Monday, July 31, 2006


For all ex-pat poms, did you know you can listen to all BBC radio services live over the internet?

They also have the news in 33 languages.

If you find yourself wasting hours reading news sites when you should be working, try internet radio. I'm supposed to be doing paperwork, and background noise from the old dart is just fine by me.

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hal 1 limited

I just visited the Dymocks Hal Spacejock page and for the first time ever they're showing 'Limited Stock'. (Dymocks are one of Australia's largest bookselling chains, with over 80 stores across three countries.)

Now, I know how many my publisher has left from the original print run, and it's stuff all. They're preparing for a second printing, but that won't be a juicy first edition will it?

So, if you live in Australia or NZ and you've been meaning to get your hands on Hal, now's the time to pop into your local bookstore. Years from now you'll be able to tell people you were in on the secret before millions got on the bandwagon. (I write fiction, remember.)

If you live outside Australia and can't buy a copy, enter my draw. Not only could you win a first edition, it will be signed as well.

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Hal in a nutshell

No, that's not the title of book six in the series.

I recently organised a number of free copies of Hal Spacejock for SF bloggers around the world. I'm not expecting them to drop everything and post glowing reviews, so why do it?

First, because it's neat to have something of value to give away, even if that value is only twenty bucks.

Second, Hal is a fun book and they might enjoy it. There's a reason humans tell jokes: that special feeling you get when you make someone laugh is priceless, at least to me.

Third, because mainstream press tends to ignore genre (SF/Fantasy/Horror) titles. (In turn, SF/Fantasy/Horror fans tend to ignore mainstream press.) SF blogs, on the other hand, are a gathering of like-minded folk, a sort of rolling 24/7 SF convention. Conversations spring up, points are discussed at length, and word gets around. If someone does get a laugh out of Spacejock, they might get that special feeling by sharing the joke with others.

Fourth, because Hal Spacejock is an odd title. One glance and people picture a muscle-bound idiot barging through life using his fists to settle every argument. In truth, Hal would sooner run away than go toe-to-toe with a librarian, and his character is (deliberately) as shallow as a puddle. I like my little jokes, and one of them is that the books are as much about the sympathetic and noble character of XG99, aka Clunk the robot, as they are about Hal. Clunk's constant struggle to keep Hal in check is a huge source of amusement, and it's wonderful when he completely loses it from time to time. Chastened, Hal mends his ways ... for about five minutes.

The humour in my books is very dry and understated, because I don't like lame, silly gags and I hate beating readers over the head with the obvious and I hate explaining jokes. If you get it, great. If you don't, there's still a decent plot ... and I still earn royalties from your copy ;-)

So, the fifth and final reason: The more people share and discuss the book, the less chance it'll be perceived as Crocodile Dundee in space. Hence all my prize draws to give copies away.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Win a copy of Hal Spacejock

Published by FACP, Distributed by Penguin

"Fast, funny, quirky, enthralling comedy adventure"
Tom Holt

I know many people missed out in the last draw, so I'm having another one. I'll draw ten copies next weekend. Winners choose either Hal 1 or 2, airmail postage is included.

Just visit this page to enter.

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

PBW's virtual writing course

PBW is S.L. Viehl, author of the Stardoc SF series. (Her books keep popping up on the Galaxy Books bestseller lists, so she's certainly not unknown to Australians.) Actually, she's an entire book writing industry, with a staggering 33 novels in 5 genres.

I always believe in learning from the Pros, and here's your chance for a free ringside seat:

Virtual Workshop #2: Trend Tracking Versus Jumping

Virtual Workshop #1: Building Series Novels

Not only do you get a free education, you can also score goodies just by joining in the discussion.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hal elbows his way into respectable company

Fantastic Planet just posted their top 20 bestselling titles (Based on sales from July 2005 to July 2006), and I'm happy to report Hal Spacejock made equal #17 on the list.

I may be wrong, but I think Judas Unchained (#6) and Century Rain (#13) are the only other SF titles above it. Apart from Nylon Angel at #20 all the rest are Fantasy.

