Blue Blue Electric Blue that’s the colour of my room

I can’t believe David Bowie is dead.  I heard it on the news at seven on the Today programme and sat there stunned, forgetting entirely that I was supposed to be getting ready to go to work.  Their obituary was longer than any other I’ve heard, even for Lady Thatcher and by 8.20 when I finally left for work – having cried through my muesli and sobbed over my toothbrush – it was Jeremy Corbyn’s turn to say something about it.  (I didn’t stay to listen.)

David Bowie wasn’t supposed to die.  People like him don’t die.  They go on forever.  Or, at least, it should be that way because there are so few people one can truly admire and the world is a lot less interesting with him gone.

By the time I first heard Space Oddity, it was already old and I was hearing it in the cultural wasteland that was 1970’s South Africa, where my life was isolated to the extreme:  I didn’t even know what David Bowie looked like.  That whole glam Ziggy thing completely passed me by because I was living in a bubble where contact with the outside world was zero.  We didn’t even have TV so no Top of the Pops either.  As a result, I grew up not caring what my pop heroes looked like.  It was what they sounded like that counted.  I became umbilically attached to the radio and it was there that I heard these wonderful “old” songs – Space Oddity and Life on Mars.  Because they were never going to die.  And never, ever get old.

My David Bowie is the one from Heroes and Low.  I loved Heroes (the single) and I loved Sound and Vision.  When I finally got the tears to stop, I told myself – sternly – that I was glad there had been a David Bowie.  After that, blue blue electric blue that’s the colour of my room where I will live started going around my head and has done all morning.  I’m now going off to drift into my solitude.

Free Read on Amazon!

This is the Amazon link:

Been having great fun thinking up Tweets for this short story.  I decided on lifting quotes directly from the story itself.  This is what I came up with:

The flash came in a zigzag of light.

This is what pain looks like.

There was a lot of damage but I hadn’t finished.

The tiles seeped red from his crushed skull.

Are you saying we’re losing the war?

The lights were flashing and they were flashing hard.

Blood spurted on the window.

I’m sick of immortality.

i was nailed to the wet black tarmac of suburbia.

Does everyone know except me?

My favourite one is “this is what pain looks like.”  I’ve only ever once had a headache that involved hallucinatory flashes of light (I believe it’s called an “aura”) and it was one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to me.  I remember resolving to chill a bit more, which basically just means eating more chocolate.  But it was a useful experience to use in this story – the protagonist is a war vet with apparent PTSD.  It’s also very violent, one of the most violent stories I’ve ever written, and despite the writing style not being particularly brilliant, I think it’s one of my best stories:  really raw and insightful.  In the original story, I couldn’t find a satisfying ending and it kind of petered out.  Once I decided to include it in The Exodus Sequence, the ending flashing at me as suddenly as that aura.  It was as if it had waited over ten years for the right ending to come along … … …

Free Walked

A rose by any other name

I was surprised to learn in the latest issue of SFX that Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell had tanked on TV.  I was gobsmacked.  I thought it was the best thing I have ever watched on BBC 1.  Utterly gorgeous, hugely clever, intensely adult, subtly complex characterisation – a story about something that mattered.  It was funny and dark and had so many outstanding moments that I couldn’t begin to list them here though I did enjoy Mr Norrell’s raptures about English rain because I feel the same, though we get so very little of it in the middle of London, just a bit of armpit sweat every now and then to grease the sidewalks.  My daughter and I sat entranced every Sunday night for seven weeks (oh, for it to have been another 10….), too thrilled to wait for the catch-up version without the stupid idiot announcer talking over the end credits.  It was one of the few times my daughter watched TV bolt upright and I’ve promised to buy the box set so that we can watch it all again in delight.  I’ve bought the book too and can’t wait to read it but am saving it.  Having glanced at the first page to ensure that, yes, the writing is as excellent as I thought it would be, I can’t help wishing that I had written it.  I wish I could have such good ideas, could execute them so excellently that awards are showered on me and the BBC creates a lavish, expensive, highly detailed, brilliantly acted TV series out of it.  What utter joy Susanna Clarke (god, her name is even similar to mine) must feel, to have written something so satisfying, so intelligent, so beautiful, so magical, so wonderful…………..while I struggle to churn out garbage that no one reads.  I’m jealous, I’m envious but I’m also thankful that someone at least did write this, even if it wasn’t me.  It seems JS and Mr N failed on TV because people don’t like fantasy.  Really?  Who are those trillions watching Throne of Games?  Well, not me, cos I can’t stand that sort of thing but GOT is hardly in the same league as JS+MrN – the latter is for adults, for people with intellect and a desire for beauty.  I never once thought of it as fantasy.  Nor did I think of it as alternate history.  It seemed to have no genre at all, yet I see Susanna Clarke has won (or was nominated for) some sci-fi awards.  Writing outside of genre myself, I think this book is also outside of genre.  It would be a shame to lump it with the GOTs of the world or the Harry Potters, because it’s so much better.  There are ideas in it that I’ve never seen before, magic that would never had occurred to me.  Imagination is at work here at its very peak.  If you haven’t watched it, do.  It’s divine.

