Category Archives: crime

Simultaneous release, or not?

It’s a simple question: as infinity plus starts to release both print and ebook editions of some* of our books, should the two versions be launched simultaneously or not?

The ebook edition is so much speedier to produce: we could release ebooks of our next books from Iain Rowan and Eric Brown within a few days if we chose to. The print editions take much longer: right now we’re waiting for physical proofs of these two to be delivered; when we finally give the go-ahead for distribution, it’s likely to take a few weeks more until they’re widely available.

So: should we delay the ebooks so that both editions can come out together, or should we just plunge in as and when the different editions are ready?


* Why will only some of our books have print editions? We decide on a case by case basis. In many cases, we have electronic rights but another publisher still has print rights, so we can only do the ebook edition. In other cases, while the print rights may be available, if a print edition has already been produced that format might be less viable for us to re-release. Our first three print books have never had a print edition before, and only one of them has been out as an ebook: Ghostwriting, a new collection of psychological horror from Eric Brown will be published for the first time in ebook and print editions, as will Iain Rowan’s Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger-shortlisted novel One of Us; Kaitlin Queen’s adult crime debut, One More Unfortunate, appeared in an ebook edition just over a year ago, but has not previously had a print edition.


Forthcoming titles in ebook and print

One of Us by Iain RowanYes, this post’s title says ‘print’.

We’re very pleased to announce that our next title, Iain Rowan’s superb debut crime novel One Of Us, will be available in both ebook and print editions. Iain has won the Derringer Award for his short crime fiction, and this novel was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award.

Also available in print soon will be Kaitlin Queen’s crime novel One More Unfortunate (already available as one of our best-selling ebooks).

And another one due soon in print and ebook editions is Eric Brown’s new collection of horror fiction, Ghostwriting.

Other forthcoming titles include Stephen Palmer’s monochrome gothic fantasy, The Rat and the Serpent, and more infinity plus singles from Lisa Tuttle, Eric Brown, David Levine, Kit Reed, Garry Kilworth and others.


Thirteen months of infinity plus: a whirlwind guide to ebooks for your Kindle

That thing the Reduced Shakespeare company do? You know: the entire works of the Bard in less than an hour. Well this post is kind of like that, only not Shakespeare, and it’ll take far less than an hour.

Let’s start with Eric Brown. We’ve been lucky enough to bring out the first ebook editions of several of his books, including the first edition in any format of his latest short story collection The Angels of Life and Death. His work is typified by his landmark novel Penumbra, a large-canvas story of space exploration and aliens, and a human race that is cosmopolitan and miles away from any stereotypical WASP future. For something a bit different, we also have his ghostly story of love, loss and writing, A Writer’s Life.

John Grant has won numerous awards, including the World Fantasy Award and the Hugo. We have fantasy, SF and horror from him in the collection Take No Prisoners and the short novel Qinmeartha and the Girl-child LoChi (published with a bonus novella in our edition). For something a bit different, we have his non-fiction collection Warm Words and Otherwise – some of the most insightful, perceptive and downright funny book reviews you will find anywhere.

Anna Tambour is a quirky satirist of the fantastic loved by many and sadly overlooked by many more who have yet to discover her work. Luckily, the infinity plus editions of her novel Spotted Lily and collection Monterra’s Deliciosa & Other Tales & have brought her to new audiences, hitting Amazon top tens in recent weeks.

Kaitlin Queen is a successful children’s author now finding success as an adult crime-writer. She has a new story due from PS Publishing in 2012, and her novel One More Unfortunate has been a big success for infinity plus, another top ten title in more than one category at Amazon.

The infinity plus book imprint got off the ground with collections of my own short fiction, and more recently brought out electronic editions of my big fantasy novel about the death of religion and magic Lord of Stone, and my SF thriller The Accord, described by SF Site, The Guardian and SFF Signal as one of the best books on virtual reality and transhumanism yet written, and by SciFi Wire as “a literary science fiction tour de force”.

We’re approaching 20,000 downloads of Iain Rowan’s work at infinity plus. His gritty, moving and very clever collection of crime fiction Nowhere To Go has topped Amazon’s short fiction charts and received some fantastic reviews.

Neil Williamson’s The Ephemera is a powerful collection of short SF and fantasy from an emerging author short-listed for this year’s BSFA short fiction award, while Garry Kilworth’s new collection The Phoenix Man, exclusive to infinity plus, is another showcase for an author described by New Scientist as “the best short story writer in any genre”.

