The Great Muse yells Bingo: or, that was 2017

That's my editing work done for the year. The last couple of months have been super-busy with a ton of work coming in. I'm a long way from complaining, but hopefully I can spend the next couple of weeks catching up on other, more personal projects. Meaning, of course, I hope to do a lot more writing through to early January.

So I thought it might be nice, now I actually have time to do things like blog, to take note of this year. What I've been doing, what's ahead, and what I read that I got a kick out of.

Over the past twelve months I've been keeping busy producing fiction in the form of three novellas - although one of them, still in progress, is edging deeper into novel territory.

The first, Ghost Frequencies, a contemporary ghost story and hard sf thriller, is to be published in the near future by NewCon Press, a highly-regarded small press in the UK well-known for the quality of their work.

The second, Devil's Road, is quite a different beast, being more in the vein of science fantasy/horror. Not only that, unlike pretty much anything else I've ever written, it's influenced by cinema rather than literature. In a way, it's a love letter to the science fiction films of the 1980s, particularly those directed by John Carpenter. It's still currently under submission to a publisher, but I'm hopeful it'll sell.

The third is, of course, a sequel to Extinction Game and Survival Game, tentatively titled Last Tour of the Apocalypse. I'd figured this would top out at somewhere around forty thousand words, but at the time of writing it's slightly north of 55,000 words and about three quarters of the way through a substantial and deep second draft.

I also got started on a full-length novel, called Proxy. That's stalled for the moment at about thirty thousand words. Progress with it is fine, but I've decided to put it to one side and concentrate on finishing Last Tour.

Well, hopefully in the next year I might sell Echogenesis, which I spent most of 2016 writing after my relationship with Tor UK ended in late 2015. I'm pretty confident it'll sell, but when is another matter. Mainstream publishing, even two decades into the 21st Century, remains as glacially slow as ever. My plan for next year is to finish Last Tour, then finish Proxy, and then begin another project.

Hopefully I'll get enough editing work to sustain me, but more stable employment is something I need to consider in the coming year, as I will no longer have regular payments from a publisher to sustain me outside of bi-annual royalty payments and a single annual payout from British library services. Those alone can add up to a couple of grand, and hence are not insubstantial, but again aren't enough to live on.

In case you're wondering how I feel about all this, I'm fine. I'm confident both in my abilities as a writer and in my prospects for selling the stories I write. I've read enough biographies of writers and also met enough well-known writing professionals to know that dips in one's fortunes are far from unexpected. There is no slow and steady progress for most working writers: instead it's a craggy sine-wave of peaks and deliriously long troughs.

On the other hand, I'm writing Last Tour in the full knowledge the chances of any mainstream publisher taking it on are roughly nil compared to, say, my chances of writing something entirely original. There's interest from at least one small-press, but first I have to finish the damn thing. And if it comes to it, I have no objections to self-publishing it.

About halfway through the year, I started using a piece of software called Timing. It culls data and tells you how long you've spent working on specific projects or in specific apps. As a result, I know that since about mid-June I've spent approximately 271 hours writing fiction, and 172 hours working on book critiques.

Until a couple of months back, I avoided doing too much critique work so I could focus on writing fiction, living mostly off savings and the last incoming payments from Tor UK as well as royalties. As a result, since the start of 2017 I've managed to write about 150,000-160,000 words of fiction: two novellas, a second draft of a short novel, and the first thirty thousand words of the first draft of a full novel.

If I assume my output in the first half of 2017 is roughly equivalent to that in the second half (to be honest, I think it's probably a lot more, but let's keep things simple for now), I've spent a total of perhaps 550-600 hours writing fiction.

If you break that down into days, it doesn't actually seem that much compared to, say, a year of full working days. But writing tends to come in sudden stops and starts, with a great deal of work often done in a relatively short period of time. It also doesn't necessarily include the time spent staring at a screen, trying to figure out what happens next, or walking the dog and letting ideas roll around in your head until the Great Muse yells Bingo. Add that in, and realistically I'd say the figure is closer to, I dunno, maybe 800 hours?

Since I was writing Last Tour without the hope of a book deal, I started a Patreon account. I had a long, hard think about this before I decided to set it up, partly because I knew (and said) that I wasn't likely to come up with much in the way of 'rewards': new or original stuff you couldn't get elsewhere, made specifically for a Patreon audience. Some people are really good at that kind of thing (Hal Duncan) because, after all, a lot of the people on Patreon are essentially performers. Writers aren't really performers, after all. And while some churn out short stories for Patreon, I'm much too much of a slow and careful writer for that to really fit my personality.

And then again, I've not really gone out of my way to promote it, because, after all, what do you get out of it except the thing I'm already doing anyway? At the moment, it's got two tiers - one, for a dollar a month, where you get nothing but the joy of supporting me, and another, for five dollars a month, where you get some piece of work chucked your way - excerpts from Last Tour, for instance, or a previously unavailable short story.

In 2018 I hope to finish Last Tour and talk to those interested in publishing it - as I say, a small-press. Or, I may self-publish it or, as I've been thinking, do both. Then I hope to finish and sell Proxy, along with Echogenesis. Then, hopefully at last I'll be able to start on something closer to what a lot of people would clearly really prefer I get to work on - a space opera of some nature.

Reading: in 2017, I read about sixty books. Of these, the standouts, for me, were Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell; Bird Box by Josh Malerman; I Am Providence, by Nick Mamatas; Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty; The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka; Afterparty, by Darryl Gregory; and Thatcher Stole My Trousers by Alexei Sayle.

If I had to pick three favourite out of those, it would be Homage to Catalonia, Afterparty and Six Wakes. 

I read a couple of excellent novellas published by Tor.com, who, to me, are clearly just about the most interesting publisher around right now. Unlike most other publishers, they seem willing to explore different models better suited to the 21st Century. I read and particularly enjoyed The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford and The Ghost Line by Andrew Neil-Gary and JS Herbison. Both are haunted house stories, although one is set in contemporary America and the other is set on board an abandoned liner lost somewhere in the solar system.  In non-fiction, I found Ashlee Vance's biography of Elon Musk to be highly enjoyable. A remarkable man, but clearly not an easy one to be around even in the best of circumstances.

I also re-read some old favourites - I have a habit of buying books I already have in hardcopy if they turn up cheap on Kindle. I re-read Excession by Iain M. Banks, to remind myself how he handles space opera. I finally read the final book in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's series, completing a story I first came across on Radio Four sometime in, I think, 1981.

