Sunday, 30 December 2012

Research Corner #2: More Grossness

Apparently, so I've heard, there are writers out there who do their research before they write their books.

Not as horrible as it might be.
Now, far be it from me to question the techniques of my esteemed colleagues, but I've got to say that this seems a bit wrong-headed to me.  I mean, it seems pretty obvious that if you do all your research once you've nearly finished, it becomes a lot less like work and a lot more like ... well ... a holiday.

Thus it was that I set off to the Medina district of Marrakesh a couple of weeks back, with the firm intention of doing all the research I should conceivably have considered doing before I started writing the Easie Damasco books, (Morocco being one of my main visual influences for the towns and cities of the Castoval, particularly Muena Palaiya.)  Obviously, since I've effectively finished the trilogy, there wasn't quite so much to do as there would have been if I'd gone about things the old-fashioned way.  But that was okay by me, and really, just more evidence of how eminently sensible my approach was.

Still, lest anyone should think I was just sloping off for a week, I should point out that I was determined to visit at least one place I'd written about and witness it with my own eyes.  Because, it's one thing to compose a blog post about how unfeasibly disgusting tanneries are, but what sort of a writer would I be if I didn't take the opportunity to see those horrors for myself?*

Merely quite unpleasant.
After the reading-up I'd done, I was prepared for more or less anything; it would take more than blood, brains or bodily fluids to shock me.  So in fairness, it has to be said that - compared with the mind-bogglingly vile stuff I'd read about - the tannery I went around in Marrakesh really wasn't that bad.

But let me emphasize the qualification: it wasn't that bad.  That isn't to say it wasn't bad.  This was not a place I wanted to hang out in any longer than I had to.  At no point did I think about settling down there.  If ever a time comes when I decide to have children and seek out a safe and reassuring environment in which to raise the little darlings, a Moroccan tannery won't be my first choice.  Or my second.  Heck, it might not even make my top thousand.

Still ... there's no getting around the fact that it could have been a lot worse.  In Marrakesh, for example, they use pigeon crap to bate the hides, rather than some of the more staggeringly horrible alternatives mentioned on Wikipedia.  Pigeon crap doesn't exactly smell nice, but you sort of get used to it after a while, and at least our guide was good enough to provide us with what he called a Berber Gas Mask, (that's a sprig of mint to you and me.)  Once you got past the distinctive odour and the mud and the sight of bits of dead animal in various states of treatment hung about everywhere, it was all quite interesting.  The men working there didn't look exactly happy, but none of them were screaming like damned souls.  I bought a nice rug in the attached shop.  All told, a good day was had by all, and only rarely do I wake up screaming at the memory.

Research, huh?  It's a dirty business, but someone's gotta do it.

* And, needless to say, drag my poor girlfriend along for a little added horror-witnessing.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Endangered Weapon B: Coming to a Comic Shop Near You

It feels like I've been working on and talking about my comic book project Endangered Weapon B since forever, and for a long time it looked like it might never even be more than a ten page script, let alone a published comic.  So any news that involved it getting released into the world would be pretty damn exciting; but my actual news is a bit better than all that.

Because, not only has Endangered Weapon been picked up by UK publisher Markosia for a trade paperback release this coming July - featuring the first couple of extra-length issues and whatever other goodies we can crowbar in there - it's also going to be the headline story in their first ever entry into Free Comic Book day.  Which means it's going to be in many, many comic shops this coming May 4th, and potentially read by thousands, perhaps tens of thousands or even billions of tens of thousands of people.  (Though probably not that last one, realistically.)

Anyone who knows me will attest that I'm a complete comics geek; as much as having a novel published, having a comic book out there is one of my lifelong dreams.  But that it's this comic, the most demented and willfully absurd thing I've ever let myself get away with writing, and that it's with Bob Molesworth's astonishing artwork bringing it to life, and that it's going to be available to so many people for free, is beyond thrilling.  This has been my dream project for such a long time - and during the bad times, my nightmare, never-to-see-the-light-of-day project - and now it's looking very real.  I've seen all of issue one and a portion of issue two, and I swear to you on my cocktail-swilling, artifact-stealing, bride-kidnapping, mad-scientist protagonists' life, what Bob's doing is eye-wateringly lovely.

(Well ... as lovely as robotically enhanced grizzly bears and mutant ninja squid and pirates and wooden supercomputers and Nazi dolphins and any number of monsters can be, anyway.)

So there it is.  Endangered Weapon B: it's big, it's crazy, it probably shouldn't be encouraged or allowed near small children and animals, and come May, people will actually get to read it for free.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Way of the Leaves Out

A necessarily quick post this one, since I'm off on holiday in a couple of days and haven't even begun to pack yet, but that doesn't mean it's not a brilliant bit of news that I'm not really excited about.

Wait, is that a double negative?  Does that mean it is a brilliant bit of news that I am excited about?  Or that it's an exciting bit of news that I'm not excited about?  Or...

Oh, right.  Quick post.

So, the exciting news that I definitely am excited about is that my first ever chapbook, which also happens to be my first ever competition-winning chapbook, is now out in a very special signed and limited edition from the marvelous Spectral Press.

I talked a lot about the background of this here, and I hope to be talking in depth about where The Way of the Leaves came from in an afterword for the Spectral chapbook collected edition that Simon Marshall-Jones is planning.  So all that remains, really, is to say some thank you's: to Simon, of course, who's not only made my story look amazing but was nice enough to put a special preview copy together as a present for Jobeda's birthday; to Alison Littlewood, for writing a lovely blurb at very short notice, and to Mark West, who put together the nearby trailer for tWotL and somehow found a piece of music that nails its tone perfectly.

Last up, if you're considering a purchase of one of the very few and super-rare copies left, here's the blurb...

The barrow. The hill upon the hill. A place that was old when the Normans came to England. A place of mystery and secrets and uneasy truce.
Now, two children find themselves drawn to the ancient tor, caught in events beyond their understanding. And what they find in the darkness beneath will shatter the course of their lives forever.

... and there have been a couple of early reviews in too.   One from Mark himself on Goodreads, who says, "this is very good indeed, creepy and atmospheric, claustrophobic and quite terrifying at times," and another from Hellbound Times, who conclude that "Spectral’s quality work lends itself to excellent submissions and this contest winner is certainly no exception.  Mr. Tallerman is an experienced wordsmith ... and it shows in this atmospheric and heartfelt work."

Good stuff!  If you do fancy grabbing a copy, just drop Simon a line at spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com and I'm sure he'll be glad to oblige.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

No More Free Duotrope's

I have very mixed feelings about Duotrope's Digest's recently announced decision to move from a free / donation funded model to a subscriber based model at the beginning of next year.

