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  1. I'll be at both the above venues this month. Fantasy con from the 18th of October and Comicon in Author corner on the 26th or 27th, maybe both. Not 100% sure yet.

    Here's my Fantasycon Schedule. 

     

    Fantasy Bucket List Friday 4:00 PM
    101 things to do in Fantasyland (before being eaten by a dragon). Hosted for your benefit by the Fantasycon Tourist Board. (Not 100% sure I will make it to this one as it'll be tight getting there.)
    RJ Barker Jeannette Ng Charlotte Bond Juliet McKenna
     

    Medical, social, fantastical: models of disability in fantasy narratives.   Friday 6:00 PM
    The panel explores the different ways that societies disable people in fiction, the impact of world-changing fantasy events on the physical and mental health of characters, and how mental health disabilities can be successfully and respectfully included within a narrative.
    Ruth de Haas Jeffrey Collyer RJ Barker Mike Brooks

     
    Public speaking for authors Saturday 10 AM – 11:30:00 AM (workshop)
    Oh sure you can sling words on a page, but public speaking? Whole different ball game. Where the ball is on fire and looking at you. Fear not! We know you’ve got the walk down, let us show you how to talk the talk.
    Lucy Hounsom RJ Barker
     
    Person or Pet? Saturday 3:00 PM
    Sentient non-humans, non-sentient pets, soulbonds and free will in fantasy stories. The panel explore the muddy waters of how we treat non-human characters, and the problematic issues of consent tied into these tropes.
    RJ Barker Katherine Inskip Jacey Bedford David Tallerman
     
    Animal Kingdoms Saturday 5:00 PM
    From Watership Down to Cats: pros and cons of anthropomorphic stories. Can they free us from biased storytelling, or do we carry our innate prejudices over?
    Lucy Hounsom Amy Brennan Jacey Bedford RJ Barker
     
  2. I thought I might write a blogpost about writing stuff cos I don’t really do things like this much, I generally just talk nonsense on Twitter and I am too lazy to blog regularly. And I also have some stuff upcoming that I thought I could tell you about, so two birds with one cat, or whatever.

     

    Anyway, I saw a thing on Twitter about how the saying ‘if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life’ was wrong and about how writing IS work. I think it was Chuck Wendig? Anyway, I would like to REFUTE STRONGLY what he was saying, by which I mean largely agree with what he was really saying while talking about how words are really quite nebulous things and half the time whether something chimes, or doesn’t, with us is dependant on the emotional weight a word holds for us. In short, our experience colours the way we perceive things and don't get angry about the small stuff as we agree more often than not.

     

    So, "Work". I have a standing agreement with my agent that we don’t use the words ‘work’ or ‘career’ or ‘job.’

     

    I hate those words.

     

    They have very specific meanings for me past what is in the dictionary. Writing is very much NOT work for me. Work is thing I have had to do, not by choice, but because I want the simple things in life, like food, or shelter. There have been so many years where I have dragged myself from a warm bed to get a bus to go to a place and to do a thing I had no interest in while under the sway of people who I didn’t like whose motives in life I didn’t understand*. I'm sure, to a huge swathe of people, that feeling of being at work and knowing that ‘this is not what I should be doing’ is familiar. I cannot remember feeling any other way about work. Cannot remember going in to work without wondering what I would have forgotten to do or what odd rule of corporate life I would have crossed, or what thing I what thing I had got done but not in the way I was meant to.** Or, more often than not, what I could be doing instead.

     

    In short, work for me was an exercise in dread, constant low level anxiety and a generally less than optimal life. I am sure it is for a lot of people.

     

    So, is writing work?

     

    No, not for me. I chose to do it. I actively enjoy the thought of it every day. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard, or emotionally draining or tiring or frustrating sometimes. It is often all of those things, and few things, so far, in life can match the time pre book release for finding the keys to your head and opening up whatever can of worry and anxiety you have in there. But I still never think of it as work, because if I did it would feel like it had become some sort of obligation for me. That I was going backwards in life to a place where I didn’t want to be. When it starts to feel like work, and sometimes it does, I take a few days, step back, do something else***. Let myself remember why I love what I do so much. How lucky I am to be here doing this right now.

