Harold the strained metaphor

You know how sometimes late at night your brain just goes a little bit insane. Well, this is mine.

I was thinking about creative people and how some of them are utter geniuses in so many ways but struggle to function in real life. And if they could somehow just get themselves organised, they’d take over the world.

The old saying is that ‘so and so couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag’. I’m going to call this mythical ‘he’ Hepzibah because I love the name but I’ve never been able to find a character to fit it.

And Hepzibah is actually pretty awesome, because the rest of us are still stuck in our paper bags and we’d kind of like to find a way out, while creative-insane Hepzibah has realised that actually living in a paper bag is a good idea. We got into the bag for a reason (maybe there are dinosaurs out there), so she’s redesigned her paper bag so it has windows and maybe a propeller so it can fly up and away from the dinosaurs and installed a balcony so she can drink her tea with all the benefit of being outside but still having the safety of the paper bag.

Meanwhile the rest of us really need a dummies-guide to paper-bag redesign because we’re still stuck in the dark listening to the roaring outside.

That made me think about how that isn’t so much an strained metaphor, as one that was so stressed that it grew legs and ran away to join the circus and now he dresses in clown outfits and hangs from the trapeze, but he’s really an embarrassment to his family who are still conservative metaphors and every time someone asks about him, they just look away and say, ‘We don’t like to talk about Harold.’ And now Harold is something of a legend in Metaphorville, and secretly all the teenage metaphors think he’s kind of cool.

Either way it doesn’t matter, because Harold followed his dream and he is much happier now.

And I am sharing these thoughts with you because I am tired and I don’t feel like doing real work.

Gishwhes!

Gishwhes has begun! For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s the world’s biggest scavenger hunt and last year looked like a great deal of fun, so this year I signed up!

The items range from the merely odd (cover someone you love in butter and give them a hug) to virtually impossible (ride in an airplane with a giant motorboat strapped to it. Must be life size).  My son has already agreed to the butter one, so that will be… interesting.

Unfortunately, it is a competition so I can’t share pics and videos just yet but I will do when I can.

It’s not at the best time: new job next week, as well as three writing meetups but I’m enjoying doing silly stuff right now even if I won’t have time next week.

And for those of you participating, *waves*. We should have a secret handshake. Or secret internet wave. Or something! Either way, hope you’re enjoying it and looking forward to seeing what everyone does with it.

 

On reading too much

I was going to write a post about the problems that accompany reading too much, but…

Just kidding. That’s not a thing.

The only problem is real life interfering with my reading time.

That said, I did just get to the end of a 350,000+ word fan fic and found out that not only is it not finished, but it hasn’t been updated since 2012. #readerproblems

Some book recommendations:

Some good news for fans of No Way Home: both Lucas Bale and S. Elliot Brandis have just released new books. Yay! Frustratingly, I’m out as I write this and uploading pics to my site has gone wonky or I’d show you the gorgeous covers for these books. You’ll just have to take a wander over to Amazon and take a look at them there.

Lucas Bale’s A Shroud of Night and Tears continues his epic Beyond the Wall series. And it’s dedicated to me and Alex Roddie! How flattering is that? I’ve beta-read for the whole series so far and it’s been very exciting to watch the story develop. This is definitely a recommended read. And it’s out on a special launch price of $0.99 (two days only), so get it quick.

I haven’t read S. Elliot Brandis’s The Pearl Diver yet, but it is definitely on my TBR list. I have read his fantastically imaginative The Tunnel Trilogy and am very much looking forward to seeing what he’s come up with in the new series. Like A Shroud of Night and Tears, it’s on special at $0.99 so now’s the time to buy.

So there you have it: some guaranteed good books for your holiday reading list. Enjoy!

 

Author Interview – Michael Patrick Hicks

Emergence will be released on 4th May. To celebrate its release, Convergence will be on sale at $0.99 for the week.

Michael Patrick Hicks’s debut novel Convergence was an Amazon Breakthrough Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and after reading it, it’s clear why. Not only is it action-filled, turn-the-page-and-find-out-what-happens-NOW reading, it’s also my favourite type of story in that it asks some very difficult ethical and philosophical questions about how future technology might affect the nature of humanity.

convergence
Convergence is set in a futuristic, post-invasion United States which has broken up into different territories. Main character Jonah Everitt lives in a refugee camp in what was California but is now under the control of the invading Pacific Rim Coalition. He’s also a DRMR addict. DRMR stands for Databiologic Receiver of Mnemonic Response, and is effectively a chemical and technological advance that allows users to relive the memories of the dead.
Jonah is hired to kill a high ranking member of the PRC and steal his memories, an act which sets an unexpected set of consequences into play.
I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read it, but it had me gripped from the first page.

