Friday 30 September 2016

Shadows of the Oak cover reveal

Among trees, it is understood that the Oak is King. He stands tall, his branches reaching sure and strong into the sunlight. His noble bearing is proud, and he suffers no fools. He offers shade and shelter to those who need it, and he holds firm against the might of the wind for the safety and comfort of his lesser brothers.
But he who casts too deep a shade – who will not bend to allow the light to touch those who shelter beneath his might – should beware. For in the darkness, under cover of fallen leaf and decaying branch, feeding on the damp, dank earth that is their lot, the mould, the rot and the fungi grow and fester. From beneath the splendour of widespread bough and far-reaching root, the weak and wicked wield their own power – a power which devours from below, slow and insidious.
The Oak who does not share the light knows nothing of this dark threat . . . until the very moment he is toppled.
The long-anticipated follow-up to our first fairy tale collection, Willow, Weep No More, is finally on its way, and now it’s time for the new cover to be revealed. In another beautifully detailed original illustration, artist Līga Kļaviņa shows us the reverse view of Willow’s cover and we catch a glimpse of the dark deeds that go on in the Shadows of the Oak.
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Cover art by Līga Kļaviņa, cover design by Ken Dawson
Shadows of the Oak explores the role of the anti-hero in this illustrated collection of original fairytales from thirteen talented authors, to be released in November 2016 as a stunning hardback.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Savour your small victories

FantasyCon 2016  - FantasyCon By T'Sea

For the last few days I've been up North at that there FantasyCon and had a splendid time.


The Grand Hotel (from the beach) - 

I was in Room 00001 deep, deep in the bowels of the hotel - the last window on the left, at the bottom - there would have been a nice view of the beach if the window wasn't so encrusted with filth... the food at the hotel was, er, interesting and the clientele odder than the con-goers (including Brexit man and man telling anti-American jokes) and boy was the Royal Ballroom swampy! But they got the basics right (for me) and I have stayed in worse places!

The Grand Lobby

There were books (including mine)

The Grimbold book table

There were readings (including mine - for which there is no photographic evidence)

BFS award nominee Steven MPoore

The Glasgow SF Writers group

There were panels. Including mine which was a fun one, ably moderated by Alasdair Stuart and which ranged over a wide array of superhero related topics. It was very early in the morning, which is what saved me Friday night - I'd visited a few things with free alcohol but managed to get to bed at a reasonable time so was relatively OK on Saturday...

There were awards

Gemmel Award winner Pete Newman

The (very hot) BFS Awards

Congratulations to all the Gemmell and BFS award winners!

There was karaoke (no photos or videos to spare the guilty)

And, of course, there were many, many conversations in the bar.

One such conversation, far too late on Sunday evening, fuelled by alcohol and quite maudlin, has prompted the title of this post. A few fellow authors - two English, on Italian, one Polish, one Maltese, one Scottish and one who lived in Sweden, sat discussing everything from ancient Egyptian mythology to the Black death to antibiotic-resistant bacteria to exoplanets to Easter Island to, oh many other things, you get the idea. Authors being the modern polymaths, interested in everything really do have the most fascinating conversations.

One conversation we had though, or a sub-conversation, was about why we put ourselves through being writers. Pouring heart and soul into a piece of work only for it to get rejected by all and sundry. To spend literally years writing a book and then struggle to get it published, then struggle to market it then struggle with reviews when it's finally published. Not everyone can win awards, or be nominated for them or even get a publishing deal with the big publishers. And that's why we should celebrate the small victories, and savour them as much as possible. It was fantastic to see friends nominated for awards, and brilliant seeing friends win awards. But I'm so far away from that right now (if I'd even ever get there!) Hence the small victories.

When I got a story published in an anthology for the first time (Airship Shape) I saw that as the first of many, my expectation was that arrogant (thankfully, humbly, other people have subsequently liked my work enough to publish it, for which I am grateful) but another friend, also with his first published story in the same anthology said something at the launch which made me change my expectations, and my attitude. He said - "I am determined to enjoy this experience, because it may never happen again."

And so I always try (sometimes I don't succeed) to enjoy the small victories, as well as the large ones. My small victories this weekend were that I was on the program (doesn't always happen at every Con I go to), I did a reading and the audience was in double figures (better than last time I did a reading at FantasyCon), I sold two books (not a massive amount - but better than not selling any books) and I got to meet and talk to an amazing bunch of industry folk. Some I knew already (including two of the guests of honour), some I didn't.

