Archive for the ‘Richards & Klein’ Category

Afternoon. I’m in-between projects right now (no, not like a “resting” actor, cheeky. I’ve an original novel to finish, but don’t want to start on that until the very last bits of my most recent BL works are all done and dusted, okay?).   I am therefore pratting about on the internet. There’s a lot I’ve been meaning to do online, and now seems like a good time to do it.

One of those things is self-publishing, specifically of Richards & Klein material. It is, as they say, where all the smart money is going these days.  So I thought I’d write a couple more stories concerning our favourite future detectives and see what happens.

Today is the start of that. I’ve put Richards & Klein: Ghost up on Amazon kindle. Yeah, I know this was freely available (not any more, I’m afraid), but I had to start somewhere. On the plus side, it is now available in a popular ereader format rather than as just a word doc, and I have rewritten it ever-so-slightly. It’s up for $1.28, the lowest price I could put it on for. Show your support of R&K! It’ll help me gauge interest.

But for those of you who are disappointed – and this is a big ‘but’ – I am writing that Richards & Klein story I posted about a while ago, wherein Richards and Otto look for a lost dog. This will set up the next major R&K story, and be a sizeable story of novella length in its own right. It is a substantial investment of time, but if it makes me £200, I’ll write another. And then another. Deal? This is not flim-flam. I have the bit between my teeth, and wrote over 2000 words of it today already, despite my various muckings about. I plan to get it finished by the end of the month, but my effort will almost certainly correlate with how many copies of ‘Ghost’ I sell. Sorry about that, but one has to eat…

I’ve been offline for the last couple of weeks. I’m still moving, I’m still on my own, I’m slowly going potty. Eight weeks this has taken! When will I get to move?

Ahem. Sorry.

My lad has had another week off school, shunting all my work into the evenings. Resultantly, blogging rather went down the list of priorities.

But as I’ve just completed my rough draft of my next Black Library novella, I will get back into the swing of burbling on to no really good end right here, and have a little time to bring you this.

Here’s something a bit different. A few people (and I mean primarily you, John Salter) have asked if I’ll be doing more Richards & Klein. The answer to this question is, as always, yes, but I have to prioritise immediately paying work, and any further stories featuring our near-future detective duo will probably be self-published. In short, you may have to wait.

However, I have been working on something. Below is a very, very rough draft of the opening to a new Richards & Klein novella entitled “His Master’s Voice” (alternate titles could include “Richards & Klein Go Dogging”), in which Otto and Richards go looking for a lost dog. Let me know what you think. Inspired by The Island of Dr Moreau and the excellent Dogfellow’s Ghost by Gavin Smith, this will be the last R&K story for some time with verbose animals in it, I promise. If enough people bug me about it, I’ll finish it off this summer, okay? If enough people buy it, I’ll write another R&K book. I’ve ideas for three further, long stories: one set on the Moon, one set on Earth (emphatically not in the Grid), and one that takes in Japan and in the outer solar system. Bear in mind, I started writing this two years ago, so if you want to see any of that, you really are going to have to bug me.

Rough draft-y things here include no proofing, unfinished writing, shortened scenes, and obviously no ending. I also haven’t decided when to set it. I’d like it to go after Omega Point, but if it does then one has to wonder why Otto isn’t fretting about his, um, problem more. We’ll see.

Click “read the rest of this entry” to, pretty obviously, read the rest of this entry. In this case, the story. Look! Here it comes…


Seasons greetings all!

Yep, snow is falling on my blog. It looks like dandruff, but it is supposed to be snow. That means Christmas approaches, and so do many deadlines… Ulp.

But I’ve been so remiss in not blogging, so here’s a short message.

For your delectation today, I have three marvellous pieces of news. First, here’s the cover of The Crash, my second book for Solaris, out next June:


It’s a work in progress right now, but it’s nearly done, I think. For a description of the book, see my previous post.

