Wednesday 27 July 2011

Writers round-up

Just a quick one tonight* rounding up some of the news regarding other writers whom this blogger writer follows.

First up, Kevin J Anderson on the pricing of eBooks. I found this of particular interest, particularly because I'm increasingly looking at eBooks as an outlet for my writing.

This week's author interview over at Civilian Reader is with the David Gemmell Morningstar Award winner Darius Hinks.

And then we have William King talking about writing stories set within the 41st millennium, and of that challenges with which the setting confronts a writer.

There - that should keep you going for now... ;-)

Until next time...

* Novels and proposals for new novels to be written, you know.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Jim Swallow's advice to the aspiring writer

M'colleague James Swallow knows a thing or two about this business we call Writing and has had many experiences - both good and bad - after than well over a decade of working freelance.

He has distilled much of what he has learnt into a number of very readable, interesting and (in some cases) cautionary blog posts which you can find over at his website here.

Hi there Fighting Fantasy fans!

If you pop over to the Laughing Jackal website, you can read an interview with Steve Jackson about Talisman of Death on the PSN.

60 Rules for Short SF (and Fantasy) - a.k.a. Rules Are Made To Be Broken

Terry Bisson has guest posted on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website with a piece entitled '60 Rules for Short SF (and Fantasy)'.

Now, as a science fiction and fantasy fan, and a short story writer, I read such articles with interest as, effectively being self-taught, any tips I can glean can prove to be useful - if only because sometimes I realise I whole-heartedly disagree with the advice given.

Now 60 rules (that's a lot to remember for a start - too many, I would argue) are bound to provide someone like me with plenty of grist for the mill (as it were). However, if you're going to get the full benefit of my rantings, you're going to need to read Terry's rules first.

Some of Terry's advice I think is spot on. Take for example:

4. The more extraordinary the idea, the more ordinary the language.

I like that one. And then there's this:

14. Be stingy. Generosity is out of place in the short story.

That's good too. But there are probably more of his rules that I disagree with than with which I agree.

Before I start dismantling Terry's advice, let me set out my own SF/F short story writer credentials. I have sold 25 odd short stories in the SF, fantasy and horror vein and my short stories have probably garnered more praise than my long form fiction. So, here we go...

1. Keep it short . It can and should be read in one sitting. That’s the first rule.

The first rule. Good start. 'It can and should be read in one sitting.' Really? That's quite an assumption. Some people don't have that luxury. Does it really matter? Maybe we're getting into semantics here - when does a short story become a novella? - but many of my short stories are around the 10,000 word mark. A tube or bus journey might not be long enough to finish a story that long. I'm just saying...

5. Keep your timeline simple. Flashbacks are out of place in a short story.

I disagree, or rather - as Terry's being all didactic and stuff -wrong. I have used flashbacks to great effect in my short stories, especially the Ulysses Quicksilver adventure White Rabbit. Go check it out for yourself here. It's one of my best (even if I do say so myself.)

6. Never write in present tense. It makes events less, not more, immediate. Past tense IS present tense.

Wrong! Again, I've written a couple of stories recently in the present tense and not only has it freed up my writing style, it's also produced some really intense fiction. Check out my short story The Doll's House in the forthcoming House of Fear anthology from Solaris Books, or the brand new Fear to Tread in the Phobophobia collection coming this November from Dark Continents Publishing.

8. One world only. Dreams are out of place in a short story.

I would disagree again. Dreams can be a powerful tool, if used correctly, in any story, no matter what the word count.

18. One POV is enough. Two is more than enough. Three is too many.

The thing that strikes me most about Terry's many restrictive rules, is the lack of imagination they seem to demonstrate. I have also used the shifting POV to great effect in short fiction. For an example read my Warhammer Badenov's Band story The Nagenhof Bell (which first appeared in Inferno! magazine #27 and which was subsequently reprinted in the Swords of Empire anthology).

