___WORDS FROM ME_____________________________________

the deception glass

So I’ve been quiet. Or I have been as far as the e-ther is concerned. Has anyone noticed? Probably not. And fewer have probably cared. But such is life.

I have been a bit lax, though, I must admit, in recording a few more blog entries. And at least one is deserved.

Which of course you can take either way . . .

So. Deserved or not, here we are.

As sales of my YA/portal fantasy novel A Clash of Ichor and Blood roared off to a terrible start and then declined rapidly, I put up a bit of a promotional ebook short story on a couple of ebook retailers’ sites. It’s a piece called "The Deception Glass", and like A Clash of Ichor and Blood, it’s low-fantasy. And just what, I hear you ask, is low-fantasy? It’s essentially fantasy linked to a real-world setting, in the way that CS Lewis’s fantasies were, rather than set in the high-fantasy realm of Tolkien’s otherworldly Lord of the Rings. To use but two of the most famous examples.

"The Deception Glass" is just shy of 7,000 words, and comes with the first few chapters of A Clash of Ichor and Blood with it, to tempt the unwary into parting with the price of, oh, say a cup of tea and a half for the ebook . . . or a few notes more for a rather handsome and nicely designed UK trade paperback edition. Or US trade paperback edition for that matter.

If you are wise and lucky enough to be a Kobo owner (or at least have installed the Kobo reading app on your smart device of choice and/or affordability) then you can own a copy of "The Deception Glass" for free. If however, you are one of the crowd and have opted for the big river company Kindle e-reader (or app) I am afraid that – as of the moment – it’ll cost you money. Less than most places will sell you a cup of tea for, it’s true, but it’s still money.

Why does one cost money and the other not? Simply because Amazon doesn’t allow you to list books for free. Pretty much all the titles you see on there for nothing have been price-matched to a competitor’s price. So if someone gives a tale or book away for free on Kobo, it can take a while for Amazon to follow suit. If enough people get in touch with Amazon and say, Oi, it’s free on Kobo, then they might knock the price down to free. But I have no real say in this in relation to my tale.

It is my intention to put perhaps a slightly longer version of "The Deception Glass" into a collection at some point (yeah, yeah – always in the future with you, Lynchy. . .), but for now it’s my hope that someone somewhere might stumble across it, maybe download it, maybe even read, and perhaps – long shot – like it . . . and then buy A Clash of Ichor and Blood after reading it. They might even put up a nice review for it. Who knows?

If not, then not. But a boy has to hope.

Anyway, the image of A Clash of Ichor and Blood over to the right on this screen should have links to the ebook versions of the novels.

 Here's a link to the UK free version of The Deception Glass. (Click on this, no matter which country you are in, and theoretically it should take you to the Kobo free version in your own land. If that doesn't work, there are links in the Free Fiction section of this website.) Also, while we're at it, here's a  link to the UK Amazon version. The image of the short on the right hand sidebar should have links too. I sincerely appreciate any purchase, whether you pay for it or not.

In the meantime, what else have I been doing? Getting iller, slowly going about the process for getting checked for cancer (something which may well curtail the future plans I mentioned above, depending on the results, should I actually find the strength to get through the tests), somehow staggering over the line with a second draft of a new book that may or may not be called Tindermass if it is ever to see the light of day, and trying to look after people and myself as best I can. It ain’t easy, believe me. I had a nice few days away with my special one, up in the Lake District, and the sun was quite kind too. What does tomorrow bring? Time of its own, long or short.

Take care.

down the well

In a recent interview George R.R. Martin talked about life before the big success of his A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. (That’s the Game of Thrones thingy, for those few of you not in the know.) He talked the usual stuff, characters, historical analogies, world building, the pressure to complete a big series, and so on; but he also talked about being a writer and how it used to be, before the bestseller charts and a hit TV show changed everything for him. It was good, and I enjoyed reading it. But the bit in the interview that struck home with me was when he said he’d spend a couple of years writing a book and then, when it came out, it was like he’d thrown it down a well for all the difference it seemed to make.

Well . . .

You don’t expect fame. You don’t expect riches and to be lauded with praise. (If you do, you’re really in the wrong profession, buster, because believe me, the statistics are heavily against you.) But when you put all that time in trying to make the best book you can, it’s nice when, now and again, someone actually reads your book.

