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Five favourite books read in 2015

So I was going to do one of those “best books of 2015” posts, and then I realised that a), “best” is entirely subjective and “favourite” seems a better term, and b), of the 29 books I read this year, only a small handful were actually published in 2015. And on top of that, I’m not counting ARCs, because things start to get confusing–I’m pretty sure I’ve read several 2015 books in 2014, and thus listed them in my 2014 reading.

Anyway, you get the picture.

Instead, then, is my list of five favourite books read in 2015.

Star Wars: Aftermath
Chuck Wendig, 2015

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This is of course the year of Star Wars, and to my delight and supreme annoyance, my pal Chuck got to write probably the most important Star Wars book of them all. And the thing is… it’s good. In fact, I think it’s the best Star Wars novel ever written. I can’t wait for the next two volumes.

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl
Carrie Brownstein, 2015

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Rock biogs were in this year. Sleater-Kinney are my favourite band, so I was looking forward to guitarist/singer Carrie Brownstein’s memoir. It’s a fascinating book about riot grrl, feminism, and (of course) Sleater-Kinney. I was also rather chuffed to see my own book, Made to Kill, on the same best of list as this one. I’m sure Carrie feels the same.

Afterparty
Daryl Gregory, 2014

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I’ve known Daryl for a while (we are, after all, founding members of the Two First Names gang), but Afterparty was the first book of his that I’ve actually read. And… I loved it. A near-future novel about a drug that makes you believe in God, it instantly made Daryl one of my favourite writers. Honourable mentions to his novel Harrison Squared and World Fantasy Award-winning novella, We Are All Completely Fine, which I also devoured this year.

Christine
Stephen King, 1983

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I’m valiantly attempting to read all of Stephen King’s novels in publication order (apart from new releases, which I’m allowed to read when they come out – I started my 2015 reading with the incredible Revival), and finally reached Christine. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting, but I was blown away (as I am with every King novel I read) by the depth of story and characterisation.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Agatha Christie, 1920

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Another reading challenge has been to read all of Agatha Christie in publication order. I’ve only just started, but was immediately hooked by her debut, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. One down, sixty-six (plus short story collections) to go.

Next up, a slightly harder task–whittling down my list of favourite comics of 2015!

Weekends off(line)

Having been hammered by admin last week – I think on Wednesday alone I had 177 emails to process, most of which were an ongoing discussion with various parties about a new project that is slowly creeping forward – I decided on a little experiment this weekend.

I stayed offline.

I know, I know. Drastic, right? No email, no Twitter. I didn’t turn the router off, because we still wanted to use our Apple TV, and my wife is much better at time management anyway, so she remained online as usual.

And it was therapeutic. I felt rested. I even slept in (unheard of), and I managed to read nearly all of Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games, a thoroughly awesome novel that I picked up last time I was in New York and somehow totally failed to read until now.

I noodled on the outline for a new project that I’m calling, for the moment, Project SHD, and did a little offline research on it as well (from, wait for it, a book).

I watched a film called Man On A Ledge, which was mildly entertaining in a mindless way, despite being totally illogical.

I read some more, starting both Justin Cronin’s The Passage, and the new Raymond Chandler biography by Tom Williams.

I got out the banjo, and recommenced work on learning Cripple Creek.

Turns out, I didn’t miss much, either – this morning I had a grand total of 23 emails waiting, only 2 of which actually required me to do anything. Having said that, 23 was surprisingly few, so perhaps by chance I hit a quiet patch.

But more to the point, I rather enjoyed being disconnected. Although it sounds odd even as I type this, other people have spent time offline (James Brown for The Telegraph tried it for a week, Paul Miller for The Verge tried it for a year), with end result mostly being that you suddenly get lots of time back, and that you suddenly start to get a lot more done.

Which suits me, at least for a couple of days a week. So, unless work or deadlines or some other Important Stuff requires otherwise, I think I’ll make it a new rule for 2014.

I’m taking weekends off(line)!

You know Christmas is over…

…when all you have left after the decorations are down and the tree is packed up is a surprisingly large pile of Lego from the Star Wars advent calendar…

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2014: The experiment

I’m actually a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, mainly because I’m a serial procrastinator. I spend most of my life saying that I will start things tomorrow, or on Monday, or on the 1st of the month. But while that sounds like a good excuse to put things off forever, I do actually tend to stick to the promises I make myself. So long as I give myself something specific to do or achieve, within a limited timeframe, I’m generally pretty good.