On the one hand, Duotrope's is a superb product.  For those unfamiliar with it, (and if you are, and you write, you're shooting yourself in the foot by not going to take a look right now), it's basically a regularly updated, searchable database of publishing markets, accompanied by buckets of useful statistical information and an integrated submissions tracker.  But any such simplification does Duotrope's no justice; a huge amount of thought and effort has been put into it over the years, and these days it's an invaluable resource for the writer of any level.  Truthfully, I have no idea how people used to sell short fiction before it came along; I know I would have struggled far more than I have without it.  It's staff are tireless, it's content is phenomenal, it's listings are for the most part reliable, and in its current form I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

But ...  then there's that other hand.  Because as of now, the Duotrope's team are asking for a minimum of $50 a year, and $50 is a lot of money to some people.  And by some people I mean writers - members of one of the lowest paid professions on the planet, whose average earnings are generally more comical than impressive.  Now I'm not suggesting that right now I can't personally afford fifty bucks, but there have been times since I started trying to write for money that it would have been a genuine stretch.  In my first year of trying to sell my short fiction, for example, I earned the princely sum of $10; in my second, a whopping $220.  Take off $50 a year from those amounts and I wouldn't have been left with a whole lot.  In fact, since the vast majority of markets that Duotrope's is helping to publicize are non-paying, pay token sums, or worse, charge authors to submit, the service is unlikely to pay for itself for many of its users.

There's also, as other people have pointed out, a more fundamental problem here.  Once the charges come into effect, it's a safe assumption that a large part of Duotrope's' user base will vanish overnight.  Since one of the main services they're offering is statistical data and since those statistics are likely to be much less representative with such a shrunken pool of contributors, they're effectively asking to be paid for a service that's inferior to what they've been giving away for free.  This isn't really anyone's fault, of course, but I can't help feeling that more thought could have gone in to how this will work.

So ... mixed feelings.  I don't begrudge Duotrope's Digest a reasonable payment for their service, but I'm not one hundred percent convinced that $50 a year is a reasonable payment.  Even if it is, I doubt that it will make them competitive in the current climes, and so their user base - and inevitably the value of their content - will take a steep decline.  In short, while I sympathize with the end, I'm not sure this is the right means to it, and I have an unpleasant feeling that this may be the beginning of the end for one of my all time favourite websites.  Then again, maybe I'm wrong, and that extra cash will see Duotrope's develop into something even more marvelous.  Either way, as one of the people who has routinely donated to help fund the site, I suspect I'll be stumping up my $50 for the first year ... I certainly owe them that much.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Tales of Damasco: Update 6

It's a while since I've done one of these Tales of Damasco updates, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been plenty of good stuff happening.   In fact, it had a lot to do with wanting to hang on until I could announce the really big news I've been sitting on for quite a while now...

Which I've pretty much given away with that picture there, so let's just get to it: German publisher Piper Verlag have bought the rights to release Giant Thief in Germany, and will be bringing it out in April next year, behind that rather stunning cover, under the title "Im Schatten Der Giganten" - which, I'm assured by people who understand more German that I, means In the Shadow of Giants

My first non English language sale!  And I really do like that cover ... a very different Damasco from the UK / US edition, with a nice anime feel, and awesome, gravity-defying hair!  Plus, let's face it, they came up with a far better title than I did.  I'm looking forward to holding it in my hands and reading the entire book yet again, this time in a language I don't understand even slightly.  And who knows, maybe I'll end up being big in Germany ... just like the Hoff and Blue Oyster Cult?

In the meantime, I can make do with the fact there's been plenty of good stuff happening on the Crown Thief front.  I've done a guest post for Bull Spec, discussing the difficultest part of writing my difficult second novel, an interview with SF Signal's Paul Weimer on a whole host of writing-related subjects, and with SF Signal once again, took part in their "holding out for a hero" mind meld, on the subject of what sets true heroes apart from mere protagonists and whether the concept remains meaningful in this day and age.

Also, the positive reviews have been slowly but steadily arriving.  Elloise Hopkins on the British Fantasy Society blog has lots of nice things to say, not least of which is that Crown Thief is "...above all a fun read," while Fantastical Librarian Mieneke declares it "...a high-octane romp..." and "...a great follow up to Giant Thief."  Alister Davison at Starburst describes it as "...a light and entertaining read, one that can raise a smile or even shed a tear from the most hardened reader," and most glowing of all is probably Keith's commentary at Adventures Fantastic, which is pretty much summed up by its title, "Easie Damasco Pulls Off Another Great Adventure."  In fact, the only real dissenting voice so far has been the mysteriously initialed K. Burtt at Geek Speak Magazine, who was so put off by the fact that Damasco doesn't really steal a great deal of stuff in this one that he found the entire enterprise unspeakably dull.

Ah well.  At least the accolades are continuing to come in for Giant Thief, even months on from its release.  My favourites are the Fantasy Book Review article that lists it in their "Thief in Fantasy Literature" top ten (whether this of the year or all time I'm not entirely clear, but it's still completely awesome to be in there) and the overwhelmingly lovely review by blogger The Writing Mind that begins with the assertion that "Easie Damasco is a name that everyone in the world of light fantasy should become familiar with, " and ends up by declaring Giant Thief as "...hands down the best novel of 2012, (save for perhaps the coming sequel...)"  Got to love that caveat!

Let's finish up, though, with a review from another blogger, Dvarin, which while not quite so positive, made me smile even more.  Dvarin argues - not unfairly, I think - that Giant Thief "...reads a heck of a lot like a one-player D & D campaign where the GM is desperately trying to get some kind of heroic-ness out of a determinedly neutral-selfish character," and concludes that it's "Slightly worse than the Belgariad, significantly better than Xanth."  Pipping out Piers Anthony but not quite matching David Eddings?  There's a ranking I can live with!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Flash For Life

I liked Newcastle as a city, on the whole, but the period I spent living there was pretty tough going.

I moved there, maybe five years ago, for my first IT contracting job.  At least, I thought I was moving to Newcastle; actually, due to an utter lack of research, I ended up living in a new build of flats far out of the city on the outskirts of North Shields, an area so bleak and fog-laden and generally terrifying that it took me three months to convince myself I hadn't accidentally relocated to Silent Hill.

The place where I worked was even worse, one of those nightmarish so-called 'business parks'; has there ever been a more transparent attempt to make something horrible sound fun?  I was living alone, and I didn't know many people nearby.  I hated the work.  My second winter there was one of the harshest of recent decades, and I was doing most of my traveling on foot or bike.  It was a hard time, all told.

The things that made it bearable weren't exactly the kind of things you might expect.  High on the list was the nature reserve that abutted bizarrely onto the business park, perhaps meant as some sort of apology.  In contrast with almost everything round about, it was an amazing place.  There were all sorts of different habitats hidden away inside a relatively small space, and lots of wildlife that you wouldn't expect to stumble across in an urbanized area just outside of Newcastle, like deer and longhorn cattle.  And there were a family of swans that I got weirdly attached to, just from seeing them day after day after day in the lake I cycled by.

I've always hated that whole "write what you know" rule, and tried to ignore it as much as possible.  It's great advice if you're Oscar Wilde or Ian Fleming, but fairly rubbish for the rest of us.  On this one occasion, however, I did write what I knew.  Well, a bit of it, anyway; the bare bones of that last, bitter winter in the distant outskirts of Newcastle became a flash tale called For Life.  It's one of my rare forays outside of genre fiction, a little story about death, rebirth, relationships, change, all that stuff.  But mostly it's about the swans, and the snapshot I got of their existence went in more or less intact.

