Visionarium – An Interview in German

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Bernhard Reicher for VISIONARIUM issue 3 recently, and if you would like to read the interview (and you read German) you can find it here:

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VISIONARIUM

The Kindle-version is available at: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B00N5SETYC/
The printed version is available at: http://www.amazon.de/dp/1500836028/

We talk about influences and inspirations, the source of stories, methods and magic. There were some interesting questions there and it was fun to do.

Take a look and see.

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EasterCon – Glasgow 2014

Glasgow Science Museum

Glasgow Science Museum

This year’s EasterCon, Satellite 4, was held by the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow over the Easter weekend. This was my first time in Glasgow and as is the way with conventions I didn’t get to see much of the city other than the area around the convention hotel. Having said that, everyone was very friendly and it would be a city I would go back to and explore without hesitation. The convention itself was well-organised and ran smoothly – clearly a lot of work had gone into the preparation and I would like to add my thanks to the many people involved in running the convention.

For me it was a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues and to meet people for the first time. It was particularly nice to meet those who have read my work and took a moment to let me know they’d enjoyed it. Writing is generally a solitary activity and to realise that your work has made a connection with someone is very rewarding – especially as they are such nice people.

View of the Clyde

View of the Clyde

In terms of programming, I participated in a panel discussion on different styles of fantasy, which was fun and interesting. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, including the panel, so that was good. I especially enjoyed the presentations of two visitors to the convention, Andy Miah from the University of the West of Scotland, and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

Andy presented on the subject of enhanced humans, either by mechanical, biological, chemical or genetic means, and what was stunning about his presentation was not how much could be done, but how much of it was current. I was expecting him to be talking about things that might happen in the future, but most of what he was presenting is perfectly possible now, and may actually already have been done. Andy clearly knows his subject well and is a gifted presenter, and his presentation was excellent.

BBC Scotland Reflection

BBC Scotland Reflection

 

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a former President of the Royal Astronomical Society and was President of the Institute of Physics. She is also lots of fun, really interesting to listen to and an inspirational speaker. Her presentation was on new developments in astronomy, a subject that until then I’d though was relatively well understood and quite static. How wrong I was. Dame Jocelyn mostly talked about transients, things which move around in the heavens and which have been difficult to study because the sensitivity to track something in the heavens that is moving around  has only recently become available. These are important not just because they enhance our understanding of our universe, but also because there is evidence that from time to time large objects crash into the Earth causing damage on a catastrophic scale.

She also talked about mysterious things called whistlers that that are intermittent and fleeting – pulses of radiation that have crossed intergalactic space. This is cutting edge astronomy and we are only beginning to theorise on what might be the cause of such intense bursts of energy. Dame Jocelyn has the gift  of making her subject accessible, understandable and inspiring. If you get the opportunity to hear her speak then I highly recommend it.

So overall Satellite 4 was a successful weekend for me personally and for the convention in general, and I hope I will get to visit the lovely City of Glasgow again soon.

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Signing at Waterstones Bedford and Promotion

Waterstones Logo

Waterstones Bookshop

The lovely people at Waterstones in Bedford have allowed me to take over a small part of their shop this Saturday 30th November so I can sign books. I will be in the shop from about 10:45 onwards with copies of all 4 books in the Courts of the Feyre series available – at least until we sell them all.

To tempt you to come along, I will be giving away a free signed copy of Sixty-One Nails to the first five people who come into the shop and give me the codeword, “DOGSTAR”. Come early because they will go quite quickly.

In any case, come along and say ‘Hi’. If you want to bring along your existing copies, I will be glad to sign those too. Bear in mind that I will be sporting my Movember Moustache in all its glory.

See you there!

 

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Wood Green Literary Festival 2013

On Saturday 12th October I will be at Wood Green Literary Festival, along with Anne Lyle, author of the Night’s Masque series, and together we will be discussing Mad and Magical London – the London of the unknown and the unseen, and the London of magical and mysterious history.

Our Books

Anne and I will be happy to sign books, or just chat about London, fantasy, writing and books. Latest information is that we will be in Wood Green Library, but that may change, so keep an eye on the festival website for latest information.

