Brian Ruckley's News & Views

Saturday, November 07, 2009

I'm Baaaack ...

Enough of this Autumnal blogging inactivity. Got to take baby steps back into the habit for fear of straining my moribund blogging muscles, of course, so just a couple of quick notes to start with:

Czech edition of Winterbirth emerges blinking (and perhaps even bawling?) into the world, under the title ZROZENI ZIMY. It sports a distinctly striking cover - not sure who, if anyone, the specific characters are supposed to be, but they definitely look ... alarming. Tempted to think of them as some heavily-armoured version of Wain and Kanin, but who knows? Thanks to reader Martin for sending me a useable jpg of the cover.

My parents were awesome. A completely and unreservedly true statement, of course. In fact, they still are awesome, but that's not the point. The point is this: the My Parents Were Awesome blog. I don't know if it's just me, but I find it an extraordinarily affecting, interesting, hypnotic, moving, evocative etc etc site, given that it is such a simple idea: reader-submitted photos of their parents, mostly as young(ish) adults, offered without commentary, without location or context or anything but the most simple identification. Page after page of them, and as I work my way through them it feels like I'm looking into lives, into stories, into the past, into other worlds almost; and I invariably find myself thinking 'Why, yes. What obviously awesome people. Just look at them. They look wise, and fun, and kind, and thoughtful. Awesome.'

It's a silent, restrained archive of childrens' love and respect for their parents, an acknowledgement that those parents lived lives as rich and strange and individual as anything their children have managed. Fantastic stuff.

More waffle here soon.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bargain of the Month!

For a measly one dollar, those of an e-book inclination can, all through April, get themselves one whole copy of Winterbirth for their e-reading pleasure, as this little site confirms. Available on Kindle, Sony and from booksonboard, whatever that is. One dollar! Nearly two hundred thousand words! That's ... a measly 0.000555 cents per word. And at least some of the words in there are truly great, I can tell you; worth a whole lot more than that.

I'm guessing most people stopping by here already have a paper and ink copy of Winterbirth, but if you've got an e-reader, I guess you might want a digital copy too? More importantly, if you know anyone who's into the whole e-book thing, perhaps now's the moment to point out they've got almost nothing (well, one dollar and a bit of time) to lose by giving Winterbirth a shot. Spread the word! I need to buy food!

EDIT TO ADD: Meant to mention, but failed dismally, that this is a US promotion, so all you non-USA type people can ignore all of the above. Sorry about that.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Odds and Ends in the Twilight of the Year

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.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Interview with the Maniac and Other Stuff

In honour of the release of Winterbirth as a US mass market paperback, I have been interviewed over at There's also a review up over there, which is generous enough in its praise to make me blush (you can't see me, but I'm blushing. Really).

Seems a bit self-indulgent to take up blog space just for that (I know, someone with a blog suddenly starts worrying about being self-indulgent. Imagine that. Next up: a politician admitting they have no clue whatsoever how to solve a problem). Anyway, since I'm here, a handful of other webby things:

The Abominable Charles Christopher. A web comic by Karl Kerschl. I enjoy it. Nicely drawn.

The Orbit Page on Facebook. You can now become a fan of an entire publishing imprint. It has cover galleries of upcoming books, news on author events etc. etc.

Golden Age Comic Book Stories. Is a torrential cornucopia of great art, not remotely limited to comic books. I was going to try and pick some favourites to link to, but it's pretty much all good.

British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition. For the aspiring authors out there, a chance to flex your genre muscles.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Another Country Ticked Off

A first, very brief, visit to Ireland for me over the weekend. Gorgeous place. Was in the Burren, on the west coast, which is a place so fantastically landscaped it looks like it belongs in fiction.

Huge expanses of exposed limestone, all corrugated and cracked. Basically looks like a moonscape, only with less dust and a bit more grass (though in some places not much more - the photo above is really a positive oasis of grassiness compared to the really cool bits, but of course I didn't get a photo of them). And for extra cool points, the whole place is dotted with relics of Stone Age humanity. Like this tomb, which looked precariously balanced to me, but presumably will last a bit longer since it's made it through from BC times this far:

Away from the limestone, it's all rolling countryside, verdant fields and wide open shores.

