Monday 29 September 2008

50 greatest villains in literature

The Telegraph has recently published a list of what its contributors consider to be the 50 greatest villains in literature.

Apparently the task was harder than they were expecting because 'the nature of grown-up literature is that it doesn't all that often have villains, in the sense of coal-black embodiments of the principle of evil. And even when it does, it's not always so easy to tell who they are. Is God the baddie, or Satan? Ahab, or the white whale?'

Well, they've obviously not read any of my novels lately! I'm just putting the finishing touches to my ninth novel (yes nine, count 'em!) and it's got a doozy of a villain in it... but to say anymore would spoil the surprise.

Some of my fellow Black Library writers have also been musing on the subject of villainy lately, namely Nick Kyme and C L Werner.

If we're honest, we all love a good villain, don't we? It is the villain, after all, who provides the dramatic drive for a thriller - like the kind of stories I write - which, in turn, gives our hero the chance to shine. Where would Batman be without the Joker, or Sherlock Holmes without Professor Moriarty?

If you can judge the quality of a man by his friends then, equally, you can judge a hero by the quality of his enemies.

Sunday 28 September 2008

More news from Abaddon

Abaddon editor and all round top bloke Jonathan Oliver has posted a comprehensive missive about the part he played in the recent Fantasycon and Abaddon's plans for the Twilight of Kerberos series. So, if you want to find out what red wine, red faces, Operation Motherland and a quartet of trilogies have in common, then click here.

What is Myrrh Anyway? Out this week!

Hark, I am the bearer of glad tidings, to you and all your kin. For lo, What is Myrrh Anyway? is out this week!

So that's all your Christmas shopping needs sorted, in one easy to read, easy to wrap book, that's the ideal size to fit inside your Christmas stocking!

What is Myrrh Anyway? hits the shops this Thursday, but you can already order it online at Amazon.

Ho, ho, ho.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Angry Robot

Publishers Harper Collins have announced that they have appointed Marc Gascoigne (one-time collaborator, editor and publisher of mine) to run a new SF & Fantasy imprint. This new business venture - with the wonderful name Angry Robot - is being set up to provide the global science fiction/fantasy community with new content both in physical and digital form.

To read more about this exciting development in the world of publishing, click here. In the meantime I'd like to wish Marc all the best with his latest publishing venture.

Friday 12 September 2008

What is Myrrh Anyway?

Much excitement in the Green househould this morning, as my author copies of What is Myrrh Anyway? have arrived. And for what started out as a relatively short stocking filler of a book, it's actually turned out to be quite a weighty little book on the subject of Christmas and its traditions.So if you've always wondered why Christmas Day falls on 25 December (and not the 15 Augcember, for anyone who's seen the new series of Harry and Paul on BBC1), or can't understand why Brussels sprouts are always on the menu for Christmas dinner, then this little Christmas cracker of a book is the one for you.

The book isn't officially published by Icon Books until 2 October, but it is available to pre-order over on Amazon. And you can discover more fun and fascinating facts about the festive season over on the dedicated What is Myrrh Anyway? blog.

Ho, ho, ho.

A partnership that works

I spent a very enjoyable day yesterday at the offices of Working Partners in London taking part in a writers' workshop. From a writer's point of view it's a different way of producing a book. Rather than being a publisher, Working Partners is a book packager that develops series fiction for all the major publishers. They work alongside writers to create whole ranges of books that will appeal to boys or girls aged from 4 to 12+. Some of their recent successes include Beast Quest, Rainbow Magic and Dinosaur Cove.

The idea of the workshop wasn't to tell already published writers how to write, but to guide them through the process of how books are developed by Working Partners, and very interesting it was too. That said, a great deal of sense was spoken during the day and some excellent advice was passed on. Much of it was along the lines of tricks and tips that many of us had used already but without having a label for that particular writer's tool. By making it so explicit, the editors who spoke at the workshop provided me personally with new ways at looking at characterisation and those all important opening lines. I can also see some of their advice coming in handy on those days where the creative flow just isn't flowing like it should.