     

    In short, of course I don't disgaree with Chuck (if it was Chuck). This is basically the same thing that Chuck (if it was Chuck) was saying. Writing is hard sometimes, don't let that stop you. But also, I was thinking that half the time you see people falling out on the internet (I’ll just aside politics here, and stick strictly to the largely inconsequential) it’s often because people weight words differently, rather than because they actively disagree.

     

    So find what works for you, using what makes you happy is a great way of getting things done. If you're the sort of person that needs to do the work to feel like you're getting somewhere? Then do the work. And if you’re the sort of person who never wants to work a day in your life? Well, then don’t.

     

     TL/DR. It's all good and we're mostly more alike than not. Just get the thing done.

     

     

    Follows is some recent reviews of THE BONE SHIPS. Then some appearance dates and some footnotes.

     

     

    STARBURST.

    ‘A perfect storm of Fantasy.’

    https://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/bone-ships

     

     

     ESPRESSO COCO.

    “...utterly different from The Wounded Kingdom, yet just as rich with detail. “

    https://espressococo.com/2019/08/16/the-bone-ships-rj-barker/

     

     

     SPECULATIVE SHELF.

    The worldbuilding, the prose, the character development, and the story beats are all top-notch.”

    https://spikegelato.com/2019/08/30/review-the-bone-ships/

     

     

    SPACE AND SORCERY.

    It will be fascinating to see where his journey will lead him as the story progresses, and how far he will travel from the morose young man wasting his days in idleness and drink. https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/08/30/review-the-bone-ships-the-tide-child-1-by-r-j-barker/

     

     

    “Brilliant Writing” ROBIN HOBB.

     

    "Stand out writing...one of the most original worlds I've seen in years." ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY.

     

    Magnificent." PETE MCLEAN.

     

    "Loved every second of it." TASHA SURI.

     

    Incredible (haunting, even) worldbuilding, badass female mentors, voicey strangeness, high adventure, and flawed characters with SO MANY FEELINGS from RJ, this time on the high seas! Unique, strange, compelling, and wonderful.” MELISSA CARUSO.

     

    (JOHN GWYNNE also said lovely things but I am an idiot and can't find where I saved the quote. And I;ve missed off osme other people's quotes and reviews. Sorry. I am a slack Alice.')

     

     

     

    UPCOMING APPEARANCES.

     

    14 September. THE ENGLISH BOOKSHOP. Uppsala Sweden.

     

    26th September. WATERSTONES Swansea.

     

    01st October. REDDIT AMA on the internets if you can’t see me in person.

     

    3rd October. WATERSTONES Newcastle. (Provisional)

     

    DATE TO BE CONFIRMED. October. Harrogate Waterstones.

     

    18,19,20. October. FANTASYCON GLASGOW. (I’m not sure what I will be up to there yet.)

     

     

    *Not everyone was horrible, of course. This is almost definitely hyperbole on the part of the author.

    ** A particularly upsetting episode where it was explained that I was using ‘it’s’ wrong by someone who was using ‘it’s’ wrongly.

    ***I wish we all could do this when life gets a bit much. I tend to read L.A. Requiem by Robert Crais.

  3. Oh look, I posted something, blimey. ANYWAY. Here is my schedule for the WORLD FANTSY CONVENTION in Dublin. Why not pop by and say hello. Or if you want a book signed or just a chat grab me after something and I'll be more than happy to (time allowing).  If I seem a bit distracted, dazed or confused then don't worry, that's just normal for me.

    The popularity of Anti-Heroes in Comics

    Format: Panel

    15 Aug 2019, Thursday 11:30 - 12:20, Odeon 3 (Point Square Dublin)

    Deadpool, Harley Quinn, The Punisher, Ghost Rider: in many ways insane, evil individuals - hardly what we would call heroes! And yet they are some of the most popular and interesting comics characters around! Are they better-written characters (and if so, why)? Do readers, and creators, need a counterpoint to all the feats of noble heroism to which action heroes are typically inspired?
     