Which is lucky for me, given my default state could really be described as “bone idle”. I am fundamentally lazy. I actually enjoy doing nothing, much to the bewilderment of my wife. I suppose this means I’m both motivated and lazy, which is an odd combination.

All of which is to say: I’m going to try better in 2014. Which means I need to:

1. Work harder

A lot of people tell me I’m quite productive, but that’s not really the case. No doubt I write more than others, but not nearly as much as some. None of which is actually a problem – writing is not a contest or a race, and everyone finds their natural pace. However, I’m not happy with mine, so I need to step it up.

There is also a good reason for this – I spent most of 2013 editing two novels at once, and in 2014 I have three novels to write from scratch and one to edit for submission. There are also a couple of unannounced projects which I’m hoping will get the green light, but which – obviously – mean more work. 2014 will undoubtedly be my busiest year yet, so I need to get on with it.

To whit: 2,000 words a day, minimum. Which has been my daily target forever, but I’ve slipped in 2013. 2,000 words a day is actually easy, and when I have nothing else that requires my attention on a given day I can hit 3,000, even 4,000.

2. Blog every day

This is tangential, but a useful exercise for myself. I’m not a blogger. This isn’t even really a blog, more a place I post news, reviews, etc. Other writers are much better at this than I am – Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, to name just two – and I have no intent of trying to match their output, in volume or quality.

But as a way to get myself writing something – anything – first thing in the morning, when I least feel like it, I think will be a good thing. I have no idea what I’m going to talk about, but with a bit of luck I might fall into a rhythm. Some of it will be about books and writing. Some of it won’t be. I think the key is to not worry about it and just type.

Both of which lead to:

3. Use time effectively

Spend less time trapped on the internet. Spend more time reading and watching stuff (you know I still haven’t got through all of Batman: The Animated Series? Seriously). Spent more time enjoying friends and family and cool things.

I think that covers it. And it all starts… tomorrow.

 

An update on book endorsements and blurb requests

Just a quick note, really, about a slight change of policy.

Due to work commitments, I am unable to read unsolicited material. This includes novels or works for which I am asked to read and provide a blurb or endorsement for.

I cannot comment on material without reading it, so any requests for blurbs or endorsements must be sent through to my agent, Stacia Decker, at the Dunow, Carslon & Lerner Literary Agency. You can contact her here.

My favourite things of 2012

Everyone is doing an end-of-year best-of-year blog post, and people grow weary. Which is fair enough, although personally I dig hearing about what people dug, given so much of my entertainment – books, movies, TV, music – comes from personal recommendations.

But I digress. This is my list of stuff what I liked this year.

This year I actually discovered my two favourite books ever, one after another, neither of which came out in 2012. They are Veronica, by Nicolas Christopher (first published in 1997)…

…and Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (first published in 1983)…

Both are examples of literary fiction straying into genre – Winter’s Tale is probably best described as magical realism, while I think Veronica is more a straight urban fantasy. I’m torn between the two – Winter’s Tale is extraordinary, not just in terms of scope but the writing itself, which is wonderful. But it is very long, and there’s not a lot going on, plotwise. Veronica is much shorter and far less dense, and while the events within are distinctly weird, absolutely everything is explained and locks together by the end. Which is probably more my cup of tea.

Whatever. They’re both amazing and I recommend you read them. Both books are set in (and are about) New York City, and I happened to pick them both up while I was there in January.

This year I read 37 books, I think – 33 that I was able to add to Goodreads and another four that are not listed there yet. Which is one of the perks of being friends with authors – you get to see stuff early! It’s extremely difficult to pick favourites, as they were all genuinely great reads – if I don’t like a book I’ll stop when I’ve figured out that I don’t like it, as life is too short to keep reading just to be able to tick it off. But highlights this year include: Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm, Even White Trash Zombies Get The Blues by Diana Rowland, This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs, Alpha by Greg Rucka, The Testimony by James Smythe, Shift by Kim Curran, The City’s Son by Tom Pollock, Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin, City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmoore, and The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen.

There were also three 2013 releases, which I’m listing separately as they’re not out yet: Pantomine by Laura Lam, The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman, and The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty. Three fabulous books – but Mur’s Shambling Guide (which I *utterly* adored) just pips it for me. See, it’s the New York thing again.

