Monthly Archives: March 2011

Last day for crime novel offer

One More UnfortunateIt’s the last day of our 99c/86p offer on Kaitlin Queen’s murder mystery One More Unfortunate, and it’s back up the charts at Amazon UK:

#1,426 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Ordering: ($0.99 until end of March) (£0.86 until end of March)

5* Amazon review: “There are twists and turns galore before finally the murder is solved… The characterizations are vivid, and in a couple of cases really quite affecting; the taut tale-telling rattles along at good speed; and the solution to the mystery is both startling and satisfying. Recommended.”

Guest blog by John Grant: Of Spatting Gods, Extraordinarily Heavy Laptops, Flights, Quests, Contests, Archetypes, Stuff Like That

The other day, when I first saw the page for my short novel Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi‘s latest incarnation as an infinity plus ebooks edition, it felt like I Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChiwas greeting an old and valued friend whom I hadn’t seen for far too long. In many ways the book occupies a fairly central role in my fiction, yet far, far more people have read the various offshoots and permutations of the tale that have appeared elsewhere in my work than have ever read the tale itself. Let’s hope the appearance of this new edition will reverse that imbalance.

The story was born in the early 1990s on a train between Exeter and London. My agent at the time, the excellent Jane Judd, had suggested I might enter for the first One-Day Novel Competition, which was being organized by the Groucho Club. I’d been able to borrow a laptop computer from my pal Matt, who’d just bought it second-hand, and he and I had loaded it with Word Perfect 5.1 – about as much as its hard disc would take. (An Amstrad, it weighed about as much as a modern desktop computer; by the end of a weekend of carrying the thing around my arms were measurably longer.) The sf author Dave Hutchinson and his wife Bogna had offered to put me up for the couple of nights I needed to be in London for the competition (despite the contest’s title, the writing was to be done over two days, 12 hours per day). In short, the logistics for my participation had all been successfully put in place.

It was on the train, though, that it occurred to me it might be a good plan if I had, you know, a novel to write – or at least a few ideas to get started with.

Instantly my mind went blank.

I sat there gazing out the train window at the fields and trees rushing backwards past me, and after a while realized I was seeing the reflection of the face of a passenger a couple of seats along at the same time as I was seeing the countryside. This was hardly an original insight but it did give me an image as a point of departure. For some reason I linked the image to the flat my wife and I had occupied in a small edge-of-Dartmoor town around the time my daughter was born. That reminded me of the cumbrous old second-hand wardrobe our spare room had boasted, best known for the fact that in the middle of one joyously drunken night a moderately famous author staying with us had got out of his bed and climbed into it, thinking he was on his way to the bathroom.

There were all sorts of story elements by now jostling for my attention. I took a few notes (little knowing that later, minutes before the start of the contest, we’d be informed that, contrary to the instructions we’d all been sent, we were not allowed to take any notes into the “exam room” with us).

But I didn’t need to make any notes about the two main components of the story that was now with increasing urgency taking shape in my mind – or, really, a single component that was manifesting itself as two different narrative strands. The strand that was foregrounded so far as my main character (by now called Joanna) would perceive things concerned a strange and strangely over-friendly family, the Gilmours, that lived in but was not a part of my Dartmoor town. But really (whatever the word “really” means in this context, because I still to this day do not myself know how literally Joanna’s experiences should be interpreted) the Gilmours were to be just a sort of projection into the mundane world of the figure who’d now moved to the conceptual centre of the evolving tale: Qinmeartha.

I’ve always been interested, ever since stumbling across the ideas of Joseph Campbell and, earlier, Sir James Frazer, in the notion of archetypal figures who can appear and reappear in diverse tales that appear on their face quite distinct from each other. I’m far from the first writer to have followed this lure; perhaps the fantasist most famously to have exploited these notions has been Michael Moorcock with his multiverse concept. In the early 1990s, not fully realizing what Moorcock had been up to along these lines (at the time I’d read neatly the wrong bits of Moorcock, Behold the Man rather than Elric of Melnibone, as it were), I’d explored such notions in my novel The World . . . calling my scheme the multiverse, a term I’d picked up from reading popular science books, until crossly discovering Moorcock had already snaffled the word and having to use “polycosmos” instead.

But the notion dawning on me as my train pounded toward London was of a far more powerful archetype than anything I’d conjured before. Here was not just a character (or pair of characters) who might appear in different guises in a whole slew of tales, but an underlying structure of (fictional) reality that could, as it were, be viewed through many different narrative lenses – a way of perceiving how reality was put together that I could approach in many different ways. The derided creator god Qinmeartha’s ceaseless quest to complete himself with or just to annihilate the fleeing Girl-Child formed the basis for – to cast my innate modesty aside for just a moment – a complete fantasy cosmology.

