Archive | February, 2014

Schooled In Magic–Available NOW!

26 Feb

Emily is a teenage girl pulled from our world into a world of magic and mystery by a necromancer who intends to sacrifice her to the dark gods. Rescued in the nick of time by an enigmatic sorcerer, she discovers that she possesses strange magical powers and must go to Whitehall School to learn how to master them. There, she discovers that the locals believe that she is a Child of Destiny, someone whose choices might save or damn their world … a title that earns her both friends and enemies. She may never fit into her new world …

…and the necromancer is still hunting her. If Emily can’t stop him, he might bring about the end of days.

She knows all sorts of ideas and innovations that can be introduced to improve her new world, but will she have the time to teach her new friends how to make them?

Read a Free Sample, then buy it from Amazon Kindle, B&N or OmniLit

Annotations available hereWarning: spoilers!

And talk about it on my Discussion Forum!

If you like the series, please review <grin>

There’s No Such Thing As An Exclusive Writing Fan

26 Feb

Two days ago, I posted a short note on a article in the Huffington Post that suggested JK Rowling should give up writing and leave room for other authors to take over the market. I confess I didn’t do much actual research (headache, sorry) and I assumed (bad mistake, I know) that the author in question was where I was several years ago. No contracts, no published books, no real hope of getting them. I was wrong.

A check on Amazon revealed that the article’s author was actually a published author. I could be wrong, but judging by the book pricing she actually has a very good deal with a publisher (most small press produced books tend to be expensive). And yet she believes that JK Rowling is distorting the market? How can that possibly be true?

One of the arguments commonly put forward by the Entitled (as they consider themselves) is that the Haves are stealing from the Have-Nots. In their worldview, the world has only a finite amount of … well, anything … and someone who Has is effectively stealing it from those who Don’t Have. According to this line of logic, there’s only a million pounds or so in the entire world and it will never get any bigger, therefore the person with most of the money has stolen it from everyone else. This is the logic used to justify ‘redistributing the wealth’, a claim beloved of communists and people who have never lived in a redistributionist state.

It is, of course, a very flawed argument. The millionaire, having concentrated such wealth in his hands, might put it back to work and start growing it, perhaps by opening a factory and offering jobs to the poor. He pays wages, the employees use their wages to buy stuff, the people who make and sell that stuff get money from the employees … and, in short, the economy continues to grow. This is very well demonstrated by the sudden upsurge in food production in China after collective farming was abandoned by the Chinese Communists.

There are some circumstances, of course, where the argument may seem to hold water. A person who follows one football club will not, as a general rule, follow another. If there are ten football clubs in any given country, they will be competing for the attention of a finite number of fans.

But this is not true of writing.

Consider JK Rowling. She has written seven Harry Potter stories, two spin-offs and two adult novels. That’s (so far) eleven published books. And yes, they have been massively popular; she has legions of devoted fans and she deserves each and every one of them. But they’re not her exclusive fans.

Think about it. I read quickly; eleven books wouldn’t take me more than a week to devour, perhaps two weeks if I wanted to reread one or more of them. What am I meant to do while waiting for her to write the next book?

I go read someone else’s book, of course.

I’m a fan of David Weber. But I’m also a fan of John Ringo, Peter F. Hamilton, Tom Kratman, Iain M. Banks, Eric Flint … the list of writers I like is quite a long one. And, as I have a favourite publisher too, I have little hesitation in trying someone new from their stable.

There’s no reason why I have to be an exclusive fan of one author. There isn’t an author alive who writes fast enough to keep me content. Nor, really, am I making a massive commitment. Buying David Weber’s entire backlist wouldn’t cost more than a hundred pounds, assuming I didn’t try to buy any autographed copies or anything else that might be significantly marked up. I can buy Weber one week, Kratman the next … and so on, and so on.

JK Rowling does not force out other authors, nor is she stealing their fans. (Nor, for that matter, do they have any right to the fans. Fans have to be earned.) The later Potter books, IIRC, came out with a two or three year gap between them. What did those fans do in the meantime? They read other books (and wrote lots of fan fiction <grin>). A fan of JK Rowling might also be a fan of any of the other authors I mentioned. He or she might even be a fan of mine.

Authors rarely win fans through anything, but writing. A bad writer tends to attract negative reviews; eventually, the author will be discontinued. There are no shortcuts to success, as Pippa Middleton (sister of Kate Middleton) discovered when she tried to sell her book, nor is there any way to cheat. JK Rowling won her fans through very good writing. If you, or the writer of the article, write as well as her, you’ll get fans too.

But you won’t be stealing them from her, any more than she’s stealing them from you.

Because there’s no such thing as an exclusive writing fan.

The Definition of Success is Success

24 Feb

I spent most of today with a colossal headache, which didn’t really improve my mood, so I went out in the hopes it would make me feel better. I came back (after a long walk) to discover that Larry Correia had written an article fisking another article from the Huffington Post. The basics of the article boil down to ‘JK Rowling should stop writing and make room for other up and coming authors.’

