Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Boy Who Wept Blood – Events

Being a writer seems to consist of waiting around with nothing much going on and then...

8th January sees the release of the paperback edition of The Boy With The Porcelain Blade. Rest assured I will be safely ensconced in a London boozer raising a glass to Lucien and friends.

Thursday 29th January is the big one. The Boy Who Wept Blood, book two of The Erebus Sequence is released and I’ll be at Waterstones flagship store at Piccadilly. 

My editor, Simon Spanton, will interview me about the books and my experiences being a debut author. I suspect there will be wine. There had better be wine.

You can find event info and ticket booking HERE

Saturday 31st January sees me signing for Forbidden Planet in Southampton. I had a great time at the store last year and am looking forward to returning. 

You can find the event information HERE

Finally, on the Saturday 7th February (Edit: date change, now the 21st), I’ll be heading to Waterstones Kingston with Jen Williams, author of The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost, and co-founder of SRFC. We'll be signing and discussing of our books and Fantasy in general.

All in all it’s going to be a manic few weeks and I look forward to seeing you all, signing lots of books and enjoying a drink or two.


Something I should have mentioned back in October: I was delighted to be included on a series of audio short stories presented by Pseudopod.

It’s a strange little Halloween story that I wrote in two sittings. I hope you enjoy it. There’s also a ton of talented authors on the same podcast, so check them out.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Going Through the (Pro)motions

Obligatory accompanying image
Many reams have been used up writing about the various conventions this summer, but it was only as I sat at the BFS awards banquet that I felt inspired to write a post. Peter Newman, who will see his debut novel, The Vagrant released next year mentioned that he’d sat in on a panel I took part in. I had placed a copy of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade in front of me, face out to the audience. It’s something I’d heard American authors do, and I’d seen Django Wexler displaying his novel while moderating at LonCon.

It’s not something we really do at UK conventions, and Peter suggested we need to invite authors to do more of this. I suspect there’s a feeling of embarrassment about promoting one’s own work among us Brits that is absent in the majority of US writers. ‘Making art is all well and good, but marketing? Now, that’s just uncalled for,’ seems to be the unspoken rule.


Panels are rare times when an author has an audience staring at them for an hour or more. This is weird enough without factoring in that said author is required to say interesting things. Just about every other platform in the world would have a commercial break – television, cinema, radio, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook and so on. Why not panels? A book with a good cover is an advert all by itself. It doesn’t make you wait thirty seconds before seeing the video you selected. A book does not blare out music you don’t care for. A book won’t repeat and repeat and repeat. A book will simply stand on the table and provide shy authors with something to hide behind. And maybe, just maybe, it will pique the audience’s interest enough to buy a copy.

Friday, 29 August 2014

That Crazy Summer

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. Early August was a tide of events, kicking off with Nine Worlds, followed by Fantasy in the Court at Goldsboro Books, then Gollancz Fest at Waterstones Piccadilly. And then the daddy of them all, WorldCon, or LonCon3 as it was also known. It seems conventions are incapable of having a single point of branding.

As a debut author I was keen to get out there and meet the public, hope I won them over in some way, and that they would buy the book. There was always a feeling I wasn’t doing enough, not appearing on enough panels, not rubbing shoulders with the right people. I spent eighth months writing The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, spent another two weeks polishing it before submission to my agent. Then another two weeks refining it for submission to Gollancz. Then there were copy edits and proof reading. And that is relatively quick for a novel in my experience. My prevailing thought was Well I spent all this time on it, it would be a shame if no one read it.

Fortunately people are reading it. Gollancz sold out of copies at WorldCon, which made me feel good. Amazon has steadily tallied up reviews (but feel free to add your own, every little helps and authors live and die by their ‘stars’ in the digital age). Friends send me pictures by text when they see it in shops, which is a fantastic feeling. Waterstones particularly not only stock it but recommend it in a handful of stores, which I’m profoundly grateful for. If I appear blithely ignorant of ‘how it’s going’ then it’s because I am. I don’t look at my own sales figures, that way lies madness I think. There are plenty of things to obsess on in life and sales figures could well unravel my tiny mind. My job should be writing, not fretting, after all.

High points of the summer were moderating the Epic Fantasy panel with Elizabeth Bear, Gaie Sebold, Rebecca Levine and Scott Lynch, who were all amazing. I’ve never moderated before and I’m grateful to the Nine World books track organisers for asking me.

Fantasy in the Court was the most charming boozy street party full of interesting people. I was even asked to sign a couple of copies of Porcelain. Thanks to everyone at Goldsboro Books for all their hard work.