Hmm. Proposed title for Hal Spacejock 4: The ring-thing quest of the dragon-riding bigsword icy fury giants. Nine volumes with a free keyring.

1...A Feast for Crows, George R. R. Martin
2...Temeraire, Naomi Novik
3...Never Seen by Waking Eyes, Stephen Dedman
4...Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
5...Knife of Dreams, Robert Jordan
6...Judas Unchained, Peter F. Hamilton
7...Shadow Box, edited by Shane Jiraiya Cummings and Angela Challis
8...Aggressive Retail Therapy, by Grant Watson
9...Thud!, by Terry Pratchett
10..Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
11..Through Soft Air, by Lee Battersby
11..Chainfire, by Terry Goodkind
12..Black Powder War, by Naomi Novik
13..Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
13..The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis
13..Century Rain, Alastair Reynolds
14..A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
15..Woken Furies, Richard Morgan
15..Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik
15..Pushing Ice, by Alastair Reynolds
16..American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
17..Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susannah Clarke
17..Micah, by Laurell K. Hamilton
17..Hal Spacejock, Simon Haynes
18..The Blue Girl, by Charles de Lint
18..The Shadow of Saganami, by David Weber
19..Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow, by David Gemmell
19..Iron Council, by China Mieville
20..War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull
20..Nylon Angel, by Marianne de Pierres

(Bear in mind Hal Spacejock didn't hit their shelves until Nov 2005)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Andromeda Spaceways issue 24 available

Issue 24 PDF is heading your way!

Andromeda Spaceways is a printed Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine with a paid circulation across Australia, USA, the UK and several exotic locations such as Indonesia, Brazil and New Zealand.

With issue 22 we launched an electronic PDF version alongside the printed magazine, and it was so successful we did the same for issue 23. (The printed issue sells for AUD$8 plus postage. The PDF is just AUD$4, or US$3, a huge saving.)

And now, Andromeda Spaceways brings you PDF ISSUE 24. You can pay online with Paypal (cards also accepted), then download and enjoy immediately.

Edited by Edwina Harvey, issue 24 contains fantastic new fiction by Simon Brown, Brian Tillotson, Paul Woodlin, Marissa Lingen, Stephanie Campisi, André Oosterman, Anna Tambour, S Hutson Blount, Steven Pirie, Chuck McKenzie and Katherine Woodbury, as well as poetry by Samantha Henderson, and features a special interview with Sonny Whitelaw. It's so huge, we needed a whale on the cover!

If you're a traditionalist, you can order the print version, back issues and subscriptions via the ASIM website

I've been a member of the ASIM co-op since day one, and it's been a fascinating journey.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Second set of 10 Hal Spacejock winners

I'm really grateful to everyone who entered, and particularly those who shared a link to my contest on their blogs and in email. Getting published is just half the battle, and letting people know about Hal Spacejock will do more than any amount of advertising or talking from me or my publisher.

Without futher ado, here are the second set of ten winners, who should email spacejock at gmail dot com to claim their prize:

Julia B
Kim Miller
Dawn Pendergast
Random Walk Writer
Gabriele C
Tiffany Weatherby

For everyone else, keep your eye on my blog because I'm determined to give away copies in future, helping to spread the word about Hal Spacejock. You can also join the announcements-only mailing list, where I recently gave away another 5 copies of my books.

Incidentally, I put a new header on the Hal Spacejock website. Let me know what you think!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Countin' up the words & a pledge

Lee Battersby started it, and then Martin Livings applied the ol' electric bolts of life. Yes, it's a 'what's lurking in my short story folder?' meme.

I'm not going to list all the titles, word counts and dates, but a quick scan of my work-in-progress folder reveals the following:

13 files, each with a story idea (Usually just one sentence)
9 files, each with the outline of a story (Several sentences)
12 files, each with a story fragment (Just paragraphs out of the blue)
37 files, each with the beginning of a story (Many over half complete)
7 files, each with an almost-finished story
23 files, each with a completed story, ranging from 1500 words up to 10,000

So, with all that stuff sitting around, why haven't I polished them up and sent them off?