I don't normally write about books I didn't like, but I feel I need to mention Dave Egger's The Circle as one of the best-written dumb books I've ever come across. Talk about craft in the service of idiocy. I thought at the time of writing a very long, very detailed review of the book at the time I read it, but all I'll say right now is that it's one of the most witless, light-weight and badly thought-out books I've come across, built as it is around a core message that bears little relationship to actual human behaviour. It's the literary equivalent of an old man in the street shouting at everyone passing him by that using mobile phones is going to make their gonads shrivel. Egger's is clearly a fine writer - I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius some years ago, although I never completed it - but I wasn't in the least bit surprised to discover he made a point of not doing any research before writing this book. It shows.

And that's it. On to 2018!


Coming up on Patreon

Back when I learned Tor UK wouldn't be looking for a third Extinction Game book from me, I put away the outline I had and didn't look at it for at least a year. Then I glanced at it again and figured I might as well get a novelette out of it. A month or so later, I had the second or third draft of a story called The Long Fall, which came to about eight thousand words. I'd taken one of the central scenes from the unwritten third book and massaged it a bit and condensed certain details and left many others out. I thought it worked quite nicely and submitted it around some short story markets. It got some nice comments, but still got rejected every time. Oh well!

Then I sent it to another magazine and they asked, how about something a bit longer? They were thinking of doing a line of novellas in the near-ish future. I said I'd keep that in mind and thought a bit more.

Cut to earlier this year, when I wrote two novellas of about thirty-four thousand words each in rapid succession. One, Ghost Frequencies, will be published by Newcon Press, most likely some time in the New Year. The other, Devil's Road, is still under submission to other publishers. The suggestion of expanding the short story - that, remember, had started as a novel - but into a novella, took hold.

Then I got a little more ambitious. I could make it into a long novella or a short novel, meaning between fifty and sixty thousand words. This might have been a problem were I still under the constraint of a book contract, but outside of one, I could do what I liked. So I took the novel outline and started rejigging it. A couple of months ago I wrote a fast, loose first draft in less than thirty days that came to about 35,000 words, incorporating The Long Fall.

More recently, I started an account at Patreon where I now have a few supporters. Last month, subscribers got a short e-chapbook containing different versions of a deleted scene from Survival Game. In early December, I'm going to post The Long Fall for subscribers. I think it's a solid story, and provides a little more information about its protagonist, Nadia, and her partner Rozalia. This time around, Jerry and Katya are firmly on the sidelines. It'll also give you a sense of where the third Extinction Game book will go once it's eventually finished.

This third book sits in a funny place. It's a sequel to two books that came out from my previous publisher, and as such, no major publisher is going to touch it with a barge-pole (small presses and the like, however, are a different matter). So why write it? Well, I've done self-publishing before, but never of my own stuff, particularly. Just other people's stuff.

I can't deny there's a temptation to go it alone on this one, but there's more to indie publishing than just sticking a file up on Kindle and clicking 'publish'. The idea of having the support of a small, enthusiastic press has enormous appeal. So right now, things are just a little bit up in the air, in my head at least.

Remember: if you're at all curious to see the alternative version of the Survival Game ending, sign up at Patreon and slap down your filthy lucre. Come the end of this month, it'll be joined by The Long Fall. 


Scrivener 3: my review.

Scrivener 3 is officially out! I've had the opportunity to beta-test it for the past six months or so, and what's really amazing is that it improves on something I might once have said couldn't be improved on. Note that right now the Scrivener 3 update is for Mac users only: my understanding is the Windows upgrade should be available sometime next year. In the meantime, let me have the great pleasure of showing some of the ways I've made use of it so far.

They have, so far as I can see, rebuilt it from top to bottom, and essentially rationalised much of the program. If you're familiar with the old Scrivener, you'll know it featured such tools as a scratch pad, but that's all gone now (Correction! It turns out I'm wrong about this, and in all this time I managed to miss it: it can now be found under Window->Show Scratchpad). Instead, there are merely documents, and bookmarks.

At its most basic level, Scrivener 3 is split into three areas: the binder on the left, the inspector on the right, and the text editor in the middle. Scrivener refers to a book and all of its associated files as a 'project', and when you open Scrivener for the first time, it asks you to create one. It's a project rather than a book because each Scrivener project holds not only the text associated with a book, written or unwritten, but all the other miscellaneous notes, reference images, web links, character sketches and so forth that go into the creation of the central document.

As before, the binder on the left contains several folders, central to which is the Draft folder. As you write, you can split a document up into chapters, and these become visible as separate text documents in the Draft folder.

When I first started using Scrivener, I was more familiar with writing in Word, which presented a book's text as a single long scrollable file. Fortunately, Scrivener has something called 'Scrivenings'. When you click on the Draft folder and select to view it as Scrivenings (View->Scrivenings), it presents all your chapters as if they were a single, long, scrollable document - and indeed that's the way I, and many people, I think, prefer to write. This doesn't prevent you from (say) moving chapters around inside the Draft folder, or splitting them or merging them together, depending on what your novel (if that's what you're writing) requires. That, as always, is one of Scrivener's strengths.

So far, so familiar. But the real power of Scrivener 3 lies, for me, in the inspector bar.

Near the top of the Inspector bar are five icons in a row: Notes, Bookmarks, Metadata, Snapshots, and Comments/Footnotes. The important ones for most people's purposes are Notes and Bookmarks.

When you click on Notes, you get a box for a brief synopsis of a chapter, and below that space for lots and lots of, well, notes. Even if you've got a bunch of chapters displayed as a single document in the main editor,  you'll see that same notepad and synopsis box. You don't have to use them, but they're damn convenient. The notes displayed are chapter- or document-specific. If you display a particular chapter in the main window, or any other document, you'll see any associated notes you have there on the right.

The real power, for me, is in icon 2 - the Bookmarks.

For instance: say you have several chapters or documents displayed on your main editor as a single scrollable file (View->Scrivenings). But say you want to refer to notes that aren't chapter- or document-specific, such as an outline.

Say that outline is saved as a text file in the binder, under 'Research'. You click and drag it across the screen and drop it into the Bookmarks window. It then remains there, with its text displayed below where you can easily refer to it. You can bookmark as many files as you like. Great, or what?

But then it gets even better.

Note that while you've selected Bookmarks in the Inspector, a panel reads 'Project Bookmarks' near the top. Click on Project Bookmarks and you'll see you can also select something called Document Bookmarks.

Perhaps, while working on Chapter 2, you want to refer to events in Chapter 1. While Document Bookmarks is selected in the Inspector, and while Chapter 2 is open in the main editor, you could drag Chapter 1 from the Binder into the Inspector.

