Tuesday 4 November 2014

Talking of Pre-Ordering...

My pal Jacey Bedford's debut Sf novel, Empire of Dust, comes out today, from Daw.

Repeat: Empire of Dust. Jacey Bedford. From DAW?

If you haven't heard anything about it but you like fast action, far future soft - ie character-driven - SF and b***** good writing, then do check it out. The official blurb will be enough to make you look further.
 There, now you have to check, don't you?

And yes, I did pre-order my copy, so as with Undercity I'm afraid I'm ahead of you again. :)

But you can easily catch up on this one.

Review: Undercity, by Catherine Asaro - 5* :)

Undercity, by Catherone Asaro, from Baen Books.

[Please note: This comes out Dec 2nd, so if it sounds like your sort of book - it was certainly mine - you might have to make a note on your calendar. Or pre-order?

Bhaajan, former major in the Skolian Space Command, is now a civilian, hard-bitten PI who has deliberately put her past behind her. but the kidnapping of a prince drags her back to the past - the undercity of her home planet. only there can she find the clues to solve this crime, and a lot more.

Despite her pedigree I'm embarrassed to own I didn't know this writer. Maybe the publishers should target the UK next? either way, I'm hooked, both on her writing and her Skolian universe.

Basically, this book had everything I wanted; strong characters, a new and unique world, and a plot that isn't as simple as it first appears.

Wish I'd written it. [Sigh.]

I read this book almost in one gulp and already have another loaded to read. What better compliment can one pay?

Monday 3 November 2014

Bristolcon 2014, Worth Going South For. :)

So, Bristolcon. Friends kept telling me it was good and I should try it, but for a couple of years things just got in the way, so it was part curiosity and maybe part guilt that got me there this time. I'm really glad I did.

The con is officially one day, Saturday, but a surprising number of people arrived Friday, as I did, so as not to miss anything, and there was a writers' equivalent of a folk evening that night in the bar - a very nice idea, though I could wish it had been in a separate room.

The day itself was busy and very well organised, even though I'm told one of the usual organisers had to be absent. The programme had three rooms almost constantly busy with panels, talks and workshops, plus a dealers' room, plus a con room. I managed to get invited onto three programme irems, which was a surprise; a panel on writing problems, moderating a talk on why YA fiction appeals, and running a writers' challenge, open to anyone who fancied having a go.

This was great fun, and especially pleasing, as some of us overran the time by half and I went a bit mad and read a short story that had grown out of such a workshop. It earned me some applause, and a big laugh at the end, which was reward enough, but then there was cake there for us as well - lots of cake - from the nice organisers, in case we needed extra inspiration!

What else? Well, I guess I should say that the hotel was a good choice, convenient from the train station with a big bar area plus a separate con room that even stocked free tea and coffee on a help yourself basis. And a dealer's room better than some I've seen, which hooked me into a bracelet, though I managed to resist more books because I somehow ended up with several freebies anyway and couldn't carry any more!

I met friends, as one does, but my overall impression was of how relaxed and successful everything was from start to finish - and the finish segued into what was promised to be a "truly terrible" film which con-goers had free entry to, so it was a very full use of that one day definition.

Me, I'll certainly be back for another go. This time I'll even remember to check the ticket in my programme to see if I win in the raffle . Definitely slipped up there, as one prize was a free next year's  membership.

Sunday 5 October 2014

review: 4 * Sorrow, by John Lawson.

This one is tagged as adult but I think a lot of YA readers might like it too.

Faina, ward - or hostage - to a noble house - dances dreamily through the days, and fails to fit into her current life.

Sorrow, the almost invisible assassin, kills but then weeps black tears over the corpses.

Lord Ash, right hand of the king, adviser, investigator and if need be also assassin, comes to solve a spate of recent noble killings, a breath of very cold air among the wealthy and well born.

This is a story that's going to stick in my mind, so I'm passing it along to yours. The plot is suitably twisted, the ending not perhaps what you will expect, and the characters strong and fairly unique. And the writing, or the overall impression, was... haunting.
Try it and see if you agree?

