Three Books

At the end of the film The Time Machine, Filby and the Housekeeper realise that three books are missing from the shelf.  They have been taken into the future!
There’s a scheme by Porcupine Books at the next Eastercon for people to give a short talk on a book that has influenced them.  I’m one of the writers due to whiffle on about a book, but not one of the following three.

A friend of mine gave me three books for my <cough-cough> sorry, birthday.  They were The Mortdecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli, Einstein’s Monsters by Martin Amis (for the essay Thinkability) and Who Will Remember the People by Jean Raspail.  The three books that influenced his life.

What are these books for me, I wonder.

I think they are The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Introduction to Pascal (Second Edition) by Jim Welsh and John Elder and Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran.  It’s rather an odd collection now I write it down.

The Day of the Triffids is also rather a stand-in.  I could have chosen The Chrysalides, also by Wyndham, or any number of others.  I trying to recall that book that got me into Science Fiction, but I’m not sure I remember it or that there even was one.  I wish there was one, but there really isn’t.  It might be one of the Target Doctor Who books.  The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came much later and I’m a fan of the radio (and perhaps a theatre) version.  Telly with Doctor Who and Blake’s 7.  It’s all a bit rubbish compared to those who say The Lord of the Rings changed my life.

On the other hand, Introduction to Pascal was the manual of a life change.  I went to University to do Civil Engineering – mad idea, what was I thinking – and I realised my enormous mistake about four weeks into the course.  Somewhere I have the very fluid mechanics test that left me high and dry, and pushed me over the edge and into deep water – as it were.  I turned the page over and made notes on the back as I went through the University prospectus to find an alternative course, any alternative course.  So, after Anthropology, Astrology, Astronomy, Biology and Carpentry had all turned me down, Computer Science was next in the alphabet.  They accepted me on a Friday to start the following Monday.  I was four weeks behind, I panicked.  (As it turned out I was further behind in Civil Engineering than I was in Computer Science, but I didn’t realise that at the time.)  I bought the only book on the recommended reading list that I’d been told about and I read it cover-to-cover – twice.  I didn’t think I followed it at all.  During the first workshop on programming, we were given twelve questions and I was hopelessly stuck on Question 6.  You can’t turn a computer round and make notes on the back about Cover Design, Drama, Education or English Language.  (As if I’d do any of those.)  Oh god, I thought, I have just wasted my life.

I turned to one of my brand new colleagues and whispered, “I’m stuck on Question 6 – help!”

“What!” they replied, “but we’re all stuck on Question 2.”

I love programming in Pascal, still do, even though it’s now hidden in an IDE called Lazarus.

Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran did change my life.  I wanted to know where I was academically with writing, so I did the MA at Birmingham City University.  I sort of walked it, but then I had been doing all the modules on an ad hoc basis over and over for the past dozen years.  I wish I’d not done the intensive version and spread it out over two years, because I enjoyed it so much and it would have been nice to appreciate the scenery during the journey.  I even snuck into film course I wasn’t doing run by Andy Conway.  (It’s his book I’ll be whiffling about at Eastercon.)  We got chatting, I started to give him lifts home and he said I should self-publish.

“Oh, but isn’t that vanity publishing.”

“No, not at all, read this ebook by David Gaughran.”

So I did.  Interesting, I thought.  By page 5, I thought I must get a Kindle one day; by page 10, it was on my Christmas list; by page 15, I’d ordered one and by page 20, I was coding in html.  My conversation from occasional playwright to committed indie publisher was faster than someone with a road map to Damascus asking for a bit of light to read by.

Would I take these three books off to the future with me?

Probably not, because I’ve read them.

A Kindle can contain more books than you can read in a lifetime, so, if you could only take three books to the future, surely you’d choose a Kindle and… two other Kindles.

You know, perhaps I should have added the first novel I published to this list of books that changed my life, but it’s kind of cheating.  Or should it be the first one I completed?  To steal and paraphrase an anecdote from Peter Ustinov, the favourite book of my own is, of course, the next one.  (Actually, it’s not as it’s being a bit awkward.)

And your three books?

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No books at Waterstones?

During one of my rants (‘traditional publishing is dead, long live the revolution’), a mate countered by saying that he’d believe it when there weren’t any books in Waterstones.

