Edge-Lit 2019

Edge-Lit

I survived. I lived to tell the tale with merely a flesh-wound or two; a little beat up around the edges but mostly intact.

Yes, Edge-Lit has happened. And it was great. Huge thanks to the organisers and volunteers who helped make it a magnificent day, and to the writers and attendees who were relentlessly good-natured and happy to talk and share their wisdom.

This was my first ever con as a participant and so my reflections are of a different order to that at Sledge-Lit in the winter: I was actually doing things, pretending to be the expert and in the know when in fact I know extraordinarily little.

My workshop (‘The Art of Description’) went okay; not perfectly as I still fluffed some lines and sometimes struggled to give full explanations for the things I was trying to say. But the group helped by turning it into a discussion and pulled me through. In the end I’d say it was not a triumph but a win. And so a little of the terror slipped away.

eDGElIT PANEL

The panel: Anna Stephens, Zen Cho, some idiot, Adrian Tchaikovsky. Photo by David Stokes, used with permission

The panel (‘Beyond the Darkness: Where does fantasy fiction go after Grimdark?’) was where the terror regrouped. There I was, sat between Adrian Tchaikovsky and Zen Cho, with Anna Stephens moderating – there was no Jen Williams as she was ill – trembling in the presence of their huge brains. Oh, and in the presence of an auditorium full of people.

It went… okay? I’d resolved not to say too much, just to contribute on each question and not be too garrulous. And that worked, for the most part. I soon found myself out of my depth, however, when the conversation veered to far from the pre-set questions, and especially on the audience questions that followed. I am now fully aware that my reading is wholly inadequate.

I was much more confident on the discussion of Terry Pratchett that broke out in the middle of the session: unexpected in a discussion on Grimdark, but that just highlights the influence PTerry has had.

EdgeLit panel Angeline

Photo by Angeline Trevena, used with permission

So, I survived with only minor injuries – I confess to being somewhat intimidated by Adrian in particular – and had only my reading to go before I could properly relax, and drink – and eat, because I’d had only snacks all day, my nerves preventing my eating a solid meal.

Except I had not to read, for no-one turned up. This is not a huge surprise: I am not a big name draw, it was the fag-end of the day and the room was rather tucked away out of the main flow. A disappointment? Yes, but also something of a relief: after all the day’s terror, at last I could unwind properly, eat some sweet potato fries, and have a beer.

And thus we enter the most important part of the con: the serious business of talking with other people. Not schmoozing or networking, though elements of both are involved, but just meeting and talking with like-minded people; catching up with old friends and making new.

I had a lovely chat with Anna Stephens and shared words with Aliette de Bodard, to drop a name or two, but most of the time was spent with unfamous people – people like me, in fact, who were striving to be in the big chairs in a year or two’s time. I mean, I say this but I was in at least one big chair at Edge-Lit but I put that down to my publisher’s publicity department rather than my own achievements.

As a friend told me on the day: everyone feels like an imposter. No-one feels like they truly deserve to be in the position they find themselves in. I did okay at Edge-Lit.

So on to drinking and the sad reflection that I had to wimp out early due to being up at 04:00 to get to the damn thing: this caught up with me just after we’d decamped to the pub. Thus I missed a proper catch-up with many of the friends I’d made at Sledge-Lit and the chance to make new.

But that’s okay. Self-care is part of the equation at cons; push yourself too hard and you’ll be no good to anyone, least of all yourself. Trying to do it all is a sure way to achieve nothing. I still had a great time. I worked through my terror. I made a decent enough impression.

That’ll do, pig. That’ll do

Unanswerable questions

So, tell us about your novel.

It’s the question that authors hate – the first time, at least. The good thing is that we get asked it so often that we have time to prepare an answer; to evolve a soundbite that we can wheel out and reuse as required. Mine begins with ‘it’s a murder mystery set in near-future Antarctica…’ and often stops there too.

idea-writeup-template

Stolen from markpollard.net

A book description, however, is a different beast. It’s disturbingly close to being a blurb – a written account of your book that the publisher will use for publicity. As such it’s got to be punchy, moody and to the point – but, unlike a synopsis, it has to avoid spoilers and the end must remain resolutely not given away.

