Thursday, 3 April 2014

One, two, free.

Of all the words guaranteed to fire a writer up, few inspire as much passion, controversy and vitriol as the word free*. Many writers, starting out, are happy (or, at least, prepared) to allow their work to appear for gratis. There are some valid reasons for wanting to do it: gaining a publication byline, gaining a link / pdf for your portfolio, or gaining feedback, to name but three.

Critics argue that everyone deserves to be paid for their time and their labour, often bringing out the time-honoured plumber analogy.

I've been vocal in the past about the perils of writing for nothing, unscrupulous editors who exploit desperate writers and competitions where the rules insist that all entrants give up first rights to their submission, even if they don't make it to the final.

By way of balance, I should point out that I've written material for royalties that only existed in principle and never materialised in my bank account. I've also willingly written and edited for free because I wanted to help out or the cause / publication / website interested me.

The thing is, much as it pains me to say it, I've started to realise how much all writers rely on free stuff.

I use online news gathering services and websites to source topical material for gags and sketches. Similarly, Youtube and websites for lyrics enable me to create parody songs for performance. The web is also a brilliant research tool when I'm checking facts for articles and features (not just Wiki, honest!).

When I'm not listening to old radio progs on BBC iPlayer, I tend to go for either Beatles Radio or one of the Live365 stations.

Need some writing advice? There's a ton of it out there. I regularly read tips, links and content from Sophie Lizard, Jon Morrow, Gary Smailes, Mark Silver and others.

Looking for free information about paid writing gigs? Craigslist has been good to me.

Fancy a little distraction? How about a few games of pool on Miniclip?

And let's not forget a few of the essentials for jobbing writers - Skype, Dropbox, Webmail, Blogs and all those free apps.

Of course, as you'll have surmised, some services and information are given freely as an incentive to sign up for a more comprehensive version. I think that's fair enough. It's the closest you'll get to a free lunch.

So, free or not free - what's the verdict?

Everything may be black and white on the page, but trust me, off the page, it's a lot more colourful.

* Okay, maybe plagiarism - I'll give you that.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Who? What? Where? Wye!

This writing business will be the death of us.

Even out of season, Hay-on-Wye is the Shangri-La of book lovers and writers. Here, it is unusual to see someone who isn't reading, or carrying books around (possibly for effect - Jack Kerouac man, you know who you are). There are also numerous others, scribbling feverishly into their notepads (the paper kind), lifting their heads momentarily to snatch at inspiration as it does a runner down Lion Street. Judging by the clientele seen in the cafes, if the town isn't sponsored by The Guardian it's missing a trick.

There is competition among the bookshops, certainly, but there is also a sense of community. Collectively, they are greater than he sum of their shelves. Everyone knows why they're here - books - and that somehow gives the place a sense of tranquility. It's probably helped by some shops flying the anti-technology banner and proudly proclaiming, 'Kindles are banned here.'

To be honest, being confronted by so many books and bookshops is overwhelming. There's a part of me that wondered what the point is of writing books, when this deluge of literature already exists. And yet, there's also a poetry and magic about seeing books I have known and loved, at different points in my life, still up on the shelves for others to enjoy. Those treasured titles are time capsules for me, drawing me back not only to the book itself, but to all the personal circumstances surrounding it as well - who recommended or gave it to me, what was going on in my life at the time, and what my emotional experience of the book was (and is now). My elegant commentary aside, there are a lot of crap books there too.

Facing the sheer volume of new and used books, as we wandered from shop to shop, is also strangely liberating. If any of my books make it to print  - and I do mean print - I hope they will one day find their way to a dusty shelf where an inquisitive reader might discover them. And if I happen to be giving a talk at Hay-on-Wye, about the launch of my eighth consecutive bestseller, so much the better. (Second would be fine, at this point, along with the bargain bucket.)

Hay-on-Wye reminds writers that there really is room for everyone is the book is well-written and has the courage of the author's convictions. Not everyone will get your book, and that's the way it's supposed to be.

I particularly loved Richard Booth's Bookshop, with its tiled exterior, its interior head-butting cat, the lovely wide staircase and the library-like high ceilings. My favourite bookshop, however, was Murder and Mayhem. For me, it epitomises what I love about good writing - whatever the genre: distinctive, true to its genre and unapologetically enthusiastic about it as well.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Art of the Matter

Arizona by Seshu Kiran GS, used with permission of the artist.  

What is creativity?  

Is it taking an abstract idea and crystallising it into something tangible?