Robert Freeman Wexler’s The Circus of the Grand Design is a circus novel unlike any other: imagine Ray Bradbury’s carnival fiction mashed up with Angela Carter and quite a lot of sex and you’d still only be scratching its wonderfully freakish and fascinating surface. And new to the infinity plus list, Stephen Palmer’s Hallucinating and Muezzinland offer helter-skelter, incendiary visions of how the nearish future might be.

Finally, there’s the small matter of the fifteen titles in our infinity plus singles list: short, cheap ebooks, each consisting of a single story. This list includes Eric Brown’s Interzone poll-winning The Time-lapsed Man, Lisa Tuttle’s Nebula-winning The Bone Flute (including a new essay on the controversy arising when she tried to turn down the award), Garry Kilworth’s Interzone poll-winning The Sculptor, and many more.

Phew… and breathe… There: a whirlwind tour of where we’ve reached after our first 13 months as an ebook imprint. Compressing it like this really does the list no justice, but if nothing else, it’s been a useful exercise for me, a chance to step back, catch my breath and think, “Wow! We really published all these fantastic books…” It’s been quite a year!


Guest review by John Grant: Collecting Candace by Susan M Brooks

(Small Dogs Press, 200 pages, paperback, 2005)

The nameless protagonist of this neo-noir piece first encounters Candace in a Florida bar, and is instantly captivated by her. Long legs, skimpy clothing, cute face, suggestive tattoo, beaucoup de bosomry — what sensitive, reconstructed male ascetic could resist her? He picks her up — or is it the other way round? — but not for sex: not only is she seemingly oblivious to the notion that sex might be anticipated, but his desire for her is entirely psychological, you understand, rather than physical, so that an act of sex with her would destroy the iconic Candace he has so swiftly created for himself. He wants to discover her mentally rather than carnally . . . with the carnal option perhaps left open for later.

What he discovers about her is that all the previous males in her life — notably her three husbands — done her wrong in one way or another, perhaps most particularly through their quite inexplicable eventual dumping of her. It soon becomes plain to the reader why all this inexplicable dumping went on: Candace is a vapid moron of the most tedious imaginable kind. The protagonist, however, effectively conceals this patent fact from himself, finding her a constant maze of fascination and desirability. He casts himself into the role of her Knight in Shining Armor, and sets off, with her in tow, to exact revenge upon those males in her past who have so grievously ill treated her. In merry road-movie-psycho fashion, the pair of them cheerfully and gruesomely slaughter Candace’s exes, the inspiration for their crimes being almost as much the searingly hot Florida summer as the protagonist’s obsessed quixotry.

This is a novel with a great deal going for it, and its central premise has a sort of brutal effectiveness. However, the fact that the central femme fatale is seemingly such a complete bimbo, complete with a love for the Bible coupled with a total inability to understand the first word of the New Testament’s message, means that soon the reader is filled with the same urgent compulsion to escape her company as her exes undoubtedly experienced. The protagonist is little better: the novel’s conceit, initially intriguing, that he can be capable of such profound self-deception over Candace, eventually plummets to become exasperation and even incredulity that he could be such a halfwit. If she were banging his brains out one could at least understand his addiction to her: is there a male who cannot look back on protracted periods of gonads-driven idiocy? But that’s not the case, and can’t be: he’s made her into a figure of chastity.

Collecting Candace could get around these problems if it were exquisitely written. Unfortunately, the writing is rather clumsy. Were the two central characters possessed of one single scintilla of appeal, this roughness could add to the novel’s overall noir ambience. As it is, the roughness soon begins instead to grate.

Oddly enough, Collecting Candace is worth reading despite all these adverse comments . . . if you can stomach the unremitting bleakness of its vision of the most Neanderthal aspects of, and indeed members of, modern American society. It is from such ground that there springs the culture-of-ignorance whose current dominance has done so much to topple our country so swiftly from the position of world leader to world laughing stock. Brooks is to be heartily and very sincerely congratulated on having managed, in such a brief work, to do so much to explain this phenomenon.

Warm Words and OtherwiseThis review, first published by Crescent Blues, is excerpted from John Grant’s Warm Words & Otherwise: A Blizzard of Book Reviews, published on September 19 by infinity plus ebooks:

A bumper collection – over 150,000 words! – of book reviews, many of full essay length, by the two-time Hugo winning and World Fantasy Award-winning co-editor ofThe Encyclopedia of Fantasy and author, among much fiction, of such recent nonfiction works as Corrupted Science and (forthcoming) Denying Science.

Scholarly, iconoclastic, witty, passionate, opinionated, hilarious, scathing and downright irritating by turn, these critical pieces are sure to appeal to anyone who loves fantasy, science fiction, mystery fiction, crime fiction and many points in between … and who also enjoys a rousing argument.