Sorrow, from Dragonwell Publishing, came out in September. 

Late again.

Ouch, has it really been that long since I was here last?

What can I say, real life got interesting. I never planned to live online. Though it sometimes feels like it. The Orbit groups are rearranging a bit, which means lots of emails flying hither and thither for the last week or so. Happily I think we're almost done there, and hopefully everyone will eventually be happy in their new nest.

Between times, there seem to be a lot of emails anyway, and a few facebook messages, half of which I confess I read but probably don't comment on - who needs my comment anyway.

Between these there were scripts to crit for Orbit, which I'm almost there on, and now more scripts for the upcoming NorthwriteSF meetup, including making sure my own piece for that was as decent as I could make it before they tear it apart again for me.

Then I's also decided to put a rough draft into printable form, which meant facing up to 300-plus pages of very rough scribble and trying to translate it all into neat typescript. I am, at this point, past the halfway mark, which is maybe why I'm allowing myself to look around and see what I haven't done.
Setting a story on the page at this point in its life is daunting, if only because that also means I know my next task will be to revise it, but at least I know now how it all ends which makes more sense of the revisions. Maybe for some of you that isn't a problem; maybe you plot before you write? If so I envy you; I would if I could, but when I attempt it the story slithers away and dies on me. For me, apparently, writing is all about finding out what happens next. If I already know, I can't write it. Strange? Yes. Part of the fun? That too.

So I'm officially a 'pantster' - I write by the seat of. If I hadn't been sure already Jaine Fenn confirmed it during her recent writing challenge. [If you come across one on offer in the future, sign up at once!] Faced with the two options, I managed to shift both of them into my method, even though they weren't to start with. Hey ho.

If you are going to Bristolcon in a couple of weeks, maybe you'll fancy my  writing challenge. 45 minutes of it available for a small group. Or one of the panels I'm sitting in on. Feel free to come and say hello anyway. That's part of the fun too.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Life in an English Village

I walked down into my village today to hit the post office and have a coffee at my local bakery, to find that not one but six different groups of morris dancers and clog dancers had come to visit, choosing a spot dead centre, next to the lower dam, where the ducks would get as good a view as the humans. If you haven't come across these before they are a leftover from medieval times, and often still mix dance with a story element.

So as well as coffee - yes and cake, this was the baker's - I got treated to a free dance concert across the way; a whole crowd of them, mainly men, in lots of different historic costumes; painted faces, knee breeches, sashes, ribbons, bells, sticks, kerchiefs, flowered hats, ostrich feathers, you name it. A great sight. And then there were their various musicians. I spotted drums, a guitar, and a collection of accordians from large to small. Small wonder a crowd gathered, and applause was the order of the day.

After that the groups were apparently heading on to a local stately home - that's what we Brits call our old, historic mansions etc - to perform there. Nice to know we're on a par with the best!

Why us? Good question. I live in a village almost in the middle of England called Lymm. It's just south of Manchester, but nowhere near as famous! Though we have a website if you're curious.

It has an ancient cross on cobblestones in the centre, and it being summer here there are hanging baskets along the main streets [all two of them]. A canal goes right through it, regularly stocked with ducks, swans and canal boats - you might call them barges - and other craft taking advantage of the 48 hour moorings to stop and walk off their decks straight into the village pubs, shops etc. And yes, I guess the place is friendly as well as picturesque. So I suppose it is a good place for the Morris Men to choose.

I don't suppose, and certainly don't suggest, that all English villages are like this, but a few lucky ones have managed to deal with modernity and stay essentially community-minded, and to a fair extent mine has done both.
Explains why I'm reluctant to move, huh?
[Luckily, maybe, not many people here know too much about my involvement in SF, or my upcoming novel. :-) ]

PS_ I'll try to remember to add more 'village life' from time to time as things occur here, for anyone who finds it interesting, or maybe a little different from their own localities, wherever you are.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Predators, or Preditors? Heard the quote; "Money flows to the Writer"?

