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Rogue Trooper #2, written by some bloke called Brian Ruckley, will be in your local comic shop and available for digital reading at comixology.com tomorrow. Huzzah! (You can even read the first few pages of it for free in a preview, here for example).

To celebrate, I’m giving away signed copies of Rogue Trooper #1 over on the Winterbirth fan page on Facebook. If you’d like to be in with a chance of getting your hands on one, all you need to do is head over to the Winterbirth page, go to the post that starts SIGNED COMIC GIVEAWAY and follow the entirely idiot-proof instructions.

If there are more entrants than available copies, I’ll pick a winner next Monday.

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It occurred to me there might one or two new visitors digging around here today and in the near future. So now’s probably a sensible moment to point out that as well as this here blog (to which you should 100% definitely subscribe if you use RSS), I can be found on Twitter, and there’s a page for my books on Facebook, where I not only hang out now and again but run occasional giveaways for signed books and such like.

On this particular site, you can find stuff about me, stuff about my books (including a load of bonus material relating to my Godless World trilogy), and the obligatory page of links to stuff around the web I enjoy. Although that last one’s a bit out of date, now that I look at it; should really give it a bit of a freshen up one day soon …

Quick note, for those as yet uninvolved with my other internet presences.  (You may wish to remain uninvolved, of course, which is fine!)

I’m gradually getting in to the swing of the Twitter thing, so if you’re so inclined please do stop by @Brian_Ruckley and hit the Follow button.

I have not entirely switched my virtual allegiance, so the Winterbirth page on Facebook is still ticking over very nicely.  I have a half-formed idea to do a little signed book giveaway over there if and when the number of folks attached to it hits a certain arbitrary (and top secret!) number, so feel free to go add your Like to the number if you wish.  You never know, you might push the total over the edge …

Coming soon here – i.e. in the next day or two – a post with the working title ‘Everything I’ve Ever Written is a Failure’.  Sounds cheery, no?

I’m a slow – or at least highly selective – adopter at the best of times. No cable or satellite TV, no Blu-Ray, no smart phone. It’s taken me a looong time to come round to the idea of Twitterising myself, but I’ve done it now. What made me take the plunge?

Facebook changed, that’s what. The Winterbirth page on Facebook has proved a really quite effective, efficient and enjoyable way of staying in touch with those who had opted in by proactively clicking the ‘Like’ button. The content of this blog shows up there; I run an occasional signed book giveaway; leak early items of news etc. etc.

Right around the start of October, the proportion of those signed up to the Winterbirth page who were actually seeing each individual post that showed up there fell off a cliff. As in, it went from something like 25-40% to currently less than 10%. Hmmm. A blip? A random variation? Apparently not. Changes are afoot inside the black box that is Facebook, and although it’s difficult to tell quite what’s going on (rumour and allegation and denials abound, largely centred on the whole issue of ‘Promoted Posts’ and Facebook’s increasingly desperate search for profits appropriate to a company of its size), I frankly don’t much care; all that matters to me is the effect. A handy communications channel between me and those who have self-identified as being interested in my books or (much less likely) me has become rather less handy.

So, given that one communications channel has been rather suddenly narrowed, choking off the flow of my boundless wit and wisdom on its journey out into an appreciative world, I unsurprisingly starting thinking about opening up a new one. Hence me on Twitter.

I’ll continue to use Facebook as I’ve always done (so it’s still worth you joining the Winterbirth crowd over there if that’s your main window on the social media world). I’ll still blog here. I’ll just tweet too. Some stuff will show up in all those media; some stuff will only show up in one or two of them. You can pick and choose what you get and in what form. Maybe I’ll do a post here sometime soon about what my attitude to Twitter is, and what can and can’t be expected of me in that arena (clue: as mentioned, I don’t have a smart phone, so there’ll be no ‘I’m getting into the dentist’s chair, and she’s looking mean’ tweets).

