Dark Spires News

Did you know — and as Diggory Venn would say, not a lot of people know this – that today is the 83rd anniversary of Thomas Hardy’s death? And to mark the occasion, Ove Jansson’s excellent Cybermage site has posted the anthology’s first review.

Until now, the book has been available to order as a paperback, either from the site or at conventions, and for those readers who don’t embrace dead tree format, as a mobi or e-pub download.

But now the good people at Wizard’s Tower Press –who actually reside deep within Hardy Country– have also been able to make the book available as a Kindle. To mark the occasion,  they’ve posted an extract from Roz Clarke’s wonderful ‘Last Flight to West Bay’ to read for free on the website.

This is terrific news because amazon is a whole new ball game, and makes the book available to a whole new set of readers, which for a small press is absolutely crucial.  It also means a slight price reduction to American readers, since until now WTP have only been able to price in sterling, and PayPal adds a conversion fee. And for about twenty-four hours only, they’ll be knocking a pound (about US$1.60) off all formats.

On another front, I’ll be posting about an anthology I’m going to edit soon, but today is Dark Spires’ day, so head on over to Wizard’s Tower’s site, and read the first installment of Roz Clarke’s story for free, and save yourself some pennies if you like it!

• January 11th, 2011 • Posted in Books, General, News, Reviews, Writing • Comments: 1

The Bookshop’s Open!

As you may have heard, I have an anthology out with Wizard’s Tower Press (yes, really! I can’t believe that I haven’t mentioned it before…). One factor in the book’s eventual success or failure will be the publisher’s online shop which has just opened, selling high-quality e-books with added content at reasonable  prices.*

This will make Dark Spires available to a much wider audience, both in the US and in Europe. And one of the nice ideas Cheryl has had is to add a ‘donate’ button, through which customers can donate directly to the authors. As she said, think of it as a ‘tip’ jar.

Dark Spires will –hopefully–be the first of many such books and I’m looking forward to seeing what else becomes available. To quote Cheryl further, 

If anyone out there runs a small press, or is an independent author who has made ebooks of their out-of-print back catalog, and is interested in having us stock their books, please get in touch (info [at] wizardstowerpress [dot] com). We will be selective about what we stock, and in particular we will insist on well-made ebooks (though we can help you clean yours up) but I very much want to see the stock grow. Also I want to talk to prospective partners about contract terms to make sure we come up with a deal that people are happy with.”

Do take a look at the site. It’s an exciting time to be an author in the South West of England, and I’ll have further news, on a new project in the not too distant future.

* There seems to be a huge variation in prices for e-book, much more than for dead tree ones, from a dollar or two to fifteen; Dark Spires retails at about five dollars, which seems reasonable, judging by what I’ve seen on Amazon.

• November 17th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Interview Week

They’re like buses, interviews; nothing seems to happen for weeks, and then along come a whole clutch of them.

Virtually the last thing I did before falling into bed on Monday evening was to record December’s Angry Robot podcast with fellow Robot-eer Matt Forbeck and the humungously talented Mur Lafferty. I came away not completely happy with the interview since (I think) I sounded like a croaking frog and my brain kept short-circuiting, but that’s the whole point of podcasts — they’re live and (relatively) un-edited; what you hear is what was said.

More comfortable was the e-mail interview with The World’s Biggest Bookstore in Montreal. I’m to be their Featured December author, and they’ll blog the interview on November 29th. I’ll post a link nearer the time.

And a couple of of weeks ago Salon Futura editor Cheryl Morgan was kind enough to trek over to the wilds of Keynsham -where I live- and interview me for the third issue of the magazine. It’s online now here

Cheryl also has some nice things to say about Damage Time and several other new titles in the feature ‘Better Living Through Software.’

Bear in mind that Salon Futura is funded by donations and a few low-key adverts, so if you like what you read there and want to keep it going, throw that odd quid that you found down behind the couch into the donations pot, via the donate page.

Yes, full disclaimer time: Salon Futura editor Cheryl is the publisher of Dark Spires, which shares Andy Bigwood’s cover with this month’s issue. But even if she wasn’t, I’d have banged the drum for it anyway; I think that as a grown-up magazine -I initially used adult, but didn’t like the implication, which is in itself an interesting comment on the way that word’s been hi-jacked- as a grown-up magazine aimed at discourse about literate, grown-up SF, Salon is an important development.

So there. 🙂

• November 12th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Post Bristolcon Musings

Well, that was good. Bristolcon 10 was over three times the size of last year, with an attendance of over 150 people. Now, that’s a proper con. The panels were well attended — I opened on the Juliet E. McKenna moderated Publishing panel with Mike Shevdon, Andy Bigwood and Dave Bradley of SFX, then sat in on the Joe Abercrombie interview, both of which were excellent. I followed that with an hour on the con dealer’s desk and then the Dark Spires launch.

That went pretty well, although it became a little chaotic (mea culpa) as the event progressed. There were definitely learning points to be taken from it. Like, put the box -and the designated treasurer- at the end of the line. Still, we had  good sales, and people seemed to like the actual finish of the book, which is marvellous, IMHO.

