Posts Tagged ‘Where have you been?’


I’ve been away from this blog for nigh on three months owing to huge building work upheaval. I’m tired of working at the top of the stairs, I said, let’s convert the attic, I said. I’ll do a good chunk o f the work myself, I said. It should take, oh, two to four weeks, I said.

Optimistic chump, I’m saying now.

Ten weeks later, it’s finished. I’ve spent every goddamn waking minute for two months hammering bits of wood together and plasterboarding (okay, I did some work work, had two very short holidays, and have been ill, but apart from that: Hammers. Nails. Swearing. All the way baby, I’m like a foul-mouthed Bob the Builder). And I added terracotta roof tiling to my repertoire of earthy man skills (I’ve done some roofing before, but with corrugated iron sheets, so this was a bit more involved). The result is that I am sitting in a new room, which is kind of weird, like one of those dreams where one discovers one’s house has whole, undiscovered wings crammed with sinister secrets. Or is that just me? I call this haven from the world below THE GOBLINARIUM. Because it’s full of Goblins, alright? Not for any other reason. Sheesh.

I have no stairs, just a ladder. I can’t afford stairs until next year, but other than that, it’s tickety-boo.

Anyway, I’m well behind on my work, and wasn’t going to post for a while longer, but then Richard Ford and Cavan Scott both tagged me in this Next Big Thing meme/blog/pass-the-parcel game, so it’d be rude not to respond. Not that I give much of a fig about being rude sometimes, but now is a more civilised phase in my lunar-linked egocentric psychosis path.  I’ll be back later this week with the covers to my next two books, The Crash and The Death of Integrity. Until then, answers to the meme’s ten questions below. Thanks for the nod, Cav and Fordy.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

It ain’t no working title, guv’nor, it’s called The Crash, and it’s out next June, so I better finish it. Technically, mind, it’s not my next book – I have Baneblade and Skarsnik out from the Black Library first, and then there’s The Death of Integrity out after The Crash, which is currently in the hands of the editors. But The Crash is what I am currently writing. And I am behind on it, so let’s keep this brief.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book.

I like books about planetary colonisation efforts that go horribly wrong. This book is about a planetary colonisation effort that goes horribly wrong.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Science fiction, planetary colonisation efforts that go horribly wrong sub-genre.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t know yet, as I am still getting to know them.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A planetary colonisation effort goes horribly wrong.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s out from Solaris, God bless ‘em.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I am still writing it. I usually give myself three months to write a book’s first draft, but I redraft a lot as I’m writing, so what I end up with at the end of that is closer to a second or third draft than a first. Then I plead for more time, about a fortnight, to polish it up.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmmm. Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, the Colsec books by Douglas Hill. There’s a fair bit of social commentary in there too, I suppose, but not so much as you might get in something by Charles Stross or Ian Macleod. But they are both more intelligent and well-read than I, so I’m sticking with alien space monsters.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Tricky one that. Lifelong immersion in SF that is neither Star Trek nor Doctor Who, I s’pose.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Alien monsters, how the continued entrenchment of plutocratic elements in our society might play out, a cool planet, and a frickin’ big twist in the tail. There’ll be fights, and some weirdness, and hopefully sequels. Hell, you might as well read the back blurb, mightn’t you?

The Market rules all, plotting the rise and fall of fortunes without human intervention. Mankind, trapped by a rigid hierarchy of wealth, bends to its every whim. To function, the Market must expand without end. The Earth is finite, and cannot hold it, and so a bold venture to the stars is begun, offering a rare chance at freedom to a select few people. But when the colony fleet is sabotaged, a small group finds itself marooned upon the tidally locked world of Nychthemeron, a world where one hemisphere is bathed in perpetual daylight, the other hidden by eternal night. Isolated and beset, the stricken colony members must fight for survival on the hostile planet, while secrets about both the nature of their shipwreck and Nychthemeron itself threaten to tear their fragile society apart.

