Monthly Archives: July 2013

Stickatitivity – a key part of the writer’s toolkit

Someone once said that aspiring writers are easily discouraged, and and followed up by saying “and they should be”. There’s a lot of bitter truth in that: writing is a very up and down business, and it’s certainly not a happy environment for the easily discouraged or the thin-skinned.

There’s also a sad truth in that observation: a lot of writers who have plenty of talent fall by the wayside just because they don’t have the resilience that this business needs.

Over the years I’ve done a lot of work with new writers, and one of the messages I hammer home (perhaps too much) is that stubbornness is a key part of a writer’s toolkit. We’ve all heard the stories of now-bestselling authors whose first novels were rejected dozens of times before finding a home. I’m not in that league, but my own first novel accumulated those rejections until the point where I had the choice of either consigning it to experience and a dusty box in the attic, or sending it to the last publisher on my list, one that really didn’t publish that kind of thing very often at all. I ended up with a three-book deal.

I was struck by this today, when I came across a piece on resilience on the excellent marketing blog, Wordofmouth. Yes, it’s about marketing and business, but the principles are the same. In the blog post, Mitch Joel argues that it’s not about winning or losing, but about resilience; in my experience, and the point I drum home when I’m teaching, it’s not about winning or losing, but about increasing your chances of getting that one victory that makes the big difference.

Pitching a novel isn’t about winning every time, it’s about winning once and resilience/stubbornness is a key part of how you can improve your chances of hitting that one victory that makes the difference between your book appearing, or it being consigned to the attic.


New: Salvage by Eric Brown

Salvage by Eric BrownWhen Salvageman Ed saves Ella Rodriguez from spider-drones on the pleasure planet of Sinclair’s Landfall, he has no idea what he’s letting himself in for. Ella is not at all what she seems, as he’s soon about to find out.

What follows, as the spider-drones and the Hayakawa Organisation chase Ed, Ella and engineer Karrie light-years across space, is a fast-paced adventure with Ed learning more about Ella – and about himself – than he ever expected.

The Salvageman Ed series of linked stories – four of which appear here for the first time – combine action, humour and pathos, from the master of character-based adventure science fiction.

“Eric Brown’s modest, slightly retro, extremely charming and very human voice has been a distinctive, indeed unique, presence in British SF for many years. Here he offers another interlinked selection of stories which, as is typical of Eric Brown, manage to be small scale, close-up, and completely free of heroic posturing, in spite of the galactic scale of their setting. There is something restful about them, something comforting. Yet while they gently entertain, they also, very quietly, deal with big questions about identity, love, and the relationship between body and soul.” Chris Beckett, Arthur C Clarke Award-winning author of Dark Eden

“These stories demonstrate everything that Eric Brown excels at: intelligent high adventure in space featuring fully-rounded characters that the reader can instantly relate to, revelling in their evolving relationship as Ed and his crew are forced to contend with all that the author’s vivid imagination throws at them. Wonderful stuff!” Ian Whates, author of The Noise Within

Buy now
Ebook:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble
Kobo

Print:
Createspace
Amazon US
Amazon UK


New: The Fabulous Beast by Garry Kilworth

The Fabulous Beast by Garry KilworthA set of beautifully crafted tales of the imagination by a writer who was smitten by the magic of the speculative short story at the age of twelve and has remained under its spell ever since.

These few stories cover three closely related sub-genres: science fiction, fantasy and horror. In the White Garden murders are taking place nightly, but who is leaving the deep foot-prints in the flower beds? Twelve men are locked in the jury room, but thirteen emerge after their deliberations are over. In a call centre serving several worlds, the staff are less than helpful when things go wrong with a body-change holiday.

Three of the stories form a set piece under the sub-sub-genre title of ‘Anglo-Saxon Tales’. This trilogy takes the reader back to a time when strange gods ruled the lives of men and elves were invisible creatures who caused mayhem among mortals.

Garry Kilworth has created a set of stories that lift readers out of their ordinary lives and place them in situations of nightmare and wonder, or out among far distant suns. Come inside and meet vampires, dragons, ghosts, aliens, weremen, people who walk on water, clones, ghouls and marvellous wolves with the secret of life written beneath their eyelids.

‘Kilworth’s stories are delightfully nuanced and carefully wrought.’ Publishers Weekly

‘A bony-handed clutch of short stories, addictive and hallucinatory.’ The Times

‘Here is a writer determined and well equipped to contribute to the shudder-count.’ The Guardian

Buy the ebook edition now:
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
kobo
barnes and noble
Buy the print edition:
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
createspace.com


Snapshots: Frank Chadwick interviewed

How Dark the World Becomes by Frank ChadwickWhy science fiction?
I think science fiction is the most optimistic genre of writing, because it is about what is possible. Even when it deals with dystopic futures, as it often does, it’s essentially optimistic because, as Marx said, “Everything seems pregnant with its contrary.” The writer would not bother telling a tale of an unavoidable future, so stories about how bad things can become are incantations against their realization. Even that famous pessimist, H.G. Wells, must have had hope that his stories would deflect our trajectory somewhat. Otherwise it’s all just howling in the night. The simple notion there will be human beings centuries – even millennia – from now, recognizable to us as of the same spirit, with similar values, similar emotional needs, is itself a proposition engorged with optimism.