I had a long response half-written in my head when I realised that Larry had said pretty much all I wanted to say. So I thought I’d say something else instead.

A writer’s success is measured by the number of books (and spin-offs) he or she sells.

That’s it. You can write a cutting edge story with infinite diversity in infinite combinations – and it might be a lousy story. You may win awards for being edgy, for addressing social problems and issues or speculating about the future, but ordinary readers may find your books inaccessible. JK Rowling is popular because she wrote a series of books that were extremely accessible (I actually started with Chamber of Secrets) and caught the public imagination. They’re not great literature, nor are they as clever as Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. But it’s a great deal easier to move from Harry Potter to Jonathon Strange than it is to go straight into the latter.

There isn’t that much super-original about Harry Potter. At best, they are classic boarding school stories with magic. (The Worst Witch predated them by over 20 years and includes quite a few comparable elements.) But JKR took a tired old theme, gave it new life and placed her own stamp on it. She more than earned her successes.

The writer of the first article would have us believe that JKR is crowding out other, newer writers. There is a limited amount of truth in this – publishers can only publish a certain number of books a year – but publishing is a business. JKR’s fans will make her next few books successes (I salute her for moving away from Harry Potter) and why should any publisher choose to turn down certain profits? Why, it would take the imperious curse to make them reject her in favour of a newcomer.

I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to have a book rejected and I won’t pretend it doesn’t hurt.

But this is what happened to me. I took the rejected book I thought would be a success – The Empire’s Corps – and put it on Amazon, then thought nothing more of it until a friend pointed out that sales were very good. I checked … and discovered that I had sold over a thousand copies. We ate that night <grin>. I went on; I wrote (so far) seven more books in the series and saw sales climbing higher and higher with each new book. I’ve had several Kindle bestsellers and a few glorious hours in the Top 100 selling authors on Amazon – and I’ve signed contracts with two separate small presses.

I’m not saying this to brag, but to prove a point.

If you have a book that you feel is bound to be a success, put it on Amazon and see what happens. Bypass the traditional publishing model and sell your wares directly to your customers and see what they make of it. If nothing else, strong sales figures are something you can take to potential publishers and use to show that you do have a market.

But I will tell you this. If you want to write professionally, work hard. Learn from JKR and the others like her, then actually write a book. Then write your next one, and your next one, and your next one. Writing is a skill you will need to develop as you go along. Very few people are automatically great (or at least sellable) writers. JKR took two years, IIRC, to get her first book published. I’ve been writing since 2005.

Eric Flint once noted that it takes about a million words to produce something sellable. Have you written those words?

For what it’s worth, JKR introduced a whole new generation to reading.  For that, if nothing else, she deserves her fame.

New Book – and Free Promotion!

19 Feb

I’ve just uploaded The Fall of Night, an older book of mine, to Kindle. As a free promotion for my fans, the book will be available free from 22nd February to 23rd February, US time. Check out the free sample, then download it from Amazon. All comments and reviews welcome.

If you like my writing, please share this post.

Europe, 2025.

Britain – and the European Union – is struggling to remain civilised. Unemployment is high, ethnic and religious tensions are rising sharply, crime is skyrocketing, the value of money is falling and the whole system is on the verge of collapse. Across the continent, united only in name, countless individuals struggle to keep themselves afloat and survive for a few more days.

But weakness invites attack and covetous eyes set their sights on the remains of Europe’s industry and trained population. As a military juggernaut descends on an unprepared continent, the remains of Britain’s once-proud military must fight to defend their country … or watch helplessly as Britain falls into darkness.

[As always, my books are DRM-free.  Download a free sample, read the afterword and then purchase from amazon here.]

The Very Ugly Duckling: Johan’s Mental State

19 Feb

A couple of reviewers have noted that Johan seems to verge between near adulthood and an immaturity more common to a twelve-year-old than a seventeen-year-old (never mind that some seventeen-year-olds can be quite immature, I know I was). Among other things, he loses track of what he can do, he doesn’t seem to see obvious solutions to his problems (although one of the solutions the reviewer mentioned isn’t actually possible) and he has problems controlling his emotions. This isn’t an inaccurate diagnostic, really.

Unfortunately, Johan’s mental state has been quite badly warped by his life prior to the story.

Johan grew up without magic in a family where magic is everything. From their point of view, he’s a cripple (at best) and a dread embarrassment (at worst). His mere existence calls into question the magic running through their veins. Think of him as a kid who is so severely disabled that he has no hope of living a normal life.

So Johan spent the first 16 years of his life trapped between two separate (but both bad) attitudes. One attitude sees him as permanently helpless, someone who literally cannot do anything for himself, the other sees him as a useless piece of s***. Basically, he spent most of his life facing well-meaning condescension or endless, merciless, bullying.

