Jonny Nexus

Writing, life, politics

Category: Writing (page 3 of 8)

General writing related posts.

Jonnycon I: The Launch Party For Wild Jester Press and “If Pigs Could Fly”

IfPIgsCouldFlyCover-FrontOnly-MediumLater this year, after a difficult gestation of more than seven years, I’m finally publishing my “difficult” second novel, If Pigs Could Fly, and creating my own publishing imprint (Wild Jester Press) to do it. To celebrate both of these events, Jules and I are holding a party, and we’d love you all to come.

The party is basically a book launch, with all the things you’d expect from a book launch (including a reading from the author, me, and the chance to get an advance copy of the book and have it signed). In addition, we’ll have a bit of food, some dancing as we work our way into the early hours, plus chat, and even a few board games.

Additional note: The official launch of the book is in October (we will be selling copies at the Irish Discworld convention in Cork from 2nd to 5th October, with the book then becoming available on Amazon on 6th October). So Jonnycon gives you a chance to get your hands on a copy of the book two months early!

Letting us Know

No invites are required. This is a public event, and it’s fine to just turn up on the night. But if you are coming, it would be good if you could let us know, either by commenting here or sending an email to jonny (at) jonnynexus dot com, just so that I have some idea of numbers.

Note: due to licensing restrictions at the venue, under-18s are not allowed after 8pm. I don’t think this would affect anyone who might be coming, but I thought I ought to mention it just in case.

When and Where

Jonnycon 1 is being held on Saturday 1st August from 7:00pm onwards at The Iron Duke pub, 3 Waterloo Street, Hove BN3 1AQ.

IronDukeMap

IronDuke

WildJesterLogo1WhiteBackground-20percent

An Announcement

For those of you who’ve been wondering when I’d next have something out…

Wild Jester Press is pleased to announce that it will be publishing the next novel by English humour SF/F writer, Jonny Nexus. If Pigs Could Fly is the first book in the West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency series, featuring offbeat paranormal investigator Ravinder “Rav” Shah.

It will be published this summer, in both trade paperback and e-book (Kindle, iBooks, Nook and Kobo) formats.

Wild Jester Press will also be publishing a new edition of Jonny’s previous, ENnie-nominated novel, Game Night.

About Jonny Nexus

Jonny Nexus began his writing career in the table-top roleplaying field, with his cult gaming webzine Critical Miss. This led to monthly columns in the roleplaying magazines Valkyrie and Signs & Portents, and the publication by Mongoose Publishing of his parody gaming guide, The Slayer’s Guide to Games Masters.

His debut novel Game Night, the tale of a dysfunctional group of roleplaying gods, was nominated/shortlisted for an ENnie award.

Further information can be found at Jonny’s website: http://www.jonnynexus.com.

About Wild Jester Press

Wild Jester Press is a new small-press publishing house based in Brighton. Its target market is genre works (science-fiction and fantasy) with a generally humorous slant.

Further information can be found at the Wild Jester Press website: http://www.wildjesterpress.com.

http://wildjesterpress.com/announcement/jonny-nexus-if-pigs-could-fly/

English is Stupid #1

One of the “charming eccentricities” of the English language is the way that verbs can be irregular. Regular verbs can be changed from present to past tense by adding “ed” to them. Lift, becomes lifted, kill becomes killed, and so on. But with irregular verbs, it’s pretty much anything goes. Sometimes, the vowel within the word changes. I run, I ran. I dig, I dug. I shit. I shat1.

And then there’s the bits where English goes totally off-piste. I go, I… went? And then you get the even more complicated bits when you take into account past simple and past participle2, such as sing, sang, sung. A linguist who’s studied the roots of English could no doubt tell you why this is, but I alas, am not such a linguist3.

But I recently came across a wonderful word where English doubles up on its stupidity. Imagine that the following past tense passage needs to be converted to present tense:

“I lift the pen. I write some words. I read the words.”

It would become:

“I lifted the pen. I wrote some worlds. I read the words.”

So that’s regular, irregular, and yes, irregular. Because read, pronounced “reed”, and read, pronounced “red”, are two words as different as lead and led, with the exact same change of vowel sound.

They’re just spelt the same way. Which is really, really stupid.