     
     
    RJ Barker (Orbit) (M)  Michael Carroll , CE Murphy Helena Nash  Kieron Gillen

    Talking animal characters in SFF

    Format: Panel

    15 Aug 2019, Thursday 18:00 - 18:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)

    Science fiction and fantasy have a long history of anthropomorphic animals in both children’s and adult novels. What is the attraction of talking animals? Can they be seen as a commentary on the human condition? What are the pitfalls and opportunities offered by this anthropomorphism?

    Lise Andreasen (M) Robert V. S. Redick (Talos, Gollancz, Penguin Random House) ), RJ Barker (Orbit), Virginia, Adrian Tchaikovsky

     

    The portrayal of disability in art

    Format: Panel

    17 Aug 2019, Saturday 14:30 - 15:20, Odeon 4 (Point Square Dublin)

    People with disabilities are woefully under-represented in art of all kinds. What are the right and wrong ways to portray disability? How can we encourage artists to increase this representation and to do it in a fair and realistic manner?

    RJ Barker (Orbit) , Marina Berlin  Leo Adams, Day Al-Mohamed (Invalid Corps Film) (M). Ira Alexandre (Lady Business)

    Born sexy yesterday

    Format: Panel

    18 Aug 2019, Sunday 14:00 - 14:50, Wicklow Hall 2A (Dances) (CCD)

    Too many heterosexual relationships in SFF, especially on screen, are still rooted in stereotype and cliché: conveniently fragile women, toxically entitled men, and pervasive, usually unacknowledged, power imbalances. Which relationships in current popular media buck this trend to provide more thoughtful depictions of love and partnership?

    R.W.W. Greene (New Hampshire Writers' Project), Ciaran Roberts (Six to Start) ), RJ Barker (Orbit), Nikki Ebright (Nikki Abridged, Shiny Garden), Atlin Merrick (Improbable Press) (M)

    Autographs: Sunday at 15:00

    Format: Autographing

    18 Aug 2019, Sunday 15:00 - 15:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

    Rebecca Gomez Farrell , Pat Cadigan, Derwin Mak , RJ Barker (Orbit) , Kathryn Sullivan ), Rebecca Roanhorse.

  4. Just a quick note here if you're at fantasy con in Chester?  Was it Chester? Probably, anyway if you are going you'll know where it is so that's cool.  Anyway, here is where I am and what I am doing.

    Friday:

    7.30 – The Edward Room

    I’ve No Idea What I’m Doing Mike Brooks (m), Russell Smith, RJ Barker, Allanah Hunt, Jeanette Ng

    10pm – The Victoria Room

    Dungeons and Disorderly Module T1: The Temple of Elemental Weevils - Powder, Stewart Hotston, Lee Harris, Mike Brooks, RJ Barker, Penny Reeve, David Moore (m) Nate Crowley (m)

     

    Saturday:

    10am – The Victoria Room

    When Magic Goes Wrong Katherine Inskip (m), Steve Mchugh, Ruth de Haas, RJ Barker, Ren Warom

    11am – The Victoria

    Breaking the Glass Slipper (Live) Lucy Hounsom, Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond, RJ Barker, Claire North

    12pm – The Disraeli Reading Room

    Reading.
    (I am sooo looking forward to this, I love reading and people always seem to really enjoy it so do bob along.)

    Then on Sunday I'll be at the British Fantasy Society awards where I am up for Best Novel and Best Newcomer. Doubt I'll win anything but it is nice to be on the shortlists. See you there, or not.

    THEN, We go to MCM Comicon the weekend after where I'll be among the guest authors doing a whole host of stuff.

    Saturday

    16:00pm – 16:45pm – Creator Stage: Fighting Fit – Crafting fantastic action – Authors Peter McLean (Priest of Bones) Claire North (84K) Gavin Smith (The Bastards Legion) Christa Faust (Batman: A Killing Joke) and Kim Curran (Slay) join moderator and Author RJ Barker (King of Assassins) to discuss what makes a great action scene in fantastic fiction.