Why fiction at all? What do you think it is that makes a person have to make up stories and write them down?
My formal higher education was first speech and rhetoric, and then later communication, so my earliest serious academic grounding involved Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Since I have a wandering mind, I read the rest of Aristotle, and that was many decades ago so much of it is lost now. But something which stuck with me was Aristotle’s disdain for the study of history, but his deep appreciation for poetry, which for him included drama and what we would call historical fiction. History, he said, was simply a recounting of what “had happened,” a meaningless listing of “what Alcibiades did, and what he suffered.” Poetry, on the other hand, dealt with what was possible, and when it recounted historical events, it did so to reveal what the gods expected of us – what constituted right acts.

I have a better opinion of history than did Aristotle, but in part that’s because we expect more from its study these days than he did. But I’m still with him in believing fiction is a better vehicle for exploring what is possible, and what constitutes right acts. Why? Because it enables readers to put themselves in the place of the hero or heroine, live their struggles and learn their lessons, in a more intimate way than they can with historical figures already passed from the scene. We can imagine knowing Voltaire, but we cannot as easily imagine being Voltaire.

Describe your typical writing day. 
I prefer to write in the morning. I’m much more productive if I can start my day with writing, when my mind is still uncluttered. Later in the day it’s harder for me to tune out the distractions, so that’s when I do the more mundane stuff.

When I’m working on a project, I usually start writing in the morning as soon as I’ve showered and have a cup of coffee in front of me. I like to get about 250-300 words down before I stop and have breakfast. Then I spend the rest of the morning trying to hit or exceed my daily target of 1500 words. I’ll do some revision and rewriting as I go, but my target is 1500 net words: today’s final tally minus yesterday’s final tally. If I’m on a roll I’ll keep rolling until noon, but I always like to quit while I still know what’s coming next. That way when I sit down the next morning I can pitch right in, not sit there looking at a blank screen as if I’m hypnotized. If I’m being very good, I’ll write a short synopsis of what I’ll do the next day. I’ve found that writing a synopsis of what I’m going to write next pays off in greatly increased daily word count.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Write simple stories about unforgettable characters.

Do you think writing can be taught?
The craft of writing can absolutely be taught. I don’t think the artistry of writing can be, nor can inspiration be taught, nor can you teach someone, by the numbers, to have a unique writer’s voice. Genius cannot be taught, and genius is what separates truly great writers from most of the rest of us, but there are some wonderful writers among “the rest of us.” I think you can learn to be an accomplished writer who reliably produces stories with compelling characters and intriguing worlds, stories which satisfy and enlighten readers, and that’s something worth aspiring to. I don’t think you can learn to be Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, or Ernest Hemmingway.

How did you learn to write?
Here’s how you learn to write (or at least how I did):

First, read. Read a lot and read the best writers you can find, but make it a joy, not a burden. Find good writers whose words you enjoy. Read different writers in different genres, with different strengths and with distinctly different “voices.” Pay attention to what works in their writing and what doesn’t, and think about why that is.

Second, write. Write a lot, write poorly, but write.

Third, read about writing. There are some excellent books on writing. None of them are gospel, but many of them will help. They aren’t magic doorways to success, but they can make the lessons you are learning slowly, as you write, come more quickly and in sharper focus.

Fourth, keep writing until you write better. Eventually you will – some people say about a million words down the road. I don’t know that there’s a magic number. Just write a lot, and then write a lot more.

Some people can write timeless prose their first time at bat. You are not one of those people. Accept it, and don’t beat yourself up over it.

You’ve collaborated on a few books, particularly in your gaming-related work. How does collaboration work for you?
I’ve collaborated on a couple ebooks in Untreed Reads’ “Space 1889 And Beyond” series as well as the game books, and those ebooks are probably closer to what you’re after here. One of those, “Dark Side of Luna,” was a sort of collaboration-after-the-fact with J.T. Wilson, but “Conspiracy of Silence” was a true collaboration, planned from the start,  with Andy Frankham-Allen. What made that an easy collaboration was there were two distinct plot threads, with two principal protagonists, which finally met late in the second act. After we roughed out the plot, Andy wrote the Nathanial thread and I wrote the Annabelle thread, and then I wrapped things up after the two thread merged. I did an edit on his chapters and he did an edit on mine, but both of us had written in the series before and so we were already on the same page with respect to style and tone, and we both knew the characters quite well.

One of the things which made the collaboration go so smoothly is that Andy and I write the same sort of stories, what I call (for lack of a better term) “shipwreck” stories. In a shipwreck story, everything starts out on an even keel, then things happen to upset that. There follows an escalating cascade of disasters which the characters are always caught off guard by until, finally, they manage to get mentally out in front of what’s going on, and come to grips with it. The suspense lies in the fact that, for most of the story, neither the readers nor the protagonists know what’s coming next.

