___WORDS FROM ME_____________________________________

what i wouldn't give for kindle unlimited

It’s been a while since I mentioned my ebook novella What I Wouldn’t Give. It’s been a while since anyone else mentioned it too. And still longer since anyone bought a copy.

I’m not particularly surprised. The ebook novella was always an experiment for me, a way of learning how to format such a book, create a cover for it, and to publish it myself for as little money as possible. It wasn’t something that I was going to “market” like a professional. Hell, I doubt I’ll ever do anything like a professional; I rather suspect I’ll be a hopeless amateur the rest of my life. The plan was to simply get it up and available and see what happened. Anyway . . .

The easiest way to go about this was through Amazon, and so that’s where I went to do it. After all, there were plenty of “how to” articles floating around the internet, and some YouTube videos that helped as well; enough of them for me to grasp the basics and put out a no frills ebook.

Being a straightforward novella, What I Wouldn’t Give didn’t require me to insert a contents page or much of the jazzy stuff that can be put into ebooks these days, such as hypertext and so on. It felt like all I had to do was get the writing right, and format away. Simples, as the Meerkats say. All the same, I did a bit of interior work on the book. For instance, starting sections in Bold type, just to differentiate sections from what had gone before, and to make the text look interesting before you even started reading it. (You can catch up about that stuff here.)

It had been in my mind, back then, to make the novella available on other platforms too, after a while: Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and anywhere else that might offer a place to sell it. But that proved more complicated than I was ready for at the time. It was also going to be potentially costly. Where Amazon aced it over most of its competitors was by allowing you to list your ebook without paying for an ISBN or the near-mythical eISBN. (In some countries ISBNs are free; in the UK they are anything but free. And when the budget for the project is the change in your butt cheek pocket, this is a no-go area.)

That’s slowly changed and making use of the other platforms is now a real and desirable possibility. Though Kobo and others prefer an ISBN, to make use of all of their facilities, they now appear to offer in-store equivalents.  Enough to at least get you off the ground. Suddenly, “going wide”, as they call it, isn’t as costly as it once was. And given the dangers inherent when companies have such market dominance they are almost a monopoly, I think more and more writers want to spread the availability of their books, rather than find the terms of their agreements a little one-sided in any one particular company’s favour, and then wind up at the bottom end of the gig economy, out on the street with a Homeless and Boneless sign pencilled on a piece of cardboard.

But ever the contrarian (a word I may have just made up, or at the least misspelled) I have just signed the ebook up to Kindle Unlimited, making it uniquely available through Amazon.  Partly this is laziness, partly it’s me wanting to see if it makes a difference to the number of people who have read it. On Kindle Unlimited it’s possible to borrow the ebook for free, rather than pay the staggeringly high amount of 99p for it (less than a cup of coffee from your favourite coffee chain).

Despite mentioning the ebook in author biographies attached to short story sales – the one bit of marketing you could say I have done – sales of What I Wouldn’t Give have hardly been impressive, even though some kindly souls have put up some nice reviews for the tale. One of the mistakes I’d made was to discourage people from reviewing the title on Amazon; I hadn’t realised that the reviews also boost its visibility and store position and that it’s not simply down to sales alone. Told you I was a hopeless amateur. But it is what it is.

It’s my hope that the Kindle Unlimited offer might see someone else read the piece. If someone does, they might even be nice enough to review it for me.

To read What I Wouldn’t Give in the US, click here.

To read What I Wouldn’t Give in the UK, click here.

rendezvous with arthur

The first Arthur C. Clarke novel I read was The City and the Stars. I was possibly 9 or 10 at the time. I remember to this day the young protagonist Alvin gazing out across the desert from the high, abandoned towers of Diaspar, the simple grace of Clarke's concise, clear-as-glass prose, and the wonder of discovery upon discovery as the the plot progressed; especially the flight to the stars and the loss I felt as Clarke showed me a universe abandoned by alien races, with only poor humanity, shuttered from the stars, remaining. For the first time in my life I had encountered someone who knew and loved the mysteries of the night as much as I did. I was lost, heart and soul, in this book. I had discovered Arthur C. Clarke, and nothing was going to be the same again.

I wasn't new to science fiction. Stan Lee had pretty much taught me the rudiments of reading before I started going to school, thanks to his Fantastic Four comics, and one of my earliest memories is of Jon Pertwee turning into Tom Baker at the end of his run on Doctor Who. A year or two before I made first contact with Clarke I'd discovered Clifford D. Simak, E.C. Tubb, James Blish and James Hamilton-Paterson - among others - in the pages of Richard Davies's anthology of SF tales SPACE-1.

This was a 1973 collection of short stories now reissused in paperback and aimed at the youth market (the term YA had not been invented in the late 1970s) and it had made its way into the school bookclub catalogue. The book was in the section for "older young readers", and when I requested the book - a rare treat, as we didn't have much money; but I knew I wouldn't be refused a title from the school book club - my teacher Miss Etherington tried to steer me away from it. She said it was too advanced for someone my age. I was a shy boy, not at all confrontational, bookish and prone to losing myself in daydreams as I gazed out the window during class, but I dug my heels in and insisted that Space-1 was the title I was going to have. A week or two later the book duly arrived, and I received it in class, as all the other kids received theirs, waiting for my name to be called, and walked to the teacher's desk to pick the book up (it was wrapped in a receipt held around the cover with an elastic band), and I was perfectly delighted with it.

