Here’s an article about how tough it is to make good money as a writer published by The Guardian a few days ago. Obviously I have a vested interest in such things. As I read it however, it became abundantly clear that my definition of a reasonable amount of money and their idea of a reasonable amount of money are worlds apart. When I got to the part about Joanna Kavenna’s advance for The Ice Museum (non-fiction, sounds intriguing. I’m going to have to read that) my jaw sagged open. And there was me thinking “jaw dropping” was a just one of those idioms that make useful linguistic shorthand. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Random wifflings’ Category
Tags: literary fiction, money, The Guardian, writing
Tags: Arthur C Clarke Award, David Gemmell Legend Award, writers are nuts
This is a crazy nuts time of year. This is the way it usually goes: Coast out of Christmas, finish off the previous year’s work, hustle for this year’s work, get rained on, get struck down by successive waves of germs brought home by Benny, fill in a ton of forms various organisations I work for all need at once, become enraged by the changes various organisations I use wreak on their services all at once (and without warning), pay my tax (HOWL!) and get mildly miserable owing to a paucity of sunlight. I think I’ll be taking those vitamin D tablets again. (more…)
Tags: Boosh for iOS, free book, Reality 36 free download
I’m doing this thing, you know, with clever techie people who do real stuff and not make nonsense up like I do for a living. They’re called Boosh, “Book Share”, see ? Now that’s clever in itself, but it’s not the really clever bit. As I wrote here, and I’ll repeat for those who can’t be bothered to click on the link, their app is designed for two great purposes. Number One, to allow you to read books easily upon an e-reader you probably didn’t know you had, to wit, your phone. Number Two, you can share your book with your buddies. When you buy a book on Boosh, it costs less, because you’re buying a license, not the product. Think of it like streaming movies on Netflix, but with books, you with me?
As part of this fine new idea, I’m involved in a promotion. That’s right, tou can have one of my books, Reality 36, absolutely for free, and share it with your pals. My previous post announced this tip-top deal for Android system users. Well, guess what? (Hint: it’s in the title). It’ll work on iOS now too! So, if you’ve either an Apple phone or an Android one, and you want a copy of this fine piece of near-future robot detective fiction, go to my official Facebook page, and click “like”. The marvels of the internet age should do the rest for you by directing you to the appropriate version of the (free, did I say free) app which will get you your free (did I mention this?) book.
Tags: Buddy, Cats, death, Pets
I’ve been debating whether or not to post about the death of my cat, Buddy. In general, I have a big internal debate ooh, about once a week, about whether or not I should put more personal material up here. Who’d be interested? Is it right to write about something like this on a site which is primarily there to get people to read my books? Am I exploiting him, even?
But seeing as Buddy appears in pretty much every biography of me floating about there in the infosphere, and simply because I want to, I figured I should.
Buddy was a Norwegian Forest Cat. You can check out his personal statistics here. Forest Cats are striking beasts, the second largest domestic moggy after Maine Coons. Buddy was our second, after the first, Charlie, was killed by a car.
Charlie was awesome. My wife wanted a cat, against my better judgement. We saw him in a shelter. He was asleep, all the others were yowling. I’m not a cat person, they piss me off, really, so I suggested this striking looking beast to my wife mostly for his silence. He changed my opinion of moggies. He was a magnificent, somewhat aloof but fundamentally affectionate creature. He was much-loved. I suppose Charlie was a kind of child surrogate for us, our training animal, if you will, before we reproduced. Having a cat and a kid are universes apart, of course, but there was something in the way that Emma and I bonded over Charlie that prepared us emotionally for having a baby.
Tags: Champion of Mars, Justin Landon, Staffer's Book Review, Why I write, Zachary Jernigan
American author Zachary Jernigan wrote that headline to go with this article on Staffer’s Book Review, Justin Landon’s excellent site. To my extreme satisfaction, it’s about Champion of Mars (warning: if you read the article, there are spoilers).
In this game you can get a little down. Books sales are low. You do your bit and nobody cares >sob<. In his piece, Zachary makes a good point about the way so many books sink without trace. It’s a crowded market, after all. Books that don’t get a lot of marketing/ get really lucky/ capture the zeitgeist somehow disappear all too easily.
