Monthly Archives: April 2009

Guess what? It’s another book meme

April 29, 2009

I picked this up from Scribe, who picked it up from Benjamin Solah, who grabbed it from Bites… You can follow it back further yourself if you’re really interested.

I thought it was worth a look as it’s a bit different from the others I’ve put on here up till now. Consider yourself tagged if you want to have a go. Drop a comment here if you do reproduce it yourself, with a link so I can come and have a look at your answers.

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?

I’m not especially fussed, to be honest. I tend to have more mass market paperbacks than anything else, but that’s primarily a financial consideration. I’d love to have a library of hardbacks. I’d also love to have a twenty acre property that I could enjoy from the driver’s seat of a Ferrari Enzo, but there you go.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?

Do we have B&N over here in Australia? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. There was a Borders in Bondi Junction, near where I used to live, and I enjoyed browsing there as the place was just so freaking huge. But I prefer a dingy little independent store with dust on the shelves given the choice.

Bookmarks or dog-ear?

I don’t mind a book looking like it’s been read and enjoyed, so I’m not against dog-earing a page. But I usually tend to tear off the corner of the newspaper or something similar and use that as a bookmark.

Amazon or brick-and-mortar?

Both. I love to browse in brick-and-mortar stores, but I also love to shop at Amazon. I just wish we had an in order to enjoy local shipping rates. Do you hear me, Jeff Bezos? We read down here too, you know!

Alphabetize by author, by title or randomize?

In a store, definitely alphabetise by author. At home, my OCD tendencies encourage me to do the same, but I’m usually pretty slack at it. I’m both obsessive and lazy.

Keep, throw away or sell?

Throw away a book?! THROW IT AWAY?! There should be a gaol sentence for that. Or better yet a public flogging. I’ll keep all the books I can. If I don’t enjoy a book I’m likely to trade it in at a second hand book store for something else. I once sold a load of books to finance an overseas trip and I still regret that.

Keep dust jacket or remove it?

Permanently? Keep it, of course. It’s an integral part of the book. But I usually take them off while reading and leave them on the shelf. I put them back when I’ve read the book.

Read with dust jacket or remove it?

Oh right. See above.

Short story or novel?

Both. I love the short story medium (I love reading them and writing them). I also love novels. There’s not really any distinction for me. A story is a story and the length is irrelevant.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

I’ve never read Lemony Snicket, so can’t really answer this one. I’ve have read all the Harry Potter stuff and, to be honest, it wouldn’t take much for Lemony Snicket to be better…

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

I’ve woken up with a book all crushed underneath me before, so I don’t tend to let tiredness stop me from reading. If I have to do something else I’ll usually try to get to the end of a chapter before I put the book down.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?

Dark and stormy all the way. Once upon a time usually has a Disney-esque moral and that gets a bit tiresome. Although real fairy tales are brilliant.

Buy or borrow?

Both. I’ll buy things as often as possible in order to hoard them and cram my bookshelves like a magpie stuffing its nest. But I’ll borrow too, if something is recommended to me.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations or browse?

All three. Probably reviews are the least likely thing to swing me one way or another, but I tend to buy based on all kinds of things. Sometimes it’s just a feeling in the gut and that often leads me to ripping yarns. Always trust your gut.

Tidy ending or cliff hanger?

Depends if there’s a sequel. It also depends on how well it’s done. A good, clever cliffhanger can be great, but not if it’s a cop out because the author couldn’t think of a good ending.

Morning, afternoon or night time reading?

Just like Martini – Anytime, anyplace, anywhere, that’s my reading… (That old Martini ad is really quite the tautology. Surely anyplace and anywhere mean exactly the same thing? Anyway…)

Stand alone or series?

Both. A solid standalone novel is always a pleasure, but series can build so much more detail and character. But only if it’s a good series. Multiple books rambling on about the same old bollocks page after page just for the sake of it are a crock. (Yes, I’m talking to you Robert Jordan! (I know he’s dead now, but I can still hold the same opinion I had when he was alive.))

Favourite series?