This creates a bookmark specific to the document you're working on in the main editor. From now on, whenever you select Chapter 2, and so long as the Inspector is set to Document Bookmarks, you'll see the text of Chapter 1 for easy reference.

Why is this great? Because the power of Scrivener lies in being able to have a large number of different documents open at once so you can cross-reference them while you work in the Main Editor. Document and Project Bookmarks make this much easier and, for me, the main selling point of Scrivener.

Of course, there's more - particularly the Copyholder. Perhaps as well as Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, I also need to refer to my outline. Then I might switch to Project Bookmarks, right-click on my bookmarked outline in the Inspector, and select Open in Copyholder. This opens the outline in a small window for reference (see below).

It's all about getting as much relevant information in front of you, at once, as possible.

Here's an example of something I've been working on:

This is a screen grab of a short novel/long novella I've been writing. From left to right: Binder, Main Editor, and Inspector.

The Main Editor is further split into two vertical windows (to get this, navigate to View->Editor Layout->Split Vertically). The left-hand window displays the book-in-progress in Outline view. This allows me to check various items of metadata associated with each chapter, such as: where, when, and who, as well as a brief synopsis.

Over on the right, you'll see I've selected 'Project Bookmarks', with a list of bookmarked files beneath. Note that many of the same items that appear in Project Bookmarks also appear in the Notes/Synopsis folder in the Binder on the left. While writing, I keep the Binder hidden.

As you can see, I also have a chapter open in Copyholder beneath the Outliner. I get that by right-clicking on - in this case - the lowest item in Project Bookmarks and selecting Open in other Editor's Copyholder. This gives me the maximum amount of information as I work, allowing me to access notes and ideas, other chapters, as well as keeping an eye on which characters feature in a scene, and when.

But wait, there's more! Take a look at this:

If, like me, you're something of a stats junkie, Scriv 3 will give you endless detail concerning your writing habits. How many words, on which days, and a daily average. Go to Project->Writing History.

But even that's not as amazing as Linguistic Focus:

That's right: now there's a menu that isolates dialogue, nouns, pronouns and adverbs, etc, by dimming the rest of the text. When I saw this for the first time, I laughed out loud because it was so incredible.

Note that in the above screenshot Document Bookmarks is open on the right, meaning it displays bookmarked documents specific to that chapter and no other.

Lastly, here's an image of Scrivener with the Notes tab selected, rather than bookmarks:

As you see, there's a chapter title, a brief synopsis area, and below that room for making chapter-specific notes.

All I can say to finish is that, once again, Scrivener 3 has proved to be an absolute world-beater. By simplifying it, they've made it even more sophisticated. I'm very impressed. 


Word on the Street is...

...that I've got another post up on Patreon. Alas! It's locked to patrons only. I KNOW. Walls are coming up ALL OVER THE INTERNET. It's a sign of the end-times, lemme tell ya.

In that latest Patreon post, I talk about:

  • Some publishing news regarding Extinction Game Three.
  • Progress on writing it, so far. 
  • To chapbook, or not to chapbook.

Never fear, I'm not locking away every blog post. I'll still be posting here in my generally erratic, when-I-get-round-to-it way. But why can't I share everything with you, you cry? Well, my friend, you need to be on the inside track these days. In with the in-crowd. Moving with the movers. So ask yourself: are you on the inside? Because if you are, you're already a patron.


Dear Readers, It's Time We Talked

So I thought it might be time for a little chat. Just between you and I, you understand. A little tête-à-tête, as it were, about the future and where you and I see ourselves between now and then.

I appreciate your loyalty. I've enjoyed and been deeply touched by your occasional emails telling me how much you liked this or that book. I've been even more touched by those of you who have chosen to give me the occasional small (and even not so small) contribution through the 'buy the writer a coffee' link. It makes me feel, in some small but important way, like what I do matters.

And things have been looking up: Newcon Press's decision to publish Ghost Frequencies sometime in the next year or so gladdens my heart, particularly since it's a terrific story - one of the best I've come up with, in my opinion.

In fact, I feel like my writing has grown from strength to strength over these last few years in particular. That knowledge, unsurprisingly, makes me want to write more - lots more. And there is a lot more to write.

But there are just one or two pesky realities getting in the way.

I've been coasting these last few years, financially speaking, on income from my ten books from Tor UK. And while I'm still a long, long way from being impoverished, I'm at the stage where I need to look ahead and decide sooner rather than later whether I can afford to keep on writing full-time. Or even part-time, depending on how you measure the hours.

Now, all this may change if or when I get a book deal for Echogenesis. Right now I make a little income from book doctoring and mentoring, but such work tends to be sporadic and it takes up a lot of my time. This is unfortunate, because the one thing I think I'm really good at is writing science fiction. I'd like to write lots more of it, and I'd like for you to get to read it. But I also need to eat and keep a roof over my head. I'd also like to be able to afford to attend the occasional Convention. And buy my dog Cooper the occasional tasty treat.

I also know some of you would really, really like to see a third book in the Extinction Game series.

So here's something you don't know: in August, I wrote the first draft of the follow-up to Survival Game in just three and a half weeks. I did partly in order to see if I could write a full draft of a book in less than four weeks. I also did it knowing that the chances of it getting professionally published are vanishingly small. Almost by definition, it would either be self-published or put out by a small-press.

And that's fine. But time is money, and if you want to see it come fully to fruition, I'm going to need your help. A fast first-draft is one thing, but the long, hard slog of the second draft is another, and always takes a great deal longer. And then there's the third draft, and beta-readers, and further revisions, and so forth - a process that can easily eat up most of a year. Not to mention that while all this effort will be going on, it won't be bringing me in any money.

For this reason and others, I've been thinking hard about sites like Patreon recently. I've seen really quite a lot of writers signed up to it, some very well-known indeed, some less so, but all of them skilled and talented people nonetheless.

As you know, I recently ran a poll for what you'd like me to write next, and space opera came out far ahead of everything else. Well, I love writing space opera, and I fully intend to write more of it (and indeed I already have, in Echogenesis, a planetary adventure in the classic mode).

But before I get to that, there's a few things I'd like to do first.

First, I'd like to finish that third Extinction book. Then, I'd like to write and finish Proxy, a near-to-intermediate future cyberpunkish thriller about identity theft and body-swapping.

Proxy isn't space opera, but between you and me it's a great idea. I have a twelve-thousand word outline for it that is, frankly, awesome.

So here's the deal. My plan is to write Extinction Game Book Three, then write Proxy (or possibly both at the same time), then start work on outlining and planning that stinking great space opera (and possibly series) you all want me to. Which, trust me, will be epic.