Another announcement – I’ve been fortunate enough to have been asked to write a short story for the Black Library’s advent calendar this year! I can’t tell you what it is about, because it’s Christmas and Christmas is all about surprises, but I can tell you that it will be available on 17th December. Click on the link to find out more.

Lastly, if you go here to Whatever, John Scalzi’s blog, you can see me dance like a monkey on an electric wire (figuratively speaking), trying to get people to consider  Reality 36, Omega Point, and Champion of Mars as Christmas presents. You mean you hadn’t thought of that yourself? Then think about it. It’s a great idea. Really.

Ahem, I should mention that Mr Scalzi has thrown open his blog to all authors,  other books are available, and indeed, there are many other writers in the thread talking about their own books, many of which sound pretty damn fine.

If you’re a writer yourself, I heartily advise taking advantage of Scalzi’s generosity and join in the festive PR frenzy.

Later this week, I’ll be posting the cover for my next 40k book, The Death of Integrity.  Till then, stay frosty, it’s cold enough to do so, even if it is unfashionable to say so (at least it’s not raining any more here in England. And it has been raining ALL YEAR).

So I said that I’d publish something new every weekday, I lasted a fortnight, and then fell away. Sue me! (No actually don’t. I have no money, and you will ruin me).

In truth I’m waiting on the pieces on a few projects to slot into place, because then I should have a number of excellent announcements to shout about. I’ve been waiting thinking “Oh, that’ll make a far more interesting post than what I had in mind,” and of course they have not been quite ready, and time has slipped on. I’m also stretched right now, as I’m editing a magazine for SFX and writing a novel for [CENSORED]. Normal service will resume soon.

In the meantime, there have been a number of nice reviews of Champion of Mars, at Fantasy Bytes, The Founding Fields, and Starburst, also a good one of Omega Point at Kate of Mind.

Actually, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has reviewed my books, good and bad scores both. The biggest single problem with being a new writer is that no one knows who the hell you are. I’ve been thinking about getting your name “out there” and finding your audience, and the problems and opportunities modern tech gives us in fulfilling that aim. I may well blog on it soon. For now, thanks very much to everyone who takes time to post their opinions after reading the books. Each one helps me reach new readers.

There’ll be another one of my irregular Monday short stories on (surprise!) Monday, next week; a fantasy. Let me know what you think. I’ll try to get a bunch of reviews and that up here too soon. Honest.

Now back to twiddling my thumbs, waiting to tell you the exciting stuff I know… I mean, writing furiously to get this book for [CENSORED] finished.


Hi there folks. Short post today, in the latest Morpheus Tales Supplement, Reality 36 gets a glowing review. They even call me a visionary! I don’t think that’s ever happened before. It should have, dammit.  When 800-foot high statues topped by  my beaming face adorn golden palace-churches the world over, this moment will be remembered with solemn respect.

Sorry. A touch of 2012 megalomania there. I will flagellate myself into a humbler state of mind while you download the magazine for free from here. (The review of Reality 36 is  in issue #15, which is the one at the top).

Greetings! Today I say: It is about time I wrote upon the thorny matter of reviews.

I’ve been reviewing “tri-genre” (I’m trying for a new buzzword. D’you reckon it’ll catch on?) titles now for 14 years. My very first review ever was for Mount Dragon, a techno-thriller, which I wrote while doing work experience for SFX.

In the time since Mount Dragon  I have written critiques of hundreds of books, films, videos (yes! it’s been that long) DVD’s, games, RPGs, comics, conventions… I’m going to be mainly talking books here, but most of what I mention below applies to all.

Now, some of these reviews have been bad. Not badly written (at least I bloody well hope not, although there’s bound to have been a few), but negative, critical drubbings with low scores attached to them.

Ah! The power! Lodged in my ivory tower of critical impunity, I have lobbed shit-bombs unashamedly at the creative works of others, and sometimes, dare I say, with palpable glee. Because there are those books that make you froth madly at the mouth just at the mere actuality of their publication.

