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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Partings; A Seared Sky Now Available on Amazon

As promised, here's the link to take you direct to your local Amazon site, where you can buy a copy of , as an ebook.
Partings; A Seared Sky
This, as many of you will know, is the second book in the Fantasy Trilogy. You enjoyed Joinings, now you can enjoy Partings.
The third book, Convergence, is due for release before Xmas, so you can read the whole tale this year!

The Worst Thing You Can Do For Reviews?

Reviews: we all need them, welcome them, want them. But when that wanting verges on the obsessive it can become seriously destructive; not just for the individual, but for the integrity of the entire system.
I recently received the following Tweet: @??????? Need a book review for your book? 5 written reviews, in exchange to write a 5 for my book. reviews=sales :-)  I’ve disguised the name of the Tweeter, for reasons that I hope are obvious. This sort of plea, which is essentially a request for another to join in cheating, does enormous damage to the whole value system enshrined in reviewing. It’s a particularly noxious example, however, and there are many less blatant attempts to circumvent the system. It’s not unknown, apparently, for certain authors to assume various different guises so they can review their own work under assumed names, giving it high value. Others indulge in less obvious swaps of reviews, asking privately for such accolades and promising similar praise for the partner’s work without ever actually reading the piece.
Because I review openly and regularly, I’m approached by publishers to review new books. I’ve no objection to this, as it gets me a free book. But I do it only on the understanding that I make it clear this is a book that was provided in exchange for a review, and that I will publish such review as and where I see fit. Most publishers are happy with that arrangement, recognising that reviews done under pressure of potential censorship are pretty meaningless.
Not so long ago, I was approached by an agent on behalf of a new writer. I’d already connected with the writer with the intention of swapping books with him for honest review purposes. But the agent made demands, and they were demands, not simply suggestions, that I pass the review before her and not publish it without her express consent. Needless to say, I rejected such an arrangement. Whilst I can see why an agent would want to protect the reputation of a newbie author, I have no interest in supporting work that has no merit. In the end, the author and I made an arrangement between us to do as initially intended: i.e. swap books for honest reviews. As it turned out, I didn’t review his book: it was pretty poorly written and the story failed to move me. I explained to him the situation; unwilling to give him a poor review so early in his writing career.
His agent later responded (though the writer didn’t) to say that no review would be made of my book, either. It was a response that didn’t surprise me.
If we fail to review honestly, how are readers to have any faith in the process? We all understand that readers often chose a book, more or less as a matter of faith, based on reviews given to work of which they have no personal experience. It’s surely incumbent on us, as authors, to ensure that the reviews we give are always honest, isn’t it? Human nature dictates that we avoid giving bad reviews of fellow writers, since it’s quite likely that professional jealousy will result in bad reviews of our work in a sort of childish revenge. But we can, at least, simply fail to express an opinion on such work instead. What I would hope none of us would do is play the cheating game of a ‘quid pro quo’ simply for the acquisition of good reviews. If the work is undeserving of such accolades, the answer is to make it better, not to cheat readers by pretending it’s better than it is.

Frankly, I’d rather be told honestly that a reader hated my work than indulge in a system that provides an opinion based on cheating. What would I gain as a writer and what would potential readers gain by such underhand activity? No, let’s all make sure if we come across such behaviour, we let the perpetrators know we disapprove. If they persist, then, I think, is the time to expose them. My Tweeter was silent following my rebuff: I hope that means he thought better of it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Seared Sky: Partings now Available!

Just a quick note to let you know that you can now acquire a copy of the second volume of my epic fantasy, Seared Sky. Partings is currently available only in digital form, but is due to be released in print form very shortly. Keep an eye on this blog for the announcement. Sorry for the delays, folks. Dan, my publisher, has been mega busy with both the convention, FantastiCon 2014 and with the distribution of a new line of scifi novels associated with the popular Elite computer game.

So, you can currently obtain the ebook via Fantastic Books Publishing using this link.

Shortly, I'll be able to give you a direct link to Amazon for the digital version, and in a couple of weeks I'll provide a link for the print version. Patience, my friends. All will be well!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Ruled by Intellect or Emotion? #Tips on Word Choice #2

English: a fan made portret
English: a fan made portret (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Certain words/phrases can induce fairly specific responses in readers. As writers, we all know this, but do we use the power of emotion in our work?

I’m setting out here to suggest a few alternatives. In this series I’ll look at the difference between those words that seem intellectual as opposed to those that invoke a more emotional response. How you use them is obviously up to you. The point is that the alternatives have the same, or very similar, meanings, but their effect upon the reader can be markedly different. I’ve made some suggestions here, but I’m sure you can think of others.

Intellectual: Accolade  – suggestive of a certificate, honour, etc.
Emotional: Applause – more suggestive of active praise and enthusiasm.

