You’re a member of Goodreads, right? www.goodreads.com You really should be. It’s a brilliant site, excellent for cataloging your reading. It’s one of the best places to do just about the best thing you can do for authors – rate and review their work.
I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating because it really does make a difference. If you enjoy a book, spend a few minutes at places like Goodreads and Amazon and rate and review that book. It doesn’t have to be much. Even single lines like:
Great horror novel, highly recommended.
A fast-paced, exciting read.
Anything like that. Along with a star rating, it really helps an author’s work get noticed. And if you like an author’s work, you really want them to get noticed, because that means they’ll build a career and make more work. Everybody wins!
And at the moment over at Goodreads there’s a list of the best horror novellas of 2012. My novella, The Darkest Shade Of Grey, is on the list. If you’ve read it and you liked it, I’d love your vote.
And while you’re there, a line or two in review and a star rating would be extra awesome. The same goes for my other books if you’ve enjoyed them too. I’ll love you extra special hard if you do rate and review my work – all authors love their readers more when they do that.
The Best Horror Novella list is here: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/22066.Best_Horror_Novellas_of_2012
It’s been a while since I had a nonsensical church sign here, but this one amused me today. In fact, it really confused me – it doesn’t make any sense at all. It doesn’t even rhyme.
Is it an oblique reference to accidental pregnancy? Because, let’s be honest, any of life’s blunders are rarely wonderful.
I don’t even…
Paul Richard Haines 8 June 1970 – 5 March 2012
I’m writing this with tears running down my cheeks, and they’re tears of impotent fucking rage as much as sadness. I may make very little sense over the next few paragraphs, but I can’t do anything else, so I’m writing this down. Excuse me if I rant and ramble, feel free to ignore this. Today my friend and writing inspiration, Paul Haines, died of cancer, after a battle of incredible determination and will. I can’t express enough my sympathy and condolences to his wife, Jules, and their little girl, Isla, as well as to the rest of their family.
Seriously, FUCK CANCER. Paul was a brilliant writer, as his plethora of awards testifies. He was a fearless and powerful writer, who addressed every aspect of humanity in his stories. Nothing was out of bounds for Paul, and his work got under the skin of everyone who read it. And it will stay there. He wrote one of the single best stories I have ever read, or probably ever will, Wives – originally published in X6 and reprinted in his latest collection.
And Paul was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Generous, friendly and funny as fuck, we laughed a lot in the times we spent together. Foul, crass, hilarious and sharply clever. He shared of himself and his time so generously. I am a better writer now than I might ever have been thanks to Paul’s help. The story being serialised right now is one he helped me with. He tore that sucker to shreds and helped me turn an okay story into what I think is one of the best things I’ve ever written. Because of Paul.
When he offered to crit that story for me, I expected a read-through and an email or phone call with a handful of suggestions and areas to look at. He sent me an email with dozens of bullet points, a full breakdown of issues he had and things I could improve on, with this 18,000 word novelette.
That email exchange ended up being over twenty messages back and forth to get that story where it is today. That’s how generous a friend Paul was.
My latest novel, not published yet, was something else Paul helped me with. Even struggling with cancer, hardly able to do anything with his own writing, he offered to read my latest manuscript and crit it for me. He asked me to print it out and post it down, so he could read it while lying on the couch resting, as he wasn’t able to spend long periods in front of his computer. He sent it back a few weeks later, covered in scribbled notes and accompanied by a thirteen page typed up critique. This is the kind of friend Paul was – someone who would do something like that while he was fucking dying and could, even should, have saved his energy. But he wanted to do it, because that’s the kind of friend and writer he was.
Throughout Paul’s fight against his cancer he was his open, candid self. He posted every stage of his illness on his blog, posted all about the highs and lows and the effect it was having on him, with no punches pulled or gruesome details gently couched in euphemism. Just like his writing. I’ve experienced way too much terminal illness in my life and whether you have or haven’t in yours (and I hope you haven’t) go and read Paul’s blog posts to get an idea of what terminal illness is really like. It’s not like the movies, where some beautiful actor gets to have a life like normal right up to the end and then gently whisper from their death bed before slipping away.
It’s real, visceral horror. It’s suffering and pain and rage and it does its best to strip away a person’s dignity. It reduces great people to husks, mere shadows of their former selves. It rips apart the sufferer and their family from the inside and tears the guts out of life for everyone concerned. But if you want any idea of how to cope with the evil, fucked up shit that terminal illness is, read Paul’s account. Anyone who shows a fraction of Paul’s strength and dignity, and that of his family, is doing pretty well for themselves in a situation with no redeeming aspects whatsoever.
I’m not surprised by Paul’s death, we knew it was coming. If anything, what’s surprising is that he lasted this long. Another testament to his strength and determination. His doctors were worried he wouldn’t make Christmas and Paul made it his primary mission to survive that long, to spend one more Christmas with his beautiful wife and child. He did that and more.
When things got that bad, I dropped everything and drove down to visit him, before it was too late, in early December. That was the last time I saw Paul. I regret not being geographically closer, so I might have spent more time with him, but I’m so glad I got to spend that afternoon with him. He was at peace with his situation. Of course he didn’t want to go, of course he was angry and upset and terrified of how his wife and child would cope when he went, but he seemed to have reached an acceptance and only wanted to hang on as long as possible and get as much time with them as he could. And he did a good job of that. He hadn’t given up, would never give up, but his dignity and bravery were inspiring.
And my rage burns on. Incandescent fucking rage that there’s nothing any of us can do against the pervasive evil that is cancer. Rage that someone so kind, generous, loving, clever and talented should be taken so early, so far before his time. Paul’s career was just beginning to really hit its pro stride and it mystifies me to think what he might have achieved. He told me about his new novel idea, and it would have been amazing. But he had no strength or time to write it. Seriously, fuck cancer. Fuck it fuck it fuck it!