And should the process of creativity also have an impact on the practitioner as 
well as the reader / viewer / listener / purchaser? 

On the face of it, writers deal in words and are distinct from artists. 

And yet... 

Many of those stages and challenges are the same. 

Here, in his own words, Seshu Kiran GS - an artist living in Los Angeles - gives an insight into his process, his beautiful paintings, and how he expresses himself on the canvas. 

1. What was it that originally drew you to painting? 

That is a bit of tough question! But yes, as a child, I was imaginative and used to draw a lot. Watercolors and color pencils happened to me when I was in fourth grade. I used to love my exploring my imagination and I was captivated by the visual elements around me. 

2. Do your works have an emotional element or story to them, whether it's apparent in the work for something personal for you in their creation? 

In terms of emotional element and story, both are important. As I always say, I derive my inspiration not just from visual reality around me, but also travels, stories, movies, etc. Most of the landscape paintings that I do these days are of an emotional element, expressed through color, texture and form! It's a struggle before a painting is born!

Having a personal experience is not always the necessary start point for a painting, but yes it is an added advantage. Most of my paintings are from my imagination without a photographic reference.

I have always seen a pattern of colors that I choose from based on emotions!! There is some connection there!!

3. Are you artistically inspired by literature? 

Maybe there is an overlap of influence and philosophy. Literature is also an imaginative art,
where the writer undergoes a deep visual process and arranges what they see and experience into words, like a jewelry of precious stones!

Words, sentences and chapters, each beautiful at their own discreet level; from expression in sub-elements, to expression in the gross level. In a similar process, the same thing happens in painting, from sub-elements to the entirety!

It sounds an atypical combination. I don't know if I actually derive inspiration from their works, but I enjoy the writing of Emerson and Thoreau, and both Hemingway and Rand for the process. 

Each distinctly stood not just on a fictitious cajolery of words, but gifted us their own philosophies and chiseled a character of freedom in this land and elsewhere. Conformists like Paul Krugman downplay the importance of their philosophy, but it is still relevant in these days!

I have yet to encounter that post-modern figure that I could find a spark from. Because these days, post-modern and progressive types thrive by shutting down your rational apparatus and subtly demanding and chaining peer conformity! 

4. How do you define your work?

I am a sauntering child amused at various things. I welcome you to share my joy, and my world, with a big smile!!

5. When you exhibit, do you offer a descriptive explanation of what the work is 

In my personal experience, when most viewers stop at my painting, they look into it. And they stare for quite some time and they smile! Actually they engage with that image. That is the best reward I could ask for and I always appreciate it.

The next thing they do is look at me, and then I start to explain the background of that painting. Sometimes I even miss out the title of the painting and it sells untitled! Most of my buyers say that my paintings have a distinct and strong presence.

When you are in a beautiful place, the experience and the conversation happening inside you is your own! It is invaluable. Similarly when a viewer is 'inside' my painting, I don't want to overpower their imagination and experience with mine. 

6. Do you start with form or flow? 

That's a brilliant question! Actually a tough one again! Sometimes, I don't have time even to title my work! I feel it's a nice thing to happen. For me, grabbing that flow of emotion and quickly putting it on canvas is important.

Form and flow are intertwined. Form without flow is mundane. And flow without form is directionless. May be are they like Yin-Yang? Or the triangles in star of David?!! The counter-nature is always trying to throw you out of balance. It's our challenge, as artists, to stay in balance to counter it!

7. How has your creative process evolved and in which ways has it changed 
over time? 

Yes. I am constantly learning and implementing. I have a lot of learning to do on a daily basis, which keeps me busy. One day, I pick composition and the next day I may be drawn to human anatomy. Colors always surprise me and delight me in different ways. 

Also, I can say, I was always drawn to realism. It is not just about representing forms, but a mood, unity and meaning that I can create. The process of realism respects facts. And takes artistic liberties around that fulcrum. I can't paint clouds in green unless it means something even in its abstract sense. 

With respect to technique and implementation, I keep learning from other artists, both living and deceased. I like the aptness and joy in Norman Rockwell's paintings. I like the Italian master, Dario Campanile, who painted that Paramount Pictures' mountain! I've had the privilege to have met him and I talked to him at his show in Newport Beach.

Some of Seshu Kiran's work can be seen on his Facebook page 

He is currently exhibiting his artwork in and around Los Angeles.

