Thursday, 15 December 2011
And since all of my self-published books on Kindle are 99c, I wasn't exactly pleased. I mean, I've had novels published by four major publishers. My stories have appeared in most of the better magazines in the genre I work in. And most of what I've put out electronically has been published in hard print at some time in the past. The quote above just didn't make the slightest bit of sense to me, and so I tried to put the guy with that opinion right. Only to be rebutted by an American living in the UK, who told me she and plenty of people that she knew regarded 99c ebooks as potentially inferior, and $2.99 to be the proper starting rate. Bizarre! I don't buy cheaper tickets at the cinema on an Orange Wednesday and expect the movie I'm about to see to be inferior. If someone wants to put their work out at a very accessible price, why not? And does the extra two bucks make the ebook that they're buying suddenly -- magically -- better?
So why do I price my ebooks thusly in the first place?
One -- I'm trying to reach a brand-new market, and this seems like the best way to do it. Someone unfamiliar with my work, who buys one of my Kindles for less than the price of a cup of coffee in a diner, might like it enough to either buy some more 99 centers, which is fine. Or they might take enough of an interest to buy one of my novels or conventionally published collections. And that is what is happening. I know this because some of those people write and tell me so. In fact, one guy brought everything that I have out there electronically.
Two -- I'm not inclined at this stage of the game to shell out on having my ebooks formatted professionally. Don't get me wrong, I put a lot of effort into getting them in as good a shape as I can manage, which means spending hours checking through and taking all of the tab indents out. So once I have download them to Amazon, they're mostly good, but you come across the occasional page where a couple of paragraphs have too much indenting in them. And the fact is, I am pretty conscientious when it comes to my work, and since these ebooks are a slightly imperfect product it seems only fair to charge the minimum price for them, rather the same way you would charge a lot less for a second-hand book.
You know what? I'm half tempted to try a small experiment -- reprice all my Kindles at £2.99 and see if they sell better or attract a more discerning audience. But I doubt they will. I'll let you know.
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
"Sherlock Holmes didn’t die when he plunged down the Reichenbach Falls. He turned out to be unkillable, and is still with us to this very day, travelling the world and delving into all its most confounding cases. But these are not merely ordinary crimes … supernatural forces are at work. In “The Hunters and the Hunted” Holmes is confronted with a deadly insect swarm in Kenya … but what is directing the creatures toward their victims? In “Above the Boulevards” a powerful and mysterious vigilante is protecting women on the streets of Paris. And in “The Crimewave” Holmes is called back urgently to his beloved native London. And he no longer has Watson by his side … so here’s your chance to make the journey with him."
And secondly, Bitten by Books hosted a launch event for Dark Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes. The anthology is from Edge Publishing, and contains my very first Immortal Holmes story, 'The House of Blood,' set in Las Vegas. The event went on a full 24 hours with readers taking part and asking questions; I was one of the authors who answered them, and you can take a look at the whole thing here.
Thursday, 17 November 2011
China, in the last thirty years, has undergone the kind of transformational changes that the industrial West took a leisurely century and more to assimilate. It has seen exaggerated, almost unnatural growth.
One of the most common visual symbols of this are the rows of massive tower blocks that seem to be thrown up overnight in response to the twenty million or so Chinese peasants who flood into the cities every year. In our own version of the Industrial revolution, between 1780 say and 1880, we saw people move from the country to the town in large numbers. My own family, on both the Wingrove and the Jackson sides, was part of that. Battersea, in South London, where they settled, went from being a rural area with a population of 5,000 in 1860, to one of the most heavily industrialized areas in the country, with the two biggest engine yards in the country and a population of 170,000 in a mere twenty years. But it was nothing like what is happening in China. What’s different is the sheer scale of things. What the Chinese are experiencing is four or five times as fast and at least ten times the size.
