Tag: bohemian escapades


Apple Wine

I know you love my garden/chutney-making escapades, so here’s a little more domestic nonsense. I’ve moved to the half-way stage of homebrewing some apple wine. It seems to be a pretty simple process: boiling up a couple of kilos of apples (Blenheim Orange) and then letting it simmer away. Tip it into a fermenting bin, add yeast, feed it with sugar, and then it’s ready to be poured into demijohns. I’ll find out what the final product tastes like in about six months.

In the UK it’s legal to produce an unlimited amount of this stuff, so long as I don’t a) sell it or b) distill it, neither of which I plan to do unless we enter prohibition. (Given that the Tories are in charge, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did due to some spurious claims of fairness.)


Travels & Embargoes

I went to London to have dinner the chap on the left, China (and rather randomly, Tony Blackburn was seated nearby in the restaurant). Then shortly after we met up with the lady on the right, who is covering her face. That’s our editor, Julie, who disappointingly did not turn up in her Halloween costume (she was going to a party later). I was also disappointed I couldn’t snap Julie in said evil-looking costume, because it denied me the opportunity to use the joke “That’s what she wears when she edits manuscripts”. But I’ve used that now, so that’s okay. Anyway, we drank lots of whisky, and converted China to the delights of Laphroaig, and it was one of those very creatively energising days, full of book talk and culture talk and random geek talk.

It wouldn’t be the blogosphere without a little tiff now and then. The big topic at the moment is embargoes, notably of them being broken and of complaints following.

When I worked in bookselling, embargoes came and went all the time (and were broken with astonishing predictability). Bookstores would be in touch with each other to see who broke it first – because as soon as the first one went, we all would start selling the book. Embargoes are a method whereby publishers can try to get a book to chart as highly as possible and make more money by doing so. By limiting the discussion – but more importantly the opportunity for sales – the theory is that everyone will go out and buy a book in that same week and therefore send the book racing up the charts. It’s nothing more than a controlled attempt to maximise sales.

Personally, however, I do feel that it’s bad juju to demand reviewers to follow strict guidelines – especially when a publisher has leaned heavily upon said reviewing community for publicity in the past. I’m just disappointed that a publisher can be in a position to ask for embargoes at all, because not that long ago, they were dismissive of blog reviewers entirely, then a little later they could not get enough out of Being Part Of The CommunityTM and threw out review copies at anyone who would turn their way.


Convention Updates

I’ll be at Fantasycon this weekend. I’m on a panel on Sunday at 10-10.45am entitled “New kids on the block”, which I’ll assume has everything to do with the boyband. Watch out for as many song references as possible if you’re there. Other than that, by schedule is as follows:

Friday-Sunday: “Bar”

I’ll also be making my way down to Camber Sands for the mighty SFX Weekender gig in February 2010. (Main website.) It’s the first year of this event, so I’m not sure what to expect, but it’s by the sea, in winter, so how could I resist?


On The Writer’s Ego

It’s easy to see how it happens, how some writers become divas.

And you know the ones I mean. (I’m not pointing out names here. Hell, my ex girlfriends would probably say I’m a diva before I became a writer.)

So you put your book out there, and people talk about it. That’s cool. People on the internet become reasonably animated. They bicker, they praise you, they slag your work off. It’s taken you a year or more to write a book and someone has blasted through their weekend and is most upset at what you’ve written. White noise and flame wars. You understand why many writers decide to go offline entirely. Everyone has their opinion, quite rightly, and many believe their opinion is objective fact, that you should listen to it. And at first you try…

Your first major realisation is that you must build a wall in your mind to protect yourself. If you listen to a hundred opinions on you and what you’re doing, your mind will bubble over – you simply cannot listen to them all, you can’t please everyone. There are still books to write, from behind the sanctuary of your wall. The wall stops you worrying, lets you concentrate and get on with writing (remember that?).

Once you’re behind this wall though, it’s easy to believe yourself, rather than believe in yourself. Behind the wall, there’s largely your own voice, telling you to get on with writing, that you’re good enough. If that’s the only voice you’re listening to, then you’re in big trouble too. You might start to ignore editors, or forget that you write to be read – you know, by real people. Pretty soon you’re kicking off on forums because people don’t get your latest magnum opus. (How can they not understand you?) Or worse, you kick off on Amazon about it.

It’s a very fine line between protecting yourself, and divahood.


Some Interesting Things I Never Knew About Being A Writer

Or at least, not until I became one, anyway. These are just some casual observations.

1. You pretty much kiss goodbye to your social life. You have deadlines and you need to hit them. Doesn’t matter how long it took you to write the first book, you have a contract to fulfill, which means not as much going out as you used to. Getting a deal isn’t for those who don’t have the time.