Sir Henry accepted the accolade for his report with quiet enthusiasm and went back to work. (cold, intellectual)

The stand-up comedian embraced the applause like a long lost friend, working the crowd to garner more and more. (active, warm,)

Intellectual: Damage, harm                 
Emotional: Hurt

The damage done to the mechanism was so severe it was beyond repair. (impersonal, factual)

Sandie closed her eyes in pain, the hurt she felt from his betrayal so profound she couldn’t bear to look at him. (sorrowful, moving)

Intellectual: Manufacture                   
Emotional: Make

They set out to manufacture the most profitable goods they could foist on the gullible and ill-educated consumers. (cold, calculated)

I want to make something that has real value to society, something that will do some real good. (inspiring, heartfelt)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

How Was it for You?

Not the context you might expect. This was a question I was asked after attending my first fantasy and science fiction convention. FantastiCon 2014, held at the Mercure hotel in Hull, yesterday, was a fascinating, fabulous experience.

One thing that struck me almost at once was the generosity of those both attending and creating the convention. People gave of their time and money freely. The number of books purchased raised the spirits of this writer: so many eager to devour the fiction created by the writers in attendance. Very heart-warming.

There was a lot of friendly banter with humour very much in evidence. But there was a serious side too, with people asking intelligent questions and being given sensible answers. The variety of topics and events was also quite extraordinary.

Representatives of Dr Who were present, along with a working Dalek, and they answered questions, posed for pictures, gave out autographs and generally entertained.

As the convention was largely focussed on the game, ‘Elite: Dangerous’ and a series of novels produced in line with it, this was obviously a central part of the event. (See the companion post by Linda Acaster here) Much of the gaming activity was alien to me, as I’ve never played a computer game (I fear it would become addictive, and I have too many other things I really want to do with my limited time!). But the true gamers didn’t exclude or make non-gamers feel unwanted. They were welcoming and supportive. In much the same way, the community of writers was warm and friendly. The much-lauded Oculus rift was available for people to experience their virtual worlds.

R2D2 and Yoda, and a speedracer from Star Wars, were also there. Many attendees came in costumes taken from the worlds of science fiction and fantasy and Cosplay was there to judge and make awards for the best dressed.

I’d gone along to sign copies of my fantasy novel, Joinings, from A Seared Sky. Dan had organised a wonderful banner to bring attention to the book. Quite honestly, I attended with no expectation of selling any books at all, since fantasy was by no means the main focus of the convention, But I was delighted to sell 12 print copies, all of which I signed, and others bought digital copies as they stood and chatted with me. So, a very worthwhile time in that respect too. I’m hoping some of them will produce reviews once they’ve read the book. The second volume, Partings, was actually released on the day, as an ebook, with the paperback due to follow shortly.

Other writers also signed books and all of us were given the chance to sit before the audience and explain our books, writing, and answer questions from an intelligent and informed group of people. We did readings to illustrate our work and the whole experience was positive in every way.

The event was organised by my publisher, Dan Grubb of Fantastic BooksPublishing, and, as with everything he does, there was evidence of his enormous energy and generosity. He was warmly thanked at the end of the evening with a marvellous video that had us all laughing and had Dan, and his lovely wife, Gabi, dabbing at tears. They were rewarded materially as well: a much deserved show of appreciation.

The evening closed with an awards ceremony, in which I was given the award for ‘Best World Building’ for Joinings. Afterwards, a lengthy raffle prize session took place, with all the usual banter that accompanies such events. I won a tasty mug and a print from Elite Reclamation, signed by author Drew Wager. That was around midnight on a day when I’d driven the 25 miles to arrive at 08:30, so I was getting rather knackered. Some of us left at that point, but others stayed on in the hotel bar to cement relationships on a day that brought together many friends both established and new. I know I made a number of new friends and met a good many interesting people. But a day of activity that lasted 17 hours in total for me is now telling on this 66 year old body and mind, so forgive any lack of erudition in this piece, please! I intend to rest, once I’ve posted this piece. For more pictures, click this link.

I look forward to next year’s convention, which promises to be even better, with new sponsors and promises of returns from many who were present for this one. A new experience for me and one that proved far more fascinating and enjoyable than I’d expected. Thanks to all who attended and special thanks to those who bought my book!  

Friday, 15 August 2014

The Burning Circus, Edited by Johnny Mains, Reviewed.

Horror is a very special genre, and not to everyone’s taste, of course. But it’s not all blood and gore, as this anthology demonstrates. Here we have a collection of stories to engender dread, unease, shock and downright horror in the reader. Most leave you with the impression that the world isn’t quite as you thought it was.

There’s a subtlety to many of the tales, a subversive undercurrent that makes the reader question certain well-loved attitudes about people in general. There is much psychological tension here, stories to make the reader pause and to think. Amongst the stories, there are images fairly recognisable to readers of the genre, but these are then twisted and distorted so that unease replaces familiarity.

Eight tales written by masters of the craft inhabit the pages of this hardback publication. It is, by the way, only available to members of the British Fantasy Society. If you’re a fan of fantasy, horror or science fiction, you’d do well to become a member. The book, along with its partner publication, Unexpected Journeys, comes as part of the benefits of membership.

I enjoyed these tales. They’re all different, showing the diversity of the genre and demonstrating its ability to sow seeds of doubt, fear and terror. Well-written and entertaining, the anthology is definitely worth a read. Get hold of it if you can. How refreshing to handle a book that resides between hard covers for a change! Recommended.