There will never be another one like Paul Haines. It hurts so much already, I miss him terribly. I can’t imagine the pain his family are going through now. But at least we’ll always have the amazing things he wrote to remember him by. His influence and contribution to writing, Australian and internationally, is undeniable. His influence on me will never be wasted, I won’t squander that gift.
Vale, Paul. Always loved, always treasured, never forgotten.
EDIT 9th March 2012:
I’ve closed the comments on this post, and deleted all the comments that were posted. Initially I left the comments open – it didn’t occur to me to do anything different – and several comments came in that were very positive and supportive. Then one person posted something offensive and the comment thread quickly degenerated. I won’t remove the post – this was something heartfelt, written for and about Paul on the day he died. But I won’t let this post or his memory be sullied by petty bickering. So all the comments are gone.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Back in May 2009 a reader asked Neil Gaiman, via his blog, whether it was reasonable to feel let down that George R R Martin was not giving any clues about the release of the next A Song Of Fire & Ice installment. Gaiman famously told that reader, “George R R Martin is not your bitch”.
GRRM is one of the best and most popular fantasy writers, but his A Song Of Ice & Fire series, which started in 1996, has been a long time to completion, and isn’t finished yet. At the end of book 4 it said to expect book 5 in a year. It took six years to see publication. There are still two more books to come, with no release date even hinted at. So people are getting concerned that the whole story may never be told, and the query posted to Neil Gaiman is still valid. As, potentially, is Gaiman’s answer.
Gaiman’s point is that GRRM doesn’t have to live up to our (readers) expectations. As a writer, I can kind of agree with that to an extent. Gaiman posits that the reader, by buying the first book, assumed some kind of contract with Martin. Gaiman says, “No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.”
Art is not something you can force, and Martin is well within his rights to do whatever he wants with his story. Even quit now and never finish. He’s not our bitch and that’s his prerogative. However, if he does do that, I think he is also letting his readers down. And not just GRRM – this applies to all of us as writers. If we’ve said we’ll do one thing and we do something else, that’s either our choice or a situation forced upon us. But we are letting people down when we do it. It’s not an either/or proposition.
Recently, Brent Weeks, author of the Night Angel Trilogy and The Black Prism, posted an opinion piece at SciFiNow in which he says that Gaiman is wrong. In the article, Weeks says:
“Part of what entices us to buy a book is the promise conveyed in the title. “Gragnar’s Epic Magical Dragon Quest Trilogy: Book 1” promises there will be two more books. Whether through the title, or interviews, or through a note to readers at the end of a book that says the next book will be out in a year, when an author makes that kind of commitment, maybe technically there’s no contract, but there is an obligation.”
He also says, “…writers make mistakes about how fast they’re going to finish books All The Time. GRRM’s situation is merely illustrative.” This is well worth bearing in mind, as I’m not out to bash GRRM here, or anyone else in particular. I’m simply addressing the issue as a whole.
But I think Weeks is right – there is an obligation there. When a writer says they’ll write X number of books, readers start to invest their time and money into that series. It’s quite reasonable to feel cheated when the author doesn’t come through on that promise. For this reason a lot of people are now loathe to buy into a series until they know it’s finished. After all, they don’t want to spend time and money getting into a story without an end. Which is fairly reasonable. I’m tempted to make a sexual metaphor here, about encounters without happy endings, but I’ll be a grown-up and rise above that temptation.
I wrote a piece a while back called While you wait for book three, authors die! in which I point out that this method can be damaging. If an author’s first book doesn’t sell well, their publisher may decide to cut their losses and not publish the rest of the series. Bad for readers and writers. I always advise buying the first book, but not reading it yet. Collect the whole series as it comes out and read it all once it’s finished. Of course, this could turn out to be a waste of your hard-earned if the author doesn’t finish the series. But life without risk is like an untoasted tea cake. There’s no crunch.
Readers and authors are entering into unwritten contracts with each other. The author says, “I’ll write this series.” The reader says, “Cool, I’ll buy it and read it. I might even like it and give you a positive review and tell my friends about it.” It’s a symbiotic relationship.
The author doesn’t have to finish that series. There’s no legally binding contract, no demon’s blood on the page to force the magic out. But, should they not see through that originally stated obligation, they are letting the readers down. We all fuck up sometimes, we all get distracted by life and things that happen which are beyond our control. We all let people down sometimes, however much we may wish and try not to. But we should also own up to that let down. “Sorry, folks, I let you down” is lot more conducive to an ongoing relationship than, “Fuck you, I’m not your bitch!”
I really want GRRM to finish A Song Of Ice & Fire. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into it and I really want to know how it all works out. But Martin isn’t my bitch and I can’t force him to do something that he may not have the ability (due to other things in his life) or inclination to do. But, should the series not be wrapped up, I will feel let down.
How do you feel about it?
I’m in Brisbane for the Emerging Writers Festival, which I’ll blog about in greater detail during the week when I get back. In the meantime, I have the morning to myself so I came to see an exhibition of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography at the Art Gallery.
I’m glad I did. It’s an amazing collection of photographs evoking incredible nostalgia and place. Cartier-Bresson is a master storyteller with his imagery. Very powerful stuff. While soaking up the exhibition I saw this and had to share. Tis a great truth:
If you subscribe to this blog and you just got an email titled Latest From The Word, as you’d usually expect, but it listed loads of old posts from 2007, I can only apologise!
I have no idea why this happened, but I’m looking into it and hope it doesn’t happen again.