I've just been chatting, online of course, to a writer in the UK who feels let down by her publisher. During our exchange I realised that she had been scammed into paying for her first 2 books to be 'published' before working out it was a con.

As many of us know, this happens, and sometimes the cost of knowing better can be very high, both in cash and trust and disillusion. So I'm repeating the warning I once got from more experienced writers, because it never hurts to pass it along.

And so, a cautionary tale...
Not so long ago another writer told me about meeting with an agent, who bought an expensive lunch, offered to represent the writer and asked for a modest 'stationery costs' subsidy to get things rolling. Since the agent had just spent more than that, on lunch, the writer agreed.

Over the next few weeks, then months, the agent kept the writer informed by email as to which publisher had taken a look and declined, then that one major publisher was very interested, and finally that one of their editors had made an offer. Wonderful!

At which point the writer contacted said editor to say thanks - and discovered she had never heard of him, and never read the manuscript.

Worse, when the writer started spreading the word it transpired they were by no means the only victim, there were a while bunch of them out there. Worse still, while our writer had previous publishing credit, most of the rest had none, and to put it bluntly, had been encouraged to believe their manuscripts were a great deal more likely to find publishers than they actually were, being at best first draft standard.

But weren't they entitled, inexperienced or not, to think otherwise, if an agent bought them lunch...?

To cut a long story short, in the case of my more recent exchange, I mentioned checking out Preditors and Editors before taking the plunge, assuming this writer would know of them.
 They didn't. But they checked them out straight away, because they emailed me right back, to say how cheered they were to discover the publisher they'd fallen foul of was already blacklisted there.

Not quite a happy ending, but it's something, I guess, that she knows a place to look next time?

As I said to her, trust isn't always enough. Always check things out, anywhere you possibly can.
 And never pay them, unless you know that's what you intended.

 "Money flows to the writer."
Not the other way round.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Busy? Moi?

Wow, has it really been this long since I posted?

In my defence, I've been busy. Trying to write aside - and I really have put in some time there, I've been doing what I think is the final edit for Ashamet, working with my Editor Edwina, who makes it fun not work. It's been such fun I've been driven to contemplating writing a sequel too, something I wasn't at all sure I would do.

We've also managed to come up with a 'blurb' that might suit for back cover use and the like, one that has actually passed muster by all the parties involved. It's a novel thought [sorry, no pun originally intended] that in a sense Ashamet has now become a join project, after so long solely in my grip. It would in fact be frightening, if I didn't feel a real level of trust in those I'm currently working with. I can't imagine what it might be like otherwise, and it's at least taught me a valuable lesson: to question if it's worth the risk of ever working with someone I'm not sure I can relate to. I can now see exactly why editors say they have to love a book to promote it and publish it.

So writing the blurb was an interesting experience in itself, and involved quite a bit of discussion for such a small number of words.

 Well, different people, I discovered, have different ideas of what's most striking about the book, even what's most important. Who knew?

Where for me the impact on a society is at the core of the book, for someone else it was the exact physical/genetic makeup of the characters that came first. So suddenly you find you're looking again at things you have taken for granted, and you have to question your own assumptions - even about your own writing. Weird.

It reminded me of a recent true story about a spec-fic writer - much more established that me - whose work became a set text for school exams - whereupon he discovered he couldn't answer the questions on his own work! These included such staples as 'Why did the author use this word or phrase?'  I doubt his answer ['Because it rhymed!'] would have got very high marks.

No wonder I find writing synopses so very hard. Now if someone else would do those...

Ah well, back to work. When I have another minute I'll come back and scribble something about Worldcon, London, or Loncon as it's so originally titled. Well worth a scribble in anyone's language.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

4* review: Death's Daughter, Kathleen Collins

pub. Carina Press, due out March 2014.

'Walker' Julianna Norris, half mage, half fae, can read magical signatures, ie. she can tell whose-magic-done-it. Lovely concept. So she works for The Agency but also often helps local human law inforcement, despite their crass police chief. So when half-magical children start to disappear in quick succession she's the obvious choice of investigator.