     

    17:00pm – 17:30pm – Forbidden Planet SIGNINGPeter McLean (Priest of Bones) Claire North (84K) RJ Barker (King of Assassins) Gavin Smith (The Bastard Legion) Christa Faust (Batman: A Killing Joke) Kim Curran (Slay)

     

    Sunday

    12:00pm – 12:45pm – Creator Stage: Orbit Presents – Orbit Authors Nicholas Eames (Bloody Rose) Tasha Suri (Empire of Sand) Mike Carey (The Girl with All the Gifts) Tade Thompson (Rosewater) Heather Child (Everything About You) RJ Barker (King of Assassins) Stephen Aryan (Mage Born) talk all things Orbit

     

    13:00pm – 13:45pm – Creator Stage: Diversity in Fiction – Authors Marieke Nikamp (Before I Let Go) Micah Yongo (Lost Gods) Temi Oh (Do you Dream of Terra-Two) Tasha Suri (Empire of Sand) and Jeanette NG (Under the Pendulum Sun)  join moderator and Author RJ Barker (King of Assassins) todiscuss the importance of diversity in today’s fantastic fiction, the strides that have been made, and the work that still needs to be done.

     

    13:00pm – 13:30pm – Forbidden Planet SIGNINGI'm not actually doing this as it clashed with the above thing but if for some reason you want me to sign something just grab me.

     

    Then I'll be at AGES OF ESCAFIELD in Sheffield doing a thing on plot and character at 11.30 (Ish) hanging about a bit before haring off to HULL for a HULL SFF thing at Hull Waterstones. I am a bit flaky and can't remember the time, about six ish or something. Anyway. It will be fun and there are other cool writers there too. THEN it's SLEDGELIT on Saturday the 24th of November. Not 100% what I'm doing yet but I am doing stuff so if you're near Derby drop in.

    Aren't I just the busiest little bee.

    By the way, if you're doing a thing, a con or a podcast or whatever and you want me to appear then I like doing things and my contact details are in the CONTACT bit of the website which is HERE so drop me a note and we'll see what we can do.

    :)

    RJ

     

     

     

  5. There's a book called Slow Horses by Mick Herron and in the first few pages there's a bit where a man pretends to look at his mobile phone. The author then points out that this is entirely indistinguishable from someone actually looking at their mobile phone. Now, I don't know if Mick Herron observed this, read it somewhere, or heard it and none of those things matter. What matters is he chose to use that phrase in that place in that book and the minute I read it I knew I was reading something brilliant, because it was simple, truthful and illustrated so much about what was to come.

    In Tade Thompson's Rosewater there's a passage in the first few pages where Tade points out that, when people matchmake, they are introducing you to someone who they think their version of you will like, and that it is a form of judgement. This gave me exactly the same feeling as reading Herron's book.

     

    Sometimes, there's something about a book where you just know the author has aced it: the voice, the world, the way it all works together and Rosewater rolls. It turns in on itself and grows and drags you forward to the next page. I haven't even finished this book but I want to tell you about it and I want you to read it. I mean, to be fair, you'll probably hear about it anyway but I want to feel like I told you about it right at the beginning and then it can be our secret and we can say we heard of it at the start before everyone else.

     

    In full disclosure I should point out Tade is a friend of mine, and I'm kind of very glad about it. Because he's Tade who wrote Rosewater. If he wasn't my friend he would be Tade Thompson the Author of Rosewater and I think that might make him a bit intimidating on first meeting.

     

    In short, you should buy this book. It is very, very good.

  6. Sooo, it's been a year.

    Today KING OF ASSASSINS is released in the UK and Girton, Merela, Xus the warmount and Rufra's adventure comes to a close. I'd love to write a really long blogpost about the books and the characters and what I hoped to achieve with them but it would be hugely spoilerific. So I can't, not really. If that sort of thing is your bag then check out the back of King of Assassins where I talk a bit about that.

     

    Instead I'm going to talk about success.

     

    As a reader it's been a year, for me it has been much longer since the initial six week writing frenzy that gave birth to Age of Assassins. Then there was a lot of interminable waiting while I changed agents (for very dull reasons, nothing spicy, sorry) then a shorter but EVEN MORE interminable waiting time while we decided on a title and I couldn't tell anyone OH MY GOD I HAVE SIGNED A BOOK DEAL.[1] Then waiting for release and waiting on tenterhooks for reviews. So much waiting, but the payoff was definitely worth it.