By the time I got to the Groucho Club I knew all kinds of things that were going to go into the plot of what I provisionally called The Legend of Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi without actually knowing what the plot itself would be. Finding out that plot was what was going to occupy me for the next two days.

The first day I wrote a little over 20,000 words of it; the second I added a further 11,000 words or so. I even finished with a few hours to spare . . .

What happened to my humble offering during the judging process I do not know. It certainly never made it to the shortlist; c’est la vie. But I myself was completely haunted by the tale. A few days later, back home, recovered from my exhaustion, when I nervously printed out a copy of it and read it pen in hand, I was surprised by how little beyond basic typos and the odd ghastliness I wanted to change. And both the imagery and the underpinning legend/archetype still spoke to me potently.

Of course, there was a major problem with a 31,500-word novel: it was exactly the wrong length to have any chance of publication – too long for a magazine or anthology, far too short to be published as a standalone. (This was years before the emergence of the modern fashion for publishing novellas/short novels as solo items.) So Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi sat around gathering metaphorical dust in my metaphorical drawer for some years. Every now and then I’d dig it out, read it again, be moved by it again, perhaps rejig it a little, think of turning it into a full-length novel, realize this would be a bad thing to do, and put it to one side. More importantly, Qinmeartha and LoChi and the cosmology they comprised were sneaking into my other fictions, not always in the most obvious of fashions – although they were pretty much to the forefront of my 1994 science fiction novel The Hundredfold Problem (done originally for a Judge Dredd series, whodathunkit).

Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi finally saw print about a decade after I’d written it thanks to Sean Wallace’s much mourned small press Cosmos. Sean paired it with The Tomb of the Old Ones by my old friend Colin Wilson and in 2002 released the two together in anthology form – the first (and perhaps only) “Cosmos Double”. And now finally, in 2011, it has achieved the standalone publication I’ve always wanted for it.

Well, not quite standalone. One of the received wisdoms of ebook publishing is that it’s a good idea to give the reader some “added value” material as an inducement to buy. I decided the ideal companion to the existing short novel would be my much more recent novella “The Beach of the Drowned”; this first appeared in a 2009 anthology called Under the Rose that was edited by the very same Dave Hutchinson who’d put me up over that One-Day Novel Competition weekend ‘way back when – see how even real life has these repeating patterns, eh?

But that doesn’t seem to me to be the only link between the two tales. They’re both born of the quarter-century or so I lived in Devon; I wouldn’t exactly describe them as regional stories, but it’s in Devon – or a version thereof – that both of them start and finish. And they’re both attempts at mythopoeia; the legend I created for “The Beach of the Drowned” has no archetypal possibility itself, I reckon, but I can see where it has been influenced by the Qinmeartha/LoChi archetype.

It’s been a long and a winding road for this particular child of mine, from that weekend-long sweatshop at the Groucho Club in London in the early 1990s until now, when, with its author living two decades and several thousand miles away from there, the tale is appearing in a format that no one even conceived at the time the piece was written: the hard disc of that ton-weight laptop on which I wrote it probably couldn’t have accommodated the software required for reading ebooks, and anyway internet access was a thing of the future.

That’s all, so far as I’m concerned, perfectly fitting.

For me, the legend of Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child is likewise long and winding as it manifests and re-manifests in my imagination, and it seems to adapt to new and unforeseen circumstances as they arise . . . just like all good archetypal legends should.

Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi is available from: (Kindle format, $2.99) (Kindle format, £2.14)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $2.99)

New release: Nowhere To Go by Iain Rowan

Nowhere To Go - crime fiction for Kindle, Nook and other e-readersEleven stories of murder, obsession, fear and–sometimes–redemption. Featuring stories published in Alfred Hitchcock’sEllery Queen’s, and more, Nowhere To Go is a collection of Iain Rowan’s best short crime stories.

Iain’s short fiction has been reprinted in Year’s Best anthologies, won a Derringer Award, been voted into readers’ top ten of the year, and been the basis for a novel shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger award.