The first time I sent For Life to Flash Fiction Online, it was rejected for being too gloomy; they'd had a glut of downbeat stories around about that time.  But editor Jake Freivald liked it, and suggested I try them again in a few months if I hadn't found another home for it.  When a few months later I hadn't, I sent it in again.  That time I got a nice hold request saying that it had been positively received, although at least one of the proofreaders had found it overly depressing.  A month or two later, (and a week or two ago now), it was accepted.

Funnily enough, I've never thought of For Life as being such a sad story.  I think it ends on kind of a hopeful note.  Then again, perhaps that's because so much of my own life went into it, and because of my knowing what happened after the story, at least those bits of it that were mine ... that sometimes, the tough times are just life's way of getting you ready for whatever comes next.*

* Funnily enough, Justine Lee Musk recently wrote a superb article on this very subject here.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Reading in Sheffield Tomorrow

In Sheffield tomorrow?  Like libraries and books and people reading books in libraries?  Why not come along to Sheffield library at one o'clock in the PM and listen to me, Anne "Alchemist of Souls" Lyle, Mike "Courts of the Feyre" Shevdon and Gav "Crown of the Blood" Thorpe read from our respective novels and then try to answer lots of really difficult questions?  There'll also be a panel with Lee and Darren from Angry Robot and those of us authors still capable of stringing words together on how to break into publishing (hint ... blackmail never hurts!).  And to close up, a fight between a giant spider and a velociraptor!*  Not only that, it's all FREE (although you do have to call ahead and book a seat.)

More details on the Angry Robot blog, and here's a picture of the four of us looking happy and / or scowly at the prospect of all those tricky, tricky questions.

* Not confirmed at time of writing.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Glass Parachute

As much as I tried to be positive when I wrote my series of blog posts on the small press, the truth was that the articles came as much out of frustration at the more negative experiences I'd had with certain editors and magazines as it did from wanting to praise the things I felt the small press was getting right.  There'd been some great experiences along the way, but at that point I felt as though the bad was outweighing the good.  In fact, by the time I wrote the last post, I'd more or less decided to back off from the small press for a while and concentrate on trying to shift my best and brightest stories to professional markets. 

Something I hadn't anticipated was that editors might come to me - but that was exactly what began to happen.  So my decision went straight out the window.  It's one thing to choose not to submit to markets, another entirely to say no when someone actually asks you for a story!  One of those editors was Eric Guignard, who's already had plenty of mention on this blog, and another was Matt Edginton, who, looking back, I seem to have failed to talk about quite so much.

Now that Matt's first anthology The Glass Parachute is out, containing my story Final Relocation, I get to redress that a little.  I've been getting steadily more excited about TGP as it got closer, and as it became obvious just how much love and care and graphic design talent Matt was throwing at it.  All of that's reflected in the final product, a charming, professionally crafted, lavishly illustrated and all in all very characterful book.  As first attempts go, it's every bit as impressive as Eric's much-praised Dark Tales anthology earlier in the year.

The strange thing is that my working experience with both Eric and Matt ended up being pretty similar, while at the same time different from the sort of time I'd had with most other editors.  Both of them came to me with a clear idea of what they wanted to do, and even with cover art already in place; both kept me updated as their anthologies came together, worked closely with me on the edit, asked for and listened to advice, and have continued to send out updates since their collections were released.  In fact, off the top of my head, I think they both nailed every one of those ten points I wrote about in my small press blog series; anyone thinking about putting out their first anthology could learn a lot from these guys.

On a related side note, the reason my banner at the top there is a whole lot funkier, more professional and less thrown-together-in-Paint-looking as of recent weeks is that Matt was nice enough to redo it for me, by way of a thank you for Final Relocation.  Which, thinking about it, is something else I sort of talked about back in the day.  So cheers to Matt for not only putting out a small press collection I can be proud to be part of, but also for making my blogular home a much nicer place to hang my blogging hat.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Cheap E-Book Birthday Spectacular

It happened to be my birthday yesterday.  No, I'm not saying which one, but I will say that I just got back from an absolutely fantastic few days in Paris spent celebrating.  Although,I'm not sure I'll be eating snails again in any kind of a hurry ... *shudders*

Anyway, the reason I mention it is that, as congratulations for my managing to protract my existence for another year, Angry Robot have knocked half the price off the e-book editions of both Giant Thief and Crown Thief until Monday.  Not only that, they have some books by other folks who just happen to have been born in the merry month of November, too ... Aliette de Bodard's Obsidian and Blood trilogy, Lee Battersby's recently released The Corpse Rat King, and some kind of steampunk lunacy by that Lavie Tidhar guy.  Didn't he just win some award or other

Anyway, have a look here for details.

And, on a completely unrelated note, there's also a new interview with me up - the first specifically talking about Crown Thief unless my memory's playing tricks on me - at SF Signal.  Cheers to Paul Weimer for the well-posed questions.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Signs and Nightmares

One of my regrets this year is that I've been so busy with novels and other big projects that not have I not been able to write any new short stories, I haven't even had time to send out the ones I've already written.  In fact, until recently, the closest I've come is editing some of the backlog I've been stockpiling over the last four years.

That's changed a bit in the last couple of months, with the first draft of Prince Thief done and dusted, and the extra hard work of beginning to tout some twenty stories began to pay off last week, when John Joseph Adams accepted my The Sign in the Moonlight for his new horror webzine Nightmare.  Considering that my first sale to John, Stockholm Syndrome, appeared in the World Fantasy Award nominated anthology The Living Dead, and my second was Jenny's Sick, published in Lightspeed during its multi-Hugo nominated first year, I've got to admit I have some hopes and expectations for this one.

As for The Sign in the Moonlight itself, I'm sure I'll talk about it plenty when it comes out.  For the moment, suffice to say that it was one of the most satisfying but also bizarre writing experiences I've ever had.  Acting completely out of character, I did a ton of research - into Alesteir Crowley, rock climbing, Tibet and the mountain of Kanchenjunga, amongst other things - and the stuff I came up with was almost too perfect for the tale I wanted to tell ... so much so that I got quite spooked before I was done.  Then, once it was finished, I weirded myself out even more when I discovered that the final word count was 5555; an odd coincidence given how significantly and often the number five occurs throughout the story.

(Go on, just guess how many points that sign in the title has!)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Friends in Interesting Places

In the rush of crazy that was the build up to Crown Thief coming out, I managed to write an entire blog post and somehow forget to post it.  It went something like this:

It's always nice when one of your mates who also happens to be a famous and well-respected author happens to say something nice (or even just something interesting) about your book in public places.  And recently, to my slight astonishment, it's happened not once but twice.

First up was Adrian Tchaikovsky towards the back end of August, in his post Love the Bright Sword on the Tor blog. Adrian always has something good to say about the Fantasy genre, which, let's face it, he knows better than most of us, having added to it so dramatically with his Shadows of the Apt series.  But this is my favourite of his posts that I've read, and not just because it mentions Giant Thief (although, there's that!)  Adrian talks about one of the great elephants in the room of Fantasy fiction, our overwhelming reliance on violence as a plot device, and wonders if that's really the best we can do as a genre.

