Friday, 30 May 2008

Whole lotta slugs

I'm having a naff time of it on the veggie front. My cucumbers--possibly the slowest growing plant on the planet--were doing so well, reaching for their canes with loving tenderness. I was looking forward to the flowers more than anything as I'm not that big on cucumbers. But then the rains came, and the slugs, and where last night I had two fine if short specimens of cucumber plants, this morning there was just a tiny bent stalk and a fat slug. What a waste of a gro-bag.

And my tomato plant's unhappy too. It's asking where the sunshine went, and why Aliya doesn't like it.

Sorry to be boring, but my favourite LedZep song is Whole Lotta Love. That and Riverside Blues.

Bon voyage, Mms Whiteley.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Dick, Jane and the Beatniks, man

Lavie Tidhar, he of travelling and science fiction short story fame (he has the lead story in the current issue of Interzone), quite some time back commissioned a load of stories for his Dick & Jane Primer for Adults. The stories come from folks like Adam Roberts, Conrad Williams, James Lovegrove, and son. There's an absolutely cracking story from Liz Williams and, yes, this isn't all about the altruism as there's a story from me in there too. Well, it is finally be published, in June, but only available to members of the British Fantasy Society. I'm assuming it will be mailing out with Prism, their magazine.

In other news, it looks like back in August of last year, hepcat online litzine the Beat published one of my stories. They may have told me about it, but if they did, I forgot. You can read it for free anyway, and it's quite good. It's called The Flautist.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Serendipity 9

The new Serendipity is up. Includes stories from Hal Duncan and Rudyard Kipling, and some book reviews and other stuff for your enjoyment. There are no tomatoes. Serendipity be here.

In other news, my own tomato plant is now flowering, and my runner beans are running up their bean poles. Cucumbers need transferring to a bigger home, as do some of the lettuces, and I think my pepper is missing the sunshine that so cruelly went away.
I'm off to squish some black-fly.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Where I’m at

I vividly remember writing my first story, fan fiction for The Biskits, when I was five or six. My hair was really rather long for a young boy. I followed this up the year after with my first proper story, about a family of toothbrushes, one of whom falls out of the beaker where they live and has to be rescued (a pulley system made of dental floss would have been the preferred method, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t feature in the story). This wasn’t published but did earn a gold star and smiley face.

I got the writing bug again when I had my first exposure to a proper computer, as opposed to an arcade machine of Atari games console, and wrote an anthropomorphic story about a fox and a squirrel living in some nice woods. Hair was still relatively long. This was also the year I had my first published piece appear in Marvel’s Transformers comic. It was a pseudonymous letter in which I pointed out lots of typos.

When I was sixteen I started growing my hair and had my first ‘poem’ published in an anthology by Poetry Now. From 1997 until 2000 I was in a band that never was and my very long hair was not cut very often, although bits of it did turn a shade of blue. I also wrote lots of pretty good alt-punk songs with a friend and worked as a dog trainer for Battersea Dogs’ Home.

New millennium, new start. I met and moved in with my wife-to-be and got my first office job, wrote Nicolo’s Gifts and had several short stories published. A year or so later I had my first paid-for story published by 3LBE and had a story included in Bluechrome’s first anthology. Sam Hayes won the competition for best story. Bluechrome also published Nicolo’s Gifts, which a few agents rejected and which wasn’t quite so terrible as I like to make out but was in dire need of editing

The next couple of years saw more short stories published, and several others not published. I started work on a new book as soon as I finished Nicolo’s Gifts and this book remains my skull-on-the-shelf-elephant-in-the-room. With a colleague I set up Fragment, a nice online PDF zine before devoted to music and short stories and it also dawned on me what bad a writer I am so I join a writing group. This is around the time Aliya and I started emailing and I met Lavie Tidhar, for whom I reviewed some small press titles on the defunct Dusk site.

2005 saw the publication of Book of Voices, an anthology I project managed for Flame Books, with Sierra Leone PEN’s founder Mike Butscher (now on the International PEN board) as front-man. The aim of it was to raise awareness about the work of Sierra Leone PEN, which it did relatively successfully. The book had stories from, amongst others, Patrick Neate, Gregory Norminton, Tanith Lee and Jeffrey Ford, as well as an introduction by Caryl Philips. It also got a great review in the Irish Times and a cover blurb from David Mitchell (the Cloud Atlas one, not the Peepshow one).

I arranged the launch of the book at the Royal Festival Hall, pre-refurbishment, and got it included as part of the BBC’s Africa Season. Aminatta Forna gave a rousing speech at the launch, there were readings, the British Council paid for contributor Brian James to be flown over from Freetown and everyone had wine and orange juice. If I make no other significant contribution to the arts during my lifetime, I at least did this.

This was also the year The Elastic Book of Numbers was released, within which I had a story. The book won the British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. I also wrote a novelette with Ekaterina Sedia, which is first accepted by someone that wants to give us money for it, then changes their mind, then another, nicer, publisher accepts it, but then folds. (Ed: We now have someone willing to put this out for us. Watch this space.)

After all this I start a blog, which I’m useless at maintaining, so I go on holiday and change job and while I’m away Aliya fills in on the blog. We decide to share the blog. Sharing a blog kind of works, so we decide to share a short story. It kind of works too, and gets accepted for publication, so we write another one.

After promising not to do anymore distracting side projects, I start Serendipity with Ben Coppin, who published one of my stories in Darker Matter, his previous zine.

The publisher for mine and Aliya’s first story folds, but not before I have harangued her into writing a full-blown novel with me. Besides, the second story we wrote is accepted for publication anyway.

Now the first co-written book is finished and here were are. Aliya has a world-class agent, a three-book hardback deal with trade paperback agreement for the second book, critical acclaim in the British broadsheets and some low-grade genre writer attempting to hitch a ride on her coat-tails.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Have I got a question of books for you?

A while ago I had the idea of doing a book quiz similarly to popular tv quiz formats; this was before I was aware of BBC4's The Book Quiz, hosted by Kirsty Wark, with an audience that was rejected by Mastermind for being too dull and a group of particularly repressed contestants in the main that have nothing in common more than they have something to do with publishing or fiction and poetry journalism. Of more interest than most is Daisy Goodwin, who spends the majority of the shows she has been in looking at her fingernails and avoiding eye contact with people, like she'd rather be anywhere else. I know not everyone interested in books is a social abomination looking to do no more than further the idea of books as being nerdish, but someone forgot to tell that to the producers of the programme. In some ways it's made me more interested in putting together this little quiz, if only to show that writers can be erudite, witty and personable in reality as well as on the page.