20. The main character should be a little stupid. This flatters the reader.

Now, here's an interesting one. I see what Terry's getting at here but... Well, put it this way. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about a hyper-intelligent consulting detective, a man clearly more intelligent that the author, let alone the reader. I suppose you could argue that Dr Watson is the main character but I'd say that he's the narrator and the Sherlock Holmes is clearly the main character.

Again, what about Miss Marple in Christie's classic short tales? A slightly dumb character may well flatter the read, allowing them to work out the twist first, but readers are fascinated by those more intelligent by themselves as well - it all depends on how you portray that character and their intelligence.

24. A short story should cover a day or two at most. A week is stretching it.

Again, I disagree. (Do you see a pattern forming here?) Check out the aforementioned Fear to Tread.

26. Action is overrated anyway.

Not in a Warhammer or a Warhammer 40,000 story. Perhaps Terry's first rule should have been, know your market.

37. No wizards or dragons. They will make your short story seem like a part of a longer, less interesting piece.

Why? Is this just a personal pet peeve of Terry's?

Again, know your market. There may be plenty of stories about wizards and dragons already, but that doesn't mean you can't write a new story featuring wizards and dragons - especially if you do something new and interesting with them.

40. Fights are only interesting in real life. They are boring in stories.

Ahem? Warhammer? 40K? Pax Britannia? There are plenty of fights in plenty of my short stories and, judging be reader and editor response alike, people like to read about them. Nay, not like - expect!

41. Novels are made out of characters and events. Short stories are made out of words alone. They are all surface. Polish.

This seems very narrow-minded to me. I agree with the polish bit but short stories aren't made out of characters and events? Come on! People want to read about interesting characters and the equally interesting or unusual events the writer has unfold around them. Just because a story's short doesn't mean a character can't be interesting.

42. Plot is important only in time travel stories. They must have a paradox. This limits their range severely.

What? We're bashing plot now? Give me a break!

43. Symmetry is more important than plot. A short story must make a pleasing shape, and close with a click.

Not necessarily. Not necessarily at all! A short story that suddenly veers off at the end from where you were expecting it to go can often feel much more satisfying to the reader. Symmetry has it's place and you may indeed choose to write a symmetrical story but at the expense of plot? We're not talking about literary fiction here! In SF/F/H stories things actually happen, you know. That's why people enjoy reading them; why they're entertaining.

44. Sex is out of place in a short story, unless it has already happened or will happen after the story is over. See 40, fighting, above.

I disagree again! See my short story Incubus. The sex in it is vital to the story.

52. Never write about a writer. It makes you seem needy.

Okay, I've not actually written a story about a writer myself yet - although, now I come to think about it... (Check out the aforementioned Fear to Tread once again.) But anyway... Stephen King's characters are almost always writers. Does he seem needy to you? If so, he's the wealthiest needy writer on the planet. It clearly hasn't put people off reading his stories. And what about the old adage 'write what you know'?

55. After you finish your story, go back and cut your first paragraph. Now it is finished.

Now this is an interesting one, and is a technique I will certainly experiment with in future, but it should not be considered a given. I've gone back and had a look at a few of my short stories, seeing if this approach would have improved them in any significant way.

Just to take a couple of examples, But Dust in the Wind would probably have worked just as well with the first paragraph cut. However, Sir Dagobert's Last Battle would not. It would have lost its impact.

First paragraphs are something I work very hard at. They're often something I have sorted in my mind before I even start writing and hardly ever change during the writing of the story, when so much else will. Rule 55 is a classic example of Terry's employment of sweeping generalisations in his rules. Was he doing this to provoke comment and debate, because if that was his intention, he succeeded!

57. Read your story aloud. It must run under a half an hour. This is about 4000 words. Anything longer than this and people start to fidget.


59. Ignore these rules at your peril.

Or, alternatively, ignore them and write your own, unique short story which confounds expectation and delights the reader.

So there you have it...

I wouldn't presume to set down any rules for writing (although by disagreeing with Terry's perhaps that's exactly what I am doing). I can only tell you what works for me and which then, by extension, may work for some other aspiring writers out there.

