I just got word the line edits on Against Gravity are on their way to me - the first chunk, anyway. Which means knuckle-down time, and probably some changes major and minor. AG was a very hard book for me to write, simply because I wrote it knowing I had a book deal. That put a ton of pressure on me, knowing I had to come up with something worth a substantial amount of money: I knew I had to deliver.

Second novels (and second albums, second art shows, second plays, etc) are notoriously difficult creatures. When you write a book without a deal, you write under less pressure, for obvious reasons. Writing under the UK system (in the US, I believe, people sell a book at a time, with little in the way way of multiple book deals, except for the trilogies/connected series) where you sign a single contract to write maybe two or three books for the same publisher, followed by a decision whether or not to ink a new contract depending on your sales figures, is a system designed to kill off whole slews of brain cells at short order.

I was intrigued to discover that David Mitchell, author of Cloud 9 and Ghostwritten, specifically avoids this problem by always writing each book without a contract, and only then approaching publishers with his manuscript. Curiously enough, the book I've just started doesn't feel quite so pressured. Partly because I won't allow myself to get that way again, and partly (I suspect) because it's being written subsequent to the specifically two-book contract I have with Pan/Tor UK. Partly maybe, also, because I've had generally speaking some excellent reviews, and these make me feel a little more confident.

But the news that really knocks me out is that I can expect the cover design for AG sometime in the next several days. This, I'm looking forward to, although there's a little trepidation in there, simply because it matters to you as an author exactly how you're going to find yourself represented by the artist assigned to your book. I'm lucky, however, in that the artist concerned is Steve Rawlings, whose work I rate very highly indeed. His stuff appears at once highly detailed and impressionistic, and the end result is what appears to the eye as several layers of imagery, some half-visible in a way that suggests more rather than less.

We'll just have to wait and see.

'Things Unseen' is currently standing at about five thousand words, an opening chapter that's almost completed. After that I'll probably go over it a dozen times or so, working it over, and adding detail where I can. Then I might show it to some people, see what they think, although it's hard to get an idea of where a writer is going from only one chapter. I don't as yet have a fully detailed outline, more a rough sketch of where I see the story going. I'd hoped I might be able to have a fully worked outline by now, but I've come to realise I'm one of those writers who just can't work that way. I have to, literally, make it all up as I go along, and so far it works. Titles: I was playing with some other ideas for titles. 'The Sight of Things Unseen', which is where the previous version is taken from, appeals, but sounds a bit too Lovecraftian for what I'm doing (although that might not be a bad thing either). I thought of Sacred Geometries, until I discovered it's a term with a more specific application to a certain type of occult study. Oh well.


I kept my eyes out, but the interview with me, Mike and Al never materialised in the pages of the Evening Times, so more than likely it's been spiked permanently. I'm only a little surprised, and that only because subsequent to the interview they sent a photographer out to take some shots of us. Why go to that much trouble if you were intending to run the piece? But perhaps they were intending to run it, and something more important came up. Feh.

I've been working on the new outlines. Once I've got something more cohesive ('coherent' might be a better word), I'll be firing stuff of to my agent. One of these has a working title, 'Things Unseen', which I don't really like, so expect that to change. As I may have mentioned somewhere else, this is a break from the past couple of books. 'Things ...' is set in Seventies New York, and involves: modern art, murder, Nazis, mandalas, remote viewing, and covert CIA projects.
The other outline is for a new space opera. That'll probably come second, mainly because it's going to be longer and even more heavily researched than 'Things ...' by dint of sheer necessity. Though when I say 'space opera', maybe 'hard sf epic' might be a better description. No title for it yet (a much earlier, far different outline was called 'Stealing Light', which I still really like as a title, but it just doesn't fit the new outline, so back to the drawing board where that's concerned).

I did manage to write a couple of words for 'Things ...', testing the water, as you do. Well, about 1k or so. Feels all right. Interruptions from revision for Against Gravity aside, it feels like I've started another book.


Incredibly busy week. As I mentioned a while back, MJ put together a press release for me and sent it out to most of the local newspapers, which resulted in myself, Hal Duncan (first book out next year from Tor UK), and Mike Cobley, being interviewed by Sheila Hamilton, a journalist for the Evening Times.

What happened next: she arranged to give me a call about a photo shoot for the three of us, at the Science Centre across the river from the SECC. I heard nothing from her, and assumed the interview had been permanently spiked. Monday morning I get a call from a photographer, who says he's been waiting at the Centre for half an hour, myself having received absolutely no word of this from Hamilton. So various phone calls were made, and the shoot was rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon, which turned out to be one of the extremely rare sunny days of the year.