I won’t lie and say it’s all about the art. Sure, I’d love people to buy my books by the bazillion so I can get myself that motor yacht I never wanted (warning 2: writing is not a get rich scheme. The number of people who can be Stephen King is limited to Stephen King). But although it’s not all about the art, it mostly is.
I write because I’m a show off, I suppose – meet me in the pub some time when I’m three pints down and you’ll see exactly what I mean. All creative types (I feel I can, you know, legitimately call myself that now) are show offs. I decided to write as, among other things, it seemed to be a way to put on a performance without having to face the audience (I decided on this career before the internet, okay?), because I could be also have been described as the tiniest bit cowardly – certainly not brave enough to do stand-up (at least I wasn’t), which is what I dreamed about doing when I was a teen.
Anyway, times have changed. The internet means you face your audience no matter where you try to hide, indeed, as authors now bear the greater part of the burden in marketing their books, you absolutely have to. I’m older and wiser, and yes, braver. Brave enough now to perform without a filter. But that’s not the point. I digress. I’m big on digressions. There was one time when…
Sorry. The point is, all writers write because they want their writing to be read. Even more than that, they want their books to be got. I’m sure Champion of Mars, with its tricksy structure, unashamed retro styling and gleeful mixing of SF and fantasy isn’t for everyone, but it was for Zachary. He got it. He loved it. Because he decided to tell us all why, I got to know. And to know that your work has clicked with someone, well… That’s what it’s all about.
Although I’m still holding out for the boat.
Tags: Anne Charnock, Crash review, reviews, strange horizons
Ezine Strange Horizons is a notable publication, so I was glad to get this review of Crash there by Anne Charnock, a journalist like myself, only, looking at her biography, of much higher pedigree. Not unalloyed praise (the kind we writers like the best), but positive nonetheless.
A note to make here. It’s been said of a couple of my novels by readers, like Anne here, that they’d have liked more of this or of that. What they want varies, but the sentiment comes up from time to time. I myself feel a little frustrated occasionally, for there are parts of my stories I would linger on. However, at this stage of my career I am very much constrained by the length of my books. Longer books cost more to produce, transport, and warehouse, for the simple reason that they are bulkier. Therefore, for relatively new writers like me, the word count is tightly enforced, of around 100,000 words or so. This limit led to Reality 36 being two books, when it really is one story, and has likewise forced me to make hard choices as to which parts of a story I can dwell on in other novels. I’m in a similar position to a film editor in that, I reckon.
But I will not pretend that my books would be much longer, given the choice; only a little. As a reader, I am not overly fond of stories that give every detail or recount every thought of the characters (this is my personal preference. We all want different things from our entertainment). Furthermore, I am a fan of stories that are somewhat ambiguous. A book is a joint exercise in storytelling between reader and writer, and I like, when I write, to give the reader plenty of room. There are no “real” endings in history – I think my books probably fall under the “future history” umbrella in spirit – only the actors bow out to make way for the new.
Anyhow, I’m not writing this in order to plea for different opinions, or to answer reviews – a fool’s errand if ever there was one, although I will say I am grateful for each and every one – but as reviews make me reflect on my work, I figured you might be interested in the resultant thoughts. Each review, positive or negative, has a small effect on what I write. The individual impact is negligible, but the aggregate, I suspect, will have no small influence. This doesn’t bother me; I like to be responsive. Some writers don’t read reviews because they want to remain free of this influence, others simply don’t read reviews because they fear what they may read. Personally, I like to know, so thanks to everyone who puts hands to keyboard.
Tags: BL, Black Library, The Art of Writing, The Black Library, Warhammer, Warhammer 40000
I am once again at a period where the amount of work I have isn’t quite enough to induce some sort of brain infarcation, so I’ve been topping up my load by posting more frequently, especially as I’m still trying to get the majority of my journalism onto the web. But here’s a new post I’ve been meaning to write, like oh so many others, for some amount of time.