It’s a rarer thing than you might expect. Book sales overall are not that large given the population of any particular country, and it seems there are fewer and fewer readers in the world, something that can’t be true given the need to be literate in a computer age. They’re out there, are readers (I’m one of them, and I assume you are, because you’re reading this blog); the thing is, they’re just not reading many of us.

Most of my readers have never heard of me. They pick my books up from the genre section in the library, read them – sometimes all of the book, and I suspect sometimes not – and then they return them and take someone else’s book out. They’re there for the genre, not me.

That’s fine. That’s great actually. On some level, it’s probably how it should be. People might find you, and suddenly take to you and read your other stuff after stumbling upon one title of yours that they like. They might not, because tastes differ, and just carry on going from genre author to genre author. And that’s fine too. It’s nice to be quietly anonymous while one of your books is calmly getting on with its business of being read without telling you. It doesn’t feel like there’s any pressure then.

Sometimes I sneak a peek, though, to see what’s going off. Now and again, as a sort of off shoot of a Google vanity search, I’ll dip into the online catalogue of a library and hunt for my stuff. It’s nice to see your titles out on loan. It’s also a little strange, to think that people you have never met are reading your books. It buoys up the confidence, gives you a little warm feeling inside.

But your books aren’t always out on loan. And for most of the time it still feels like you’ve dropped a stone into a large circle of darkness and are counting away, waiting to hear some sort of sound come echoing back up from deep down below, even if it’s only the crack of things breaking up when they’ve reached rock bottom, with no liquid dream to settle into. The book is published, and then it’s gone.

Is it worth the hard work and effort it took to get that far, though?

You know, for want of something better to do, I think it is.

Which is why I am here, standing slightly to one side of my usual place when I have a new book out, trade paperback and ebook in hand this time, looking down into a well that seems deeper and darker than any well I’ve dropped a book into before. Different well, different darkness, potentially a fathomless pit.

But maybe it’s a wishing well.


I just don’t know.

You see, I’m doing things differently, because I wanted to. Because I think I needed to. If you keep repeating the same actions and expect a different outcome, you’re going to be disappointed.  I’ve written a book, a sort of YA dark fantasy that might actually be a Crossover novel. It’s a tricky one to pigeonhole. I’m calling it A Clash of Ichor and Blood and keeping my fingers crossed that someone, somewhere, might read it. Maybe more than someone. Maybe lots of someones.

That would be nice. But I think it’s unlikely. Unless Chance intervenes, or Fate, whichever is less capricious; or a bit of friendly help sticks and makes a difference.

Still, you don’t know.

A Clash of Ichor and Blood is being published as a trade paperback through Amazon, and as an ebook through Amazon and Kobo. Hopefully it will make its e-way out onto other platforms at a later date. It doesn’t have a traditional publisher behind it. This time there aren’t likely to be any library sales. If anyone reads this book, then it may well be because I have given them a paperback copy or they have bought a digital edition at a very favourable price – see your local Amazon and Kobo store for details, folks – or they’ve found it on a pirate site for free.

The book is available now in its trade paperback format. It’s about 106,00 words long, which, given the font I’ve gone for and the size of the typeface, means it’s about 297 pages long. I’ve tried to price the book competitively, so that not only does it cost just a little more than half the price of many trade paperbacks these days, but it also hits the “free delivery” mark Amazon offers for postage of books. If you like your books physical, I think this is a good and nice thing that should bring a smile to your face.

If, however, you like reading electronically, on your phone or tablet via an app, or on an e-reader – which is my own preferred method of devouring ebooks – then Kobo and Amazon will have the ebook all set for delivery to you at what I hope is a fair and very competitive price. (I mean, come on – you’ll pay more for a fancy cup of coffee than you will for the ebook of A Clash of Ichor and Blood. How could you not buy it? It’d be crazy not to.)  The ebook is coming out this Sunday, on April the 15th.

I hope you can get a copy of the book in one format or another. If you do, I hope you read it. I hope you like it. I hope that it was worth it, for both of us.

I wish you well.

