Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A few days ago I turned the car’s air conditioning on for the first time in months because I was too hot.

Tonight I was trying to clear the snow off the windshield.

Getting in your car and realising the interior is colder than the inside of your freezer.

Scraping the ice off your glasses so you can see to drive.

Thinking ‘feels a bit cold today’ while walking home from the bus stop, then checking the weather and discovering the temperature is minus forty-six with wind-chill.

Thinking ‘oh, it’s only minus twenty, that’s a pleasant winter’s day.’


New review up at When The River Has Run by Lars Harssan.

First review is up at Sift Reviews: Blood Skies by Steven Montano.

I should probably mention that initially I was accepting most stories that looked interesting, but now I have a backlog of several months I have to be far more choosy. So turning a submission down doesn’t mean that I think it sucks, just that it’s not my kind of book.

My pre-Nano interview is up at:

Blog Party for Edward M. Grant

Tunnelers is a few hundred words behind schedule, but I have the long weekend to catch up and move ahead; perhaps it’s apt that I’m writing a WWI novel on Rememberance Day. It’s an interesting experience, I’m basing it on another old unfinished screenplay and finding a ton of problems with that version as I go along; not least the fact that most of the middle is missing. I’m using Nano to rough out a first draft, then I’m going to break that down to an outline, fix that up and rewrite it.

I’m about half-way through the final revisions to Tartarus.

Meanwhile, there have been a couple of blog posts at Elf Killing And Other Hobbies about a publisher not paying royalties, not releasing books and not returning rights to writers.

While self-publishing risks obscurity if no-one ever finds your novels, at least you don’t have to worry about losing rights to your books or all the royalties; one e-book retailer might get into financial troubles and not pay, but the odds of all of them doing the same are slim.

Which is not to imply that writers should never publish through publishers, but clearly life isn’t always as easy as signing a contract and then waiting for the publisher to send you money. Hopefully this isn’t a common occurrence.

A number of people on blogs and web forums have posted a strange idea that in the future trade publishers are going to wait for new authors to prove themselves through self-publishing, and then swoop down offering big advances to scoop up all the popular authors.

I don’t get it.

Suppose I was selling 100,000 novels a year at $2.99 with 70% royalties; I’d be banking $200k a year and pretty damn happy with the way my life was going. So Big Publisher swoops in and says they want my next and future books.

‘OK, what’s the deal?’

‘We’ll give you 25% royalties on the 70% royalties that Amazon pay.’

‘Uh-huh. So I’m making 70% royalties now and I should sign up with you because you’re offering 17%?’

Kind of a killer argument, don’t you think?

If self-publishers are going to sign with trade publishers then those trade publishers must offer something that the self-publishers can’t do themselves. Today that’s obvious: self-publishers can’t get print books into many bookstores so releasing a book through a trade publisher could reach many more readers. Right now I’d be more than happy to take a million dollar advance and get my books into bookstores, though I can’t see any publisher turning up to offer that deal to me any time soon.

But with more and more book-stores going out of business, that’s not going to be a convincing argument for long. If e-books take over most of the book market, then a trade publisher has to convince me that they’re going to make more than four times as much money selling my e-books as I can.

The only ways I can see to do that are to increase the price, push the book with marketing, or a combination of the two. Now, I can increase the price of my books myself without paying someone 75% of the royalties to do so, hence the only real attraction I could see in a post-print world is marketing. Economies of scale might make that cheaper for a dedicated publisher than a self-publisher, and the self-publisher wouldn’t have to pay for the marketing up front.

But is that really enough justification to pay them three times as much as I make for actually writing the book in the first place, and do so forever even when it’s no longer the hot new book that everyone wants to read?

I still don’t get it.

An interesting post about how Michael Moorcock could write a book in three days. I’ve never been a huge Moorcock fan, but I did like his Elric and Dancers At The End of Time stories as a teenager and Elric, at least, seems to fit into the outline that he gives.