This whole thing did put me in my mind of something I try to keep in mind, but don’t always give the attention it deserves a as concept: Corporations Are Not My Friends.

I don’t particularly mind Facebook doing whatever it is they’ve done. It’s their technology, their system; they need to make money. They make their choices, I make mine.

But corporations exist to serve their interests and objectives, not mine. Those two sets of interests may well coincide much of the time – indeed that’s what the corporations fervently desire, and always try to give the impression is happening. They bend over backwards to present everything they do as being in the interests of the customer, the user. They wear the fixed smile of a friend, a companion, a benign presence in your life striving at all times to make that life better. Easier.

Cobblers. In their interactions with you, a friend has the objective of making your life better or easier or more fun. Because they’re your friend. In their interactions with you, a corporation has the objective of making – or appearing to make – your life better or easier or more fun. Because they want your money. The two interactions may, at times, appear similar; but they’re absolutely 100% not, because the underlying motivation is profoundly, pervasively different.

When a corporation gives you something – a great mechanism for staying in touch with your ‘fans’, immensely competitive book prices, attractive discounts to reward you for joining a loyalty scheme, whatever – it sometimes looks like, or is presented as, an event that’s happening in the context of a warm, mutual relationship. It’s not. It’s an event that’s happening in the context of an extractive relationship. Extractive of your, or somebody else’s, money sooner or later, somewhere, somehow.

I know it’s an obvious point, but I think now and again some folk (including me) lose sight of it.

Much of the interaction that goes on between corporations and individuals is indeed bengin, sometimes actively beneficial. I like discounts, bargains, opportunities, stuff as much as the next person. I don’t want the system to collapse. I just want to remain mindful of the fact that corporations are not – and should not be – my friends and cannot be expected to actually have my interests at heart. The apparently benign stuff they offer to me is nice but it can, on occasion, have not-so-benign consequences, intentional or otherwise. Rules and systems can change without consultation, devaluing my past investment of time or mental effort. Systemically discounted prices can ultimately endanger or transform industries in unforeseen (and, for me, undesirable) ways through the creation of quasi-monopolies. I can be suckered into buying stuff I neither need nor really want.

These are not things real friends would intentionally do to you. They are things corporations intentionally do to you all the time. Because they’re not your friends; they just want your money. It’s not their fault. It’s what they’re for.

Coming Sometime (whenever I get around to writing it): Why Authors Aren’t Your Friends Either. Or Are They?

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In not-News, but vaguely News-related, News I’m celebrating the little burst of News last week by giving away signed books this week.

The action is over on the Winterbirth Facebook page, so if you’re a Facebooker head on over there and leave a comment on the relevant post (it should be obvious, since it’s titled SIGNED BOOK GIVEAWAY! or something similar) to be in with a chance of getting your hands on your choice of signed book what I wrote.

And as previously mentioned, I’m still thinking of having one more News Epilogue this week, in the form of an audio file of me talking.  I realise this will fill precisely no one with feverish anticipation, but as an unashamed podcast junkie it tickles my fancy to put my own horrible voice out there, in however modest a form.  So at some point in the next day or two, that may well show up here.

That’s all.  Au revoir!

People ask me questions. Which is nice. I try to answer them if I’ve got the time, but that’s a commodity that’s in rather short supply these days so I can’t always be as volubly responsive as I’d like. As a fair proportion of those questions tend to congregate around certain topics, I thought I’d try the bulk purchase approach, and offer up some answers to some of the more frequent queries here. We’re starting with some housekeeping-type questions today, but I promise to get to (possibly) more interesting writing-related stuff in a future episode. Onward!