As Rob Sanders points out in his posts about Stephen King's rules for writing, what works for one writer might not work for another. And that is probably the most important rule of all.

Friday 22 July 2011

Space Marine - Iron Hands

If you're not a fan of Warhammer 40,000 or video games, then you can safely skip this post and move onto the next one.

Still here? Okay, I'll take it you're a fan, like me...

Are you looking forward to the Space Marine video game from THQ as much as I am?

You are?

Are you sure about that?

The reason I question your excitement is because I've just watched the developers' video showing how you'll be able to customise your Space Marines in multiplayer mode. And do you know what? You can deck out your Space Marine as a battle-brother of the Iron Hands chapter, complete with bionic arms, if you want. I can see myself wiling away many an hour with Iron-Father Gdolkin bringing the Emperor's divine vengeance down upon the heads of His enemies.

In case you didn't know (for example, if you've been away fighting the Great Crusade for the Emperor for the last couple hundred years, or something) I wrote an Iron Hands novel for Black Library which was first published back in 2004 and is available again now from BL's Print on Demand range.

You can order your own, very special copy of Iron Hands here.

And while you're waiting for it to arrive, you can watch the developers' video for yourself right here.

The Spider God Cometh...

... via our house, or so it seems. Its minions are everywhere. Small daughter captured a juicy one with her bug hunting kit yesterday, our wardrobe's full of webs(!), and I was bitten by one in bed - I kid you not!

I've been working on fine-tuning the text and gameplay for Temple of the Spider God this week and have been getting excited all over again about this project (which I first commenced on sixteen months ago.

Spider God now has its own theme tune, background track and battles music, it's got thirty full colour illustrations and its own animated title screen*. That, I think everyone is agreed, is pretty damn cool! Have no fear, as soon as I can show you any of the above, I will!

* Arachnophobes be warned - the animation of the spiders (at least ten of them at the last count, and of varying sizes) is very life-like.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

JG interview over on Civilian Reader

I was delighted recently to be asked for an interview by Civilian Reader - one of the premier book-bloggers (along with the likes of Floor to Ceiling Books* and My Favourite Books).

Well, my extensive answers to the interviewer's questions are now up over on the Civilian Reader blog, which you can access here. Thanks to Stefan for the interview and I hope you all find it... enlightening.

* Who I'm going to be doing a guest blog post for in a couple of months time.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Simon Spurrier: A Serpent Uncoiled

Occasionally, dear blog reader, I like to post links to other writers' blogs and their meandering monologues about their experience of this thing called 'writing'.

Well today I'd like to direct you to Si Spurrier's latest blog post about how his latest novel - A Serpent Uncoiled - came to be written. But this recommendation comes with a warning.

I'm aware that some of you who come here to hang out with me and my rambling thoughts are either of tender years or delicate sensibilities and possibly don't choose to read my darker stuff (or aren't allowed!) but even my most macabre outpourings don't have anything on Si's - and that goes for his blog posts too.

So, if you're easily offended by bad language, or the seedy underbelly of human existence in general, then DO NOT click this link. There, you were warned.

Monday 18 July 2011

Meeting with the Tin Man

So today, having first spoken eighteen months or so ago, I finally got to meet up with the Tin Man's flesh interface, otherwise known as Neil Rennison. He very kindly made the journey to deepest rural Wiltshire to talk all things Tin Man Games and Gamebook Adventures - Temple of the Spider God in particular.

With our Vitality scores dwindling, we then headed off to the Tale of Spice in nearby Pewsey to continue our various conversations over a middle of the day curry. Business lunches don't get better than this!

Just one wafer thin mint to go...

Temple of the Spider God is on course for an August release. For more news watch this space or check out the Tin Man's own website here.

Putting Doctor Who on the map!

If you've not seen this before, and you're a fan of the eponymous Doctor as well as internationally-recognised classics of design, then you'll going to love this!

That's right, it's a Tube Map of all the Doctor's incarnations, his companions and (it claims) all his enemies. Only it doesn't include any from the original novels and the like. Hence the Triskele Grendel configuration organic construct from The Horror of Howling Hill is not on the list and neither as the [CENSORED] from my forthcoming Eleventh Doctor adventure Terrible Lizards.

