Damage Time Out In The US

Since it  is out today, I felt I ought to write a few words –unfortunately, I don’ have a bottle to crack against its bows– but yea, verily, I declare this novel Damage Time to be out as of about…5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Actually, it’s probably been out for hours or days. These distinctions are entirely artificial, like birthdays, and Christmas. What actually changes, because a clock ticks over? This is what distinguishes from the animal kingdom, of course…that we can consciously note the time. But at times it can get a little out of hand…I’m thinking of the Millenium for example, but yes, today probably applies as well….

Anyway, enough waffle. There are two more flash extracts up on the site with experimental artwork by moi, based on Chris Moore’s stunning cover.

And since it’s still Halloween Week over at suite101, I’ve posted a review — this time Gary MacMahon’s fine but harrowing The Harm.

(it’s amazing how many variations on that you can get by omitting one letter from that title — I variously typed ‘he harm’ and ‘the ham’ and ‘the arm’ before finally getting it right…)

• October 26th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Free On-line Stuff

Lots and lots of free on-line stuff happening at the moment, so I thought that I’d do a round-up. ‘Stuff’ is like London buses. You get nothing happening for months on end and then -wham!- the world goes mad.

First up on this not-so-sunny Monday morning, my publishers –Angry Robot– posted the first fifty-odd pages of Damage Time on-line over the weekend to read for free.  The whole novel is out in the UK on October on October 7th, and in the US on October 26th. Although US readers can order the electronic copy direct from the Angry Robot web shop on the earlier date.

Today my short story ‘Chameleon’ goes on-line to subscribers at Daily Science Fiction. Since subscription is free you might as well join, rather than waiting for a whole week…or you can wait a week, and it’ll be there waiting for you…

 Meanwhile the lovely Dark Fiction Review have posted a terrific review of Winter Song. It’s terrific not so much because it says nice things about the book –although that’s always nice– but because they picked up on some things that others missed.

And finally, I’ve reviewed Stephen Baxter’s Flood over at suite101.

That’s all for now!

• September 13th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Back to Ultramassive, and Damage Time

I’m still getting settled back into some sort of routine this morning. After a brief diversion into the land of short story writing, I took a day off yesterday to attend my step-father’s funeral.  Not the sort of day off that I like — I much prefer them to involve lying prone somewhere in sunshine on one hand, a long drink in another, and a good book — wait, that’s too many hands…

But despite being slightly worried about resuming novel-writing, once I got going, I found slipping back into the groove of writing Ultramassive surprisingly easy. I think that I’ve achieved a certain residual momentum. Or maybe the day ‘off’ did some good.

My only reminder of work yesterday was when Lee rang me from the Angry Robot office for one last minor edit for Damage Time. It came as Kate and I were buying some sandwiches for lunch in a bomb-site/Sainsbury’s-under-construction, on the edge of Exeter. I thought, ‘shall I tell him where I am?’ but decided against it. He might have felt guilty, whereas I was actually glad of the distraction.

And Damage Time cropped up again this morning, with this timely link provided by the lovely Liz van Zandt, via Facebook. I proposed in the novel that society might be entering a phase whereby economic factors affect people’s living arrangements, and even marriage. In the draft it raised more eyebrows and hackles with the crit group than perhaps any other point, which surprised me.

I suspect that I’m not done with blogging about this yet. In fact, I know I’m not…thanks Liz. 🙂

• August 4th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Surviving Vertigo

SF writer and journalist Gareth L Powell made this timely comment:  Just as you climb a mountain one step at a time,
you have to keep putting one word after another if you want to write a book

He’s quite right. Writing a novel is also like batting to save a cricket match. One ball at a time, one over at a time, one seesion at a time. Looking too far ahead spells disaster. But the novelist, having to be all-seeing and all-powerful, sometmes has no option but to look up from the detail. 

I used to compare writing a novel to an impressionist painting, but there’s a better metaphor, I’ve now realized. A novel is like a picture made up of 100,000 pixels, with each representing a pixel. Miss out a thousand words, and you have a picture with a hole in its whole.

And today I looked up and was paralyzed, as if my wall had been put on its side and was Everest-high.

I had fallen behind from my (admittedly) self-imposed target of 1400 words a day by the end of August. I had had to work in the morning, whereas I like to write before the day’s smorgasbord of irritations, distractions and events can fill my head and push out all thoughts of Terraformers and Pantropists.

