Talking covers…

So last time I had been up till silly in the morning making a cover for my next novel (still with the editor.) Having done so I put it out to the wide world of the interweb in search of those things everyone has.

No not arseholes.

The other thing everyone has, opinions.

Opinions which as it turned out were mostly informed, and informative, so I took them on board the airship and played about with the cover again last night. Graphic artists (which I am not) much like writers thrive on a bit of feedback. The fonts needed work, both for the title and the little subtitle. Certain aspects were a tad flat or unclear, but it was more than that. There were things people said they liked, and the vast majority of people were very positive about the cover in general. the changes I’ve made I feel have added to what people liked and not detracted from the overall effect. It also allowed me to play with a couple of little easter eggs in the cover, little bits you would not notice unless you went looking. Things you would not even realise were deliberate unless perhaps you had read the novel itself.

Version 1 is on the left and the revised version on the right, as hopefully, you can tell.

I am sure there will be more faffing on with the cover before I am done. If self-publishing has taught me anything, its that getting the cover of a book right is very important. It doesn’t matter how good, or for that matter bad, your writing is, if people don’t take a second look at the cover. You have to get it in their hands in the bookshop, or in the case of an ebook get them to click on the link. You have to have something which speaks to the potential reader.

Oh the blubs matter, the back cover matters, the way you market it, the way you set up the kindle version and a whole lot of other stuff, but people do and will judge a book by its cover, even unintentionally. Which is why this may or may not be the final cover I go with. All the same, I am very pleased with this one so far and the response it has been getting. Given this is my fourth book, it’s probably a good thing that I am starting to get something right…

Of course, having messed with this some more, I also have considered going back and redoing the covers on a couple of my earlier novels and even tweaking the cover to my novella. Because I have learned a few new tricks and a bit more about how to make a cover work well. I’ll try not to become a cover bore in the process…

adios for now

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A not quite cover reveal…

Bitten by a bout of insomnia, and a need to do something creative to tired my overactive mind I decided to work on a new concept cover for my forthcoming Hannibal Smyth novel, ‘A Spider In the Eye’. At 5:30Am on Sunday morning after several hours of this, I came up with the cover design below.

Of course, my no longer sleep deprived mind, can now see all the little flaws in the, not so final, design, and if I end up going with this one I will have a whole lot of tweaking to do. But still, all things considered, it was a productive few hours. Opinions on the design, as ever, welcome…

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Philosophical notes…

Music features a lot in my novel Passing Place, music and my love of lyrics, which I often find have a certain philosophical leaning. Of course, they were not always written with a philosophical mindset I am sure. But on occasion, one finds little nuggets of philosophy in the strangest of places. Mainly though this list of qazi philosophical utterings started out from a throwaway witticism my twitter account… So if your looking for some fine insights into the human condition, this may not be the list for you, but hey if a couple of these make you smile, well then, like the philosopher Jagger once stated…

You can’t always get what you want

but as he goes on to say…

Sometimes,

if you try real hard,

you might get what you need

: Jagger

Leave the knight of Dartford on one side. According to the American Blue collar philosopher Springsteen…

We are alive

And though our bodies lie alone here in the dark

Our spirits rise

To carry the fire and light the spark

: Springsteen

Make of that what you will…

Meanwhile, worthy of consideration is the work of a trio of philosophers Felder/Henley&Frey:

‘Some dance to remember, some dance to forget’

But as they go on to say

(you/they) ‘just can’t kill the beast’

:Felder/Henley&Frey

While back in the 80’s with vitriolic splendour Peters asked of man’s perspicacity to hide when dark clouds loom…

All cards are marked, all fates will collide

The truth is the truth or the truth is surely a lie

Get back in your shelter if you can’t come down off the fence

:Peters

There may be more of this to come…

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Blind Chance Theory: Amendum

A quick follow up to Blind Chance Theory.

I have now read the limited edition excerpt of C G Hatton’s ‘Arunday’s Convergence’. Book 2 of Thieves’ Guild: Bhenykhn Wars. A little one chapter bookette that C.G. had made for MCM Comic Con. Which for reason best known to herself she was kind enough to send me, as I mentioned in the last post. So I think I should say a few words about it. The words that spring to mind are as follows…

“Damn you C.G.Hatton!”

Why ‘Damn you C.G.Hatton’ you ask? Because I am going to have to wait until April next year before I get to read the rest of it. As ever it is fast, breakneck sci-fi written to be read, written to be enjoyed for the love of the thing, and written with a passion for her story, universe and characters that is hard to match.

One chapter in and Hil is in a world of trouble, wounded, running for his life, while what few allies he has are falling around him. Hil isn’t paranoid about this, he knows that almost everyone is out to get him. Everything has gone wrong on his tab, and the only chance he has is to make for the extraction point, leaving the last of his allies in his wake.

Oh, I would not have missed reading this for the world and that little ‘damn you’ is tongue in cheek. But C.G.Hatton’s work never disappoints. If you haven’t read any yet (and why not), then your missing out on a universe of joyous abandon. It’s not out and out hard sci-fi, but it’s not pulp either. It is in a class of its own, it’s just fun, fast, thrilling rollercoaster fun sci-fi, on one level at least. And god knows there is nothing wrong with that… I defy anyone to read Residual Belligerence and not come away exhausted, and utterly entertained at the same time.

