Monthly Archives: May 2011

In the Headlines

In case you CBF’ed reading the copy above, my trilogy just sold in Poland to Buchmann. They publish Tom Clancy, so maybe he can advise me on which Pacific Islands are worth buying. Hai fivez.

In other news, my month-long post-edit hiatus is now over, and I’m back to working on book two.  I’m about 80k into it, but only the Flying Spaghetti Monster knows how many of those are actually good, so we’ll see how we go once the dust settles. It’s most definitely shaping up into a “it’s always darkest before the dawn” style tale, but therein lies the trauma with all second acts. I admit that I quite enjoy torturing these tiny little people I’ve created. Plus, I actually thought of a title I’m super-chuffed with, which in my mind is 90% of the battle won.

I’ve made it over the Eccleston hump and I’m into the Tennant episodes of Doctor Who. Mickey just joined the crew, and I’m praying he gets face-huggered very quickly, or the Doctor cracks the shits with his constant “What’s goin’ on ‘ere den?” routine and flushes him out an airlock.

No further news on STORMDANCER. Edits are still with the Powers That Be. No doubt as soon as I get into the groove on Book 2, I’ll get more edits on Book 1, so rather than lolly-gagging about here on the blog all day, I’d best get back to it.

Oh btw, in case you missed it, I’ve got an author page on Facebook here. And if anyone can reveal to me the secret of changing my Author Page URL (rather than the Personal Page that admins the Author Page) I personally guarantee you a signed copy of STORMDANCER once it comes out. Or some skull-stonkingly good booze. Whichever you prefer.


Publishing in E-minor

First off, I’d like to propose a minute’s silence in memoriam of the Macho Man Randy Savage. Only through his heroic sacrifice in battle vs Zombie Jesus was the rapture averted. Oooh yeaaaaaaaaaahhh.

Alrighty, I have a long running “debate” (drunken arguement) with a couple of folks about the whole “Traditional Publishing” vs “E-Publishing” thang, so in order to prevent the staggering drop off in readership my posts experience when I blog about happy stuff like the end of the world, I thought I’d try to jolly it up a bit today and write about, you know, WRITING.

So in the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of self-published authors, the most famous of whom is probably Amanda Hocking, who during April-December of 2010 sold a metric fuck-tonne of e-books (note: a fuck-tonne is roughly 200% of a shit-tonne) and instantly became the poster child for the entire e-pub movement. A couple of my droogies have asked why I chose to go the traditional publishing route when you can make squintillions and become ultra-mega-famous and buy your own socks by self-publishing. So, thinking about it (and bear in mind these are only my opinions, and I’m only one fellow), here are my thoughts on why I went the old-fashioned route:

Time – I work full time. I’m not fortunate enough to have wealthy parents or a wife who earns a bomb and is willing to support me pursuing a career in which the likelihood of success is somewhere up there with the chances of you making it through the Star Wars drinking game alive if you draw Luke Skywalker. My job is cool, and it’s not the kind I take home. However, it realistically only affords me a few hours every day to do my own thing. If I had to do editing, typesetting, cover design, marketing, publicity, etc, I’d have no time to, you know, WRITE. (Incidentally, this was Ms Hocking’s #1 reason for signing her $2 mil deal with my publisher, St Martin’s recently)

Quality Control – When I finished STORMDANCER, I thought it was perfect. Every word was gold. It wasn’t until I had professional publishing people look it over that I saw the flaws. The truth is, it could have been better. And now, having gone through my agent, his assistant and my two awesome editors, it IS better. About 100% better than it was when I first stuck a fork in and declared it done. The thing about people in the publishing industry? They do it for a living. They have experience and insight that I don’t. My guys edit Nebula and Hugo winners. World famous authors. In short, they know their stuff. And they work to help my stuff get better. When you self-pub, it’s just you and your pet cat Mr Snuggles. And while you might totally trust Mr Snuggles when he declares your opus will be the next Harry Potter, you do realize that you’re mad don’t you, he’s a fucking cat.