I enjoyed this one, and gave it the 4 stars despite the unbelievably stupid, stereotypical police chief and the remarkably un-vampish vampire boyfriend. Julianna's character was strong enough to tempt me to ignore those weaknesses and the fact I didn't spot the real villain for quite a while was a bonus; I usually do.

If you don't take this one too seriously you can sit back and enjoy it. Or, if you look at it as research, it's a great example of a hook heroine?

Monday 28 July 2014

How Sad Is That???

I've just bought some refills for my pens. When I say "pens" I mean the drawer full of Pilot G2s I've written with for years, because they're so comfortable, even several HOURS later. [Pilot, if you ever read this a free sample would be very nice. :) ]

Usually, I pick them up from my local post office which, amazingly, stocks them. But this week they ran out, and I was down to my last three. Withdrawal symptoms threatened.

So I went to Amazon. No problem. Very fair price if I bought a dozen [That's 12 for those who don't know what dozen means - yes, you're out there, I've met several of you already]. One-Click and it was sorted.

Then a small window popped up. In it, a ready-typed message that said "I've just bought..." with an instant click-on connection to Facebook, or a couple of other "social networking" sites.

I admit, I blinked. I didn't click. Assuming I wanted to connect with Facebook et al, why on earth would I want to tell the world I'd bought pen refills? What corner of the globe is going to find that heart-warming, thrilling, entertaining. Or even regard it was human contact?

I know there are people who send pictures of the drinks they've just bought in a pub, or feel it vital to tell the world which restaurant they are currently sat in, and frankly that's pretty lame, but pen refills? Only now, of course, I'm wondering where I can track all the other ridiculous messages that must be 'out there'. What could be the most inane, or cringe-worthy, item someone has just told the whole world they've bought, clicking first and thinking later.

Even as a sales pitch this trick is pretty weak, surely. Or are there people 'out there' who just have to buy what someone they half-know has.

No, even if, it's still just sad.

Friday 18 July 2014

Do You Read? How About Raising Money for Books Just for Saying So????

This one's very short - and to the point, I hope.

I've just hit on the Pages4progress site, a World Education site that has a donor willing to stump up a dollar for EVERY PAGE YOU READ, towards, yes, books for people who haven't any.

I've signed up, I've already logged in about 700 pages without trying. That's a lot of books.

Anyone else willing to join in? Yes?

Why not?

Wednesday 2 July 2014

SF? I know I shouldn't, but...

Why, oh why, do we apologise, in actual words or just in our manner, for liking a particular book, or genre?

I'm sure we've all done it. "I like SF" immediately springs to mind. We 'admit' to liking it, mindful it's not cool, or it's clearly beneath a grownup's notice. Some of us may 'admit' to reading YA SF - even worse! And feel obliged to defend our weird taste.

Me? I seem to have worked my way through that phase. I can even declare "I collect different kinds of vampire stories" with a straight face. Or at least a smile.

What it occurs to me I haven't quite grown out of is 'admitting' that sometimes I don't like a book that 'everyone else' admires or loves. I can be honest about most but it still feels awkward saying I disliked a 'big' book, or even that I couldn't finish it.

Yet why should I feel awkward? Books vary, writers vary, and readers vary. I'm not going to love a book just because 'everyone else' does. I'm definitely not going to say I do when I don't. That would be cowardly. So no, I'm resolved I won't feel bad about either any more.

Though hopefully I'll still be polite about it. :)

Monday 23 June 2014

4* Review: Ghost Hand - why didn't a publisher grab this one instead of some of the rubbish I've been reading lately? :)

Self publishing that deserved to be published by someone else but wasn't.  I gave this a solid  4 stars. :)

This YA superhero fantasy is about a girl with a 'ghost' hand - think ectoplasm! The concept is presented as an acknowledged if not always accepted medical condition in this world. Or to put it another way,it's happening in some form to a small percentage of the population; it's still pretty new and freaky, so some people think it's awesome, some are fine with it, and others of course regard it as evil. There's one plot segment straight away.