The below are answers to some of the most common questions I’ve had this year about writing. (more…)
Tags: Story Behing the Book, The Art of Writing, Upcoming4me
Upcoming4me have collected together essays on writing from their archives to create Story Behind the Book : Volume 1. The essays are by a whole range of SF/fantasy authors, and contain a host of interesting insights into the writing process. All proceeds go to Epilepsy in Action, so if you buy the book you’ll get the satisfaction of supporting a worthy cause, as well as a variety of good advice.
I’m getting to grips with iOS7 a little more. It’s growing on me, well, I should say the functionality of it is. There are lots of good little bits to it. Nice shortcuts to often used controls that were previously scattered willy-nilly across a dozen screens and handy buttons within apps to get to similarly frequently used functions speak to me of some clever, joined-up thinking. I’ve noticed that it’s appreciably faster too.
But the look of it? And all those crazy screen wipes? Nah.
Tags: gadgets, iOS7, my eyes!, technology, the fundamental irrationality of apes
We’re creatures of circumstance, you and I, our every thought a product of evolution-forged genes, cultural imprinting, and personal histories. I don’t trust what I think or what I feel. One has to distance oneself from one’s opinions and emotions and examine them from outside. “Why do I think that? Why do I feel this way?” These are questions I ask myself all the time. Especially when I’m walking the dog, or when there’s nothing on the telly. Or my wife has been mean to me.
I make irrational snap decisions, I am judgemental and dismissive. Everything I can conceive of comes freighted with unwelcome baggage. Only by confronting the irrational with rationality – and then recognise that rationality to be the product of that selfsame, fundamental irrationality – can one even hope to find the smallest chance at objectivity.
So I’ve given it a few days, and I have decided: I’m not very keen on iOS7‘s weirdly toytown design choices. I thought I didn’t like it when I first updated, but decided to give it some time (see above, you dig?). Now I’m pretty sure I actually don’t like it. No, screw pretty sure, I don’t.
Is it the fact that the new interface hurts my eyes? Is it that it’s weirdly floaty in a science-fictionally cool, but not very user-friendly kind of way? Is it that the screens and various elements sweep over each other like badly executed edit wipes in a Star Wars movie? Is it that, as someone put it on Twitter, it makes my iPhone look like the toy idea of a phone from Peppa Pig magazine? (I should have favourited this tweet, so I could give due credit. If it was you, let me know. It made me laugh. Ironically, it was that tweet that made me finally click “update”. I am dangerously contrary). I have thought on the probability that I’m just reacting with jerking knees to the shock of the new, and have tried to weigh my opinions accordingly.
I still don’t like it.
After a long love affair, Apple appears to have shot skeuomorphism directly in the temple. I can see why. Perhaps the old interface, with its cosy, snug-bar aesthetic, did look a little fusty and old-fashioned. Perhaps it really is time to abandon the stabilisers of the familiar and ride off assuredly on the bicycles of new technology, our jacked-in heads held high. But it did work on the iPhone (and still does on my iPad), and the new one doesn’t work as well. I have not a clue about the new features. Like everyone else, I barely skim-read the proud proclamation accompanying the update. I just clicked “update” and “I have read your 33 pages of user agreement” (Of course I didn’t! Does anyone? When Apple come to collect my first-born, no doubt I’ll wish I had). Now I’m aged 40, and probably not fit to programme an antique VCR, I doubt I’ll find the new doodads easily. Perhaps I’ll ask a reader of Peppa Pig magazine to help me.
So I’m judging this update entirely on the look and immediate usability of it. I am sure 80% of this opinion is still “Urgh, it’s new. Don’t like it. Don’t LIKE IT!” rather than anything grown up. But 20% of it is “Ow! My fucking eyes!”, and that’s not good for something dependent on interaction with eyes.
The interface has all the hallmarks of something that has been prompted by a sudden desire to be different. It is a design led, rather than utility led, effort. I’ve been involved in a few of them myself, some even worked. But just because that green baize gaming table was a step too far (and it really was, I mean, really), it doesn’t mean you should burn the whole damn thing down to the ground.
No doubt in three months I’ll sheepishly re-read this and ajudge my past self very wrong, but until then, future me, I remain grumpily unconvinced.