Since the launch of Ten Little Astronauts by Unbound (in fact, more or less since it was first accepted), I’ve been planning to turn up at various places and talk about it. From the very beginning Fair Oak Library was more or less guaranteed to be the first, though in the end wasn’t because Charlotte Comley got in there really quick and invited me to a meeting of The Writers at Lovedean.
Fair Oak Library may be small – as you might expect for a village whose biggest landmark is a tree – but it’s special to me because I still remember going there for storytime when I was considerably smaller. It was the source of an awful lot of the books I enjoyed as a child, as well as the copy of The Well of Lost Plots I read in the run-up to the first Winchester Writers’ Festival that I attended, where the keynote speaker was Jasper Fforde.
If you’d like to drop in and say hi on Saturday, I’ll be there all morning: from 9:30 when the library opens until 1pm when it closes. I’ll have with me all my current books, plus a necklace of the sort I’m offering for a select few supporters of Ten Little Astronauts. I’m not sure how many people reading this will be in a position to just pop in, but if you’re not too far away then you might like a visit: the village is very pleasant, as are Stoke Park Woods just to the West of it. And if it sweetens the deal at all, the library itself is one of the area’s few PokeStops.
The Hampshire Writers’ Society Book Fair is coming up on the 14th of June. That’s this Tuesday!
I mentioned this in a recent blog post that focused mostly on the Alresford Literary Festival, but the Hampshire Writers’ event was such a success last year that I think it’s worth giving it a post all to itself. If you’re in the Winchester area, I’d really recommend going: there are a lot of authors who’ll be turning up. The place to be is the Stripe Building at the University of Winchester (on Sparkford Road): it starts at 6.
If you can’t make it, I’ll be aiming to write all about the event (and the Alresford festival) here. However, the Winchester Writers’ Festival is now less than a week away as well, so I can’t say for sure exactly when I’ll get around to it: June is a very busy month, and naturally I don’t expect July to leave me much more time!
Last weekend wasn’t my first time at the Winchester Writers’ Festival, but thanks to a scholarship from the University of Winchester, it was the first year I managed to attend the entire event. That really made quite a difference, since the full range of day courses, talks and workshops offered far more variety than I could have got from any individual day. It was particularly useful to be able to get advice on both writing and publishing. Here’s how the weekend went:
Each day of the festival starts (if you get up early enough!) with coffee and an opportunity to chat to other delegates. For the first two days, this was also an opportunity to wander around the Book Fair. I was really keen to make the absolute most of the weekend, though most people didn’t turn up until a little later.
Being there at quieter times was pretty handy, because when it got busy (such as immediately after Sebastian Faulks’ keynote speech) it actually got a little difficult to move about the place. I got talking to Matador (on the far left) who were kind enough to spread the word on Twitter. Continue reading
This week, I was pleased to discover that Bionic Punchline has been reviewed as part of Creativity Hacker‘s Immerse or Die series. As the name might suggest, these are no ordinary book reviews. In fact, they’re not so much reviews as the book equivalent of those How long would you survive locked in a wardrobe with a polar bear? quizzes that turn up on Facebook.
The process goes something like this: Jefferson Smith, the reviewer, hops on a treadmill and starts reading. Either the book immerses him for the duration of his 40 minute workout, or (upon accumulating three strikes for “WTF” moments) it dies, with its survival time becoming a sort of score. As the banner says: 1 book, 40 minutes, 0 mercy.
So how did Bionic Punchline do?
12 minutes, 4 seconds!
Based on the other reviews, that’s actually not too bad. Out of more than 200 books, only something like 21 have made it through the entire 40 minutes, and many don’t make it through the first one. It’s also just nice to see a detailed, critical review.