It’s on US Amazon already, although how they know it will be 384 pages when even I don’t know how long it will be is a little freaky…

And now I need to tag some more people. I choose: Nick Kyme, Andy Smillie, and Matt Keefe.


At the very close of 2007,  ex-Games Workshoppers Gav Thorpe, Matt Keefe established a short story group called The Quota. Our goal was to write a short story a month in order to improve our writing. We didn’t manage it, but it was a very useful exercise. I wrote about eight stories specifically for the group before it fizzled out early in 2009.

The idea with The Quota was to incentivise ourselves to write fiction, and to have searingly honest criticism on it Personally, I found the experience enormously helpful. To have a collection of like-minded folk, all of whom had some experience with writing, but who nevertheless wrote very differently, giving feedback boosted both my abilities and my confidence.

The single most important characteristic of a would-be writer who is successful in ditching the “would-be” part of their title is taking criticism. My mantra when learning anything is “Seek out people who know, ask them how to do it, listen, and then do what they say“. I italicise this last part as I think a lot of people get the first three steps right, but disregard the precious advice they sought because it does not fit with their own opinions. WTF? You ask an expert, because they are an expert, and you are not. Obviously, you can add in your own experience and opinion to what they say, but their experience invariably trumps your own. It can be demoralising, and learning when to take advice to heart and not is a difficult, subtle act, but you first have to let it into your head. Listen! And obey. This applies even when it feels like a professional is telling you your wife is ugly and is murdering your babies.

Scratch that, it applies doubly when people are murdering your babies. If they tell you those word-kiddies won’t amount to anything, then man, they won’t.

Some people don’t listen. Some get huffy and upset (I think some pros are deliberately harsh, to see if you can take it. Those that can are easier to work with than Captain Precious-Pants). Misplaced self-belief is the main culprit. Last year I sat on a panel at a convention where the topic was the new digital era, and how it was going to revolutionise publishing. The panel’s consensus was that it undoubtedly is, but not in an” overthrow the state and behead the monarchy, vive la revolution!” type way. This did not go down well with the audience, who seemed impatient for the ancien regime of paper to fall. I got an impression of impatience and disenchantment with the traditional gatekeepers – agents, publishers et al. I suspect that was a room full of people who didn’t think “My book might not be good enough”, but “They can’t see my genius, and digital offers me a way around these elitist know-nothings.”

I had a few angry letters on the same theme, back in my full-time journalising days.

It’s not just writing.  I see it especially in dog training too. Both bad dog-training and self-publishing can result in unwanted piles of shit, although I suppose a badly written book isn’t going to bite anyone’s face off.

The maulings you can get from agents and publishers are worth it, because if they care enough to maul you, they see some promise. If they think your stuff is awful, they’ll not bother. If this happens to you, then go away and write something else. (I speak from experience, you know, I’m not casting paper planes of wisdom from an ivory tower here).

Although not made up of pros, the great benefit of a writing group is that you can get feedback quickly. Because, let’s face it, when it comes to unsolicited submissions the publishing engine operates at three settings: dead stop, glacial, and slightly quicker than paint drying.  It can be blood-boiling to hear your mates tell you your story is a bag of bloodied monkey balls, but at least they’ll tell you this week, not when the Age of Aquarius grinds to a close.

A writing group offers a good halfway point too. They’re people you know and trust. They may not be the bloody-toothed publishers you want to deal with eventually, but they’re also not your family. The feedback you get from your mum and dad or baby sister is worth nothing, really. They love you, hey, they told you the cack-handed daubs you made at primary school were great art. You need someone with a little more objectivity, really, don’t you? Eh? Good.

I subsequently sold a few of the stories I wrote for the group. Some of them became parts of other works. I also trialled bits of novels there, so it honestly was all really useful and helpful. So it’s great that we’ve reopened The Quota, (imaginatively titled “The New Quota”! Are we not wordsmiths?).  It’s a secret group for now, although we may open it to the eyes of the public at some point. Anyway, the great thing about now, as opposed to then, is the progression of tech. We used to have The Quota on Facebook, but we’ve got our new group set up on WordPress, like this blog. A blog site gives you a ton of capability, everything’s in one place, there are fewer emails whizzing around, you can stream the content into categories, there’s space for stories and comments… Need I go on? Top stuff.