Because, in most cases, they're junk. The most recent is dated 4 or 5 years ago, and even a cursory glance shows me it needs a complete rewrite. The oldest stuff is laughable. (I do have a folder called 'Old Junk' which I daren't open. Picture the tomb full of snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

The mistake many writers make is to try and get everything they've ever scribbled into print. It's like a concert pianist who records every practice session, and then sets up shop to flog all those recordings. Wouldn't it be better to sell your best performances, and keep the bum notes and flaky pieces well hidden? Same with photographers, who select the best and ditch the rest.

I've only seen half a dozen of my stories published, and I picked those carefully from the false starts and half-completed stuff you see in the list above. Three or four of the completed stories went out to 2 markets, and were rejected.

Anyway, dredging through my WIP folder turned up half a dozen stories I wouldn't mind rewriting, or at least pinching ideas from. Now Spacejock is in print I need another challenge, and trying to get a short story into a top flight Spec Fic market has that climb-Everest-without-personal-danger appeal to it. After all, I still have a sheet of US postal stamps for the rejection letters ;-)

All right, here's the pledge: I'm going to submit short fiction to US markets until my stamps run out. (13 left)

I'll report everything here, including details on the stories I've sent out, where I've sent them, and what the rejection letters said. I don't care who rejects me or what they say - I'm going to report it.

One proviso: If my publisher demands Hal Spacejock books 4-6 yesterday, this pledge idea is toast.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

So what kind of SF is it?

I was reading a thread on the SF forum at sffworld this morning where someone asked why the fantasy forum on the same site had 5 or 6 times the visitors and discussion. Was fantasy really that much more popular?

Someone made a good point (I've lost the exact post) when they said readers know what they're getting when they embark on a fantasy trilogy. Within a page or two they're up to speed, and from there it's just a matter of how the good guys beat the bad guys, and what the bad guys get up to along the way. Sure, there are other kinds of fantasy, but if the cover has a bloke with a sword or a castle or a warrior princess on horseback or whatever you're pretty well set.

Science fiction, on the other hand, is much more open. You might be picking up a book with exhaustive scientific detail, written to explain the author's theory that the universe is really three parallel planes in one. Or it might be a bug hunt with big guns and chesty babes. (And don't rely on the cover - more than one universe-theory author has received the first copies of their latest tome, eagerly opened the package, and then stared in horror at the chesty babes and laser guns on the cover. Blame the marketing dept for trying to shift books.)

Hal Spacejock is at the bugs 'n' guns end, science wise, but the characters have all the morals of the dodgy geezers from the TV series Minder - without the cockney slang.

There's hardly any violence in Hal, though. No sex or swearing either, and if you think it'd be hard to write a funny book without those three mainstays you're right. I play on incompetence, tricky situations and overconfidence a lot, and there's enough dialog(ue) for a whole radio series.

To get a feel for the style, you can read chapter one of both books online. Just see the Hal Spacejock website. I had to convince my publisher it was a good idea to put them online, so please make use of them.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Working with an editor

I started to write this in a comment on PBW's blog, then realised it was turning into a lengthy post by itself. So, here it is.

This is the process my editor and I use for each Hal book, and I thought I'd share because it really is a great way to work. I'm not combative about my precious creations, and will happily throw out characters, scenes and whole chapters to make something better. My editor, on the other hand, is not being paid to read eighteen versions of the same manuscript, and therefore needs to reign in my wild brushcutting tendencies.

Oh, and if you're one of those writers who can't bear the thought of having a stranger go over your manuscript and come up with fourteen pages of notes and comments, perhaps you shouldn't read on.

This is the second and final part of the editing process. I'll write another blog post about the first part - ie. writing the actual book from synopsis to first draft - another time.