I did, at the very, very least, get a letter published in the Radio Times – quite a feat, I think.  Here it is:IMG_1384 - Copy

Book Review: The Atlantis Gene by agriddle

This book is terrible. Not worth reviewing except to express my utter astonishment that anything can be so bad. How does this kind of garbage get published with such a huge budget while genuinely well-written novels are left languishing in the self-published heap of neglect? Could the publishers not see how badly written it was? I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything quite so badly executed. It makes Dan Brown look like a ten-time Booker Prize winner. The grammar is putrid. A child could split an infinitive with greater skill.

And as for the plot – it’s just laughable. I’m all for the preposterous plot but this is just stupid – badly thought out, possibly not even thought out at all. The author (though I wouldn’t credit him with that title – the moron with the keyboard) claims to have spent two years researching this. More like one afternoon skimming Wikipedia. However, the “author” has, at least, taken the trouble to read a “how to write a thriller” textbook. The chapters are painfully short, sometimes barely a page. This, apparently, is supposed to make it “exciting” – NOTHING makes this story exciting. It was dead before it started. There is no characterisation at all. The names you do get to know at the start of the book are killed off, one by one, until you wonder (or hope) that perhaps everyone in the book will die and there won’t be any more book. The villains can be swapped around at will and are more stereotypical than your average stereotype. Nazis! Really……? Most of the time you can’t tell the characters apart (men or women) but don’t care anyway.

Far, far worse than the travesty of a so-called thriller is that there are TWO MORE of these awful books. It’s also been optioned for a movie – OF COURSE! Because what else are you going to make a movie out of other than a piece of trash writing – books by morons for morons make terrific movies for morons.

There isn’t one single original idea here. Even the main premise of the Atlantis gene has been done before. Hello, Stargate Atlantis, anyone? They did this several trillion times better. With mentions of Star Trek and Indiana Jones, the “author” clearly thinks his story ranks as highly.

In the end, I can forgive a great story poorly executed if only it wasn’t so very, very poorly executed. But this isn’t a great story. Lame, derivative, hollow, yes, but not great. Which leaves those awful, flat, bland, ugly, clumsy, clumpy, unedited, unstylish, unimaginative, characterless, proseless, limp, useless, cliched, hideous sentences: they are going to haunt me forever (or at least until I can get my hands on a Real Book…..)

e-publishing doesn’t really work – an author’s experience

More and more people are saying this. All the writers out there might as well curl up and die, which is what I feel like doing.

Metaphysical Fantasy

The jury is no longer out. I’m successful as a self-published author (Necromancer’s Gambit, etc), a mainstream Gollancz author (Empire of the Saviours, etc) and an indie author (The Book of Orm, etc). I’ve been working with e-publishing and all other types of publishing for 8 years. I’m very IT savvy. HERE’S THE BOTTOM LINE: sales of my e-books have rarely exceeded 10% of my total sales. Let me say that again: 10% In the scheme of things, it really isn’t worth the pretty large effort that I’ve put into it.

Because, to sell e-books, you have to format the thing, get it onto websites, market it, drive traffic, engage in forum discussion, get reviews, constantly monitor information flows, etc. Yes, it all sounds very similar to what you have to do with a regular hard copy book in the physical world… but the point is the hard copy book…

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Self-publishing – why it’s no longer a good idea

I knew this anyway but it’s painful to see it in black and white:

The above blog, belonging to Claude Forthomme, lays out the facts as barely as possible and it’s caused quite a bit of fury.  The problem, as I’ve seen it for quite some time now, is that there are too many writers.  I myself feel like a teeny tiny voice in a vast ocean of teeny tiny voices, while the loud, ugly ones get to smash up against the shore.  Why bother to carry on writing when when the whole world seems to be at it and getting their crap out there more successfully as well.

It’s at this point that I remember why I write:  I write because if I don’t, I will go mad.  I will be a lunatic in an asylum smashing my head against a wall over and over and over just to make the pain of living stop.  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want to be a robot in a robotic job.  I want to be me.  And I am only me when I write.  Even if no one ever reads it.

Sometimes you just have to say fuck’em.