“There’s not a publisher in the world that’s a marketing company.”

The Creative Penn has published an interesting piece about the views of author Gary Vaynerchuk on the way authors should be marketing themselves, and one quote caught my eye:

he never even considered marketing to be the publisher’s job, that’s just not part of their relationship. His tone of voice suggested that he was kind of incredulous that anyone would consider publisher’s should do any marketing.

As the PR guy for four different imprints (one comics, one SF/fantasy/horror, one shared world SF/fantasy/post-apocalyptic, one YA) I do my absolute best to try and cover all of these angles, to get the book out there to bloggers and push every title members of the mainstream media, as well as alerting loyal Solarites, Abaddonites, Raveonstoners (?), and Earthlets (long story) – but that’s a LOT of ground to cover. It’s a hard slog sometimes but in such a war it’s always best to have allies. But the best ally I can have? Authors that have created and cultivated an audience – and in these days of online engagement that’s worth its weight in gold.

I’d draw your attention to Solaris past masters Lou Morgan and Gareth L. Powell, both of whom created and built their audience in slightly different ways. For Lou, she built hers by blogging, by being a member of the wider SFF community, by getting involved, by talking to people about the process and struggles of becoming a writer; thereby making a personal connection with her readers. Gareth did exactly the same things but when his new book for Solaris, Ack-Ack Macaque, featured a singular simian protagonist he created a fantastic personality on Twitter that interacted with its community and sold the book (after the success of the first book, #2 is out next month and he’s currently working on #3). Two different approaches, same outcome – an audience eager for more.

Yeah, in any genre you shouldn’t rely on a publisher to be the be-all-and-end-all of marketing; but I prefer to think of it as a team effort – from the writer to the PR guy to the editor to the publisher, we all have an interest in making great books. And readers only discover a great book if you tell them about it.

I interviewed Will Simpson, the guy who makes Game of Thrones look all pretty…

MEG 342 COVEROn shelves both physical and digital this week is issue 342 of the Judge Dredd Megazine, which contains my chunky interview with artist Will Simpson.

Will is best known to 2000 AD fans as the artist on Judge Dredd and War Machine, Dave Gibbons’ reboot of Rogue Trooper in the late ’80s/early ’90s. But since then he’s made a name for himself in movies and is now the concept designer/storyboarder for HBO’s adaptation of George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice. Which you may have heard of.

Here’s an extract:

‘Aw man, this is just my favourite space at the moment. I was asked to do some concept work way, way back at the beginning to help HBO make decisions about coming over here. Our producer Mark Huffam had got me in to do some work with the production designer.

‘So I’d worked on that stuff and gone on to work on Your Highness, not knowing we were going to get Game of Thrones, then Mark told me we’d got it. When the pilot was happening the beautiful thing for me was I got to design all the main weaponry the heroes were using, the big swords like Ice and Needle and Long Claw and Wolfhead, all of these things I got to design for the show. Also other incidental things like big carriages and some of the concept stuff about what the world might be like.

‘Then I did the storyboards for it – there was a whole completist approach to that which then carried itself into the first season where it was a bigger art team, I did less conceptual work but I did the designs for the White Walkers, probably one of the first paintings of the Godwood Tree, so there were all of things that had an influence on look of the show.

‘I’m really pleased about all of that, that’s a really cool position to be in.

There’s a lot more to the interview than just that – it also includes when Will made a fateful decision that included Ryvita and the time he was nearly blown up by the IRA.

Also in this issue is some fabulous work by Arthur Wyatt, Henry Flint, Rob Williams, D’Israeli, Alec Worley, Ben Willsher, Dan Abnett, and Colin MacNeil. Is good. Is nice. You should buy, yes?

Let go

You should learn to let go of things.

I have always struggled to deal with loss. Not change, you understand. Change I can deal with and have been dealing with since I was a child – we moved often as a family and since I left home at 18 I have rarely lived in one place for longer than two years, plus I have flipflopped between jobs and hobbies while also accepting that friends can come and go. No, change is not the problem. It’s dealing with the inevitable loss incurred by change that causes a problem.

When I was little, I watched an episode of the insipid children’s TV programme Rainbow in which one of the characters, the large fey bear called Bungle, had been given a helium-filled balloon as a gift. In an act of bravado, Bungle was letting go of the balloon and then catching it before it floated away. Naturally (this being kids’ TV in the ’80s) he eventually lost the balloon. The village in North Yorkshire where I did some of my growing up held an annual fair and one year my grandparents took my little sister and I along; during the day I was given a helium-filled balloon and, remembering the episode of Rainbow, I thought “Pfft, I’m not as stupid as Bungle” and promptly let go of the string.

What inevitably followed was: a lost balloon, admonishment from my grandfather, a tearful afternoon.

I mention this not to prove that my general level of common sense has not massively improved in the intervening 31 years (it hasn’t) but because every time I find myself unable to move on from a painful event I am reminded of that moment and of a small boy on a village green bawling his eyes out because he’s full of regret and the realisation that he’s an idiot. The memory crops up every time and the emotions from the recalling of it are as raw as ever.