Speaking of which, it's not been listed on Amazon UK yet, but it is up on Amazon Canada, slated for a late February release next year.

Sunday 17 July 2011

The Iron Hands Return

Ace Warhammer author Chris Wraight has announced on his blog that he is currently writing a new Iron Hands novel. My own Iron Hands novel - called Iron Hands, interestingly enough - was first published in 2004 and although I was asked to pitch a sequel and did so, it was never picked up. Since then the Iron Hands have received little love - other than appearing in Graham McNeill's Horus Heresy novel Fulgrim.

However, the original Iron Hands is now available to buy again as part of Black Library's Print on Demand range. It's also consistently appeared on Black Library's website Most Popular list, currently alongside the aforementioned Mr Wraight's Battle of the Fang and the Horus Heresy anthology Age of Darkness. But if you still need persuading as to why you should order a copy for yourself, here's the publisher's blurb for Iron Hands.

With Abaddon the Despoiler’s Thirteenth Black Crusade engulfing the galaxy, Iron-Father Gdolkin and his company are pulled away from the defence of Medusa to honour an ancient oath to the Adeptus Mechanicus. A trail of clues leads Gdolkin to a long-lost world, home to an ancient weapon that might turn the tide of war in the Imperium’s favour. But for Gdolkin, the quest is personal, as this mysterious planet might also contain the answer to the oldest mystery of the Iron Hands Chapter... the resting place of the Primarch Ferrus Manus.

You can order your copy of Iron Hands here.

Thursday 14 July 2011

The Abaddon & Solaris Podcast #12

So, I've been dropping hints about my eighth Ulysses Quicksilver adventure Time's Arrow for a while, suggesting that there's something a little bit different about this one.

"But what is so different about it?" I hear you cry.

Well, download the twelfth Abaddon & Solaris podcast and all will be revealed. You can find it on iTunes now.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Pitt Rivers and the Christmas Killer - a.k.a. just another day podcasting in Oxford

So yesterday I was up in Oxford, visiting Abaddon HQ to record a new podcast. David Moore (Abaddon/Solaris Desk Editor) took the role of interviewer and Colm Bannon (Marketing Intern) was there as well to contribute his thoughts on Nazis as villains, among other things.

Anyway, it all seemed to go very well (even though I did get a little tongue-tied on a couple of occasions) and I even got to give a reading from Time's Arrow Part 1.

A hard morning's podcasting was then followed by a very pleasant lunch with the guys from Abaddon/Solaris, some of the guys from 2000AD and the guy - Angus Abranson - from Cubicle 7 Entertainment.

Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers -
not Angus Abranson

With lunch and business done for the day, I wandered into Oxford itself and found myself at the (not so) newly re-furbished Pitt Rivers Museum. My Pax Britannia short story Christmas Past takes place in Oxford, and it's at the PRM that Ulysses Quicksilver discovers a vital clue to solving the mystery of the Christmas Killer. Being there reminded me of the story and that Abaddon are currently running a Pax Britannia-themed competition through the Steampunk Forum at

So, if you'd like to win some signed PB books, get over there now, by following this link.

(When the podcast's up on iTunes, I'll let you know.)

Sunday 10 July 2011

The SFX Summer of SF Reading...

... has begun. And it's sponsored by Black Library which means that in the latest issue of SFX magazine you've got an interview with George Mann - steampunk's rising star* - and another with Chris Wraight - who gets to talk about his new novel Battle of the Fang.

You can check out SFX's Summer of SF Reading for yourself here. Oh, and there's a DestinyQuest competition in this month's mag too.

* Who's been likened to Alan Moore, apparently.

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

Saturday 9 July 2011

More JG ebook releases from Black Library

Black Library are continuing to make more and more of their products available as ebooks and that includes short stories as well as novels.