But I can't do it without your direct support. Your direct financial support. Especially regarding Extinction Game book three: if I were to self-publish it, it would need edited, and editing costs money. So would a book cover.

And that, most likely, along with everything else, means Patreon.

There probably wouldn't be a great amount in terms of monthly rewards. I don't do chapbooks, I'm horrible at doing either podcasts or video. I am good at sitting down in a damn chair and writing in silence for hours. I guess I could shift my blog writing there, and maybe answer the occasional writing question, and maybe even critique people's own writing if they sign up to support me at a certain level.

But this isn't a definite decision yet. I'm still thinking about it.  I'd need to aim for at least $300US a month for it to really make a difference.

$300 dollars - or about a dollar a month from just three hundred of you, over the space of a year, year and a half - would make writing that third book feasible. Without that, I'm not sure it could be finished within that time, if ever.

Should I run a Patreon, at the very least I could share deleted scenes from previous books, or notes and synopses from the same, and also my writing notes that show how different books were put together over a period of months or years. I also have some back copies of recent books which, I suppose, I could sign and send out to higher-tier supporters.

There's a lot to think about. But to repeat - without that support, the chances of their being a finished third Extinction book are much, much lower.

Hooray, you might say. Now you can write that space opera! Well, that's true. But it's still only the germ of an idea. And there's a secret to writing you really need to know: the best books are written by authors being true to themselves. True to the best ideas they have, as well as to their audience. I know that you want the best work I can give you - and that's what I'm offering, regardless of the specific sub-genre.

So all this is just to let you know where my head is at right now. I have a lot of plans for writing. And it may be up to you to help me make them come true.

Your comments and thoughts are appreciated. 


New announcement: Ghost Frequencies acquired by Newcon Press.

It's my pleasure to announce that Newcon Press have acquired World English Rights to my novella GHOST FREQUENCIES, and will publish it in hardback, paperback and ebook.

Ian Whates of Newcon Press said: “I’m delighted at this opportunity to work with Gary Gibson, an author whose brand of thrilling science fiction I’ve long admired. GHOST FREQUENCIES is a gripping tale of science applied to the supernatural, and the terrifying possibilities that lurk in the overlap. The story will form part of a ‘Strange Tales’ quartet of novellas currently taking shape and it represents a fabulous addition to the NewCon Novella series.”

It's a story literally twenty years in the making, for reasons I'll go into closer to the time of actual publication. Some ideas just take time to figure out how to do them right. The date of publication isn't set, but it'll be either next year or possibly 2019.

In the meantime, I'm working on some other projects, including one in particular which I'll talk about soon here.

My agent, John Jarrold, has put up a press release


Four Things I liked This Week

A few things I've read, heard, seen and otherwise enjoyed or found useful over the last while:

Pounding out a few hundred thousand words per year tends to be brutal on keyboards. I was forced to put aside my Apple bluetooth keyboard when the down-arrow button popped out and refused to be put back.

At first, I was taken aback to realise just how often I use a key I thought I'd hardly miss, and started researching the cost of new keyboards. Then I discovered Karabiner, which makes it ridiculously easy to remap keys. Now the right-hand option button functions as the 'down' key on my Apple keyboard, and I saved myself a lot of money.

I always had a soft spot for Egan's fiction ever since I first encountered it in the pages of Interzone back in the Nineties and late Eighties. This is one of his more 'accessible' pieces, in the form of a short novella published by Tor.com about a movie executive reborn by choice in a new body in the near-to-intermediate future. I can easily see it as a lo-fi independent science fiction film, which would be fitting given the subject matter.

A very twisty Hitchcockian thriller from Spain in which the CEO of a new company wakes up in a hotel next to the body of his mistress. Of course, nobody is who they appear to be, and nothing is what it seems. This one kept me guessing all the way to the end.

A nice little photo filter app with a variety of pre-set filters that give your pictures a very nice, moody edge. I liked this enough I ended up playing with it for quite a while, and it could be genuinely useful for designing (say) ebook covers, especially when compared with other apps or software such as Pixelmator. 


Poll Results

A couple of weeks back I posted a poll in which I asked people to pick which future writing project of mine sounded promising based on a one- or two-line description so I could try and gauge what kind of book people might like to see from me. I think anyone could have guessed what the results might be, but I still hoped for a surprise.

I've been meaning to post about the results for a while now. I would have done so sooner, but I got caught up in writing a new manuscript - which I talk about further down the page. That’s just about finished, so now I think I can talk at last about the poll.

I figured most of you would vote in favour of the description that most resembled the kind of books I’m known for, so of course it’s no big surprise that it came out well ahead of the others. Although I was perhaps a little surprised at how far ahead.

And there was another unexpected result related to the two other choices I gave you.
Here's a screen grab to show you what those results actually look like.


As you can see, the vast majority of you are overwhelmingly in favour of Ghosts of the Deep, which I described as far-future hard sf. The other two contenders, Proxy and Black Dog are, by comparison, a long way behind. But the poll demonstrates they do have their supporters, however lightly sketched  the description of each is.

I was certainly surprised that Black Dog, which I described as Seventies-set Lovecraft, scored higher than Proxy, given Proxy is, ostensibly, cyberpunk. Of course, I didn’t actually use the word cyberpunk in the survey, and maybe that was a mistake.

Maybe it's time to talk a little more about these ideas, and how far they've been developed.

Of the three, Proxy is by far the most thoroughly developed. It currently exists as a detailed six-thousand word outline, and it got an enthusiastic response from my editor when I was still with Tor UK. Unlike the majority of my previous books, Proxy is set only thirty years in the future, and revolves around post-human mind-swapping in the criminal underworld of near-future New York.

Black Dog, by complete contrast, is intended to be full-on horror fantasy, depicting the rise to prominence of a thug-like band manager in the late sixties and early seventies with a great deal of black magic and occult goings-on. Think Valley of the Dolls by way of The Song Remains the Same  and Phantom of the Paradise.

So, yeah. A long way from Stealing Light. But of course, the idea of doing something so utterly unlike anything I’d ever done before is what makes it so enormously appealing. And, like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve read a shedload of Lovecraft, as well as fiction that makes use of the whole Cthulhu Mythos.  So it's natural I might want to write something like that.

Both Black Dog and Ghosts of the Deep, however, are only lightly sketched-in by comparison to Proxy. Even so, this poll is a really useful reminder both of where my strengths lie, and therefore of what I should focus on.

But neither do I want to get stuck in a rut of always writing books that use broadly the same settings and themes. A way out of that is to write more, and more varied stuff. And, indeed, the writing project that took up much of my time this month was a deliberate attempt to see if I could write a first draft of a novel in less than a month.