Tough call. The Lord Of The Rings is eternal, I really enjoyed The Belgariad and the Discworld books are perennial favourites. Also the Hitchhiker’s Guide… man, I could never pick a favourite. There are so many good series.

Favourite children’s book?

A three way tie between Charlotte’s Web, Stig Of The Dump and Runaway Ralph.

Favorite YA book?

I’m not sure I’ve really read anything specifically Young Adult. I did really enjoy Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy recently – does that count?

Favorite book of which no one else has heard of?

I should refuse to answer this question on the grounds of grammatical butchery. However, one that springs to mind is Replay by Ken Grimwood. It won the 1988 World Fantasy Award, so people must have heard of it, but whenever I mention it to friends they always shake their head. But you should read it. It’s brilliant.

Favorite books read last year?

I finally got around to reading Ender’s Game last year. I picked the twist very early on, but it feels like the reader is supposed to pick it before the kids realise. I enjoyed it a lot and it’s the only one that comes to mind right now.

Favorite books of all time?

Impossible to say. There are dozens of books that I absolutely love, but would never be able to pick one favourite.

What are you reading right now?

The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. And it’s excellent. I have about half of the last book left to go.

What are you reading next?

I got Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson for my birthday recently, so I’ll probably give that a go.

Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?

I would say RealmShift and MageSign, but that would just be mean and corruptive of young minds. So perhaps I’d say The Lord Of The Rings.

Favorite book to re-read?

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novels. I never get tired of those stories.

Do you ever smell books?

Of course. But I do prefer to smell bookshops – I like a more intense book sniffing experience.

Do you ever read primary source documents, like letters or diaries?

Only when I’m not supposed to. It’s just boring otherwise.


Bloggers Unite For Hunger And Hope

April 29, 2009

hungerToday is Unite For Hunger And Hope day. It’s a simple concept that bloggers everywhere post about global hunger to raise awareness of the situation. From the Unite website, here are a few facts and figures:

• Right now, more than 500 million people are living in “absolute poverty” and more than 15 million children die of hunger every year.

• World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the population is underfed and another third is starving.

• Even in the United States, 46 percent of African-American children and 49 percent of Latino children are considered chronically hungry.

There is enough money and enough food in the world right now to end global poverty and hunger, if countries would pull together and make it happen. First world countries are greedy and full and that makes it hard to recognise what it must be like to not know where your next meal is coming from. I’m very late to this party and don’t really have much to add of any substance, other than putting my hand up to be a part of a solution. Try to be aware of the food you buy and eat and see if you can only buy from your own country’s production, instead of buying produce that’s been stolen from the mouths of starving families and shipped around the world. Awareness is the beginning of solutions.

(Hat tip to Michael for this one).


The power of words and perception

April 28, 2009

I’m a big fan of using words in powerful ways. I suppose that’s a given, seeing that I’m a writer. But regardless, when people are clever with words and language and create something more than it first appears to be I always applaud the effort. This is a great example, originally created for the AARP U@50 video contest. It won placed second place.


Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics

April 27, 2009

I picked this little gem up from S F Signal, one of my all time favourite blogs. If you’re a sci-fi fan you should definitely add them to your RSS feed. This particular piece is something that has always fascinated me, for its brevity and completeness. Very few things are truly brief and complete, but Asimov nailed robot laws with this one. Here’s a young Asimov explaining his laws:

Edit: If you can’t see the vid below, you can see it here on S F Signal or here at YouTube.

The Three Laws of Robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

For all those people that think the Skynet is falling in regards to robots and the machines taking over the world, this is some small comfort. Of course, truly self aware robots would happily break rules as easily and regularly as we do, but I guess that’s the perceived difference between social rules and hard programming.

Regardless, these rules exist initially in the form of fiction (I Robot being the primary example), but they also carry over into true life robotics. Any sufficiently advanced robot that gets developed will have these laws programmed in. And that’s a very cool thing. These are rules that first appeared in Asimov’s short story Runaround in 1942. (Incidentally, Asimov also coined the term robotics in 1941.)