The first of my Black Library short stories made available in this way (as far as I'm aware) was But Dust in the Wind, from the Victories of the Space Marines collection. Now The Relic, my Black Templars tale from Legends of the Space Marines, it also available, either on its own, or as part of the complete anthology.

Oh, and don't forget I've also got a new Warhammer short story out now in Hammer & Bolter Issue 9.

Joss Whedon's Top 10 Writing Tips

Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and screenwriter of Alien Resurrection) has worked as a script doctor on such movies as Speed and even Toy Story. And in all his years of writing he's learnt a thing or two. He's boiled these down to ten straightforward rules, which you can read here.

Friday 8 July 2011

Stormslayer - 9 out of 10!

Jon Oliver kindly directed me towards this review of my Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebook Stormslayer over at Fantasy Book Review.

It's almost wholly positive, except for the bit where the reviewer
says, "The story feels a little lacking in originality at times." What's that supposed to mean? I mean, has he played many meteorology-based gamebooks before?

I am aware that this last comment may come across as a little petty, but it annoys me when reviewers make such sweeping statements without backing them up. What was it about the adventure that lacked originality? Going down a Dwarf mine in a drilling machine and battling a giant golem made of rusted pit props? Exploring the inside of a volcano? Battling the villain aboard a flying brass fish? And if it's so unoriginal, why give it 9 out of 10?

Reading reviews can be a harrowing experience, but if somebody makes a criticism I always try to take it on board, as I am always striving to improve as a writer and if nobody ever comments on your work you're never going to know where you need to up your game.

So, 9 out of 10 - great! Sweeping generalisations without any examples to back them up - a tad annoying.

Until next time...

Thursday 7 July 2011

More love for the Spider God

Word is spreading about Tin Man Games' forthcoming Gamebook Adventure Temple of the Spider God, and apparently the fact that I've written it is something of a big thing. This is pleasing to me but also a little hard to get used to.

Anyway, you can read what iPhoneFreak has to say about it here and you'll find a piece about Temple of the Spider God here on Gamebook Adventures own website.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Mission: Games Workshop - Newbury

So, I found myself in Newbury today and sought out the GW store there. To be honest, I went to Newbury specifically to find the GW store there.

Anyway, I received a very warm welcome from Jono Paul the manager and got to reminisce about Black Templars, Imperial Fists and Codex: Angels of Death and also picked up a copy of Razumov's Tomb - a Storm of Magic novella by Gemmell award winner Darius Hinks.

So thanks to Jono, and hopefully I'll be dropping by the store again before too long.

House of Fear - line-up announced

In other news...

Editor extreme Jonathan Oliver has announced the finished line-up of authors and stories appearing in his brand new House of Fear anthology.

And here it is...

Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear - Lisa Tuttle
Pied-a-terre - Stephen Volk
In The Absence of Murdock - Terry Lamsley
Driving The Milky Way - Weston Ochse
The Windmill - Rebecca Levene
Moretta - Garry Kilworth
Hortus Conclusus - Chaz Brenchley
The Dark Space in The House in The House in The Garden at The Centre of The World - Robert Shearman
The Muse of Copenhagen - Nina Allan
An Injustice - Christopher Fowler
The Room Upstairs - Sarah Pinborough
Villanova - Paul Meloy
Widow's Weeds - Christopher Priest
The Doll's House - Jonathan Green
Inside/Out - Nicholas Royle
The House - Eric Brown
Trick of The Light - Tim Lebbon
What Happened to Me - Joe R. Lansdale

Yes, that's right. You're not seeing things. I am in there at number 15 with The Doll's House. To find out more you'll just have to wait until October, when the book will be released by Solaris Books in time for some horrible Halloween telling of terrible tales.

54 followers and counting...

It would be great to get up to 100 followers, wouldn't it? I mean one hundred. It's just such a nice round number.

So, with this in mind, I'm going to run a new competition over the next few weeks. To be in with a chance of winning, you have to become (or already be) a followers of this blog. Names will then get pulled out of the proverbial hats and the winner (or maybe winners) will go away with something a little bit special...