(The ebook, incidentally, is available without Digital Rights management applied, meaning you can take the epub or mobi file and convert it to any format you like, put it on any device capable of reading your chosen format, and also give it away to friends and enemies. I’d prefer it if they bought a copy. But if they can’t afford it, or wouldn’t buy it other than for free, what the hell – let’s get the damn thing get read. I can always drink rainwater and eat flies.)

what i wouldn't give for kindle unlimited

It’s been a while since I mentioned my ebook novella What I Wouldn’t Give. It’s been a while since anyone else mentioned it too. And still longer since anyone bought a copy.

I’m not particularly surprised. The ebook novella was always an experiment for me, a way of learning how to format such a book, create a cover for it, and to publish it myself for as little money as possible. It wasn’t something that I was going to “market” like a professional. Hell, I doubt I’ll ever do anything like a professional; I rather suspect I’ll be a hopeless amateur the rest of my life. The plan was to simply get it up and available and see what happened. Anyway . . .

The easiest way to go about this was through Amazon, and so that’s where I went to do it. After all, there were plenty of “how to” articles floating around the internet, and some YouTube videos that helped as well; enough of them for me to grasp the basics and put out a no frills ebook.

Being a straightforward novella, What I Wouldn’t Give didn’t require me to insert a contents page or much of the jazzy stuff that can be put into ebooks these days, such as hypertext and so on. It felt like all I had to do was get the writing right, and format away. Simples, as the Meerkats say. All the same, I did a bit of interior work on the book. For instance, starting sections in Bold type, just to differentiate sections from what had gone before, and to make the text look interesting before you even started reading it. (You can catch up about that stuff here.)

It had been in my mind, back then, to make the novella available on other platforms too, after a while: Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and anywhere else that might offer a place to sell it. But that proved more complicated than I was ready for at the time. It was also going to be potentially costly. Where Amazon aced it over most of its competitors was by allowing you to list your ebook without paying for an ISBN or the near-mythical eISBN. (In some countries ISBNs are free; in the UK they are anything but free. And when the budget for the project is the change in your butt cheek pocket, this is a no-go area.)

That’s slowly changed and making use of the other platforms is now a real and desirable possibility. Though Kobo and others prefer an ISBN, to make use of all of their facilities, they now appear to offer in-store equivalents.  Enough to at least get you off the ground. Suddenly, “going wide”, as they call it, isn’t as costly as it once was. And given the dangers inherent when companies have such market dominance they are almost a monopoly, I think more and more writers want to spread the availability of their books, rather than find the terms of their agreements a little one-sided in any one particular company’s favour, and then wind up at the bottom end of the gig economy, out on the street with a Homeless and Boneless sign pencilled on a piece of cardboard.

But ever the contrarian (a word I may have just made up, or at the least misspelled) I have just signed the ebook up to Kindle Unlimited, making it uniquely available through Amazon.  Partly this is laziness, partly it’s me wanting to see if it makes a difference to the number of people who have read it. On Kindle Unlimited it’s possible to borrow the ebook for free, rather than pay the staggeringly high amount of 99p for it (less than a cup of coffee from your favourite coffee chain).

Despite mentioning the ebook in author biographies attached to short story sales – the one bit of marketing you could say I have done – sales of What I Wouldn’t Give have hardly been impressive, even though some kindly souls have put up some nice reviews for the tale. One of the mistakes I’d made was to discourage people from reviewing the title on Amazon; I hadn’t realised that the reviews also boost its visibility and store position and that it’s not simply down to sales alone. Told you I was a hopeless amateur. But it is what it is.

It’s my hope that the Kindle Unlimited offer might see someone else read the piece. If someone does, they might even be nice enough to review it for me.

To read What I Wouldn’t Give in the US, click here.

To read What I Wouldn’t Give in the UK, click here.

rendezvous with arthur

The first Arthur C. Clarke novel I read was The City and the Stars. I was possibly 9 or 10 at the time. I remember to this day the young protagonist Alvin gazing out across the desert from the high, abandoned towers of Diaspar, the simple grace of Clarke's concise, clear-as-glass prose, and the wonder of discovery upon discovery as the the plot progressed; especially the flight to the stars and the loss I felt as Clarke showed me a universe abandoned by alien races, with only poor humanity, shuttered from the stars, remaining. For the first time in my life I had encountered someone who knew and loved the mysteries of the night as much as I did. I was lost, heart and soul, in this book. I had discovered Arthur C. Clarke, and nothing was going to be the same again.

