Saturday, 28 January 2012

Giant Thief Suprisingly Out

So Giant Thief is out.  Maybe today, or possibly yesterday.  This certainly came as a bit of a suprise to me, and to the gentlemen at Angry Robot as well as it turned out, since we were both under the impression that it was due towards the end of next week (or the start if you're more Americanly inclined.)

Amazon, I found out, have other ideas - preorders seem to have started shipping yesterday.  From what I've heard, this is fairly typical of Amazon, who view release dates with the kind of cynicism most people reserve for party-political election pledges.  Then today, a friend sent me that picture there.  It's from Waterstones, who appear to have been a bit impressionable and Richard Hammond-like and followed suit.

If all this egregious gun-jumping is a teensy bit irritating, (your first novel coming out, after all, not being the sort of thing you really want to catch up on after the fact), then that's heavily outweighed by the basic level of complete and utter awesomeness.

Because ... there's Giant Thief!  Next to Adrian Tchaikovsky!  On a shelf in Waterstones!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Giant Thief: End of January Reviews Round-Up

A minor flood of reviews in for Giant Thief over the last couple of weeks, and most of them offering a considerable thumbs up...

In fact, Marc Aplin's over at Fantasy Faction comes close to being a rave.  He awards four stars and, despite a few reservations about the possibly-too-action-packed first third, prophesises that "I truly believe that this book will be one of the finest d├ębuts of 2012," going on to add that "Although [Giant Thief] is not flawless, it introduces a damned fine, unique narrative style and a couple of characters that could go on to have some truly epic adventures."

Actually perhaps even more positive is Elloise Hopkins's review at her blog Writing, Design and Life.  Elloise writes, "Tallerman has great command of language and phrasing and the witty tone of this book makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read. The pace is fantastic and the action takes off right from the start tracking Easie’s misadventures from one theft to the next. An endearing protagonist, a host of excellent supporting characters, a less than communicative giant, and most importantly a unique story, are just some of the elements that make this book worth reading."

Lastly on the good news front, there's Ros Jackson's (also four star) review at Warpcore SF.  Ros says, "Easie's adventures are fast-paced and enjoyable, as befits a gambler with a past that always threatens to catch up with him. In some ways he's a stock fantasy character, the incorrigible thief and rogue, but he remains fun and interesting because it's hard to predict what he'll do next," and concludes that, "Wherever Easie Damasco goes he leaves a trail of destruction and angry people eager to lynch him. Fortunately I felt just the opposite, and I hope this charming lawbreaker will be back for some sequels."*

So those are the positive ones.  Then, on the "Oh God what is this horrible crap?" front we have blogger Voxael, who has very specific ideas about what he wants from his fantasy books and clearly feels that Giant Thief doesn't stack up. Amongst other criticisms, he notes, "The main cast features heavily on the standard Dungeons and Dragons character sheet with protagonist Easie Damasco fulfilling the wily thief archetype while his (mostly unwilling) allies are Saltlick, a stupid-but-loyal giant, a stubborn female politician and a taciturn city guard," (which brings back fond memories of all those D & D campaigns I played through as a stubborn female politician.)  In fairness, though, Voxael's summation is kind of a back-handed compliment: "When I started reading fantasy I certainly didn’t start with the cream of the crop but what I did start with acted like a gateway into the genre and for all my personal issues with it, there’s absolutely no reason that Giant Thief won’t function in exactly the same way for other people."  So ... the gateway drug of the fantasy genre then?  I can live with that.

Lastly, and somewhere in between the two extremes, there's Owlcat Mountain, website of ... um, someone who hasn't filled out the "About Me" section of their website.  *Does quick research.*   Which is, of course, the website of Tenaya, who may or may not be the last of his-or-her ninja clan, hiding out upon the aforementioned Owlcat Mountain (so named for the mysterious and biologically unlikely Owlcats that are said to prowl its heights) waiting for the prophesied final showdown with the ninjas of nearby Eaglebadger Mountain.  Or I could have made that up in the absence of - y'know - actual facts.  Either way, Tenaya sort of liked Giant Thief, but overall was put off by Damasco's sheer, unbridled obnoxiousness: "Frankly, I wanted to punch him in the nose more than once," Tenaya says, "and although I may not like it, I have to admire the author for getting me to react with such depth of annoyance."