As biased as it sounds, the Gollancz team kicked much ass with their event at Waterstones Piccadilly. It’s quite a thing to be interviewed (along with my fellow debut authors) by Gillian Redfearn, just moments after Sarah Pinborough has interviewed Joe Hill. Forgive me if I sound starstruck.


And finally I’ll sign off by telling you the third draft of book three of The Erebus Sequence. is complete. Thanks to my test readers Matt Lyons and Matt Rowan. Now I send the manuscript to my agent for quality control. Let’s hope she likes it. 


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

An Open Letter to Authors

Dear author,

It is convention month in London for genre writers and there are some things we should admit to ourselves.

Your worth as an author – and indeed as a human being – should not be
measured by the number of panels you are asked to participate in, the
subjects of those panels, or how many parties you’ve been invited to. You
are still awesome. You still worked really hard on your book(s), short
stories and flash fiction. You are still loved by your friends. You’re
still as dazed, confused and overwhelmed as the next author.

We should move at our own pace. Writers spend a lot of time alone, a huge
amount if you’re full time. Don’t feel obliged to be ‘on duty’ 24/7.
Conventions are busy, visually arresting affairs that take place in anodyne
hotels full of people hunting down a good time. Take a time out when you
need it, have a good time on your own terms. Keep an eye on the amount of coffee and booze you’re mainlining if you’re feeling anxious. Try and take some vitamins once in a while.

Not all authors and professionals are going to get along. Genre publishing
is like a very large, dysfunctional family complete with favourite sons and
daughters, weird uncles, snippy aunts and the occasional bastard, to say
nothing of overbearing fathers and passive aggressive mothers. There are
feuds and disagreements, foolishness and disappointments. Art imitates
life, so it stands to reason conventions should too. Spend time with the people you want to spend time with, and don’t feel under pressure to speak to everyone.

Being on panels is stressful. No one wants to put their proverbial foot in
their mouth (or any other foot). Do your homework, prepare ahead of time,
reach out to other people on the panel to sound them out before the day.
You may worry that you’re not terribly interesting, but there will definitely be people in the audience who will want to hear what you have to say.

We are there to have a good time. Conventions are not just for the fans,
they are a chance for authors to unplug and attempt to pass themselves off
as socialised mature adults (some us find this more challenging than
others). Kick back, stop worrying, meet up with old friends and keep your
mind open to meeting new ones.

Conventions are a good way to meet new readers, and they provide a means to solidify your rapport with your fans, but if you find public-speaking hard, or worry that you haven’t been asked to do enough don’t panic – it’s not going to do any harm to your career. Bear this in mind at all times. This is a piss up in a hotel with formalised conversations, so focus on relaxing, and having fun.




Thursday, 10 July 2014

Re-reading: Hellboy

Eastpak has really gone downhill in recent years.
I’ve re-read the first two volumes of Hellboy in as many days. I find reading for pleasure easier when I change medium. The pictures are easier on the eye, the only words dialogue, caption and infrequent exposition. Working on a book all day only read another book for entertainment can be heavy going. Not so Hellboy, who has since gone on to spawn two films.

So what’s so special about that big red brawler?

The art is bold, easy to pass off as simplistic, in truth wonderful chiaroscuro. The pages are all heavy shadows and dramatic light, seemingly conjured from a just a few hurried lines. There’s an economy at work here that is fascinating. And those slabs of colour are much like the titular hero – no nonsense and straightforward. Hellboy inhabits a world wedded to a gothic past, where castles boast sinister statuary and graveyards are ancient and full of foreboding. 

There’s a pulp sensibility to Hellboy that you might expect from a superhero comic. Few are the problems that can’t be solved without the judicious application of fist to face, something Hellboy is well versed at. That he has the occasional wisecrack up his sleeve is no bad thing. 

Reading Hellboy: required. Drinking rum: optional.
While Hellboy is a fun character he’d be nothing without antagonists, and the bad guys  have plenty of attention lavished upon them. His foes are creatures of legend, but also men seeking power for themselves. It’s this weaving of the historical with folklore that makes the comic such a rich read. Romanian Vampires rub shoulders with Nazis harboring apocalyptic visions, while Baba Yaga confides to Rasputin and so on.

Warning: bringing about the apocalypse without supervision is dangerous.
It’s a dark and melancholy set of tales with an indefatigable protagonist who is refreshingly upbeat even when world-weary.




Wednesday, 4 June 2014

What is Super Relaxed Fantasy Club?

The Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London
A conversation started on Twitter in the dying stages of last year, not long after World Fantasy Con. There was a feeling it would be nice to do something with regards to gatherings where genre types could come and exclaim their love. The majority of the conversation took place between myself and Jen Williams, author of The Copper Promise, Xbox ninja, and all round bad-ass.