The mention of Giant Thief is in relation to the fact that Damasco would rather do just about anything than get his hands bloody, so it should be clear where I stand on this one.  I've a certain soft spot for heroes who solve their every problem with a sword, gun or whatever, probably because I read far too many G. I. Joe comics in my formative years.  More and more though, I'm drawn towards stories that manage to talk about something other than our inate need to beat the crap out of each other over every little thing. I mean, we've been around for a fair old while as a species.  We've walked on the moon.  We have jetpacks (even if we don't use them much) and phones that tell us where the nearest cash machine is.  So just maybe it's time our heroes stopped solving their every problem by headbutting someone?

Osama, of course, is now out.  Here's proof.
[Listening to the audio of Giant Thief, and having always been proud of the fact that Damasco never saw a fight he didn't try to run away from, I was actually a little shocked by how scrappy he is in the first chapter.  In fairness, he's just been hanged, he's half starved and has every reason to be in a lousy mood. Still, he's really agressive for a while there.  It's a good job he meets Saltlick when he does, or he might have done something we'd both have regretted.]

Anyway, barely had I gotten through thinking about that one when Lavie Tidhar - whose astonishing and many-award-nominated novel Osama comes out in paperback directly after Crown Thief - wrote an entire blog article on Giant Thief.  I won't spoil it by preempting it too much, because it's a fascinating piece in its own right, but the gist is that - based on the fact that Easie Damasco does very little to further his own story and in fact spends most of his own novel running away from it - I've inadvertently invented a new subgenre, which Lavie labels "slacker fantasy."

I am deeply in love with that term.  Expect it see it cropping up with preposterous regularity in future posts.

Friday, 19 October 2012

New Horror Stories

As much as I like writing about big mouthed thieves and grizzly bears fighting Nazi dolphins, every so often I get the itch to try and tackle something a bit tougher and closer to the bone.

Fall From Grace was one of those stories.  It's the tale of Sarah, a volunteer aid worker who's sent out to a town in an unnamed country wracked by war and famine, and of what she discovers there.  Sarah is a basically decent person, as basically decent as most of us, anyway, but she finds herself vastly out of her depth, confronted with real horrors and real malevolence.

Fall From Grace was definitely a tough write.  I wrote it originally for an anthology titled Hell on Earth, and I took the brief perhaps too literally.  It goes to places I wasn't comfortable with visiting, and because it gives voice to a character both articulate and genuinely evil, it puts into words ideas and arguments that I'd hate for anyone to mix up with my own.  I've always figured that's one of the limbs you go out on as a writer, especially when writing horror; to talk about things that aren't supposed to be talked about, express opinions you'd never agree with in a thousand years.  Horror, after all, is supposed to kick in the doors of our comfort zones.  Still, I hesitated to send out Fall From Grace.  This was a few years ago, and I guess I was less thick-skinned about my work than now; I was worried I might be seen as trivialising the real world issues the story drew on, or reducing them to entertainment.

Anyway, I got over my doubts eventually, sent Fall From Grace out, due to the vicissitudes of publishing had it accepted not once but twice, and now, finally, it's available to read at Kaleidotrope.  After everything, it will be interesting to see what people make of it.


Prisoner of Peace was another tale that turned out difficult, on any number of levels.  It tells of a prisoner in the aftermath of a war; but the nature of that war, as well as just what is keeping the protagonist imprisoned, are revealed only slowly.  Like Fall From Grace, it draws on certain real world horrors that don't often get discussed, especially in genre fiction - and on one atrocity in particular that seems to me a peculiar blind spot for many people.  Prisoner of Peace also plays around with time, with reality and perception and memory, and tries to talk about questions like the nature of guilt and the nature of forgiveness.  Unlike most everything else I've written, it's almost wilfully obstructive; it probably defies a casual reading, and I suspect it might take a couple of runs through to fully understand.

That's perhaps the main reason it's proved such a hard sell.  I hope so, anyway, since I think Prisoner of Peace is the best horror story I've written, and I don't normally misjudge my work quite that drastically.  I was disappointed by some of the markets that turned it down, but pleased when editor Eric Guignard - whose much-acclaimed debut collection Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations I was in earlier this year - expressed an interest.  Even then, though, I dithered more than I had any right to, unsure if Eric's next anthology After Death was the right place for a story I felt so strongly about.

Now, having seen the cover art, having seen the thought and effort he's put into getting his head around and then editing and reediting Prisoner of Peace and, most recently, having seen the stunning interior artwork Eric's commissioned to accompany it, I've come to realise that it couldn't have found a more appropriate home.  After Death should be out soon, and I can't wait to see what the rest of the book look like.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fantasycon 2012, Part 2: The Good

Crown Thief in all its glorious glory.
I wrote up some general impressions of this year's Fantasycon at the start of the week, most of them less than positive - but in fairness to the weekend, it has to be said that I had a pretty good time all told.  If I wasn't overwhelmed with the Con itself, there were still some terrific people there; one thing Fantasycon can always be relied on for is an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones, mostly with the involvement of much reasonably priced liquor.

This time, though, with Crown Thief launching over the weekend, I was determined to prioritise work over propping up the bar into the ludicrous hours - at least a little.  I got to see Crown Thief in the paper for the first time on the Friday afternoon, a few days in advance of its official release date, and was blown away by the job Angry Robot have done.  Giant Thief was a great looking book, but I think Crown Thief is even prettier.  I hardly let a copy out of my sight for the rest of the weekend, and thrust it under the nose of anyone who didn't manage to run away fast enough.

Gav Thorpe, Adam Christopher, Me, Mike Shevdon
My actual official promotional duties were fairly light, however.  First up was a mass Angry Robot signing on the Saturday afternoon, where I got to catch up with Adam Christopher and Gav Thorpe, and to meet Mike Shevdon for the first time.  Unfortunately, we found ourselves up against a much bigger signing, not to mention hidden in the hotel's least accessible conference room, so attendance was more slender than it might have been.  Still, it was fun, and worth it to meet Ros Jackson from Warpcore SF - who, if my memory was a little better, I'd have realised had written an extremely positive review of Giant Thief - and who was nice enough to stop by and share some thoughts on promotion with me.

Mr Jonathan Green, rightly enthroned.
My only other scheduleded appearance was a reading on the Sunday morning, which I was a little nervous about since a) who goes to those things on a Sunday morning? and b) I've somehow managed to go this long without ever actually having to do a solo reading.  Mind filled with images of an audience consisting entirely of Jobeda, I decided to read a short story I'd recently finished instead of an extract from Crown Thief.  That proved a slight mistake, since it wasn't quite as finished as I'd thought, and nothing trips you up quite like trying to read around your own typos.  On the other hand, the attendance turned out better than I'd dared hope - mainly because most of Jonathan Green's audience, not to mention Jonathan himself, were nice enough (or maybe tired and hungover enough) to hang around for mine.  And despite my occasional stumblings, my nerves and a few technical difficulties, everyone seemed to have a good time, me included.