As it turns out, I can. Therefore if I can write more, and faster, then I can hopefully produce a greater variety of books - not just the ones people want and expect from me, but ones that let me flex my creative muscles. It’s equally possible that some of the ideas I've talked about here could be novellas rather than novels since, after all, they take much less time to write.

The other big takeaway from the poll for me is that running an occasional poll is not only fun, but genuinely insightful. Sure, sometimes the results aren’t always that surprising. But at the very least it's a direct link from your brain(s) to mine, and that's pretty useful. 


Ulysses shifts to subscription model: some thoughts.

In short, not a fan.

For those of you who don't know, Ulysses is writing software, similar to Scrivener but not as detailed and available only on Mac. And Scrivener, in case you don't know what that is either, is also writing software, and very, very popular: I've used it for writing every single book I've produced since 2007. Recently Ulysses announced a shift to a monthly paid subscription model and saw their servers crash due to a flood of visits from people who were, so I gather from social media, less than thrilled by the news.

I've seen some solid arguments about why some firms shift their software over to a subscription model: it's because every time they release a new version of their software, there's an initial rush to buy, followed by a long spell of no purchases until the next major update. With little or no money trickling in, sometimes for years, there's little incentive to work much on updates beyond hurried compatibility patches for OS upgrades. A subscription model, by contrast, keeps money flowing in regularly and allows for more frequent and meaningful software development.

And that's a valid business model - for a software company. For fiction writers and those who might be described as casual users, it's perhaps a different matter.

I think this move shifts Ulysses solidly away from casual to business software. I use both Ulysses and Scrivener, but for different things. I write short stories and book reports in Ulysses, since Ulysses is very good at handling short form work, but not long-form. I write novellas and novels in Scrivener, because there's no contest. It was also a nice way of compartmentalising my work: professional critiquing goes here, my own stuff goes there.

Scrivener is due an update very soon to version 3. I can tell you right now it rocks, because I've been beta testing it for months (I can't talk about it in any more detail than that, I'm afraid). It does make me wonder if Soulmen, the company behind Ulysses, saw what Scrivener are about to unleash and felt their collective hearts sink.

The question is, is it worth it to me to subscribe to Ulysses? Not really, no. Why? Because there's an alternative - Scrivener - that doesn't require a subscription. I could write the cost off as a business expense, but why pay yet more money? If I were using Ulysses for work, every single day, as opposed to spurts of activity as and when I'm asked to critique a manuscript, then a subscription might make sense.

And as a writer, my business expenses are always to the fore of my mind. Money is always to the forefront of my mind, as it is with every one of us whether rich or poor - and to be fair, it's poor, for most of us writers.

That's why this feels like a deliberate move to a specifically business, rather than casual model. If they've got a business model that can support them, great.

In the meantime, however, I'm going to keep using the non-subscription versions of the software, at least for as long as it'll work, which hopefully might be a couple of years. Ulysses has been very useful to me, but when push comes to shove, I know where I'd choose to land - with Scrivener. 


Four Things I Liked This Week

If you're wondering about the results of that poll I posted a few days back, they're on their way. In one respect, the results did not surprise me. In another respect, it surprised me a great deal. I'll elucidate further in an upcoming post.

I've been meaning to share a few things I've read, seen, listened to or made use of, hopefully on a semi-regular basis. Obviously I want you to buy my books, but I don't live in a vacuum: there's other good stuff, and since most of the things I encounter are through personal recommendation, it makes sense to pay that forward. So until I post the results of that last poll, here are some things I liked this week, and that I think you might too:

Comics: Locke and Key, Vol 1-4.
I actually started reading this a while back, but picked up the most recent volumes of this comic book series by Joe Hill during a sale on Comixology.  If you were to ask me for a recommendation, this comic series would likely be top of the list.

The Keyhouse, a sprawling mansion, has been part of the Locke family for centuries. After the brutal murder of their father, the Locke children return to live in the Keyhouse with their increasingly alcoholic mother. They soon discover certain keys open doors, and that passing through those doors produce unexpected results. They can make you bigger, or change your sex, or allow your spirt to wander free temporarily. But there's something hiding in the bottom of the well, and it wants out...

Film: Baby Driver, directed by Edgar Wright
Baby, a former teenage car thief, pays off a debt to a criminal kingpin by working as a getaway driver for bank robbers. His tinnitus means he constantly blasts music into his ears to drown out the noise. Sixty seconds into the movie, with the sound of Bellbottoms by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion blasting out of the speakers, I was ready to stand up and cheer. A triumph of not only vivid and powerful storytelling, but also style. A future and perhaps even current cult classic by the director of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead.

Books: George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
This is the book I wish a lot of the people writing endless military sf novels set in some kind of space Vietnam would read. Orwell, like many,  went to the aid of the Spanish communists and anarchists fighting Franco's fascists during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Once there, he vacillates between boredom, spending long weeks half-drowned in mud at the bottom of a trench to no apparent purpose, and time in Barcelona, where he sees the people he came to help disintegrate into bickering and mutual betrayal, torn apart by larger forces abroad that have their own ideas of how the war should come out. Essential reading for anyone wanting to set a story in war times.

Documentaries: The Accidental Anarchist. 
This may still be on BBC IPlayer. Carne Ross is a former diplomat to countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. He rapidly became disillusioned, and came to the conclusion he was doing more harm than good by aiding the Western war effort in the Middle East. Then he journeyed to Rojava, which is to modern idealists as Barcelona was to Orwell and his contemporaries: a place where a new kind of democracy could be brought into existence. There, he finds anarchism in action and working, and finds the same thing in scattered communities in modern Spain. One of the most enlightening and remarkable pieces of documentary film-making I've seen in a while. 


Time for another Poll!

Time for another poll! Because there’s always time for another poll.

This time, it’s not about whether I should write a novella versus a novel, or a sequel versus something completely new. Instead, it’s about the kind of story I might write next, that’s not a sequel and not a novella.

If I need a justification for this latest poll, it’s simply this: I want to get a sense of what the people who read my books want from me.

Now, to be fair, I think I already know the answer to that. But even so, I think the results would be interesting.

Before we get to the actual poll itself, here is the question I’ll be asking, and the possible answers. The poll itself will be at the end of the blog.

Question: Excluding the possibility of a sequel to Extinction Game and Survival Game, what kind of story would you, as a reader of my books, like to see me write?

1 - GHOSTS OF THE DEEP: Interstellar, far-future hard SF in the mode of Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear and Alistair Reynolds.
2 - PROXY: Near-future, cyberpunk-ish sf dealing with the ramifications of a groundbreaking new communications technology.
3 - BLACK DOG: 1970s-set Lovecraftian horror.