Very nice. Well done, Ireland. Good effort.

Despite the fact I wasn't paying attention, the world saw fit to continue to happen over the weekend, and indeed happen in ways that manage to be very modern but would also be entirely familiar to our ancestors from a few hundred years ago: the hyper-modern (and rather fine looking) sailing ship Ponant got seized by pirates and last I heard is holed up in a Somali port hiding from the French navy who are in pursuit ... Terrible business, I'm sure, but since nobody seems to have got hurt so far, I feel able to admit that my first reaction was something along the lines of: 'Ha. Cool. Them's some pirates with taste.'

And in other, marginally less noteworthy news, the US mass market paperback of Winterbirth turned up in the post. It's published next month, and is a lovely little thing that I am entirely charmed by. Small, but perfectly formed.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Questions, Answers and the Cost of Bridges

Every so often, you get a reminder of why the internet and e-mail are such fine things. A minor example: a flurry of e-mails from readers this week, and I can tell you, there are few things more likely to lift the spirits of a writer - it being, as everyone always says, such an isolated and potentially lonely old business - than hearing direct from the readers (assuming they're polite and friendly readers, of course).

The best thing is, it's a two-way process, so I can fire a random question out into the virtual ether, and get an answer back in basically no time at all:

"The title Zimowe Gody means more or less Winterbirth. 'Zimowe' means winter (as an adjective). 'Gody' is the traditional Polish name for a wedding, but also may be used for other festivities (like your book's Winterbirth)."

So now I (and you) know. Fantastic. Thank you, Pawel. Incidentally, googling 'Zimowe Gody' - an entirely pointless exercise due to my ignorance of the Polish language, but I couldn't help myself - did at least reveal one thing of which I was previously unaware: Poland appears to have a frankly staggering number of online bookshops. Dozens of the things, as far as I can see. No idea why so many.

And the two-way thing works in reverse, so people can ask me questions or make suggestions, like Andy, who wants an extract from Bloodheir putting up on the website or the Facebook page asap, please, thank you very much. A little bit of patience is required on this front, I'm afraid. Such a thing will be along before too long, but it's not going to be in the next few days or anything. There's a good chance it'll show up on the Facebook page first, but that's not certain. This is, in fact, a rare example of something showing up in print before it's online: I know, for I have seen it (and it is good) that Orbit US have produced a little sampler booklet containing short extracts from not only Bloodheir but many of the other fine books they'll be publishing this year. But that's not something you're likely to stumble upon unless you're in the publishing or bookselling trade, I imagine, so that's no great help to Andy or anyone else, really. Sorry.

And to end on a morbid note, when I talked about the Forth Rail Bridge a few posts back, the Millau Viaduct was flagged up in the comments (thanks, Simon), as another bridge-type thing laden with the Wow Factor. Quite true: it's a stunner, although it might be ever so slightly too perfect and clinical-looking for me to really love it. Not sure.

Thinking about these two amazing constructions raised a question in my mind, and thanks to the internet, finding an answer was trivially easy:

Number of construction workers who died in the three years (2001-2004) it took to build the Millau Viaduct: 0. Yes, that's precisely zero.

Number of construction workers who died in the seven years (1883-1890) it took to build the Forth Rail Bridge: No one really knows, but probably something like 98.

How things have changed. Those Victorians knew what they were doing when it came to putting together brick and steel; health and safety at work, not so much. Just last year, a memorial was finally created in memory of those who died working on the bridge. But what I find more moving, for some reason, is that you can go and see the name, age, job and the exact day they died for many of them right here. It's a strange experience, to scroll through those lists, and one that would be impossible without the amazing internet.

Of course, things have not changed so much everywhere. The death toll of construction workers is only one - and arguably not the greatest - of the costs associated with this infamous megaproject, but still: apparently, over 100 of them died. That's a lot of dead workers, if true. I wonder if they'll get a memorial? Or have their names listed on the internet?