There ended my Fantasycon "work".  Elsewhere, though, I got to have lunch with my comic collaborator mate Bob Molesworth and to celebrate the tremendously exciting thing that we have to celebrate that I can't talk about just yet. I caught up with Stephen Theaker - who published so many of my short stories back in the day - for the first time in a couple of years, met his mysterious alter ego John Greenwood for the first time ever, and teamed up with them to win the quiz on the Friday night (okay, there might have been one or two other people on our team too.)  I briefly met Spectral Press publisher and editor Simon Marshall Jones to chat about my forthcoming chapbook The Way of the Leaves and try and peak his interest in another, grander project.  I managed to briefly smuggle in my friend Dan Scrivener and introduce him to Strange Chemistry editor Amanda Rutter to talk up his recently finished YA Fantasy novel.  I was approached by Cavan Scott to see if I'd be up for writing something for the BFS magazine (I would, and will be.)  And I met many, many other brilliant people, some new, some industry acquaintances ... people I rarely see outside of Cons but that I'm starting to think of as friends, and to consider catching up with in the "real" world.

And I guess that paragraph illustrates the good about even a disappointing Fantasycon.  Being that bit smaller, it's also that bit more intimate, making for a fantastic venue to just chill out and meet with lots of like-minded folks that would never normally be in the same place at the same time. If the committee could only find a way to combine those elements with a more ambitious, inspiring programme, here's hoping we might yet see a brilliant FCon 2014.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Fantasycon 2012, Part 1: The Bad

Another year, another Fantasycon.  This year's had a lot to live up to after 2011's glorious, sun-soaked high-jinks, but also a lot to live down after the Gulag-style horrors of 2010.  Not to mention the fact that both the SFX Weekender and Eastercon in recent months have done a lot to raise my personal bar for what a Con can be ... that is, provocative, imaginative, varied, slickly organised and purposefully inclusive.

The good news is, I had a fun weekend, and caught up with some wonderful people.  The bad news is that not much of that had to do with Fantasycon itself.

Truth be told, I've had my concerns about the British Fantasy Society and its pet Con for a while now; it's been getting harder to see what either has to offer me as a fantasy author when the society increasingly seemed to be a clique for certain folks, most of them in the Horror field, with apparently limited interest in promoting much besides themselves.  The embarrassing awards hiccup last year dragged a lot of my own gripes into the spotlight; seeing that plenty of other people had the same issues and hearing society figures respond in what seemed a positive, proactive fashion, I hoped the times might be a-changing.

Unfortunately, what followed involved those hopes getting a lot of dashing.

This year I went with Jobeda Ali, who - as a fan of Fantasy with no interest at all in Horror and no familiarity with the BFS's long and storied history - was bewildered by the under-representation of her genre of choice at an event named Fantasycon.  Though plenty of excuses have been made for this in the past, the fact remains that if you put on an event called Fantasycon and charge people to attend it, it should live up to its name more than a little.

Of course, that wouldn't have mattered half as much if the programming had had more to offer.  It's probably more polite to not specify which they were, but of the three panels I tried, one irritated me enough that I had to walk out, another achieved the same by being painfully dull and straying badly off topic, and I only suffered through the third because one of the five panelists had interesting things to say.  All three panels were badly thought through and poorly moderated.  In fairness, I should say that Jobeda made the Fantasy Fiction: Keep it Real panel, which I missed, and reported back that it was excellent.  Still, not a great success rate, and those were the ones we'd picked because they looked most interesting.  In general, there were too many tired old questions; does the publishing world really need another "Print vs. Electronic" panel?  I've been lucky enough to watch some terrific panels this year, enthusiastic debates that both entertained and tackled significant questions within the industry, and that's the standard I'm coming to expect.

Elsewhere, there were the usual mainstays - readings, a disproportionate number of launches and signings, often scheduled over each other - and not a whole lot else.  The masterclasses are a potentially good idea, but the decision to charge extra for them and severely limit attendance is plain baffling.  What organiser thinks reserving their best content for a tiny minority is a good idea?  I saw some of the Saturday night's entertainment, and the kindest thing I can say is that I probably wasn't the intended audience.  My less-than-complimentary thoughts about the only feature film on offer can be found here.  In general, I spent a lot of time feeling glad that I wasn't there on my own, relying on the conference to keep me entertained.

Finally, there came the British Fantasy Awards.  Whatever hopes I'd had for their not being another shambles after last year's travesty had already been dented by the shortlists - three of the five best short stories from one anthology?  Edited by BFS mainstay Stephen Jones?  Really? - but it was still a disappointment to see an opportunity for the society to get its act together wasted so thoroughly.  Yet again we had an unlikely mash up of an international awards ceremony - I'm sure Woody Allen and Joe Hill are still reeling from their successes - with something so comically insular and mutually back-slapping that every market up for Best Novella, Best Short Fiction, Best Magazine and Best Collection (not to mention all but one of the publishers up for Best Anthology) could be British and no one thought it worthy of comment.  Just because this year doesn't seem to have produced any major scandals, I hope it doesn't fool the BFS into imagining they've finally got it right.

As is probably apparent by now, I struggled to find much about this year's Fantasycon to be positive about (what there is, I'll come back to in a day or two) and found a huge amount frustrating in light of the steady progress being made elsewhere.  It would take a whole other post to discuss the crummy and wholly inappropriate venue, for example, or to talk about subjects like inclusivity and diversity and the staggering disregard for the basics of sustainability (But seriously, I hope that all least some of the proceeds go towards reforestation.)

All told, I suspect it's a good thing that there's no Fantastcon next year.  I'm hanging onto the hope that the extra year will give the BFS an opportunity to regroup, put aside a little of their complacency and figure out what it is they're trying to achieve here.  I genuinely believe that both the society and Fantasycon have something to offer, and I'd love to see them do it, but with others doing the whole genre convention thing so much better, they have plenty of catching up to do if they want to remain a meaningful date in the Con calendar.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Thievery in the UK

Just a brief post to say that - yay! - Crown Thief is now officially out to buy in UK bookshops, of both the brick and electronic varieties.

To celebrate, here's a rather long quote from the Falcata Times's rave review, which went up today:

"It’s a fun romp in a dark fantasy world and when you add to this ... top notch prose and combat to keep you glued, all in this is a great second book for the reader to enjoy. Finally add to the mix a deeper series overall arc playing out underneath the plot for this title and all in the reader is in for a treat. Great stuff."

Here again are the links to a few of the UK sites selling Crown Thief online:

Print & Ebook | Book Depository | Waterstones | WHSmith 

DRM-Free Epub Ebook On-sale September 25th from the Robot Trading Company

Friday, 28 September 2012

(On the way to) Fantasycon 2012

Perhaps a little late to be mentioning this, but I'm going to be at Fantasycon 2012 in sunny Brighton (or, touch wood, at least not torrentially rainy Brighton) this weekend - in about, oh, thirty minutes to be exact.  I'll be there in a work capacity, of course, because despite what some people will try and have you believe, writers and editors and publishers all getting drunk together at the seaside is most definitely work.  But asides from all that professional networking, I have a couple of official things doing:

Firstly, and most exciting, there's the UK launch of Crown Thief at 4 PM on the Saturday.  I'll be signing with other Angry Robot authors Adam Christopher, Mike Shevdon and Gav Thorpe, and since Crown Thief isn't actually out in this country until the 4th October, it will be an opportunity to pick up an advance copy.  These will probably be worth more on e-bay in twenty years or something, so you'd be mad to miss the opportunity to pick up such a unique piece of Tallermanalia*.