I think I may have to try this myself just for fun.

Horror Movie is largely done now, but I’m struggling with the final act for one simple reason: I knew most of the characters when I started out, but not the antagonist. I’ve gone through three different possibilities before finally returning to the one I started with, and while that was a good idea I’m still stuck with the details of his actions. So much so that I’ve written more of a new novel this weekend than I’ve managed to write of that one, because in that case I know who everyone is and what they want.

Once I’ve worked that out this novel shouldn’t take long to finish, but I wish I’d done it right at the start. For the meantime, here’s the provisional cover.

I used OpenOffice/LibreOffice for writing stories at the moment (I’m thinking of trying Scrivener) and while I was trying to sort out pacing in Horror Movie I added chapter headings and a table of contents. I was surprised when I had twenty chapters but only two appeared in the contents.

What I discovered was that the software won’t include the chapter unless there’s some text on the header line. I’ve configured the header so that it automatically says ‘Chapter N’ where the number automatically increments, but that’s not good enough. I had to go back through to each chapter heading and add a space after it so that it appeared in the table of contents.

This is the kind of thing which obviously seemed like a good idea at the time — why would anyone want an entry in the table of contents if there’s no text? – but was poorly implemented, not considering that there may be auto-generated text on that line even if the user hasn’t typed any extra text of their own.

Here’s a good article on choosing a book title:

Unfortunately after going through the process I’m still trying to find a good one for Uncle Howard’s House. It’s just waiting for feedback from the first readers before I do the final revision and publish it, so I don’t have much longer to figure something out. I’m sorely tempted to call it Horror Story because that really does describe the plot, but that seems a little too wacky.

I also decided to call Horror Movie a first draft and start revising it because I know what has to happen in the end but there are quite a few changes I have to make in the first three quarters before I get there. At least once I’m happy with that I already have a title and a basic cover design so I won’t be going through the same problems.


Someone was posting on a web forum about the odd coincidence that chemical rockets are barely capable of reaching orbit from the surface of the Earth; if the planet was even 10% larger that would become extremely difficult, and if it was 50% larger probably impossible.

While I’ve wondered myself whether there’s anything special about those numbers that makes life more likely to evolve (e.g. chemical rockets are largely powered by the energy bonds between atoms which also determine many of the properties of life on Earth), there’s also another argument that makes sense to me:

If you assume that you’re a random member of the population of the universe, then you’re most likely to be a member of the most populous species in space-time. So if you find yourself confined to a single planet, you’re also likely to find that it’s a planet that the laws of physics allow you to escape from so your species can colonise the galaxy. There may be other technological species out there, but if their gravity is 50% higher then they can’t get off the planet with chemical rockets and using nuclear rockets in an atmosphere is problematic, to say the least; hence they’re likely to either wipe themselves our or be wiped out by our descendants when we find their solar system.

This is kind of related to the Doomsday Argument, which assumes that we’re around 50% of the way through the population of the human race and attempts to predict how much longer the human race is likely to survive. We could have been born in an unusual situation purely by chance, but my money is on the human race being the first in this galaxy and the ones who will take it over; though by the time we reach the far side of the galaxy we probably won’t look much like the humans you see today.

Uncle Howard’s House (or whatever I eventually call it) is out with a couple of readers for some feedback before I do some final revisions and publish it. Horror Movie has been through some changes and is now up to 40,000 words again after removing some subplots that detracted from the pacing. I should have a complete first draft in a couple of weeks. Interestingly, some of the tweaks kind of make it a prequel to one of the other movie scripts I was planning to convert into a novel.

There was a thread on the Kindle Boards forum recently about writing goals. Here are mine:

1. Write 1,000 new words a day.

2. Publish three or four novels a year.

3. Try to make each one better than the last.

On a related subject I just finished the fourth draft of Uncle Howard’s House which fixed up most of the remaining problems. I’ll be doing a fifth to tweak the things I noted but didn’t fix this time, then sending it off to some writer friends to look at so I can fix any remaining problems before putting it up on Smashwords and Amazon.