Its also smart intelligent sci-fi, the characters, worlds, and ideas behind the rollercoaster reflect more than just pulp figures. The characters have depth, as do the stories. They have humanity and realism to them, which is what makes the novels stand out for me. Read Kheris Burning and tell me you don’t come back with a better understanding of fringes of our own world you may not otherwise have put much thought into.

So when I tell you I am looking forward to reading the whole of Arunday’s Convergence, you can take me at my word. My appetite for the next Thieve’s Guild novel is all the more ravenous for this sneak peek of what is to come. So yer…

“Damn you C.G.Hatton!”

And bless yer little cotton socks too…

 

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Blind Chance Theory

Occasionally things happen. No one knows why this is the case.

Personally, I favour a little-known variant of Chaos Theory, BCT or Blind Chance Theory. Blind Chance Theory, which states that in an infinite universe, given an infinite amount of time, some stuff is bound, at some point, to happen. Therefore you should not be surprised when things do happen.

Of course, Blind Chance Theory, a theory which explains everything at the end of the day, is somewhat flawed as a concept for two reasons:

  • Firstly the universe is not actually infinite, it can’t be because it is expanding. Infinity can not get bigger, by definition.
  • Secondly, time has a starting point and in the eventual heat death of the universe an endpoint. Ergo it too is not infinite.

But still, despite these somewhat fundamental flaws in Blind Chance Theory, occasionally things still happen, no one is entirely sure why this is the case, no matter what they tell you to the contrary.

Disclaimer: Some theologians may disagree with the above statement and state that they are entirely sure why things occasional happen, and use a three letter word that acts as a catch-all to there own prefered theory of existence.

Disclaimer, on the disclaimer: If theologians are actually entirely sure about the existence of god then they negate the need for faith. As the need for faith is the precept of all religion using the word ‘Because God’ to explain everything does not constitute being entirely sure why thing happen. Ergo we are back to BCT…

What always seems remarkable to me, however, is not that things happen. It’s that occasionally things happen for a reason. Once in a while, things happen for a good reason. Once in a while life seems a little bit brighter and more cheerful. Like when you’re waiting for some mail to arrive, you really don’t want. A bill, or a parking ticket or some other such irritation of modern life. When instead of that you get something in the mail that makes you smile, and for no reason that will make sense to anyone but you, makes the universe seem a little less of a cold expansive near infinite space filled mostly with nothing, where things occasionally happen.

Talking of things just happening, I started this post knowing where I was going to end it, I had no idea how I was going to get there, or what I would talk about along the way. If all of this makes sense to you, feel free to drop me a postcard explaining what you think I am talking about, because sometimes I leave the writing of a post down to blind chance as well…

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Got this little collectable gem in the post this morning. (a collectable free preview chapter of the next thief’s guild novel made for MCM ComicCon in London by C.G.Hatton) One of the joys of being a writer, remarkably, or otherwise, is getting to know other writers, and finding they are wonderfully generous of spirit and generous with both their time and their friendship. So this put a little joy into a wet Monday morning as I piled out of the door to the day job, late as usual. I have evangelised about C.G’s work before on more than one occasion. If I have not convinced you to try her books yet, then you haven’t been paying attention. Suffice to say you should.

Besides which, even on cold October mornings, when you’re running late…

Occasionally things happen. Sometimes these things are good.

 

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Insidious horizons: Hacked Future

‘The future’s bright… Utopian in fact… No, really it is…”

Erm… or then again, maybe it’s not as bright as it seemed in December last year when that jolly little quote above was the opening lines of a blog/review of K R Baucherel’s first novel ‘Bitcoin Hurricane’. Reading her second novel ‘Hacked future’ I noticed a darker tinge to the horizon. A future that may seem bright, but has some insidious elements to it. Elements that made me itch a little in uncomfortable ways, because in common with the previous outing of her SimCavalier, white hat hacker protagonist, the future is one that is real and all too possible.

Cameron Silvera’s world is one that has faced the challenges we face today and come out the other side. Burgundy grapes are grown on the south facing slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors, English summers are no longer a slightly less wet weekend in July, Esports have become as big a draw as real sports, and air travel has become a rarity, while private cars have been replaced by fleets of driverless vehicles, and everyone has an id-chip in their hand, e-wallets of bitcoins, smart fridges, and the sky is full of delivery drones… And all this is only twenty or so years in the future… Which would sound farfetched to someone who had not been born in the seventies and followed the technology wave all the way up for the last few decades.

