.  It's editors are no less than Writers of the Future winner Andrea Kail and best-selling anthologist John Joseph Adams.  Yeah, that John Joseph Adams - the one who accepted my Stockholm Syndrome for his zombie anthology, which went on to become The Living Dead, which went on even further to sell shocking amounts of copies, be a finalist for the World Fantast Award, be named one of the best books of the year by Publisher's Weekly, and to generally kick ass. 

I think John - who, by the way, is one of the downright nicest and most positive editors I've worked with - may possibly be my patron saint or something.  He's certainly done my bank balance huge favours.  I could sing his praises all day, and I could sure as hell go on about how excited I am to be appearing in Lightspeed, but I've run out of fizzy wine so here instead is Lightspeed's press release, saying everything I'd want to say in a much calmer fashion.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Kings of the Realm Unleashed

To end the weekend on a more positive note than yesterday's post, Kings of the Realm : A Dragon Anthology - which includes my The Other Ten Thousand - is now available to buy from CreateSpace and Amazon US.

I've seen an electronic copy of this one, and I'm glad to say that it's a very professionally put-together tome, impressively so given how new Lame Goat Press is to the publishing scene. I've only had time to skim a few of the stories and poems therein, but what struck me pretty quickly was the variety - thankfully, there's a lot more here than just Anne McCaffrey-esque high fantasy. Congrats and thanks to Christopher Jacobsmeyer for his work in bringing it together and of course for taking The Other Ten Thousand. I'll likely post again once my dead tree copy arrives from Amazon, but in the meantime, it's a safe bet that if you like stories about dragons then you'll get plenty out of Kings of the Realm.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Zombonauts, a Word of Warning

I've always tried to be positive about the publications my work appears in. The reasons why should be obvious, but let's just set a few of them down:

The vast majority of magazines, whether print or online, are put together through the effort and time of talented people working from a genuine desire to showcase good fiction to their readers. On the rare occasions I've thought an editor didn't entirely pull that off, it's usually been clear that it wasn't for lack of trying. I'd much rather focus on the positives than nitpick the negatives when the positives are the product of hard work and the negatives are genuine mistakes.

Truthfully, I don't want to get a reputation for biting the hand that feeds. Editors are always taking a gamble on the writers they publish, however good they feel the writer or the particular story to be. I don't want anyone thinking that the gamble will be an even bigger one because I might turn around and rip their publication to shreds.

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I've mostly been very happy with the publications I've been in. 

With all of that said, there's one other thing that I don't want to be known for, and that's encouraging people to buy things that I know are utterly below par. So, after much thought, I've decided the only thing I can do is to come out and say that I can't recommend anyone to buy the Zombonauts collection out recently from Library of the Living Dead Press. Frankly, it's been thrown together with a lack of care that borders on contempt for writers and readers alike. There are countless spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors, in places twenty or thirty a page, to the point where I can't imagine anyone did even a cursory proof read (though bizarrely, a proof reader is actually credited.) It's a mess, and worse, it's a mess with a $15.99 price tag.

It's a shame, because there are some neat stories in amidst all the dumb mistakes, not least of them my own Fear of a Blue Goo Planet. Luckily, that one at least is available here for free, in an excellent podcast from the guys at Chaos Theory: Tales Askew.