* * * * *

If you have any other examples, I’d love to hear them. And to the polyglots among you: English can’t be alone here, right? Do other languages display similar stupidity? And are there languages that aren’t similarly stupid, that actually appear to have some sort of overall design philosophy?

1There might be some who would claim that shit is a regular verb, and the the past tense of “shit” is “shitted”, as in “I shitted myself.” To them I can only say that sir you are an uncouth barbarian who does not deserve to be allowed near my language, and I will fight your dismissal of “shat” in favour of the abominable “shitted” with every fibre of my Anglo-Saxon soul for as long as fate allows me to live. Leave sir, and do not return.

2No, I don’t actually know what that is either. Given that I’m a product of the English education system between 1973 and 1987, at a time when “pupil centred learning” was at its height, my formal knowledge of grammar doesn’t go much beyond verbs being “doing words”.

3Like most of my fellow countryman, I am – shamefully – a monoglot. I recently spent a week in Istanbul, during which I managed to learn a grand total of one Turkish word: “fish”, which is the Turkish for “receipt”. Yes, I was there on business.

Why Writing Doesn’t Always Work As A Hobby / Pastime

jonnytyping2-smImagine an artist who paints as a hobby. Every now and again – weekends, or holidays, perhaps – he’ll head off with his watercolours and find a spot and paint. He might sell some paintings; others he might give away as presents. He doesn’t feel like a failure. And no-one thinks of him as a failure.

Writing isn’t quite like that. It’s a creative art form, but there are a few key differences between it and other creative art forms that can make pursuing writing as a hobby somewhat challenging.1

DIFFERENCE ONE: THE CONSUMER CONSUMING

It takes only seconds to glance at a painting; only minutes at most to hang it on your wall. Different people might like different types of art, but generally a nice piece of art is a nice piece of art, especially if it’s an original to which you have a personal connection. You’re happy to put it up somewhere and look at it occasionally when you walk by.

A novel isn’t like that. If a friend gives you a copy of their novel to read, it’s often not a gift but an obligation, and not a blessing, but a curse. It takes several hours or more to read a novel. You have to concentrate. And if that novel hasn’t seized your imagination it’s going to feel like work, and unpleasant work at that.

DIFFERENCE TWO: THE CREATOR CREATING

An amateur writing novels as a hobby might only be able to manage one decent, edited book every two years; unless an artist is painting huge canvasses I’d hope they’d be able to produce paintings at a better rate than that, even as a hobby on top of a day job.

DIFFERENCE THREE: THE PUBLICATION MODELS

While art does have the concept of prints, limited edition or otherwise, the tradition is in originals. You paint a painting and then you sell it to someone. Sure, there might be a bloke out there who sells his paintings though Sotheby’s for £1 million, while you sell yours through a local gallery for £30, but you and he are doing the same thing – it’s just a difference of scale.

In novels (in all fiction come to that), it’s always worked in a very different manner (except for this guy, and what he was doing was so different from the norm that he became the subject of a series of piss-taking Internet memes and received a torrent of hate and abuse)2.

With text, it’s the content that’s the art, not the vessel within which it resides, and a piece’s worth is measured not by how much one person wishes to own the original, but by how many people value the work enough to wish to spend their time consuming a copy of it.

This is a point I think that many people miss when they talk about giving their fiction away for free, or for very small amounts of money. It’s not money that’s ultimately the barrier to someone reading your work: it’s the time and effort it will take for people to read it (i.e. difference #1 above).

A novel self-published at £0.99 a copy that sells only five copies isn’t a failure because only five people bought it; it’s a failure because only five people wanted to read it.3

This also changes how other’s opinions affect the creators view of the work. If you paint a painting and one of your friends likes it, and all your other friends hate it, then great – you give it to the friend who liked it. Only one person needs to like a painting – the person who ends up with it on their wall.

But it’s not enough for one single person to like a work of fiction. When you show your novel to a friend you’re not simply hoping for them to say they like it; you’re hoping that they will say that they think many other people will like it too.