Secondly, and most intimidating, I have my first solo reading at 11 AM on the Sunday morning.  This, of course, is extremely early for something like that, so it's hard to say how coherent I'll be.  I'm either going to read a new short story or an extract from Crown Thief, depending on who turns up and in what quantities they do it, so there's an exciting element of randomness there.  I might even put it to a vote if there are enough people to formulate a properly democratic decision ... so why not come along and have a say?

* A word I may have just invented.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Crown Thief Now Out

Party poppers and silly hats, people!  My second novel, sequel to Giant Thief and second of the Tales of Easie Damasco, is now out to buy in print in the US and in e-book everywhere in the universe.*

Which is undeniably cool, because I'm convinced as I can be that Crown Thief is a fun read for new and returning readers alike.  Picking up from the end of Giant Thief, it isn't long before our titular thieving scoundrel Easie Damasco has discovered that the man he hates most in all the land is now running a significant portion of it - and all that knowledge gains him is a killer beyond compare out to end his miserable life.  As if that weren't bad enough, his only hope for escape lies with Guard Captain Alvantes, who despises Damasco for his countless past misdemeanours, and in a trip to visit the king in far-distant Pasaeda that's bound to end in yet more trouble.  Meanwhile, Damasco's only ally, the gentle giant Saltlick, is too caught up with his own giant-sized problems to help.  Could it be that for once Damasco might have to return the favour?

I don't have many reviews yet to back up my own high opinions of Crown Thief, but the couple there are are enthusiastic enough to do the job: Rebecca Lovatt at The Arched Doorway called it "an engaging, fast paced and riveting tale", while Book Bloggery praised it as "a very enjoyable and fun read that made me chuckle more than than once."

So in theory, things are looking pretty rosy, right?  Only I've been reliably informed by those in the know that conventional wisdom says no one actually buys sequels - even when they tell standalone stories and have been lovingly written with new readers in mind - and therefore that they don't get talked about much or invited to dinner parties.  Now, conventional wisdom probably has a point; I for one would be hesitant to pick up the second book in a series, whatever anyone might promise me, (with the definite exception of free drop bears).  Still, it's a bit of a gloomsome truth to come to terms with on the eve of your second novel coming out.

Therefore, it seems to me that the one thing - or at least, the Damascoesque thing - to do when conventional wisdom tells you your new book is doomed from the start is to ignore the hell out of conventional wisdom.  (Or, in Damasco's case, perhaps try and steal it.)  I have a few long term plans up my sleeve right now - watch this space! - but in the short term I'm just going to ask nicely for your help.  If there's anything you can do that will help spread the word on Crown Thief coming out, it would be great if you could do it.  A link, a tweet, a Facebook share, would all be more than fine.  And if you happen to pick up a copy, please review it, however briefly, somewhere where other people will read it.

Last up, there's a sample you might like to read here, and below are the links to where Crown Thief is currently available (in the US) are where it will be available (from the 4th October) in the UK:

 US Print & Ebook | |  

UK Print & Ebook | Book Depository | Waterstones | WHSmith 

DRM-Free Epub Ebook On-sale September 25th from the Robot Trading Company

* Except, for complicated legal reasons mostly relating to the pastorage of sheep, the island of Bishop Rock.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Not the Final Version...

I recently ran up a couple of print copies of the first draft of Prince Thief so that me and my proofreading chum had something to work off.  As much as I'll fight tooth and nail to keep it, I fear the cover may change a little between now and the final release, so I'd thought I'd better share my version while I can:

Shrill, purple clad eighties pop midgets, beware!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

More Power to the Electric Velocipede

In plenty of ways, Kickstarter might have been designed with the publishing industry in mind; or perhaps modelled after it, since the whole subscription concept is pretty much based on trying to sell your product before it comes out.  I've noticed Kickstarter being used quite a lot by the small press, and even the odd professional zine, and the results always seem to be positive.  It's interesting and a little exciting that something like that has come along to help our always-slightly-beleagured industry and that so many people are embracing it.  It's going to be interesting to see how this one goes, whether it's the beginning of a sea change in how magazines are funded or whether it'll peter out to nothing in a couple of years, like so many internet fads before it.

Anyway, the last time I talked about Kickstarter, it was in aid of an editor and a project I had plenty of time for, and that's equally the case this time around.  Electric Velocipede has had a troubled time over the last couple of years, with a lengthy hiatus while it shifted over from print to electronic status - but through all that it's remains one of the best and most deservedly Hugo-nominated magazines out there, under the editorship of John Klima and recently with the able assistance of world's bestest copy editor Anne Zanoni.  It very much deserves a new lease of life, and based on the results so far, looks set to get it.

Now, as usual I have a degree of bias here, since John published my story Dancing in the Winter Rooms not so long ago, and Anne hunted down and sorted out every last one of my dumbass mistakes and wild logical inconsistencies in Crown Thief while wearing her other, freelance copyeditor hat.  Still, that should only be taken as more evidence for the fact that EV is great and deserving of having money thrown at it.  And hey, if you pledge a thousand dollars, you get to travel back in time and witness the crucial and formative events in John's life that led to him becoming an editor in the first place.*  How cool is that?

* Sadly, not true.  Electric Velocipede in no way condones the abuse of time travel.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Prince Thief, You're Done

There we go, another book finished - he says, as if it's something that happens every other week and not the culmination of six of the most intense months writing I've ever managed.  And come to think of it, "finished" is a grandiose word for completing a first draft, when there's still four months of second draft and two months of third draft and probably a fair bit of tidying and proofreading and copyediting to deal with, not to mention thanks, dedications, all that stuff.

So - let's start again.  That's the first draft of Prince Thief, closing chapter of the Tales of Damasco trilogy, finished.  I won't lie, it's been a tough ride writing over 110'000 words around apparently random twelve hour day and night shifts, house renovation and all the other random horror and marvellousness that life insists on throwing at you.  I won't even lie and say but hey, it was all worth it, because that kind of statement takes the sort of perspective I don't have right at this minute.

But then, that's what September is for.  One whole month with no novel writing; one whole month to let Prince Thief sit, let it settle, figure out what needs to be done. I think at this stage that it's mostly just smoothing a great deal of rough edges and making sure that all the plot strands - of which, in stark contrast to Giant Thief, there are quite a few! - get their due time and tie up properly.  Yeah, to my absolute suprise I've gone and written something that's at least a little bit complicated, and so this redraft is going to be quite different from the two I've done before.  But that's a good thing, right?  I'm glad that Crown Thief is a very different book to Giant Thief, that Prince Thief is different again to either of them; I wouldn't have had it any other way.

In the meantime, while I may not be jumping up and done and necking champagne right now, at least there's a deal of satisfaction with what I've somehow managed to accomplish.  Back when I started thinking about the possibility of Giant Thief swelling into a trilogy - back even before that, when I drew close to finishing it and to wondering where the characters would go from there, whether they'd ever get what they wanted, whether Damasco could ever be anything more than a selfish, cowardly asshat - I had some clear ideas of what I'd want out of a conclusion. And I feel like that's the book I've written ... or something that's hopefully a bit better, because I'd like to think I'm a better writer than I was way back then.  I mean, in its own right, I feel like Prince Thief is a fun book, with much higher stakes that the first two, a more epic scale, a bigger cast, and perhaps a little bit of something to say for itself.