Free fiction samples and purchasing: (Kindle format, $2.99) (Kindle format, £2.12)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $2.99)

“During the five years that I published Hardluck Stories, One Step Closer and Moth were two of my favorite stories. I loved the nuances and true heartfelt emotion that Iain filled his stories with, and Iain quickly became a must read author for me–everything I read of Iain’s had this tragic, and sometimes, horrific beauty filling it, and was guaranteed to be something special.”
— Dave Zeltserman, author of Outsourced, and Washington Postbest books of year Small Crimes and Pariah

“A short story writer of the highest calibre.”
— Allan Guthrie, author of Top Ten Kindle Bestseller Bye Bye Baby, winner of Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year

“Iain Rowan’s stories never fail to surprise and delight, and just when you think you know what will happen next, you realize how much you’ve been caught unaware.”
— Sarah Weinman, writer, critic, reviewer, columnist for theLos Angeles Times and News Editor for Publishers Marketplace

“Iain Rowan is both a meticulous and a passionate writer, and these stories showcase his ample talent wonderfully well. You owe it to yourself to discover Rowan’s fiction if you haven’t already had the pleasure.”
— Jeff Vandermeer, author of FinchShriek:An AfterwordCity of Saints and Madmen; two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award


ONE STEP CLOSER: Life jumps the rails, runs away from you and there’s no catching it up. Not ever.
THE CHAIN: “You know what this is about, Mr Jackson,” the voice said.
A WALK IN THE PARK: Mason didn’t know much about the man they had been sent to kill.
ONE OF US: “You must be the doctor,” he said.
TWO NIGHTS’ WORK: As soon as the short man opened his bag, I knew what was going on.
EASY JOB: Harry could never resist an easy job, and the place on the moors road was the king of easy jobs.
FAKE: “Get me one note please, Mr Rogers. Any one. Pick it at random.”
MOTHS: “You’ve been watching me, haven’t you,” she said.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BORED: Oh, and I killed someone else too, but he was old and pointless and I doubt anybody noticed.
THE REMAINS OF MY ESTATE: I am the Alcatraz of the ironic. Nothing gets out of here alive.
NOWHERE TO GO: The man took a step out, then back, then stopped, no time any more, nowhere to go.

Review: Deep State by Walter Jon Williams

I’m not planning to post lots of reviews here (see Criticality for my reviews), but occasionally I have one that’s lost its natural home. In this case, my review of Deep State was dropped from The Guardian as another reviewer had also covered it (these mix-ups happen sometimes). So here we go:

Walter Jon Williams’ near-future high-tech thriller opens with two CIA agents — sorry: “independent contractors” — losing an item of top secret software in the immediate aftermath of a military coup in Turkey. Meanwhile, Dagmar Shaw is running a large-scale alternative reality game, combining online play and hundreds of role-playing gamers travelling through Turkey as part of a tie-in with the new James Bond movie, filmed in Turkey before the coup. When Dagmar is invited to the palace of the new military leader she cannot say no, but when she does say the wrong thing she has to take on the government if the game is to continue. All this is only the beginning, however, in an uncannily timely story of a pre-Internet junta up against the revolutionary forces of the wired generation, with Dagmar and her team orchestrating a growing tide of demonstration against the Turkish government: popular revolution led by Twitter and flashmob. Williams’ novel has all the twists and turns you would hope for, with multiple layers of conspiracy played off neatly against Dagmar’s very personal story. And in the meantime, there’s the small matter of that top secret military software to recover from the junta…


Quick progress report – and that movie deal

Busy times!Piggies by Nick Gifford

In recent weeks I’ve been working on an adult fantasy novel and a new Nick Gifford teen novel. The fantasy novel is a big beast, featuring episodes based on stories in my collection Memesis. More news on this when publishing arrangements have been worked out. The teen novel is my first major attempt to write a time travel story; I seem to be going through a phase of tackling major genre tropes at the moment – my other current project is a big adult novel crammed full of aliens. I don’t do aliens; I can never take them seriously enough for the duration of a story; they always seem just a bit silly… But recently, I wrote an alien novelette for Postscripts and there’s this novel. Similarly, I’ve never really found a time travel story strong enough to sustain my interest. Until this one.

The other news is the renewal of the movie option on my Nick Gifford novel Piggies. This novel was published by Puffin in 2003 and almost immediately optioned (with the new title Feeders) by highly-respected producer Jonathan Cavendish (Bridget Jones, Croupier, Trauma). Now working with Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) at Caveman Films, they have just renewed the film option again. I know most film deals don’t lead to an actual film – there are so many obstacles in the way – but it’s lovely that people like this believe in this project enough to have kept pursuing it for all this time, and still seem genuinely excited by it. Here’s hoping!


We do all the obvious things. We send out press releases, we announce every new book to the news sites and magazines, we let the bloggers and tweeters know. We run the risk of annoying the hell out of our friends and family by slipping book announcements into our normal flow of witty and banal tweets and status updates. We join in online discussions to raise our virtual profiles. We do all the things everyone says you should do as an author or publisher to help raise awareness of our books as they come out. It’s a fine line to tread: we need to be pushy to make as many people aware of us as possible; but we don’t want to antagonise people.

