Sunday, 21 February 2021
Thursday, 18 February 2021
I made recent post to encourage people to read my latest book, since my next one is due out in April.
One reply, ending with winking smiley, said "Since George RR Martin let me down I don't read books until the series is finished."
To which I replied:
With respect, this is not an approach based on reasonable evidence and punishes the majority for what has happened to two very famous outliers. I've produced at least one book a year for 11 years (four in 2019), and every trilogy I've had published has been completed before the first book came out. With two notable exceptions it is extremely hard to point to any trilogies and series where the author has not produced the books at regular and reasonable intervals. /rant
Now, it is of course the right of any person to buy/borrow and read books whenever they want. I am hardly going to rail against people who buy my trilogy once it's all out. They are far far more helpful to me that people who don't buy it at all, and I'm very grateful for their custom. I, myself, am a regular participant in binge culture. There's so much TV out there these days that many series I come to are already complete and I watch the lot in a relatively short space of time. I came late to Breaking Bad and watched all 5 seasons in a couple of months.
My only point here is this - we have in that comment a person who was previously prepared to start a series and wait the typical year or two between books. Because of their experience with one series (something that happens with very few authors) they have become a person who isn't prepared to wait at all.
Why is this important? Two main reasons that break up into various sub-reasons. The first relates to the author, the second to the reader themselves.
1. It's very important for an author that the first book in their series sells well. The chatter around it, both the online and water-cooler sort, draws in more readers. To use pandemic parlance, it helps get R>1. It is very common in translated series, and becoming worryingly common in UK/US series, that if book 1 sells poorly then book 2 is cancelled. There's so much choice out there and the conversation moves on so swiftly that sleeper hits are becoming less and less likely. If a book sinks nobody dives the wreck. This issue particularly affects new authors who might have been the one to rock your reading world for years to come.
2. As above, the series may get cancelled. The reader might shrug and say that it can't have been very good then. But that's not how book sales work. Being good is necessary but not sufficient. And it might have been a trilogy from an author you love. You might have been looking forward to reading it. But not buying in on book 1 helped sink it so you'll never get to read it.
Additionally, as a reader I (and I'm sure many others) build a relationship with books and characters. Significant acres of the landscape of my imagination are given over to good times had with books. I am not convinced that those relationships would be so "deep and meaningful" if instead of being fed over the course of years, with time for things to settle and be mulled over, and time to anticipate more, they were replaced by a swift "wham, bang, thankyou, ma'am" as I devoured the series in the days or weeks it took me to binge.
So, to reiterate: All authors are grateful for sales at any point. But if you let the rare experience of having to wait many years tip you over into binge culture, then I'm just letting you know that it's an almost entirely unfounded fear that does significant damage to authors and even, potentially to you, albeit far less damage than not reading them at all!
Happy reading, binge-reading, and 2021!
Thursday, 4 February 2021
In the same "sorry not sorry" spirit evidenced by the 7.4%
Wednesday, 3 February 2021
I do not collect owls. Here's some of my owl collection.
I was walking along our high street a few years back and two sparkly gentlemen (both ends of the middle rank) caught my eye in a shop window. I'd been noticing them for a week or two, caught between admiring the host of bold textures and scorning their vulgarity. The price, I noticed, had dropped from 'very reasonable' to practically 'free to a good owner'. On a whim I went in and bought them both with plenty of change to spare from a tenner. The shopkeeper was delighted!
"I've got another one. Shop damaged. Half price." He seemed very hopeful.
"I'm not starting a sanctuary," I said, aware of the amused smiles of other shoppers as I stuffed my owls into my bread bag. And I scarpered.
The owls found a perch on top of my tallest bookcase and that was that. Until the next owl arrived.
"I saw you liked owls," the gift giver said at Christmas or my birthday.
And that's how it's gone from that day forth.
I get given owls. It is highly convenient for people to believe I collect owls. The alternative is that I'm an awkward curmudgeon who never admits to wanting anything by way of presents. And now there's a body of evidence, a literal parliament, that people can point to in order to prove I collect owls.
Actually, I've nothing against owls, but there's a broader point to this ramble through this dark corner of ornithology. I don't write grimdark. Ten years ago I was passing my PC and on a whim I wrote a short grimdark book. I got a three book deal, so I wrote two more. Since then I've written twelve non-grimdark books and I'm part way through a thirteenth.
But it is convenient for people to believe I write grimdark. The alternative is that I'm an awkward eclectic who is hard to pigeonhole without a modicum of effort. And now there's a body of evidence, literal pages of google hits, that people can point to in order to prove I write grimdark.
