Sunday, 31 July 2011


I've two non-fiction pieces about the writer's art on the Internet at the moment. 'Pre-Planning a Novel' on that excellent website The Indie Book Lounge. And 'Whatever Turns You On' -- about travel, inspiration, and location -- in the BLOG DEUX section of Tony-Paul de Vissage's website. Oh, and if you go to the review pages there, T-P has also reviewed all three of my Raine's Landing novels, and will shortly be doing the same for my Kindle publication 'Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century.'

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Writing can be a very peculiar business. I'm sure non-writers think that I just tap out a tale, send it to a magazine, and that's the end of the business. Hardly. A good few years back, I wrote a story called 'The Very Edge of New Harare.' I conceived it as a science fiction tale. The central character is called Lieutenant Abel Enetame, and he inhabits a federalised Africa of the not too distant future. I originally sold it to a small press mag called Maelstrom. The editor there sat on it for about two years, then wrote to inform me that the magazine had collapsed.

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.