The positives are massive - China has gone from being a third world power to potentially the world’s biggest superpower in one generation, liberating something like a billion people from poverty in the process – but so too are the negatives. Pollution, massive social problems and potential economic instability: these are the Big Three Negatives that face the Chinese people and their government.
Culturally, too, China is changing, though it’s hard to gauge whether such changes are temporary and fleeting. One thing is for certain: China is changing in response to what its people are experiencing, not merely from their increasing travels in the West, but from what they see and hear on their media. There are undoubtedly some parallels to Japan in that regard. But… China is China. And when China does something, it is always “with Chinese characteristics”. Much more than Japan, China hangs on to its traditions and its ways much more stubbornly than its Asian partners.
The Western media pays a lot of attention to censorship in China – to how it affects not merely how people behave socially, but also what they create artistically. I made a slightly humourous mention of China banning Time Travel in yesterday’s blog, but in some ways it’s not so funny. For all that change is in the air, with a centralized Communist government in charge such change is closely monitored and, from time to time, cracked down on. The result of this is that we’ve seen brief flowerings of modern Chinese culture – in art, cinema, music and literature – flowerings that incorporate a strong influence of the West, but the active word there is brief. What would attract debate in the West, in China finds itself banned, just as soon as the authorities manage to work out what’s been happening.
Because art – in all its forms - is an expression of freedom, and what the CCP don’t seem to want is freedom, because freedom is a road that leads away from a centrally-planned economy, and away from CCP control. It’s a road that leads directly to Democracy, and they can’t have that.
Now that’s a separate debate, and I’ll come to that in its turn – maybe in the coming week – but it has to be borne in mind when you’re talking about whether China will go the way of Japan and assimilate Western culture. Because that’s what a lot of people are saying, and they’re missing one huge and obvious point. Japan had no say in it. They had Western culture forced upon them as a result of them losing World War Two and being reduced to the status of supplicant nation. To reject the West wasn’t an option for Japan, and to a great degree (so I believe from what I’ve seen and read) they’ve benefitted, maybe even enjoyed the process, becoming a hybrid nation culturally. Japanese youth look like their Western counterparts and, with a few idiosyncrasies, act like them, and that – on the surface – can be said of the latest generation of rich, middle class Chinese. Only there are big differences. China – as a political entity – can choose what it wants to keep from the Western “package” and reject the rest. It doesn’t have to assimilate. And though that may not be what a lot of the new generation want, that’s what they’re going to get, because what the CCP says goes.
If you’re in any doubt about that, I’d remind you of what recently happened to China’s leading modern painter, Ai Wei Wei, who was feted by the West, and now languishes under house arrest, having had his new studio (valued at something over a million dollars) demolished by the authorities. His crime? To have an opinion on human rights. Now this is one of their most influential artists – he helped create Beijing’s Olympic Bird’s Nest Stadium, for god’s sake! And the fact that the Chinese government can adopt such bully-boy tactics and get away with it directly affects what kind of art is subsequently produced. Chinese artists (and musicians and film-makers and writers) learn very quickly these days that they’re not to piss off the authorities. Because bad things will happen if they do. And this is how the CCP ultimately controls the new culture. By stern disapproval, and punishments, and house arrest, and all of those other methods that remind us so clearly in the West of what Stalin and Hitler did.
Now, I’m not making a direct comparison there. China isn’t, thankfully, Stalinist Russia, and it’s not a Nazi state. As I said, there are positives about the new China just as there are negatives. But a certain heavy handedness of the kind that tyrants and repressive governments use, has been very much in evidence since what in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Again, it’s an expression of that governmental fear of losing control that riddles the CCP. If you look at the history of recent Chinese film-making, for instance, you’ll see a direct correlation between freedom of expression pre-Tiananmen, and an absence of the same thereafter. Again, I’ll blog about the details of this sometime soon. But it’s akin to what happened in the USA in the forties and fifties, with ‘the list’ and great film-makers like Frank Capra finding themselves unable any longer to make their movies. [Which is just to say that our hands are far from clean in this respect].