I’m older now, but not entirely convinced I’m any wiser. Whenever I lose something or, more importantly, someone there’s still the same regret, there’s still that dawning realisation of what I’ve done, the same self-recrimination and blame. I’m 31  years older and I still need to learn to deal with it, to stop looking back and constantly kicking myself for being a pillock. How long do you carry those feelings with you until they begin to be all you feel?

I’ve made a lot of stupid decisions over the past 18 months. And I’m still counting the cost of losing some things I should never have misplaced.

But above all else I still need to learn how to let go and move on.

Happy birthday, dad (or: why my father is awesome)

Today, my father reaches the grand age of 67. Yes, he’s an April Fool’s Day baby. Yes, we remind him of this regularly…

3d6d2372288ad8afea74c0f5e890153f I had been contemplating what to get him as a present this year. For the record, I am a pretty rubbish gift choser; if I’m not able to buy someone a book (and there have been stretches where I’ve effectively been banned from buying my family any more books) then I’m pretty much at a loss. Dad’s been reading a lot recently, so this year’s gift presented me with great difficulty.

So rather than buy him another possession, I figured I would take the opportunity to tell everyone, and therefore him (there’s a URL for this post in his birthday card), about why he’s the best dad I could have hoped for.

There’s a host of memories of my dad that I could share with you (building forts out of cardboard boxes when we were kids, the day I graduated, the first time he took me on a walk to a stone circle in North Wales, attending the 24 hour race at Le Mans together for several years, his battle against the Pembrokeshire planning authorities that saw me end up in a windy field holding bamboo canes taped together to show the height of the proposed development, the time he told an entire church congregation off), but I’ll tell you about my favourite of them.

a3a2ab3ec3394f163661c3e551fad593After about 40 years of service, dad retired from his job as a Methodist minister two years ago. It’s a demanding job – you have to deal with everything from the emotional wellbeing of your congregation to the church finances – and it’s not really a job you can ‘turn off’ from. So when, in about ’96, he took a six-month sabbatical it was an opportunity for him to take stock, recharge his batteries, shave his beard off, and attend a lot of sporting fixtures that just happened to take place on a Sunday. At the time we had a holiday home just outside Saundersfoot in south west Wales and summer holidays were usually spent in their entirety down there, and that summer was no different. Me, my mum and my dad, decided to head down to Pendine Sands beach one afternoon; the beach is incredibly long and flat so the water is very shallow, so swimming is quite pleasant because the water warms up in the sun. So we were swimming around and dad and I were messing about and mum, who’d just been to the hair salon, turned around to tell us off for splashing her at the exact moment that a wave went straight over the top of her…

And I heard my dad laugh in a way I’d never heard before. Because it was carefree. I hadn’t realised it, but for so long dad had been carrying such a burden that I’d never actually seen him relax properly. And here he was, admittedly taking the mickey out of mum, but nonetheless laughing. It completely changed the way I saw my dad, and now whenever he laughs I’m reminded of that moment, which I think is the moment I got to know him as more than just my father.

4f66f9d434c8af616221e625620068b4I’ve not always been the easiest of children to drag up – there’s been times that we’ve not got on and had our disagreements (I’ve usually been right, by the way), but he and mum have always been there for my sister and I, never failing to support us even when we’ve done some insanely stupid things. I’ve always understood that I owe my sense of right and wrong, my hatred of hypocrisy and injustice, my faith in something better, my trust in the idea that people should be cared for and loved, thanks to the example my father set me. And if I ever get to be half the man he is then I’ll have done well.

A couple of years ago he told me how proud he was of me and I felt a little bad because I didn’t tell him how proud I am to be his son.

So, happy birthday dad. I’m sorry I didn’t get you a book.

Oh, and it was mum and Jennie who dug out these photos – blame them. Also: nice neck scarf😉


Dad and I, probably on holiday somewhere in Wales…

Have you seen this man? Searching for The Emperor…

As some of you may know, for many years I produced a small press magazine called The End is Nigh. It was a hell of an undertaking, which took its toll on my health as well as my bank balance. However, it could never have happened if it weren’t for the small band of lunatics who helped me . Chief amongst these was Dan, aka ‘The Emperor’, whose expertise and knowledge base was so extensive, and his writing so accessible, that without him The End is Nigh would not have been half as interesting, never mind published at all.

Since those heady days, Dan went on to become one of the most active moderaters over at the 2000ADonline.com forum, as well as at the Fortean Times messageboard. His work rate always boggled my mind, especially for someone so amenable and easy to get on with. In short, he’s a great, intelligent, talented guy.

However, I and many other people who have worked (and have been working) with him have not heard from Dan since the beginning of August.

And, to be frank, we’re starting to get a little concerned.

Dan has always been a very private person and beyond his usual e-mail addresses we have no means of contacting him. There are undoubtedly many reasons why he might have gone offline, but as his friends we’re obviously worried.

If you know Dan, or if you’ve seen him active online since August, please do get in touch – even if it’s just to let us know that he’s okay.



Slag om Grolle: English blades for Spanish gold!