2. Some people hate young writers. I was talking about this with someone recently. Yup, there are a few folk out there who hate the fact that a dude in their twenties gets a publication deal. Why? There are a lot of people who want to be writers out there, and to see someone relatively young succeed can piss them off. I was vaguely saddened by this realization, but hey, that’s life. (Don’t get me wrong, there are some people who think it’s cool too.)

3. Being a writer with the majors can send you into the industry’s inner sanctum. It’s not some boy’s club. It’s not the Free Masons. But getting the book out meant that others spent more time talking to me then they might have otherwise. People with prestige took a little notice. No surprise really, I guess; isn’t that how a lot of the world works?

4. You get sympathy for other writers’ bad reviews. A writer can spend a year or more on a project. It gets read, reworked, read by an editor, reworked. Teams of people are involved; effort and money goes into this. (Another blog post is needed on just who works behind the scenes, and what they do to make a book succeed.) Emotions are heavily invested. Being a writer, I know this now, and to see someone else’s book get pulled apart in a review that’s taken some wit half an hour of their life isn’t easy, no matter if you’re a fan of that writer’s prose or not. You understand the pain. But remember that…

5. There is no such thing as a bad review. Or to paraphrase a much better writer, you don’t read your press, you measure it. The best thing someone can do if they hate your book is not to mention it at all. No conversation kills a book. Just develop a thick skin and deal with what is said, because not everyone will like your work, and especially not everyone will like you. Just remember, you put yourself out there in front of people; you have to deal with it.

6. Science fiction and fantasy readers are the best readers. Why? They talk about books. They shout about them. Every one of them online thinks their opinion is right, and they’ll argue their point endlessly. They’re loyal readers; they’ll buy books year in, year out. When the rest of the publishing industry suffers, SFF is as stable as ever. These are the people you want reading your books.

7. Most people are absolutely fascinated when you mention you’re a writer. They want to know everything. Then they tell you that they fancy giving it a go themselves. “I’d love to be a writer too.” To which you say “Great, what have you written so far?” The reply is more often than not “Well, I’ve not actually done anything…” Do something. Write it down. If you want to be a writer, write!

8. Following the debate on forums and blogs only makes you tired. Of course you want to monitor what people are saying; doesn’t mean you should. Scott Lynch’s summon author spell seems to work for the most part, thanks to Google alerts, but it’s hard to know when to stop.

9. Luck matters just as much as talent. Kind of speaks for itself, really.

10. I knew this anyway, but getting a writing contract doesn’t mean you can give up your day job. Not that I’d want to, since mine is fun, but the money (for 99% of new writers) isn’t enough when you sign a deal. The initial advance is broken into smaller payments, for signature, manuscript delivery, publication in hardcover, paperback etc. Then you need to earn that advance before you get royalties, which takes time to accrue.


The Publisher Party

There are some things which, as a writer, you look forward to. Your book coming out. Page proofs arriving. Seeing the cover art for the first time.

More important is the publisher party.

Last night was the Pan Macmillan sales conference, where the great and good of that publisher were gathered under one roof at Kings Place, London, in a room overlooking a very pleasant canal. A great setting for a party. Julie, my editor at Tor, invited me along for drinks in the evening after their day of general celebratory presentations – they’re doing rather well given the current financial storms in the publishing world.

I strolled in at around 6.30pm (in fine attire, of course) to be handed a glass of champagne immediately upon arrival. Yes, I thought. Yes indeed.

Good lord. All I did was write a book about monsters and stuff, and here I was surrounded by some of the finest minds in the UK – Andrew Marr, John Simpson, and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson were at one point within five feet of me.

Julie and Chloe then turned up to escort me around the room. My mission: to schmooze. In attendance were many of the buyers at major chains: Amazon, Waterstone’s, Borders, the lovely ladies from the Book Club Association, and it certainly doesn’t do any harm in saying hello to them and fluttering one’s eye-lashes.

Also, I met many of the beautiful and sexy employees (women and men – anyone who can influence my sales!) at Pan Macmillan, who are all absolute stars for making me feel like a star, from editors to sales people to accountants to designers, they all make a difference and deserve acknowledgement. William Horwood, writer-legend and thoroughly splendid chap, was another genre figure in attendance. Oh, and briefly, I met Martine McCutcheon, who mentioned that she would read my book, bless her, but somehow I think this highly unlikely. Charming lady.

So all in all I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much, despite the never-ending glass of wine (topped up before I could even get half way down). Eventually I shuffled off to catch the last train back to Nottingham, and crashed at around 2am.

The things a writer has to do…


If You’ve Emailed Me This Week…

… could you email me again?

I had a slight “incident” with my MacBook and a moderately priced Chardonnay, and it’s out of action for at least two weeks if not forever. So until I get myself sorted, and continue to work on a steampunk-esque iBook, could you possibly resend your email?