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Honourable mentions

Week one of the new decade draws to a close (no, I’m not getting into an argument about whether the decade starts in 2010 or 2011. Get. Over. It), and after a bit of heaving and swearing (lots of swearing), I’m finally dragging Empire State back on track. After about two months in the doldrums, it’s a bit like that old metaphor of turning a cruise liner around. It takes a bit of coaxing, and it’s not a fast process. Anyway, one million words, here I come.

Meanwhile, Cherie Priest, the author what wrote that damned fine book Boneshaker that I harped on about earlier, seemed pretty pleased that she rubbed shoulders with Stephen King on the pages of this blog. Thanks for the link, Cherie!

And this I dig, a lot. Reader ediFanoB, whom I randomly bumped into on Twitter due to our shared love of steampunk, has a few words to say about my novella, The Devil in Chains, on his website. Now, The Devil in Chains isn’t a new release, and one of great mysteries of the publishing world is how books are all hot news on the week of release, then everyone forgets about them. I mean, Coke advertise several times a day on TV, and you can go to the store and buy a can. But I can also go to my local bookstore and buy, say, Salem’s Lot, but you don’t see Salem’s Lot advertised anywhere. Although writing is an art and a craft, publishing is about building name and brand. With that in mind, I’m pretty chuffed that ediFanoB enjoyed The Devil in Chains enough to not only blog about it, but demand I get on with the rest of the series and get Dark Heart (the first novel in the series, for which The Devil in Chains is a stand-alone prequel) edited and, heck, published even!

Well, that’s why I do it. I write stuff that I hope people enjoy. And if they do, that’s my job done. Thanks, edi!

The awesome and radical of 2009 (part 1)

Yet another blog talking about the year just gone, eh? Hmm. I’m not going to analyse or wring my hands over it. I want to talk about this bits that made 2009 great. Because I’m a fan of odd numbers (maybe because I happen to be an odd numbered age in odd numbered years?), here’s nine of my great things for the year. In part 1, we’re talking Twitter and Stephen King.

Twitter

Twitter changed my life. Okay, compared to other social media and networking tools, it’s still not used by a lot of people if you compare it to say Facebook. Apparently most people who do sign up never come back after a few days. It gets a lot of stick – why do I want to know what you had for dinner? That’s a common jibe. And that’s fine. If you don’t get that Twitter is about communication – the limitless possibilities of real-time conversation and interaction with people – then no problem. But for those of us who do get it, and who use properly (i.e., you don’t tweet about what you had for dinner, because that’s amazingly boring), it’s a tremendous asset.

The number of people I have met and become friends with, the number of old friends I’ve reconnected with, the number of acquaintances and contacts I’ve encountered and had meaningful discussions with, has been immense. Writers, agents, publishers, big names and small names. And because Twitter is about conversation, you don’t have that clinical, “once-removed” feeling of Facebook. Where else can you discuss Dinobots with A. Lee Martinez? Or have Kevin J. Anderson butt into a conversation to recommend a book? Or swap computer game tips with Felicia Day?

Not that is is about schmoozing with the famous or pretending to be best friends with celebrities. As a writer and a reader, it’s been an invaluable resource. I’ve met agents and editors, I’ve learnt about the publishing business, I’ve met writers and we’ve talked about methods and habits and tactics and strategies. I’ve met publishers and talked about publishing and have, over the year, acquired an entire shelf of books either through recommendations, free copies, ARCs or competitions. I’ve met bloggers and reviewers, and readers and fans. I joined in February 2009, and because of Twitter, this year has been like no other.

Stephen King

I have to admit, I’ve underestimated Stephen King. I also must admit that, until Under the Dome, his mammoth 1100-page novel that came out in November, I hadn’t actually read any King. Ever. Oh dear. Perhaps I had equated his success and high output with a lack of substance – and in general, there is an inverse relationship between popularity and quality. Just pick up any bestseller next time you’re in a bookstore and read the first page. But his name is frequently mentioned, and perhaps there was something there worth investigating, so on a whim I picked up his audiobook reading of On Writing, his autobiographical writing guide. It was brilliant, and taught me a thing or two. Whatever you thought of his books, said I, King knew his onions. This is perhaps the biggest understatement of the year, of course, but I had to start my journey with something!

I’d known about Under the Dome since the beginning of the year, but it wasn’t until the publication date drew closer that the chatter about it started. And thanks again to Twitter, I not only snagged the US edition (with it’s wonderful cover) for $9 (thanks to a price war between Wall-Mart and Amazon), but I entered and was a runner up in the Under the Dome hidden text competition. My prize? A copy of the UK hardcover (not such a good cover) and a limited, numbered ARC. I got 10/200, and have hidden it away safely in a dark cupboard.

And the book? It’s wonderful. In fact, it’s the best book I’ve read in many years. I’d given that accolade earlier to the remarkable Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, and really a comparison between the two books is pointless as they are so different, so they both get the prize.

And the best thing about discovering Stephen King is that I’ve got another 39 novels still to read. I’ve already had some warnings about a few of them, but coming to them with a fresh eye (and I’ll start with his 1974 debut, Carrie), we shall see! But I remember something that Gail Carriger said when I interviewed her in October about her steampunk debut, Soulless. She talked about a book having some indefinable “commerciality” that made you want to read it and keep reading it. This is why Stephen King is successful. He tells great stories very well, but his prose also has that magical X-factor. For such a doorstop of a book, Under the Dome had me hooked from the first page to the last. I wanted to turn each page. I even, rarely for me, stayed up late reading it. I’m lazy and fall asleep easily, so take that as the best recommendation I can give. Under the Dome is terrific.

Tomorrow – writing and reading and trips to California…

A little R&R

So much for daily updates during NaNoWriMo.

This weekend I’m off to the UK’s best comic con, Thought Bubble, held every November in Leeds. Some of my favourite writers and artists will be there, the hotel we’re staying in is right next to the convention centre, and it’s a great chance to take two days off and relax and recuperate and collect sketches and generally have Good Times.

Because November has hammered me a little, I must say.

It started off well. Harper Voyager – the science fiction/fantasy imprint of major publisher Harper Collins – named me “Tweeter of the Month”, which meant not only did I get a wee blurb in their monthly e-newsletter, I got a swag of books from them including some George R. R. Martin and Rad Bradbury.

And then my good friend Mark Nelson (zardoz67) won the Stephen King hidden text competition – and was even interviewed by The Guardian – and, amazingly, I came in second. The prize is a limited, numbered, advance reading copy of King’s new novel Under the Dome, and although that hasn’t arrived yet, they sent me a regular store hardcover in the meantime. I must say I’m completely chuffed to be one of the two runners up, considering more than 5,000 people entered. My hidden text entry is here.

Rad Bradbury: Empire State is also going well – I’m not writing every day, which is a problem, but the book is currently at 30,207 and on track for completion. The reason for not writing every day, and indeed not updating this blog, is because suddenly the day gig went mental. And not in a good way either, which means it has been a significant drain on not only time but energy, which for a writer who needs to write out of office hours, is really bloody annoying.

However, here’s the plan. Two days off enjoying Thought Bubble, plus I have Monday off for some writing catch-up. Then just two weeks of the day gig and I’m on holiday for a month, and then after that (fingers-crossed) I’ll be my own boss.

Roll on 2010. See you Monday!

Tweet this!

Blog update incoming, but I’ve added my Twitter stream over on the right there. Is that the right place for it? I can’t quite decide.

But while I work out the perfect position for it, you can follow me on Twitter as ghostfinder.