This of course is just an example of our willingness to label people. Reductive thinking may often be comforting and easy but it's hardly the whole story. And you'd think if there were any demographic that should be interested in the whole story ... it would be readers.
Tuesday, 2 February 2021
For no particular reason here's a graph showing how many ratings on Amazon each of my books currently has. These numbers don't seem strongly linked to numbers of sales. The Impossible Times series, which is published by Amazon and promoted on the platform, certainly has a disproportionately high level.
Clearly the length of time a book has been out is a significant factor too - The Girl And The Stars (for example) has not yet been released in paperback.
Thursday, 21 January 2021
Here's the roll - if your guess was within 1 of 870 and I've not mentioned you - let me know.
There were several people within 2 of the right answer and I've randomly selected two of those: Mel (from the comments on this blog post) and Ewen Daynes (from the comments on the Grimdark Facebook group). Nobody guessed the exact number. But Derek Schmidt (from the comments on the Grim Oak Press Facebook group guessed 871).
I need to free up some shelf space and I have duplicates / spares of quite a few anthologies - so I'm giving them away.
I'm giving them away in three groups of three. I have stories in 8 of the 9 collections. I will sign the ones I'm in.
Group 1 - Hardback edition of Unfettered III from Grim Oak Press + Paperback edition of Blackguards from Ragnarok + paperback UK edition of George Martin's Wildcards #26
Group 2 - Hardback edition of Unfettered (I) from Grim Oak Press + paperback edition of Legends II (from the Gemmell Awards) + paperback UK edition of George Martin's Wildcards #26
Group 3 - Hardback US edition of George Martin's Wildcards #26 + hardback ARC of Unbound from Grim Oak Press + Heroes Wanted.
I will be rolling three ten-sided dice to generate a number between 000 and 999. All you have to do is guess the number. The 3 people who get closest will win the three groups of books. You can comment here to enter or on any of the social media posts I make about this.
So, if this was my roll then the guess closest to 743 would win.
NOTE: If you win and you are outside the UK I'm going to ask you to paypal me the cost of postage (& to the US this could be around $15). I don't do this when I'm giving away books I've written, but these only contain traces of Lawrence.
The contest will end on Saturday 30th of January.
- it's worth pointing out that if you're commenting here anonymously ... I might have trouble letting you know you've won 😅 - drop an email address in your comment if you're not going to see the reply, or just give your guess on social media
- if I'm unable to contact a winner within a week I'll move on to the next person.
Monday, 18 January 2021
I wrote this piece on aphantasia for the Guardian last year.
I thought I would reference it here and elaborate somewhat. There seems recently to have been an explosion of people realising this is how they are - I won't say that they "have aphantasia" as that makes it sound like an illness or defect.
One early report on the - again I won't call it a condition - state of being was on the BBC and demonstrated a profound lack of understanding. It included such statements as:
Ironically, Niel now works in a bookshop, although he largely sticks to the non-fiction aisles.
"I couldn't really imagine what it's like to not imagine, I think it must be a bit of a shame really."
I doubt that anyone who has read my books thinks I would stick to the non-fiction aisles or that I can't imagine...
The misunderstanding lies in the fact that visualisation is such a central part of most people's imagination. For many the seeing of images in their head is synonymous with imagination. But aphantasia isn't a disability or lack. Think of it in terms of taking a different path to the same destination.
There's literally nothing that the majority of people can do that an aphantasic cannot. It's simply a matter of how they describe their own internal workings / experience when doing it. That's why it took so long to be recognised. Most aphantasics don't know that their internal experience is any different from that of the 98% who see mental imagery.
Various thought-provoking questions have cropped up over the years when considering the matter of artificial intelligence. One of them is to consider a black box that when asked a lengthy series of question responds in a way that leaves you unable to distinguish its answers from those of a person. The question then is: is the source of those answers intelligent, irrespective of the manner in which they were generated? I.e it could contain a phone through which a person was responding, or a computer coded with an AI algorithm, or a cunning array of clockwork, or a trillion ants working collectively, etc. Most consider that if a device provides feedback indistinguishable in character and quality from that of known intelligences then it would in fact be intelligent.
The extension here is that if someone acts as though they have an imagination then ... irrespective of the mechanics behind it (or the subjective description of the experience generated alongside those mechanics) ... that person has an imagination.
I can't visualise a spade, but I know what one is and I call a spade a spade.