In all of this, it’s important to note that things are far from sewn up in China. Right now the powers that be are still in charge, still capable of exerting such negative influence. But things are changing. China is catching up with the world, and as it does – as the number of millionaires goes through the roof and the success of their economy results in four hundred million new middle class to join the world’s vast pool of purchasers - so the CCP and the Nine Men at its heart, will be forced to take measures to placate their newly-rich citizens. To give them a modicum of the freedom that comes along with the Western economic package.
How much or how little we can’t yet guess; only that the CCP will attempt to control things, to keep the great balancing act going. Because – for right or wrong – these guys are the ultimate control freaks. Modern China was born from a frenzy of social control, from the radical liberation of its people from old ways of behaving. New Sky thinking is what they called it, and, call it what you will, it’s a form of brain washing. But that said… four hundred million people with economic clout. Surely something has to change?
Okay. More tomorrow. Until then…. Tsai chien!
Monday, 7 November 2011
"There couldn’t have been two more different people. A British writer of supernatural fiction who had lived in London his whole life, and an African-American jazz saxophonist who’d resided in Europe since the Sixties. But when they met in a hotel in North Africa one evening, a friendship sprang up between them that would last more than a decade. And when one of them suddenly died, the other somehow knew that wasn’t going to be the end … and then set out on a journey to see the matter right through to its strange, haunting conclusion.There couldn’t have been two more different people. A British writer of supernatural fiction who had lived in London his whole life, and an African-American jazz saxophonist who’d resided in Europe since the Sixties. But when they met in a hotel in North Africa one evening, a friendship sprang up between them that would last more than a decade. And when one of them suddenly died, the other somehow knew that wasn’t going to be the end … and then set out on a journey to see the matter right through to its strange, haunting conclusion."
Hope that those who read it very much enjoy it -- it certainly got a good reception when it first came out. Oh, and as a btw, my top-selling collection on Kindle -- Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century -- now has a snazzy new cover.
Sunday, 30 October 2011
It's turning out to be a good month for my shorter fiction. in the first place, my modern ghost story 'Lightning Dogs' is now available to read for free at The Indie Book Lounge. That particular tale of terror was first published in 2002, and is currently featured both in my latest hard print collection, Our Lady of the Shadows, and in my Kindle collection of horror fiction The Black Lake.
Out too is Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes edited by Charles Prepolec and J.R. Campbell for Edge Publishing. It's a follow-up to Gaslight Grimoire, and contains my first ever Holmes tale, 'The House of Blood.' In it, the great detective has turned out to be immortal, is still here with us to this very day, and gets involved with the investigation of a very curious series of murders in none other location than Las Vegas. It was the inspiration for my Kindle collection Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century. And there'll be more Holmes stories going online before too much longer. In the meantime -- happy reading!
Monday, 17 October 2011
For some peculiar reason, my home city and one of my favourite directors just don’t seem to mix. Woody Allen came to London a few years back and made two movies. The first -- ‘Match Point’ -- ought to have been called ‘Match Pointless’; it was perfectly watchable until you reached the end, and then you sat their scratching your head and wondering why you’d bothered in the first place, what Americans call a ‘long run for a short slide.’ And his second effort -- ‘Scoop’ -- was so plain bad that I’m mentioning it here for the first and the last time.
Then he departed for Spain and came up with a big improvement, ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona,’ which I’ve already discussed earlier on in this blog (Sketches of Spain, 19 February, 2009). And now he’s cast his eye across Paris, and come up with his best movie in years. I’m not going to do a spoiler by telling you what Midnight in Paris is about … if you’ve not the first clue, then go to your local movie house and find out at first hand. But suffice to say that what happens to Owen Wilson in the film is my -- and most likely every creative person’s -- most heartfelt and unattainable secret dream. ‘Midnight’ is a delight from start to finish, and Allen’s most charming movie since ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo.’