Then there’s the author biography. How much character do you want to put into that? Where’s the fine line between

person

dull and factual and cringe-makingly jokey and self-reverential?

Guess what I’m doing at the moment?

 

Yup, it’s another ‘author questionnaire’ for my publisher: the document that they’ll use to try and flog my efforts – to bookstores, to distributors and to the media, should they be interested in interviewing me in whatever form.

And it’s horrible. This is the second time I’ve had to do it and it’s wincingly horrible. Even though I can copy-and-paste some of my answers from the last time I did it, I just have to have a little tinker and in a trice I find myself back inside the prison of my attempts to make myself sound interesting.

Interesting but not an attention-seeking freak: again, it’s a fine line.

It is, in fact, rather like writing this blog.

Some people, no dog

Last Friday I did my first ever ‘Meet the Author’ event, turning out at Earlham library in Norwich to be interrogated by the great and good. Or, at least, to meet the few people who didn’t have anything better to do on a Friday teatime.

Earlham talk

The only photo of the event I have, thanks to my wife having to wrangle the small one whilst 

The crowd was small – it wasn’t quite one man and his dog but it wasn’t too far off. The crowd was bolstered by my own family (a mixed blessing), but an audience is still an audience. And worthy of my best efforts, which I gave in the form of a brief talk, a reading, and a Q&A.

And I had fun, I think, and (I’m told) went down okay. There were enough questions to make the whole thing feel worthwhile – a good one on the use of 1st person as opposed to third, and another on what about the commute from the library to home (as I described in the talk) had given me the idea for a novel set in Antarctica.

Anyway, all this dashing about across the country means I’ve little to discuss this week. I’m a busy bee right now and writing has suffered; I’m still trying to edit the sequel to the sequel to Night Shift, working on my workshop for Edge-Lit (and imbibing as much grimdark as possible before my panel there) – I’m even trying to contemplate writing something new for the first time in years.

So I’m not idle. Promise. I just don’t have much to say right now.

Hope you’re managing to be more productive!

Nervousness

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Nervous System – photograph by Daniel Kulinski

Morning all. Today I am all of a tremble because tonight I’m appearing at Earlham library in Norfolk for a tiny talklet, Q&A and, if anyone’s actually bought a copy, a signing.

What with that and finishing a big copy-edit I haven’t much to say this week. I’m currently doing a beta-read for a friend and I’ll shortly be returning my attention to the pass of the third novel in the Australis series (the sequel to the sequel to Night Shift) that I perpetually seem to be starting and having to put on hold.

And then… what then? No doubt I’ll have more editing to do, with which I can pay (some of) the bills. I also need to get back to Oneiromancer and do a big rewrite; I’m still turning this over and readying myself for the task ahead. I suspect that’s a months-long job, not just the odd half-hour here and there.

And then… then maybe, just maybe I’ll… write something new?

It’s been a long, long time since I first-drafted anything. I have ideas – so many ideas – but they’ve been percolating for so long that I’m not sure they haven’t dissolved into some formless, tasteless soup in the depths of my soup; a viscous brain-goop with fragments of character and plot floating lifeless on the surface like so much pond-scum.

But that’s the fun of writing. I’ll have to take what I can remember, and what notes I made, and reconstitute them into something better, faster, stronger.

That or I… won’t. I’ll be found out as the empty vacuous has-been that secretly I’ve been all along.

But that’s worry’s for the future. For now I have more immediate worrying to do.

Hope to see at least some of you tonight.

ROBINTRIGGSPOSTER (1)

On Air #3

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This is, as per bloomin’ usual, a photo stolen from the internet. I do not look that good.

I’m buried in proofreading and copy-editing at the moment, my deadlines teaming up to smack me oop-side the head. And my daughter has the plague, which is… unhelpful. These are my primary excuses for not having much to say this week.

So please excuse the brevity of this communique. But if you want to hear more about some of my writerly philosophies and the problems of cultural insensitivity, you might like to check out this interview I did on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on Monday.

I’m on from around 02:20 in, right after Katy Perry. I’m in and out for nearly 40 mins, which came as something of a surprise to me.

Big thanks and kudos to Charlie Thompson for making me feel at ease and for drawing out the best of us guests. Remember, if you ever do interviews like this, the host is your ally. They will do their best to make you sound good.

