Cover for Damage Time by Chris Moore

You can tell the authors at conventions. You just have to listen in.  While the fans are likely as not to be talking what brilliant book they’ve read, or what film they’ve seen; the writers will be talking about money.*

Because their incomes can be so precarious, and like any other profession information is like oxygen, writers obsess about their sales. Especially since the information is often up to three to six months late.  A publisher once said jokingly to me “Sometimes I think we shouldn’t let you lot have sales information; you only ask more questions.” (I think he was joking)

About nine months ago amazon made weekly sales information on print books available to authors. The data doesn’t include all sales, but it’s useful guidance, as long as one bears in mind that it can be anything from five to one hundred per cent of the total.

What it does is highlight trends. I have no idea what causes this one, but over the first three months of the year, amazon was selling anything between fifty and a hundred copies a week of my two Angry Robot novels.  And surprisingly, over the first three months, it was Damage Time that was the bigger seller, albeit only marginally – fifty-five per cent to Winter Song’s forty-five per cent. I say surprisingly because I had assumed that Winter Song would be the bigger seller.

But over the last three months the sales have fallen to about half of what they were in the first quarter. I have no idea what’s caused that, because I’m still blogging, which I think is the main influence on sales, but sometimes things just happen. And it’s Winter Song that’s held up better -as I originally thought it would- with the year to date sales for that title now running at fifty-five per cent.

As a friend once said at Unilever, “We know that half of all our advertising spend is wasted – we just don’t know which half.”

And if a company the size of Unilever doesn’t know, with all its power, what chance does a simple author have?

* That’s a wild generalization, of course. The fans are likely as not to be asking writers how they too can become writers, while the writers also talk about what brilliant book they’ve read, or what film they’ve seen..

• August 10th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

Kindle Price Promotion on Winter Song

The word from Robot Towers is that those nice folks at amazon are doing a price promotion on Kindle for a range of Angry Robot Books; until August 31st, if you live in the UK and you have a Kindle, you can buy Winter Song for the ludicrously cheap price of 99p a copy.

And if you want more (why? <g>) there are fifteen other titles you can pick up as well. The full list is available at Angry Robot’s website.

• July 13th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

Treasure Trove

I mentioned a week or so ago that I’d found several copies of my anthology Killers in the loft. I also found two copies of my novel Lightning Days, which went out of print about two years ago.

Lightning Days was published in 2006 by Swimming Kangaroo Books, and is still one of my favourites amongst my own work. I have no illusions – it’s not perfect, but it takes risks that I wouldn’t countenance today.

It posits a whole range of alternate histories, one major one of which is where the Neanderthals didn’t die out, but instead learned to cross into other alternaties.

If you’re interested in buying one of the two copies I have left, drop me a line via the contact form. DO NOT post in the comments section.

I’ll be back on Friday with the weekly review.

• July 5th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

Old Books Found

A few weeks ago, while sorting out one of our seemingly perennial comms problems, I ventured up into the loft. There I found three copies of Killers, a limited edition hardback that I edited for Swimming Kangaroo Books back in 2008.

Killers featured several British writers of note; Gary Fry, Paul Meloy, Sarah Singleton all chipped in. As did several Americans, notably Stoker winners Jonathan Maberry and Lee thomas, as well as Nebula and World Fantasy Award winner Bruce Holland Rogers. The anthology was cross-genre, crime stories leavened with one of the branches of speculative fiction – be it SF, fantasy or horror. I’m proud that my own and three other stories received Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year Best Horror.

Swimming Kangaroo printed one hundred copies, and the contributors signed the dust jacket. Now I have three copies to sell, numbers 31, 65 and 99.

Anyone who is interested can e-mail me (do NOT post in the comments section) and send £9.99 by PayPal. In return I’ll send you a copy with a free booklet thrown in.

• June 29th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

Monday Morning Anthology Update

Another Monday has rolled around, but I don’t have to be on campus on 1pm, so with the last assignment finished, I’m free to turn my attention back to writing and editing.

I have a feeling that I rather buried the appearance of my story ‘Dark’ in Fearology when I posted Saturday’s blog. So, to repeat — I have a new story out!

I know a couple of the other contributors, having reviewed Gustavo Bondoni’s excellent but off-beat work in Albedo One, and Camille Alexa is another name I’m familiar  with, so I’m looking forward – now I have some time- to reading it.

And on the subject of Aeon Press, (as well as publishing Transtories, my latest anthology, they also publish Albedo One) I’ve been pulling together bios and chasing overdue revisions, so I’m hoping to post an update about Transtories, very soon. Who knows, maybe even some cover art….

• May 16th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0


I’m onto the last section of the first draft of my Text Analysis  for Genre – just crime left to do now. The downside is that I’m already 400 words over target, despite cutting the SF section down to the bone (I cut it from 1300 to 900 words, barely enough to cover all the points, one of Anthony’s priorities). I’ve spent close to 30 hours on this damned paper…

But I had a nice surprise this morning; by a lovely piece of synchronicity, as I was working on the horror section, the postman came. Kate put a parcel on the table, which I opened…to reveal…(drum roll)

A new horror anthology.