In further developments over time a fourth and fifth law have been added by others. I like to think of these as the Blade Runner Addenda:

In 1974 Lyuben Dilov’s novel Icarus’s Way added the Fourth Law:

A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases.

Nikola Kesarovski, in his short story The Fifth Law of Robotics, added the Fifth Law:

A robot must know it is a robot.

You can see why I think of these as Blade Runner laws. Another Fourth Law appeared in the 1986 tribute anthology, Foundation’s Friends. Harry Harrison wrote a story called The Fourth Law of Robotics in which a robot rights activist attempts to liberate robots by adding a Fourth Law that states, “A robot must reproduce. As long as such reproduction does not interfere with the First or Second or Third Law.” The robots build new robots who see their creator robots as parental figures, which is all a bit weird. Like all the other robot stuff isn’t weird…

Anyway, this is a fairly non sequitur post, but I’m a big fan of the concept of robots so I love this stuff. Blade Runner is still my all time favourite film, for example. So if you’re a sci-fi writer and you like to play with robots, don’t forget Isaac Asimov and his ground breaking ideas.


Friday Guest Blog – Five Months Hard Writing by Avery K Tingle

April 24, 2009

averyktingleToday we have a guest blog from my friend Avery K Tingle. I met Avery through the ever expanding virtual world of writer related social networks and was impressed by the broad scope of his work. He’s also a top bloke. Here he talks about what it is to be a freelance writer, especially in this current unstable climate.

Last fall was a high point for me. I had successfully ‘competed’ in my first NaNoWriMo, and parlayed the success into my first two freelancing gigs. I wasn’t taking it very seriously at the time; I had two clients, and of the two, I absolutely abhorred one of the assignments. Fortunately, both of my clients were very lenient when it came to deadlines, and I was able to take my time. Plus, my steady job allowed me to pursue my freelancing while I was on the clock. I didn’t have much to complain about.

Then I lost my job.

Filing for unemployment was a joke; I had resided in two states over the previous eighteen months, which meant I couldn’t do the process online. Getting through to a live operator was next to impossible. Also next to impossible was finding a job in this area; it seems the town I live in has been devastated by the recession.

Freelancing took a sudden shift from part-time hobby to full-time necessity, and my two clients became my sole source of income.

Five months have passed, and I’ll be returning to work full-time early next month. In that time, I have ghostwritten a novel and completed countless articles for fifteen different clients. In addition, I launched my own personal blog (Life As I Play It) and web fiction (Universal Warrior), the latter of which is read in four different countries and has been hailed as an “epic, action packed tale” and a “battle for the ages.”

It’s a good start.

I have also been ripped off quite a few times, driven myself to the point of exhaustion, and run through approximately one hundred tubs of Folgers Gourmet (That’s a type of coffee – Alan). I’m still in the middle of this journey, and I have had some great coaches along the way, but I feel I could have done much better for myself if I had followed some simple guidelines.

First, you need to know that it is very possible to earn a living, full-time, as a writer. What you also need to know is that you will work harder as a freelance writer than you ever did for someone else.

If you’re considering making the jump, plan ahead. Your new venture is a business, and like any business, it needs to be planned. Before you give notice to your existing job, you should know exactly what you would like to write about, and how you’ll make a living with it. You need to have accounted for your overhead (in this case, rent, electricity, etc.), and you need to know how much you can do in a set amount of time. It also helps tremendously if you have a little cash to fall back on; if you’re new to this, having money to fall back on might allow for a smoother transition. You can never do enough research, and you can never know enough.

Hard truth: I did not completely survive these past five months solely on my freelancing work. When I lost my job, I had next to nothing saved up and bills were due. Had it not been for some very good people, I might not have gotten through this period. I had opportunities to seriously research what I was doing before I lost my job. Had I taken them, I would’ve been a lot better off. Don’t assume tomorrow is a given; if you have the opportunity, start planning ahead now.

Another hard truth about writing for someone else is that only about a third of your work time is spent actually writing. The rest of the time, you’re investing in your future. You work your network, you bid on every project you think you can pull off, and you research your markets.