Since Amazon aren’t releasing a version of their Kindle software that runs natively on Linux, unfortunately we’re stuck with running the Windows version through Wine. Version 1.5.0 wouldn’t install or run properly on Ubuntu 10.10, but it does run on Ubuntu 11.04 using Wine 1.3; you may not want to upgrade it to a newer version in case Amazon break it again.

Much worse was getting the Adobe DRM-ed ‘Digital Editions’ ebook software to run on Linux, as not only do they not want to let you download the DRM-ed books if you’re not using a Mac or a Windows PC, but they also don’t want to let you download the software (‘Sorry, but your system does not meet the minimum system requirements’); once it’s installed it seems to work fine, but they do their best to prevent you from installing it.

Fortunately after all of that they give you a backdoor route to download it which doesn’t try to prevent you because you’re running Linux:

Can’t install Digital Editions

Not that I actually want to do so because it’s probably the worst ebook reading software I’ve used, but if you happen to run into DRM-ed ebooks and need to read them legally then it’s the only option.

Of course this is one of the reasons why DRM is evil and why I would never knowingly buy or sell an ebook which is crippled in that way. While DRM-free ebooks can be used with any software the reader chooses which supports that format, DRM by its nature requires restricting people to a limited subset of software and if it’s not available on your platform, well, sucks to be you.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I generally find that the only way I can ensure I get something done is to set a deadline and stick to it. Otherwise when I have a day job finding any reason not to write is far too easy; be it TV, Internet, reading, mowing the lawn, or whatever.

I can’t guarantee to meet them, but what I’m going to aim for is the following:

July: Uncle Howard’s House rewrites done and ready for some critiquing. Horror Movie first draft.
September: Horror Movie rewrites done. Wicker Woman first draft.
November: Wicker Woman rewrites done.

I’m also going to spend time coming up with some better titles :).

So, who am I?Me at the Great Wall of China

Well, I’m British, an Oxford physics graduate, and now living in Canada. I’ve been writing on and off for many years, but I’ve always been put off by the idea that once I’ve written a novel and polished it I’m then looking at having to beg agents to read it followed by waiting for publishers to decide whether they want to publish it and then if that happens having to wait a year or more for it to hit the shelves, after which a few years later I might get all the money. I certainly wouldn’t turn down a million dollar advance if someone offered it, but the whole traditional publishing industry just seems insanely inefficient.

I’ve written some magazine articles in the past, and being able to go into a store and see my name on the cover of a magazine on the shelf was always exciting. I co-wrote an indie vampire movie a few years ago which unfortunately didn’t get very far, though for good reasons; the budget was just too low and the director had to rewrite my wonderful ending as one of the actors quit part-way through. What’s brought me back to novel-writing is the recent growth in ebook sales, which have finally made rapid, low-cost publishing viable. In addition, the ease of electronic submissions has made selling short stories more viable as I no longer need to print them out and mail them across the Atlantic to the big markets.

So, here I am with about a dozen unproduced movie scripts, a couple of old novels that I gave up on part-way through revising and some old short stories. I’ve been writing and revising all year and have put nearly 200,000 new words down on disk with the intention of publishing two or three ebooks this year and probably more next. I grew up on pulp horror, SF and horror movies like ‘Evil Dead’, so I’ve always had a soft spot for them and wanted to write something that would entertain people as much as those entertained me.

I’ve also travelled all over the world, worked on numerous indie movies as everything from coffee-maker to editor, been a VIP at several space shuttle launches, survived earthquakes and a tsunami, climbed Mt Fuji, and visited ground zero of several nuclear explosions. I’m scared of heights and Saskatchewan drivers.

For now, all I have is this blog, but once I have at least one ebook up for sale I’ll set up the rest of the web site at

Let’s see how that works out over the next few years.