And now it’s back to the word-mines with me. Them deadlines won’t meet themselves.

Hopefully I’ll have broken the back of them – and have maybe done something more interesting – in time for next week’s blog.

In the meantime may the words rise up to meet the pen.

Chasing sales

MB1

In case it passed you by, I’ve been doing a bit of self-promotion recently. Night Shift came out (available from all good bookshops and some really rather dodgy ones too) and I had not one but two launch parties to celebrate/shift some books.

Both these events went well. Better than I could have hoped, really. But there is a truth that we should address before we get too further, and it’s this: they’re not going to help me at all.

Reason the first:

I was given an advance upon signing my contract. Any copies that are sold on the back of my efforts – appearances, interviews and the like – will go to the publishers, not me. Not until I’ve earned out my advance, which isn’t going to happen overnight – and, indeed, most advances are never earned out. Most authors never see a penny in royalties.

Reason the second:

No cash from my efforts is going into my pockets. It’s all going to bookshops and, through them, to the publishers, to staff, taxes, bills and the like. But the money I spend on travel, accommodation, sustenance and the like – that’s coming straight from me.

spending-money-is-not-saving-money

The frank truth is that you are going to spend more on an event then you ever see back. Even if you self-publish, and at least a share of the takings is going straight to you, you’re likely going to have to spend on refreshments and maybe split costs with the venue*.

Don’t think that inviting the local press will help either. I mean it will help – you might get the odd extra sale that way. You’re unlikely to get the tens of sales you’d need to cover all the wine you’ve drunk to give you the courage to do the event in the first place.

Besides, despite the best efforts of my publicist – yes, I do have such a thing, I’m slightly embarrassed to say – no local press turned up at either of my events. Apparently journalists don’t like working into the evening.

So is my advice is for you to shun all such opportunities for appearances and remain solely a keyboard-warrior? Hold on there, youngster! Be not so hasty.

First, though you may not get immediate rewards, the more books you sell the more likely you are to get a second book published. You may never earn out that advance, but the closer you get the better.

Second, appearances are fun.

You’ve worked damn hard to get a book out. You’re entitled to a celebration. There aren’t many times in your life when you’re the centre of attention**. Why not make the most of it?

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Sales come from word-of-mouth recommendations and repeated mentions; in my A-Level General Studies course (my only A grade, fact fans) I learned that you need to hear of something five times before you’ll consider checking it out. This may or may not be true but it’s not a bad way to think.

So do events; get out there and be seen.

But don’t do it to chase sales. Do it for the sheer unadulterated hell of it.

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*Okay, I’m sure it is possible to run an event that costs you nothing; maybe a local bar will host in exchange for drinks sales. But the point stands. Even if you have an event in your own front room you’d best provide nibbles

**I realise that, to some people, this might sound like hell. If you’re one of these people – and I oscillate wildly between loving the spotlight and loathing it with a fiery passion – then you don’t have to do it. Don’t let anyone – least of all me – tell you that you must make personal appearances

Not-quite-a-launch-party #2

Btl2

Another day, another book-signing! This one was on a Friday night in the world’s smallest bookshop* and it went much better than I could have imagined. Not only did my daughter arrive too late to heckle me but the place was packed**. Huge thanks to the staff at Between the Lines, and the people of Great Bardfield, who gave me this wonderful book as a thank-you gift.

Whether they were there for me or for the free prosecco is a moot point***. Applause was polite. Books were sold. There was only one left in the shop when I rolled out at the end of the evening, all the customers (not, for the most part, my target market) having remembered cousins, sons and friends for whom it might make a good present.

In completely unrelated news, Night Shift is available now and makes a great Christmas present for all those cousins, sons and daughters (not just for boys!) and spouses and rabbits (tasty pages!) the world over.

And that’s it. That’s all the promo I’ve got lined up. Hopefully I’ll get something lined up for the new year, but, as we stand, it’s back to the real world for me.

It’s been a busy week. Maybe now I can get on with some real writing****.

btl5

*It’s not actually the smallest bookshop in the world. That honour goes to this place. But it is pretty small

**It would feel packed with six people in. That’s how small it is

***Prosecco. No doubt

****Just been told that BBC Radio Guernsey want an interview. Reality is postponed. Here’s your surreality-replacement service. Please don’t wee on the seats