So, we have this finished manuscript. It more-or-less matches the synopsis I gave my editor months earlier, apart from the aliens arriving in chapter 12 (subtle Miss Snark reference, there), two new characters and a completely different plot.

What happens is that I email this final draft to my editor as a Word Doc, and then she prints it out and writes all over it. A week or two later I go in to pick it up and we discuss the major issues she has with it (to whit, aliens suddenly arrive in chapter 14, there are two new characters and why is the plot completely different?)

I nod, listen, and promise to fix everything. Then I get home and scan the chickenpoxed text and the additional stapled pages of comments and notes, and remember how happy I felt when I handed in the 'finished' draft.

Anyway, I load it up into Word, set track changes and go to work, page by page, until I've covered everything. In some cases that means adding a scene, in others (rarer) it means deleting one. Usually it's smaller stuff, like mentioning the gun used in chapter 15 a little earlier in the book so the reader doesn't go 'Huh? Where did that come from?' at the crucial moment.

When I'm done - usually three or four days, because I like to read the whole manuscript through at least once with the changes - I send my editor the MS via email. I'm on Windows, she's on Mac, but it works fine. We're both using old versions anyway (I never got past Word 97, and use OpenOffice for everything else. However, I stick to Word for this one particular task because I know it works.)

Once she's checked all my changes, skipping from one to the next rather than reading the whole book again, she applies them or not, commenting on the ones she didn't think were so hot. (Or, best case, adding a comment that she really liked something I've done.) She'll often tweak the wording in the new bits with tracked changes switched on, and when she's done she sends me the file back. (Usually after 2-3 days) There are usually a few more comments at this stage, perhaps little things in the book which aren't quite right, or could be improved just a touch.

I go through and chuck all these new changes out, just to show who's boss ... no wait, this is real life. Actually, I generally agree with 99% of the suggestions, and I apply them and add my own little flourishes. For example, she might suggest a slight rewording on one particular sentence, and I'll take the suggestion to mean there was something wrong with it, rather than 'this is what it should be'. Then I address the comments, one by one, which usually means rewriting a couple of bits and sticking in more text.

That usually takes me a day or less, and I send back this final version with my last tweaks in. We go back and forth quickly, over the course of twenty-thirty minutes, and then we speak on the phone to congratulate ourselves.

And yippee, that's what we did Thursday morning, and I'm still euphoric.

One of the best parts is that my editor and I use the comments feature in Word to joke back and forth about changes, the book, and anything else which comes up during the process. It's a bit like an IRC session via manuscript, but it all adds to the fun.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Book a day

Andrew Wheeler, a senior editor at the US SF book club, has just embarked on a project. He's going to read a book a day for as long as he can.

I wonder whether that includes the odd fantasy doorstopper, or whether he's just going for the lighter stuff?

Years ago, before work, family and ... you know, responsibilities, I used to read more than one book a day. We had no computers, no tv ('andful of cold gravel for tea' shouts someone from the peanut gallery), and there was little else to do but prowl the countryside with my air rifle.

These days I'm lucky to read one a week, and the air rifle is long gone. Actually, so's the countryside.

So, I applaud Andrew's endeavour but I do wonder how long he'll keep it up. Long enough to attract so much interest from the 'entertainment' section of the national papers that they lose interest in stories about movie stars having babies in Namibia?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mini SF convention at the KSP Writers Centre

I'll be hanging around this event with pen in hand, and Fantastic Planet will be carting some of my books along, so anyone keen to get their hands on a signed copy of Hal 1 or 2 need only show up with cash in hand. Or book in hand, if you already have one to be signed.


On Sunday 13 August, the KSP Speculative Fiction Writers Group will host a mini-convention featuring panels, readings and refreshments. And it's all free except a sausage-sizzle lunch, which will set you back $5 per head. There will also be books for sale with several authors hanging around, pens in hand. (Yup, me too) This cosy event will be held in conjunction with the awards for the annual Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre Science Fiction Short Story Competition.