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Wattpad – Reaching the Next Generation of Readers?

Today I opened my email to find this message, delivered via my website:

Wattpad

Subject: Reaching the Next Generation of Readers
 
Dear Mike,Please forgive the slightly skewed approach, but my name is Gavin and I work for Wattpad. We’re a community of readers and writers, and I work as part of their content team. As I’m responsible for Science Fiction and Fantasy on the site I wondered if I could entice you to join.Wattpad are a worldwide community of some 18 Million + readers and Writers, and we’ve attracted some great authors to the community like Brandon Sanderson, Cory Doctorow, Margaret Atwood and David Moody, who’ve posted everything from poetry and short stories to excerpts of ‘in progress’ works and full novels so their fans across the world can read them.The community is very much virtual, in that all the reading is done either online or via Mobile App, but that means that we can reach people even in the poorest parts of the world who have the odd position of having mobile devices but no books.I’d love to be able to talk more to you more about this, and if we’re able to pop up even a drabble or a short story for the community to read it would be wonderful to see.Thank you for your time, and I hope this email finds you well,Best Regards,Gavin

 The approach seemed genuine rather than a phishing attempt, which I also regularly receive, and I checked out the website and the entry on Wikipedia to see what they were about. It’s an interesting pitch because it invites me to reach out to the millions of people in the world who can’t afford books, but who are in the odd position (their words) of having an Android, Blackberry or IOS device, but no books. Still, an audience of 18 million is not to be sneezed at.

Then I started reading more carefully. Gavin says he works for Wattpad as part of the content team. He names a number of well-known authors as contributors, not least Cory Doctorow who is notable for his advocacy of free content. And then it struck me – if Gavin works for Wattpad, then he is getting paid.

I checked out the website further and discovered that not only is Gavin getting paid, but so is the HR Manager, the Business Development Manager, the Content Manager, together with a team of developers and marketing people. All these people are employees – indeed, Wattpad are recruiting if you are a talented developer and you live within reach of Toronto.

The message invites me to contribute some of my work to the Wattpad site for the benefit of the Wattpad Community, people who have joined the community for free, so they are not paying customers, and I wondered how Wattpad was paying all these employees if it’s free to join? So, I joined the site and soon found the advertising content on the search results pages. With an audience of 18 million, the advertising revenue potential must be considerable.

It was at this point that I decided to reply to Wattpad in this post, rather than send them a simple ‘not interested’ email. It seemed to me that there was a wider issue that should be aired.

The proposition from Gavin is that I provide them with a short story, part-work, novel or drabble, for free. This content is donated to Wattpad under the following conditions extracted from their Terms of Service:

6.C For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your User Submissions. However, by submitting User Submissions to Wattpad.com, you hereby grant Wattpad.com a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the Wattpad.com Website and its affiliates. You also hereby waive any moral rights you may have in your User Submissions and grant each user of the Wattpad.com Website a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Website. You understand and agree, however, that Wattpad.com may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of User Submissions that have been removed or deleted.

Not only is the license for this content royalty-free, but it is also transferrable and applies not only to the Wattpad.com site but also to its affiliates, whatever they may be.

My answer to Gavin and his colleagues at Wattpad, is no, I will not provide my work for your benefit, even if it means missing the opportunity to put my writing into the hands of people starved of books, but who are in the odd position of having an iPhone, Android device or Blackberry. By the way, countries where smartphones and tablets are in use widely tend not to be the poorest parts of the world.

Far too often authors are being asked to contribute their work for no reward other than the pleasure of pleasing others. It’s insidious, and at the base of it is the implicit assumption that an author’s work has little or no value, particularly when there is so much available for free. That leaves corporates like Wattpad, whose investors are looking for a return on shareholder capital from dividends and a rising share price, free to exploit both writers and readers.

So if you want to keep Gavin and his colleagues in work, and reward co-founders Allen Lau (Chief Technology Officer) and Ivan Yuen (CEO and winner of the Impact Infused Award, sponsored by Deloitte) with a big fat bonus, join Wattpad and contribute your efforts for nothing.

To Gavin, thanks for the offer. I know you’d love to talk to me about the benefits of contributing to a worldwide community of readers and writers, but the beauty of the Internet is that I am already doing that.