As to how special, why not let me know what you'd like to see as a prize? I can't promise I'll be able to make it so (for example, I'm a little short on Caribbean Islands at the moment) but any ideas would be most welcome.

So, with that in mind, on with the day...

Monday 4 July 2011

Happy Independence Day!

It's 4 July so that means that in America it's


As American fans of my books are hopefully already aware a number of my titles are available in American editions. There's Christmas Miscellany and Scottish Miscellany (both available from Skyhorse Publishing) but then there are also my Pax Britannia books and of course Black Library's Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 novels sell widely in the US.

So why not celebrate Independence Day today by picking up your favourite Jonathan Green US edition - and then let me know what you think of it!

Sunday 3 July 2011

Happy Belated Birthday Angry Robot

Late to party as ever, I just wanted to let you know that (if you're as bad at remembering birthdays as me) it was Angry Robot's second birthday on Friday.

"Only the second?" I hear you cry, and that's exactly what I thought too. They've made such a huge impact on the genre publishing scene in such a short time, surely they must have been going for longer. I mean they've changed masters once and had an Arthur C Clarke winner. Two years? Really?

Anyway, you can join the celebrations here. Just steer clear of the punch.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Pax Britannia review round-up

Over the last couple of months there have been three Ulysses Quicksilver releases - The Ulysses Quicksilver Omnibus, Anno Frankenstein and The Ulysses Short Story Collection. And earlier titles such as Dark Side and Blood Royal have been getting a fair bit of interest too.

Anyway, I'm very pleased to say that Anno Frankenstein has been reviewed in the latest issue of SFX magazine (#211, the one with Captain America on the cover). The reviewer only gave the book three stars, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed (I was hoping for a four at least). But to my mind three stars does tell you something - that you can write; that you can craft a story.

The reviewer's not too keen on all the pop culture references in the book (which have become a bit of a feature of my Pax Britannia titles) but he does say that "It's a gleeful, agreeably paced mash-up" which also highlights another of the features of my books - and that's that they are, at the root of everything, primarily fun.

I actually met up with Dave Bradley, editor-in-chief of SFX Magazine, this week, along with editorial assistant Rob Power... as well as the guys and gals of Abaddon Books... and we discussed all sorts of potentially exciting things. Now that I've finished re-writes on another project I'll be able to get the ball rolling on these. But more on that another time.

Picture by Dave Bradley. Inane grin by Old Speckled Hen.

While we're on the subject of reviews, here are a few more for you.

The Ulysses Short Story Collection has earned a couple of five star reviews on Amazon and has also received one of the weirdest reviews I've ever read of my work. It manages to be incredibly positive whilst also being unnecessarily nasty at almost every opportunity. Anyway, you can read it here at

Remember, if you've recently read one of my Pax Britannia books (and more importantly you enjoyed it) you can also post a view via this blog. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Lego Minifig Game by legendary games designer James Wallis

Like this?
And this?
And this?

They're all Lego figures based on characters from my various books but they're also all based on (or, in some cases, exactly the same as) various minifigs from the collectible series that have been out for a while now.

Well James Wallis (of Hogshead Publishing and Magnum Opus Press) created a great game utilising these fabulous figures for the recent GameCamp held at the London South Bank University.

And you can read all about his experiences of creating the game here.

Friday 1 July 2011

Sarah Cawkwell on Time Management

It's time for another in my occasional pieces of other writers and their experiences of writing for a living. So, head over to The Founding Fields website to check out Sarah Cawkwell's issues with time management.

The REAL Temple of the Spider God

The Net's been all a buzz with news of my forthcoming Temple of the Spider God from Tin Man Games, as you can see both here and here.

Well the other day I came across this interesting National Geographic clip. It's dated 2008 but I didn't see it until a year after completing Temple of the Spider God*.

Of course when you check out the video clips below of Peruvian and Amazonian spiders**, you can understand just why the primitive peoples of these lands imbued them with god-like powers.

* Yes, it really has been that long in the making.

** Which are really not for the arachnaphobics among you.