For the sake of context, I have, apart from a further Extinction book, the outlines for a number of other novels. One of these, Echogenesis, has already been written, and is currently being touted around publishers. Echogenesis is undeniably in line with my previous output.

But there are other books still waiting to be written, and the ones listed above are the ones that currently have most of my interest. Ghosts of the Deep is undoubtedly closest to the kinds of book I’ve written in the past, set centuries hence. Proxy is much more contemporary and a lot more cyberpunk in feel. Black Dog is wildly different from anything else I’ve had published - although now is probably as good a time as any to mention that my first ever published short story appeared in a horror magazine in the very early 90s.

Anyway, I’m curious to see what you pick. So click away and I’ll tally the results in a couple of weeks.

(Edit: it appears the poll form isn't appearing in some cases, possibly on people's phones (I see it doesn't show up on my ZenFone), so if you still want to cast a vote while you're on the move, feel free to pick a number and put it in a comment and I'll tally it with the rest.)


The Poll Results

So a week or two ago I posted a poll by way of a casual (very casual) means of canvassing the readers of this blog regarding what I should write next. The three possible actions I asked people to vote on - and the results - are as follows:

1 - Write a novella following on from Survival Game. I really want to know what happens next. (10 respondents)
2 - Screw that. Write something completely new. Don't hold back all those original ideas. (11 respondents)
3 - I hate novellas. You should definitely spend the next year slaving over a brand new book. (3 respondents)

That's a couple dozen replies, which is about as much as you can hope for with these things. Ten people think I should write a novella sequel to Survival Game, eleven think I should do something completely new, and three think I should get the hell on with writing another actual book.

Now, in fairness, it's not the best designed poll. Right after I posted it, I started having flashbacks to college when I learned how to build survey questions that aren't leading or trigger unconscious biases. However, the questions wouldn't quite fit in the box that the SurveyMonkey website describes, so question 3 often disappeared from view. So it's quite possible people didn't see that they needed to scroll the box to see the third question.

Secondly, I neglected to specify in Q2 that when I referred to writing something completely new, it should be a completely new novella. It was implied, but that's not the same thing as stated. So the low figures for option three could be construed as being the result of bad poll design.

Either way, I think we can call it an even split: roughly half of you think I should get on with writing the third Extinction Game story, and roughly half of you again think I should write something new. That means I could go either way.

I did go back into my files and dig out the outline for the third Extinction Game book and work on it again. It was a little rough, since these things are usually put together in a relative hurry for the sake of the publisher. The rule of thumb is these are only rough guidelines for how a book might look once it's done, particularly since a lot of writers tend not to stick exactly or at all to any outlines they might generate. They exist purely to give the publisher a rough idea of what they might get.

Or at least, that's the theory. I suspect some editors don't realise just how much of the creative work happens during the writing of the actual book. Anyway, the outline I had was a little threadbare so I took most of a week to fill out the bones and get something that held together better.

So all I really need to do is write it, although I suspect, given the amount of detail, it would be rather more than a novella. There's enough there for a full novel, though I'd still like to keep the length down. I'm also far from sure how this works if a publisher has already published the first couple books.

So there's that. What about original stuff? Well, there's some ideas waiting to be written, but right now my brain has more or less left me a note saying it's going away on holiday for a couple of weeks and it's not doing any fiction writing until it's good and ready.

Or maybe it's just its way of telling me to write another Extinction Game story. Now the question is: if I wrote it, would enough people buy it to justify the effort?

Perhaps it's time for another poll. 



Like I said, I was going to talk about novellas.

Novellas are strange, sometimes unloved beasts. Too long for short story markets, too short to sell as novels, they’re never quite the right size. And yet a lot of writers love them because it’s possible to express an idea in a story only a quarter or a third the length of a full novel, so in terms of sheer typing, at least, they’re a lot less work. Readers love them because, unlike many novels, they’re short and sharp and no longer than they need to be. But they’re also a good deal harder to sell.

Back after I delivered my last book for Tor, I realised I had the opportunity to work on stories I’d been wanting to write for years. First, however, I needed something for my agent to market, so I spent ten months working on Echogenesis. Publishing is a slow business, with negotiations dragging out interminably for months or sometimes longer, so I knew I probably had a wait ahead of me.

I wrote some short stories, but once those were done I had other ideas that felt like they deserved more than a short story. But neither did I want to spend up to a year writing each one.

Writing those ideas as novellas was clearly the answer. I think I originally had the vague notion of publishing them myself, but ultimately that's going to be a matter of last resort. If you can market something to a publisher, you should. So far I’ve written two novellas, but now I need to think about what to do next: write another full-length novel, or work on more novellas?

There’s an outline for a third Extinction Game book that Tor rejected. It doesn’t need to be the full length of a novel: I could probably fit it into a long novella if I wanted to.

Or I could write something different and entirely original. But if you happened to have a preference, what would it be?

(By the way, the window on that survey there is a little funny. You might have to scroll it up so you see all three options).


File under 'G' in the Library of Babel

Between 2004 and 2015 I wrote ten books for Tor, but they weren't the only books I could have written. Like most people, I sometimes submitted outlines and ideas that didn't get accepted. Why they weren't accepted proved instrumental in my growing understanding in the early years of my career of how publishing actually worked.

At the time Angel Stations got picked up, I was already halfway through writing my second novel, Against Gravity. Indeed, I'd started it before I even had a flicker of interest from Tor, as I recorded in this very blog way back when.

Angel Stations was unabashed space opera hard sf. It was pretty much everything that had been rolling around in my head for a decade. It was also, believe it or not, something of a sequel. My first novel, written about 1997, was set in the same universe, but never got published. It did get me an agent, and it did secure the interest of Tor, who had said while they weren't interested in acquiring it they were interested in seeing what else I'd come up with. Angel Stations was what I had come up with.

When I first signed a contract with Tor, I found it slightly weird that they didn't even ask to know what my second as yet unfinished novel was even about. In retrospect, I suspect they'd just gone ahead and assumed it was a sequel to the first. It wasn't. They didn't know that, because they never asked. Where Angel Stations was full-on space opera, Against Gravity was a bit more in the near-future cyberpunk mode. It was about cyborg technologies, nanotechnology, a near-future war and some pretty whacky theories about the end of the universe I'd come across a few years before. But they were still both unabashedly science fiction, and so far as I knew that was all that had mattered
Actually, it's not quite true that Tor never expressed an interest in the subject matter of my future books. I had a brief chat with my new editor at an Eastercon not long after signing that first contract. He suggested, rather jocularly, that everything would be fine as long as I wasn't going to go off and write any books about magic cats.