10 - 3pm at 11 Old York Road, Greenmount WA 6056
(That's in the hills above* Perth, Western Australia.)
KSP Phone/Fax: (08) 9294 1872

Featured panellists (some TBC) include Lyn Battersby, Sally Beasley, Angela Challis, Shane Jirayah Cummings, Stephen Dedman, Russell Farr, Elaine Kemp, Dave Luckett, Juliet Marillier, Carol Ryles and Aiden Triffett. The MC will be the one and only Lee Battersby.

The day will conclude with the announcement of winners in the KSP Sci-Fi competition, which has become one of the country's most prestigous contests.

Help keep the scene alive between cons by favouring this event with your presence.

* They're not particularly big hills, so you're kind of alongside and up a bit.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


I'm behind on everything right now, and would you believe I failed to mention a publication credit in an exciting new print anthology? (Yes, an incredible oversight. Won't happen again, I promise.)

The anthology in question is Flashspec volume one, a collection of speculative flash fiction. In this case, that means stories which come in at less than 500 words. (So you can read them in a flash, see?)

You can order a copy online through the link. I have one copy with another on the way, and now that Hal 3 is done done done I'm going to start reading again.

The second volume has a reading period starting in April 2007, so what are you waiting for? Read up on the art of good flash fiction and get ready to submit!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Daft idea

I decided lurking around freo trying to fob off an ARC of Hal Spacejock 3 on Ben Elton was a silly idea. (See this post for the background.) So, I employed a firm to do the same job for a bargain AUD $9.75. Yes, for a low nine bucks and change they will hand my books directly to Ben Elton's publisher in Sydney, who will then pack them up and send them to WA or the UK, or more likely just bin them.) I'm happy to share the name of this awesome publicity machine ... they're called Australia Post and they have branches all over the country. Keep them in mind.

(Post office pricing is very strange, by the way. It costs $9.75 to send a parcel weighing less than 1kg to Sydney via road freight, a trip of 5-7 days for your average box. BUT you can buy a pre-paid satchel which will take anything up to 3kg overnight for ... $9.75! Madness.)

While I was posting Mr Elton's books I also sent off all the Hal Spacejocks people won in my recent competition. (It's still open - enter now and your chances of scoring a copy are about 1 in 6.)

I also sent off complete sets to a couple of other big name authors, so their publishers can forward them all over the planet, or bin them. I'm sure the pros get bombarded with books from newbies like me, but what the heck. (Normally my publisher does this kind of thing, but they won't be gearing up for Hal 3 publicity until Oct/Nov. Anyway, I don't let a single day pass without doing something to help my books along.)

Tomorrow I'll be drawing the Hal Spacejock frisbee competition so get your name in now. (Betcha didn't know about that one.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I love this bit

Address the editor's final queries, hand in the finished manuscript, and then bask in the glow as 11 months of writing plus 9 months of rewrites draw to a close. That's the best part of being an author: completing something.

I don't sit still for long, and after handing in the manuscript I jotted a few thoughts down for the back cover blurb, emailed the production manager about covers and packed up books for winners in my various competitions.

My publisher has first and final say in all design matters - covers, blurbs, etc - but they do encourage input, and I don't take much encouraging. I was reading Jennifer Fallon's blog post about palm trees which explains the publisher/author relationship better than I can.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hal Spacejock winners

A week ago I put a post online offering 10 signed copies of Hal Spacejock, drawing the winners from comments below that post. The response was great, and I wish I had enough books to send to everyone.

In the end I drew 20 winners - 10 here, and 10 the following week. Here are the first ten winners, who should email spacejock at gmail dot com to claim their prize:

Jim C. Hines
Michael Kastler
Laura (Bayre)
Sapphire Writer (Briana)
Martin Livings
Bill Peschel
Ailsa (dragonrider on VO/dragon_crier on lj)

For everyone else, keep an eye on this blog for next week's draw. If you don't win and they do, you might be able to borrow their copy (and not give it back!)