It was my feeling (I’m not putting words into Jen’s mouth) that the existing societies had long histories pitted with grudges and shenanigans. They required committee members and proved fertile ground for heated disagreements and clashing egos. I don’t know about you but that sounds like hard work to me.

And so Jen and I founded SRFC. Super Relaxed Fantasy Club. A ridiculous and irreverent name for a new type of night that might escape the slings and arrows of genre politics and just focus on the books. The books aren’t just Fantasy, we cover all types of genre (I did tell you it was a ridiculous name). And because we are decent, nay, downright awesome types, we decided that we would have parity. One male and one female reader each month (sorry, anti-gender binary types, we welcome you too, get in touch). Readings are short and followed by a Q&A . There is of course booze, because publishing.

Another feature of SRFC is that everybody gets an introduction. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bookseller, editor, agent, published author, fledgling author, passionate reader, or veteran reviewer. Everyone is welcome and no one is more important than anyone else. We are united by a love of the fantastic, the weird, the speculative, the horrific, the spooky. Everyone gets to say ‘Hi’ and feel like they’re part of the gang.

We’re proud to have featured Sophia McDougall, Kim Curran, Scott Andrews, Chris Brosnahan, Richard Kellum, Zen Cho and selection of others who escape my failing memory. We’ve had five iterations now and draw a good crowd. We meet on the last Tuesday of each month at the Royal Festival Hall on the 3rd floor (Green side) from about 6.30pm. Maybe you’ll be there next time – join the Facebook Group HERE.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Gollancz Debut Deal


Gollancz are running a promotion on debut authors this year, offering their wares for an austerity conscious £1.99.

The promotional price is available for the week leading up to the publication date (tomorrow in my case), and the week after. This means you have until 26th March to get downloading for less money than a Saturday newspaper. Or a coffee. 

Real readers prefer hardbacks as they improve upper body strength and look nice on bookshelves, but each to their own. If you're reading this blog there's a good chance you already own the book, but if not then here are a couple reviews to help you make your mind up.


“A finely-crafted thriller… that will appeal to fans of Robin Hobb, Scott Lynch and Jon Courtenay Grimwood.” (Jack Parsons, SciFiNow)
“Featuring swordfights, violence and full-tilt action…familiar intrigues with a darker more gothic touch” (Saxon Bullock, SFX )


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Eye of the Storm

It’s been almost a month since I had time to post here. This is largely due to me appearing at other sites talking up the new book. Many thanks to The Eloquent Page, Book Plank, Civilian Reader, Reader Dad and Geek Native for hosting interviews and extracts. My blog tour will cover Falcata Times, SFF World, Alasdair Stuart, Gav Reads, Utter Biblio and Jolly Good Show where I discuss different elements of the novel. There’s a piece relating to the environment of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade over at Sci Fi Now HEREI also wrote a piece on optimism, Star Wars, and writing Fantasy for SFX Magazine HERE.

And there are events. I was at Blackwell on 10th March with the excellent Jen Williams, author of The Copper Promise. Questions were supplied by the ever-enthusiastic Jared from Pornokitsch (who was a good deal less nervous than yours truly). Thanks to all who came. 

Next up is a signing at Forbidden Planet in Southampton on the 22nd March, followed by an appearance at Writers’ Café on the 24th March. Keen to be seen as a thoroughly international author, I will be venturing to distant Scotland for Eastercon. I hope to see some of you there. I’ll be sure to update my Appearances page, so please check it out if you’re keen to get a book signed.

Needless to say this is the eye of the storm. Progress on book two (rejoicing under the working title, Blood) has slowed but is edging onward. I’m keen to have this in the bag and back to the publisher by end of April. We’re up to the fifth draft now and the heavy lifting is far from over. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from book two, if only because the narrative is so much more linear than book one.

Those of you who enjoy collecting books will be interested to know I’ve signed first edition hardbacks for Anderida Books, Analecta Books and Goldsboro Books will also have copies.


And now I have to get back to work...

Post script – Goldsboro books are running a competition on Twitter to win a signed and dedicated first edition. Check them out on @GoldsboroBooks



Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The First Round of Reviews for Porcelain

Released 20th March
It seems I made the appropriate sacrifices to the Criticism Gods –

Upcoming4me says ‘The Boy with the Porcelain Blade packs a lot of punch and is extremely well written in an excellent literary style which is sadly often absent in modern fantasy... The Boy with the Porcelain Blade is a rich, literary fantasy thriller which bodes well for the rest of the series.’

