Saturday, 15 August 2015

Venn at a loose end...

Inspired by this diagram I decided to populate one for fantasy authors.

I found myself struggling so most of these suggestions come from Twitter. Thanks Twitter!

Yes, I know there's just one female author there. Suggest some alternatives?

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Big Four-Oh, oh, oh, oh

They say life begins at 40 ... sadly that's some way behind me now...  Anyway, Prince of Thorns was 4 years old less that 2 weeks ago, and today the ratings meter over at Goodreads clicked past the 40,000 mark.

When the meter clicked past 30,000 I commemorated the event with a blog post that proved bizarrely controversial. And, thus inspired, I thought I would blog again.

Today's subject is tribalism. Particularly in the fantasy genre.

I suppose this bleeds in from the incredibly partisan politics in the US which in turn have created an ongoing culture war where the only thing both sides hate more than each other is the idea that there might be any legitimate middle ground.

In any event, it wasn't something I was prepared for when I stumbled into a book deal back in 2010. I wrote a fantasy story, swords were swung, blood spilled, a young life laid bare. On the day it hit the shelves I found myself accused of being a misogynist because ... there weren't 'enough' female characters in my short book from a single point of view, of being a rape apologist because the book contained three lines indirectly describing rape, and again of being a misogynist because the main character was (incorrectly) perceived to be one.

If you look at my blog post "That book with all the rape." the degree to which what people say is at odds with the reality of the situation is breathtaking. It was my first glimpse at the tribal nature of the genre. These people hadn't read my book. They hadn't so much as glanced at the first page - they had just heard the war drums and come running to boost the signal.

Much of the debate in the fantasy genre is just that partisan politics rolling on blindly, the culture war taking no prisoners. Read two invested parties getting into it on a forum or comments section and you get the distinct impression that neither is reading what the other writes, just skimming for something to pounce on. If they were having an actual conversation you might imagine them hearing only 'blah blah blah' and waiting for the pause in which to repeat themselves.

In my 30,000 blog post I dared to suggest that circumstances existed where it was legitimate (whatever that means) to have a book that contained very few members of one gender. I cited a novel about a week at sea in a submarine in World War II as an example.

A popular partisan blogger site got hold of this, and still burning with holy zeal over the 'rapefest', put me on their wanted list alongside hate-blogger Requires H@te whose rap sheet included victimising women of colour, death threats, relentless hounding of authors, driving someone to a suicide attempt, and 'many more'. The thing was - that Requires H@te was one of theirs, only recently disgraced when it turned out her targets had secretly included authors who were women of colour, up until then it had been assumed they were all white male authors and that was fine. So in the ... somewhat skewed ... perspective of this blog site I deserved to sit along side Requires H@te on the shelf of shame.

The most interesting thing to me about this was that the condemnatory tweet about me was picked up and retweeted over 100 times. Score 1 for the witch hunt - quite a mob gathered! But, the blog post itself, which until that point had had around 12,000 hits, only gathered slightly less than 100 new hits that day.

The most charitable interpretation is that everyone who retweeted that tweet looked to see what they were up in arms about ... and not one of their many thousands of followers did. But the truth must be that very few of those leaping on the bandwagon in an attempt to shame me actually read the blog post they were howling about. They just took as gospel the distortion presented to them in a 140 character tweet (or possibly on the site itself where I was lucky not to have Osama Bin Laden's mugshot to my right). And that's the culture war right there - it doesn't matter what individuals actually say - get caught in the cross hairs and you're thrown to the mob. The mob don't care, they're just pitching in. The people doing the throwing don't care, they think the lie (perhaps a mere gross exaggeration / distortion) is fine because they have their eyes on winning the war and collateral damage in this engagement is an acceptable price to pay.

The irony is that politically I am far far closer to the people spouting ridiculous nonsense about me than I am to the people with whom they want to line up beside me against the wall.

The fact is though, that there is nothing so good at undermining your own thoughtfully held position than seeing it spouted as dogma by a frothing evangelist. I've had the unpleasant experience of having my own beliefs preached at me by myopic idiots who think I'm their mortal enemy on the basis of someone's tweet.

What can be done? Very little really. People are people. It took millions of us quite a few decades to dig the hole we're standing in, and getting out will take a while too. The good news, however, is that we can still see the sun.

As a footnote: I finished Red Sister last week, the first book in the upcoming and eponymous trilogy. I'm waiting to be censured for having too few male characters and to be told that the convent setting is just a misandrist excuse.

The publisher's press release by itself was enough to set my most enthusiastic detractors (one being the author of the rapefest quote) into paroxysms. One wondered if it was a plot to suppress women's writing. Another worried that it was a conspiracy to undermine women writing about women...