As it happened, Mrs Etherington was half right - although I loved gentle Clifford Simak's story, for instance, I was too young to appreciate the importance of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity in Hamilton-Paterson's tale "The Teddysaurs" (more about that in another blog post, I think), but all the same, I read every word and the book still holds a special place in my heart.

But it didn't do to me what the magnificent vision of Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars did. I sought more of Clarke's work out, and found a short story collection with an introduction by J.B. Priestley - Of Time and Stars. Then I found The Deep Range, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Fall of Moondust, and Expedition to Earth (his first short story collection, and to this day an object lesson in the art of writing short fiction), and Rendezvous With Rama . . . and each and every one of them was the best book I had ever read as I read them for the first, and then second and then third times, and I couldn't have picked a favourite but for the one that was in my hands . . .

Over the years, I continued to collect and read Clarke. The first non-fiction book I voluntarily chose to read outside of school, and which was not about dinosaurs and full of illustrations, was Clarke's The View from Serendip. As far as novels went, Childhood's End became my favourite for a while. There was a return to the world of 2001 - nine years on - with 2010: Odyssey 2 (for my money, one of the great haunted house stories of science fiction) as well as a chance to see the what-might-have-beens in The Lost Worlds of 2001. I got to see the films and caught the occasional TV adaptation (I remember a nice New Twilight Zone episode dramatising "The Star"), and there was of course Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, famously parodied by The Goodies, a sure sign of major cultural impact. Clarke was probably as close to a hero as I had and his very name was enough to send excitement and awe through me.

And then I read The Songs of Distant Earth.

A quiet, lyrical book that has become almost lost in the cannon - possibly due to its release between the bestselling series novels 2010 and 2061 and the Rama sequels - Songs was the book that most profoundly affected me as a youth. It solidified my feelings about who I was and my place in the universe, reflected the poetry of my heart and reinforced my views on religion, humanism, love, and loss. It's the Clarke book I return to most often. I read it once every two or three years.

After Songs, Clarke's ill health began to show in his fiction - though he continued to produce books till the year he passed away. 2061 was the weakest book in his Odyssey series. His collaborations with other authors sounded nothing like him and held little of the wonder his solo works contained. In my opinion, the best of them were Garden of Rama (with/by Gentry Lee), and the Time Odyssey trilogy (with/by Stephen Baxter). Less said of the others, the better. There were a few solo books of interest though, following Songs, each shorter than the one before. The Ghost from the Grand Banks, The Hammer of God, and 3001: The Final Odyssey, of which I'd say Hammer is the best and still well worth the reader's time. Even at his weakest, though, awe and wonder are never far from Clarke's pages.

He wrote plenty of books that I treasure to this day - and I've barely touched on his short stories, surely the finest science fiction has ever seen - and he is the only writer that I read as a child who I can still read today. I think he'd have liked that. I know I do.

Happy birthday, Arthur C. Clarke. You were and are our brightest star. We'd sing you happy birthday, but this might be more fun, "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World", by the Divine Comedy.

after jerusalem . . . again

This is just a short heads-up to let you know - in case you missed the tweet - that my short story After Jerusalem is now available to read for free on the Sci Phi Journal website.

Click here if you want to read.

Blessings be upon you. 

driftwood and the wyrd

Autumn. Season to bring the poets out  . . . and writers of weird fiction.

Speaking of which . . .
I have a short story in the first issue of The Wyrd Magazine.  Clue's in the name. But all the same, here’s what they say about themselves:

The Wyrd is an online magazine for speculative, weird and slipstream prose. We publish stories that delve into the spaces between genres, that are steeped in the uncanny, and stay with you long after you’ve read them. The Wyrd is published quarterly and will feature established and new authors who like pushing genre boundaries. Reading The Wyrd should be like going for a long ride down a forgotten country road. You never know where you’ll end up, but it’s bound to be interesting. 

Issue one contains tales by Steve Passey, Joanna Roye, Mark Patrick Lynch (that’ll be me), O.S. Delgado, Henry Szabranski, Douglas Ford and Catherine Edmunds.

Sound good to you? You can download issue one for free in PDF by going here. Steve’s story is available to read online here, saving you the fuss of downloading the PDF (even though you should – oh yes, you really should). If you fancy helping to keep the magazine going and paying the writers, then maybe donate the price of a coffee to them through patreon. Click here if you are able to and want to learn more.

My piece is called “Driftwood” and is one of the short-shorts I’ve been writing when all else – sanity and health, the novel I laughingly call “the work in progress”, longer short stories – breaks down into tiny pieces that look like they are impossible to stick back together. It’s not one of my Horatio tales but it has a similar vibe.

So . . . you know . . . just . . . head on over to the Wyrd and grab the PDF.

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