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BSFA Shortlist

I am delighted to report that Light of Impossible Stars has followed in the footsteps of its two predecessors by making the BSFA Awards shortlist!

If you’re eligible to vote, I’d appreciate your support, as I’m up against some fierce competition in the Best Novel Category. Check it out:

  • Tiffani Angus, Threading the Labyrinth, Unsung Stories.
  • Susanna Clarke, Piranesi, Bloomsbury.
  • M. John Harrison, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again, Gollancz.
  • N.K. Jemisin, The City We Became, Orbit.
  • Gareth L. Powell, Light of Impossible Stars, Titan Books.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future, Orbit.
  • Nikhil Singh, Club Ded, Luna Press.
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Doors of Eden, Tor.
  • Liz Williams, Comet Weather, Newcon Press.
  • Nick Wood, Water Must Fall, Newcon Press.

You can see the whole list (and vote) here: BSFA

Embers of War TV Series

So last night, Variety announced that Stampede Ventures and wiip have partnered to adapt my Embers of War series of novels as a television show.

Gary Graham is attached to adapt the book for the screen (and his pilot script is amazing!), with Breck Eisner (who directed many episodes of The Expanse) onboard to direct. Both will also executive produce along with Greg Silverman and Paul Shapiro of Stampede alongside wiip. And I will serve as co-executive producer.

It’s a very exciting time, and I will now be on the edge of my seat waiting to see which networks picks up the show…

Link to the full Variety article here.

The Joy of Walking

Last week, I went for an appropriately socially distanced stroll around Bristol docks with horror writer and Bram Stoker Award nominee, Gemma Amor. We started at the Watershed (see picture above) and did a circuit taking in the Arnolfini, M-Shed, ss Great Britain, the Nova Scotia pub, Hotwells Road, and Millennium Square.

After living the hermit lifestyle for so long, it was great to actually be out getting some exercise and enjoying the company of another author. Writing can be so solitary that it’s always inspiring to meet someone who understands what it’s like to toil in the word mines.

According to the Health app on my iPhone, I racked up almost ten thousand steps, which felt great. One of my aims for 2021 is to start getting more exercise, and our circumnavigation of the floating harbour reminded me how much fun that can be.

Plus, exercise really lifts my mood. I have been down in the dumps a lot, which can make it hard to summon the energy or motivation to get outdoors – but even a brisk ten minute walk can clear your mind and help you relax.

It certainly makes me feel more confident and ready to tackle my writing. Getting the blood flowing gets the brain working, and problems that seemed intractable before appear suddenly manageable.

So, get away from that screen, strap on your walking shoes, and get out there. Health and inspiration await!

[You can see my photos from the walk on my Instagram feed here, and Gemma’s on her feed here.]

Light Chaser cover reveal

A secret war against artificial intelligence and a future, unknowable foe; and a love that transcends death and time…

I am thrilled to reveal the cover for Peter F. Hamilton and Gareth L. Powell’s action-packed sci-fi adventure Light Chaser—available August 24th from Tordotcom Publishing.

A love powerful enough to transcend death can bring down an empire.

Amahle is a Light Chaser – one of a number of explorers who travel the universe alone (except for their onboard AI), trading trinkets for life stories.

When listening to the stories sent down through the ages she hears the same voice talking directly to her from different times and on different worlds. She comes to understand that something terrible is happening, and only she is in a position to do anything about it.

And it will cost everything to put it right.

Blog Plans for 2021

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Having resurrected my blog this year, I hope you’ve been enjoying the writing advice I’ve been posting. 216 of you currently subscribe, so I know I must be doing something right. However, as we look ahead to a new year, I want to be sure I’m giving you want you want. So, please feel free to comment with any suggestions you might have.

For instance, would you be interested in a few personal updates mixed in with the advice posts? Maybe regular Q&A sessions?