(If I get another 60 comments I'll increase the number of books again, unless they're all the same person ...)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Why yWriter

There are two kinds of 'writing software'. One is supposed to generate plots and all but write your book for you, which is the silliest idea since battery powered trouser zippers.

The other kind of writing software is just a word processor in slightly different clothing. Instead of keeping your novel in one long file (or a load of chapter files) this kind of writing software organises the books into chapters and scenes. That's all yWriter does.

I'm a programmer, and nobody sits down to write a 50,000 line program in a single text window. You'd be laughed off the planet if you tried, since it would be impossible to find anything quickly. Instead, we work with short code modules, which are held in source files. They show up in a tree view, and you edit a particular module by double-clicking it. The parts make up the whole. It's just so much easier to work on smaller pieces, while still being able to view the whole.

All I did was transfer this method of working to the act of writing a book. Several years back I was getting more and more confused the longer my book got, until I hit the wall at around 25,000 words. I could no longer check previous sections quickly, and splitting the book into chapter files meant I had nineteen copies of Word running simultanously.

A novel consists of chapters and scenes, and if you put the chapters into a tree and break them down further into scenes, you've got a structure the brain can work with. In yWriter you can drag and drop scenes between chapters, move chapters around, and open any scene in any chapter in its own editor window - simultanously.

I've written three novels using yWriter, and when time came to rewrite them for my publisher it saved me weeks of headaches. I used the scene description feature to keep notes about what needed to change, and used the auto-synopsis feature to print off a working framework for the book. AND I used the work schedule to see what I had to do every day to meet my deadline.

I put the software on my website for others to use, but I really don't care whether they write books with it or not. I'm not selling it, I'm giving it away, and I get nothing out of that than even more emails.

Still, it's very rewarding when someone sends me a message to say they're finally getting their novel into shape, thanks to my software. Every one of those makes me smile.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

The Ben Elton campaign

There I was, sipping coffee and watching toast burn, when I suddenly realised how neat it would be to get a copy of Hal Spacejock into Ben Elton's hands. It's a fun book with lots of sly gags, and Ben Elton is a very funny guy. Perfect match.

Okay, so it's not much of a quest, but it's more worthy than three plodding volumes about a farmboy seeking the doohicky of power to defeat the evil Lord of Kardbod.

Now, Western Australia is a spectacularly beautiful state, and as luck would have it Ben Elton lives here part of each year. In case you live somewhere even more remote than Perth (like, Jupiter) Ben Elton is the manic genius behind the best three series of Black Adder, a number of bestselling novels and numerous stage and TV shows.

First obstacle: I don't know Mr Elton.

Plan #1: Dress up in a suit, pin a 'Ben Elton's Driver' badge to my lapel, and wander around Fremantle looking thoroughly lost. Some kind soul is sure to give me directions ('He's in London, ya twit') and then I'd be set.

Plan #2: Walk into the Fremantle branch of Dymocks Booksellers and offer to buy their entire stock of Ben Elton books ... if Mr Elton signs them. No walking around in suits, either. Bonus.

Plan #3: Get arrested for being drunk and disorderly, and name Ben Elton as a witness. Problem is, I don't drink and I'm not disorderly.

Plan #4: Find out where he lives (biggest house in Freo, natch) and heave a couple of books over the wall. Only thing is, if the attack dogs don't get them, the armed guards probably will.

To be honest that all sounds like a load of trouble, and in more ways than one. Inspiration was slipping away until I read an article in this morning's paper: Ben Elton's Get a Grip will be at the Perth Concert Hall, Sunday 23 July, Monday 24 July and Sunday 6 August.

Cool. More options:

Plan 1: Buy a front row seat and bide my time. At the right moment, leap up and yell 'read this, Ben!' and hurl a copy of Hal Spacejock onto the stage.

For: It'd certainly get his attention.

Against: And everyone else's, including security. Plus it might actually hit him, and Hal is a hefty book.

