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 meor 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 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 Facebookgets 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 theKindle.
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?
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.
Post title kind of says it all. Further details are here, but it all boils down to this: each week in June, everyone who's signed up as a Fan on Winterbirth's page on Facebookgets entered into a draw to win a signed, dedicated or otherwise personalised copy of Bloodheir. Sounds like a bargain to me. (And there's not exactly a gigantic army of fans on there at the time of writing, so if you go join up now you're in with a fighting chance. Not that we're actually going to make the fans fight each other, obviously. Though that might be worth bearing in mind for future competitions ...).
There's a sneak preview to be had on Winterbirth's Facebook page: the new map that will be appearing in Bloodheir is posted in one of the photos albums there. I think the photos are one one of the things you can access there even if you're not signed up on Facebook, so anyone who reckons they know what new territories the action will be moving into in book two can go have a look and confirm their suspicions.
If you are a Facebooker, you might want to consider adding yourself as a 'Fan' of Winterbirth. There're likely to be one or two more bonuses showing up there for fans over the next few months, possibly even including the chance to get your hands on a free advance copy of Bloodheir. And in other news, looks like the Polish version of Winterbirth has emerged into the light of day, published by Kurpisz. 'Zimowe Gody' defeats the Polish translation engines I've been able to find in a quick online trawl, but there seems to be a 'winter' in there somewhere, so maybe it's a more or less direct translation of Winterbirth. Should anyone fluent in Polish happen to be passing by, feel free to enlighten me.