Moving to music – the album of the year for me is Kill My Blues by The Corin Tucker Band

I’ve been a fan of Corin’s since Sleater-Kinney, and her second solo(ish) album is probably the best thing I’ve heard since her old band’s last album, The Woods, came out in 2005. I’ve also enjoyed Lost Songs by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and This Machine by The Dandy Warhols.

Film and TV – actually, I’ve lost track of what I watched at the cinema this year. The Avengers was loads of fun but not a film to think too deeply about, while The Dark Knight Rises was an illogical mess of plot holes. To be honest, cinema in 2012 didn’t leave that much of an impression on me. What else did I go and see that was a new release? I actually can’t remember.

Unlike television – this year I have enjoyed Person of Interest (still my favourite show), Revenge (I love the cheese and melodrama), 666 Park Avenue (and it’s a big shame it got the chop) and Elementary (Jonny Lee Miller is brilliant) and Longmire (can’t wait for season two of that). Homeland was good, but I think the concept has run its course now and I’ve probably had enough of it. Five seasons on, Castle continues to be marvellous when they have fun and terrible when they go all serious. Haven had a very rough start to the season then steadily improved, while Fringe continues to limp towards its finale with a truly dismal season, to my mind the worst drop in quality during a series since Heroes season two. I’ve also been watching Arrow, although I’ve paused mid-season and I’m not sure it’s quite good enough for me to continue.

And finally comics… this is a tough one. From someone who used to try and stay up to date with monthly comics, I’ve found myself being drawn more and more to collected editions, possibly because I don’t have the time to keep track of everything. I did make a concerted effort to get into some of the new Marvel Now! titles, but I fell behind one month and suddenly discovered there were like six issues of Iron Man to catch up on. I did enjoy what I read, even if I was a little lost some of the time – not being a Marvel reader, I thought this would be a good place to jump in (much like the DC New 52), but a few of the titles (Uncanny Avengers in particular) seemed to assume you’d been following along for a while now.

So of current comics, I did enjoy the new Aquaman, but my pick for 2012 has to be the first volume of the new DC Archive Edition series, Superman’s Girl-Friend Lois Lane, beginning a new collection of the frankly bizarre and occasionally disturbing Silver Age title.

However, anyone who has read Seven Wonders will know I have a soft spot for Silver Age wackiness. Maybe we’ll see the start of the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen archives in 2013? I certainly hope so!

And that’s the stuff I like in 2012. Well, most of it. This year I also got thoroughly engrossed in the Formula 1 season (I’m a big Alonso fan) and have been enjoying Mists of Pandaria, the fourth (and I think best) expansion for World of Warcraft.

This year was also rather important for me, professionally, but more about that later.

A whole bunch of stuff about THE AGE ATOMIC and SEVEN WONDERS and EMPIRE STATE

Okay… just five days to go and I’m off on holiday for a few weeks (France, back to the UK, then Ireland), and there’s lots of stuff to update, so let’s dive straight in.

Work rattles onwards on The Age Atomic, the sequel to Empire State. Due to the aforementioned holiday, the last fortnight has been a bit of a dash to get as much done as possible. Currently I’m at around 90,000 words, with a first draft target of 150,000. This is certainly the longest book I’ve written, and the most complex in terms of subplots and cast of characters too. I generally aim for 100,000 words in a novel, but sometimes you just need to go with it and let the work do its own thing. And while The Age Atomic‘s first draft is going to be long, I tend to overwrite, and I’m sure it’ll be pared down in draft two. But so far, it’s a lot of fun.

Seven Wonders, my superhero novel, is out in less than a couple of months, and has popped up in a couple of “Waiting on Wednesday” posts (wherein bloggers highlight a book they are looking forward to) at Beauty in Ruins and Starmetal Oak Reviews. Also, a reminder that the book is up at Goodreads, so make sure you add it to your shelves as in mid-July I’ll be running a Goodreads competition, so keep an eye out for that.

And don’t forget the book will be launched – in glorious limited edition hardcover – at Forbidden Planet London on Thursday, 6th September, 6pm. You can pre-order the hardcover now, and there will be a Facebook event page setup shortly, but there’s a lot going on at Forbidden Planet (including book launches for the wonderful Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan and The City’s Son by Tom Pollock – I’ve been lucky enough to read both books early, and it is well worth your time picking them up on release, and getting along to the Forbidden Planet launches if you can), so we’re going to hold off until closer to the date. But you don’t need to RSVP or pre-order to attend, just set yourself a reminder to come along and there will be hardcovers on sale (as well as the regular paperback). However, the hardcover is limited to 100 copies, so pre-ordering is recommended to ensure you can get one.