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Downs and The Ups

Today started badly. Man in truck reversed into the front of my car, destroying number plate, breaking bumper and inserting tow hook so decisively into the wreckage that the two vehicles were as firmly attached as a pair of mating dogs. Much fiddling about with a jack, splintering of plastic and general struggling later, and they were finally parted. Sucks as a curtain-raiser to a new day, and on the whole it set the pattern for much of what was to follow.

There was one glimmer of sunshine, though, since on my return from the scene of the truck v. car strife, oily-handed and irritated, I found an e-mail tipping me off to the existence of kind words about Winterbirth, uttered by a notably talented author. Jeff Vandermeer, in his Best Sf/f of 2007 report for Locus, says 'Winterbirth is the debut of a formidable fantasist, capable of writing complex and often fascinating heroic fantasy.' Very nice, and all the sweeter for coming from someone who has written remarkable books: City of Saints and Madmen and Shriek are distinctive, strange and fascinating concoctions that linger in the mind long after you've finished reading them.

Ah, life's rich tapestry. It'd be nice to dispense with the downs and only have the ups, but I guess that would asking a bit too much.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Further Adventures in Facebookland

As previously mentioned here, I'm on Facebook and likely to say yes to Friend requests from Winterbirth readers. That's old news. Now, in our continuing mission to explore the new worlds of the internet frontier, Winterbirth has its own Facebook page. Yes, why bother with the author when you can now go directly to the crux of things and make friends with (or in this case 'become a fan of') a book. It's got all the usual stuff Facebookers will be familiar with: pictures, discussion board, news items, blog feeds, links to extract from the book etc. etc. Quite neat. No idea whether it will appeal to people or not, but if you like Winterbirth, go along and have a look, maybe sign up as a fan (or, as I like to think of it, 'moral support'). If there's enough interest, there might be some Facebook-exclusive stuff that shows up there eventually.


Friday, December 07, 2007

No More Hardbacks

The Winterbirth hardback well has run dry. Okay, that's not strictly true, since there're no doubt still some in circulation out there in bookshops and on the internet, but Transreal Fiction, who've been selling the signed hardback, are getting an 'Out of Print' message from the distributors. Should anyone for any reason think a signed paperback of Winterbirth would be nice, or make a nifty Xmas present for someone, Transreal can still supply those, but it looks like no more hardbacks will have to suffer the indignity of being defaced by my scrawlings.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Man Buys Book and other links

What happens when a marketing professional buys a copy of Winterbirth? You get an interesting discussion of one man's fantasy fiction purchasing decsions, and the role of marketing, packaging and promotion in said decisions, that's what happens.

Just in case anyone is sitting there thinking 'Well, I might buy a copy of Winterbirth, but what I really need to inform my purchasing decision is a proper extract. That prologue on your website's just not enough. My appetites are bigger; I need something meaty, substantial and filling,' what you're looking for is now available here.

Leaving behind any pretence at relevance for one final link, here's a report on the use of sacrificial goats in aircraft maintenance.


Thursday, August 16, 2007


There's a very enthusiastic review of Winterbirth over at The Fantasy Review. Good stuff.

At the very end, there's a plea for someone to get out the thumbscrews and extract an answer from me to a particular question. In an effort to cut out the middleman, and because one or two other people have been curious about the same subject, I thought I'd short-circuit the system a bit and do a quick interview with myself. So here we go ... Oh, this will make basically no sense whatsoever to anyone who hasn't read Winterbirth, by the way. Sorry.

Q: Is there going to be any more information on the Anain, Saolin or Whreinin?

A: Well I don't want to stray into spoilerish territory. The safest thing to say would be that a little more info on all the races can be found in the Gazetteer on this very site, and more is likely to appear there eventually.

Q: 'Little' is a very accurate description of what's currently in the Gazetteer. You can surely be a bit more revealing than that?

