Dear TV Media, Please Stop Speculating

Dear TV Media,

Why do you feel the need to build a narrative around news ‘stories’, to brand them with your own viewpoint in a way I assume you consider will be easily digestible to the consumer, so we’ll prefer your flavour of reporting to that of your competitors?

Why bring on experts (often with only a vague degree of expertise in the subject under discussion) and ask them to speculate on events to help build up the narrative? Do you know what this is called in more fictional narratives? Making shit up. Please stop it. Stick to the facts.

If you don’t know, don’t waffle along until someone tells you something you can repeat as though they know what they’re talking about. We can wait until you know what you’re talking about (or until your handler does). If dots can be reasonably linked then go ahead, but don’t go creating dots just so you can make a pretty picture for your consumers.

It’s not as though many of you do any actual investigative journalism anyway, when it’s easier to regurgitate and rebrand what you’ve been told, to quickly fit it into your preferred narrative.

And who came up with the idea of 24-hour news? Yes, news could happen any hour of the day, but it’s unlikely to happen every hour of the day. What percentage is filler?

I suppose I should just switch to getting my news from the internet, until you finally catch up with technology. Just imagine when you can record a report for the consumer to watch when they want: you’ll be able to stick to the facts, and rather than have to be live (which you could be, but for most stories a couple of minute’s delay is hardly going to matter) you can edit out the embarrassing fumbling to fill in. We (the consumers) will be able to fast forward through boring bits, or just move on to something else. And when we get bored with a story it’ll stop getting hits, so you can get the message and stop flogging it (MPs expense scandal, I’m looking at you – actually made me feel sorry for the MPs by the end).

Until that time, stick to the facts and try not to bore me too much.

Yours sincerely,

 

A Consumer

 

Self-Review 16: Coral Throne

Coral Throne coverCoral Throne (Stoneweaver book 2)

After generations, the waters of the drowned world have receding. With society perilously close to unravelling, the realization causes turmoil, and a scramble to maintain power. Coming to grips with his new role, Danath must protect the island from scheming tyrants, and a secret army of Stoneweavers which may not exist.

 

 

 

The second of my NaNoWriMo books for 2011 (it was finished by the 18th), and the first sequel novel I’ve gotten around to. The first didn’t do much in terms of sales to justify the time, but the story kept intruding on my thoughts to the point where I had to do it (the usual way I decide what’s next).

Being a sequel made me far more uncertain about elements of it. I wanted to keep enough of the feel of the first one that it didn’t seem completely different, but the nature of the story meant it would be different. There was more politics and talking, and not as much fighting early in the book.

The impetus for the story was thinking how the events of the first book would change the world, physically and socially (this book is only during the early days of the changes, even set years after the first one). The social changes mean stoneweaving (the magic system of the setting) is also changing to be used more in non-combat ways. So there’s probably a lot of the story dealing with the world-building side of it, and it can be hard to know how much detail to go into. It’s a matter of finding the balance between enough detail to sell the reality of the setting, without it slowing down the plot, and in fact getting it to drive the plot where possible. Ultimately I just write as much as I find interesting and hope that view’s shared.

I left some seeds in for what’ll happen in the third book when/if I get around to it, but that’s still gestating in my head at the moment.

Self-Review 15: The Sin of Hope

The Sin of Hope smallThe Sin of Hope

A secret older than religion, or a more recent delusion? Hired to find the witness to a crime, PI John Daly soon realizes he hasn’t been told everything. With the Vatican and local mobsters also on the man’s trail, does his loyalty to a client of questionable sanity outweigh his religious devotion and his chance at redemption?

 

 

Having learned from the first NaNoWriMo (Allegiances) this year (2011) I outlined two novels in preparation. The Sin of Hope was finished by the 8th, but it was only around 45,000 words.

This is probably the novel I’m happiest with, apart from the length which didn’t change much beyond the first draft. That could well be an impediment to getting people to read it, since surveys show eBook buyers tend to prefer longer works.

This was very much based on the pulp detective stories, or at least the way I look back at them. I read a few in preparation, and then basically ignored them and did the story as I saw it in my mind. I think there’s probably an element of homage in there, even if only the leads name – Carroll John Daly is credited with writing the first hard-boiled story.

This was the first book I had properly edited. Since it’s a first person narrative from an American character, and I’m not American, I wanted an American editor to make sure the voice sounded right. So I hired Susan Helene Gottfried, who I can unequivocally recommend.