Anyone who's been following this blog will probably have realised by now that I consider Damasco a reprehensible cockroach of a human being (I even said as much in the interview I did with Mur Lafferty today for the Angry Robot podcast!), so of all the possible reasons for marking down  Giant Thief, this is the most acceptable.  Future reviewers please take note!

* He will.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Ten Things the Small Press Can Do As Well (Or Better) Than the Professional Press, Part 8: Communication

As a chubby Cockney used to point out ad nauseam for money, "It's good to talk."

What he neglected to mention is that sometimes it's even better to be talked to.  Like, oh say, in the publishing industry, for example.  Because writing - especially when you're learning the trade - can be the very definition of working in a void.  The average writer spends a great deal of time on their own, trying to create something of worth with little outside guidance to tell them whether they're on the right track or barking spectacularly up the wrong trees.

Once you start being published, it's easy to assume it will all change - and something of a blow when it doesn't.  Selling one (or ten, or twenty) stories is unlikely to get the world talking, or to draw in the praise, criticism or bare acknowledgement you've been craving through the long lonely nights.  You might get lucky and win an award or some such, but there are just so many damn stories published every year, and it takes a hell of a splash to make ripples big enough to notice.

Surely, though, if there's one person it isn't unreasonable to expect a little communication from, it's the editor who's picked up your work?

I'm not talking about rampant praise here, or rampant criticism either for that matter.  All I'm saying is this: a lot can happen between the point of a story being accepted and the point where it's been released and any last threads, like payment and contributor copies, have been neatly tied off.  A lot can go wrong or off track.  A lot can get delayed, juggled about, replanned at the last minute.  Those are the sorts of thing an author will be glad to be told about - and made nervous by when they're not.  Heck, for that matter it's nice to hear when things are going right, too.  Regular progress updates or even a brief note of landmarks like that crucial publication date edge things towards exciting and fun and away from nerve-wracking, and also give writers more opportunity to do that all-important word-spreading stuff that helps get people reading.

I've said before that, in the absence of copious quantities of cash, one of the surest currencies the Small Press can pay in is showing appreciation to authors and valuing their work.  But nothing makes someone feel less valued than being ignored.  Similarly, there are few more dispiriting tasks as a writer than chasing up a publisher for basic information - asking for late payment, wondering why an issue's come out without the story that was supposed to be in there, wondering why an issue hasn't come out at all and when, if ever, it will.

How does this relate specifically to the Small Press?  In theory, it shouldn't.  In my experience, though, it's something professional editors tend to nail far more often than Small Press editors.  Of course, that's partly because the Small Press is more vulnerable to the swings and roundabouts of outrageous fortune, more likely to get knocked off course by a lack of resources.  I think most writers will understand that and accept it.  It's when things go wrong without a word of explanation, or when things go right in deadly silence, that the alarm bells start clattering.

This stuff can't be that hard to get right.  Other industries nail it as a matter of course.  But it takes a little thought, and more than that, it takes planning.  Not supervillianesque world-domination levels of planning, though, let's face it.  A few mailing lists here - one of every author in a given issue perhaps, one of everyone owed money maybe - and perhaps a few form e-mails to cover different exigencies.  Beyond that, I suspect the main requirement is getting into a certain mindset; one where you think of your contributors as partners in a shared enterprise that they'll probably appreciate being kept up to date on.   

Which, I suppose, is my point.  Think of publishing as a collaborative endeavour, you and a team of authors joining together to make something great, and communication should come naturally even when everything else is going pear-shaped.  Think of it otherwise - as, say, a favour you're doing said authors - and it may not seem like quite so big a deal.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sunday, Lots of Unconnected News

Like the man said ... a newsful week, but I don't seem to be able to cram it all together under some kind of logical or meaningful heading, and I don't have the time or energy to break it into lots of wee mini-posts.  So here I am, just kinda news-vomiting all over the place.  Normal service will be resumed ... well, probably when I've finished all the guest posts I've signed up to do.

Which probably counts as news in itself, right?  In the last stretch of the marathon towards Giant Thief's release, I've been out meeting and greeting and signing on for things like guest blogs that in the cold light of day sound like an awful lot of work but hey, it'll all come good no doubt, and in the meantime, my first Giant Thief-related interview's up.  As a big fan of Lewis Caroll, headware and books, it seems appropriate that it should be with The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review.