The upside to this is, as you are awarded projects and complete them on schedule, you will soon find yourself being invited to bid on projects, or even better, you’ll find yourself getting a lot of repeat business. One thing I learned is to not count on a single client for more than roughly twenty percent of your income (special thanks to Angie Haggstrom for that tidbit). The trick is learning to balance what you can do in the time you have. I learned to manage three to four clients at a time, and that was enough to cover my expenses—most of the time.

When developing your career, I think the single best piece of advice I can pass on is keep your word. In the beginning, this is the only asset you can present to the outside world. If you develop a reputation for turning in quality work according to schedule, you’ll soon find yourself in the favorable position of picking and choosing your clients. In the case of fiction, you may find your fan base growing. I release Universal Warrior every Monday. I have done this the last eighteen weeks, without fail. As fans have grown accustomed to this, I’ve found that they’ve been hitting the website on Monday before the story is actually released. That means they’re hyped.

Finally, if you foresee that you’re not going to be able to make deadline, don’t break off communication; this can be a death sentence for a fledgling career. Communicate with your client and tell the truth; sure, you may get chewed out, but you’re new, it’s what happens. Learn from the mistake and don’t repeat it. But you’d be surprised how forgiving people can be if you’re up-front with them. When I got started at the beginning of this year, I tried to juggle ten clients and broke just about every deadline I had. I got my head handed to me, and I lost some clients (that happens too, don’t beat yourself up about it) but I completed almost all of my assignments, I retained some of my existing clientele, and I replaced the ones I lost. Life went on.

I’ll tell you straight, writing for other people may be the hardest work you ever do. People would ask me how come I didn’t have a lot of free time, since I “wasn’t working.” My days often started at eight in the morning and ran till about three at night. I loved every second of it. I plan to make it career again someday.

No matter what kind of writing you intend to do, plan ahead, keep your word, and communicate. If you can live by those three guidelines, you’ll have a long and healthy career. If you can’t, you better hold onto the day job.

Avery K Tingle is the author of the critically-acclaimed, ongoing web fiction Universal Warrior: Uprising, which is a prequel to the upcoming novel Universal Warrior: The Last Campaign. You can read the story by visiting

You can also check out Avery’s blog at


fReado – another book marketing portal

April 22, 2009

There are so many online places for book marketing and book networking these days. Places like Goodreads and LibraryThing have been around a while now, Amazon tries to be way more than just a book shop and so on. I’ve recently stumbled across another one called fReado.

Rather than trying to be a place that is first and foremost about readers and their favourite books, fReado is set up as an unashamedly targeted marketing site. Authors put their books up there along with a small profile page and then upload a PDF of their book (or an excerpt of it). The book is then converted into what is actually quite a funky little online booklet and you can link reviews, media mentions and so on to it. Subsequently you can attract fans to yourself as an author and/or to your books. The options are there to promote any books through a large variety of social network with the ability to directly post Twitter tweets, Facebook updates, Digg, Reddit and so on.

The pages are actually set up to encourage the author to market their work through the fReado site using the site’s own generators. For example, put in your Twitter account details, write your piece and it gets Tweeted directly. I’m not entirely sure what the advantage is of this over just tweeting about your book directly on Twitter and directing people to your own web page. Perhaps fReado are hoping to develop some kind of central integrity. I can’t really figure out what’s in it for the fReado people. My guess is that they’ll wait until they have a decent number of authors and titles on board and then start offering paid marketing packages. We’ll see.

fReado advertise their marketing concept thus:

Marketing your book online can seem like a pretty daunting project because of the highly fragmented nature of the Internet. You have new websites and social networks cropping up almost every day. So where should you focus your efforts? How do you implement an effective online book marketing campaign? To help you, the staff at ( have created the table below to ensure that you have a base level of presence on the Internet. Please share your book-widget on at least a few of the networks mentioned in the table. While sharing the book-widget is extremely easy and self-explanatory, we have provided you with basic instructions to help you get started. Please note that fans of your book and your friends can also share your book-widget on their individual networks. We have also created a support group for authors marketing their books online on Facebook. This is a place for authors to trade ideas, encourage each other and help each other succeed with their book sales. To join this group, sign-in to Facebook and search for “A Support Group for Authors Marketing Their Books Online”

Anyway, I’ve signed up and uploaded the first three chapters of both RealmShift and MageSign and built the basic profiles for each of them. I’ll see what comes of it. If you’re interested, have a look and click to become a fan of me and/or the books. It might be worthwhile.