While I feel the story ultimately ends up fairly agnostic, the worldview presented is influenced by my atheism. I see religions as social survival mechanisms which have outlived their usefulness. They provided stories to answer the questions which couldn’t be answered, to stave off the sheer terror of the unknown. They offer the promise (against all evidence to the contrary) that life is fair and we’re watched over by a benevolent force, and that anything we don’t know, we don’t need to know. These stories were then passed through generations, becoming taught as truth rather than folklore. They become firmly entrenched, especially when confronted by science (which offers real answers rather than stories) or other religions (which offer irreconcilable conflicting narratives). In the modern world they’re so exposed to these opposing viewpoints that they become militant, seeing their beliefs as being under siege. So for all they may still serve their original purpose for some, in general terms they cause more trouble for society, and hinder social progress.

 

Self-Review 14: Street of Lost Gods

Street of Lost Gods smallStreet of Lost Gods (Tales of the Thief-City)

Rax Darkthorn was the greatest Knowhound in Nexi, the thief-city, and one of the few to ever escape it. When a friend dies, he returns to learn what can kill a god, even one reduced to selling miracles on the Street of Lost Gods.

A 7000 word fantasy short story.

 

 

This was intended as a fantasy noir, and I’m fairly happy with how it turned out. The pulpy first person narrative was useful practice for The Sin of Hope.

Nexi, the thief-city, is based partly on Cynosure (from the Grimjack series), and partly on Sigil (from the Planescape setting) but will hopefully get its own flavour as the series goes on.

The second and third in the series – A Fistful of Faeries, and Cage of Thoughts – are available, and the untitled fourth is in the planning stages. I have a kind of an overall story and endpoint for this cycle of tales, if not for the city itself.

I’m happier with this one than the sequels, but that’s more due to worrying that those who read this will have expectations of the later ones which may not match mine (although there are specific elements which I’m concerned about: the second is more grounded in the daily life of the city than the big idea of the first, because I wanted to introduce other elements of the setting; the third has more of a central idea but the innocent in danger means having to cut back on the narrative snark so as not diminish the stakes). This is usually a concern when writing sequels: I need to make it familiar enough while still being different. While it’s a concern, it’s one I generally ignore for the actual writing and fret about afterwards. The story ends up as it wants to be. Whether the audience want it to be what it ends up as is not my concern, not the story’s.

Rax’s powers offer a way to challenge my writing: seeing secrets could make it way too easy to solve any mysteries, offering too convenient a short cut. So that’s something that needs avoiding, and this should challenge me to write more interesting stories. I’ve got a few ways around it, but the trick will be to not make them obviously repetitive or feeling unsatisfactory. Whether I’ll be able to succeed at this remains to be seen.

 

Free Books for Review

One of the most important tools for getting people to buy your books can be reviews. Even if they’re not five stars, they let a prospective buyer know what someone else thought of it, and if written well (which can be uncommon, but that’s another issue) even a negative one could be useful in letting people know what to expect – if they share the reviewers opinion on certain points then they’re not going to be disappointed by reading the book.

Getting reviews is the hard part, and getting good reviews the really hard part. While the good reviews can be worked on by improving my writing craft, it’s the getting any review bit that seems to be a matter of luck. Even submitting to reviewers is no guarantee (they could not be interested, or their site could stop doing reviews a week after you submit your book).

So since anyone reading this is possibly inclined to read my work, I’m offering free eBooks of my latest titles to anyone who’d be willing to consider writing a review of them.

Below are the books and the coupon codes to get them free from Smashwords (the coupons are valid up until the 7th of April). I’ve also provided links (in addition to the Smashwords one) where the reviews could be posted should you feel inclined after reading them (even reviewing in only one location is appreciated).

The Sin of Hope smallThe Sin of Hope

A secret older than religion, or a more recent delusion?

Hired to find the witness to a crime, PI John Daly soon realizes he hasn’t been told everything. With the Vatican and local mobsters also on the man’s trail, does his loyalty to a client of questionable sanity outweigh his religious devotion and his chance at redemption?
You can get it from Smashwords for free with the coupon code DW94B.

Other places to review it:
Amazon.com
Print version on Amazon.com (some aren’t connected to the
eBooks for some reason)
Amazon.co.uk
Apple
Barnes & Noble
Diesel
Goodreads
Kobo
Sony

Grey Engines smallGrey Engines

A century and a half after a weaponized message from space devastates Earth, leaving the few survivors telepathically active, the recovering society faces the arrival of the species which sent the message.

 

 
You can get it from Smashwords  for free with the coupon code DP74C.

Other places to review it:
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Apple
Barnes & Noble
Diesel
Goodreads
Kobo
Sony

Glyphpunk smallGlyphpunk

The theft of valuable glyphing metal increases tension between the commercial interests who control most of the kingdoms of the Scarred Sea.

Thjorn, the glyphpunk responsible for the theft, will ensure that’s only the start of their troubles.

 

 

You can get it from Smashwords  for free with the coupon code WQ83V.

Other places to review it:
Amazon.com
Print edition on Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Apple
Barnes & Noble
Diesel
Goodreads
Kobo