As you'd expect this creates a lead character aptly described as " a little bit morbid, a whole lot snarky". A lead character with a strong voice always works for me and this is definitely that.

So when a new boy turns up in class, is there a connection with the strange and unexpected way her hand starts behaving?

To find out, get the book. I've already floated quite happily through the sequel!

Sunday 1 June 2014

5* review: Angel on the Ropes :)

Angel on the Ropes, by Jill Shultz

isbn: 9780984889228, out end of March.

Armandine needs to hide from social persecution. Where better than in front of an audience?

This is a must-read for me. It takes the classic tale of let's-run-away-to-the-circus to an entirely new, exciting  level, a page turner that really hooked me from start to finish. It's tagged as gay/Lesbian. Ignore that, it's just great SF! Check it out for yourself.

PS. I'm truly mystified why this book was self published, cos it seems unlikely it wasn't submitted somewhere before that. I really don't see why someone didn't take it. But thankfully it's in print anyway, cos for me it's definitely one self-published story worth shouting about.

Do let me know what you think?

Query Letters

OK, so it's an odd topic to come up with in the middle of actual editing, but it cropped up and it seemed to me it was one of those topics that are never really out of mind. After all, without a decent query where would we be, writer-wise?

Publishing Crawl have been showing sample query letters, and commenting on them succinctly and sensibly. Neither fulsome praise nor harsh criticism, just commonsense advice. So it seemed equally sensible to pass on the gist, in terms of a short, easy-to-apply checklist for writing a query letter to agent or publisher.

1- make sure you greet the person you're writing to.  Yes, obvious, but people do forget it's a letter, not a synopsis.

2- give your reasons for sending them the query. If you don't have one you haven't done your homework?

3- give the title, genre/age range, word length, and standalone or series up front. That way the reader can instantly determine that the book in question is one they might take on. Not a fiction book when they only take non-fiction. Not a romance when they specialise in horror. Doing daft stuff like that not only wastes everyone's time, yours included, but makes you look a right fool?

4- In one or two paragraphs, relate the main characters, the plot, and what's at stake. 

And then stop, without falling for the temptation to add just a bit more, and a bit more and....

This made sense to me, so I hope it's helpful to your thinking too. :)

Thursday 29 May 2014

It's Official, I Now Have An Editor!

Yes, I've been missing a while. Mea culpa.
What can I say - I've been a bit busy, but guilt got me here, for a few minutes anyway.

The edited manuscript - ie I was editing it for its writer - was delivered to the publisher and I was free. And as if she heard Edwina, my own editor, finished her look-through and sent me the script for Ashamet.

So here begineth the revisions!

First things first, her approach is very much like my own. Anyone who has had feedback from me would feel right at home.

Second, she likes it!

Third, she wants me to add more than cut! [Apparently this isn't usually the case.] So I'm feeling even better cos I assume that means I haven't waffled - much.

Fourth, yes fourth, she's volunteered to edit more of my work! Definitely a rash remark cos she hasn't even seen what I'll send back to her yet?

Forget nerves, I LIKE editing.
All I have to worry about now is the final title. If anyone who's seen the rough draft has any ideas for a subtitle to add to the name - please throw it in?

Thursday 1 May 2014

Feeling the Feedback?

A couple of things recently have reminded how much now I take being able to get feedback on something I've written for granted.
 For most of the time I've been attempting to write, certainly to write fiction, I've managed to link up with other people who are equally happy to read and comment. Whether it was in say an Arvon week away, or a Milford week for those already published, by post, online like my BSFA Orbit groups, even in more regular face-to-face meetings like NorthWriteSF, there have been others in the same boat as me to exchange reactions with.

And aren't those reactions a help, sometimes a salvation.

Currently I'm rewriting a draft manuscript to completely change the setting/world it has strayed into [while I obviously wasn't looking!]. If I'd stopped to think I could have told myself it wasn't the right one; it didn't match the backstory the I knew, that wasn't actually on the page? But no, I let language carry me away - to the wrong destination as it were. Luckily for me someone else woke me up and made me rethink; Why that language style? Now, good or bad, the story will at least be what it should be.