A: Okay, okay. First off, the Whreinin are extinct, so the chances of them taking an active role in this trilogy are ... slim. They may get talked about now and again, though. For those interested in the archaeology of the writing process, back in the mists of time there did once exist a draft of Winterbirth, and a notional outline of the next two books, in which there was considerably more stuff about the Whreinin floating around. It didn't survive the slaughter that is revising and rewriting.

As far as the Anain are concerned, the short answer is yes, there's more to come on the subject of the Anain in both Bloodheir and Book 3. The focus stays on humans and Kyrinin, but the Anain won't be staying entirely passive. What part they play, I obviously can't tell you or I'd have to kill you.

Q: That's slightly more illuminating, I suppose. Still seems a little coy as answers go. You haven't even mentioned the Saolin, for example. Couldn't you ... Hello? Hello? Oh, our interviewee seems to have gone off to boil the kettle. I guess that's the end of the interview.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Paperbacks, a Feast and a Big Fish

The UK paperback of Winterbirth has definitely been released into the wild. I know this because I have seen it there with my own eyes, looking all pale and pristine and appealing on the bookshop shelves. (And because Amazon is uttering those delightful words 'In Stock'.)

In other news, Reader's Paradise bookshop in Cape Town is running a Fantasy Feast for the next couple of months. They've managed to assemble signed bookplates from a whole heap of authors - me included, along with a lot of rather more high profile folk like Tad Williams, Neil Gaiman and Charles Stross (it's an sf feast too, see) - so there's a veritable mountain of signed books available, along with various other goodies. It looks like a great event (and a great shop), so now anyone who's in Cape Town in August or September knows where to go ...

And here's a link to a photo that illustrates very clearly why I won't be going swimming in the Mekong River this lifetime.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


More bookskins. The German edition of Winterbirth is due out some time around November. I'm guessing, since there looks to be a line of figures winding its way between the pointy mountains, that this is an image of the Vale of Stones, through which first refugees and then armies march in the book. The trilogy's got the overall title of 'Die Welt aus Blut und Eis' (The World of Blood and Ice) in German, which sounds suitably dramatic. Wagnerian, even?

And the final version of the cover that's going to be used in the US and on the UK paperback (released in September and August respectively) has emerged, slightly different from - and I think ever so slightly improved on - the one I posted a while back.

I've liked, in one way or another, all the covers I've seen applied to Winterbirth so far. No doubt some of them will work better than others in drawing attention to the book (and selling it, which is my favourite part of the process obviously), but I don't really feel able to judge that (yet - I wonder if publishers dread the moment when authors start to develop and voice strong opinions about things like cover art?). What I can say is I'm a big fan of the UK paperback cover, which is the only one I've seen a hard copy of. It's got a nice cold, gritty vibe going on. Plus, although you can't tell it from this image, the word 'Winterbirth' is embossed and has a bit of a metallic sheen to it. To be embossed is good; to be embossed and shiny is doubly good. You see how easy authors (well, this author at least) are to please?

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Orbit USA

Orbit's new USA imprint is showing its first signs of life: And the first book displayed on their publishing schedule is ... Winterbirth. It's scheduled for release in September. This is a good and exciting thing.

As is pretty much always the case, crossing the Atlantic involves a new cover, so here's what Winterbirth will be wearing in the US this Fall:

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Odds & Ends

There's a very friendly review of Winterbirth over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. If all goes according to plan, I should be doing an interview for that site soon, too.

A PS to my last post about Interzone: I discover (via the excellent UK SF Book News) that there's an ambitious newcomer on the UK sf/f/h short fiction scene: Hub Magazine. While idly poking about their website, I further discover that they have a competition in their first issue, in which they seem to be giving away copies of Winterbirth. Now if that doesn't tempt the masses into subscribing nothing will. Maybe. Or not. Anyway, quite aside from their excellent taste in competition prizes, any new fish in the small pond of UK genre magazines is to be welcomed.

Plus: Looks like another European sale of the Godless World trilogy is sorted out, this time for the Czech Republic. Hooray.