Friday, 7 March 2014

A critical mass

The purps of being a wallflower.
In the last seven days I've had three really useful pieces of feedback. Okay, you could call them criticisms - as if that were necessarily a bad thing - but that wouldn't do them justice or reveal their true value.

Allow me to elaborate...

I talked before about how writers largely exist in a vacuum. Feedback, of whatever shade, can be our window on the outer world - that strange and mysterious place filled with inspiration and readers. Feedback can also be our guiding light and compass.

Here are three pieces of feedback I received this week.

1. A magazine editor contacted me to tell me that the piece I'd submitted didn't flow very well. 
She added that the first two paras tied up with the last, but it’s a while before the reader gets there by which time they’ve forgotten the beginning.  She also suggested it'd be better to start with the third para, and identified an inconsistency in the tenses I'd used.

How did I feel?

Delighted and humbled. An editor who's this engaged in the quality of your work is worth her weight in gold.

2. I pitched to a careers site and offered them a humorous piece. I wrote and submitted the article soon after, accompanied by an image of a tiny oak sapling - great oaks from small acorns grow

This is their verbatim response: This article has been rejected for the following reasons: - The article image is completely irrelevant. - The article content is too just a bit too ridiculous. No job candidate is going to say these things in an interview. This article cannot be resubmitted for review.

How did I feel?

Awkward - like the time I tried doing five minutes of stand-up at a comedy writers' convention (I lasted four and a half minutes, but at least 30 seconds of that was down to heckling). I wrote to them explaining the relevance of the oak tree image and explained that humour is very subjective. I won't be submitting material there again, but only because we're clearly not on the same wavelength. That aside, it's a great website.

3. I checked my books on Amazon to see if there were any new reviews. Turns out there was, for Covenant, with a score of two out of five: 'Downloaded it to my kindle but found it really wasn't my kind of book. Nothing wrong with the prose - the story just doesn't float my boat.'

How did I feel?

Disappointed. My average has been scuppered somewhat (note the well-chosen boating reference), simply because they didn't love it and not because they hated it.

And the lesson?

All feedback is useful because it tells you something, even if it's about the other person rather than your work. You can only write as well as possible and see what the tide brings in.  These days, everyone is a critic, and maybe that's a good thing in certain circumstances.

That brings me to our second feature. I recently watched a film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky. I really enjoyed the film and, as always, I enjoy checking out the special features: deleted scenes, trailers, etc. I'm always curious about what doesn't get into the final cut and how the balance might have been changed if those other scenes had been included. The other layer of interest, this time, was that Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay himself. So, naturally, I nipped over to some book sites that offered reviews of the original debut paperback.

It's a book that polarises readers and draws fierce praise and equally fierce criticism. Some critics rally against the cult status that Wallflower has acquired (much like Catcher in the Rye, which some of the critics preferred), but their passion is interesting. Unlike my reviewer above, they really felt something about Wallflower and maybe that's the greatest testament to a piece of writing. Love it or hate it, if the story moves you, it's probably got something.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Story time

An early form of tablet, which wasn't very portable.

As the old joke* goes, "What's the difference between a short story and a novel?" Answer: The word count. Ask any creator of short fiction and they will tell you how much focus and effort and, well, creativity it takes to produce a work of short fiction that still manages to tick most the essentials off this list:

- Engage the reader and draw them into the story.
- Eliminate waste and distraction.
- Remove the author from the equation.
- Give the reader a satisfying ending that will still leave them wanting more.

In my novel, Scars & Stripes, Alex is walking down a street in the St Mark's district of Manhattan when he sees a sign on a window: What's Your Story? Led by curiosity, Alex winds up in an apartment where a bespectacled dude is hunched over a typewriter (it was the 1980s), working on a collection of other people's stories. For the sci-fi aficionados among you, this could almost be Alex's future or parallel self. It could, if it was that sort of novel.

Arguably, that scene is a metaphor for one of the novel's central premises - Alex is one of life's observers, but he also remembers small things that other people forget. The novel, and therefore Alex's story, is actually filled with the stories of other people he encounters. In the scene I mention above, Alex sells some of his real life stories (albeit fictionalised by bias and ego) to the writer who then creates something new out of them for a magazine. Ironically, Alex encounters one of those magazines, further down the line, and barely recognises his own history in there.

We're all enthralled and enchanted by stories from an early age. The structure of fairy tales and traditional bedtime stories has been pawed over by mythologists and experts to reveal common threads and forms. I've also mentioned, elsewhere on this blog, how researchers like Joseph Campbell identified commonalities found in the mythologies of different and unconnected cultures.