And it dovetails neatly with my own recent experiences. Louise and I hadn’t been to Paris in years, and so last month we decided to spend three days there, just to reacquaint ourselves with the old girl. We rented someone’s tiny fourth-floor pied á terre, just two minutes walk from the Place de la Contrescarpe (top left) at the very heart of the Latin Quarter. There was a plaque for Hemingway on a house nearby, and about fifty yards further down from that another plaque for James Joyce. If you’re a writer, that’s the kind of thing that makes your jaw drop open. And we spent a glorious time there, touring the sites during the day and eating at a sidewalk table every evening. I just thought I’d share some photos with you.
Monday, 3 October 2011
She starts out her summary like this: "There are the books that are required reading, perhaps for a class or because your cousin/friend/coworker just wrote one and bullies you into reading a copy. There are the ones you read for pleasure, but afterwards you place it on the shelf and forget about it, or give it to a book sale, and you say, “Yeah, I read that,” when anyone asks you about it. But then there are those special books that you come back to every so often, the books you pick up on a lazy Saturday morning to read in bed for a while. I’m pleased to say that, for me, Our Lady of Shadows has become one of those books."
Wow! You can read the rest of the review by clicking here.
Incidentally, the interview I recently did, also with Wendy, has been moved from MonsterLibrarian's blog to a permanent posting on their website.
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Monday, 15 August 2011
Now the Landing is facing its worst peril yet, monstrous flying creatures in the service of an evil older than the Universe itself. They have an unpleasant way of getting people over to their side, and their powers keep on growing until little can withstand them. Most of the major adepts succumb ... there are only two left to defend Raine's Landing. And the town's chief troubleshooter, ex-cop Ross Devries, has an enormous challenge on his hands. He needs to get his former sidekick, Cassie, back into the fight. And if they are to have any slightest chance of winning through, they're going to have to make some very strange new friends.
And, as usual with my books about this curious, witchcraft-filled Massachusetts town, the terrific reviews have come flooding in. You can read the full review in each case simply by clicking on the link.
“’Non-stop action’ is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, and though I have never read a book that actually lived up to that hype, Midnight’s Angels comes pretty close. The action starts strong and barely lets up. As a matter of fact, I was less than a quarter of the way through the story before I started trying to figure out how in the world Ross and Cassie (and friends) were going to be able to defeat a seemingly unstoppable menace. Richards has crafted a wonderful town filled with fascinating characters. His writing is clear and precise, with wonderful dialogue. The backstory is interesting, but never overshadows the narrative. And many mysteries remain, for future stories in the Raine's Landing saga. I, for one, look forward to visiting again” -- Erik Smith, The Monster Librarian
“I thought his characters, of which there are quite a few, were fully fleshed out and believable, with the main characters being ones I came to really enjoy spending time with. When it comes to fiction for me, characters are first and foremost the most important factor in drawing me into the story, and Mr. Richards characters are absolutely wonderful. The action is fast and furious, with plenty of witchcraft, magic and supernatural beings. His writing is atmospheric and spooky, once you start you will find it hard to put it down. I stayed up late a few nights in a row, as I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next” – Literary Mayhem
“Not only is Midnight’s Angels an imaginative story filled with interesting characters and enough twists and turns to keep those of you who like thrillers happy, Tony Richards has written a horror story which demonstrates his maturity as a writer. Look at it this way, Midnight’s Angels has the jacked-up imagination one would expect from Tony Richards, but it also has the control and pacing of an author coming into his own. This guy was making things real, handling me (and his characters) like it was a walk in the park. I prefer horror that disturbs me to no end, but I can see people who read mainstream dark fiction talking about this book, or at least the series, for years to come. In fact, I can hear the inevitable Stephen King comparisons now” – Clayton Bye, The Deepening
“It’s another satisfying entry in the Raine’s Landing series; this time, the characters are permanently changed by what’s happened and the bittersweet ending leaves the way open for yet another story…and that is definitely one I think readers will be looking forward to—and demanding” – Tony-Paul de Vissage
“Yet again Richards had upped the stakes with this book, putting not just Raine’s Landing but the existence of life itself in jeopardy, but he does so with such panache that it is impossible to feel anything other than admiration for his imagination and storytelling skill. It’s a book that combines supernatural spectacle and human drama, old favourites and new inventions, in just the right balance, with the message coming over loud and clear from author Richards that there is still plenty of mileage left in this unique and marvelous creation. I loved it” – Peter Tennant, Black Static.