This is what happens when you get so far into the tribal mindset that if you see someone who you've labelled 'THEM' running toward a drowning kitten your first thought is that the person is only running because they don't want to miss the show.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Final Round: Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

I will be keeping tabs on the final round on this page, recording scores for finalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and linking any reviews. #SPFBO

Scores for the finalists: The Matrix!
Bookworm Blues Elitist Book Reviews Fantasy Faction Fantasy Book Critic Lynn's Books The Fictional Hangout Beauty in Ruins Bibliotropic The Speculative Book Review Fantasy Book Review
A Soul for Trouble * * * * * * * * 7 *
City of Burning Shadows * * * * * * * 8 * *
What Remains of Heroes * * * * * * * * * 8.5
Shattered Sands * * * * * * 8 * * *
Under a Colder Sun * * * 6.5 * * * * * *
Blood Rush 8 * * * * * * * * *
The Weight of a Crown * * * * 8 * * * * *
Book 8 * * * * * * * * * *
Book 9 * * * * * * * * * *
Book 10 * * * * * * * * * *

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Venn in doubt!

There is a post on Fantasy-Faction explaining why Fantasy-Faction overlord Marc Aplin advises against self-publishing.

This is interesting in its own right, and interesting because Fantasy-Faction are one of the blog sites taking part in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #SPFBO.

The post has sparked an enthusiastic discussion in the comments, on the Fantasy-Faction Facebook group, and on twitter.

For me the important thing to note is that the Venn Diagram above is not in question. Nobody denies that all the sections on it are populated. The only debate is just how large each section is as a proportion of the whole, and how best to roll your personal dice when joining the game.

- You can write a best-seller as a self-published, traditionally published, or hybrid author.

- You will earn more per book sale (as a percentage) as a self-published author.

- You will have to wear more hats as a self-published author.

- If 12 agents reject you in a row you need to consider if your book is good enough ... but on the flip side you may be JK Rowling or William Golding.

The question is not IF a good book can be rejected N times, but how that information changes the odds of it being a good book.

The same debate over the relative sizes of these zones and intersections applies to the readers too. They stick a pin in the Venn Diagram above. Will they be lucky and stick it into the best-seller zone even before that book has a chance to realise its full potential? Will they find a great book that aligns with their taste ... or awful dreck?

In the SPFBO we hope to find a wonderful self-published work of fantasy that all the bloggers can rave about and that we might be able to boost onto a larger stage. We've already found quite a few books that the bloggers have been enthusiastic about. I really hope we do find a brilliant novel.

We need to be cautious too though. Success is hoped for, not guaranteed. If you choose 27 self-published books at random what are the chances that the best of them will be good? What are the chances it will be great? What are the chances it will rock your world?

The same question applies to the whole 267 under consideration. I don't know the answer.

I do know that my agent accepts onto his list about 1 in 1,000 of the writers who send him their manuscripts. And of those about 50% get a publishing deal. And of that 1 in 2,000 only a small percentage - I'll guess wildly at 10% make it 'big' (another vague arm-wavey term). So that's 1 in 20,000 of the writers approaching my agent succeeding and making it 'big' with him at their side.

So what hope 1 in 267?

I don't know. I do know our bloggers are giving each book far more attention than they would get from an agent in the assessing stage. I know that to have heard of and joined the contest is in itself a form of selection requiring a level of engagement and awareness...

Anyway. I really just wanted to post the diagram and underscore that nobody disputes its form, just the relative size of those regions!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Gunlaw - a novel! ... in bits.

I'm putting out a book called Gunlaw in instalments every Tuesday and Thursday on Wattpad. It's in the subgenre that folks call "weird western". That's fantasy with gunslingers to you and me.

Please join in the read and help me out with feedback!

Wattpad's free and easy to join. The story can be found HERE.

I'm up to part 9 (chapter 3).

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Prince of Thorns is 4 years in print!

Check out the third, second, and first birthday round-ups. Things have moved on!

First the obligatory "Four years? It only seems like yesterday."

Being a numbers guy as well as a words guy I like to keep track of things and record them for when I'm a doddery old guy looking back at my 'glory' days.

On Goodreads Prince of Thorns is a touch off 40,000 ratings!

And it seems a good bet that next year Prince of Thorns will have broken the 1000 reviews barrier on!

And the blog breaking a million views by next year looks on!

And finally my snail's pace conquest of Twitter continues its crawl.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Zombie Apocalypse - the contest!


It has come to my attention that many fantasy readers have the odd sword or axe lying about...

That got me thinking. If this happened...

...what thing in your house would you reach for to fend them off?

Send me a photo of it for one chance to win, or an action shot of you holding it for two chances.

Prizes? Of course prizes! I'll randomly award 3 signed Prince of Fools paperbacks, and a signed UK Prince of Thorns Advance Review Copy (ARC) to four lucky entrants (remember, an action shot of you plus weapon/improvised weapon doubles your chance).

Winners = #51 #33 #25 & #11 (ARC)

Many thanks to everyone for entering - some brilliant photos there. I feel sorry for the zombies!