We’ve clearly been successful so far, with five of our first twelve books hitting the top ten in their categories at Amazon.

But how do we measure the success of a particular publicity effort, though?

Sometimes it’s obvious. Jeff VanderMeer’s lovely write-up of infinity plus ebooks at Omnivoracious led to an immediate spike in sales, which lasted for a couple of weeks. And occasionally we’ll see that kind of surge elsewhere, clearly related to a mention on a prominent news site or blog.

Other than that, though, it’s very hard to determine whether all the effort that goes into publicising our books is paying off. For one thing, a sales peak at Amazon is likely to be diffused and delayed, as potential purchasers first download a free sample (we don’t get to see how many such samples are downloaded, or when). Monitoring hits to our website or blog, or click-throughs on links we’ve tweeted, can give a more immediate measure of response to a particular publicity effort, but is a doubling of hits on our website meaningful if we don’t see it converting to an increase in sales?

I’m running the risk of sounding a bit mercenary here: give us yer cash!

That’s not what it’s all about though. Like all writers, we at infinity plus want audience. We want our words to be read, we want our words to mean something to someone. And when we put a lot of effort into making people aware of those words, it’d be good if we had a more certain way to identify whether a particular campaign has worked better than another.

Until then, we have to just, well, keep plugging away.

Guest blog: Kaitlin Queen on her first e-original

One More Unfortunate - crime fiction for Kindle

First things first: “Kaitlin Queen” is a pen-name. In real life I write for children aged six or so through to teens, and I write journalistic pieces for national and local newspapers, websites and radio (more feature-writing than reporting, although my experience of court-reporting contributed greatly to my first venture into adult crime fiction, One More Unfortunate).

You may be wondering why I felt the need to adopt a pen-name. I did seriously consider publishing One More Unfortunate under my own name, but ultimately opted to keep it distinct.

Increasingly publishing is about brand: the author as brand, the publishing imprint as brand, the series or protagonist as brand. It makes a lot of marketing sense to keep my adult fiction brand separate, confirmed by discussion with my agent and others in the business.

Once that decision was taken I was soon to discover a number of consequences, mostly positive. Taking on a new persona was surprisingly fun, freeing me up to write a very different kind of story: a love story with grown-up complications, a crime puzzle, and a novel deeply embedded in the history of a place I love dearly.

It also made me start thinking about approaching the publishing of the novel in new and different ways. While I hope the novel is a success, it’s not likely to be my main source of income, so I felt free to explore alternatives. The indie publishing phenomenon, where writers such as current indie darling of the press Amanda Hocking are major news due to the way they have found publishing success by going straight to the reader (well, via the good offices of Amazon). By dipping my toe in the water, I might learn valuable lessons, and I didn’t feel I had much to lose.

The technical side of it all was another matter. Friends assure me that electronic publishing is easy, but they are saying this to someone who still writes in longhand, who has just about overcome her fear of email but has yet to brave the world of websites and Facebook and blogs. This is my first ever blog entry; and I wrote it in longhand.

It just so happened that my old school friend Keith Brooke was in the process of launching an ebook imprint, infinity plus. We got talking, and I learnt of his plans to publish a first short story collection by Iain Rowan (a writer I know and admire from the pages of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Postscripts [Editor: IainRowan’s Nowhere To Go was published on 25 March]) and a revised, definitive version of Molly Brown’s marvellous Restoration mystery An Invitation to a Funeral. Now, I have occasionally been known to be slow on the uptake, but really this seemed just too perfect a set of circumstances to ignore.

So here we are: my first novel for adults is an ebook original. It’s gathering some nice responses from readers and sales look good, although it’s very early days. I’m happy to let my publisher experiment with special offers and extracts. I did enter into this in the spirit of discovery, after all! So my novel is on special offer for the rest of this month at a mere 99 cents. Silly prices, but I still earn as much per sale from this as I do from a mass market paperback, and I hope it helps my Kaitlin persona a new audience.

Let’s see how it goes. Success for me would be if One More Unfortunate gathered a large enough audience for me to justify writing the next in the series. These are certainly very interesting times in publishing!

Kaitlin Queen, March 2011

Read an extract from One More Unfortunate on the infinity plus website.

Purchasing: (Kindle format, $3.45 cut to $0.99 until end of March) (Kindle format, £2.47 cut to £0.86 until end of March)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $3.45)
Barnes and Noble (Nook format, $3.45)

“There are twists and turns galore before finally the murder is solved… The characterizations are vivid, and in a couple of cases really quite affecting; the taut tale-telling rattles along at good speed; and the solution to the mystery is both startling and satisfying. Recommended.” — 5* Amazon review

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