1Jun

Amazon Stores?

I saw this article linked from Bookninja: is Amazon planning to launch retail stores?

The online retailer received a patent earlier this week for a mini-building design that has sent rumbles throughout the retail world — or, more specifically, on several online financial blogs — of a possible brick-and-mortar business venture by the company.

The patent, number D593,208, was originally filed on Oct. 31, 2007, and lists Michael Ausich, Peter Stocker and Stephanie Landry of Seattle as inventors. The relationship between the three and the company was unclear in the patent filing.

And while the designs for the building do resemble a storefront, it’s worth noting that Amazon has also already toyed with pick-up locations in Seattle for its Amazon Fresh delivery service, which it discontinued in February 2008; the patent could, in fact, augur a reprise of those.

I’d like to see more book stores of any kind, to be honest, especially in the UK. Preferably, though, they’d be smart little indies, with cool music (Kings of Convenience playing in the corner?), free coffee, big-ass sofas, and an endless SF and Fantasy section. There’d be comics too. And you’d get all the arty types hanging out there, and I’d run literary-type speed dating events (you ain’t read a book this year, you don’t get laid) and acoustic nights. Cute geek-girl staff for the guys; aloof geek-guy staff for the girls. (Or vice versa if that’s your thing.) Okay, so this is the bookstore I’d like to run then. I’d make an absolute fortune.

Or maybe I’d want it like Black Books, in which case everyone can just leave me alone to drink wine.

Who’s in?

31May

Hypnotic Fantasy

Let’s face it: the sun is out in force, and there’s a deadline looming, and finding interesting things to say is not happening. So I’m just going to link to yet another lovely review at The Truth About Books. I like this one: it makes me sound like the Paul McKenna of fantasy (or this chap), in that I write “hypnotic” fantasy. Perhaps a new subgenre?

“Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, don’t look around my eyes, look into my eyes, you’re under.”

Hugely intelligent, hypnotic new fantasy…

Nights of Villjamur is an extremely ambitious novel; asking for some serious cranial activity in order for a reader to get into its rhythm. The plotlines are extravagant and elaborately fashioned, with each individual strand eventually falling into its rightful place in the bigger picture and plenty of action, blood, gore and sex to satisfy the most ravenous of readers… an intelligent novel, with subtleties and nuances, darkness and starkness, depth and superficialities and mildly hypnotic; it will slowly wrap itself around you like the coils of a python – squeezing everything else out until only the story exists.

Read on

29May

SFF World Reviews “Nights of Villjamur”

I’m very, very chuffed with this review of Nights of Villjamur over at SFF World, one of the largest Science Fiction and Fantasy review sites on the internet. Here are a few snippets:

Imagine a book that reads like Joe Abercrombie, set in a Jack Vance-like Dying Earth and written with characters the equal of Moorcock and Mieville. Too good to be true? This book might just meet your expectations…

In fact, NoV is a great book, which takes old tropes and re-imagines them into something new and memorable. It is an assured tale written with style, intelligence and skill, written inside a fantastically set premise and brilliantly focused novel that shows all the strengths of the genre and relatively few of the weaknesses…

In summary, though, very highly recommended. Definitely my favourite fantasy of the year so far, in what is a very good year for the genre. This will be a ‘best of the year’ novel, unless I’m much mistaken.

Read the rest of the review.

This is a site I really respect, and means a lot. So, erm, woohoo!

28May

Reminder & Signed Editions

A quick reminder about my signing at Forbidden Planet next Thursday, 4th June from 6-7pm. Come. Bring friends. Bring friends’ parents. Bring old ladies off the street. Don’t make me the shifty looking guy on his own loitering at the back of the shop.

At the weekend I signed and quoted and lettered for a limited edition of Nights. If you want to look into more of these, email Carl Marsh on bigfootcomic [at] hotmail [dot] com for details.

And it appears that some venues have begun selling the book. Go! Leave nothing but the finest of five-star reviews. (I’m selfishly thinking of you earning yourself good karma by doing so.)

26May

Seth Lakeman

Excited: tonight I’m going to be seeing Seth Lakeman live at the Buxton Opera House. Yes, that’s folk music, at a twee old town in the middle of the Peak District.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX8z95Ndtz8]
25May

More Female Reads

A while ago I saw this post by Larry on gender bias in reading. And whilst I can see that he has clearly read enough female writers to put most of us to shame, it made me think about my own reading patterns. Whilst I’d want to read books which seem good and appealing, irrespective of the author’s gender, I was conscious of adding more genre novels written by women to this year’s reading pile – even if I’d read that author before.