Give it a try. Set up your own paddling pool of literary endeavour and build up your wordchops, before you throw your paper babies into the ocean and see which can outswim the sharks.

But above all else, when you do make it to the quayside, if those sharks tell you your efforts taste like sheep doo-doo, listen to them, okay?


Hi there. Just a very quick post today, as I’m up to my neck in the finale of Richards and Klein: Omega Point, and need to get it done. I am, as always, running behind on my work. Is it my fault I have a copy of SF strategy classic Master of Orion 2 (one of my all-time favourite games this, and Master of Orion 3 one of my all-time biggest disappointments) just sitting there and smiling at me from my desktop? I work all day, but my intentions to work in the evening have been… Compromised.

Well, yes, but enough! Please go here and vote for Reality 36 in The Guardian‘s “Not the Booker Prize”, for which a nice man nominated me. A free mug and a small amount of kudos is at stake!

Also, here’s another five-star review for the book here. Thus far, no negative reviews. One guy didn’t like Tarquinius and Jagadith (though he loved the book) and a couple more were irked by the cliffhanger. Otherwise, not one bad word has been said. w00t As I believe they say, or possibly said, I’m so behind the times.

Expect a proper post on interesting stuff as soon as I’ve finished Omega Point. I promise I’ll stop blithering on about Reality 36. Really.


Whoop! Hello chaps. I feel quite justified saying hello, you know. I know people read this, as I’m averaging around 30 hits a day on this blog, even when I don’t post anything. So, first up — thanks for reading, whoever and wherever you are.

If you wonder why the long radio silence, especially in light of my pompous pronouncements about not letting this thing wither on the vine, then I’ll tell you. I’ve been working on SFX for the last five months or so, initially  editing their news section while their editor was off on another project, leaving their deputy editor (and news editor) in charge. Editing the news was once my actual day job, you know. It was great to be back, like going home almost. And even better to be in an office where the conversation doesn’t just concern Thomas the pigging Tank Engine, or where the other people don’t throw enormous weepy fits when they don’t get their own way (well, not often). Please understand, I love my son and love spending time with him, but occasionally it’s nice to be able to concentrate on something for longer than three seconds.

After the news came SFX Special 49: Best of British 2011. This is the third SFX special edition I’ve edited, and although they’re damn hard work, it felt  good to be exercising all those editorial skills I spent years acquiring. But, all done now. See that in the shops 28 March. Buy it, so they give me more work.

Big news is the image to the left. This is the cover for my very first book, Richards & Klein: Reality 36. It’s out in August from Angry Robot. Exciting eh? It’s got a robot and a cyborg with a gun on it, and that tells you the single most important thing about the book: IT’S FUN! I’m notoriously, whingeingly self-critical, despite my superior air and northern bluster, but I’m pretty happy with it. (It’s also got a detective story, a great world, cool characters… but I reiterate: FUN! and may I also say EXCITING!)

It’s a mark of how busy I was at SFX, actually, that although this cover was finished weeks ago, I’ve not had the time to blog about it.

Work also proceeds apace on the cover of my Solaris novel, Champion of Mars. I’ve seen the rough, and by God it looks amazing. I can’t wait to put that up here. I’m going to get a print of it to hang on my office wall. That’s when I get an office, it’s not hopeful right now, but that’s a story for another day.

I’ll be working on the second draft of my first Black Library novel, Baneblade for the next few weeks, but I’ll also be blogging here and posting some of my other work on the site regularly. My next magazine job is a ways off now, so it’s writing all the way (and dog walking. I should get round to putting a page up for Magnus actually, he’s getting big…)

See you around.