Like many other writers, I do read online reviews of other people's work and I'm struck how often the critics denounce the typos and grammar, or the two-dimsnional characterisation, and how rarely they turn their attention to the actual story itself. It seems to me that if the story engages the reader and captivates them, even if the writing was deemed below par, the author as on to something. 

I'd argue that stories are a rich and vital part of our psyche, individually and collectively. Stories makes us feel, consider, react and yearn. Whether it's in a theatre, at a cinema, watching the soaps or Jeremy Kyle, or even reading a book (remember those?), stories bring us to life.

If you'd like to read some of my own short stories, here are some handy links:

The Silent Hills - a 5000 word tale of suspense and revelation.
Coffee Shop Chronicles - an anthology containing my story, Diner
Beyond the Horizon - an anthology containing my sci-fi story, Rogue.
Kissing Frankenstein - an anthology containing several of my really short stories.  

Saturday Night - a little slice of Americana for free (partly inspired by Raymond Carver).

*It wasn't an old joke - I made it up. Feel free to quote me on it.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Seven Painful Truths About Social Media

Best foot forward.

A Public Service Announcement

If you write books, you need to reach an audience. Preferably, one with a voracious reading habit and plenty of spare cash. After you've exhausted your relatives and friends (literally, in some cases), the internet seems to glimmer like a golden gateway to prosperity, success and authorial fulfilment. Hold that thought. Why don't you sit down? There are some things you need to know.

1. People will follow you on Twitter, so, naturally, you follow them back. And the dead of the night...they unfollow you. It's like the kid at school who got you to share your sweets and then the next day they scoffed all of theirs without telling you. Sneaky.

However, there are online tools you can use, such as Tweepi, to decouple yourself from those finaglers (love that word!). Also, don't follow someone back without first checking what they're about. If you're trying to promote your writing, hot dates in your local area or I can get you 5000 followers for $15 probably doesn't reflect well on your creativity.

2. Many people may follow your blog (hurrah), and post comments (hurrah deux), just to lay a trail of breadcrumbs back to their own blog. This needn't be a bad thing if their blog interests you and / or you can add insightful or interesting comments on their blogs in return. However, that doesn't mean you have to accept every comment. Naturally, you've tweaked your settings to ensure you approve each comment before it's posted?

3. Facebook likes mean nothing. Okay, you might get a brief and warm tingly feeling, but if you're plugging a book - preferably on its own Facebook page, by the way - what you really want people to do is share your post and preface it with a comment of their own. 

You could use a tool like Networked blogs, although, in the interests of balance, not everyone agrees.

4. You can't be everywhere at once, all the time. Or, indeed, at any time. Experiment with social media, see what works and what's fun (which may not be the same thing), and keep in mind why you're using social media in the first place.

5. Once you have a prominent and active social media profile - one which hopefully brings your books to a wider and appreciative audience - your relationship with your audience will change. 

Ideally, any questions you're asked about your work will form the basis of further posts, allowing you to engage with your readers and supporters in, if not real time, then something fairly close to it. Just as, by definition, you can't have a dozen BFFs, you should not expect - or lead others to expect - an intimate connection with too many of your readers.

6. There are so many social media platforms and tools that it's scary. If you think I'm exaggerating, here's a handy list. A little discernment goes a long way.

7. Social media can cloud your judgement and waste your time. You can easily spend valuable writing time chasing popularity, joining other platforms because A N Other invited you and you don't want to disappoint them, and repeating everything you've already said on another platform just because the new platform is hip. (People still say 'hip', right?) 

If you're a writer, your first loyalty is to your work, so keep that in mind when you choose to do anything else on your computer. Your time and focus are finite. Meantime, social media is a 24 days a day, 365 and a quarter days a year phenomenon. It's a carousel and only you can decide when it's right for you to get on and when you need to take a break from it all.

In conclusion, using social media can be a smexi move if you want to tap into a global market. It can also be a frustrating and disappointing experience if you dont ask yourself some important questions before you start:
a) Which platforms might be right for me?
b) How much time do I have - or want - to spend on social media.
c) Am I clear about what I want to say?
d) Who is my target audience? 

I've been Derek Thompson, freelance writer, and you've been a lovely audience. Now, about my books...

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Bonfire of my vanity

This may sting a bit...