After a late lunch and a visit to the Dealer’s Room to pick up Murky Depths 14, containing Neil Beynon’s ‘Stone,’  onto The Future of Science panel. Impressed as expected by Alastair Reynalds and Gareth L Powell, but it emerges that Paul Cornell’s urbane exterior camouflages an Inner Science Geek…

The Programme culminated with ‘Writing Fight Scenes,’ in which Joe Abercrombie was repeatedly thrown down by Juliet E. McKenna and Meaney-san. I was supposed to moderate this panel, which turned out to be an exercise in futility, but by this time a worsening chest infection (which has seen me confined to barracks while Kate and Sharon hit Bath) forced me into withdrawing from both my panel and the 6.50 reading.  Cheryl Morgan was a more than adequate replacement.

And so, here’s looking forward to next year…

• November 7th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 3

The Turning Week

Well, here we are; Sunday night is already falling on the first night of winter time, and I’m just about done.

Four reviews, five guest blogs and a post of my own on Suite101, culminating in a review of the third anniversary Black Static, which is maybe the best issue I’ve read yet.  The lowest I gave any story was one of the three Highly Recommendeds, an Outstanding, and a Year’s Best contender.

Plus a horror film blog over at Film Making Mumblings.

That’s about three hours work this afternoon. More on that later…

Tomorrow I’m going to start posting extracts from Dark Spires, if I get time, I’ll do two a day — if not, I’ll do one. So expect actual blogs to be thin on the ground for another week, at least until after Bristolcon. But next week is not only post-con, but it’s Reading Week as well, which gives me about fiften to seventeen hours extra to…well, read.

Have fun this Hallowe’en night….mwahahaha…

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

Guest Blog at TTA Press

October is Anthology Month, over at the Black Static section of the TTA Press Forum (TTA are also purveyors of such fine periodicals as Interzone [SF] and Crimewave [crime], as well as the dark and disturbing Black Static).

Peter Tennant has reviewed anthologies –and nothing but anthologies– in Black Static #19 and in the run up to Halloween, and has invited several editors to come and talk about their favourite horror anthologies.

I’m the latest guest editor to post about my own personal favourite on their Desert Island Anthology thread. I’ve picked Ellen Datlow’s wonderful Inferno, and you can read all about it here.

More guest posts tomorrow, over at another writer’s blog. Can you guess who it is yet? (I have absolutely no idea why I suddenly started channelling Rolf Harris then — don’t worry, it isn’t him!)

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

Genre Fiction

Into Bath yesterday to pick up some books, and (if I’m honest) to check on the state of play of Damage Time. Waterstones had four copies, although there was no sign of Winter Song, which is a tad disappointing, but hey ho. Then off to Toppings, where there were none. Hmm, have to speak to Rachel about that.

The man in Toppings offered tea or coffee to anyone who was interested, which I accepted. I of course then felt obliged to buy a couple of books, which was probably his intention all along. But by checking my Genre Fiction Reading List, I found a couple of gaps.

It’s actually a helluva reading list, comprising among others:

Alternate History:

Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

Christopher Priest, The Separation

Keith Roberts, Pavane

Children’s Fantasy / Crossover

Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

Philip Pullman, Northern Lights


Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Dart

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Apprentice

Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood

Guy Gavriel Kay, The Summer Tree

Tanith Lee, Forests of the Night

China Mieville, Perdido Street Station

J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Terri Windling, The Wood Wife


Karen Armstrong, Bitten

Clive Barker, Weaveworld

H.P. Lovecraft, The Haunter of the Dark

Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

Bram Stoker, Dracula


Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Iain M Banks, The Player of Games

Frank Herbert, Dune

Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang

Kim Stanley Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain

Bruce Sterling, (ed.) Mirrorshades

Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog

Robert Charles Wilson, Bios

David Zindell, Neverness


Isabel Allende, Eva Luna

J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition

Jorge Luis Borges, Fictions

Helluva list, isn’t it? Of course everyone has their own choices — I’d substitute Pacific Edge for Forty Kinds of Rain, and where are Bester, Silverberg and Delany? But on the whole, it’s a pretty good list; of the 34 titles, I’ve barely read half of them, and that’s just the spec-fic part.

The set texts include Carrie, and then next up is Jetse de Vries’ anthology Shine. I’m looking forward to this module.

• October 8th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 1

The Week So Far

So far my Wednesday has consisted of frantic shovelling of overdue tasks and ignoring all Uni stuff, which is fair enough, since the reason I have such a backlog is that Uni has taken up all my time for the last two days for anything but the most critical responses, including some copy-editing of Dark Spires stories.  As always happens on new ventures I’ve made a number of mistakes which have now caught up with both me and the rest of the team.

Monday morning started with Film Making, which is going to involve some actual hands-on filming, editing etc. Then into Writer’s Workshop, about which I’ll pass over for the moment, except to say that I hope it improves — but I can’t drop it, as it’s the core of the course.  And then to Feature Journalism, which looks as if it may yet be the most interesting of all three lectures.