That really wasn't very likely, I replied. But I was also a little annoyed because I felt at the time like I was being talked down to. I went home and tried really, really hard to think of some way to write a book about magic cats that was, nonetheless, unabashed near- or far-future science fiction. I thought of Schrodinger's Cat, which is as near as hard sf gets to a magic cat, but unfortunately no good ideas involving quantum mechanics would come to mind. Which is a shame, because I was still pissed off. I'd have given anything to hand the editor in question a hard sf manuscript called The Magic Cat.

Angel Stations did as well as any debut novel does, which is...okay. Moderate sales, but that's how it works. People often don't pick up on you until you're three, five, eight books deep into a career. Then if they like what they read, there are lots of others they can go and buy. Against Gravity came out and also did okay, but only okay, possibly not helped by my publisher's deliberate decision to not have a single copy available anywhere on the grounds of the World Science Fiction Convention that took place in my home town almost to the day it was released. Instead, they had two hundred copies available in a Borders Books three miles from the Convention. I found it strange at the time, and appalling now. When six thousand hardcore science fiction fans descend on a town, you don't make sure the last thing they can find is your new author.

It did get a review in Locus. Well, I say a review: the reviewer actually spent an entire page talking about my blog instead, which he liked. Thanks a bunch, asshole. Not as bad as a decade before when an Interzone critic decided he not only didn't want to read a 'zine I'd put together, he didn't want to print the address from which it could be ordered (back in the pre-Internet era). That asshole spent the rest of his column reviewing his own work. But, still. Pretty bad.

My first contract was for two books, so for the third I needed to score a new contract. I put together an outline for a book called Things Unseen which I was very enthusiastic about. It was a conspiracy story set in the 50s, 60s and 80s involving remote sensing, the occult origins of modern art and n-dimensional parallel realities. It was, or I wanted it to be, a total mindfuck.

My agent loved it. Tor rejected it without comment.

Great. I put that to one side and tried to think of something else. I came up with a planetary adventure called Slow Burn. I wrote ten thousand words and an outline and submitted it. While I was waiting, it got up to thirty thousand words.

Tor knocked it back, this time with a comment saying: better, but could you make it more "intergalactic"?


I wrote to my then-agent Dorothy. What do they want? I had tried asking the publisher, but didn't get a reply.

Somewhere in Dorothy's own reply, she mentioned another client of hers who wrote mystery stories set around the world of horse breeding.

Hang on, I emailed back. Are you saying all her books are written only in the context of horse breeding? Yes, she replied. That's what her publishers want her to write.

Only then did it click. Tor wanted something that wasn't Angel Stations, but was. They wanted space ships and interstellar intrigue and action.
What I hadn't realised until then - and remember, by the way, we're still barely into the Google era at this point, still pre-Facebook, so things that can be easily googled now couldn't be so easily found out as they can now - is that publishers want more of the same, and more of the same.

Well, duh, you might say now. But again, at the time, there was no one around to tell me this. What example I did have were authors whom I liked and who wrote in multiple genres - horror, science fiction, mainstream - apparently with impunity. What I didn't realise was that these different books were often for different publishers under all kinds of crazy circumstances, and that the choice to write in different genres or styles was dependent on the relative success of the author. To be precise, the more successful you are, the more you can get away with.

And me, being far less powerful, could therefore get away with far less.

I'll be honest with you, at the time I first started putting together Stealing Light, I felt a little cynical towards it. It wasn't what I'd hoped to be working on. Searching through my files for a notion or an idea, I stumbled across a single scrap from an unfinished story and it became an early scene in that book. I wrote ten thousand words and a rough outline, submitted it to Tor - and they liked it, as I'd darkly suspected they would. I signed a second, one-book contract.

Somewhere in the writing of that book, something changed, and I started to get into it. I found a reason to be writing that story. It's the book where I figured out how to do what I did. Angel Stations and Against Gravity had each been a struggle to write, because I was still learning. Stealing Light was the fruition of what I learned, aided, it must be said, by my discovery of Scrivener.

After a quarter of the way into the manuscript I stopped long enough to completely redraft the outline I'd submitted to Tor. It expanded from a six thousand to a thirty thousand word outline. The book itself also grew, and grew, until it was just shy of 140,000 words.

I felt happy with it. The project I hadn't wanted to do became something I was entirely happy to do. It also went on to be the best-selling by far of all my books. It was the first to come out in hardback. It got compared to Peter Hamilton and Neal Asher, two very popular Tor authors, which I found amusing because at that point I had not yet read a single word by either author. I thought I was writing in the vein of Greg Bear, Iain Banks and Dan Simmons, who were undoubtedly influences, but it appeared not.

Some scenes from Slow Burn made it into Stealing Light, with some of the names changed. Just one or two.

So far, my entries in the Library of Babel equalled half a dozen. Apart from Things Unseen, Slow Burn and my unpublished first novel were a couple of vague outlines for other books set in the Angels universe (put together long before the first contract) and an attempt at writing a kind of fantasy western with Chinese magic called Western Gothic.

From there, I was on a roll. Pretty much nothing got bounced back until fairly recently, when a proposal for a third book in the Extinction Game series got rejected. I don't rule out writing it in some form, most likely another novella, but that remains to be seen.

Next time, I'll talk novellas. 


Wherever You Go, There You Are: a career in 12 years, 7 months and 14 days.

A lot can happen in twelve and a half years.

Back in March 2003, I got an email from my agent, Dorothy Lumley (since sadly passed away), telling me I had scored my first book deal with Tor UK, a new science fiction imprint created by Peter Lavery. Over the next twelve and a half years I wrote ten novels, starting with Angel Stations. The tenth, Survival Game, came out in hardback in the late summer of 2015. During that period, I went from writing part-time to full-time. I spent the last part of 2015 putting together detailed proposals for two new books, respectively titled Echogenesis and Proxy. My then-editor got quite excited about them, particularly Echogenesis.

By then, I had a new agent. Word came from him  a few months later, in October 2015, that Tor/Pan Macmillan had decided not to make an offer on either Echogenesis or Proxy. This was no reflection on the part of my editor, who was eager to acquire the books. The decision was made elsewhere within the company.

So after twelve and a half years, I found myself without a publisher.

But the terms of the previous contract still held, and I had just delivered a re-draft of Survival Game, so there was still work to do: after some further editing it came out in hardback in 2016 and this year in paperback. Like the book it's a sequel to, it got some pretty great reviews. In general, all my stuff gets decent - even, dare I say it, excellent - reviews. Extinction Game even scored a 'starred' review in Publisher's Monthly. But even good reviews aren't always enough.