You can find my profile page here, the RealmShift page here and the MageSign page here.

What do you think of the site? Good, bad, worthwhile, pointless?


Rejection, the burden of all writers

April 21, 2009

Rejection is an inevitable part of the writing life. If you’re not good with rejection, you should never even entertain the idea of being a writer. It never ceases to amaze me just how belligerent some people get about rejections. And often, the most vocal are usually the worst writers, refusing to learn from critiques and improve their craft.

No matter how good you think you might be as a writer, you can always improve. My many years learning and teaching martial arts has taught me that there’s never an end to learning any kind of art. Writing, painting, dancing, Kung Fu – no matter how good you are, you can always get better.

And no matter how good you are, you will always get rejections. I’m sure that even Errol Flynn didn’t bed every woman he pursued.

So rejection is a part of the writing life and you need to get used to that. I remember an old Peanuts cartoon, where Snoopy is cold and depressed so Woodstock cheers him up by making a blanket out of Snoopy’s rejection slips. You can’t do that any more, as rejections are usually via email (even if submissions aren’t), but the underlying principle still applies. When you get served lemons, make lemonade. When you get rejections, learn.

Often a rejection will simply say, “Thanks but no thanks.” But you will occasionally get a few words giving some kind of reason for the rejection. On rare occasions you’ll get a more detailed critique. I’ve found that the more my writing improves, the better class of rejection I receive. That’s moving in a good direction, right? I’ll often get a rejection saying something along the lines of, “This was so close to being accepted, but we decided against it because…” Frustrating as it is, rejections like that are worth their weight in gold. (Well, they’re worth more than that – the weight of an email in gold does not a rich man make, but you get the idea.)

Never, ever just write rejections like that off. Don’t be a princess and harrumph and say, “Well, they just don’t get it. They don’t recognise my genius.” Most likely they recognise a lot more about you than you recognise about yourself. Pay attention to the points they raise, think really hard about any advice they give, try to apply that advice to a new draft of the story. It will make it better, every time.

In my experience, the most painful rejections are the rejections from shortlists. You’ve submitted your work, you’re really pleased with the story, and you sit back to wait. After a few weeks or months, depending on the publication, you get a letter back. It says something like, “We really like this piece and would like to hold onto it for another (x) weeks to see if we can fit it into our publication/anthology/whatever.”

This is great news – if it goes no further than this, remember to be pleased that you got shortlisted. But it really does burn when you get another letter several weeks later saying, “Sorry, we’ve decided against it.” It burns because you know it was good enough to be bought and published, you know they seriously considered it, but in the end something else they received was better. So short of getting a balaclava and a weapon and hunting down all the authors that are better than you, you have to suck it up and move on. Something about that shortlisted story worked, so your writing is going in the right direction. Fan the flames of that near success and keep plugging on and on.

You will get far more rejections than you ever get acceptances, unless you become as famous as Neil Gaiman. He can write anything and it gets bought. In the meantime, you just have to keep playing the game.

I’ve just yesterday had one of those shortlist rejections, which is what prompted me to write this post. It was for an anthology and I thought I was in, but got rejected in the last round. And yeah, it burns. But at least I know that story is a good one. A little more polish and it’ll go out again to other places and we’ll see if someone else will buy it. I have another story that is currently sitting on a shortlist. Fingers crossed that I might be luckier with that one. I also have two or three other short stories out there with other publications that I’m waiting to hear back on.

Four or five stories in circulation and the odds are that I’ll get four or five rejections. But you have to stay in it. I’ve sold work before and I’ll sell work again. Hopefully I’ll eventually improve my skills to the point where I can sell more and get rejected less. Either way, it’s something I’m compelled to do and I love writing. You have to. No one in their right mind would put themselves through this grinder on a regular basis unless they loved what they did.