Worse, when I awoke this morning, I realized that my chapter outline wasn’t going to work — so not only was I 600 words behind, but I had no idea how to write my 1400 for today, let alone catch up the backlog.

The answer? Stare harder at the pixels. What’s missing? Some necessary detail on motivation. Why is the hero a mercenary? Why has the heroine come to do her duty on a world that doesn’t like her? How do I show that the hero is gengineered? Through conflict, of course. There’s another mini-scene. One word at a time. One sentence at a time. One day at a time.

When you feel that awful sense that you’re going to fall and/or fail, stare hard at the detail and fill those pixels in.

• June 26th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 3

Book Covers

I was supposed to be working on a synopsis this morning, but I hit a bit of a road block. So when I saw a recent  Guardian article that tied in with a couple of recent conversations, I thought it worth taking a few minutes out to post something at Suite101.  

But now I’ve done that, I’d better get back to work.

• May 25th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 1

Odds and Sods-ery

Various bits of Odds and Sods-ery for your erm, pleasure today.

First of all, I’m pleased to see that I’m not the only person who was pissed off at the BBC for allowing a cartoon Graham Norton to clamber across the screen at the supposed climax of Doctor Who last night. What were they thinking of when they decided to do that? Were they thinking at all? Seriously, Beeb, WTF?

It’s enough that we have to cope with a new Doctor (jury still out, but generally OK) a new assistant (thumbs up) and the most intrusive music and background noise since 1972 (thumbs very much down) but now this? What’s the point of making drama programmes if you throw the audience out of the drama at key moments?  If you want to complain, here’s the link.  I urge you to do so, or we’ll have no quality of programming at all.

And I’ve posted the latest review at Suite101; in line with my continuing fascination with Children’s Literature I borrowed The Wolves of Willoughby Chase from Newton Park Library. It’s a good-ish book, marred somewhat by the moron who borrowed it before me deciding that they were an editor, and that they could ‘improve’ on Aiken’s prose. So many, many passages have been pencilled through and ‘alternative text substituted in the margins or over other text.

Are you sensing a theme this morning?

Well, if so, here’s something completely different. The launch of Silversands yesterday included Gareth L Powell reading a chapter of his debut novel and free vino. What more could you want? Certainly not me desperately improv-ing a 30-second interview on AudioBoo

• April 25th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Brian Brain

This will only be a short post, as it’s just before 9.15 am, and I have to be out of the door by 10 o’clock, to get to uni for the first lecture of term.

At the end of last term I was faced with the prospect of handing in five assignments in eight calendar days, from Monday the 10th to Monday the 17th of May. It’s clearly do-able, but needed planning and to get ahead.

I’ve at least made a start on four of them, although all will still need further polishing. But on the back of 1400 words written this morning, I’ve posted over at Suite101 about one of them. It’s a children’s novel about a boy with the (deliberately) unfortunate name of Brian Brain, and which contains a single element of fantasy to what is otherwise a mainstream novel.

• April 20th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

An End, And A Beginning…

The clamour of the alarm at 05.30 announced that the Easter holidays are officially over.

Not that it was –the middle week aside– ever a holiday in the proper sense; all writers know that there’s always something that needs to be done, and there were still assessments to be worked on.

So I wrote the first 1100 words of my Creative Writing assessment, which one day may become a Middle-Years novel tentatively titled Brian;  submitted a 1500 word proposal for an anthology to the Arts Council; and wrote a 2500 word article on spec on SF. Plus there are always books and magazines to be reviewed and blog posts to be written.

But I also had a lovely week off with Kate, and last weekend we went down to Poole and Wimborne (in Dorset) for a charity pub quiz (we raised £537 for a bursary in memory of our late nephew), and the next day it was our great-niece’s 1st birthday, which called for a big family party.

But now the alarm’s gone off and it’s back to work…officially.

• April 19th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist

The judges have released their shortlist for the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and a fine list it is.

• March 31st, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Different Markets?

A lot of what I’ve been writing lately is intended less as Words of Wisdom than as the electronic equivalent of me thinking aloud. This has the benefit of enabling me to argue with myself as I grope toward understanding of the genre I work in. The latest musing is just how separate (or inter-connected) the short fiction and novel markets are.

• March 30th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0