     

    Something I've been asked a lot by people is 'is it successful?' Well, look at this list of award shortlists. (I'm not just bigging myself up, stick with me here.)

     

    Kitschie Golden Tentacle.

    Gemmell Morningstar

    British Fantasy Society – Best Newcomer

    British Fantasy Society – Best Novel.

    Guardian Not-The-Booker (longlist)[2]

    And the reviews for each book (so far) have been better than the last (mostly).

     

    I guess, to an outsider that looks successful and, depending on your metric, it probably is. But that is not what people mean when they ask 'is it doing well' or whatever variant they use. They mean have you sold lots of books.

     

    That is a harder question to answer. My friend, Nick Eames, wrote KINGS OF THE WYLD and that has been HUGELY successful, sold bucket loads of books and you can unequivocally say, 'yes, that has been a commercial success. But for most writers such lines are not so easily drawn. I have access to a thing that will tell me how many books I've sold but that sort of information is largely meaningless to me so I never look. I mean, I know Age of Assassins has gone into a second printing which is lovely. I think. Also, “success” is a word that really needs put into quotation makes. Different books can sell different amounts and still be successful depending on what your publisher expects. If you're not Nick then success is a bit like a wiggly, constantly moving line and you decide your place on it by trying to place a pin while blindfolded.

     

    To really know how you're doing you need a lot of extraneous information to pin that line down, and then, when you have that information all you really have is a reason to get anxious about something that, in the end, you can do very little to control.

     

    So I ignore it. My agent is happy and Orbit seem happy so that's good.

     

    In the end I choose to measure success by the way I measure everything[4], am I happy? And the answer, of course, is yes, ecstatically happy. So I have been, to my way of thinking, wonderfully successful, beyond my wildest dreams if I am honest. Since Age of Assassins came out my wife and I have said all along it didn't matter if it bombed, we've just had an amazing time and made loads of great new friends. Being an author and meeting all the people involved, no matter how peripherally, has felt like coming home.

     

    So this blogpost is really a thank you to all the people that have not only made my dream come true but made it such a wonderful experience, my agent, Ed Wilson at Johnson and Alcock, my editor, Jenni Hill, my publicist Nazia, everyone at Orbit, the book bloggers, reviewers and writers and all the people I have met along the way and, Every. Single. Person. that has read it and enjoyed it[3]. Thank you all so very much. I am forever indebted to you all for the most wonderful year of my life.

     

    RJ. 07 August 2018

     

    1. Originally it was called The Uncrowned Heir, then All Deaths Well Intention'd (still my favourite) before Orbit suggested Age of Assassins and by that time I would have happily accepted Mr Stabby's Exceptionally Stabby Day as long as I got to tell people about it.

    2. This was a bit cheeky actually.

    3. Or not, sorry about that.

    4. And would encourage everyone to try.
  7. Oh Apollo! I offer these libations to you! I who wield the chisel in your name put down wine and place meat in the fire. I who show truth of character in marble. Who chips away the lies until they strew the floor of the workshop. Apollo hear the entreaty of your servant Blind Akakios.

     

    You must have heard them speak of me, great Apollo! And I have never asked ought of you. Only the brave, foolish or virtuous put themselves before the chisel of Blind Akakios, they say. And still they come, 'cast me in stone,' they say. 'Cast my wife in stone and lay your hands upon her body to know her.'

     

    And if not all were happy with the statue they find waiting them then that is beyond my control and I have faced mortal peril to show truth in art, all in your name.

     

    I deal in deeper truths than mere likeness and I see far deeper than eyes can. I have yet to to meet the man who, when asked to stare upon my work, can say, truthfully, they do not find something they recognise of themselves or those they love within it. Though my statues oft remain hidden, all talk of me is as the best. All know I the name of Blind Akakios.

     

    Though you, mighty Apollo, son of Zeus, know the truth.