“Be not afriad of moving slowly. Fear only standing still.” – Old Chinese proverb.


Back in the saddle

April 19, 2009

G’day everyone. I know that things have been a bit quiet around here lately, and for that I apologise. I recently celebrated ten years of marriage with my wife and we had a huge party, a big Renewal of Vows ceremony and associated revelry. I had visitors from interstate and, at one point, ten friends and family members visiting from the UK. It’s been a bit hectic. It’s also been absolutely brilliant and now that everyone has gone back things seem a bit empty. Everything’s a bit too quiet, like the point in a horror film where you just know that something is about to happen that’ll make you spill your popcorn into your lap. Except in this case, it won’t. It’s just life getting back to normal.

Whatever that means.

So now I’m doing all the catching up on things that I’ve let slide over the past three weeks. I have to catch up on writing some reviews and articles for the MaF online magazine, I have a short story to re-edit and others to chase up. I have to get more serious about my next novel, which is currently in the extensive notes phase and really deserves some attention. I’m also toying with the idea of another Ghost: The Hunter story as I enjoyed writing and releasing the first one so much that I’m keen to do it again. I’m becoming a big fan of free online serial fiction and A ‘Verse Full of Scum was really quite successful. It’s still hosted here in its entirety if you haven’t read it – a novella in 34 short chapters.

Also coming up this Friday is a guest blog by my good friend Avery K Tingle on the nature of being a freelance writer in today’s shaky climate, so check back for that on Friday.

Basically, this is a post to get things moving again. This big 10th anniversary party has been such a behemoth of planning and organising that it feels like now is actually the start of the year for me. I can finally concentrate on writing, publishing, promotion and all that good stuff. So, Happy New Year!


The Life Counted In Pages Meme

April 8, 2009

I picked this up over at the Literary Escapism blog. As things have been so quiet here at The Word lately, I thought it might be an interesting interlude until I get my life back. (For those that don’t know, my wife and I recently celebrated ten years of marriage with a big party that was essentially the wedding we never had ten years ago. There are lots of overseas and interstate visitors and the party looks like continuing for another week or so yet!)

So this is The Life Counted In Pages Meme, apparently. Fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll let the answers speak for themselves. Maybe you’ll learn something about me, hopefully you might learn of a new book or author that you haven’t come across before.

What author do you own the most books by?
This would have to be Terry Pratchett if we’re talking novels, as I’m a massive Discworld fan. If we can include graphic novels then that might be Neil Gaiman or Kazuo Koike/Goseki Kojima (Lone Wolf & Cub, Samurai Executioner, etc).

What book do you own the most copies of?
Probably the Watchmen graphic novel – I have the original comics that I bought as they were released, then the trade paperback collection, then the leather bound boxed edition, which is still one of my all time favourite books.


What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
I think if I have a crush on any fictional character it would have to be Faith from the Buffy The Vampire Slayer series. She’s like Buffy, only darker and cooler.

What book have you read more than any other?
Hard to say for sure. I’ve read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman cycle several times, and I’ve read Alan Moore’s Watchmen several times. When I was a kid I loved Charlotte’s Web by E B White and Stig Of The Dump by Clive King and a book about a mouse with a toy motorcycle called Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary. He made the motorcycle go by making a brmmm brmmmm noise.

What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I guess it would be Charlotte’s Web by E B White. Or Stig Of The Dump or Runaway Ralph!


brmmm brmm

What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
I don’t know. To be honest, I haven’t read a bad book for a while that I can recall. Maybe I’ve blanked the trauma from my memory.

What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
I’m currently reading Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy and I’m really enjoying it. It’s the best book/series that I’ve read in a long time.

If you could tell everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Well, how can I not say RealmShift (being the first of my books)? If it had to be a book I hadn’t written, perhaps I would recommend the Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman, an epic feat of truly original story-telling.

What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Probably my O-Level maths text book. I’ve never been a fan of maths.

Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
As people? Writers? Chefs? Presumably the question refers to writers, but who picks a favourite by nationality?

Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Tough call, especially given the bodies of work by each, but I do love a bit of Shakespeare.

Austen or Eliot?

What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I can’t really think of one.

What is your favorite novel?
That’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. (Although we all know that parents do have favourite children, they’re just not allowed to say so, so the analogy falls down there…) I love all kinds of books for all kinds of reasons. I love the Sandman stories as mentioned above; I think Watchmen is a staggering feat of storytelling; I love The Lord Of The Rings for it’s epic and original scope; the Discworld novels for their irreverance and comedy; anything by Ian Gibson for his stratospheric ideas and incredible prose… I could go on and on.

What is your favorite play?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I love the whimsical silliness of it. Plus, to a mind like mine, there’s a significant darkness to the tale too.


What is your favorite poem?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of The Ancient Mariner or Robert Burns, Tam O’Shanter. Both of those are fantastic stories captured in brilliant poetry.

What is your favorite essay?
Errr… Seriously, I have no idea! Does anyone really have a favourite essay?

What is your favorite short story?
Probably one of Roald Dahl’s twisted shorts. Or perhaps something by H P Lovecraft. Like the novels above, it’s pretty hard to pick one favourite.

What is your favorite non-fiction?
Anything I’m reading for research, I suppose. I read a lot of ancient history, mythology, religion (which is the same as mythology really) and stuff like that to research my own writing and it always fascinates me.

What is your favorite graphic novel?
I guess this is already answered, but it would have to be Sandman or Watchmen. There are so many others, but these two always stand out.

What is your favorite science fiction?
Probably the Culture novels by Iain M Banks. His ideas are just so intricate and original.

Who is your favorite writer?
Again, the list is very long. I couldn’t pick out a favourite writer any more than I could pick out a favourite book or short story. The only reason I got the poetry favourites down to two was because I’ve read so little poetry!

Who is the most over rated writer alive today?
I’m going to be contentious here and say J K Rowling. Her books are hugely entertaining reads and she’s done amazing things to get children reading more. She also has a brilliant ability to name things incredibly well (which is quite a skill), but on the whole she’s not that great a writer. Naturally her writing improves with every book, but she’s really not all that. And so much of the Harry Potter stuff is derivative of other, better fantasy.

What are you reading right now?
The last book in the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks.

Best Memoir?
I don’t think I’ve ever read one.

Best History?
Not sure really. I recently read a fascinating book about the Knights Templar as research, but I can’t recall the title or author off-hand. I really must get around to building these book shelves I need so that I can finally unpack all my books. We’ve been in the new house since last August, for goodness sake.

Best mystery or noir?
Anything that starts with a line like, “When she walked into my office, all fishnets and cigarette smoke, I knew she was going to be trouble.” Raymond Chandler all the way.


Consider yourself tagged if you’ve read this and like the idea. If you do copy it to your own blog, leave me a comment so that I can come and have a look. And leave any comments with your own answers to any of the questions above if you can’t be bothered to do the whole thing.


Friday Guest Blog – Marketing yourself by David B Coe

April 2, 2009

davidbcoeFor today’s guest blog I’m very happy to present my good friend David B Coe. David is a trad published author (through Tor) and shares here his thoughts about marketing a novel, however it’s published.

Hi. I’m David B. Coe, an American fantasy author. I’ve published ten novels, including the LonTobyn Chronicle (a trilogy), Winds of the Forelands (five books), and Blood of the Southlands (another planned trilogy — the first two are out). My most recent book, which came out in January, is called The Horsemen’s Gambit.

I met Alan in 2006 at the Magic Casements Book Festival in Sydney. My family and I were living in Australia at the time (Woonona, along the Illawarra Coast) and I had been invited to be a presenter at the festival. Alan and I hit it off immediately and have been friends since. I’m grateful to him for inviting me to guest blog today.