If, by now, you DON’T know that I do English Civil War re-enactment then … well … let’s never talk again, yeah? Well, as well as being a member of The Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote, I’m also a member of The Red Regiment. This is formed of hand-picked members of the Sealed Knot, who fight exclusively at events abroad. And what events! So far we’ve only fought in the Low Countries, depicting the 30 Years War (which happened just before the English Civil War, meaning our existing uniforms and equipment are perfectly in keeping).

The only event I’ve attended has been Slag om Grolle (the Siege of Grolle) which takes place in a town called Groenlo, near the Dutch border with Germany. This was my third time at the event, which happens every two years. The town is amazing – surrounded by moats in the shape of the original 17th Century ‘star’ formation fortifications, the place is normally an affluent though sleepy part of the Netherlands. When we arrive, with around 1,000 other re-enactors, the whole place comes alive. The population all get behind the event: wearing period clothing, dressing the streets with displays, making us all feel very welcome, and preparing the most perfect battlefield I’ve ever fought on.

We always play mercenaries fighting for the Imperial Spanish, who occupied the town against the Dutch besiegers. The fighting is much more intense and free-flowing than it is at events in Britain, with the unfortunate loss of two of my teeth this year testament to just what can happen if you’re not careful. However, it’s SO much fun. This year we were camped on some of the original fortifications thrown up by the Spanish, which was an absolute privilege.

And the beer…. Well, let’s put it this way – until recently, the town was the home of the Grolsch brewery. Bok, the sweet dark ale they brew, is just simply delicious and we probably get close to drinking the town dry. And that’s one of the main attractions of Slag om Grolle – the socialising. We drink, we sing, we party. I could literally go on about this event for pages and pages, it’s so enjoyable. Instead, I’ll leave you with some images and videos from another wonderful weekend….

Decide Dredd is here to administer equity!

The comedy potential for running things through Google Translate and back again is already well known, but this particularly fine example is from our DREDD vs. ZOMBIES game on Android…

Decide Dredd is here to administer equity!


The supreme lawman of the coming, Umpire Dredd, occurs to filters international this month in DREDD 3D. Karl Urban professors the crest as the ironman of the precept, among Olivia Thirlby playing clairvoyant novice Magistrate Anderson!

Instantly, stare the trailer for the astounding novel flick forward taking restraint of the most famous Find of many interval in WEIGH DREDD VS. ZOMBIES!
You obligation cherish Mega-Urban Unique from a zombie offensive! Wing yourself among a Lawgiver firearm also trio further devastating, upgradable daggers. Clash four poisonous zombie models in thirty horizontals of game amuse. Elect from seven noteworthy improves to provide you an margin extra your undead antagonist!

Procure luminarys also tributes based on work. Guarantee your Statute cadence is kept to utmost at sum tempos by eliminating zombies, collecting armors plus avoiding spoil. View your ammo numerate as you discharge per wags of attacking undead. During the going haves viscous, advance your Lawgiver or attempt the Spitgun, Scattergun or Hi-Ex Launcher. Absorb yourself in a coming mankind where the drastic is the gauge!

Try Dredd vs. Zombies facets:
– Mere to acquire moreover manipulate ‘Lone-Cane’ holds
– Four upgradeable slings
– Seven paraphernalia advances, from Mass Covering to Hard Resolution – apiece provides a alien joust edge
– Trinity scenes further thirty evens of game act, among eminent replayability
– Luminary furthermore Tribute computer retribution skilled gameplay – are you estimable fully to procure a Award?
– 16 deeds to obtain!

You can get DREDD vs ZOMBIES for iPad, iPhone and Android right here.

“The hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples of a king”

Inspired by the work of 2000 AD designer Pye Parr, and for no other reason than I had an idea and wanted to run with it, I decided to do some poster-style images representing Shakespeare plays that I enjoy.

One of my favourite of the Bard’s is Richard II. Aside from it being a fascinating dissection of kingship and loyalty, it was also the source of my old audition piece from the days when I kidded myself that I was any good at acting. I was delighted when I saw the BBC was doing new versions of the ‘Henriad’ (Shakespeare’s history plays that also include Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and Henry V) and even more delighted when the awesome trailer used that same speech. So delighted was I that I failed to watch any of them. Ho well.

This didn’t quite come out as I’d hoped, but then it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to do anything like this. The image uses an actual portrait of Richard II, a dodgy paint effect, and some fairly blatant symbology.

Did you know Aldous Huxley predicted the rise of the internet troll in 1952?

“There are many people for whom hate and rage pay a higher dividend of immediate satisfaction than love. Congenitally aggressive, they soon become adrenaline addicts, deliberately indulging their ugliest passions for the sake of the ‘kick’ they derive from their physically stimulated endocrines. Knowing that one self-assertion always ends by evoking other and hostile self-assertions, they sedulously cultivate their truculence. And, sure enough, very soon they find themselves in the thick of a fight. But a fight is what they most enjoy; for it is while they are fighting that their blood chemistry makes them feel most intensely themselves. ‘Feeling god,’ they naturally assume that they are good. Adrenaline addiction is rationalised as Righteous Indignation and finally, like the prophet Jonah, they are convinced, unshakeably, that they do well to be angry.”

– Aldous Huxley, The Devils of Loudun