Thursday, 15 March 2018

The first book you write will be rubbish.

"The first book you write will suck."

This is something that I saw on a writing group on Facebook today and have seen many times before.

Googling on "the first book you write will be" the top hit I found that was relevant to this blog was in a piece by the bestselling author Amanda Hocking who says "Almost universally speaking, the first book you write will be terrible."

She is certainly not alone in saying so.

I asked 38 authors how many novels they completed before the one that first got published. I've shown the results in diagram form below.

(click figure for detail)

18 of 38 had the first novel they finished published. These 18 included mildly successful authors such as George RR Martin, Rick Riordan, and Joe Abercrombie.

It should be noted that a good fraction (but by no means all) of these authors had also written short stories and part finished novels.

Before his debut (Dying of the Light) GRRM wrote multiple short stories and 30 pages of a novel. Rick Riordan, who like GRRM published multiple novels before breaking big, also wrote a great many short stories. Robin Hobb wrote lots of novellas and "many many" short stories.

There are also some on that "zero" row who wrote no short stories, no part finished novels, and just knocked it out of the park first go.

The thing is that like almost every bit of writing advice or statement about writing ... this truism isn't true. Writers vary hugely in their methods and results. Statements about writing, however definitively someone delivers them, are a bit like the Pirates' Code ... more by way of guidelines.

With all this said, the first book I wrote was rubbish.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

I'm in a talkie!

After a lot of requests I've done my first ever podcast interview! Go me!

Listen to it here on The Grim Tidings Podcast.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Hooray for Grim Oak Press + Grey Sister charity lottery!

I'm at Charlton Farm Hospice right now with my daughter Celyn for a break. Much of what the hospice does is give respite breaks to life limited children and their families.

I was going to post this tomorrow, but about an hour ago a little boy died in a room close to ours. And that's the other part of what the hospice offers. End of life care in a place where the children feel safe and have happy memories.

So, here's a photo I took this morning of Celyn handing over a fake cheque for a real donation of $5,000 from the publisher of my Broken Empire special edition, Grim Oak Press.

To increase the pot I'm running a charity lottery for my last signed US ARC of Grey Sister which I will send to the winner on Friday.

 All you have to do is comment here, or on my Facebook, or Twitter posts to say that you have donated $5 or more to the charity that runs this children's hospice and several others.

I will trust anyone who says they've done it, because seriously, who would invite that sort of karma?

And on Thursday I will randomly select a winner from a combined list of all those who donated.

Be good to each other.

All my book awards are weapons!

Top: Gemmell axeling, for King of Thorns making the Legend shortlist (back in the day when they gave them for shortlisting)

Outer left/right: Stabbies for best book (Emperor of Thorns) and best contributing pro author on r/fantasy.

Inner left/right: Gemmell Legend Award for Emperor of Thorns and The Liar's Key.

Centre: The Golden Stabby, for best book (Red Sister) and best contributing pro author on r/fantasy.

My Golden Stabby arrived today, and it's a BIGGY!

Huge thanks to Elquesogrande, founder of r/fantasy, for sending this beast to me at vast postage expense.

The "golden" element derives from my decision, following in the magnanimous footsteps of Brandon Sanderson, to recuse myself from the Stabby Awards for a few years.

Anyway, it's a heavy chunk of metal, and I'm very grateful to the good folk of r/fantasy for voting Red Sister their favourite book of 2017. I shall wear it with pride!

And if we get burgled again then the criminal has even more to worry about! Same goes for zombie apocalypse.

Thanks again to all those voters out there who have made me an award-wielding author!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Grey Sister - Limited Edition now up for pre-order!

Signed, lined, dated, and personalised if you want it, plus if you have deeper pockets and are quick off the mark ... doodled!

Only 250 copies so order in haste or repent at leisure.

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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Let's not be Twits

In 1980, when I was in secondary school, Roald Dahl wrote:

"If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."

Let's just reflect on this message for children...

"A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly."

On the face of it this is a nice, positive whimsy ... but sadly it isn't true and is therefore corrosive, harmful bullshit.

Consider the implication. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. So ... if you see someone and think they are ugly you have full license to assume that they do not have good thoughts.

"If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. "

In fact that person with the ugly face most likely has ugly thoughts and therefore deserves to be ugly. It's their fault.

I would call this medieval thinking except for the fact that it goes back much further than this.

"ancient Greek society was obsessed with purity; those who deviated from institutionalized norms were viewed as a threat. Physical imperfections were seen as corresponding to moral flaws so therefore, disabled children were exposed and abandoned outside the city walls, and the ugly and deformed were suspiciously regarded as tainted beings." Altas Obscura

It's a great comfort to think that evil people look ugly, carrying both a handy identifier and a simultaneous punishment for their crimes ... but it's hardly a sophisticated world view, and handed to children it is a toxic piece of thinking.

Of course we see the same device used in advertising, film making, storytelling ... In George RR Martin's books Brienne of Tarth is described as having coarse features, a flat face, prominent and crooked teeth, a mouth too wide, swollen lips, a battered nose, an abundance of freckles.

Here's the actress.

Tyrion Lannister was described as "Tyrion Lannister, the youngest of Lord Tywin's brood and by far the ugliest. All that the gods had given to Cersei and Jaime, they had denied Tyrion. He was a dwarf, half his brother's height, struggling to keep pace on stunted legs. His head was too large for his body, with a brute's squashed-in face beneath a swollen shelf of brow. One green eye and one black one peered out from under a lank of hair so blonde it seemed white."

Here he is... the horror...

TV only does "TV ugly" for good guys.

Melisandre the Red Woman is shown as attractive, but this is illusion and her "true nature" turns out to be less appealing...

In the multitude of vampire shows we have handsome young men and women playing the bloodsuckers with their true ugliness revealed from time to time in full CGI glory.

This is not a uniform and unbreakable code of course. TV standards couldn't suck all the nuance out of GRRM's characterisation. Cersei Lannister is good looking and reprehensible. Some of the good guys aren't great lookers. But it is definitely still a trend.

I'm sure examples of it can be found in my own work and in many other fantasy books and film, sometimes aided and abetted by the conceit that working with evil magics twists the user leaving them ugly whilst working with good magics merely gives the user that inner glow ... like they just stepped out of a salon!

In conclusion: we still seem as a society to still to harbour at the core of us the idea that heroism and good really do reflect themselves on the face of the individual, and to perhaps carry within us that moment's hesitation when it comes to someone not blessed by the gods of chance with even features, good skin, and an easy smile.

Which is why I object to this being coined into a philosophy and fed to children as it is in The Twits.

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