And that’s just the first five reviews. Dark Regions Press are currently running a special offer on the hardback … if you by both Midnight’s Angels and my latest short fiction collection – Our Lady of the Shadows -- you can get a 20% price reduction simply by using the voucher code RICHARDS20.
The amazing cover, by the way, is by M. Wayne Miller.
Friday, 12 August 2011
My two latest publications on Amazon Kindle are both sorties into erotic genre fiction.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE contains two horror shorts. In the title story, a visitor to Rome embarks on a wild affair with a woman he has met in his hotel, never once realising that there are supernatural forces at work, and a terrible price to be eventually paid. In ‘Beautiful Stranger,’ a young man in London is followed home by a gorgeous female Riser -- a zombie created by the wonder drug Revenox -- and begins to fall in love with her. But does she love him back?
Whereas ALSISO is a short erotic thriller, in which Harriet has fled her dull suburban marriage with her brand-new lover, Beth. Now, they live a lazy, bohemian existence in the quiet town of Alsiso, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. But when Harriet begins to fall under the spell of a handsome drifter named Cody, the scene is set for mystery, intrigue -- and maybe worse. ‘Alsiso’ is accompanied by the story ‘Nine Rocks in a Row,’ about a couple who come across a genuinely terrifying prophecy.
Both of these are 99 cents, as are all ten of my self-publications on Amazon Kindle. And the great covers are -- once again -- by the excellent Steve Upham.
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
A special thanks to Tony for having me as his guest. We’ve only met through the Internet but I count him as a friend and applaud the novels he’s written. In a recent blog, Tony spoke of places he’s visited where he got the germ of ideas later flowering into novels. I haven’t traveled that much, and certainly not outside the ol’ US of A, but I have used the locales I’ve lived in as settings for some of my novels…specifically the Nebraska Panhandle (yes, there’s one there, too) in Serpent’s Tooth, Walk the Shadow Trail, and Vengeance from Eden, which were written for Nebraska’s celebration of statehood) and Middle Georgia and the Golden Isles in Jericho Road.
None of these have the haunting chill of Tony’s books—except Serpent’s Tooth, though demon worship in Nebraska does sound a little far-fetched when spoken out loud—but I think I managed to depict the loneliness of the sand hills, as well as the tight-knit conformity of a small Southern town fairly accurately.
There’s one thing more than any other that’s influenced the way my books are constructed, something people have come to call my “style.” (Hey…I’ve got a style now, how about that?) I suppose I’m a child of my time…and my time was the early 50’s, when moving pictures were the most popular form of entertainment before the Boob Tube usurped it. In those days, there were not only dramas and westerns but sweeping epics of adventure, costume dramas of pirates, Robin Hood, rogues and rascals and villains. Nowadays, you rarely see those, except for an occasional Indiana Jones rip-off or if Cinemax steps in with The Borgias. It was the time of Frank Yerby, Samuel Shellabarger, Rafael Sabatini…men who wrote what would probably be termed the picaresque novel, tales of men conquering mountains and nations, and discovering new worlds—simply because they were there. Their stories were made into Technicolor sagas enthralling this little viewer for hours (in those days, you could pay your money and stay in the theatre the entire day if you wished.) And when I began to write, I unconsciously patterned my stories after theirs.