Standing Out – The awesome thing about the rise of self-publishing is that anyone who wants to can now put out a book. The worst thing about self-publishing is that anyone who wants to can now put out a book. Because (and this is an awful truth) just like most people can’t play in the NBA or become brain surgeons, most people can’t write. Writing a book is like playing the guitar. People see a Green Day clip, say “WTF, I can play three chords” and start a rock band. And 99% of them suck aren’t very good. People read Twilight, say “WTF, I can write better than this” and fire up the word processor. And 99% of them blow goat are less than superlative. But now they still get published. Eeeeee-published! And your self-published book is going to be sitting right there alongside these books on the e-shelves, struggling to get noticed in a steaming sea of adverbs and bad love triangles. And sure, there’s the theory that “blood will out” – that good books will get good reviews and rise above and sell millions. Maybe that’s true. But it seems like a longer shot to me.

After signing to St Martins and TorUK, STORMDANCER has a tiny little bit of cred. The theory is that it’s got to be somewhere better than bad, because traditional publishing is in the doldrums, and any book that gets sold at auction in this day and age needs to have SOMETHING special about it. I dunno if this theory is true. I’d like to think it is. But perhaps I never recovered from that acid trip I took in 1997, and all this is going on in my head while I stare at a blank wall and say “wibble”.

Affirmation – Your friends might say your book is awesome. Your wife/husband/real doll might say it too. Mr Snuggles might spasm into paroxysms of bliss when he stares at your pages. But honestly? If your friends are anything like mine, they can’t be trusted. Your real doll? She can’t even talk. And Mr Snuggles, as previously mentioned, is a goddamn cat. Agents work on commission. When an agent signs you, they’re saying “I believe in this manuscript so much, I’m willing to spend a lot of hours working with it ON FAITH. Because I BELIEVE it will sell.” When a publisher signs you, they’re saying “We believe you’re going to sell at least X copies (X being a factor of your advance). We believe it so much, we’re going to get this hulking machine of a publishing house rolling, dozens of people spending hundreds of hours that we’re paying for ON FAITH. Because we BELIEVE it will sell.”

And hell, sometimes they’re wrong. Lots of books don’t sell. But when you see this machine start to roll, and it’s all for you, you can’t help feeling “Yeah, maybe I actually don’t completely suck as a writer”. And that’s the feeling you take into your next book. And sure, it might be insecure to need that affirmation. But show me a slush-pile author who isn’t insecure, and I’ll show you an author who talks to their bloody cat.

Self-publishing strikes me as an easier path – I’m not saying it’s easy to be successful in e-publishing. HELL NO. And I’m not saying it’s easy to write a book. It’s not. Writing is hard. Being successful at it is near impossible. But I suspect that many people look at e-publishing after they’ve failed via traditional routes, because they can’t face the fact that their stuff just isn’t good enough yet.

I have almost 100 rejections under my belt (and I consider this a relatively small amount). My first book took 18 months to write, and I couldn’t find an agent willing to represent it, let alone a house to publish it. And right then I could have said “Well, what do you know, all you people who make your livings in the publishing industry? I’m going to self-publish.” Instead I listened to criticism. I realized I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. That I didn’t know everything (still don’t). And I went back to the drawing board and started again. Took all those rejections and channelled all that frustration and wrote another book. And it was better. Ten times better. And it sold. At auction. Rejection made me a better writer. It made me push myself and write well outside my comfort zone. Everyone needs a good kicking now and then.

You need an ego to be in a creative field. You absolutely MUST believe in your own talent. But when everyone who pays their rent through the publishing industry tells you “This won’t sell”, they might be onto something. Yes, you might the one in a million shot where everyone called it wrong. It’s absolutely  possible. But it’s more probable that they’re right – that you’re not ready yet. There’s a fine line between ego and madness. A lunatic is a minority of one.

There’s lots of valid points about why the e-publishing route is sound. I find it easier to dismiss the arguments of a guy like J.A.Konrath, because everything he says is written from the PoV of a guy who had already established a brand through traditional publishing channels. The Hocking case is compelling, until you realize she just sold her next four books to a major house (amidst the gnashing of teeth and deafening cries of “sell ouuuuut”). Given the choice, she’d rather be a traditionalist. But still, there’s a case to be made, and many good points within it. Creative control. Greater royalties (Although 100% of 0 is still zero). Rights ownership. It all makes sense.