Image result for Insidious horizons: Hacked Future

It’s not a far-fetched world, its a world we are marching towards. Baucherel is a futurist, not a fantasist, and while this may not be the shape of the world in another couple of decades, I would not want to bet against it being something that closely resembles it. Indeed that’s one of the main strengths of both novels, this is a future you can see, you can feel in the wind, this is the shape of things to come and feels very real because of it. But it is also a little bit darker than it first seems if you look at it a little closer…

It’s an insidious thing this future, not least because of the way Baucherel writes it. On face value, everything seems bright, everything seems good. The world has coped with the problems of global warming and new technology well. Things are on the face of it all bright and shiny, and the author manages to make it feel that way, most of the time. But once in a while, there is something else. A little niggle, something unsettling, a little itch you can’t quite scratch. There is something about this future that is not altogether as wholesome as Baucherel make it seem on the surface. And that is a neat trick, one that is hard to pull off. Anyone can do that in a dystopia if the world is grim enough and dark enough. But to do that in what on the surface is a utopian vision and do it with a subtle touch. That’s something else entirely.

Take those chips I mentioned. Little bio-tagged chips under the skin, giving you access to your accounts, opening your doors. Tracking you, logging information about you, information uploaded to insurance agencies who set premiums based on data, what you eat, how much exercise you get, what vaccinations you have had…  Household cupboards restrict access to cookies if you’ve had too much junk food, so as not to void your insurance… Health insurance based on real-time information, so no cookie for you unless you sign a waiver to increase your premiums…

Who would agree to a chip like that… Yet if access to everything you can imagine is tied to your chip, why kids will get there first chips fitted at school, particularly if the school’s security systems are keyed to chips rather than access cards… And once you have one, well you’re in the system, but at least there are plenty of apps for it, and all your friends have one… Besides who would miss-use data like that…

Insidious isn’t it…

As I say, what makes these novels fun and interesting is the very real future they envision. Baucherel really is a futurist, working with new technologies and the new tech community. So while this is science fiction, it is not far from science fact, merely an extension of technology today into the future.

Hacked Future picks up where the previous novel ended, and flows neatly into a new story as involving and interesting as the last. It will keep you guessing, and you’ll probably be wrong. My own guesses as to where things might go were scarier perhaps than where this story takes you, but I suspect that is because I was seeing insidious things that are yet to come in the next novel, and the next… Because the future for Cameron Silvera has only just got started, which is good, as I am looking forward to the next instalment already, as that bright future starts to look a little darker all the time… While remaining so real, so ground in the possible, and so well written that it is easy to forget your reading about a future that has not happened yet, it feels like a contemporary thriller, while all the time it is slipping further under your skin, till you look up at 4 in the morning and wonder if you have been reading a vision of the future at all, or just the world your going to wake up into sometime soon… Now that is the sign of a good writer…

Anyway, read the opening few pages yourself and see where the future takes you, its closer than you think…

 

I also interviewed K R Baucherel a few weeks ago if you want further insights into her novels and writing in general. LINK TO INTERVIEW 

A final note, a question that is mildly irreverent I know. But one that this novel also inspired on a dark insomnia beset four in the morning a few nights ago.

Do grasshoppers breath?

If you want that explained, why you’ll have to read the novel yourself… won’t you

 

Mark

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New Rules…

From time to time I feel that we ( humanity in general, and writers specifically) need some new rules to live by. (yer okay I am totally borrowing this concept from elsewhere). Occasionally I just need to get them out of my system as well…

Here are some recent ‘new rules’ that have occurred to me…

New Rule#1. The Bush Rule. War’s are no longer to be conducted against verbs, if you are declaring a war, it has to be against a noun…

New Rule#2. The May Rule. Leaders of political parties must never be seen dancing, including but not exclusively, up to the podium before making a speech…

New Rule#3. The Hipster Rule. No one is allowed Chinese character tattoos unless they have verified first what the characters mean with someone who actually speaks Chinese:

New Rule#4. The Specific Case I Know Of Rule.  Having ‘Beef noodle soup’ tattooed on your back (in Chinese characters) is not an expression of your spirituality.

New Rule#5. The Hemmingway Rule. If you would never use the word as part of your normal vocabulary, don’t use it when you write.

WiseWordsWriters1

New Rule#6. The EL James Rule. If you don’t actually have a vocabulary don’t write till you develop one.

New Rule#6. The Dan Brown Rule. When the villain shows up a third of the way into a novel don’t hang a  large sound around ethre neck saying ‘I am the villain, look at me’, and expect people not to notice.

New Rule#7. The Megan Harry Rule. A woman getting pregnant to her husband six months after they got married does not constitute a major international news story.

New Rule#8. The Internet Reviewer Rule. No opinions on the quality or worth of a movie should be expressed in any way until it has actually been released.

New Rule#9. The Ghostbusters rule. Remaking a movie classic with a new twist is not destroying your childhood, get over yourselves.

New Rule#10. The Doctor Rule. Two hearted Aliens from another world who travel throughout time and space and periodically regenerate into occasionally older, more Scottish, version of themselves, can also regenerate as a female alien with a Yorkshire accent. again get over yourselves.

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New Rule#11. Your Opinion Rule. You’re entitled to have one at odds to my own, but I am entitled to mock it, if its is rediclous…

New Rule#12. The New Rule, Rule. All new rules are subject to revision, the rules can and will change, except the ones about Doctor Who as Jodie Whittaker’s doctor has been frankly awesome so far…

 

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