Some more reviews of Empire State are filtering in and this… this is wonderful. A video review, apparently for a school project, complete with a re-enactment of key scenes. This video contains some minor spoilers, but had me grinning from ear to ear.

Two other new reviews have also appeared recently. Dean Fetzer says that Empire State

…has a polished feel and tells a great story. The interactions between the characters as well as the two New Yorks has been crafted with great care and it shows. In terms of storytelling, this is some of the best I’ve read for a long time and it’s got a great deal to recommend…

And over at SF Crowsnest, Vinca Russell says:

Incorporating classic detective fiction, a little steampunk, super-heroes and parallel worlds, this could easily have become over-complicated, but the different elements blended together well and the strong plot tied it all together neatly. With enough twists and turns to keep you engaged throughout this was an entertaining novel and a highly promising debut from Adam Christopher.

There’s some new content up at EmpireState.cc too, in the form of a hilarious short audio drama, The Adventures of Johnny Ironclad.

Johnny Ironclad is in the style of a 1940s radio serial, complete with Wurlitzer organ, and is… well, it’s awesome. Go listen!

And while we’re on the subject of audio, the winner of the Facebook Empire State audiobook competition was Joe McCourt, who should receive his 10-CD audiobook any day now. My Facebook author page is here, and I’ll be running some more exclusive competitions and things there in future, so make sure you give the page a like.

And finally, to be filed under “Any Other Business”, or possibly “Stalking, The Internet and”, I was told last week that I have a biography and bibliography on this Russian SF site, which is cool and bizarre at the same time, but at least I now know how my name looks in Cyrillic. Google’s English translation is a little funky, but the compilers of that page have done a pretty thorough job.

There is also now a Wikipedia page for me, which is short but sweet, and seems accurate. I don’t know if it was made by the Russian fans as well, but anyone who isn’t me is welcome to expand that entry!

Back to work!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have legibility!

Well, I hope so. One of the headaches of web design is trying to get things looking right across all major browsers and operating systems. A website has to be readable, which means typography is important.

Anyway, this site uses Google Web Fonts to deliver the same fonts to any and all systems. Except, of all the browsers in current use, there is one in particular that has terrible Google Web Font rendering. Ironically, it’s the Windows version of Google Chrome.

I’m not sure whether I should be surprised or not, but hey, that’s the way they’re doing it.

So this site has been switched from Open Sans to Droid Sans, which appears to be more legible in Google Chrome. If anyone has an issues or questions, please post a comment!

New website!

Hey! Welcome to my new website. It’s very shiny and has lots of new features and it’ll encourage me to post more often, which is a good thing.

There are a few bits and pieces to fix up, some layout things here and there (not sure where to put a few things at the moment, so bits and pieces might move around). But if you find anything broken or missing, rest assured I’m on the case!

 

The year ahead

2012 eh? Cool. I like it already.

Event reminders:

It’s at the point now where I can’t keep up with reviews or mentions of Empire State, so rather than try and list them as they come up (which is a little dull anyway) I’ll do weekly roundups each Friday. I’ve also got a number of interviews and guest blogs coming up so they’ll go in the weekly listings too.

So, 2012. Fellow Angry Roboteer and Team Decker member Cassandra Rose Clarke wrote a good blog post the other day about the difference between goals and accomplishments, which is worth a look. I think she’s completely right, and I’m quite guilty of setting accomplishments instead of goals myself. The thing about publishing is that there is so much of it that is out of an author’s control. All you can do is make sure you are doing your best to position yourself properly, should the right opportunities arise.

And essentially, that just comes down to one thing: keep writing. If you keep writing, and keep writing well, you’ll have material and content that you can then show to other people, and hopefully they’ll like it enough to buy. It’s that simple, honestly.

With that in mind, here’s my list of 2012 goals:

1. Complete, revise, and send out current novel in progress.
2. Complete draft for two new novels
3. Complete, revise and send out one or more of the novels listed in (2)
4. Complete edits and rewrites on Seven Wonders for Angry Robot.
5. Work on new non-novel writing project.

All of those are things I have total control over. Although of those only Seven Wonders is under contract, they are all non-negotiable. Item 5 is a little vague, but I’ll know more about it and what needs to be done to it once I’ve worked a little more on it.

Onwards!