Warm Words & Otherwise is available from:

amazon.com (Kindle format, $1.99)
amazon.co.uk (Kindle format, £1.44)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $1.99)



New infinity plus singles from Lisa Tuttle, John Grant, Eric Brown, Kit Reed and Anna Tambour

Five more infinity plus singles for November:

The Life Business by John Grant The Life Business
by John Grant ($0.99/£0.86)
infinity plus singles #6 [Nov 2011]

With astonishing power, award-winning author John Grant portrays the human facility to falsify history, using as his backdrop the beginnings of the late-20th-century troubles in Northern Ireland, as an unwitting mainland schoolboy finds himself caught up in a violence he barely understands.

BUY NOW: from Amazon USAmazon UKSmashwords

The Bone Flute by Lisa Tuttle The Bone Flute
by Lisa Tuttle ($0.99/£0.86)
infinity plus singles #7 [Nov 2011]

Venn, a fickle and restless young musician, is drawn to the “lost planet” of Habille where, it is said, human nature has changed, and love once experienced can never die. In an afterword written especially for this edition, Lisa Tuttle explains her controversial decision to refuse the Nebula Award for this story.

BUY NOW: from Amazon USAmazon UKSmashwords

The Death of Cassandra Quebec by Eric Brown The Death of Cassandra Quebec
by Eric Brown ($0.99/£0.86)
infinity plus singles #8 [Nov 2011]

Cassandra Quebec: an artist who had shown the world her soul. At the height of her career she was the world’s most celebrated artist; a year later she was dead. And now… her death has become a work of art. Powerful and clever science fiction from the two times winner of the BSFA short story award.

BUY NOW: from Amazon USAmazon UKSmashwords

Playmate by Kit Reed Playmate
by Kit Reed ($0.99/£0.86)
infinity plus singles #9 [Nov 2011]

The little boy next door is just so good. In fact, he’s pretty much perfect. And he has a strangely powerful influence on Danny. A disturbing story from an author whose short fiction has been described by scifi.com as “Brilliant on all levels”.

BUY NOW: from Amazon USAmazon UKSmashwords

Picking Blueberries by Anna Tambour Picking Blueberries
by Anna Tambour ($0.99/£0.86)
infinity plus singles #10 [Nov 2011]

A powerfully evocative portrait of an alternative community in the early 1970s, told with a child’s-eye simplicity by a young resident. Short fiction from an author whose work has been described by World Fantasy Award-winner Jeff VanderMeer as “Rapacious, intelligent and witty”.

BUY NOW: from Amazon USAmazon UKSmashwords


Sweats, by Keith Brooke

All the forensics point to Joey Bannerman – the DNA profile, the fingerprints, the pheromone signature, the security cam records… But Joey wasn’t there, he wasn’t in his body at the time of the hit. Joey is a sweat, and he was safely warehoused away while someone else paid to ride his bones… Or at least, that’s his defence.

After its initial publication in PostscriptsSweats was adapted to become part of my critically-acclaimed novel The Accord, described by SF Site as “one of the finest novels of virtual reality yet written” and by The Guardian as “not only Brooke’s best novel to date, but one of the finest to broach the subject of virtual reality”.

Sweats is available as a standalone ebook from: amazon.com (Kindle format, $0.99) and amazon.co.uk (Kindle format, £0.86).

Here’s an extract…

Head Shots: a short story for Kindle

Bartie Davits is a sweat. A student working his way through business school, paying his own way because his parents are in no position to help, one of them a low-paid supermarket assistant, the other long since dead and gone. Sweating is easier than shop work, and generally safer than dealing, although he does a bit of that too – that’s just a natural extension of his business training, he always argues.

He likes the SweatShop parlour in Haymarket. Real class. You can taste it in the air.

He opens his eyes, remembering where he is, getting used to his own senses again after spending what feels like a couple of days warehoused off in netspace, playing TrueSim games while some rich wanker fools with his body.

A face looms over him, cheekbones like geometry, perfect skin, eyes like the flawless glass eyes of a perfect porcelain doll. Bartie can smell her and she’s like apples. He smiles.

“What’s the damage?” he asks.

She smiles back at him, everything symmetrical. Someone paid a fortune for those looks, he guesses.

“Narcotic residue,” she tells him. “Alcohol residue. Black eye – looks like you had a run-in with someone. That’s all, though, Mr Davits.”