So in the end, in my mind, it comes down to this. A question. For all the slush-pile peeps out there declaring the death of publishing and the rise of the e-beast from the highest virtual rooftops, I ask you this:

If a major house offered you a seven figure deal to publish your first novel, would you still risk slinging it over at Smashwords?

If the answer is yes, then go forth young man/woman/tentacle beast. I commend your boldness, and in all sincerity, I wish you brilliant, staggering success.

If the answer is no, get back to writing the book that’ll get you that seven-figure deal, my droogies.

These days will change us all

I usually try to be amusing in these blog posts, but I’m failing totally today. If you’re up for the lolz, to the wrong place you have come, young padawan.

The setting for STORMDANCER is “dystopian”. There’s something tragically hip about dystopian settings atm – publishers can’t seem to get enough of them. But I didn’t write an “end of world” setting because I thought it might sell some books. I wrote it because I genuinely believe it is the duty of the artist (and I realise I’m dangerously close to sounding like an utter tosser here) to reflect the times he or she lives in.

At its heart, STORMDANCER is a story about the destructive price of a seemingly progressive technology. It’s a story about extinction, and the fact that sacrifice is necessary to turn a big ship around. The “ship” in the book is an island called Shima. But really, Shima is just an analogy for the ship we’re all sailing on at this very moment. A small, insignificant blue-green ship somewhere near the western spiral arm of the galaxy.

In order to publicize the rate of species loss our planet is currently undergoing, the United Nations holds the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22nd each year. That’s next week. The truth is, this planet (OUR planet) is suffering an unprecedented rate of species death. Not since the mass-extinction of the dinosaurs have so many forms of life on earth been under threat, or simply wiped out. And the sad and sobering fact is, this destruction isn’t being caused by a meteorite impact or some other factor beyond our control.

Its being caused by us.

This is shitty news. And the truth is, some people don’t want to hear it. They’d rather read about what Kate Middleton wore to the royal wedding, or watch an episode of Jersey Shore. But extinction is forever. It means these creatures are never coming back. No DNA frozen in amber inside mosquitos, no theme parks, no re-runs. Just memories and dusty photographs, if anyone knew about them at all.

Some sobering facts:

  • Depending who you read, somewhere between 30 and 150 species are wiped out every day on planet earth. An extraordinarily conservative estimate is that we lose around 1 species per hour. Every hour of every day. One species. Gone. Forever.
  • We are currently chopping down or outright burning one and a half acres of rainforest every second. If you are possessed of a basic high-school education, you will know about photosynthesis;  the concept that trees convert carbon dioxide (you know, the gas that’s causing the greenhouse effect) into oxygen (you know, the stuff we need to live). We are literally chopping out the lungs of our planet. Click here, skip down to “Regions” and check the “Remaining habitat” figures.
  • There are currently five vast soups of non-degrading pelagic plastics and chemical sludge floating in the oceans on this planet. There is more plastic than plankton (the foundation of the oceanic food chain) currently floating in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Rate of decline in plankton numbers is currently sitting at 1% per year. This figure is set to increase exponentially in a long-term downward trend, as ocean temperatures continue to rise due to global warming. Without plankton, the entire oceanic food chain falls to pieces.

This is the tip of the iceberg. But the information is out there if you genuinely want to learn, and there ARE positive steps you can take towards reducing your impact on this incredible planet we all share. You don’t need to join up with Sea Shepherd or start bombing oil depots. If you’d rather watch Jersey Shore, well, you can do that too. But you should probably watch this first.