The Social Networking Question. No, I’m not a member of the Twitterati, so you can’t follow me there. No, I don’t frequent LinkedIn or Myspace or a. n. other social network of your chocie, so you can’t connect with me there. Sorry. All that stuff is appealing, but it’s a prodiguous time sink which feels dangerously like doing real work without actually falling into that category. For now my social networking energies (not vast at the best of times, being the dour and reclusive soul that I quite obviously am) are fully occupied by this here blog and by Facebook. On the latter you are welcome to befriend me or befan the Godless World trilogy, the latter perhaps being the more highly recommended option since (a) the books are arguably more interesting and deserving of your affections than I am, and (b) you might benefit from one of the occasional giveaways hosted there (of which more might be in the imminent offing – I’m toying with some options for next month at the moment).

Will I Answer your Interview Questions? If you want to publish the interview in a blog, magazine, whatever, the answer is probably yes. Like most newish writers, anonymity is my deadliest foe, so I crave attention with much the same desperation as a starving man craves chocolate cake. If you can offer me eyeballs I will endeavour to offer you some answers. Can’t guarantee it, but if time permits I’ll certainly try. If you want to interview me for a school or college project (I never knew asking writers questions was such a popular project activity for students!) – the answer’s still probably yes, but that ‘probably’ is starting to take on strong ‘possibly’-like characteristics. It’d help if (a) there aren’t too many questions, and (b) they indicate that you actually know who I am and what I write and that you’ve put some thought into them. Even then, I might sometimes have to say no if my to-do list is getting ugly. Don’t hold it against me.

Will I Read Your Manuscript? That’s a very flattering question, given the implication that I might have something sensible to say about your book/story/whatever. I never object to being asked it. But the answer’s no. (Unless you’re an old and dear friend friend of mine in which case: maybe, if there’s a beer or two in it for me). There’s a whole unruly host of reasons why I must decline, of which that bugbear of ambition, time, is by far the most important. I mean, manuscript’s are big, you know? And my not exactly impregnable finances are dependent on me producing my own, not reading other folk’s.

Also, consider: You are no doubt a thoroughly pleasant, grounded, sensible sort who genuinely wants constructive criticism with a view to improving your manuscript. There is another sort – a very small minority, occasionally seen frequenting discussion boards here and there – who may think that’s what they want, but are actually in search of praise and validation above all else (such people, I’d suggest, are not the most likely candidates for future publication, but you already knew that, right?). They might not appreciate being told their manuscript is less than perfect (which it is – believe me, I know from personal experience that virtually no manuscript, including those that end up being published, qualifies for the description ‘perfect’). So although you’re not going to bite my head off, take a look at that person behind you in the queue for my notional free manuscript review service: don’t they look just a little wild-eyed, a little feverish, a little … too keen?

And honestly, what I think of your manuscript wouldn’t matter all that much. I like to think I can broadly tell the difference between technically competent and incompetent writing, but beyond that my opinion isn’t the one that counts to an aspiring writer. I’ll certainly have one, but like everyone, I read plenty of highly successful published books that leave me mystified as to what their appeal is, so what I think really doesn’t amount to a reliable guide to anything much. The opinions that matter are those of the agents, editors and publishers who control access to the sunlit uplands of commercial publication, and the only way to get their feedback is by submitting stuff to them (after you’ve revised said stuff to death, of course). You have to develop your own ability to assess your work, and getting rejected – or, joy of joys! – accepted by those people is, IMHO, while not the only way, certainly the most reliable way to sharpen that ability.

Here endeth the Q&A for today. More to follow in due course, including a brief meditation on one of the more interesting questions I’ve ever been asked: What Lies East of Anlane? On the off-chance anyone has specific questions they’d like to see me fumble around with, feel free to e-mail me, and if they’re of possibly wider interest, I’ll see if I can work them in to a future blog post.

Item 1: First winner of the Facebook signed Fall of Thanes giveaway has been duly selected. One more chance to win – this coming Friday – so there’s still time to sign up as a fan and thereby get yourself entered in the prize draw.

Item 2: According to this review of Fall of Thanes, it appears I might have made someone cry. Good. I mean that in the nicest possible way, obviously.

Item 3: I did an interview at a slightly more unusual venue than my usual online habitat of sf/f book blogs: Grinding to Valhalla, which as far as I can tell is a sort of mass interview site for mmo bloggers/podcasters. As a result, there’s a little bit more in there about my gaming habits/history than is usually the case.