Making this worse was the simple fact that he probably could have created a pretty good life for himself, if he was allowed to leave the family permanently. There are plenty of positions for non-magicians within the empire. But his father refused to allow it, both out of the conviction that Johan literally couldn’t make anything of himself and out of fear that Johan, who was defenceless, would be captured and turned into a weapon aimed at the family.

So, by the time of the story, Johan is trapped in his own mind, trying to maintain some independence against a family of people who might as well be gods. (Imagine you were the powerless third son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane?) Of course he has problems coming to terms with the power he suddenly acquires, let alone seeing possible solutions to his problems. You’d have problems too. <grin>


The Scottish Divorcé and the EU

17 Feb

On the 16th of February, José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, said it would be “difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to join the EU.

This is no surprise to anyone apart from diehard independence-seekers, like Alex Salmond and the SNP. Salmond, in particular, has gone on the attack after Barroso’s statements, claiming that Scotland could keep the pound and join the European Community. But, in doing so, he betrays the same lack of awareness of international realities as shown by many other independence-seekers throughout history.

The European Union (and the currency union) is fundamentally a political project. If anyone was in any doubt about it, they would be well-advised to consider the circumstances in which Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland were allowed to join the EU, adopt the Euro and then cause major financial problems that – because of the shared currency – were far from localised. Greece, in particular, should not have been allowed to join; indeed, the financial and political data from Greece and the other countries were carefully massaged to suggest that they were cleaning up their act. The financial problems that have bedevilled the EU since 2008 are proof that they failed to clear up their act.

And so, regardless of Scotland’s ‘right’ to be an EU member (and that is arguable), the decision about Scottish membership will be a political one. Why should the EU accept Scotland as a newcomer to the club?

I can give several reasons against it, if you like. Britain is hardly the only EU country with a significant nationalist movement seeking independence. Spain, for example, is facing comparable problems in the Basque region. Why exactly should Spain support Scotland’s passage into the EU when it will harm Spanish national interests? Instead, I would expect the Spanish to demand a high price from Scotland, purely to make it clear to their own separatists that independence would come with a very steep price.

Or, if you think that the EU wouldn’t be so spiteful, consider this. The EU took in members who literally could not uphold their commitments. Does anyone think that the EU would care to repeat the experience? I would expect the EU to be very careful about accepting new members in future, probably forcing Scotland and any other potential candidates to open the books and allow the EU to conduct a full investigation of Scottish financial affairs, just to make sure Scotland isn’t lying to them. I confess, given how poorly the Scottish Parliament has handled money matters in the years since it’s inauguration, I rather doubt it will pass with flying colours.

In short, we could expect to pay a heavy price for joining the EU. Our independence would be badly compromised. Would we really be independent at all? At worst, we would be trading dominion by London (never mind the fact that two Prime Ministers in recent years have been Scottish) for dominion by Brussels. And, of the two of them, I prefer London.

But there are other problems. Would we keep the pound? George Osborne says no – and Salmond seems to have no alternative in mind. Assuming we did keep the pound, we would be at the mercy of the English treasury, just as Greece was at the mercy of the EU after the financial crisis began.

Salmond’s attitude seems to be that everything will change, but nothing will change.

This is delusional. Scotland and England have been linked closely ever since King James VI and I succeeded Queen Elizabeth I, uniting the crowns of the two nations. Politically, Scotland and England have been united since the Act of Union in 1707. Scotland and England have been linked so closely together that families such as my own include members from both Scotland and England (as well as Malaysia and Ireland). We have hundreds of thousands of ties from banking to the military and educational establishments.

Separating the two nations once again would be a divorce on an unprecedented scale, far outmatching the separation between India and Pakistan. It would be hideously costly – if nothing else, we probably couldn’t afford it. We would be paying the bills for Salmond’s desire to become President of an independent Scotland for years to come.

And do we really want to be independent?

Let’s be honest here. There are nationalities in this world that probably should be independent, because they are often abused quite badly by the nations playing host to them. The Kurds, the Sikhs, the Tibetans … but Scotland? Is our nation really an occupied state?

I don’t think so.

So let me pose this question again. Do we really want to separate ourselves from the United Kingdom?

In my view, the answer is no.

Autographed Copies?

16 Feb

Hi, everyone

As I’m in Britain right now, I have received two requests for autographed copies of my Elsewhen paperbacks (see links below.) Is there anyone else in the UK who would like a copy at £10, including P&P? If so, please drop me an email with your requests before the end of March and I will attempt to accommodate you. Payment will, ideally, be through PayPal.

I can probably ship to the US/EU, but the P&P may be expensive; I’ll check up on it if anyone’s interested.

I’ll sort out the requests I get in March, then place orders and hopefully get them all dispatched before April.

Please let me know if you’re interested and, if so, where you want me to send them.


PS – as always, free samples are available on my website.