I've mentioned before that the south side of the Clyde is changing rapidly. Not only are the BBC building a brand-new state of the art facility a short walk from my house, so are several other media companies, as a result of which certain nearby areas - such as Govan, practically a ghost town in parts, over the past couple of decades - are seen as prime real-estate-in-waiting, something I'm hoping and at least partly expecting will have a knock-on positive effect on the value of my place. The Science Centre, next to the BBC's building site, looks like it should, like an artefact of the new century. So naturally they chose it as a backdrop to the shoot, which was enjoyable, but exhausting in the blazing sun.

I haven't seen the piece in the papers yet, which leads me to suspect it might have been temporarily spiked for future reference, or perhaps it'll be in the paper sometime this week. Or perhaps not until Worldcon next year: I'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, I did a reading and question-and-answer for a good-sized crowd at Ottakar's, a small chain bookstore located in a large and busy shopping centre almost dead smack in the centre of town. This was marginally nerve-wracking, as you might expect, but all my fears were allayed and it went very well indeed. Most of the audience, big surprise, were people I knew, but there were a good few pleasantly unfamiliar faces there as well. It was nice getting to sit there, with a big, attractive-looking pile of the books next to me on the table.

Afterwards I signed a shedload of copies, and although I didn't count, it felt like a good number were purchased as a result of the reading. Some of the Edinburgh writers were also present, particularly Andrew Wilson who writes for The Scotsman. Phil did me an intro, I read a couple of passages from the book, answered some questions, and then a crowd of us continued the night at the Counting House, which is a large city-centre bar just off George Square.

I also got an excellent review of the book in The List, which is the Scottish equivalent of London's Time Out, a combination of events, theatre and cinema listings, along with arts, music, film and drama reviews and interviews - whatever your local equivalent happens to be. I'd specifically asked the publicist at Pan Macmillan/Tor UK to send a review copy to them, since I knew it had a better chance of being reviewed there, and a better chance of being picked up on by potential readers. You'll note this review is now quoted up on the right hand bar.

At some point I'm going to have to hit one or two of the other local bookshops and sign some of their copies for sale. I already signed some spare copies for Ottakars, so that's at least one out of the way.


Angel Stations is out today!

I found it on the shelves in Glasgow’s Waterstones, although it wasn’t on the ‘new books’ display shelves. There were several, however, faced out on the regular shelves. I did what every writer does in these circumstances; I picked up a couple of copies, and carefully placed them, face out, on the ‘new books’ shelves. You could say I had a sense of quiet satisfaction, seeing it there on the shelves.

More good reviews, particularly one in ‘Dreamwatch’ magazine: "a strong debut novel that promises well for the future and a serious contender for the shelf space currently occupied by Greg Egan and Richard Morgan". This will, of course, be up on the right-hand bar of the blog within the next few days, if not the next few hours. There’s also a mini (very mini) interview with me next to the review, along with a, frankly, slightly rough-looking picture of me. Well, it looks rough to me. And reminds me I’ve been meaning for ages to get a better digital shot, maybe in the garden, for the Pan Macmillan publicity people to use. They did ask for one before, but I didn’t have a digital camera at the time. I do now (or rather, MJ does).

Hal Duncan has already spoken about it at length on his own blog, but he, myself and another Glasgow-based author Mike Cobley met a journalist from the Evening Times the other afternoon. MJ put together a press release for me a couple of weeks ago and sent it out to a good few of the local rags, and on this occasion it looks like she hit paydirt. The journalist was as interested in hearing about the writer’s circle, so it seemed like a good idea to get a couple of other writers along to get involved. One writer having a book out is one thing, but demonstrating that there’s a remarkable contribution to the genre as a whole originating from north of the border, particularly if you include Edinburgh - that’s a whole other level.

The feeling I got from the journalist was that she didn’t really know what to expect (her slightly bewildered words to me on the phone: "what … kind of people are you exactly?". Part of me suspects she anticipated a couple of deeply socially challenged anoraks with a complete set of Battlestar Galactica dvd’s, and this feeling arises from what struck me as some confusion/surprise on her part that we were interested in talking about literature, not even necessarily restricted to science fiction.

The good thing about having Hal along on these things is he knows his classical mythology, and is well-informed on the role that stories of the fantastic have played in dozens of cultures over the span of recorded human history. So, we talked about writing, and books, and some fairly complex subjects, all really far too deep and involved for the newspaper she was writing for - the Evening Times. I’d say about 99% of what we said would never make it into the pages of what is, after all, a Scottish tabloid, but I was hoping we got across that we were serious about our craft, both in terms of execution and of our attitude towards it. If that impression comes across in any subsequent news piece, then we’ll have done okay.

If the article does go ahead, we can expect to do some kind of photo-shoot involving the three of us some time early next week, following which I suspect the piece would appear in the following weekend’s edition. But, like Hal says, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll still call us ‘sci fi’ writers.