WHAT THIS MEANS

What it means is that painting (or sculpting, or freeze drying dog turds you found on the street and arranged into stick figures, or whatever the hell it is that floats your visual artistic boat) works better as a hobby than writing does. A hobbyist artist can spend some enjoyable free time painting paintings and then get the satisfaction of seeing other people enjoy viewing those paintings, and perhaps even displaying them in their homes.

By contrast, a hobbyist writer typically spends their time writing stories that might never get read, or if they do get read (by friends and family, as beta readers, perhaps) will be done in circumstances that amount to the reader doing the writer a favour. Its not “Here’s a copy of a novel I wrote for you as a present for your birthday.” It’s: “Could you do me a favour by reading my novel and telling me what you think?”

When judged by contemporary expectations and standards, the default is to judge amateur/hobbyist artists as successful but judge amateur/hobbyist writers as failures. The former is an artist whose works are found in various homes; the latter is an unpublished writer, who is yet to have a work published. Friends and family don’t generally ask to read your novel; they instead ask how your writing is going, which often amounts to asking if you’ve found a publisher or an agent yet.4

Imagine an artist spending evenings and weekends painting paintings that no-one ever sees, all part of some big series of paintings. Each month they finish a painting and put it in a stack with the other paintings. Then after two years maybe, they take the paintings round various galleries, but each gallery owner simply shakes his or her head, sadly, and tells them that it’s not what the market is looking for. So they put the paintings in the attic and start painting more paintings, more paintings that are probably destined to never be viewed. That’s not how it works with art.

But it is how it often works with writing.

SELF PUBLISHING

An obvious point some might raise at this point is the possibility of self-publishing. But I think that’s a non sequitur. Self-publishing doesn’t eliminate any of the three differences I outlined above; it just shifts the responsibility of surmounting them onto you.

IS THAT IT? I’M INTO WRITING. SHOULD I TOP MYSELF NOW?

CoverPlain-Text-MonoWell firstly, no, you shouldn’t top yourself now. I think what it really means is that when it comes to writing you have two choices: you can treat writing a career you’d like to aspire to (albeit, a part-time career you will do in addition to your day job); or you can treat it as a hobby. And then plan how you’re going to go about it accordingly.

In my case, for now, for the moment – given that I’m at a particularly busy period in my life – I’ve decided to treat it as a hobby4. So I’m now writing Selene, an episodic SF/urban fantasy/alternate history story set on the Moon (explanatory blog post, actual story), and publishing it as I write it, in instalments, on Wattpad. Wattpad is sort of a publishing platform combined with a social media platform. It allows people to follow you, both via the website, or via an app on their phones, and then get an alert each time you publish a new instalment.

If you just want to write for fun, for your friends, as though you were spinning anecdotes by the fire, then I’d recommend checking Wattpad out. (But in true BBC fashion, I’m sure that other social media styled, authoring platforms are available). But of course, as they say on the Net, YMMV (Your Milage May Vary)6.

1This entire blog post is the result of a conversation with my friend Warren, in which he pointed out the differences between writing and other art forms. So the credit for the actual idea should go to him.

2I think his story really illustrates the difference between written and visual art forms. Every city centre tourist spot in the world has street artists offering to do a one-off, custom sketch for a moderate fee. No-one bats an eyelid at that. Make the same offer, but for a written piece, and you’re treated an eccentric curiosity at best, and a freak to be hated at worst.

3I am making a value judgement here that a story that no-one reads counts as a failure. Some might argue that they write purely for pleasure, and get that pleasure even from a story that no-one other than they will ever read. If so, that’s great. But I think most writers get their pleasure from storytelling, and it is rather hard to tell a story if there’s no-one to tell it to. No-one ever told stories around a campfire at which they were the only person sat.

4I should stress that it’s lovely that people take an interest. But one of my intentions in writing this post is to explain to non-writers how writing can feel from the other side, which is why I’m pointing out this difference.

5That I’m treating writing as a hobby doesn’t mean that I don’t think I’m any good, or that I don’t care about what I write. Several years ago I had a novel published (it’s wasn’t technically self-published, but it was down to me to sell/market it) which has now sold around two thousand copies in paperback and a few hundred in ebook, got a load of good reviews, and got nominated for an ENnie award. So I’d like to think I can write a bit.

6i.e. What works for me might not work for you.