As I say, I was just one of a group of up and coming writers who attended the workshop, and you should definitely check all what everyone is up to. So take a bow Dave Gatward, Kate Scott, Maureen Oakeley, Benjamin Scott, Thea Bennett, Tara Button, Margaret Carey, Susan Sandercock, Addy Farmer and Gemma Dunn. Keep an eye out for them in the future - these are the names to watch!

Monday 8 September 2008

Go, Go Crazy For Those Bones! Out this week

My latest book (the revised and updated version of one I wrote 12 years ago) is out this Thursday. Go, Go Crazy For Those Bones! is all about the latest craze to hit homes and playgrounds across the country (and they say lightning never strikes twice).

And despite the fact that the book is not officially out until Thursday, it's already almost sold out on Amazon, so you'd better get over there quickly if you want to nab yourself a copy.

Go on, get go-going! You know you want to!

Match Wits at the Science Museum

I was at London's Science Museum on Sunday and popped into the branch of Waterstone's that they have there - an occupational hazard when you're a writer. I was very pleased to see that they had The Horror of Howling Hill (my Doctor Who adventure) there among the other DW merchandise, but also Match Wits with the Kids.

There's plenty in the Science section of Match Wits that you can tie to exhibits at the Science Museum, which has many practical models to help demonstrate how things work. There are even links to the History section with the development of the Industrial Revolution.

From the shelves of the museum bookshop it was quite clear that there has been a recent explosion in books about school and schooling aimed at adults, everything from Homework for Grown-Ups to England: 1000 Things You Need to Know.

But if you want one all-encompassing book that takes the subject seriously (whilst presenting it in a light-hearted way), that keeps it up to date and relevant for the modern generation of school-goers as well, then you can't beat Match Wits with the Kids.

Friday 5 September 2008

A triumph of hope over logistics

Anyone who's ever seriously wanted to make a living - any kind of living - as a writer will have heard of the slush pile. It's that collection of unsolicited manuscripts either sent directly to the publisher by authors, or sent through an agent not known to the publisher. It collects dusk at the corner of an office until, teetering under its own weight, some poor unpaid assistant or junior editor is given the task of trawling through it, trying to separate the wheat from the chaff - and there's a lot of chaff.

Many publishers publicise on their websites that they do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. However, there is always the secret hope that a trawl through the slush pile will result in the discovery of the Next Big Thing. (A case in point would be J K Rowling at the first Harry Potter book.)

There’s an interesting article on the Guardian website about publishers’ slush piles. My experience of the slush pile is this: the only time I think I probably came close to it was when I sent my initial proposal for a Fighting Fantasy gamebook to Marc Gascoigne, the FF consultant editor at the time. The difference with this arrangement was that Marc's job was to go through every unsolicited submission and give feedback as appropriate. Thanks to his nurturing efforts, eventually my second proposal - Spellbreaker - made it all the way through to publication. Since then, everything else I have written has come off the back of that first book, either directly through contacts I had made or as a result of being able to say to other publishers, 'Look, I've already been published' which has been enough to at least get them to look at anything I've sent them.

Of course many people try to get an agent before trying to submit anything to a publisher. I don't have an agent yet (but any agent reading this should feel free to get in touch) but I have plenty of writer friends who do.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to become published is to know the market you're writing for and, if you are going to pitch to an agent or publisher, follow their guidelines for doing just that to the letter. With them receiving so many manuscripts week in week out, you don't want to give them any excuse to throw yours out before they've even read it. And, of course, you want to appear professional. Writing for a living is a profession after all.

I have never submitted a complete manuscript without it having been commissioned first, which has inevitably save a lot of heartache, not to mention time, along the way.

(Thanks to Alex Milway over at The Mousehunter Blog for alerting me to the piece from The Guardian.)