Please, let me know below…

Top Ten Tips for Selling Books on Social Media

As an author, you want to get the word out about your latest book. After all, people can’t buy it if they don’t know it exists. But how do you make your work stand out from all the online clamour?

You can’t throw a metaphorical rock on Twitter without hitting half a dozen authors. There are a lot of us there, both traditionally published and self published, and we all want to attract readers. But simply posting endless entreaties to buy your book doesn’t work. Nobody wants to follow an account that constantly harangues them.

So, what can you do?

Speaking from my own experience, it seems the best way to interest people in your writing is to first interest them in yourself. Put the ‘social’ back into social media.

I never set out with a marketing plan. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve always been myself on Twitter and Instagram. And that authenticity is important, I think. Over the past decade on Twitter, I’ve built up an engaged following, and that has had a definite impact on my visibility as an author, and consequently on the sales of my books.

But the social part came first. I made friends with other writers and people in the bookselling, publishing, and reading communities. I engaged in conversations that weren’t about me or my work. I tried to help people by sharing what I’d learned as a fledgeling writer.

And the most important thing I learned was that people don’t buy books on Twitter; they buy authors.

I hate the term ‘brand,’ but in this context YOU are your brand as much (and perhaps even more so) than your books. If you’re likeable and add value, people will trust you and want to check out your work.

I didn’t plan my strategy or anything. I was just being me. But for those of you just starting out, perhaps you might find it helpful if I present the benefits of my experience in bullet form. And so, here are my top 10 tips for book marketing on social media:

  1. Find your audience
  2. Be interested in other people
  3. Build relationships
  4. Treat authors as colleagues rather than competition
  5. Post interesting and useful content
  6. Try to be helpful
  7. Don’t be a jerk
  8. Act professionally and respectfully
  9. Be the kind of person people want to follow
  10. Share some of the lows as well as the highs – be human!

Finding an audience wasn’t hard for me, because I was already a SF fan and reader, and knew several others, so I had a place from which to build. Being a huge fan of the genre in which you write makes it easier to relate to the audience – because you’re already one of them – and you can celebrate your shared enthusiasms together.

Don’t try to copy my online voice (or anyone else’s) but find your own. Be the best version of yourself. Radiate positivity and helpfulness, and you will find most people will respond positively in return.

Do you have any tips of your own? Something that’s worked for you? Drop a comment below and share it with us.

You can also subscribe to my blog to make sure you don’t miss future posts.

Good luck!

Don’t Wait For Inspiration

Sitting around waiting to be inspired is like sitting around waiting for a train that won’t come. Instead, you need to be using your notebooks or Word documents or whatever you use. Write down every idea you have, and then start bashing those ideas together. That’s how John Wyndham came up with DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS: carnivorous plants + a cosmic event that blinds the world. On their own, each is only half a story, but smash them together and you really have something.

So, ask yourself ‘What if such-and-such happened?’ And then ask, ‘And what if this other thing happened too?’ 

Never stop asking crazy questions. You never know which ones will be the missing pieces of your story.

Irving Kingsley 1949-2020

It is with great sadness that I read of the death of Irving Kinglsey, probably one of the greatest science fiction writers I have ever encountered, and a huge personal influence.

Although no longer a household name, Kinglsey will be most remembered in genre circles for a spate of blistering space opera novels in the late 1960s and early 1970s, starting with his debut Jones’s Robot Eye (written when he was only 19 years old) to The Apocrypha of the Apocalypse, which was published shortly after his thirtieth birthday.

Following the death of his parents in 1971, Kingsley invested the money from Apocrypha in an old RV and left his native Brooklyn with the intention to drive cross-country to San Francisco–a journey that took him four years. During that time, he worked as a ranch hand in Wyoming, a cab driver in Chicago, and a NASA advisor in Houston. When he finally arrived in San Francisco in June 1975, he was married and working on the book that would be his masterpiece.