Here are a couple of recent reads:

First up was Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the Mist, a quaint, charming tale set in the sleepy town of Lud, and of the casual penetration of fairy fruit from the dreaded Land of Faerie upsetting the status quo. There are some nice subtleties, and casual symbolism, though with a bit of a flat ending, but still worth picking up.

Next was Ursula Le Guin’s award-winning The Dispossessed, which was a cracking read. Following the life of Shevek, a brilliant scientist from the anarchist (in the true, political sense) world of Anarres. This is a far-future tale of fundamental political difference between an exploitative resource-rich capitalist world and a resource-impoverished anarchist one. Very thought provoking, and excellent characterization.

So thanks to Larry for bringing gender bias to mind. Hopefully this year I’ll manage to read some C.L. Moore and Patricia A. McKillip too, but if you have more suggestions (particularly gritty and very stylish prose) then do add them in the comments.

23May

DeathRay Reviews “Nights of Villjamur”

Nights of Villjamur received a great review in DeathRay science fiction and fantasy magazine this month. Here are a few highlights:

The author’s style pushes this tale closer to literary work than most fantasy fare and in particular there’s a pleasing depth to the characters… It’s to Newton’s credit that there’s not a cliché among them; he paints his cast to harbour some wonderful contradictions hidden beneath their official faces… Newton’s characterisations are backed up by an obvious understanding of how the world works and this colours his writing… The plot is also multi-threaded, with story lines occasionally overlapping and characters occasionally appearing in the background of each other’s situations like an episode of Lost… Overall, this is an impressive novel from a new fantasy author.

And it turns out there wasn’t any Cobra beer at the wedding I went to at the weekend, but it was good fun nonetheless. I’d never been to a Hindu ceremony before, but it was at this fascinating Hare Krishna manor/temple, just north of London. We had to sit down on the floor, cross-legged, for some time whilst watching what was a 5,000 year old ceremony. I’ll hopefully get some photos up soon.

20May

Review, Blurb, etc.

Civilian Reader got to grips with Nights of Villjamur. And they liked it:

Villjamur is a dark, hard place, populated by a cast of characters so varied and colourful it is almost impossible not to be drawn in. Newton is adept at conveying his characters’ emotions and states-of-mind through his prose. Battle or action scenes (particularly in the beginning) are written in a way to convey the chaos and confusion his characters are likely to feel, making the novel all the more immersive. His characters are equally strong and flawed, and one finds oneself caring about their plight and struggles, rooting for them throughout. There are plenty of surprises along the way, as the author slowly reveals more and more about his characters – some true shocks, and some pleasant or interesting surprises…

Filled with strange and bizarre creatures (the “garudas”, for example), Nights of Villjamur is an excellent book indeed, standing out with the author’s considerable imagination and inventiveness and attention to detail.

A recommended, very good start to a new series.

And a blurb, from star SF and Fantasy editor Lou Anders:

“Mark Newton is poised to be a power in the new fantasy”

Which is lovely.

I’m heading off to my cousin’s wedding at the weekend; it’s an Indian ceremony, which means… posh curry. I wonder if they’ll have Cobra?. One can only hope.

18May

Busy, busy

When I first set out to write about six years ago, I never had a clue just how much time an actual novel deal would take up. Here’s where I’m at now: I’m currently working on polishing up the final draft of the second Legends of the Red Sun book. (I have a title, by the way, but I’m holding it back for now.) On top of this, I’ve been firing off interviews for publicising Nights of Villjamur.

My mind is spit across three time lines. I’m a year ahead of now (in publishing terms), whilst I’m skipping back to answer interview questions on book one. Meanwhile I’m thinking of the plot of a third book. And I’m very conscious of keeping to a rate of one title a year, as best of I can.

There’s other publicity stuff behind the scenes too, arranging signed copies with various folk, considering signings, doing local press stuff, and generally keeping on top of significant increase in emails. Add the obligatory few minutes of ego-surfing for reviews…

And somewhere in all of this there’s a personal life to fit in, apparently. Oh yeah, and with a full-time job too. So I can very much understand sentiments such as these.

None of these are, of course, bad problems to have, but if you are someone hoping to be a novelist, do keep in mind the heavy baggage that comes along with it. Bohemian hermits would not cope well. But all is not such misery! Ten copies of the book arrived, in one of those massive Macmillan boxes I used to open when I worked in bookstores. When you see the copies stacked up, you know it’s all worth the effort. Two weeks or so until publication.