All well and good, until your own stuff gets the spike of disapproval… This is going to be a long post. I’ll get back to that.

First off, I’m going to talk about writing reviews for large magazines, because there’s a lot of nonsense surrounding the marks and so forth given out by publication. The below applies to SFX, for whom I’ve done the majority of my reviews, and Death Ray.  Some others aren’t so honest…

We’re doing bullet points, people! Let’s go.

  • All reviews are subjective There is no such thing as objective criticism, not truly.
  • There is no “official magazine position” All reviews are written by individuals, and different people like different things. Often what opinions people have on a particular product differ wildly within a magazine. Someone like Ian Berriman on SFX will do his hardest to place the right book with the right person, but still,  reviews are entirely subjective.
  • My five stars is not your five stars People ascribe marks for different reasons. Grades mean different things to different people. Five stars to me might mean four stars to you. Editors will try to equalise this, but you only have to look at games mags, which supposedly  mark out of a hundred but rarely stray below sixty per cent, to see how this can get out of hand. Reviews are subjective. Do you see a pattern here?
  • Advertising has little affect on review marks It would be naive and disingenuous to say that monies from advertising deals have no affect whatsoever on reviews, but on the magazines I have worked on, it’s had surprisingly little. Only on one occasion have I felt compelled to adjust marks to suit an agenda (not on SFX I hasten to add), and  that was very much against my principles. Companies cannot “buy” good reviews. If that happens, journalistic integrity and the whole reason you buy your magazine go down the toilet. On the other hand, having furious advertisers ring up and berate staff for bad reviews is extremely common.
  • Sometimes other things do have affects If the book is bad, but the author shows promise, I might be more generous.  If I have a shitty hangover and argued with my wife, I might be more of a harsh penman than if I’ve spent all night dancing with angel-faced women with nice bottoms in tight, shiny dresses. Sometimes I’m nice, mostly I’m only human.
  • “You obviously haven’t read the book!” Yes I have, and I hated it, so fuck off.
  • Self-published? Don’t bother Only very, very rarely will a self-published book get past a reviews editor. I have reviewed only one I can recall, and that was because it had sold loads of copies. Most self-published work is awful. Even the one I reviewed sucked hard. We magazine people don’t have time to find the few pearls within the heaps of shit that make up this particular ego-mountain. That’s your job. Be the gatekeepers of this modern age! Things are changing.  By all means, tell everyone when you find a corker. They are there.
  • Space is at a premium Another reason why self-published books don’t get much airtime, or books that come from small presses, or limited print runs, or arrived on the wrong Tuesday. There just isn’t enough room for everything. If selection can seem arbitrary beyond these factors, that’s because it sometimes is.
  • Know your market If I didn’t like a book, but I know that lots of people do like this author’s books and this particular one seems to be a good example, I may be kinder than my true opinion dictates. Like, I really loathe urban fantasy. I mean, I can’t tell you how much, with its endless sex, stupid were-panthers, too-many-boyfriends and what-to-wear dilemmas and sparkly vampires knobs. But I can tell a good one from a bad one. I think.
  • Sometimes I use a pseudonym Is there something that could possibly be construed as a conflict of interest by picky cyber-trolls? Then I write under a different name. There never is a conflict of interest, by the way, I’m always as subjectively objective as I can possibly be (or do I mean objectively subjective?), sometimes to the point of personal detriment.

So, that’s out of the way. Where was I? Ah, yes, bad reviews. As I worked harder and harder at becoming an author, and it dawned on me what a monumentally soul-crushing experience trying to get published is, it definitely made me less hard on the work of others. Not necessarily in the score ascribed, but perhaps in the way I explained myself. I’m less likely to go for a cheap joke now. I reread some of my reviews, especially those from my “Bitter Period” (where I’d gone to work for The Big Hobby Company, wondered what the hell I’d done to my career, and was disenchanted with my attempts to publish) and they are really spiky. Funny, but too cruel. I think I was trying to be AA Gill. Why?