Though I’ve quoted such gems as “Most of the stories are pretty good” on the back of the book itself (and I’m hugely grateful for any review, no matter how brief), it’s great to know that there are people out there willing to take the time to explain precisely what they do and don’t like. The treadmill test might sound gimmicky, but actually the scores it provides feel like a more practical gauge of a book’s quality than an overall star rating. I don’t insist that every book keep me riveted for hours at a time (and Jeff himself suggests he might go back to Bionic Punchline at some point), but as a rule the best ones do, so that’s definitely something to look out for.
With that in mind, if you’re looking for a really great read then the Immerse or Die Survivors would probably be a good place to try. And if you want to see the full review of Bionic Punchline, you can find it right here.
With the Hampshire Writers’ Society Gala Evening just a week away, my table space is more or less sorted. I’ve got multiple copies of all my paperbacks, with the Flash Fiction Month anthologies all lined up on one display and all the Face of Glass copies on another. You wouldn’t think that hours of experience selling handmade jewellery or shelving videogames would ever help with preparation for a literary event, but actually putting these displays together felt like a little of both!
In addition to the paperbacks, I’ve also assembled some new discs. The Face of Glass CDs aren’t actually new: I tend to have them on hand at craft events. However, most of the ones here are freshly assembled as my original batch had been whittled down to the last two.
These Face of Glass discs contain both the ebook itself in multiple formats, and audio recordings of The Three Tales from the novel. I’ve now assembled a desktop computer that makes burning the discs considerably simpler, and (though a somewhat smaller investment) I’ve got a set of scalpels and a cutting mat that make for some very neat case inserts.
The process of putting together these ebook CDs is now straightforward enough that I’ve also brought out a very small number of Flash Fiction Month discs. The ebooks are still free to download, but I figure that for anybody who wants a token physical version the disc could be a fun option. The colour scheme of the covers looks pretty good laid out this way, and the clear clamshell cases do a good job of showing it off.
I’ve still got a few more bits and bobs I’d like to sort out, but with the books on hand and the discs put together, I think the display is just about ready to go. I’m even planning to bring along a couple of chunks of raw obsidian to place alongside Face of Glass, since it’s always interesting to be able to connect the imaginary world of a book to something more tangible. I had the larger of the two stones on hand most of the time I was first writing Face of Glass, and though most of the actual research into Stone Age cultures came through books, museums or the internet, having that one bit of black glass to hand was useful too. It’s a fascinating material, both beautiful and practical, and seen in person it’s not hard to imagine why it developed ritual significance.
If you’re interested in turning up, the Gala Evening starts at 6pm on the 9th of June, in the Stripe Building at the University of Winchester. Further information is available on the Hampshire Writers’ Society events page. Their website also lists all the authors who’ll be at the members’ Book Fair alongside me.
If you’ve been following me elsewhere online (particularly Twitter), you might have already got the news that P&G Wells, the Winchester University Bookshop is stocking my paperbacks. Well, now that the Bionic Punchline paperback is available, they’ve got the complete set on the shelf.
They also tend to go out on sale at the university’s public events. One of my modules this term focuses on publishing and involves a lot of interesting speakers–authors, agents, publishers–coming in to talk not just to the students, but to anyone who wants to come in and listen (the speaker today is Marcus Sedgwick). So I that’s pretty neat.
I also find it interesting to see how the design of my books compares to the vast range of others nearby. The spines of the flash fiction collections really do stand out as a series. That’s handy, since the books are slim enough that even I can’t rely on adding a title or my name on the spine. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the look of the series changes as the number of books grows. Seeing them displayed on a shelf like this, it’s funny to think back to June 2012, when I first decided to tackle Flash Fiction Month. Back then I had no idea it would turn into something like this. I didn’t even really expect to finish!
Fans of big purple bionic boxing gloves rejoice! My third free collection of flash fiction stories, all of which are readily available on this very website, is now available in a non-free paperback format!
I’m really pleased with how this turned out, because the boxing glove took the most editing out of any of the cover images so far. It was also the first cover made without the direct assistance of JD McDonnell, though given that he left me with a very solid format to follow, I’m nut sure exactly how much I could screw up on my own. Continue reading