In another instance, I recently looked over a rough draft for someone else. One look told me there had not been any real feedback - other perhaps than from friends and family - to pick up on the fact that however good an idea it was the presentation, the writing, wasn't yet technically sound. What, I hear, no feedback? No carping comments? No overview? It must be like working blindfold.

So to the first category: many thanks. I do appreciate you guys, a lot, even if I don't say it as often as I should?

And to the second category: my feedback is as honest [Honest.] as that of all the people I regularly get feedback from on my own work. I expect no less and try to give no less. Anything else is a waste of space, after all. So if I don't say quite what you wanted to hear, well, there's probably a reason, and it'll [probably] help you become a better writer.

Honest. :)

Friday 25 April 2014

Review: 5* Shanghai Sparrow - as promised :)

Promises, promises... OK so I'm doing it before I lose track.

Shanghai Sparrow, by Gaie Sebold, is definitely one to look out for. Published by Solaris, out April 29, 2014, It's Steampunk-plus. It must be cos I don't really LIKE Steampunk!

 Jumping between Victorian England and a fantastical China with Fae thrown in for good measure. Result: an entertaining plot, a feisty, determined heroine and a good blending of fantasy and social history; all in all a great read and one I'll be very likely to re-read too.

I 'came down' full of enthusiasm and that feel-good factor one always hopes for but seldom actually gets? So check it out. Better yet, buy it.

Thursday 24 April 2014

What Most Ensures I Can't Put a Book Down?

Plot, right? No, characters. No, world building...
OK, so they should all, in a perfect reader's world, be a factor, but ultimately are they enough?

Recently, reviewing two novels back to back as it were, I found myself making a more direct comparison than usual. Both were carefully constructed, and would tick most boxes, but...
Novel 1: was Victorian era, with amoral vampires and a creepy human villain; nice twist there?
Novel 2: was Victorian era, Steampunk, with a mix of fae and human (Chinese and English) characters.
Both sound interesting, yes? I thought so.

Now as some of you may know, I collect vampire stories, always looking for new versions. And I'm very wary of Steampunk, which I feel too often degenerates into gimmicks. So without thinking I guess I had... expectations.
 So why did I love Novel 2, and wasn't hooked by Novel 1?

Because 2 had that extra, almost indefinable something: I cared about the characters.

Please note that doesn't mean I had to like them, but I did need to feel for them? Because otherwise - you've lost me, however clever the plot, the writing. Oh, I might skim through to see how it all ends but I won't be riveted and I very probably won't look to buy more of that writer's work either.

So for me the key question has become: do I care enough about what I'm reading??

[Note: I promise to add Novel 2 to my 5* reviews here, when I have a minute?]

Monday 14 April 2014

Review: 5* :)

OK, here's another one I really liked.

Narcissus is Dreaming, by Rose Mamber.
published by Pink Narcissus Press, out May 14 2014.

Proof copy blurb says; "What happens when a shape-shifting alien, incapable of emotion, falls in love?"

You'd think the author had deliberately set herself up to fail with such a premis but hooray, she didn't. The plot is tight, the characters credible. In fact the aliens are if anything more vivid than the humans - real writing that.

For some reason, maybe the Press, this is tagged as gay/lesbian. Do ignore that cos it's simply pure SF, and way out there with it. At least take a look at the whole blurb or a sample?

If you want to try something new and different, this is for you.

April? Really?

I had no idea time was whizzing past this fast. I didn't even hear the whooshing sounds.
[Don't know that one? It's from Douglas Adams, the Hitchhiker's Guide writer, who was famously unable to meet deadlines and said - you've got it - he  loved deadlines, he liked the whoosh as they passed him by.]

It's not as if I haven't been busy: writing, critting, reviewing, dealings in Orbit groups, even the odd spot of actual work, but I didn't mean to let my writing here lapse so long.