Seven Hands, Eight Feet (published in 1982) tells the story of the mystical revelations Kingsley experienced during his travels, during which time he believed he repeatedly made psychic contact with a craft from another world, and that the occupants of the craft were here on Earth to warn us of a dreadful catastrophe. However, the true nature of the catastrophe remained unclear. At the time, Kingsley assumed it had something to do with nuclear war or overpopulation, but in his final interviews in the late 1990s, he hinted it might be a crisis of a spiritual rather than physical nature.

After Seven Hands, Kingsley dropped off the radar for a while. He divorced in 1987 and spent some time in Mexico and Peru. And then, eleven years after the publication of his last book, a new novel appeared. Foliage tells the story of a group of surveyors who venture into a rainforest with the intention of marking which areas are to be turned into farmland, but are picked-off by the plants and animals. Largely ignored on its appearance, Foliage can now been seen as a spiritual ancestor of films such as Avatar and Annihilation. Writing in the Liverpool Evening Press, Grant Henderson said the book, “Does for the Amazon what Jaws did for sharks.”

Dispirited by his lack of commercial success, Kingsley turned to writing thrillers in an attempt to make money. The results were interesting but so far from the typical airport potboiler that they tended to perplex and alienate their intended audience. Which is a shame, because looking back now we can see Deadly Breakfast, Steve’s Fissure, and Day of the Octopus as masterpieces of surrealism, more akin to André Breton’s Nadja (1928) or Boris Vian’s Froth on the Daydream (1947).

Although nothing had been heard of Irving Kingsley in almost two decades, I am still very sad to hear of his passing. A lifelong smoker, he died when his attempts at lighting his pipe caused him to lose control of his jet ski. He is survived by his second wife, Gwendolyn, and his beloved dogs, Wells and Verne.

How I Became A Hybrid Author

Although I already have ten traditionally published books out there, I recently decided to take the plunge and self publish three books myself.

THE LAST REEF and SILVERSANDS were originally published by small presses in 2008 and 2010 respectively, but had sadly fallen out of print when those presses ceased trading. Publishing them myself was a way to keep them available to new readers.

DOWNDRAUGHT was a novella I had previously serialised on my Patreon page, and thus wouldn’t have been of interest to a publisher, having already been effectively ‘published’ online. But, as it had received a good reception from my patrons, I decided to go ahead and bring it out myself, as I thought it deserved a wider audience.

But if I was going to do this, I wanted to be sure I put out a professional-looking product. So, I engaged the services of my friend, Emma Kalson at Creative Cat Apps.

Emma was a huge help. She proofed and formatted the manuscripts, designed the covers, and walked me through the process of uploading everything to Amazon. I couldn’t have done it without her help, and I have no hesitation in recommending her services to any budding self-publishers.

I’m extremely pleased with the finished products. They look and feel good, and hold their own when sitting on the shelf next to my traditionally published works.

Being an author these days means taking every opportunity to get your work out there, and get paid for it. Therefore, I don’t see self-publishing as being in conflict with traditional publishing. They are simply different routes to market, and as far as I’m concerned, they can happily coexist and complement each other.

Buy Now:

My First “Novel”

At the age of ten years old, I scribbled a story into the pages of three spiral-topped reporters’ notebooks. Covering both sides of each page, it must have totalled somewhere in the region of 30,000 words. Heavily influenced by Star Wars and Blake’s 7, the story recounted the adventures of a crew of intrepid space traders and their aged vessel, The Argo. As it was handwritten, there were no rewrites. The story progressed episodically, with new adventures or plot twists thrown in whenever the pace started to lag or I watched a particularly exciting episode of Star Trek or Doctor Who. Sadly, I’ve no idea what became of those notebooks. I can’t even remember the title of the story. The books went astray decades ago. I suppose they may be hidden away in a dusty corner of the attic, but I haven’t laid eyes on them for 40 years. Maybe they’ll show up one day – but on the whole, it’s probably for the best if they don’t.