Last year ended on a bit of a writing high for me. I felt as though my freelance business was extending its roots (granted, December was a slower month than the previous four, but hey, Christmas was coming), I was making headway with my work-in-progress, The Caretaker, and January was looking peachy. 

However, I've since discovered that January isn't the season for native soft fruit, although things have proved to be interesting.

One of my fellow authors at Musa Publishing discovered that pretty much all of Musa's books were being pirated - i.e. offered for free, without permission. That's a slap in the face, but the next kapow was learning that only one copy of one of my books had been downloaded. I know, I should be happy that my interests are not unduly compromised. I am, but viewed from another, albeit distorted perspective, this suggests that I literally can't give my books away. Now that I think about it, I also offered ten review ebooks of Covenant in January and only had one taker.

It would less than honest if I didn't also refer to my recent email tennis with a television producer who wanted comedy sketch samples, but who was less than forthcoming about rates and rights and whether, in fact, this was less of a golden opportunity and more of a rusty nail.

Add to the pile my most recent novel rejection, which concluded that they specialise in commercial fiction and have to be confident of significant sales - subtext: don't give up your day job, or, if you're writing full-time, get yourself a day job - and I find myself on the plateau of broken dreams and eating crisps. Let's face it, there are snacks for all occasions.

Now, I could - like the crisps - get eaten up by all the above and start to ponder whether the Universe has abandoned me and widdled on the fires of my literary dreams*. I might question whether my recent blog post about what a hell for writers would be like was just tempting fate. I could even question whether there is any such thing as fate (although I may be fated to do that, of course). Or I could just keep writing. 

It's tempting to see ourselves as the centre of our own universes, and that's necessary, to a degree, as part of the creative process. However, while writing is my life, it's an inner life and not indicative of anything going on around me. Creativity is, in part, a filtering process, and we can easily start to filter out the good stuff from our perception just because we're not getting the funfair ride we wanted. Other rides are available.

So, those metaphorical crisps taste a little of humble pie and vinegar at the moment. I could tell myself that 'not now doesn't mean not ever'. I could also remind myself - via an excellent and very funny essay by Johnny B Truant - that no one is forcing me to write, or indeed needs me to write. And, having reflected on what it is that drives me to write, I could get back to the stories still to be told and shared. 

Maybe I'll self-publish that novel further down the line. My friend, Sinclair Macleod, has successfully ploughed his own furrow. Maybe I'll find an agent or indie publisher somewhere out there, like Susie, Kath and Chloe have done. Heck, maybe I'll find a radio or film producer to bring it to life in some other way. (To any would-be dealmakers, Thursdays is my best day to get in touch.) 

My point is that even the experiences we'd rather avoid can be useful, to a writer. We are forced to regroup and ask ourselves the awkward but important questions. 

Does my view of myself as a writer change if I self-publish my work? 
(Actually, I'm bringing out some humour ebooks under my own banner, later this year, so that question only applies to my novels.)

Do I need to be any particular kind of writer to feel like a writer?

Will it stop me writing?

When you strip it all back, it's just you and the pen and the page. It's good to remember that, every once in a while.

* No dreams or ambitions were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

It's the pits

If Gustav Dore did photography.

According to Dante, the Great Inferno has nine circles (I checked on Wikipedia - such is my commitment to this blog). 

It's pretty standard fare: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. Notable residents, of interest to writers, apparently include Homer, Ovid, Lancelot and Guinevere.

Having detoured from that to the awesome artistry of Gustav Dore (have I mentioned that I've been into his work for decades?), I started to ponder what a Hell for writers would consist of.

Here are nine circles of hell that every writer will relate to, to some extent:

1. Writer's Block.
2. The first draft.
3. Editing.
4. Negative feedback.
5. Plagiarism.
6. Rejection.
7. Comparison.
8. Circumstance.
9. Neglect.

Writer's Block
You know you want to write, or even what you want to write. But every time you pick up a pen or face the keyboard, it's all white noise and a blank mind.

The first draft
It's like the muse's way of testing your commitment and stamina. That shitty first draft is a hard won treasure, a holey grail (plot holes, usually) you will overcome monsters and challenges to acquire. And it hurts almost every step of the way, especially at 10,000 words and at the halfway point.

This level of hell has a lot in common with house renovations. Go too far and all the character and charm that first attracted you is destroyed (or covered by MDF - it's the same thing). Too little effort applied, or not enough attention to detail, and the whole thing will look like a rush job. 