Introducing Selene

CoverPlain-Text-MonoFor as long as men had looked up at the heavens, the Moon had been a dead world of desert-dry dust set beneath a windless void. On the 5th February 1971 that changed, utterly. When men of today look into the night sky they see a blue-green marble wreathed in clouds, the greatest enigma in the whole of human history.

Jason Duke came to the Moon in search of the truths behind that enigma, but found only betrayal and disappointment. Now the man responsible for the Moon’s transformation is dead, and it’s Duke’s job to find out why.

[Click here to read the first instalment, straight away.]

What’s Selene? Well if I was going to get all technical, I’d say that it’s an episodic science-fiction / urban fantasy story that I’ll be serially publishing in instalments, in the hope that by doing so I’ll be able to interact with the reader like a surfer interacts with a wave. I’ll be getting immediate feedback, which I can then feed back into the story. This isn’t a user-directed plot, but if enough people say they like a certain element, it might start to work a bit like that.

If I’m not getting technical? Well all of the above is true, but I really just want to have some fun writing. I want to write as a hobby in the same way that other people paint, or make pots, or weave things. They do it for fun and give the results to their friends, and for the moment, right here and now, that’s what I want to do. I’m not necessarily giving up on the conventional writing path, but for now I’m just looking to enjoy the process of creating a story1.

I should stress that this isn’t a good way to write a novel, although I should equally stress that Selene isn’t a novel. If you want to write a good novel then you’ll want to go away and spend a couple of years on it, working through several drafts, cutting, refining, polishing. You’ll probably want to plan it all out in advance, too.

I’m not doing that. I’m heading out into plots largely unknown2, just as I would if I was running a roleplaying game for my friends (with an RPG, there’s no point planning the plot too far ahead, because that’s practically an invitation to your players to instead head off in the opposite direction). It won’t be a story designed to be read in one sitting. Instead, it’s written as bite-sized chunks that will hopefully unfold over the months in a satisfying manner.

I’ll be using a platform called Wattpad, which you can access via either a website or by an app on your phone. If you use the phone app, add Selene to your library, and allow the app to use Push Notifications, you’ll get an alert (like when you get a text message) each time I publish a new instalment (which should be once or twice a week).

Here’s the first instalment of the story. Hope you like it.

[Selene – the first instalment]

1I do have a draft post written about how writing compares as a hobby to other creative pursuits, but it’s a bit negative and depressing, so I thought I’d get Selene going before I post that piece (i.e. demonstrate my proposed solution before I outline the problem).

2It’s also a bit more like an ongoing TV or comic series, where the writers are only ever a few episodes or issues ahead of their broadcast or publication schedule.

The New Hero Kickstarter Edition Is Out

NewHeroIt’s been a little while since Stone Skin Press kickstarted the New Hero, their short story anthology featuring my Pete Stone story, a fair while since the cover was revealed, and an even longer time since I  revealed my part in it. Now, finally, the Kickstarter edition is out, and I’m very, very chuffed. My Kickstarter package came today (from Leisure Games) and it also included a bonus sampler of four stories plus an Aesop print.

It’s very cool to think that in a space of a few days, a couple of hundred people are going to be getting a book with my story in it. And according to its Amazon page, as from 11th April, the book will be available on general release.

It features stories by Ed Greenwood, Adam Marek, Richard Dansky, Monte Cook, Julia Bond Ellingboe, Kyla Ward, Jeff Tidball, Maurice Broaddus, Graeme Davis, Monica Valentinelli, Kenneth Hite, Chuck Wendig and Alexandra & Peter Freeman.

I can’t wait to hear what people think of the book, and my story in particular. Assuming they like it, of course!

An Evening With Brighton’s Beach Hut Writers

I was just about to write that yesterday evening, I found myself at the Waterstones in Brighton to witness the launch event of Beach Hut Writers, a new Brighton based authors’ group. But I won’t, because to do so would be to use the lazy, throw-away language that – among other things – the authors giving the talk were trying to educate the audience out of.

I didn’t “find” myself there; I’d booked a ticket some weeks beforehand having found out about it via Facebook from my friend Mark Barrowcliffe (a.k.a. M.D. Lachlan, a.k.a. Mark Alder), who is one of the members, and was one of yesterday’s speakers.