Once Survival game was done, I had to figure out what to do next. Now, being Scottish, and therefore of an inherently miserable nature, I had assumed throughout my career that I was always just one short step away from doom and penury, and therefore made a point of saving every last penny against that day. It's a sensible strategy, and one that paid off (a little on-the-side book doctoring helps somewhat too).

I had to consider whether or not to talk about all this here on my blog. Back when I started, writers were often reluctant to discuss such matters. Things have changed since then, largely, I think, because of the internet. Writers compare notes online or even run surveys to get a sense of mean income by genre, or generally just talk about these things openly. But since it's unlikely I'll have much out this year apart from the recently published paperback of Survival Game, I wanted you to know why.

Different people deal with bad news in different ways. Some put the pen down and stop writing and do something entirely different with their lives. Some just keep writing.  Based on an entirely subjective survey of writers I've met who got stuck between deals for a while, five or so years in the wilderness is not untypical.

In the meantime, I kept writing.

Since I got that email in October 2015, I've written in excess of 180,000 words of fiction: four short stories, two long novellas, and a full-length novel. The novel, Echogenesis, is being shopped around by my agent as we speak. So is a novella, Ghost Frequencies. A second novella, Devil's Road, was just recently completed (why I've been writing novellas rather than full-length novels  is a matter for another blog).

In some ways, not having a book deal has been remarkably freeing. For once, I can write what I want to without having to worry about whether it fits Tor's idea of what I should be writing.

Over the next couple of weeks or months, I'm going to talk about some of the things I've learned over that twelve year period I was under contract to Tor. I'm also going to talk about my plans for the future, and where a possible future book deal might fit into that. I'll also talk about some of those recently completed projects, and some of the ones I'm considering working on over the next year.

And, of course, there may be avenues which don't necessarily involve traditional publishing.  That's something else I'll be thinking about, although certainly for now my intention is to get a traditional publishing deal for Echogenesis and other books.

So as they say, watch this space. I'll even maybe have a little more time to blog in future. If it's been a bit sparse, that's only because I've been busy writing books and novellas.

In the meantime, if you like my writing, you might consider dropping a few pennies into the 'buy the writer a coffee' link over there on the right. It's always, always appreciated and it's nice to be reminded I'm not writing into a vacuum. One never knows what the future might bring, but hopefully this is little more than a relatively brief pause in my writing career.

Expect more posts in the near future.


A sudden rush of noise after a prolonged period of silence

I'm back. For the moment, anyway.

Since you last saw me, Survival Game has been out for a few months in paperback. That book was completed and sent to the publisher way back in autumn of 2015. Since then, I've written another novel, two novellas, each about 35,000 words in length, and a number of short stories, some of which have sold, and one of which you can download over there on the right (if you're viewing this on your computer and not on your phone, anyway).

In an upcoming blog, I'm going to talk about a few things - where I go from here, my likely plans for the future, and some of the realities of modern publishing. So think of this as a bookmark, and sometime in the next few days or weeks you'll get a fuller update on what is - or isn't - coming next. So think of this as a placeholder until that comes. 


The paperback of Survival Game is out now.

The paperback of Survival Game, the sequel to Extinction Game, is published in the UK today! And if you prefer ebooks, the price of the Kindle edition has dropped as well. So if you don't have it already, go git it

If you're in the US, you've got a little while to go - the paperback won't be out there until July. But if you want to preorder on Amazon, go here.

I also have an article up at Torbooks.co.uk about the writing of the book. No, wait, that's a lie. It's got nothing to do with the writing of the book. Sort of. Maybe. Well actually, it's about the question every writer but me hates to answer, which is where ideas come from. And that means brain science. Read it here

Here's some reviews to put you in the mood:
  • Gibson's take on two thoroughly familiar tropes (Cold War + apocalypse) is actually quite refreshing ... The prose is also satisfyingly good - FantasyLiterature.com
  • Gibson’s artful worldbuilding sets the stage(...)it is the emotionally-driven characters and their curiosity about alternate possibilities that makes this story so compelling. - amazingstoriesmag.com
  •  If you like SF romps combined with an exploration of a solid SF trope wrapped up in a high-powered adventure then you'll love Gary Gibson's Survival Game. - Concatenation.org
  • This is exactly the kind of SF I enjoy – thoughtful and intelligent, yet action-packed with great ideas. - sffworld.com
  • Gibson turns the genre on its head ... He excels at depicting real-feeling destruction and the tenacity and weaknesses of survivors, along with the moral wrestling of survivor guilt. This potent, teeth-gritting SF thriller shows death and love only a shadow away from our ordinary lives -- Publishers Weekly starred review of Extinction Game (Book One)



"But, over several months, my manuscript was rejected for reasons that bewildered me: often because all the slots for debut literary fiction that year were taken; once because I was a woman; but mostly because editors “just didn’t love it enough”. When I took the call from my agent saying we had no deal, I cried like a little girl. I defiantly started a second novel. It was my masterpiece, but it bombed, too. Years of work and emotional investment wasted, I finally gave up, to save my sanity."
 This  article in the Guardian speaks to me in a way its author didn't intend; of the value of persistence and of false expectations. Writing novels is often seen, wrongly, as a primarily middle-class pursuit, and as a result a certain number of those who chase publication expect or hope it to support them in a middle-class lifestyle - I recall a recent article in an Irish newspaper where a writer spoke of having to go back to his civil service day job because writing novels didn't pay him enough to support a wife, two kids and a mortgage.

I read articles like this and laugh like a drain. I guess it says something about the kind of writers I admire, who always extolled the virtue of constantly writing, and writing fast if need be. When I think of being a writer, I think of Michael Moorcock, sitting in a cramped apartment in Ladbroke Grove in the mid-sixties, banging out fantasy novel after fantasy novel to keep New Worlds afloat, or Philip K. Dick, making ends meet in a record shop while similarly hammering out novel after novel. Those are serious writers - far more serious in their intent and focus than many of those who fancy themselves 'literary' writers, who are more taken with a vision of accolades than of ripping out ideas and putting them on the page, hour after day after week after year. 


Dropbox issues fixed

Just a quick note to let you know that since Dropbox have made some under the hood changes, some links on the website stopped working, most importantly the ones that let you download Scienceville when you sign up for my mailing list. It's fixed, so far as I can tell, and if it isn't, then be sure to let me know in the comments. And if for any reason you've tried to download the books and failed, again, let me know and I'll email a copy personally.