I wasn't new to science fiction. Stan Lee had pretty much taught me the rudiments of reading before I started going to school, thanks to his Fantastic Four comics, and one of my earliest memories is of Jon Pertwee turning into Tom Baker at the end of his run on Doctor Who. A year or two before I made first contact with Clarke I'd discovered Clifford D. Simak, E.C. Tubb, James Blish and James Hamilton-Paterson - among others - in the pages of Richard Davies's anthology of SF tales SPACE-1.

This was a 1973 collection of short stories now reissused in paperback and aimed at the youth market (the term YA had not been invented in the late 1970s) and it had made its way into the school bookclub catalogue. The book was in the section for "older young readers", and when I requested the book - a rare treat, as we didn't have much money; but I knew I wouldn't be refused a title from the school book club - my teacher Miss Etherington tried to steer me away from it. She said it was too advanced for someone my age. I was a shy boy, not at all confrontational, bookish and prone to losing myself in daydreams as I gazed out the window during class, but I dug my heels in and insisted that Space-1 was the title I was going to have. A week or two later the book duly arrived, and I received it in class, as all the other kids received theirs, waiting for my name to be called, and walked to the teacher's desk to pick the book up (it was wrapped in a receipt held around the cover with an elastic band), and I was perfectly delighted with it.

As it happened, Mrs Etherington was half right - although I loved gentle Clifford Simak's story, for instance, I was too young to appreciate the importance of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity in Hamilton-Paterson's tale "The Teddysaurs" (more about that in another blog post, I think), but all the same, I read every word and the book still holds a special place in my heart.

But it didn't do to me what the magnificent vision of Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars did. I sought more of Clarke's work out, and found a short story collection with an introduction by J.B. Priestley - Of Time and Stars. Then I found The Deep Range, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Fall of Moondust, and Expedition to Earth (his first short story collection, and to this day an object lesson in the art of writing short fiction), and Rendezvous With Rama . . . and each and every one of them was the best book I had ever read as I read them for the first, and then second and then third times, and I couldn't have picked a favourite but for the one that was in my hands . . .

Over the years, I continued to collect and read Clarke. The first non-fiction book I voluntarily chose to read outside of school, and which was not about dinosaurs and full of illustrations, was Clarke's The View from Serendip. As far as novels went, Childhood's End became my favourite for a while. There was a return to the world of 2001 - nine years on - with 2010: Odyssey 2 (for my money, one of the great haunted house stories of science fiction) as well as a chance to see the what-might-have-beens in The Lost Worlds of 2001. I got to see the films and caught the occasional TV adaptation (I remember a nice New Twilight Zone episode dramatising "The Star"), and there was of course Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, famously parodied by The Goodies, a sure sign of major cultural impact. Clarke was probably as close to a hero as I had and his very name was enough to send excitement and awe through me.

And then I read The Songs of Distant Earth.

A quiet, lyrical book that has become almost lost in the cannon - possibly due to its release between the bestselling series novels 2010 and 2061 and the Rama sequels - Songs was the book that most profoundly affected me as a youth. It solidified my feelings about who I was and my place in the universe, reflected the poetry of my heart and reinforced my views on religion, humanism, love, and loss. It's the Clarke book I return to most often. I read it once every two or three years.

After Songs, Clarke's ill health began to show in his fiction - though he continued to produce books till the year he passed away. 2061 was the weakest book in his Odyssey series. His collaborations with other authors sounded nothing like him and held little of the wonder his solo works contained. In my opinion, the best of them were Garden of Rama (with/by Gentry Lee), and the Time Odyssey trilogy (with/by Stephen Baxter). Less said of the others, the better. There were a few solo books of interest though, following Songs, each shorter than the one before. The Ghost from the Grand Banks, The Hammer of God, and 3001: The Final Odyssey, of which I'd say Hammer is the best and still well worth the reader's time. Even at his weakest, though, awe and wonder are never far from Clarke's pages.

He wrote plenty of books that I treasure to this day - and I've barely touched on his short stories, surely the finest science fiction has ever seen - and he is the only writer that I read as a child who I can still read today. I think he'd have liked that. I know I do.

Happy birthday, Arthur C. Clarke. You were and are our brightest star. We'd sing you happy birthday, but this might be more fun, "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World", by the Divine Comedy.

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