I contrast that with what I call “mountain climbing” stories. In this sort of story the challenge facing the protagonists is enormous, but fairly clearly known at the start of the story–this looming mountain facing them which they must climb. From the start the readers and protagonists have a clear idea where everything’s going and (usually) not much question about the story ending successfully. The protagonists usually know how they will accomplish this from the start, but they don’t let the reader in on their thinking. Instead the suspense lies in how the protagonists manage the climb, revealed gradually, ledge by ledge.

By way of classical analogy, Xenophon’s “Anabasis” is a shipwreck story. Arian’s “The Anabasis of Alexander” is a mountain climbing story. A more modern analogy would be “Die Hard” as shipwreck story, and almost any episode of the old TV series “Mission Impossible” as mountain climbing story.

If you could pick one dream collaborator for a story, who would it be?
I think if I answered that right now, it would sound too much like ass kissing. Ask me again when I have a few more books in print.

I will say I think it would be harder for me to collaborate with someone who prefers mountain climbing stories to shipwreck stories, but if it worked, it might make for a pretty good read.

More…

This interview is a companion piece to my interview with Frank over at SF Signal.

How Dark the World Becomes by Frank ChadwickFrank Chadwick has designed or written over one hundred games and game–related books. In the science fiction field he is probably best remembered for his work on Traveller and Space: 1889. He also writes military history and his Desert Shield Fact Book (1991) reached number one on the New York Times best–seller list. His debut print novel, How Dark The World Becomes, was released by Baen Books in January of 2013, The Forever Engine, will appear in January of 2014, and he is currently working on the sequel to How Dark The World Becomes. He lives in east–central Illinois.

Buy stuff:


March to Time

March to Time

My fiance paid for her fortune to be told. It said she would meet someone tall dark and handsome… and that it wasn’t me.

http://www.tonyballantyne.com/fiction/march-to-time/


One copy of Eric Brown’s Salvage, looking for a good home

A chance to win:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Salvage by Eric Brown

Salvage

by Eric Brown

Giveaway ends July 12, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 


Early copies of new books by Eric Brown, Garry Kilworth and James Everington

They’re here!

The first copies of the print editions of three new infinity plus titles:

Salvage by Eric BrownSalvage by Eric Brown

When Salvageman Ed saves Ella Rodriguez from spider-drones on the pleasure planet of Sinclair’s Landfall, he has no idea what he’s letting himself in for. Ella is not at all what she seems, as he’s soon about to find out.

What follows, as the spider-drones and the Hayakawa Organisation chase Ed, Ella and engineer Karrie light-years across space, is a fast-paced adventure with Ed learning more about Ella – and about himself – than he ever expected.

The Salvageman Ed series of linked stories – four of which appear here for the first time – combine action, humour and pathos, from the master of character-based adventure science fiction.

Advance paperback copies available from Createspace now.
Paperback and ebook copies available from Amazon and other booksellers later this month.

The Fabulous Beast by Garry KilworthThe Fabulous Beast by Garry Kilworth

A set of beautifully crafted tales of the imagination by a writer who was smitten by the magic of the speculative short story at the age of twelve and has remained under its spell ever since.

These few stories cover three closely related sub-genres: science fiction, fantasy and horror. In the White Garden murders are taking place nightly, but who is leaving the deep foot-prints in the flower beds? Twelve men are locked in the jury room, but thirteen emerge after their deliberations are over. In a call centre serving several worlds, the staff are less than helpful when things go wrong with a body-change holiday.

Three of the stories form a set piece under the sub-sub-genre title of ‘Anglo-Saxon Tales’. This trilogy takes the reader back to a time when strange gods ruled the lives of men and elves were invisible creatures who caused mayhem among mortals.

Garry Kilworth has created a set of stories that lift readers out of their ordinary lives and place them in situations of nightmare and wonder, or out among far distant suns. Come inside and meet vampires, dragons, ghosts, aliens, weremen, people who walk on water, clones, ghouls and marvellous wolves with the secret of life written beneath their eyelids.

Advance paperback copies available from Createspace now.
Paperback and ebook copies available from Amazon and other booksellers later this month.

Falling Over by James EveringtonFalling Over by James Everington

Sometimes when you fall over you don’t get up again. And sometimes, you get up to find everything has changed:

An ordinary man who sees his face in a tabloid newspaper. A soldier haunted by the images of those he has killed from afar. Two petty criminals on the run from a punishment more implacable than either of them can imagine. Doppelgängers both real and imaginary. A tranquil English village where those who don’t fit in really aren’t welcome, and a strange hotel where second chances are allowed… at a price.

Ten stories of unease, fear and the weird from James Everington.

“Good writing gives off fumes, the sort that induce dark visions, and Everington’s elegant, sophisticated prose is a potent brew. Imbibe at your own risk.” – Robert Dunbar, author of The Pines and Martyrs & Monsters.

Advance paperback copies available from Createspace now.
Paperback and ebook copies available from Amazon and other booksellers later this month.


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