emergence-800-cover-reveal-and-promotional
As a beta reader, I was lucky enough to get an advance look at Emergence, the second in the DRMR series. For those unaware of the nature of beta-readers, we read the novel prior to publication to help pick up plot-holes or style and story issues. I didn’t find too many of those (Mike’s a good writer), but I did keep writing little essays on his manuscript because he has so many fascinating concepts to mine around the DRMR technology. I just wanted to jump into his world and keep digging. You know it’s a good book when you want to grab the author by the lapels and shout, ‘Come with me! I need to know more about your world.’
Luckily for me (and you), Mike’s agreed to come along and answer some of my questions.

Your first novel Convergence is set in a post-invasion United States. This makes for some very interesting political speculation as to what would happen if a Pacific-Rim-style Coalition did invade the U.S. What attracted you to this setting?

I simply wanted to do something that was a bit dystopian and to make the environment something that was not only dangerous, but which would have a severe impact on the characters and uproot everything in an interesting way. I wanted something that was a bit grittier, a bit more noir. I was really attracted to America as a failed experiment. The USA is a very, very young nation and a bit of a Johnny-come-lately on the global stage that sometimes has a very peculiar arrogance to it. I wanted to see a North America that was “after the fall” so to speak.

The DRMR technology has some drawbacks, mostly in the form of addiction, but it also invites some interesting conjecture as to how living someone else’s memories would influence and change the user. I can’t help thinking that the introduction of this technology would lead to greater empathy and peace within the world, as people learn what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes. Do you agree with this? And if not, why not?

While I think, and at least certainly hope, that the world is moving toward greater, progressive values and inclusivity, I’m fairly positive that a technology like DRMR would be badly abused, if only by a minority of retrograde people who fear positive change and inclusivity. For all the good that could be done with it, I think there are some inherit problems and that it would kind of ruin everything for everybody. Maybe I’m just a pessimist. But, as readers will see in Emergence, it’s definitely a technology that’s ripe for exploitation!

Everyone has the stories they tell themselves about their own lives, so that even someone using the DRMR and accessing the memories first hand might come up with a different interpretation of who that person is. If someone accessed DRMR of your life, what do you think they’d learn from you?

Oh my goodness. I have no idea! Probably that I’m some horrible, darkly maligned personality with too many tortured thoughts and unending mental screams of anguish. Or maybe that I’m far more caring and squishy than I’ll publicly admit to.

If you could access the DRMR recordings of someone in real life, would you do it, and how do you think it might change you?

I don’t think I’d want to access the DRMR recordings of anybody I was close to. There are certain political figures and big-mouthed zealots that I’d be curious to access, but mostly to satisfy my own morbid curiosity on whether or not they’re the delusional, hypocritical con-men I believe they are, or if they actually believe the garbage they spiel. I don’t think such access would make me a better person, and I probably don’t want their particular brands of poison lingering in my head after all.

The DRMR world is detailed and feels very real. How did you go about researching this kind of political situation and the accompanying technology?

For the invasion angle, I looked at publicly available documents of Chinese officials war-gaming potential plans for invasion and looked at various refugee camps. The technology angle required a tremendous amount of research into memory formation, memory deletion, brain structures and how they interact, and some of the work that DARPA is doing. While the DRMR technology is a sci-fi concept, there are certainly efforts out there in the scientific community to make it not only plausible, but entirely possible.

When I tried to think of what genre Convergence is, I came up with a lot more than one: science fiction, dystopia, future tech, thriller. It’s a difficult book to pigeon hole. A lot of marketing involves trying to raise awareness of a book among fans of that genre, and having an original concept can sometimes make a book more difficult to market. Do you think this has been the case with Convergence?

To a degree, it has been, yes. But, the readers that have found it, so far, have been very kind and have received the book warmly. So, for that I’m completely grateful! Convergence is definitely a mish-mash of a lot of different genres, so if somebody hates sci-fi but loves mystery/thrillers, I think there’s a good chance they’d like Convergence. A lot of people think sci-fi is just aliens or Star Trek type stuff, but there’s plenty of room within the genre for other types of work. I operate very much in the Cyberpunk Noir end of things. Convergence is definitely more on the Blade Runner end of science fiction, in terms of it being very much about humans, on Earth, dealing with daily life, but their life just happens to have a little bit more high-tech stuff than we do. At least for now.

Who would you say are your favourite authors, and do you think they have influenced your writing?

Stephen King, Richard K. Morgan, Tom Clancy, Dennis Lehane – those are my big favorites. And yeah, I think they’ve definitely influenced my writing, a lot. Particularly in terms of technothriller writing, I think reading each of those writers has really helped shape my own writing style and my approach to writing and story-telling.