Okay, forget what I said earlier.  It's already feels a little bit worth it.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Whatever You Do, Don't Do the Twist

My story A Twist Too Far is out in Andromeda Spaceways issue 56 ... which just so happens to be their special, extra big 10 year anniversary issue.  10 years!  That's a loooong time for a magazine, especially in these wacky economic climes.  So paper hats off to the ASIM collective, who've pulled off something extraordinary and deserve all the spaceship cake they can eat.

A Twist Too Far is my third story to grace the pages of Australia's finest genre magazine.  It's a little bit Lovecraftian, a little bit Conan Doyle, and maybe there's a drop of The Prestige in there too, come to think of it ... what with it being about competing contortionists and all.  Why aren't there more horror stories about contortionists?  Contortionists are scary.  I mean, not as scary as gnomes, but not so far off.  They bend their bodies into shapes that human bodies aren't supposed to bend into, for fun and profit.  How is that not ideal fodder for a horror story?  And yet I've never come across another one. So, who knows, maybe I've written the definitive contortionist horror story.  Hey, stranger things have happened, and it certainly creeps the hell out of me.

And also some other people, hopefully, since A Twist Too Far has made it onto the reading list for the HWA's Stoker awards.  Sure would be nice to get nominated for a Stoker!  In the meantime, I'm taking comfort from the fact that not only have I somehow managed to get longlisted, two anthologies I have stories in - Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations and Slices of Flesh, both from Dark Moon Books - are on there too.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Dinocorp Needs You

Bob Molesworth gets a fair bit of mention on this blog, mainly because he's the artist of our comic book series Endangered Weapon B, but also because he's a tremendous artist full stop and it amuses me to go on about how good he is.  We've been electronically hanging out a lot recently, we have a couple of exciting things close to fruition and a couple more on the backburner, and so it only seems right that I should give a quick plug to Bob and writers Steve Horvath and Andy Briggs's recent publication, Dinocorps.

Here's the blurbage:

Entombed for millennia, a team of combat dinosaurs is accidentally reanimated by 14-year-old Carl Heyward. While trying to keep them a secret, Carl discovers the evil Saurons have survived too. Responsible for the last mass extinction event, they’re planning to eradicate the human mammalian vermin with another extinction event. The race is on to save the planet… again. World shaking action-adventure in this all-ages story!

You heard that, right?  Combat dinosaurs!  That means, dinosaurs with guns kicking ass.  Everyone loves dinosaurs, right?  I know I do.  Although granted, not as much as when I was twelve, which I think is probably the perfect target age for Dinocorps.  When I was twelve, I would have thought it was about the coolest thing imaginable.  I would probably also have been a little troubled, in ways I couldn't quite put my finger on, by the slinky lady dinosaur, Lieutenant Kayla.  Boy, I'm sure glad that stuff like that doesn't bother me anymore.

 Anyway, I obviously picked up Dinocorps for Bob's artwork and not for slinky dinosaur ladies.  One of the fun things about working with artists is getting to watch them evolve, and Bob's done a whole lot of evolving since we first came across each other.  He really does get better and better with every project he does, and it's a joy to watch. Plus, it means that the work he's doing right now on Endangered Weapon - and our other, secret mini-project - is his absolute best yet.  Which, from my point of view, is pretty great news.

So if you have a twelve year old to hand, or - like me - a significant portion of your brain that frequently forgets it isn't a twelve year old, why not give Dinocorps a go?   It's a lovely-looking comic book about dinosaurs with guns kicking the crap out of each other.  If you can find a single thing not to like there, you're probably a pod person.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Auditory Self-Indulgence

I just finished listening to my first ever audiobook.  Well, unless you count the bonkers seventies BBC radio adaptation of The Hobbit I won at a British Fantasy Society event years ago, but I think that was more in the way of a dramatic interpretation.  I mean, it had sound effects and a cast and painfully long musical interludes and everything.  So let's just say for the purposes of argument that this one was my first audiobook.

By non-too-massive coincidence, it was in fact my first audibook.

Which is to say, it was Brilliance Audio's interpretation of Giant Thief, as directed by Lisa Cahn and as read by the mighty and award-winning James Langton. This wasn't quite the act of vanity or self-indulgence it might seem, (although it's probably fair to say that there was a little bit of both kicking about!)  With the first draft of Prince Thief coming to a close and taking the whole damn Tales of Damasco trilogy along with it, I thought I was overdue a revisit of Giant Thief, to try and weed out any niggling continuity errors and pick up any last plot threads I might have left dangling.  It may only have been released six months ago, I may only have put the final touches to it late last year, but what with finishing a sequel and drafting a second sequel in the meantime, that all seems a very long time ago, and I was shocked to realise I was getting a little hazy on the details.

So it was research, right?  That's okay.  The fact that I'd been itching to listen it ever since I heard that Giant Thief would be out in audiobook had nothing to do with anything.  There's nothing at all weird about wanting to listen to a complete stranger read out your own book to you. Ideally in bed, while you're drinking wine and eating mango sorbet.

Anyway, as it turned out, such luxuries weren't to be.  But despite only finding time to listen to it while on the tube and wandering the mean streets of London, I have finally managed to get to the end of the Giant Thief in audio.  And it was fun!  James Langton does a great job of breathing life into the text, making the jokes funnier and the action bits more actiony and the characters more textured than I think they ever read on the page.  Although he sounds nothing like the Easie Damasco in my head, James crafts his own version of the character that's every bit as good.  And the same goes for the rest of the cast: his Moaradrid is both more thuggish and more wily than mine; his Estrada is a little softer and a little more likeable, but downright scary when she needs to be.

Which, I guess, was the point for me.  I remember saying in a guest post a while back that once your book's published, it sort of stops being yours.  More than with most creative types, writers are shut out of the process of other people actually experiencing and interpreting our work.  Maybe that suits some people, but personally I like to peek over the reader's shoulder whenever I get the chance - and I really like it when talented people take something I've done and make it into something better and different that I don't entirely recognise.

So cheers to Brilliance for giving me the chance to listen to Lisa Cahn and James Langton's Giant Thief.  It made a lot of my recent journeys a whole heck of a lot more fun.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Lost Civilisations Doing Well For Itself

Dark Tales: Now Kindley.
With plenty going on and absolutely nothing at a stage I can say anything useful about, I thought I'd spend one last post plugging the Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations anthology that I had a story, The Door Beyond the Water, in a couple of months back.

Firstly, because I've actually managed to read it, and enjoyed it rather a lot.  (For what it's worth, my personal favourite tales were Mark Lee Pearson's To Run a Stick Through a Fish, Jackson Kuhl's Quivira, Caw Miller's The Small Black God and Joe Lansdale's The Tall Grass, but there's plenty of other good stuff in there.)