Sorry for the lack of lolz. I’ll try to be funnier next week.

emoc ot sgniht fo epahs eht ylno s’tI .demrala eb t’nod, diarfa mees uoY

Two Minutes Hate: Urinal Talkers

Dear fellow males,

Please stop talking to me at urinals. Don’t even try to make eye-contact with me. Jesus wept, you’re there for business, not to find a Best Man for your wedding. Stare at the wall. Say nothing. If I am on fire, like literally being consumed by flames at that very moment, you are permitted to mention it to me. BRIEFLY. If the Z-Virus has gotten loose from R&D and my co-workers are roaming the halls, hungry for the sweet gamey tang of human flesh, no, SHUT YOUR GODDAMN MOUTH. Do your thing, zip up, and walk the fuck away. I’ll find out about the zombie thing when I get outside.

Why do I even need to explain this? Where was your father when you were growing up? His job was to teach you two fundamental rules about toiletry: 1) Don’t get it caught in the zip. 2) Don’t run your mouth to another man while you have your JUNK IN YOUR HAND.

Maybe you grew up without a dad, and the shocking erosion in basic toilet ettiquette is indicative of society’s greater decline. But please. For the love of God.


Before I forget

Totally forgot: this arrived in the post a few days ago. It’s officially official.


There can be only one

My author portrait is done (you can find the least offensive of the session in the “about Jay” page), and thanks to the extraordinary talents of Mr Christopher Tovo I don’t look like a shaved chimp in a Karnivool T-Shirt. No small task considering the subject matter, but hell, if Sir Tovo can make Chopper Read look presentable, he can do pretty much anything.

Now, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked if I was the lead singer of the Foo Fighters, I’d probably be driving a Ferrari have close to a neat hundo by now. Admittedly, in a darkened room, with a six pack of alcopops in you, you might be fooled into thinking I was a world-famous musician and be tempted to ask me to autograph your cleavage, but THIS WILL ONLY END IN TEARS.

True story – I actually had a guy hovering around the photo session with Chris, and when he caught my eye, this fellow mouthed the words “Dave Grohl?” with a hopeful expression on his little face, and looked like I’d kicked his dog when I shook my head. (I offered to sign his cleavage anyway).

So to the hells with it. This I vow: Next time someone asks me if I’m the Grohlster, I’m going to adopt my best yankee accent and say “Yeah, man”. See where it gets me. Free drinks hopefully. Autographing some girl’s lovelies? Maybe not so much…

Postscript: I just got off the phone with my dad (he’s got a new iPhone and has just discovered my blog). Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

Dad: “I like those new photos you put up. Which one are you going to use?”
Jay: “What do you mean?”
Dad: “The two photos you put up.”
Jay: “You mean the black and white ones I just posted?”
Dad: “Yeah. The one on the right is better. Use that one.”


It is done, therefore it is good

My editor’s notes for STORMDANCER materialized in my grimy little inbox on March 8, 2011, about six weeks after my deal got finalized. After spending a few days getting my head around said notes and some very pleasant back and forth (ie, me stamping my foot like a primadonna and my editors laughing at my antics) I duct-taped my hands to the keyboard, kissed my wife goodbye and started revisions.

There was a towering shitload quite a bit of work to get done. Not so much “changes” as “augmentation”. My eds wanted MORE –world building, dreaded exposition, detail, detail, detail. The good news was that (after my primadonna act) I wasn’t being asked to chop much of anything. The bad news was chopping words takes a lot less time than writing new ones.

I was forced to sit down and think about my world on a micro level. To codify aspects that I’d only really glossed over. To draw maps, write mythology, create history thousands of years before the events in my book. For a horrible, tragic nerd like me, it was about the most fun I could have with pants on. But it takes a long fucking time. Made even longer by the fact that my beloved  live-in-editor wife A-bomb is far smarter than me, and can spot flaws in my feeble logic from a thousand yards away.

But I’m very happy to report that it’s now done. About 30,000 new words. If the world of STORMDANCER was an oil painting in my head before, it’s now a high-def 72 inch plasma screen image. Filthy and wretched and thoroughly beautiful. The book is so much better than it was before. So, a public shout-out to my awesome editors, Pete Wolverton at St Martins and Julie Crisp at TorUK.

You guys frackin’ rule.

(and now, I’m off to play Dragon Age 2 while I wait for the line-by-lines :P)