Item 4: And finally … well I’m not really sure what to say about this (found via CBR), other than that I am at once strangely fascinated and strangely repelled:

So, the plan is this: everyone signed up as a fan on the Winterbirth page on Facebook gets entered into a couple of draws – one next Friday, the 8th, the second the following Friday, 15th – and the lucky winners get themselves a free signed, and optionally dedicated etc., hardback copy of Fall of Thanes shipped off in the post to them by my own fair hand. If you like the sound of that, and aren’t already hooked up with the rest of the Godless World fans on Facebook, get yourself over there and join up.

Or, if you’re allergic to social networking, or just want to short-circuit the system and be 100% certain of getting yourself a signed, personalised copy, get in touch with Transreal Fiction and tell them what you want (click on my name at top right of home page to see how it all works). It won’t be free, but nor will your ownership of it be reliant on the whims of the gods of chance!

Oh, and for those who like these things, there’s a fairly chunky extract from Fall of Thanes to be found here.

A few quick notes as 2008 heads towards its end and 2009 looms on the horizon.

I am one of a great many guest posters on the Fantasy Book Critic blog, offering some brief comments on stuff I read this year and stuff I might read next year.

New for 2009! The latest addition to the universe of prizes for genre books is the David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy. The inaugural winner will be announced in 2009, once it has been chosen by … you, the public! You can check out the long list of nominated books here (and yes, Bloodheir‘s one of them), and vote for your favourite here.

For any early-adopting, US-based, ebook geeks out there, Winterbirth has made it onto the Kindle.

Most Shocking Realisation of 2008: I have reached a point – I don’t know whether it’s age-related, or career-related or just a transitory state of mind – where the single most exciting shopping experience I can have is apparently delivered by … stationery superstores. The long lines of endlessly but subtly different office chairs (ever single one of them just crying out to be sat upon, and every one of them seeming more welcoming than my current model), the packages of photocopy paper stacked in bricky towers, the notebooks – the notebooks! – of every hue and size and binding. Pens. Even better: pencils! Folders. I have no need of folders – I already have more of the things than I have stuff to put in them – but I can’t help but embark on a critical examination of their robustness, their rigidity. It’s possible I may need to get some professional help in 2009, to cure me of this strange affliction. I mean, I realise these places are sort of consumerist temples to the business of writing, and therefore bound to be of some interest to the likes of me, but I can’t help but feel there’s something vaguely unseemly and deeply uncool about finding them so … exciting.

For those who are Facebookers: you can now follow this blog, or be a part of its network, or something, over there. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the deal is, but it’s available. Whatever it is. And you’ve already joined the gang on the Winterbirth page, right?

Novels that have come into my possession, in one way or the other, over the course of the festive period so far: Vinland by George Mackay Brown, Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson, The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks, Black Man by Richard Morgan, Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory. Such bounty! Is any of it going to be any good? Oh, I should think so …

Etymology! I like a good word, and ‘swashbuckling’ is a good word. But where, I wondered, did it come from? Thus I discovered the very handy Online Etymology Dictionary. And the quite interesting origins of ‘swashbuckling’.

Finally, and most importantly, to all readers and visitors to these parts, all best wishes for the year about to be new. Here’s hoping 2009 is good to us all. See you next year.

I’ve been interviewed at mighty length over at A Dribble of Ink. Go have a look, if you like.

Plus, we’re now in the final week of the great big Bloodheir giveaway on Facebook. Three lucky winners have already been picked out of the hat (actually, rumour has it they’re being selected using an old set of D&D dice, but I don’t know how credible such rumours are …). One more chance to win, this Friday, so if you like the idea of getting your hands on a signed, dedicated hardback of Bloodheir, go sign up as a fan at the Winterbirth page on Facebook. You’ve got to be in it to win it. Or something like that.

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