One series—The Adventures of Sinbad—seems to mirror those stories enough that several readers have told me they “absolutely adore” my main character. I admit it’s easy to see him swinging across the deck of a ship, with dagger between his teeth while he hangs onto the heroine with one hand and a rope with the other, a la The Crimson Pirate. In fact, I think I had him do something almost like that in one story…
Other novels open with an incident leading to a flashback. In fact, one novel is simply one extended flashback, returning to the present only in the last chapter. Others are more linear, with cuts to other points of view showing things happening at the same time in other places, the dialogue interspersed with stage direction-like movement. In telling my tales of adventure, romance, violence, danger, and—on occasion—lust, I harken back to those days in those darkened theatres as I shoveled in the popcorn with my eyes glued to that glad bead-silvered screen. Good or bad, that’s just the way my mind works, and so far, it’s successful. The results are—in several reviewers’ opinions, “readable and enjoyable tales…outside the box”…which I owe to two things: my imagination and those childhood entertainments.
And then television came along…and opened the box even wider…
Toni V. Sweeney was born after the War Between the States and before the Gulf War. A native Georgian, she has lived on both coasts, thirty years in the Midwest and is now trying for thirty more in Nebraska. Her first novel was published in 1989 and she currently has 27 novels in publication. Her last novel The Wizard’s Wife, was released in February, of this year, and her latest novel, Runaway Brother, written under her pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone, will be released by Class Act Books in August, 2011.
Sunday, 31 July 2011
Sunday, 10 July 2011
I then showed it to the notoriously fickle editor (no names) of a British SF magazine. He said he'd take it if I shortened it a bit and changed a couple of small elements. I only ever do that when I can see that someone has a point, and he did on this occasion, so I made the changes. Sent it back to him. Never heard another word from the guy on the subject. Weird.
But finally I got to thinking, 'Hold on, the central character in this story is a cop. And in the course of the story he investigates some mysterious deaths. So I might be thinking of it as SF, but it's a mystery tale too.'
Now, I haven't even submitted anything to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for -- I just went and checked -- twenty years! But I duly printed 'New Harare' up as a double-spaced manuscript and sent it off, expecting nothing. Six months passed. That seemed to confirm the 'nothing' bit. Then -- blow me down! -- Linda Landrigan, AHMM's editor wrote to me, apologising for taking so very long, and saying she loved the tale and wanted to buy it.
I've said it before and I'll say it again ... this is the world's most unpredictable business.
Monday, 4 July 2011
As regular followers of this blog might have noticed, I've been self-publishing an awful lot on Amazon Kindle lately. And why not? Heaven knows, I've more than enough back-material to put out on the Net. And what author would turn down the chance to add an extra string to his bow and the opportunity to attract a new audience?But e-books are still books, and books need covers. Which presented me with a slight problem. Some writers are good at art as well. Not me. I couldn't draw a straight line if my life depended on it. My drawing is several shades worse that my singing, and if you were ever unlucky enough to hear me sing you'd realise that is pretty awful. Even my matchstick men look like they have something very badly wrong with them.
Fortunately, one person I've got to know through the convention circuit is a certain Steve Upham. I first met him when he was launching his Screaming Dreams imprint of books at a British Fantasycon a while back. I admired the covers displayed on his stall, guessed -- rightly -- that he had done them himself, and complimented him on them. And it turned out that he knew and liked my fiction, so we've been friends ever since.
Now, Steve is something of a Renaissance Man. He's a publisher, an editor, he puts out a magazine, he's a photographer too. But most of all, he's an artist. Go to the Screaming Dreams website and you'll find a gallery of his work. Science fiction paintings, fantasy ones, horror, even generalised subjects, a lot of it fantastic stuff. And so, when I needed some artwork myself, Steve was the first person that I thought of turning to, and not without reason. Just take a look at the terrific covers on display here. All of them his.
What I'm really getting at is this. If you need some artwork for any reason, Steve's your man. Dip into his gallery and you're bound to pick out something that you like. Or, if you can't find anything suitable, Steve would be more than happy to whip up a brand-new painting for you. He works fast too -- most good artists do that.
Tell him I sent you.