     

    I am not the best.

     

    She is the best, she who hides in the wood. She who whispers her secrets to me in the night. She who is always naked, and yet, when she moves I hear the whispering hiss of silk on skin. Each night I visit her glade in wonderment as I did that first night. Each night I find new sculptures. Such remarkable likenesses of the body! Such realism, such form, such truth. And all achieved within a day!

     

    A day!

     

    Oh great Apollo hear me beg.

     

    The hands she places on my body are soft. As soft as her skin must be, should she let me only touch it. When we sit and talk late into the night I am entranced, held by her spirit. When we lie together as man and woman I am bound and forbodden to touch her. When I wake in the morning she is gone to her hidden workshop and I am left to wander among her works, lost and amazed and trapped by my envy of her talent.

     

    Oh great Apollo!

     

    Grant me sight for just one day, I beg once more.

     

    I would give all to look upon her work.

     

    To look upon her.

     

    Just once.

     

    Just

     

    Once.

  8. I read a really interesting thread on realism in fantasy writing. I have thoughts on this and decided I would share them. As ever with stuff like this, we are all different and one person's truth is another person's abject nonsense so take whatever you think might be useful from this and ignore anything else.

     

    In a lot of ways, realism is the enemy of fiction. Writing, is not about realism. When it comes down to it a novel is often a string of unlikely co-incidences put together to make a series of events that remain interesting so the reader doesn't wander off and pick up another book. Even formats you expect to be realistic, like historical fiction, cherry pick what they want to use and play fast and loose with actuality[1].

     

    But RJ, you say, I demand realistic armour and weapons on my men and women riding dragons and throwing fireballs at each other.

     

    Well, why wouldn't you? And in many ways you are right to.

     

    I think a move toward realism has been a good thing because it's a reaction against the chainmail bikini nonsense[2] of a some older fantasy. But what you are after is the smoke and mirrors of fiction: it's not about realism, it's about the illusion of realism and that is what makes writing fiction wonderful. If you are a writer it is good to be aware that most of your audience will neither know nor care if you have the correct type of riveting in your dragon rider's armour. So don't stop writing to research it and don't stop your AWESOME dragon fight to explain the smelting process of said rivets.

     

    If you put a thing in your book and it's not totally egregiously out there you probably don't need to explain it. Most readers will just take it as red that it's how your world works. Some people, at some point, might complain but that is going to happen anyway so don't sweat it. You don't have to become an expert on weaponry to write cool fight scenes[3].

     

    Point the second: Sometimes a thing is not a thing. Ninja were not the black clad sneaky fellows we think of now. They often dressed as peasants and used the fact no one looked at peasants to sneak in and kill people, they were all about not being noticed. BUT, if you see a peasant with a load of other peasants how are you meant to know that particular peasant is actually a super cool ninja about to flip out and kill people? You don't. That's why the image of the black clad ninja survives despite historical inaccuracy, you see it, you know what it means and what that person is about. Shortcuts like that are hugely useful in any form of art. So sometimes a sword is not a sword, sometimes armour is not armour; it's a metaphor for character. Who is the bad guy in this scene? Oh, it's probably the guy using a human skull as a helmet. No, it's not practical headgear and won't pass a health and safety check. BUT it has saved me from writing five hundred words of boring exposition.

     

    If research and stuff is your thing and you enjoy it, knock yourself out but here are my three quick tips for any writer starting out and wondering about how real they should keep it:

    We don't need to know everything.

    Don't let what is 'real' get in the way of what is entertaining.

    Ninja are cool.

     

     

    TL/DR if you can make it feel real, a reader will accept it.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. Vikings is a good example of this. The gear is mostly spot on, the history is less so (I am paraphrasing a Viking historian friend here so don't @ me).

    2. If you want realism in your fantasy and you are angry about the lack of chainmail bikini wearing busty female warriors you may want to have a think about what you actually want.

    3. As quite a few bestselling books will attest to.

  9. Well, I've written myself into a corner I can't get out of.

     

    I hear that a lot, I even, maybe, think it a lot myself and – oh wait DISCLAIMER what is true for me may not be true everyone – and I'm not sure it's a real thing. I know! Contentious, right? But hear me out, I promise it may possibly-maybe-but-maybe-not, be worth your while.