So here goes to begin catching up...

My new editor has been in touch. She's Australian, so with an American publisher as well that makes me feel very international. She's also very polite and I think we'll be fine - phew.

Of course I also think we'll work well cos she's just said she's halfway through my manuscript and "It's a joy to read and edit".
So far anyway!
I'm understandably chuffed?

Funnier, she remarked she was so glad I could "speak horse". No it wasn't a typo for hoarse, she'd recently edited a writer seemed to think riding a horse was the same as driving a car. Why did I find that so funny?Cos i have 'sat' a horse, but only once, and I wouldn't dare call the experience riding. So, two compliments. How can I not like her?

I'll let you know how it all goes when she's reached the end.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

And Meanwhile, I'm Reading. A Lot.

I'm currently knee deep in reading, reviewing, editing and critiquing [with only the merest hop aside into chat/discussions here and there].

One of the perks of doing these things is that they are all new scripts, as in in-the-works, about to be published, just out in the shops. I'm seeing what's hot off the press, or could be. It's great fun, and obviously it's a very useful learning tool; I can learn from seeing what others did well, or not. Hopefully that's happening but I guess only time will tell - and other people's comments. ;)

I've just been told the proof of that is finally enroute - I've been appointed an editor for my novel, he or she has read the opening chapters, presumably to see if they can bear to work on it, and should be in touch when they've swallowed it whole.

How do I feel? Honestly, more excited than scared. I'm used to being critted. I assume the editor doesn't hate it or they wouldn't have taken it on. I like an exchange and hope that they'll make me think about things I've missed, cos that can be exciting.

Best scenario: It'll be like one edit I did where the writer and I had a ball. I felt able to be direct, make jokes, throw in the odd insult and know he didn't take anything the wrong way cos he found it as energising as I did.
Oh I do hope it's like that. And I fully intend to be a nice, well-behaved author, who listens, then thinks, then really tries to cooperate, then...

Meanwhile, I'm reading like there's no tomorrow. No, of course it's not nerves. Not at all...

Monday 3 March 2014

Review - 5* :)

The Martian, by Andy Weir, pub Feb 13th.

This one really is a great read, and not what you might expect, so check it out?
The blurb says:
 "I'm stranded on Mars.
I have no way to communicate.
I'm in a Habitat designed to last 31 days...
...Yeah, I'm screwed."

I'm not usually the world's greatest fan of hard SF but this one is hard SF with a soft, character-driven centre. It's fatcual, it's technical, and it's so good I didn't care.Ii rooted for the hero all the way and I think you will too. More than that I won't say. I'd hate to spoil it for you.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Life with Blogging

Sometimes reality gets in the way and I realise I 'owe' a blog. So for once let's talk about reality.

My other half has been dismantling the garden trellis, snapped clean off by the high winds. Which is not a complaint because I'm seeing numerous pics of people all round the country, and beyond, who are much worse off. I seem to live in the only bit of the UK not seriously impacted by the current weather challenge. Trees down, yes, garden totally soggy, yes. Flooded, no.

 I have enormous admiration for those people so obviously pulling together and getting on with a life that's now knee deep in yukky water, and I love the images of one area using water-filled bags to form dams, like holding back oil spills at sea, it just seems so appropriate to use water to fight water?

To anyone out there who has flood problems, I really hope the weather reports are right and things are about to perk up. At least then you can try to put your lives back together.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Review: non fiction for once but well worth trying :)

Just read 'The Science of Civilisation' by Roger P Briggs, just out from Collins Foundation Press. subtitled 'The Science of How We Got Here'.   
Isbn 9780988438200

I've given it a whopping 5 stars!

The title pretty much sums up the book but this is no dry academic tome. There’s plenty of scope here for both the scientific reader and the very not-so – which would be me!

I take the factual content on trust, supported by the wealth of originating references, both to those who made the discoveries and to books with more detailed information for those who want to go deeper.

What I especially like though is the language, full of everyday terms and analogies. And the way the book is organised into clear sections, each with shaded pages for extra data and a summary to close.