Way back in time I used to buy vinyl LPs and these exciting shiny discs were demonstrated on Tomorrow’s World. I’d been in computer science research and knew all about compact discs early on, but I carried on buying LPs. Out of curiosity, I did nip upstairs to have a look at the small CD section when it appeared in Virgin Megastore. They didn’t seem to be for me as I liked the big picture and CD players were expensive.

The section gradually grew, its stock containing more than compilations and best of albums until it dominated the first floor.
Then, one day I went into town, and the CDs were all downstairs by the entrance and LPs consigned to the upstairs. Still, I took the escalator and bought an LP.

Over time, the area the vinyl occupied decreased, until it fell back to a raised area demarcated by a step. This was a quarter of the first floor, so quite a space. This status quo remained for a long time with vinyl defending this hill fort until a brave t-shirt stand gained a foothold. It was precarious, the garments barely fluttering on the battlement, but clearly the end was nigh. I went downstairs and bought a CD, never to buy vinyl again. (In fact, I did buy a single of a local band as a nostalgia trip and it took several playings before I remembered that these record playing things have a 33/45 switch.)

But what of Waterstones?

The entrance does have books. There are books there, but this is the display 3-for-2 area that publishers purchase to show off their wares. In other words, the shop is primarily selling space, not books. Further back, we have stationary, trinkets, notebooks and calendars before the checkouts, and behind that are the ebook readers and then wrapping paper and greeting cards. There’s a coffee shop too.

Three quarters of the ground floor isn’t books.

Do they sell t-shirts?

Book Launches

Gone are the days when publishers used to smash a bottle of Champagne against the front cover a new book.

I’m going to a book launch tonight and over the next two weekends I’m organising two of my own.  Yes, two!

The Other Christmas Carol, novella in new paperback at Novacon (perfect Christmas present if you’re stuck for something to buy someone and with a lovely cover by Smuzz), and The Derring-Do Club and the Empire of the Dead, a new novel and the first in a series, at ArmadaCon. I’m really looking forward to it, with some trepidation of course.  Hope to see some of you there.

All the stock decided to arrive yesterday and I was actually in when the deliveries occurred.  What are the chances of that?  I’m trying to work out the most efficient way of storing and transporting books.

I’m wondering whether to set myself the challenge of launching a book at every convention I go to, but that might be a little too much.  Next Eastercon would be very tight as a deadline.

Books Ordered

I’ve just ordered copies of my new novel, The Derring-Do Club and the Empire of the Dead, and went for Priority delivery. Technically I could have just used Expediated (although Standard speed became too slow quite some time ago), but I do want to make sure I have them in plenty of time for ArmadaCon.  There does come a point when you can’t check anything else and just have to go for it.  I’ve a really nice cover from Smuzz.

DDCatEotD (Front Cover) copy

It must be a sub-clause of the Rule of Three, because having three books in my portfolio does feel like a real step up.  Less flash in the pan and more like the cooker’s on fire.

LitFest: self-publishing panel

I went to the recent LitFest in Moseley committed to indie publishing.  As I’d run the Saturday workshop on the subject, I had to be an evangelist.  I came away even more convinced.  Apparently we had a tweet that said we’d persuaded someone within 20 seconds.  That would have been me introducing myself, I think.

There were three of us being interviewed by Steph on the panel and from audience left to right, and in order of increasing sales, were me (cottage industry), Fiona Joseph (gives history talks and sells her books as a souvenir) and Mark Edwards (author of Amazon bestsellers including The Magpies).  The discussion really benefited from having three very different experiences represented.  Mark Edwards, for example, self-published, gained a publishing contract on the back of that success, but recently self-published again because it was quicker to get the book out.

There had been an agent on before us, who had been asked about self-publishing.  She’d talked instead about vanity publishing saying things that I realise just do not apply to the indie scene: you end up with 400 books in boxes you can’t sell, it costs a fortune and it’s mostly ebooks.  No, no, and I suppose, but paperbacks are really easy.

One of the last questions was “Would you do it again?”

“The Derring-Do Club and the Empire of the Dead will be out in November,” I said.  Selling, that’s the tricky bit, always good to get a plug in.