Meanwhile, on the reviews front, SFX seem to approve of Giant Thief.  They say that "...the breathless pace brings to mind the Pirates of the Caribbean movies - Damasco resembles a landlocked, literary version of Jack Sparrow, cracking wise while dodging guards or jumping off walls..." (I think the unspoken implication here is that it brings to mind the good Pirates of the Caribbean movies) and "it's incessant, but you're never bored and the prose is witty, plus there's no intrusive info-dumping employed to give the world its depth and authenticity."  And they give it 3 1/2 of 5, which on the SFX scale makes Giant Thief only a touch less great than Troll Hunter, one of my favourite films of last year.  I'm calling that a win.

Almost even more exciting, though, I've received my first bad review.  And it's really, really bad!  Thanks to Dan Franklin at Libris Leonis for catapulting me over that scary first-bad-review hurdle in style.  Dan comments, "All in all, Giant Thief is an incredibly disappointing book; with some interesting ideas, Tallerman has written a book that is boring and characterless, conspiring to throw us out of the action repeatedly and with menace aforethought*, and characters who don't stand up to scrutiny." In what little defense I can muster, I should point out that what Dan describes early on as "huge plotholes" seem to stem from him not realising Damasco doesn't have a certain object in his posession, let alone know what it does, for about two thirds of the book.  Other than that, he may very well have a point.

At least I can draw a little comfort from the fact that Bards and Sages Quarterly have picked up my story A Stare From the Darkness.  I had a flash piece in Bards and Sages way back in October 2010, and was impressed enough to want to hang out there again, so it's nice to have the opportunity.  As for A Stare ... well, asides from the ghost stories I've done, it's about as close as I'll ever get to writing straight-up gothic horror.  But, y'know ... with a twist...

Finally, some non-me related news.  Although I guess it is a bit, since it involves me, if only as a viewpoint character to narrate the stuff that isn't to do with me and ... so, anyway, I was lucky enough to get an invite to the launch of Alison Littlewood's debut A Cold Season on Thursday.  It was  plenty fun, with free wine (my preferred vintage!) and nibbles at a bar in Leeds and then a reading by Alison at Waterstones, followed by some questions and an equal number of answers, and then a signing - at which point I picked up a copy and realised I was listed amongst the folks thanked in the back.  Which was a lovely moment, and probably not entirely justified, since my only contribution has been to routinely enjoy Alison's excellent short fiction since we were introduced a few years back.

Still, like I say, lovely - and perhaps fortuitous, given that review up there (not the SFX one, obviously.)  For A Cold Season's just been picked up for the Richard and Judy Book Club, and I have a feeling Ali's about to become all sorts of famous...

* I'm not one hundred percent sure what this means, but it sounds really bad.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Tales of Damasco, Update the First

There's just no point dividing these occasional novel updates into Giant Thief and Crown Thief any more, is there?  Giant Thief's out in less than a month, Crown Thief's not two months off its delivery date, and for that matter, the start of Prince Thief is right around the corner.  It's a whole big thing is what it is, and for this post anyway, I'm going to treat it as such.

First up, then.  The promotion for Giant Thief is gearing up fast, with lots of nice people asking me for interviews and guest blogs and such, and me blithely agreeing, while wondering just how quickly I can make my fingers work before the skin starts to combust.

But if I had any doubts about all that effort being worthwhile ... and I don't, obviously ... but if I did, a couple of recent developments would have smashed them into a squishy mush.  First came a few more glowing reviews.  J. S. Watts, writing for the Morpheus Tales review supplement, describes Giant Thief as "a fast paced, dryly humorous fantasy" and "a wryly amusing and entertaining read that also proves to be more thought provoking than might originally seem to be the case."  Over at Starburst, meanwhile, Alister Davison says, "I’m finding it hard to dislike anything about this book. It’s a fun, entertaining read, everything a good story should be", adding, "If you’re tired of huge volumes filled deep with sub-plots and webs of intrigue, then Giant Thief is a worthy alternative. David Tallerman’s first novel is a gripping yarn..."  Lastly, blogger Mieneke van der Salm, who also happens to be A Fantastical Librarian, calls Giant Thief "...a rollicking tale of being chased and getting away and maybe along the way finding a conscience" (surely she's not talking about Damasco?) and concludes that "...if you're up for a fun, fast-paced adventure featuring rogues, giants and lots of fighting, you won't want to miss it!"