And finally: I'm looking forward to this. Rumour has it, it's pretty good once it gets going.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Winterbirth Goes on Holiday

Even a book needs a break now and again. Tom sent this photo of Winterbirth relaxing on a beach in Mallorca, in the company of a cool sand sculpture. Like it. The book was released into the wild in a hotel lobby, so somewhere in Mallorca there's a lonely copy of Winterbirth mooching about the bars looking for friends, probably fluttering its pages seductively, asking people if they like its cover and trying to shake the sand out of its crevices.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Winterbirth Going International

Just in case any non-Brits are visiting (and very welcome you are, if so), it might be worth mentioning that there are to be translations of Winterbirth. Dutch, German, Russian, Polish and Romanian editions are in the works so far - exciting stuff for your average first-time author who thought just trying to get a UK publishing deal was being optimistic!

The first to see the light of day is likely to be the Dutch edition from M, scheduled for around April 2007. Current plans are for the German edition, from Piper, to hit the shelves in Autumn 2007. I am in awe, by the way, of those who have the skills to translate a novel. Being functionally illiterate in any language but English myself, their abilities seem almost magical to me.

And for anyone toying with the idea of buying the good old-fashioned English language version of Winterbirth, a reminder that if you contact Transreal Fiction they can sell you a signed (and optionally personalised!) copy, as reported in this post. It may be an enormously valuable heirloom one day. Or a handy signed doorstop. Never know when you might need one of those.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Signed Copies - an Update

So ... I said a few days ago that there were only two ways to get my signature in a copy of Winterbirth:

(a) ask Orbit to send you a signed bookplate thingy for insertion into your copy, and

(b) search the bookshops of Edinburgh for the signed copies that most of them have (or certainly did have a week or two ago).

Well, now there's a third rather more user-friendly option that works even for those who don't live anywhere near Edinburgh: contact Transreal Fiction, Edinburgh's specialist sf/f bookshop, and they will be happy to sell and post you a signed copy. There might be ever so slight a delay, since I will have to actually pop in there to sign the thing, but it'll only be a few days. A (very simple!) personal dedication or inscription should be possible if you ask for it.

I believe Anderida Books, a specialist seller of signed first edition books of all kinds, also has a few signed copies in stock at the moment, or will do very soon (as well as whole host of other tempting offerings for the discerning book collector).

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Friday, October 13, 2006

A Tentative Schedule, Signed Copies, Vicious Books

Got a couple of questions via the website, the answers to which may be of wider interest, so:

When are the second and third books in the trilogy going to be published? The plan is for a roughly annual schedule, so Book 2 should be out late 2007, Book 3 late 2008. Plans are fragile things of course, but that's the one in place unless and until something changes. Titles are to be confirmed - I think I know what Book 2's called, but at the moment I've got title block over Book 3 ...

How can I get a signed copy? I'm afraid for the time being there are only two ways, and one of them's relevant only to a few readers. The first is to contact Orbit ( Orbit(at)littlebrown(dot)co(dot)uk with the (at) and (dot)s replaced as appropriate, of course ), and ask them to send you a signed bookplate that you can put into the copy you've already bought. The second applies only to those geographically fortunate enough to live within easy reach of Edinburgh: most of the bigger bookshops have signed hardbacks for sale (unless they've improbably sold them all already).

And finally ... got my first report of Winterbirth-induced bloodshed: "In an incident as freakish as it was dramatic, at 6am this morning I managed (in my sleep) to knock my newly acquired hardback copy off the shelf above my head and deliver a gash to the forehead ... Luckily I wasn't blinded but I think I will gain a black eye." Obviously I regret any pain and suffering caused, though a little bit of collateral damage is probably inevitable in the cutthroat world of publishing. And it does seem strangely appropriate, given the not-unbloody cover art.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Real Books

Winterbirth has finally completed its long transformation from soup-of-vague-ideas to real live book. It has now entered both hardback and trade paperback bookhood. One or other, or both, may well be available in a bookshop near you right now at, of course, a very reasonable price. I think they're pretty.

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