The overwhelming majority of reviews for Reality 36 have been very positive. I have, however, had three bad ones. One was from a guy who was incensed by the cliff-hanger nature of the end, which is fair enough. I was warned about it by my publishers, but the story was just too big to fit in one book. If I’m honest, I thought a cliff-hanger might pull people back for the second, so didn’t worry about it too much. A misjudgment? Maybe, maybe not.

The others seem less fair. One, on Amazon, give the book a generous one-star rating and is titled “Unending Tedium“. Nice. But, er, technically incorrect, because it does end, eh? Says the close-to-tears, slighted student twat in me. You know, one in a wanker’s scarf that has just been punched by a townie for being a pretentious little prick.

The other came after SFSignal gave me a new author spotlight. Hurrah! A bad review immediately followed. No!

This spirited fellow gave the final line:

I say to the author, do not give up, but stop and give ideas a good think and draw them out to their logical conclusion. You can ask me for free!

To which one’s immediate reaction is “You can go stuff your cock up your own bumhole! For free!”

But then, I can’t say that, can I? So I didn’t say that. Oh, did I? Whoops.  Their opinions (reviews are subjective, remember?) are as valid as anyone else’s. You have to take the rough with the smooth. The temptation to answer a bad review is almost overwhelming, to say with trembling bottom lip: “But Otto isn’t weary of fighting, it clearly says in the book several times he loves it!” or “Just because an emotional sense isn’t conveyed by machine telepathy doesn’t mean you can’t use emotive language” or “Richards isn’t supposed to be a gumshoe, it’s a character beat. It’s supposed to be unconvincing, like all of us he’s trying to find a shape to his life.” Or any other rebuttal to the points they make. Bad. Idea. It just makes you look like a child who can’t take his beatings.

A setback. I mean a setback. No child beating here. No sir.

The bottom line is they don’t like it, just like I don’t like every book I’ve ever read, some of which have been loved by lots of other people. It’s impossible to please everyone. In direct support of this is that one reviewer thought I over-detailed the technology, the other that one aspect of it was under-detailed. Go figure! (Excuse me a moment while I cry into my keyboard like a fat girl whose ailing pony has just been shot in the head by the vet and turned into dog meat. Bye bye Blossom >sob<).

Every reader brings half the story to the collaborative book party. “Unending Tedium” bloke seemed to have been expecting something else – he mentions the Big Sleep, and first person perspectives, for example. I can say the book’s not supposed to be a futuristic Chandler, but so what? Fact is, what I wrote didn’t chime with what was in their heads. There is a mismatch there. A good author/ reader synergy is like a relationship. A book cover is a smooch, it asks you to undress it by cracking the cover. Sadly, sometimes we’re disappointed. You don’t marry every girl you ever smooch. I’d have two wives if that were the case! (Hohohohoho. I jape. I’d, er, still have one).

But hang on, Mr Helpful wrote a skit parodying a section of the story. How dare he! I would never do such a thing! I… Oh, hang on. I have done it. Lots and lots and lots. I must be a real bell end.

To get back to my mildly sexual analogies, not every blind date works out. Should we vilify everyone that does not like us? Of course not. I reckon if more people had raised the points Helpful and Tedium had, I might take them on board and modify my writing. I mean, I don’t think I’ll be doing a cliffhanger again. That gripe has come up a lot. What these guys say hasn’t, but I’ll keep a weather eye out. You never know, techno-shoes may too become a big no-no in future books.

Where’s this leave my own crit? Answer: I doubt I will get any more gentle than I already have. Sorry, authors, I’m going to continue lobbing bricks around my glass house. It’s the only way I can cope with my own pain.

No, but what’s really worrying is all the comforting things I tell myself above there, you know what? They apply to all the positive reviews as well.

Appreciation of entirely subjective reviews is entirely subjective, after all.