No serious damage this time, then. Right now there will be drugs cleansing his blood and liver, stripping out the narcs and booze, replenishing his reserves. That’s one of the perks of sweating; some people argue that the clean-out could add years to your life. Rich wankers would pay a fortune for some of this shit and here is Bartie Davits, getting it all for free. Fuck no: getting paid for it.

“Like we agreed,” he says, sitting slowly. “Cash in hand, right?”

She smiles her professional smile again. “The fee is already in your registered account, Mr Davits, minus tax and obligatory pension, just as always. No special arrangements.”

He stands, stretches. Feels unfamiliar aches and stiffnesses. Raises a hand to his left eye, suddenly aware of its dull ache.

He looks down at his clothes: a slick pair of jeans, a crumpled silk t-shirt, pointed snakeskin boots, none of it his. There’s a bag on the side containing his own newly laundered clothes. The new outfit – another perk.

He hopes his body had a good time while he was warehoused.

Funny to think that his own body has had far more diverse experience than he himself has – and he knows nothing about it other than a bunch of hints and signs and scars…

Out along a corridor, mirrored walls multiplying him, bright lights making him squint. Into the foyer, all tall, angular plants emerging from chrome pots full of glass pebbles. The street outside looks dark through the clinic’s floor-to-ceiling tinted glass front.

The cops grab Bartie as he steps outside. He’s just wondering whether it’s a Comedy Store night, who might be on. Maybe he’ll call a few mates and front them for a night out, make the most of the new wad in his bank account. But the cops have other ideas.

He steps out through glass and chrome doors that slide open as they sense his approach. He has time to notice the sudden clash of warm scented air from the interior of the clinic mixing with the smells of the damp London street, has time to emerge into the drizzle, to look left, then start to look right and then they’re on him.

A sudden rush of figures… Two men step out from his right and as he opens his mouth to speak, to curse them for jostling him, for not looking where they’re going even though it’s actually Bartie who has stepped out into the flow, another two take him from the left. His arms gripped tightly, he smells something cloyingly sweet, realises someone has sprayed something, feels it infiltrating his lungs as he breathes it deep, hears the gabble of street noise suddenly fizz to static, to nothing…

~

…wakes in a cell.

He remembers now, the men grabbing him, the prickle of some kind of nerve agent in his lungs. He realises they were police, some in uniform, some not. He hadn’t had time to take it all in as they descended on him, in the sudden rush of sensation as the foundations of a normal day were abruptly pulled from under him.

He’s on a bunk, a brick wall to his immediate left, a narrow strip of floor and then another bare brick wall to the right. There’s a door at one end of the cell, past his feet, with a viewing panel set into it. In one corner of the room, where two walls meet ceiling, the glinting eye of a security cam peers back at him.

He sits, rubs at his temples as dizziness settles.

Down on the concrete floor, he presses his feet against the wall and starts on sit-ups, rapid and regular, enjoying the rush of blood and adrenalin that kick in with the exercise. Bartie likes to look after himself. It keeps the brain in tune as well as the body. And his rich clients like a fit sweat to ride in, so it’s a good career move, if sweating can really be considered a career.

He’s past 150 when he hears the door. He carries on until a man says, “Bartie Davits. You’re wanted for interview.”

“Interview?” he asks, pausing, twisting to see the uniformed man framed by the doorway. “Like for a job?”

The policeman just looks at him, waits for him to stand, steps back to let him out into the corridor.

A short time later, Bartie is sitting in another room, elbows on a desk. There’s a plain clothes officer across the table from him, a uniformed man on the door.

“Bartholomew Brooklyn Davits,” says the officer, “we have reason to suspect your involvement in the murder of Elector Nathan Burnham at his retreat in Jakarta on the 23rd of this month. This interview is being recorded and your responses processed for veracity by smart systems from two independent vendors. Anything you do or say may be used as evidence in a court of law. Do you understand?”

Bartie stares at the man. “I understand your words,” he says slowly, “but fuck no, I don’t understand.”

The officer has a feed going into his ear. He receives some kind of input, nods, and his eyes meet Bartie’s again.

Then Bartie adds, “Burnham? Elector Burnham? The virtual worlds guy? Dead?” At a brief nod, he continues, “I… I’ve been out of it a couple of days. I hadn’t heard. I sweat rides, you know? I was sweating, warehoused in a data-bank somewhere while some rich fuck rode my bones, you know?”

Another pause, while the officer listens to his feed, then: “Elector Burnham was killed by a kid called Joey Bannerman.”

“So… I don’t understand?”

“Bannerman was gapyearing round the world, ran out of cash, took to sweating to get by. He was ridden by the killer.”