The Curiosity of a Social Misfit wrote ‘The characters are fantastically created here. They feel complete and have multiple layers. I also liked the fact that they're not perfect... Here, there are loads of moments where it feels like the characters won't win, in fact, it feels like the characters won't even make it to the end of the book alive. I loved that feeling of being uncertain about their fates.’

The folks over at The Book Worm (@RadioBookWorm) discuss the book on their podcast. They described Porcelain as ‘OM NOM NOM NOM’ which is probably about as high a watermark as a debut author could wish for. I’ve also recorded an interview with these folks, which I suspect will be online in a few weeks.

Sci Fi Now gave the book a pleasing 4/5, describing the novel as ‘A thriller set in grotesque caricature of Renaissance Italy, The Boy With The Porcelain Blade will appeal to fans of Robin Hobb, Scott Lynch and Jon Courtenay Grimwood. Patrick’s writing is rich with detail, describing the intricacies of every finely-tailored doublet and the extent of every ruined battlement. This ornate style fits perfectly with the baroque setting, while fast-paced plotting ensures it doesn’t become a slog to read.’

Beer, Books and Browncoats were equally engaged – ‘Never before have I felt so truly behind a character as I did with Lucien. He is scarred, tormented, bullied and oppressed by the strange society he was born in, but he remains honest. Lucien is not the typical good character amidst a world of evil; he is flawed, violent and reckless but his belief in justice stays true.’


I feel extremely fortunate that people have warmed to the book. Those of you already clamouring for the sequel can rest assured it’s well on the way, currently due January 2015.

Meanwhile, over at Goodreads, there's a giveaway by my publisher, Gollancz. Enter your details HERE.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Response Times, Guest Post by Juliet Mushens

Before I worked in publishing I believed that all agents did all day was read submissions. I genuinely believed that 9-6 – with an hour for lunch – they would be sat at their desk, wading through piles of paper submissions, probably smoking a pipe and wearing tweed. I thought that when they took an author on they would post the submission out to a few editors, and then wait for the money to roll in. But mostly, it was about the reading.

I asked authors on twitter what they felt about how long agents took to respond and the answers I received reaffirmed for me that perhaps quite a few people believe – like I used to – that agents spend all day with the slushpile. (Maybe they also believe the pipe/tweed thing, I can’t be sure.)

‘… it’s slowly soul-destroying…’
‘… it takes too long…’
‘… response times give me a measure of their respect for my time…’
‘… when it’s a no you want it to be quick. Nothing worse than being rejected after months…’
‘… the longer it takes, the more the rejection feels insulting…’

I thought that a bit of myth-busting might be in order, and also might soothe the RSI writers develop from clicking refresh on their inbox.

WHAT DO AGENTS DO ALL DAY

The vast majority of our day has to be spent working on existing clients. I’ve blogged about my job before HERE and emphasised the fact that I read submissions in lunch-breaks, in evenings, and on weekends. Obviously when you’re just starting out as an agent, with very few clients, you have more time to spend just reading slush, but when you have 30+ clients, 99% of your time is spent dealing with them. I can normally be found editing, troubleshooting any issues clients have, dealing with foreign publishers, negotiating contracts, writing submission letters, answering emails from clients, answering rights inquiries, dealing with covers and page proofs and late edits and auctions and offers and anything in between. I can get up to 500 emails in a day relating to existing projects, and those have to be dealt with before I can even think about new ones.

I work FOR my clients, which means that money processing, doing deals, chasing payments, dealing with their queries and reading their manuscripts comes first. And that’s exactly what authors want from me if they sign with me! They want to be my priority, and for me to work hard for them. I am always looking for new talent – I’ve sold 5 debut authors thus far this year – but the time I spend on reading unsolicited submissions tends to be my free time, rather than during work hours.

PROCESSING SUBMISSIONS

When I receive a submission I immediately file it in my ‘submissions’ folder, and flag it. I then tick it off once I’ve read and responded to it. Submissions can hit my inbox at all hours – some at 3am, some on weekends, some when I’m out of the office at meetings – and I don’t get a chance to read and consider each one as and when they arrive. 

Sometimes (maybe 1 in every 300) a submission will hit my inbox when I’m on the bus with nothing to read, and it sounds AMAZING, and I read and respond right away. But I can count on one hand the number of times that happened last year. 

If you don’t hear from me it’s not because I know I want to reject your novel I just haven’t got round to it yet, it is because I haven’t read your novel yet. As soon as I’ve read it, I’ll respond. 

NUMBER-CRUNCHING

It sounds obvious, but it’s important to consider that it takes time to read. It’s not a matter of me simply looking at something and, Johnny-5 style, immediately absorbing what is on the page. I have to stop to consider it, weigh up if it fits my list, consider if the sample chapters have worth, worry if it needs too much work, analyse how strongly I feel about it. And that takes time. 