My added snark is intended to raise a smile, all entries welcome, no offence intended!

#51 Laura - would grab her shock trooper!

#50 Adam - would grab his trusty clothes horse, using its wedge-shape to ... um ... push through the zombie hordes... Let's face it, some of you lot just want to be zombies.

#49 Daniel - would reach for this hefty figure which in turn wields its own axe

#48 Radoslav - selects a .. uh... cat.

#47 James - chooses a blunt instrument to bludgeon his foes with.

#46 Tracey - and daughter team up. And that's a sword made out of a tank!

#45 Colin favours the broadsword and chainmail combo. Bite that zombie!

#44 Rocus - goes beyond the pale, deploying one of the cruellest weapons known

#43 Giannis - shows how zombies are traditionally welcomed in Greece

#42 Jono - knows how to split melons!


#41 Lucille - buys the fat books for more than just reading - they're great for hand-to-hand combat!

#40 Penny - knows that music calms the savage beast, and hopes that music stands harm the savage beast...

#39 H - goes for the little and often approach

#38 Deborah -finally, someone who really knows how to party with zombies! Chainsaw!

#37 Kate - plans to offer a delicious entree to cover her own escape out the back. Smart move!

#36 Chris - simple is good.

#35 Austin - ready for the head harvest, with scythe and dagger.

#34 Eduardo - has opted for the ashandarei with the war-hammer on the wall as backup

#33 Naomi - hopes to be cast in the Wacking Dead.

#32 The Board Game Guys - go for efficiency over style. Head shots only, remember!

#31 Anthony - favours the big sword approach.

#30 Laura - and cricket bat. Laura may well be the first person in WWZ to die from 'having watched Shaun of the Dead' but sure surely won't be the last.

#29 Coen - his nerf sniper gun would require some ... modification. The katana on the table would be for any zombie unphased by a foam projectile.

#28 Ally - showing that wooden swords are more useful than a chocolate teapot

#27 Darcy - would opt for a chair. A green one.

#26 Edd - knows that one sword might be good for a few zombies, but for a whole horde you need at least four.

#25 Andrew - knows the pen(cil) is mightier than the knife. Both pictured here with a piece of A4 for scale.

#24 Gerard - has an eye for a very sharp chisel when zombie-carving.

#23 Michael - has a handy dagger...

#22 Stephen - (clearly a man with deep pockets) would reach for his trusty pocket-knife.

#21 Lee - knows that the smart money is always on the light sabre. At least until the battery runs out...

#20 Daniel - would eschew a thousand years of technological development and pass over his bow and arrows in favour of a stone affixed to a stick.

#19 Sabrina - hails from Switzerland where rifle training is mandatory. If the zombies make it through the wall of bullets and don't get worn out by all the steep slopes then it's fondu forks at the ready!

#18 Jennifer - has a wider than usual range of kitchen knives

#17 Tracey - with her moisturiser and apparent concern for zombies' early wrinkling issues demonstrates that zombies might have a positive impact on the gene pool...

#16 Gabrielle - an antler happened to be closest - not ideal perhaps but she's sure the zombies will get the point.

#15 Logan - would opt for the closest rather than be eaten while trying to decide which of his four swords to use.

#14 Robin - has a more traditional view of home defence

#13 Salman - puts his (short-lived) faith in insect spray

#12 Justin - fends off this particular zombie with a banana. I'd say a plantain would be better...

#11 Dan - opts for the classic baseball bat and hatchet combo.

#10 Rebecca - would grab Needle and Long Claw! Because she's METAL.

#9 Robert - will be fine if the zombies' heads are attached to their necks by a giant nut...

...or are vulnerable to crushing in any way ... ok, he'll be fine. Good choice, sir!

#8 Chane - improves on the pillow (thanks Pen) with two candlesticks. Sadly they look to be made of glass... admittedly they do each have a very small spike at the middle and with a great deal of luck one might take out both a zombie's eyeballs with them...

#7 Pen - Joins the ranks of zombie fodder with this ill-considered choice.
 "The Well Rested Warrior

Because let’s face it, I’d be just as useless with a real weapon – might as well take a nap."

#6 Roodie - I'm not sure he's getting this. When the zombies come Roodie = Foodie.
Though perhaps he's been inspired by the game Plants vs Zombies!

#5 Dingo Dave would reach for his trusty katana!

#4 Tom, and a cunning ploy to machete off his own head to deny the zombies the pleasure of killing him!

#3 Shannon illustrates my suspicions about fantasy readers!

#2 Alicia keeps her bow at home, but this action shot (pun intended) is outside. Remember, headshots only, or all you're doing is furnishing them with defensive spines.

#1 LS believes that her cat, Loki, has "magic kitty eyes" and would save her. So she'd grab him. Here we see zombies as agents of Darwin...