Secondly, because I owe Eric Guignard one for helping me nail down the ending of another story, Prisoner of Peace; possibly the best horror story I've written, probably my personal favourite, and that bit better for Eric's contribution.

And thirdly, because Dark Tales has been running around like that kid in every school class whose parents feed him nothing but sugar and haven't even heard of ritalin, getting lots of attention and starting fights with the big kids and biting the dinner lady's bosom. 

What does all that mean?  I don't know, my analogy got out from under me.  What I do know is that Eric sent my an e-mail telling me lots of neat stuff.  Like ... Dark Tales is now out in e-book, here at Amazon and here at Barnes & Noble.  Like, it's been picking up nominations for a Stoker, which is pretty respectable for a small press collection from a debut editor.  Like, Goodreads are running a best horror anthology contest and it's currently at number 3, beating out some astonishingly tough competition ... not least that little Living Dead anthology thing I was in a couple of years back.  Like, it's been picking up some excellent reviews for itself. 

(And then, just as I was about to finish this post, I got a membership offer from the Horror Writers Association, who'd read The Door Beyond the Water and liked it enough to see if I'd be up for joining their gang.)

So all in all, hats off to Eric ... firstly for putting so much thought and care into creating such a strong collection, and secondly for managing to get so many of the right people to notice it.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Tales of Damasco: Update 5

It seems a while since I've done a Tales of Damasco update, and I'm tempted to say that that's because not a lot's been happening, but actually that isn't entirely true.  I guess it's more than the news has been trickling in in dribs and drabs, and until now it hasn't quite added up to enough to warrant a full blog post.

Closest to my heart right now is that I'm finally entering the last leg of the first draft of Prince Thief.  I'm five chapters from the end, and those five chapters are all conclusion ... the conclusion not only of this book but of the wider story I started in Giant Thief.  That means that in the remaining twenty-five thousand words or so, I have to clear up once and for all the fates of not only the ever-scoundrelish Mr Damasco himself, but Saltlick, Marina Estrada, Alvantes, Castilio Mounteban, a host of secondary characters, two or three new and major characters you haven't met yet unless you're me, and ... oh, lest we forget ... the entirety of the Castoval.

So.  No pressure, right?  Or at least - right now anyway - only the self-imposed kind that involves a bit of my brain constantly screaming, "don't screw this up, Tallerman, it's taken you five bloody years!" But you know what?  Five chapters and a month and a half to go until the end of this first draft, and I'm still feeling good about Prince Thief.  I only hope I can say the same in six weeks time, as I oh so slowly and melodramatically finger-type THE END.

Meanwhile, Crown Thief has gone off to the typesetters, which means that from my point of view, it really is truly and completely and finally done at last.  It even has a finished (well, a provisionally finished) cover, which is that bit of loveliness over on the right there.

Last up, there have been a few more reviews of Giant Thief trickling in since the release of the audiobook.  And funnily enough, they all come to fairly similar conclusions, though with varying degrees of positiveness.  Focusing specifically on the audiobook, The Guilded Earlobe says that "Giant Thief won’t distinguish itself as a modern classic of the Fantasy genre, but it’s a fun, clever adventure tale full of reluctant heroes and outrageous situations," and praises James Langton's reading in particular: "I felt instantly comfortable with [Langton], and I think he handled the characters and pacing of this novel just right."  Meanwhile, Fantasy Book Critic thought that "overall Giant Thief is an entertaining fantasy novel, with a strong enough main character to make me look forward to the next volume in the series," and Ryan Skardal from Fantasy Literature, agreeing but not enjoying the experience so much, felt that "Giant Thief is an amusing, if familiar, fantasy novel."

Most interesting for me, though, was to hear the thoughts of Bull Spec editor Samuel Montgomery-Blinn; Sam published my story The Burning Room way back when and so I take his opinion a little more seriously than that of the average reviewer.  Sad to say, he wasn't exactly bowled over, finding some of the plot turns in the second half unconvincing and drawing unfavourable comparisons with the mighty Mr Scott Lynch.*  Sam also offers some interesting thoughts on the the cover art and its representation of Damasco; I won't repeat his thoughts here, as I suspect the subject he touches on warrants at the very least a blog post in its own right, but it's certainly a topic worthy of discussion.  So I'm glad someone raised it and I recommend taking a look and then following the links that Sam's put in there.

* But hey, sometimes just getting the comparison in the first place is enough, you know?  

Friday, 6 July 2012

Breaking (Into) the Glass Parachute

I'd promised myself that if anyone else asked me for a story I'd definitely say no.

This is The Glass Parachute.
I mean, unless they were offering a load of money to go with the request.  Because let's face it, I'm pretty busy this year with Tales of Damasco stuff - promoting Giant Thief, putting the finishing touches to Crown Thief and writing Prince Thief.  By February I'd more or less decided that if anyone wanted me to do anything besides all that, I had every right to say no without seeming mean.  Surely "Sorry, I'm busy simultaneously working on three novels" is a good enough excuse?

So when Matt Edginton got in touch and said he was planning a first anthology for a fledgling small press publisher, Villipede Publications, I had no problem with saying to him, politely but firmly, "Um, I don't know, probably not but maybe."  It was supposed to be a no, it was, but Matt mentioned that he was an artist and I'm a sucker for working with artists at the best of times, and his mentioned that the collection was going to be illustrated by him and his artist mates, and not only that but I had a look at his online portfolio and it was really good.

Then Matt said how he wanted to put together, and I quote, "A really professional, personal collection," and he'd read some of my work and liked it, and by that point I didn't have much willpower left, being pretty lousy at saying no to anything shy of random and unnecessary brain surgery at the best of times, and absolutely helpless in the face of compliments.

It's going to be very illustrated.
There did, however, remain the problem of what I could offer Matt short fiction-wise.  Because I'd also pledged myself that I'd leave my unsold story backlog alone once and for all.  Whatever my feelings on the matter, there had to be some reason why certain stories were failing to shift, and maybe it was time I let them die a quiet death.  Obviously there were flaws I was never going to see, but that editor after editor had picked up on.

Only, when I started flicking and came across a sci-fi - or maybe more horror - story I'd called Final Relocation, I knew exactly what was wrong with it.  A couple of editors had even told me, it just hadn't quite sunk in.  I even remembered a scene that was supposed to have been in the first draft and that I'd somehow forgotten about, which would have pretty much fixed that one crucial failing.  So I sent it over to Matt, on the understanding that if he thought it was okay I'd rewrite it, fixing the problems I'd recently discovered.  He liked.  I rewrote.

Anyway, all of this actually happened months ago, but it's only recently that Matt got a page together to promote the collection - which is actually due pretty soon now, I think.  So I figured I should probably mention it while I still have the time.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ten Things the Small Press Can Do As Well (Or Better) Than the Professional Press: Index

By way of tying it all together, here's an index of all eleven of my blog post series on the small press, in the order they appeared.  (Which, by coincidence, is also their numerical order!)

Part 1: Non-grudging acceptances
Part 2: Artwork
Part 3: Editorial intervention
Part 4: Design
Part 5: Proof-reading
Part 6: Availability
Part 7: Publicity
Part 8: Communication
Part 9: Personality
Part 10: Professionalism