Negative feedback
It can mean different things to different writers. For some, it's anything short of high praise and the trumpeting of angels. For others, it's anything that's not actually constructive - i.e. the feedback gives you something to work with. I was recently told by a friend that the published version of my fantasy, Covenant, was much harder to get into than an earlier version. I was pleased with that because he went on to explain why. Any feedback that sounds like it has come put of the mouth of a petulant three year-old probably falls into this hellish category.

Three forms of this one come to mind. One: you inadvertently discover you've closely followed someone else's style, past the point of homage. Two: you've copied parts of the text or an entire plot. Three: someone has copied you. This can happen accidentally in writing groups.

Ah, the bee sting of every writer's existence. Submitting your work is an act of faith and courage. Rejection says that, on this occasion, you wasted your time. It does get easier with time, and these days at least you save on printing, paper and postage, but it's still a door being slammed in your face.

Mostly, this is a self-inflicted hell. You can research the ages that other famous authors either wrote or got a life-changing contract (or any contract!). You can also find out how well your friends are doing. And both Bookseller and The Author are great sources of potential discontent. If the question is, "Why me, Lord?" then the answer is surely, "Why not?" (And vice versa.) However, wherever you are on the writing continuum, someone is doing worse than you. Trust me.

This is a tricky one to define, but essentially it's obstacles and reverses that are totally outside your control. Think along the lines of 'my dog ate my homework' and you'll be getting close. Every writer knows someone with a vignette to share, even if it's a friend of a friend. My own, oft quoted tales of this nature relate to:
1. The editor who died before the contract could be signed (and the replacement editor who then rejected the book instead). A double-whammy of writer hells.
2. The indie publisher who went out of business just before my book was set for launch.
3. The publisher who asked for a full, only for me to find out it had been an over-enthusiastic intern and the package was returned to me two days later.

To my mind, this is the deepest, darkest circle of writerly hell. It's the not knowing and creeping back into the pit of your own self-doubt. It's the publisher who took over a year to respond, and the ones who never did. It's the agents and editors who replied 'very interested - send more', only to be too busy (even for an email) seven months later. And who, when chased, say their books are full for at least the next year. It's the bookshop that happily takes your samples and never calls you. 

Despite all those hellish pitfalls, redemption is available. It's simple, but it's not easy. 

You write until you finish. You edit diligently. You seek out meaningful feedback and you act on it. You target your submissions intelligently, and you don't put all your eggs in one basket. You accept that you're only in competition with yourself, and even then it's about how you grow as a writer. Perhaps, most importantly of all, you don't neglect yourself as a writer. You nurture yourself with inspiration, well-being and perspective. Remember, you're a writer - who said it was supposed to be easy?

Friday, 17 January 2014

Room for a Review

All writers love feedback. Granted, some of those early nuggets of insight may have stung like a somersault into a wasps' nest; and even some of the later, apparently well-meaning critiques were as welcome as a phone call to discuss your gas supplier when you're desperate to reach the loo.

But a review that gets the essence of your novel and still finds positive things to say about it to other people? Well, that's worth its weight in alchemist's gold.

This review for my magical fantasy, Covenant, is from Pentacle - The UK's leading Independent Pagan Magazine. In many ways it marks a milestone for my book and for me.

How so?

Well, it's a review in a respected magazine - with readers who would likely enjoy Covenant. It's also a golden opportunity (there's that metal again) to promote not only those all-important sales links, but Covenant as a contribution to the Western Mysteries.

More importantly, it allows me to stop and reflect back on the work that went into Covenant - both the crafting of the story and the characters,  over many years, and the design of the esoteric elements. 

Sometimes, in the rush to get started on the next book, especially if the previous book has been slow to reach its audience, we can become dismissive of our achievements. I feel fortunate indeed to have received recognition from one of my peers. It feel like a nod from the Unseen for continuing with the book over its many adventures (deceased editor, 15 month wait for a response, publisher going under, etc).

The review pretty much says everything that I would want to say about Covenant. Whatever else happens with the book, I can feel confident that my aim was true. (At least until someone hates it!)

In fairness, there are practical benefits to a review like this as well:

1. My local branch of Waterstones promised to get in some copies, so I can now contact them to make good on their word. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.
2. A couple of independent bookshops have offered to display copies of Covenant alongside the review.
3. I've already had emails and given away review copies. In fact, tell you what, to celebrate the mag review, I'll give a PDF review version to the first five people to email me on asabovesobelow(at), using the title: Covenant blog review.
4. I can add this review to my social media broadcasts.

Now, what was I saying about that next novel...