And then there's that on the left.  It's real.  It's shiny.  It's shinily real.  It is in the fact the first-off-the-presses copy of Giant Thief.  See how Damasco looks like he's leaping from the cover, as though he really wants to steal your wallet?  That's because he does.

In the meantime, in the realm of Crown Thief... tonight's the start of the second of two weeks off, which feels like the first break I've had in a year, though I'm fairly sure it can't be.

Of course "time off" in this context means time off from the day job only, since a break from novel-finishing at this point would be madness of the highest order.  In fact, time off actually means hammering unrelentingly into the third and, (for the moment), final draft of Crown Thief.

(Actually, I exaggerate slightly.  I did take a break for the New Year's weekend ... and, er, ended up demolishing my friend Loz's shed.  Then burning it.  Hey, he asked me to!  Really.  I'm not such a terrible friend that I go round to people's houses on New Year's eve to demolish and incinerate their sheds.)

Wait, there was a point there.  Oh, right ... busy!  Yup, busy third-redrafting Crown Thief for the third time, and up to the start of chapter six already, which I don't think is bad for a first week.  It seems to be going well, all told.  For whatever my opinion counts, I don't think I've written a horrible sequel - and for whatever their opinion counts, my draft readers seem to be more or less in agreement.

That said, Crown Thief does have a subplot or two, and at least one web that might considered to be made of intrigue.  Have I misjudged?  Am I risking losing my audience here?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

2011: Survived!

On a personal level, 2011 was a tough year.  It started badly, then got worse, and then got much worse, and after that it was pretty much down hill all the way.  It was as late as September when the old adage that things can't go wrong forever finally started to kick in - and even that didn't stop the back of the year being a constant fight against a slide back into disaster.

Funny thing is, though, none of that is likely to be what I'll remember 2011 for five years from now.  Which, in the end, is possibly the strangest thing about a strange, strange year.  As much as the larger part of it felt like a battle against crisis after crisis, I got to its end in a pretty good place.  I have my first house.  I have a new job.  Giant Thief comes out in less than a month now, and it's clocking up the kind of reviews I'd never have dared dream of.

Another funny thing. While everything else crumbled, my writing career seemed more or less immune to the crazy stomping through the rest of my life.  More than that - it flourished.  And, maybe apart from the house thing, I suspect that's what I'll remember 2011 for: the nose-dive from hard-working amateur scribe to slightly shell-shocked professional.  I mean, I know it's true.  The SFWA say so.

So here, for the record, are the main reasons I'll be thinking of 2011 fondly in five years time when about eighty-seven percent of it was downright horrible at the time:
  • I guess we have to start with the book deal, right?  The offer of a two book deal with Angry Robot that got me an agent, who got that offer upgraded to a three book deal?  Whichever way you look at it, that's pretty much the biggie for the year.  Now here we are and Giant Thief is about to come out, Crown Thief is nearly finished, and Prince Thief is kicking like a feisty foetus at my brain.  It's been a long twelve months, and I still can't quite believe all this has happened in it.
  • For sheer buzz though, the highlight of the year has to have been being part of the team behind Match, the short film that picked up a whole host of awards in the 2 Days Later short film contest - not least, Best Screenplay, the certificate for which is currently suspended behind my head.  And Match isn't the only screenplay I had a hand in over the last twelve months, either.  My fingers, toes and a couple of internal parts that really aren't supposed to work that way are all crossed in that hope that 2012 will bring blogable news on the other two.
    • Nothing I've done has taken quite so long to get off the ground as my comic script Endangered Weapon B.  But all the delays turned out to be worth when the brilliant Bob Molesworth made it real and eye-smackingly lovingly and - crucially - signed on for more.  Endangered Weapon is my love-child, and I'd arm-wrestle Ghandi to see it in comic shops.  In the meantime, there's Endangered Weapon #0, available utterly for free.  Ten thousand hits already, and still counting...
    • Lastly, I got my first proper taste of the convention scene.  I had a glimpse of Eastercon, and made it to (and through) what's been roundly proclaimed as the finest Fantasycon ever.  There and elsewhere, I'm made new writing friends and acquaintances too numerous to mention - hopefully they know who they are!  While it's a shame to single anyone out, no list of 2011 highlights would be complete without a mention of the hour spent drinking free wine with Mike Carey whilst anatomising his comics career in painstaking detail.  Happy times!  (And not just for the free wine.)
    So there we are.  For what was unquestionably a bad year, 2011 was ... y'know ... a pretty good year, all told.