 

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Standing at the Crossroads

Recently I wrote a piece for Bastard Books about standing at the crossroads of writing and the decisions I am making about what comes next. There is a brief extract below, but click the link for the full article:

With the completion of the fourth and final book in The Courts of the Feyre I find myself at a cross-roads. Up until now I’ve styled myself as an Urban Fantasy Author, because that’s what I’ve written and it makes it easier for readers who are likely to enjoy my work to find me. For most people, though, urban fantasy isn’t a genre, and the words urban and fantasy simply don’t mean anything together. I might as well say goldfish collider for all the sense it makes to them. (Now I have an image of two goldfish swimming around a giant toroidal tank in opposite directions until they collide and scales and fins fly off in spiral patterns. That’s what an imagination will do to you. Be warned.) Click here to go to the full article…

 

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Review: Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovich

I haven’t been doing book reviews on this site; I’ve been posting them on GoodReads and I’ve generally reviewed favorite books. There is always room for change, though, and this is a little different because (a) it’s a review of Urban Fantasy, and (b) it’s a book by someone I’ve met.

The meeting is a story in itself. Back in 2009 when Sixty-One Nails was first published I was working in London quite close to Covent Garden. The first book in the Courts of the Feyre series features that area quite strongly, partly because I knew it well. I have paced along many of the paths traced in the book, though it has changed somewhat since that time. Given that the main character in the book practically walked past the door of Waterstones Bookshop on New Row, I felt it was appropriate that they should stock the book, especially for those readers wanting something local but also something different from the usual ghost tours and old London books. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So being the brazen self-promoter that I am, I went in and introduced myself to the staff, explaining that I wanted to speak to the person responsible for SF and Fantasy. I was politely told that he wasn’t in that day but that if I called in another day I should ask for Ben. A couple of days later I returned and was introduced to a large guy who met my enquiries with a strangely bemused look – yes, he knew what urban fantasy was, no he didn’t know about my book, yes he would accept a copy from me. It was a short meeting, but I pressed the book into his hand and felt that my work was done.

What I didn’t know was that the guy in Waterstones had just started work on his own urban fantasy, and was ten thousand words into his opener, Rivers of London. The other side of that story is here, at Ben’s website: The Folly.  I have been asked on numerous occasions if I knew of Ben’s work, and had to admit guiltily that I had not read it, but having finally finished The Courts of the Feyre, I was determined to catch up on some reading and this was top of my list.

Rivers of London

It’s a good read. If you haven’t caught up with Ben’s work by now, then you probably should. Certainly if you are here and reading this article and like the mix of history and fiction in my work, then you will not be disappointed by Ben’s story.

Like me, Ben writes in the real world, but his is the world of policemen and crime scenes, mixed with wizardry and genius loci – the spirits of place that come to embody a sense of belonging. His characters are strong and likeable – his hero, Peter Grant is someone you would be glad to meet and get to know. The character’s humour is infectious and his indefatigable optimism becomes a driving force in the story – you just can’t keep a good guy down. Contrast this with Mike Carey’s Felix Castor (another favorite) and you see two sides to the same coin – one darkly sardonic, the other an irrepressible optimist. Both work, but for entirely different reasons.

I liked the initial motivation to become involved in supernatural crime – it’s that or the case progression unit (the desk job) – this sets the rookie police officer Peter on a path that is only partly revealed in this book. There is so much left unexplained, which for me is an attraction. It left me wanting to know more about this character and the world he is only beginning to know. In this sense there is a parallel with my own work, in that you discover the world through Peter’s eyes and it is revealed as he finds it, as we do with Niall in Sixty-One Nails. We benefit from his knowledge and suffer with his mistakes. It’s a great way to expose magic in the real world and it works well.

There are now three other books in the series – Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground and, released at the end of July 2013, Broken Homes, and while I have not caught up with the full series yet I think it’s safe to say that they will be well worth reading – I look forward to it.

A final word – thanks to Ben for being okay about the strange man who pressed a novel into his hand that day. It was good to meet you and I hope we’ll get the opportunity to renew our acquaintance soon.

 

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