Being a writer may be hard, and it may occasionally be bleak, but that really does mean that when there are moments of joy you should make the most of them. But like a drug addict you always seem to need another hit, and bigger hits too. Another story is sold? Is it to a more prestigious outlet than the last? Just signed a deal on a new book? Is it a better deal than last time, is it for a better book? etc. Don't be content, use any discontent you have as a spur - "oh they rejected that story? They won't reject the next one!" but do celebrate any victory, however small...

Monday 12 September 2016

Interview with Dave Hutchinson

Davey Six-Toes
(photo by Cecilia Weightman)

Dave Hutchinson is best known as the author of the Fractured Europe series, the first two books have made the Clarke Award Shortlist. BRSBKBLOG asked him about the latest in the series - Europe in Winter coming in November 2016

Europe In Autumn by Dave Hutchinson

This is the 3rd in the Europe series - what's the general overview for people who aren't aware of them (as if there are still people not aware of them!) & any hints on what the third is about?

The Europe books are set in Europe – no spoilers there – between fifty and eighty years from now. Economic collapse, a flu pandemic, and reaction to a flood of refugees from the South have caused the EU to fracture into its component nations, and then to fracture further into many smaller nations and statelets, some of them stable, others short-lived. The hardening of European borders has proven an opportunity for a group calling themselves Le Coureurs des Bois, who are basically smugglers. The first book, Europe in Autumn, followed an Estonian chef named Rudi as he joins the Coureurs and then gets mixed up in a conspiracy involving a parallel Europe called the Community. The second book, Europe at Midnight, follows two intelligence officers from very different places as they become involved with a plot to derail union between the Community and Europe. And the third book, Europe in Winter, returns to Rudi, who in the middle of investigating what seems to be a massive terrorist outrage discovers that many of his assumptions about the world – and his own life – have been wrong.

Was it an especial challenge or easy to return to the world you created in the first two books?
It was really easy to go back to what a friend of mine called ‘Autumnal Europe’. I’ve had the whole thing ticking over in my head for years. If anything, it’s harder to write stuff that isn’t set in that world. It takes a real mental U-turn.
Last post I made about you was for your short story collection Sleeps with Angels ( do you write a lot of short stories?  
Europe at Midnight by Hutchinson Dave

I used to write nothing but short fiction; I’d been writing for about twenty-five years before I got round to producing a novel. Actually, I think I’m really a short story writer by nature rather than a novelist. I find writing very hard work, and a novel is a huge project for me; at least with a short story it’s over quite quickly. Also, I have quite a short attention span. Having said that, there’s been a spell of five or six years now when I’ve done nothing but work on books, although I’ve recently finished a couple of short stories.

The first two books were nominated for the Clarke has being on a prestigious shortlist twice changed how you approach writing?
The nominations thing has all been a bit mad and wonderful, to be honest. Better writers than me work for years and don’t get a single nod, so the attention the Europe books have received is deeply humbling, and if I’m honest not a little baffling. But I don’t think it’s changed the way I approach writing; it’s still as chaotic as it ever was.
What are you currently working on (apart from this interview)?
I’m working on a non-Europe novel. I’m not sure I should say very much about that, for various reasons, until the publishers make an announcement about it. But it’s very different.

If you could be a character in the series who would it be and why?
Which character would I be? That’s a hard one. Rudi’s the little voice in my head, the sort of person I’d quite like to be, so I’d have to say Rudi.

How much planning and research do you do before a novel?
I don’t tend to plan a lot, but I do usually have some bits and pieces of dialogue and action and a vague idea what’s going to happen. With Winter, I had the beginning and end and a sort of feeling about some stuff in the middle. Mostly I just keep writing and fit it together as I go along. I do a bit of research before starting a book or a story – although quite often that ends up being thrown away because it becomes irrelevant as the story develops. Most of the research takes place while the book’s being written, as and when it’s needed.

Why's your website called "automatic cat"? -
I honestly can’t remember why I called the blog The Automatic Cat; it seemed like a good idea at the time, I suppose. It’s mostly just a place for opinionated and poorly-informed rants and I need to do more of it.
In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?
Advice for new writers? Just keep writing.

Thanks to Dave for the answers - go check out his books, there's a very good reason they keep being nominated for prizes - they are very good!

We're lucky enough to have been sent an ARC for Europe in Winter so expect a review 'soon' (for a given value of soon)

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