     

    For me, 'written myself into a corner,' and 'writer's block' often boil down to being about the same thing. 'I don't want to do this.' I just did a thing where I had basically 'written myself into a corner.' Of course, I hadn't, what I had done was written a thing which needed put right and to do that I had to go back and rewrite a load of other stuffs and then take out some other stuffs, NONE of which I wanted to do because I am an incredibly lazy human being.

     

    So just a thing to ask yourself, before you think you're stuck. Do you really just need to make a change and you're trying to, not so much write your way out of something as think of a way to avoid doing the work? Because, the sad and annoying thing about being a writer is it's not really the writing that makes you good in the end, it's the ability to recognising the need to do the work and then doing it.

     

    So, with that I will stop doing this and go do what I should be doing and hope I cna make it good.

     

    I might complain about it on Twitter though, that's totally 100% on brand writer stuff.

     

    RJ. June 2018

  10. Awards are funny things.

     Well, writing is a funny thing, awards are just another funny part of it. I used to see people come up for awards and be amazed but how confident and professional they must be now they had got to that point. I would imagine they had craft. You know, I had this image of them sitting down and having a clear idea of their theme and what it was they wanted to achieve and who their writing would speak to and how they would do that.

    I kind of longed for that, I couldn't imagine the sort of peace that it must bring when your mind is always turning over, 'what if', 'is this good enough,' 'am I writing rubbish?'

    I mean, you kind of imagine that you get the answer to 'am I good enough' when you sell your book to someone like Orbit - but you really don't, because signing to a publisher isn't entirely about the art of writing, it's also about the commercial business of writing. And a look at what sells will tell you good writing and being commercial are really not inclusive of each other. So you are still, always asking that question, is it good?

    And let's not forget, even when your book is out and you're getting good reviews (as I've been lucky enough, mostly, to get so far) you're not writing that book any more. That book is finished. You are doing something new by the time that books comes out and if you're pushing yourself (which you probably are because, 'is it good enough?'). Then what the reviewers like may well not be what you are doing now[1].

    But anyway, awards and nominations. I am now a twice award shortlisted author (for the Kitschie Golden Tentacle and the Gemmell Morningstar.) You'd think it would bring you some sort of surety, some sort of 'yes, I am doing this right.' That was exactly what I thought all the authors on these shortlists must be thinking. Yes, here is MY VALIDATION. I AM VALIDATED.

    Sadly, not true.

    Cos what you don't see is that I am still doing exactly the same thing every day that I did before I had signed with Orbit or got an agent. I get up, take the boy to school, come home. Find a reason not to write for the first couple of hours of the day[2] drink coffee, eat crisps. Then stare at what I am meant to be doing and become filled with doubt about it. And I am lucky, because my doubt isn't about sales or things like that because I never really think of that. I'm not commercially minded and  I have an agreement with my agent that he can deal with all that and just tell me what I really need to know. But the actual material of my life has not changed. Publishing deal, reviews, award nominations these do not change the substance of my life or the way I approach what I do.

    Write, doubt, keep writing.

    I'm not entirely sure where I was going with this. Just maybe what I am saying  -in a very long way round - is for me, and maybe for most authors, no matter how well it may look like someone is doing we're still just swans; appearing to glide serenely along the top of the water while paddling furiously below in an effort not to sink.

    I'm not complaining though. Because it's still amazing, shocking and wonderful to think the things I write sat on my couch here in Leeds are being read all round the world. And I think, probably, the doubt is a better thing to have than complacency.

    Probably.

    RJ.

    Leeds. April 2018.

     

     

    1. In my case, so many people commented on how likeable Girton was in Age of Assassins just at the point I was consciously moving him away from that while writing Blood of Assassins. As an aside, this is one of the places where your editor is invaluable. When you are going, 'oh I have done that wrong'. They can be a calm voice going, 'no, go with it, It's right. (Thanks, Jenni. )

    2. Like, I dunno, writing blogposts or something?