Bartie gets it, he thinks. “Not me, man… I didn’t do nothing. I was warehoused, playing TrueSim strategy games in perfect isolation. Check out the records: I was pumped into a databank and kept clean and cut off from the world. They have to do that. Data integrity and all that: have to put back what they take out!” He laughs awkwardly.

“We don’t think it was you, as such,” says the officer.

Bartie relaxes, hasn’t realised how much tension he’d been holding in. Then he registers the “as such” and he sees from the officer’s expression that there’s more, a layer yet to unpick. “And?”

“We’ve pattern-matched traits identified from the data-feed that injected the killer into Bannerman’s skull. The killer was an amalgam, a construct. Whoever was behind the assassination took a few traits from here, a few from there, and built the killer suited for the job.”

Bartie waits. There’s more.

“It’s a known technique. Developed by the Yakuza but it’s been seen in a number of cases now. The way they do it is they have to have a solid foundation, a template, someone who could easily be a killer in the right circumstances, with the right traits added, remixed, recompiled. We’ve identified the template, Davits. We’ve tracked down that individual. It’s you.”

Bartie shakes his head. “But it wasn’t me!” he finally says. “I was warehoused, isolated… It wasn’t me.”

“Your profile was used,” says the officer. “Edited, built upon. We’re talking legal grey areas here. Our advice is that this could be the test case to beat all test cases. Could take years.”

The officer is enjoying this, Bartie suddenly realises. “How do you mean?”

“It’s all about legal culpability,” the officer explains. “When due process proves that you were the template used in this crime, and when it is demonstrated that the killer was substantiallyyou, then you will share legal culpability for the killing.”

“But… I wasn’t there.”

“No, that’s true. But there is evidence to show that a statistically significant instance of you was…”

This story continues in Sweats, an ebook by Keith Brooke.

Available from:


10k at Amazon, and still shifting: One Step Closer

I’ve written here before about experiments with ebook pricing and marketing, but some time last night we hit a landmark with one of our experiments at infinity plus.

Back in March we published Iain Rowan’s first collection, a set of crime stories called Nowhere To Go which included his Derringer Award-winning story “One Step Closer”. The collection received some excellent reviews and blog coverage and performed reasonably at Amazon and our other distributors, but Iain and I wanted to give it a boost and so we discussed various options.

We decided to take that Derringer winner and produce it as a standalone ebook, priced initially at 99 cents but with a view to persuading Amazon to drop the price to zero. At those prices there’s a very different audience: casual browsers making impulse buys/downloads, readers who may like the look of something but not want to buy the complete book, readers looking for a quick lunchtime read, and so on.

What we didn’t know was how much crossover there would be. Would a reader with a liking for scraping up the freebies also be the kind of reader who would spend $2.99 on a book by the same author if they liked the free offering? Would there even be that kind of author-recognition once the quick read has been read and put aside?

One Step Closer went free at Amazon in September, and very quickly overtook our other free offering, the infinities anthology (which, itself, had been a big success, hitting number two in the free anthology charts in the US, and holding the number one slot in the equivalent chart in the UK for several weeks, a position it still holds).

To be honest, I don’t really understand why Iain’s short story has been such a big success. It’s a fine story, of course, and being an award-winner must help establish its credentials for anyone unfamiliar with Iain’s work. It has a great cover and is nicely put together. Iain has a strong social media presence, and has worked hard at promoting his various books. There must be lots of elements of good fortune involved, too, and a key thing is that success can be self-perpetuating: once a story hits number one, it becomes far more visible, which keeps the success going.

Whatever the reasons, some time last night Iain’s short story hit the landmark of 10,000 downloads through Amazon. It’s occupied the number one free story download slot in the UK for several weeks, and for that period has been a fixture in the top 20 free downloads of any kind at Amazon UK, against some tough competition.

What remains to be seen, though, is just how this translates into commercial success. What we do know is that more than 10,000 readers have liked the look of the book enough to download it. Some of those will have read it already; some will read it over the coming months; others will lose it among all the other freebies they’ve downloaded.

Of those who read it, some – a large proportion, I reckon – will like it a lot, because it’s a hell of a story. But how many of these will immediately follow up by clicking on a link to Amazon to find Iain’s other work? How many will intend to do that, but because they didn’t do it immediately, will become increasingly unlikely to follow through? How many will remember Iain’s name next time they’re browsing and so click on a link to his other books?

It’s incredibly hard to answer these questions, as it’s just not possible to track purchasing decisions back to their origins. Amazon gives us good reporting, but not that good!

After success like this, though, I’m certainly looking forward to trying to make sense of it all over the coming weeks and months!


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