And I’m in it. I write very little horror, but I do like to keep my hand in. And I’m second on the Table of Contents, with ‘Dark, which is rather nice.’ You can obtain copies from here.

• May 13th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0


E-books? I can almost hear you groan and mutter “Not that old chestnut again!”

Yes, I know, it’s almost been done to death. Is the traditional book doomed? Will e-books supplant them? Etc, etcetera, etbloodycetera. In fact, some of you may read some of the points below and get a certain feeling of deja vu…

Well, it’s popped up in the news again with a BBC item on how e-book sales shot up last year. Which is good news for me as an author, since Winter Song and all my other titles are available in both formats.

And as a reader I think that it’s a good thing in principle. I don’t use up as much space as for dead tree books, for one, and while I’m not entirely sure about the environmental benefits,   I’m willing to be convinced.

But I’m hardly messianic about it, as some are (There’s an organization called EPIC made up of  e-book authors who are positively desperate to be proven right, that the traditional book is doomed – I’m not quite sure why they’re such zealots), and I don’t buy into the idea that the book is doomed.

For a start, the book’s demise has been prophecised since some bloke called Wells at the end of the nineteenth century mentioned it in The Shape of Things to Come, and it hasn’t happened yet. I seem to remember that with the advent of videos, pundits were gleefully predicting a similar death for cinema. What happened was that cinema changed its approach, making going to the films a social event.

Author readings at bookstores may be the first wave of a similar adaption in the book world, although that particular aspect may affect e-books every bit as much as traditional ones.

But while as a reader I approve in principle of e-books, I have several problems with the way they are at the moment, which is what has prompted this post. Increasing numbers or e-copies for review have caused me to scale back my reviews, and I only see the problem worsening.

E-books are being plugged because they represent a way for manufacturers to prise money out of you the consumer. You can’t upgrade a book – you can bring out new editions, but there’s no onus on you to buy it. Based on every piece of new technology of the last twenty-five years, that won’t be the case with e-readers; instead there’ll be a new version which probably won’t be compatible with the old one. So all these people who are gleefully converting their libraries to virtual will almost certainly have to do the same again with someone brings out The! All! New! NookPlus! But it’s a great way for publishers to cut costs, especially for reviewers.

Second, I’m still not absolutely convinced about the environmental case. Doesn’t the manufacture of Kindles and Nooks and iPads use up resources? And do downloads really have absolutely no environmental impact? I suspect that like the use of ‘clean’ fuels, we’re simply moving demand for resources from one area to another, as has happened in places like Indonesia when bio-fuel took off. And any environmental impact will only worsen with increased demand.

Lastly, and most importantly for me as a reviewer, I find reading e-books anything but the immersive experience I get with traditional books. In perfect light and sitting at the right angle, I can see the screen of my netbook, but that determines how and where I sit.  To have the print at 100% on pdfs, I find pages have to go across screen, so I continually have to back up to check I haven’t missed anything. Reducing the size to where it fits on a page makes it so small I struggle to read it. Printing pages out costs money, especially if it’s a 400-page book, for example.

As I get older, I’m becomingly increasingly oriented around what I can find in the local library, which in the case of Bath, is nine Kate Wilhelm novels I’ve never read…

I’m sure that future generations won’t have these issues, but I suspect that enough people will to secure the future of traditional publishing in some format or other.

Expect to see more posts when the BBC -or someone else- highlights the issue in the news again.

• May 5th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

The Sixty at Eastercon

One of the things I’m most looking forward to at Eastercon this year is getting my hands on a copy of  The Sixty: Arts of Andy Bigwood .

In case you’re unfamiliar with his name, Andy has done the artwork for my two of my three previous anthologies, so I freely admit to a tinge of nepotism. But more pertinently, he’s has been a finalist for the BSFA award in three of the last four years, and has won twice, for his cover for Ian Whates’ Subterfuge, and the year before for Cracked World for Whates’ previous anthology DisLocations. (sigh, I knew them both before they were famous…) So the BSFA think he’s good as well. 

One of the things I love about Andy’s work is that with its spaceships and other SF tropes it’s reminiscent of the cover art from the early 1970s, by artists like Bruce Pennington and Eddie Jones; but while Andy’s work is tech-heavy, there are hints that he’s beginning to experiment, to play with other form.

As I said last time, I’ll be signing both books, as will lots of other authors, such as Gareth L Powell and Andy Remic; The Sixty includes all the aforementioned, plus my own Displacement, Sam Stones’ Killing Kiss, and many, many others. All illustrations are accompanied by short passages from the texts illustrated, and Andy may have an original short story or two in there from various authors.

It promises to be a wonderful book.

• April 10th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

Anthology Update

This is the stage of editing Transtories that is proving most difficult, and most instructive.

It’s the first time that I’ve had to deal with the consequences of an open call for subs –Killers, Future Bristol and Dark Spires were all invitation only.

One practical effect is that there are far more stories to read for an open sub anthology than for one with an invitation only policy, which of course takes up more time. 