I’d say this was a great stab at making evolution accessible to those like me, and a very good starter pack for those wishing to delve further. Tell your friends?

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Got Any Spare Parts?

This time it's a serious blog. I've just amended the details in my Organ Donor registration. I've been registered for years now, since it meant carrying a card rather than being in a database, but it had slipped my mind that I'd  done things like move house, change email....

So this has reminded me to send out the call. If there's anyone out there who isn't registered, how about it?
As the latest leaflet  succinctly puts it:

"Would you take an organ if you needed one?

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Here We Go Again...

Phew. Christmas and New Year were fine but now I need to get back to work. There seems to be a lot of it too, as if the list is getting longer every time I look at it. I've sent in several reviews though already this year so I'll add some of those here as soon as I get a minute.

So 2014. I'm trying to write. That goes with out saying, I guess, but I've also read the year's first 20 submissions for Albedo One magazine, a regular take-up of my spare moments, and put in a bit of time on Orbiter business, some of that concerned with adding a new member and forming a new group now the existing ones have got too full again.

Orbit groups, if you don't already know, are a bit like sand - they shift this way and that. New people join, older ones leave, or change groups, or change say from short story focus to novel, or vice versa. Some leave when they get famous or thereabouts; others choose to stay on and continue getting the feedback that may have pushed them to the fore. We started with one group nine years ago, moving from postal groups. We've expanded to eight. As I write we're officially six but I'm in the process of forming a seventh, and that's how it goes.

Orbiters come from all walks, all ages, and several genders. Some work full time, others less. Some come in from editing or science or other areas 'related' to SF, bringing their very useful expertise with them. What they all have in common - because that's the name of the game - is a desire to improve their writing and a love of genre rather than mainstream fiction.

Each time the BSFA Focus magazine comes out I get the pleasure of adding a Successes entry to my regular page there, to say who's sold what lately. These days the lists seems very healthy, which I think is a tribute to the hard work of those named and also the usefulness of the feedback passing through the groups.

Anyone out there wants a good quality, friendly crit group? I have several and we never close. Beginner or experienced, you're all welcome as long as you're prepared to work. And it doesn't matter where you hail from. We've had members in the USA, in Australia, in Holland. That's the beauty of the world wide web after all. We're all neighbours?

Next time, I promise, I'll pass on some of the publishers' reviews I've done on some brand new books. And this year I'll be including some writing and publishing tidbits, as I said I would.
And the best possible 2014 to all!

Sunday 5 January 2014

Review: Defy,by Sara B. Larson :)

I've just finished reading 'Defy', a YA fantasy about to come out from Scholastic Press. If you're into YA, for reading or research, then this is one I'd suggest getting hold of. It's a very polished debut novel, not over-complicated but credible and very well written. One can see why the publishers took it on but I'm not going to spoil anything by talking about the plot - if you are interested I'm sure you can look it up for yourselves?

On a side note, I was also interested to see that the YA target audience was described as 12 years and upward. I confess I'd never quite regarded YA as below 13, and it made me think. I wonder if the year younger is because this book is probably targeting girl readers more than boys? I doubt anyone would seriously contest the notion that 12 year old girls are generally 'older' than boys, that's certainly been my experience. But, in fairness, this book has lots of fight scenes, so maybe they're quite right to say that; romance for the girls and fights for the boys?

On which note I'll sign off, since that's a formula that I find depresses me, however effective it might be. But Defy, whatever my ramblings, is a very good YA, and I wish it every success.

Saturday 4 January 2014

And a Happy New Year to my Publisher.

I'm happy to say that Dragonwell Publishing, USA, who were rash enough to offer me a contract in the summer, have just hit the No 1 spot for Fairytales on Amazon with their anthology, 'Once Upon a Curse'. I can't even say I'm surprised because it's the only short story collection that's excited me in quite a while.

[Before that? 'The Bitten Word' from Newcon Press here in the UK.]

So congratulations, guys, on a job well done, and providing further proof that I've signed with a professional team!