So instead, I’m going to try again, with a first line that incorporates two (count them!) of the pieces of advice given out yesterday. Here goes!

* * * * *

The mood in the Waterstone’s third-floor Costa outlet was dark and ugly, and the dead Slovak lying on the floor with a wine stain on one side of his chest and a bullet hole in the other wasn’t much helping.

It is possible that I might have misunderstood what they were saying.

Hm. Let’s try again.

* * * * *

The title of the event was “The writer’s journey to publication: an evening with Brighton’s bestselling authors”. It had drawn a crowd that was both impressive and depressing: impressive in its size, given that this was a new group in a provincial town; and depressing given that it once again demonstrates just how many people are attempting to break into writing.

(As always, I’m reminded of the fact that while there are no magazines in WH Smiths covering roleplaying, there are two – Writing Magazine and Writers’ Monthly – covering the craft of writing, meaning that as hobbies go, “Wanting to be an Author” is a far more popular and mass-market pastime than “Playing Dungeons & Dragons”).

I’ve been to quite a few of these sorts of things, enough to know that in the end it mainly boils down to: “The odds on getting a book published are very, very small, so you’ll need to work very, very hard to make your book the best it can possibly be; but if you’re prepared and able to do that, you’ll find that your odds of getting published are now actually quite good.”

So there wasn’t much new in what was said for me. But what I can say is that it was probably the best such talk I’ve been to, as it managed to pack pretty much everything I’ve got from five years of such talks into one evening, starting with the classic lesson of “Show, Don’t Tell”, and going right through to handling bad reviews after you get published.

As a totally irrelevant, and frankly self-indulgent aside, when “Show, Don’t Tell” was being explained a line appeared in my brain that is either a pithy way of explaining it, or sick. I’m not sure which. It is:

Don’t tell your readers that a character is a violent misogynist; instead show them, by having him punch his wife in the face.

Probably sick. Oh well. It’s a good job I don’t do one of those blogs where aspiring, and as yet unpublished, authors try to pretend they already are authors by dispensing lots of writing advice. (That wasn’t a joke, by the way – I’m genuinely trying to not do anything like that).

Although the group boasts more than forty members, there were seven of them lined up on the table in front of us, in the manner (as they pointed out), of a police press conference about a missing child. If I was any sort of journalist I’d have thought to have taken a picture of them. But I’m not, and I didn’t. (On the plus side, I think I am a pretty good computer programmer – yeh me!)

According to the blurb I’ve just googled, the seven authors were:

Sarah Rayner, Simon Toyne, M.D. Lachlan, Julia Crouch, Kate Harrison and Emlyn Rees

The three of you who are still reading might at this point have noticed that there are only six names on this list. Well there’s not a lot I can do about it now, because I didn’t take any notes, and I can’t remember the names. Again, I really am quite a good computer programmer.

One of the four women, whose name I’m sorry to say now escapes me, chaired, and the other six panelists then gave a series of talks, each one covering one aspect of the process:

  • Writing the manuscript.
  • Genre.
  • Finding an agent (Simon).
  • Getting a publisher to take on the manuscript (Emlyn).
  • Rewriting.
  • Dealing with criticism (Mark).

It’s at this juncture that I realise with horror that I can remember which bloke did what subject, but have no idea with the women. I’d like to say that it’s because there were four women and only three men, and one of those three men was a mate of mine, but I fear the answer is more rooted in the latent, but still extreme, sexism in which we are raised and its resulting effects on our thoughts and memories. Personally, I blame society. And the fact that I didn’t take notes1.

But all the six talks were genuinely good: all informative, all entertaining. It was especially heartening to hear several of the participants describe just how much rewriting they’d to do of their novels before they were published. A hybrid composite of what several of them said might be: “I worked on it again and again until it was perfect. Then I managed to get an agent and he/she told me everything that was wrong with it. We broke it down and put it back together again and it was brilliant, much better. Then we got a publisher, and they told us everything that was still wrong with it. So we broke it down again and put it back together. And now it’s so, so much better than it was, and I’m so relieved I didn’t lose faith back then and self-publish what I now realise was a far inferior work.”