Yesterday morning was dire, because I was so exhausted.  I wrote this at the time:-

It’s 4.45 am as I write this, and despite -or perhaps because– being exhausted, my brain is boiling. I’ve been awake for nearly two hours, and I have a splitting headache which four paracetemol couldn’t shift last night. In forty minutes or so, I have to get up, so it seems like a good idea to rise early and type this.

The problem was the seven hours of lectures and seminars that I had yesterday, from 9 to 6. By the end of it, I felt like a zombie, but clearly the information and mental stimulation that I took in yesterday has percolated through my brain, and caused this morning’s insomnia. This afternoon, I have a three hour lecture and seminar, and then aside from a solitary lecture late on Thursday, that’s my week done.

Ah, I hear you mutter, it must be nice to have a five day weekend.

Except of course, that the first of those five days will probably be spent as a hollow-eyed wreck; and then there’s the small matter of revising Ultramassive. And all the work spent away from the class, which should be the majority of it. At the moment, I don’t know how the hell I’m going to manage another week of this, let alone a year.

Maybe some answers will come to me when I feel less like the intellectual equivalent of a battery hen, force fed on ideas and concepts instead of chicken feed.

I somehow managed to get through the day, including working on Ultramassive, which is my other writing Must-Do at the moment. Things began to turn around in the afternoon with a stunning lecture on Genre Fiction, one of the best I’ve had in just over a year at the uni. I’ll blog more on that on…let’s say Friday, hmm?

Then it was home for dinner, and work into the evening starting the shovelling.  But at least I have some answers to yesterday’s insomniac rant, which vindicates my two basic rules of communication:-

1. Never write anything on the web or in an e-mail that you aren’t prepared to see all over the web.

2. Whenever you’re feeling, emotional — angry, tired, depressed– sit on  it for 24 hours. 🙂

More news tomorrow on Damage Time, which has its UK release. And in about 90 minutes, I’ll be off to listen to William Gibson talk.

• October 6th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Frantic Paddling

Yesterday morning was another one of those mornings where I looked at the clock and saw that it was 10.15; I’d been working for almost three hours, and I seemed to have nothing to show for it.  I’m sure that you know the feeling…

It wasn’t strictly true that I had nothing to show for my three hours worth, but it was admin stuff, so not very sexy.  Things like sending information off to Andy, the cover artist, so that he could generate a map for Dark Spires.  and setting up a copyright page, among many other things.

Which led me to think how much information is needed for the application for an ISBN number. Here are just some of the things;

  • A full list of contributors
  • Copies of the title and copyright pages
  • A confirmed selling price
  • Classification (eg, SF / fantasy / fiction)
  • Intended size in millimetres, and number of pages
  • And last but not least, a short description of the book.

A lot of this information is dependant on other factors, like edits, etc, so only parts of it are currently available.

And the requirements are perfectly logical but it’s time consuming. Publishers such as Tor or Random House probably have lots of interns running around doing such work. Then again, they publish a lot more books than we do! But hopefully, all this will be worth it when you see the final product.

• September 8th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 1

The Power of 31

It’s now 14 days until August 31st, a date which grows increasingly significant with every day. That’s because organizations and individuals target the first and last days of the month, so the 31st is always busy with some deadline or other.

It’s also the day before Kate’s birthday, by which time I need to have sneaked any goodies into the house and wrapped them. So usually in August I’m getting a little stressy. Although this year, I no longer have the annual influx of applications for the SLF‘s Annual Travel Grant.

Still, when I planned my summer workload it seemed to be against a view of one looooong siesta as I dozed beneath the apple tree from the end of the 1st year in May, to the 2nd year in early October.  I calculated that if I could finish the draft of Ultramassive by August 31st, I could take a month off before going back to uni. So far, so good; I’m 80% of the way through, and if I can keep producing my target wordage, I’ll make it, bang on schedule.

And although Dark Spires is to be launched at Bristolcon, the printers only need a couple of weeks, so I figured that with any luck I could even write the story for it in early October — at least, if I was lucky… if not, then late September. 

Ah, I thought smugly. A plan is hatched…

The first flaw came at the end of May. Angry Robot announced that they were gearing up the US launch to start with Winter Song. They are launching in September, but monthly deliveries go out on the last Tuesday of the previous month, which is….de de de de de de de…August 31st. (It’s actually great news, but it was about two or three months earlier than I’d expected, and Leeee keeps shouting at me for more interviews and more blog material!!!!)

Now, having thought that I could get away with a gap before turning my full attention to Dark Spires, it transpires that WTP’s lovely copy editor is expecting her first child soon, and we need to get all the editing done soonest. Last Friday I learned that it’s due…August 31. 

And that first annual deadline hasn’t gone away — at some point I need to get Kate’s birthday presents before she returns from holiday on…August 31st. (Can anyone recommend a mains-operated DAB radio that also picks up FM?) 

I know, I know. I could be writing, blogging, editing or…ew, shopping…instead of whinging about it. But hey, my therapist tells me it’s good to share.

But if anyone else has any deadlines for this date, keep them to yourself — at least until September the 1st.

Please? Pretty please?

• August 17th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 1