Amy Boggs, an agent at Donald Maass literary agency, did some number-crunching: ‘I get an average of 100 queries a week. Because I ask for a synopsis and the first five pages as well, that comes to around 700 pages. So my query pile alone amounts to two books' worth of reading each week. Some weeks this is totally doable. Other weeks I receive two client manuscripts in my inbox and thus read zero queries. Each week I fall behind means more that need to be read the next week, and so pile up occurs.’

For the writer, it’s just one submission, but for the agent it is one of many each day and all of them add up. I received 3,500 submissions of the first three chapters last year, and it’s no quick task to read them all.

Juliet Pickering from Blake Friedmann added, ‘I completely understand that an author is at home alone, wondering why it takes us up to 2/3 months to reply to an email and few of their pages. But times those pages by ten (approx. ten subs a day) and you have 300 pages;  that's 2,100 pages a week to read.’

INCREDIBLE SUCCESS STORIES

A lot of writers get hung up on the stories of people who send their book in and overnight have agents clamouring to represent their book. But it all depends on how busy I am at the time and the thing to remember is that the overnight success stories are the exception rather than the rule, and the time taken has little effect in the long run on the success of the book.

Jodie Hodges at UA said, ‘I've taken people on within a week or it's taken months - same end result and didn't affect if/how quickly/for how much money their book sold for.’

Sometimes the quickest agent isn’t the best agent for you. I always say that it’s better to wait, to consider your options, before jumping at the first person to say yes.

TRYING TO HAVE A LIFE

Sometimes I’m behind on submissions because I’ve gone away for the weekend. Sometimes I’ve gone to the theatre, or out dancing, or for dinner. 

As Jodie Hodges says, ‘Does an author want an agent who has no grasp of other cultural influences because they have no time to read different books, watch films and TV, go to the theatre?’

Sometimes I do spend all weekend reading manuscripts, but sometimes I want to watch TV, or read for fun, or visit my family. We work long hours and it’s important to get downtime. I took two weeks off from reading submissions over the Christmas break – which put me further behind in my submissions pile – but just like a teacher or an office-worker has annual leave, it’s only fair that we do too.

PATIENCE


I think it’s important to learn patience because publishing in general is a slow process. From finding an agent you can sometimes then spend six months drafting and redrafting, another three months out on submission, and then it can be 12 months before the book is published. Ironically, the process of finding an agent – which feels like it goes at a snail’s pace – can be the quickest part of all. I asked a few of my writers how they felt about how long the process takes, and all agree that once you have a book coming out a sort of amnesia takes place: those months of waiting fade away compared to the excitement of knowing that you have realised your dream.


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Forthcoming Attractions

The publication date of 20th March draws near for The Boy with the Porcelain Blade and I am pleased to confirm to some events.

I’ll be appearing at Blackwells, Charing Cross Road, London on Monday, March 10th with the excellent Jen Williams. Jen’s debut novel, The Copper Promise, is released by Headline on 13th February. Four installments have been released as an Ebook serial. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s a breath of fresh air, fun, intensely readable and did I mention fun? Jen’s talent for creating likable characters shouldn’t be missed. Much has been made recently of how grim and dark modern Fantasy is. The Copper Promise doesn’t shy away from the darker side of fiction, but there is a lightness of touch that is a real joy to read.

This blog post has deviated somewhat from an events announcement to a book review – never let it be said I’m predictable. 

The second event I’ll be appearing at is on Saturday March 22nd. You can venture to the far away land of Hampshire to get yourself one of famously terrible signatures. I’ll be at the Southampton Forbidden Planet from 1pm. This is my main signing if you will, I may read, I may not.  

A Thing: I worked at Forbidden Planet Southampton for all of about three months a very long time ago. Mainly I worked the till and drank coffee, but I was also given the books department. It was around that time a shaven-headed brute of some notoriety released a book that inspired me to start writing. You may have heard of it, it was called Perdido Street Station. 

Here endeth the history lesson.

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to visiting Southampton, especially as one Matt Lyons resides there. Matt has been a constant ally in bringing The Erebus Sequence to a readable standard. He is a superb test reader, unafraid to call me out on missteps and fuckery.

It’s been a very long road. It was about this time three years ago I was being made redundant from my job as comics editor. That period of redundancy was a key factor in the creation of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade. I’m currently pinging between some amount of trepidation, relief (Finally! It’ll be OUT), and some concerns over making Book II even more kick ass.

I hope to see you at one of the events,


D.