As a writer, my primary task is to be creative, to turn out new novels. My goals are a) to make my novels as exciting and readable and compelling as I possibly can, and b) to complete them as quickly as I can without undermining a). But while that’s my primary task, it’s not my only one. I’m also a businessman. I have to understand the publishing industry and do what I can, in tandem with my agent, to keep my career on an upward trajectory. And I have to market myself. I have to find, maintain, and expand my reading audience.

I am what Americans refer to as a midlist author, which basically means that I don’t sell enough books to be considered a bestseller or a big name, but I do have a modest, loyal readership and sales numbers that are good enough that I can continue to sell books. Being a midlist author is not something I take for granted. I know of many writers — all of them talented and deserving — who would love to be in my position. But I also know lots of midlist authors — and I’m one of them — who would like to make the jump to A-list status. One of the reasons is that the big name authors are the ones who get the big publicity budgets, the signing tours, the splashy advertisements in journals and magazines.

If you think about it, the system is backwards. Those authors who are already well-known, who already sell like gangbusters, get the big advertising money, while those of us who need more exposure, get very little. This means that though my books are put out by a big New York publisher (Tor Books) with a large publicity department, the vast majority of my advertising is done by yours truly. Small press and self-published authors are not the only ones who need to self-promote aggressively in order to get noticed. In fact, it’s the celebrity authors who DON’T have to do that stuff who are the exceptions.

So what does Tor do to promote my books? And what sorts of things do I have to do on my own behalf? Well, Tor prints out advanced reader copies of my books and sends them to reviewers all over the world. This gets my work noticed by U.S. publications like Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist, to name just a few. They also take out advertisements in trade periodicals, Locus being the most prominent. And, when I have book signings or convention appearances planned, Tor might send press packets and posters, or buy advertisements in convention programs. All of these things are helpful, and I’m grateful for everything Tor does for me.

But I do pretty much everything else. I arrange my own signings, convention appearances, festival appearances, and media interviews. To the extent that I ever do a booksigning tour, I make all the arrangements myself, and I bear all of the costs. I maintain my website ( where I have information about all my books and appearances, sample chapters from every novel I’ve published, contests through which visitors can win free books, and other stuff designed to generate and maintain interest in me and my work. I maintain a couple of individual blogs and also share a couple of group blog sites. I do guestblogging [waves at Alan]. Most of all, I go into bookstores and introduce myself to the staff, show them where my books are on their shelves, let them see the face behind the name written on the book jacket. I offer to sign stock (my books — they don’t like it when I sign other people’s novels. . .) and I ask if they’re hosting signings. But even if they’re not, I’ll chat with them for a while and answer any questions they have about my work. Because they’re the people who will be selling the vast majority of my books.

At times I have printed out postcards or bookmarks and distributed them at area bookstores or sent them to specialty bookstores throughout the States. Tor has helped me with the graphics for these printings, and I have prevailed upon them (with help from my editor) to reimburse me for some of the expense. But all of this — the online activity, the signings, the printed material — happens on my initiative.

Again, let me make clear that I am not complaining. That’s not the point of my post. Rather it’s to show that no matter who you are or what kind of publisher you write for, you have to be prepared to promote yourself. It’s not that Tor doesn’t do enough for its writers; the professionals in Tor’s publicity department work hard and don’t get paid nearly enough. But Tor has many authors and limited resources, and the same can be said of every other publishing house in New York, and London, and Sydney.

The bottom line is this: Magazine advertisements are great. Booksigning tours can be lots of fun. But ultimately they don’t sell books. Word of mouth does. I can do myself more good by visiting bookstores and speaking to the store staff about my work than I can with any advertisement no matter how well placed. I want to get people talking about my books. I want to make certain that the next person who walks into a local outlet of Barnes & Noble or Angus & Robertson and asks a store employee to recommend a fantasy novel will hear in response, “Oh, yeah! You need to read The Horsemen’s Gambit by David B. Coe!” If I can do that, I’ll do fine. I might even make it onto that A-list I mentioned before.

David B Coe is the Crawford Award-winning author of ten fantasy novels.
Recently released: The Horseman’s Gambit (Tor Books, December 2009) – Book 2 of Blood of the Southlands.

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