Unsurprisingly, stories fit into three roughly equal categories; the ones that are easy to accept, the ones that are easy to reject, and the last ones, which are almost there, but not quite. These are the ones that call for multiple readings.

I’ve asked for a couple of rewrites for my preferred ones, but in some instances there seems to be something of a communication gap, and I now have the dilemma of how much more time I spend trying to nudge these stories toward the quality I’m looking for.

Meanwhile, I’ve posted a couple of acceptances, and I’m intending to add more at the rate of about one a day; it might not be exactly that, but I need to have the line up completed by Eastercon.

Which is where I’ll be attending a launch party for not one but two books containing my work at the same time.  (I’m not the only person claiming this singular honour, so you have even more reason to turn up and buy both books!)

First up is Further Conflicts, Ian Whates’ sequel to his 2010 anthology.

It has a fine BSFA nominated cover by Andy Bigwood, and I get to share to Table of Contents with my stunt double Tony Ballantyne, fellow Angry Robots Lauren Beukes, Andy Remic and Dan Abnett, as well as Gareth L Powell, Eric Brown, Kim Lakin-Smith, Adam Roberts and others.

I’ll talk about -the other title- The Sixty: Arts of Andy Bigwood next time. 

Before I go, you’ll notice that I’ve posted links to all the books here; in the interests of full disclosure, I get a small fee if you buy through the site, and you get to save money – so it’s win-win. 🙂

• April 6th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances, Books • Comments: 0

One Day

It was raining earlier, so deciding that we’d wait it out, I’ve just returned from a late trot round the park with Alice. Rarely have I needed a walk so badly as a result of reading a book.

I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first a quick reminder that there’s just one day left to submit to my anthology Transtories

But back to why I needed that walk.

I’d just read One Day by David Nicholls, and found myself shocked by the violence of my emotional reaction; walking Alice round the park meant that I had a chance to work out my thoughts about why I’d gotten so upset.

But first, a warning.  There is a major spoiler following, and while I’m not normally reluctant to reveal twists if they’re germane to the ending, this would actually destroy the very effect I’m trying to explain – SO FINISH READING NOW if you don’t want to know what happens.

The plot of One Day revolves around the long-term love affair between Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley, students in Edinburgh who share a one- night stand after their graduation ceremony on St. Swithin’s Day, 1988 (that’s July 15th, for those of you who don’t know the legend). The novel charts their anniversary over the next nineteen years – usually they spend it together, but sometimes just write to each other.

Because by 1989 Dexter and Emma have gone their separate ways: Emma finds her ambitions worn down by life in the late 80s and 90s; she takes up acting, in an interactive drama troupe, then gets a dead end job in a fast food chain, before training as a teacher. Dexter drifts through life on charm, before blagging his way into the media on the strength of his looks.

In the late 90s Dexter’s fall from grace as a TV presenter is as sudden as his rise, while Emma quits her teaching job after an abortive affair with her headmaster. Dexter marries while Emma lives alone, but they continue to see each other each year, and there is never any doubt that love will prevail in the end.

Are you still reading? Didn’t I tell you to stop? Okay, on your head be it…

Dexter finds that his wife is cheating on him, and the following year Emma is shocked by how gaunt he looks after his marriage implodes. Emma by this time is a successful children’s novelist living in Paris, but realizing that this may be their last chance, she leaves her boyfriend to return with Dexter, helps get him back on his feet, and they marry on St Swithin’s Day, 2003.

So far, so contemporary romance; I know exactly where this is heading, except that there are still sixty-five pages to go, and there must be another twist. Sure enough life’s not so good by 2004; Dex and Em are trying for a baby, and they quarrel, and they arrange to meet in the evening to celebrate their anniversary – it’s a working day in the shop for Dexter, while Emma tries to write, goes swimming and heads for home:

The rain became heavier, oily drops of brown city water, and Emma rode standing on the pedals with her head lowered so that she was only vaguely aware of a blur of movement in the side road to her left.

The sensation is less of flying through the air, more of being picked up and hurled…the people crouching over her seem fearful and are asking her over and over again are you alright are you alright. One of them is crying and she realizes that she is not alright….

Then she thinks of Dexter…he’ll wonder where I am, she thinks. He’ll worry….

Then Emma Mayhew dies, and everything that she thought or felt vanishes and she is gone forever. (pp.384 – 385) 
I’m a little embarrassed now at how much I mourned a fictional character. It took me several minutes to be able to pick up the book again, and continue, now in a very emotional state, reading what happens over the last fifty pages. Which is not at all what I expected — but I won’t tell you, because you’ve had enough spoilers for now.

All writers manipulate their readers, but Nicholls is extremely adept, while I had some personal hot buttons which Nicholls pressed. Dex and Em are depicted in all their beautiful and awful detail, and Emma reminded me so much of my ex, while the sheer shock of the accident only adds to its verisimilitude; if TV has one massive failing it’s (generally) telegraphing plot twists through the soundtrack.

The strength of the novel (and the point of this rather rambling post) is that you may think that you know what’s coming, but life doesn’t give you spoiler alerts.

• March 31st, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0