But having said that it was largely confirming advice I’ve heard at previous such events, there was one “new” thing which made me pause, think, and ultimately convince me to change tack in one critical area. Several of the participants made mention of “100,000 words”. Now they weren’t stating that as a minimum length of a novel. Instead, they were using it more as a shorthand, as in, “Okay so you’ve bashed out 100,000 words and you think that’s your novel finished, but in fact, you’ve only just started.”

But it got me thinking, because I’m just coming to the end of a reasonably stiff pruning draft of my current work in progress (5th draft, for anyone who’s counting), at the end of which it will have shrunk to around 80,000 words. I collared Mark at the end, and asked him what he thought the minimum length of a piece of general fiction was. His answer was, “80,000 words, but if you’ve got 90, that’s a novel”.

Thing is, when I start submitting again to agents, I want my novel to be the best I can make it. (Although I say that knowing that they’ll help me take it apart and make it even better). I don’t want to go in with a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that it’s a bit lacking in length. I certainly don’t want to put a figure of 80,000 words on my covering letter if that’s a figure that might give them negative thoughts before they’ve even read my first line.

Luckily, I think there’s a natural point in my plot – where obscure Clue A leads them to Man B – where I can seamlessly insert more storyline in. So like the makers of the R101, I’m going to cut it in half and stuff an extra gasbag in.

Here’s hoping that’s not an omen.

1I know that 15 minutes on Google would probably enable me to track everyone down and probably work out who did which bit, but I: a) wrote this on train coming in to work; and am b) posting it in something of a hurry during my lunch break. And I figure it’s probably funnier and more honest to leave it as I wrote it. But I would like to stress that absolutely no offense is intended, and I’m sincerely hoping that none will be caused.

I Have It

As of last night, I now have a copy (ARC) of The New Hero. And as you can see, I was so happy my eyes started glowing red. Sorry about that. I try to keep control, but sometimes I just lose it. Luckily, no-one got hurt and there was no damage save to a small patch of now slightly browned wall.

I also picked up Stone Skin Press’s second book, Shotguns v. Cthulhu, and got it signed by Steve Dempsey, who has a story in it.

The Best Bit About Tomorrow’s New Hero Launch…

…is that I’ll hopefully get to see the New Hero’s rather nifty cover in print for the first time, with my guy Pete Stone right there on the cover. (Launch is Wednesday 20th June at the London Book Club, doors open 7 pm for 7:30 pm start, [details]).

New Hero Launch at The London Book Club – 20th June

Stone Skin Press is a new British publishing house from the guys behind the very cool RPG publishers Pelgrane Press. In their own words:

Where genre meets literature, where geek culture meets the mainstream, there is Stone Skin Press. With a series of literary anthologies to challenge the boundaries between genres and creative scenes, Stone Skin gathers together writers from such disparate fields as gaming, literary fiction, F/SF, film, YA, comics, and podcasting. Its eclectic author rosters bring colliding perspectives to bear on themes that combine the classic with the surprising.

The first of these anthologies, The New Hero, features a short story by myself, set in an alternate 1988 in which Royal Space Force Space Lieutenant Pete Stone defends the United Kingdom’s new Solar empire in a Cold War that stretches from the frozen moons of Saturn to the burning rock of Mercury. (I previously blogged about this in a little more detail here).

I loved writing the story, and found working with the anthology’s editor, Robin Laws, incredibly rewarding. I’ve been really looking forward to the release of the anthology, so I’m delighted now to announce Stone Skin Press have just announced that they’ll be launching a preview edition of the book.

Here’s what their announcement said:

To celebrate International Short Story Day on Wednesday 20th June, we’ll be launching a preview edition of The New Hero at The London Book Club with Comma Press. Stone Skin Press writers Adam Marek and Janqui Mehta will be there to read from The Lion and The Aardvark, as well as other readings and short films. It’s free, and we’d love to meet you. Read more about the event.

Wednesday 20th June

The Book Club, 100 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4RH

Doors open 7pm, event starts 7.30pm

Free entry

Contact the venue at info@wearetbc.com or on 020 7684 8618.

For more information on International Short Story day, visit the website, or download the press release.

http://www.stoneskinpress.com/?p=106

I’m planning on attending. Would love to meet some of you guys there.

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