Can you give us a sneak peek into what’s coming next for the third of the DRMR series?

Not yet. Emergence is book 2, and that releases Monday, May 4, 2015. I’m working on an entirely separate and different project at the moment, for the Apocalypse Weird crew, and that’s where my focus is at these days. I’ve got a couple ideas for the third DRMR book, but it’s still a ways off. People should keep an eye on http://michaelpatrickhicks.com and sign up for my newsletter there; whenever I have an announcement to make, those are the readers that get it first.

Where would you like your writing career to be in five years?

I’m certainly hoping I’ll have a nice catalog of titles that a wide range of readers can plunge into!

What is your least favourite part of the publishing / writing process?

The business side of things on the publishing end can be mind-numbing and exhausting. Trying to line up ads with a number of promotions sites, and locking in release dates and coordinating between print and digital markets and waiting on proof copies, and keeping track of income and expenses for tax purposes, and spreadsheets and spreadsheets and spreadsheets – that is all very much not glamorous or fun. Don’t let anyone fool you – writing is a business, regardless of how much fun the writing side of things can be. But even that has its dreadful moments! It’s work. It’s not digging graves or working in a coal mine, thankfully, but you still have to be mindful of the fact that it is, first and foremost, a business.

You can connect with Mike on his website, twitter, facebook or goodreads (and do. He’s very nice. I promise)

Updates

Apologies for the lack of posting, all. It’s been a busy, busy month and writing has had to take a back seat. Busy stuff this month has included a move out of London, my son starting his new school and about a zillion other things,

Upcoming projects include a contribution to a new anthology from the same awesomely talented group of writers who brought you No Way Home. (Yes, I’m including myself). No Way Home has done tremendously well and I am incredibly proud to be part of it. I’ll announce more about the new anthology in due course.

In other news, now that I’m settled I’m looking for a job. If anyone knows of anything interesting going in the Bristol area, let me know 🙂

 

Farewell to the great Terry Pratchett

I was so sorry to have heard about the death of Terry Pratchett on Thursday. He was not only my favourite writer (and I think one of the true greats) but also someone for whom I had the utmost respect and admiration.

Pratchett is my comfort reading. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve read each of his novels. I also couldn’t tell you which is my favourite, but if I were to list my top ten favourite books of all time, Terry Pratchett would have written every one of them.

Terry Pratchett not only influenced me as a writer, but also as a person. His books made me think. You can build an entire world philosophy off of Pratchett quotes, and make the world a better place.

RIP, sir, you will be much missed.

On Growling

Everyone has their own pet peeve when it comes to books.  Mine is growling.

I get why writers use it. It’s a handy short cut for: This guy is an alpha-male. Look at him putting everyone in their place. He can’t be bothered with the petty waffle everyone else cares about.

The problem is that I haven’t actually heard anyone growl in real life. I know I’m being a pedant, but it always throws me straight out the story.

I recently read an otherwise decent book that was marred by one of the characters growling all the time, especially during the sex scenes. This was when the female character imagined him as a muscley black panther slinking through the jungle (as you do apparently) and then when they were at it, he’d ‘growl like a panther’.

Firstly, panthers are better known for their screaming than their growling (which is even worse), but this is what a panther growl actually sounds like:

Dunno ’bout you, but if a woman actually heard her partner making that noise during sex, she’d either burst out laughing or run away. Probably both at the same time.

 

Last chance to borrow on Amazon

I’m going to be removing my books from KDP Select on Amazon (which allows readers to borrow the books). This will be from 9 March for A Murder of Crones and 11 March for The Secret Dead.

Other authors have had a dip in income due to being in Select. This hasn’t had much of an effect on me (I’m not making much at the moment anyway) and I am getting a good number of borrows so I’ll be sorry to lose that. Whether readers will go on to buy them instead remains to be seen.

My real reason for taking them out of the program is simply because Amazon requires exclusivity to participate and this no longer makes sense. The exclusivity applies to giveaways of ebooks as well as sales on other platforms so it really restricts my ability to get my books out there to readers.

I think it’s a real pity about Amazon’s exclusivity clause. I don’t think it does any favours to readers or writers, and I really wish they’d get rid of it. I’m not convinced it’s such a bonus to Amazon either.

There are still going to be plenty of opportunities to get freebies. I’m going to try go perma-free on The Secret Dead and will do an ebook giveaway for Murder of Crones on Librarything later in the month (both not possible under the Select program).

Keep watching this space or follow me on twitter. I’ll announce when the giveaway is up and running.