Plan 2: Hang around the stage entrance with a large box of chocolates. Nestled (!) under the top row, a copy of Hal Spacejock.

For: It might actually work.

Against: He might eat the book and read the chocolates.

Once again it sounds like a lot of trouble, involving police, restraining orders and lengthy jail terms. I know all publicity is good publicity, but good for whom? I'm not having my publisher coining it while my royalties pay to have Mr Elton's stomach pumped.

So why not try something a bit more normal and post a book c/o his agent?

For: It's not only easy, it's legal.

Against: I hear his agent doesn't use firewood to warm his house.

Okay, the toast has cooled and so has my enthusiasm. The second cup of coffee has gone the way of the first, I have 300+ pages of red-penned manuscript to transfer into the original Hal Spacejock 3 file and nothing is getting done while I indulge in these flights of fancy. Suddenly I remember an important fact: Authors write, publicists publicise. FACP employs a dedicated professional publicist, an expert at getting media attention.

Time to fire off an email ;-)

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hal Spacejock Giveaway

Update #3: Although this draw is closed I'm running another one here

Update #2: The draw is now closed. I've listed the second set of 10 winners here

Update #1: I've drawn 10 winners here, and will draw another ten next Sunday.

I just handed in the final draft of Hal 3, and to celebrate I'm giving away TWENTY copies of the first Hal Spacejock book. (Trade Paperback, 393 pages) All you have to do is tell me why you'd like a copy. Saying 'Because it sounds fun' is plenty, and you can quote me on that ;-) (You don't have to register with blogger to post - anon comments are accepted but you should add your name or a nickname to id yourself in case you win.)

Not sure whether you want a copy? Read chapter one online to find out.

Published by FACP, Distributed by Penguin

"Fast, funny, quirky, enthralling comedy adventure"
Tom Holt

This draw is open to all readers of this blog. Each prize includes a signed copy of Hal and worldwide airmail postage. If you already have a copy of Hal Spacejock, you can request Second Course instead

I'll be picking one winner for every ten comments, to a max of ten copies of the book, so it won't hurt your chances if you share a link to the draw

You can also click 'email post' below (see the envelope icon), and specify an address to send it to.

(I forgot to say - you should bookmark this page because I'll be updating it with the selected winners as time goes by. Just right click this link and choose 'Add to bookmarks'. I don't know how long it's going to take me to give the books away, but certainly check back once a week.)

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


This is called shutting the stable door before you've bought a horse. Still, it might motivate me ;-)

Hal 4 home page

Hal 5 home page

See my earlier post - you can still vote which order you'd like to read them in.

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

They put WHAT, WHERE?

I get asked this a lot, so I'll explain:

The Hal Spacejock series is only available in Australia and NZ (for now), although places like and do show copies for exhorbitant prices. Those copies are shipped from Australia by locals.

In Australia and NZ the book is stocked just about everywhere, from Dymocks to Collins to Angus & Robertson, from Borders to independants and just about every airport terminal bookstore including such places as Hamilton Island and Alice Springs. (No kidding - my brother just spotted Hal 2 there.) Whether you'd want to read a book about an incompetent pilot and his hair raising landings before taking to the skies is another matter.

My publisher DOES have distributors in the UK and US, but are holding back stocks while an attempt is made to sell the rights overseas. As you can imagine, a UK publisher would be a lot less interested in a book deal if copies of the book were already sitting on the shelves in that country.

If you live outside Australia/NZ, the cheapest and most reliable way to get hold of Hal 1 or 2 is to order via the Australian Online Bookshop. Not only do they deduct around 20% of the cover price, but for overseas buyers they also remove the 10% sales tax and charge postage at cost (Economy air is the best deal.) The links are here if you're interested: Hal 1 and Hal 2

Anyway, that wasn't why I posted to the blog, but I never let sticking to the point get in the way of a lengthy post.

What I wanted to say is that the Vancouver Public Library (Canada) now has a copy of Hal 2 sitting on the shelf. Don't ask me how it got there, and don't ask me why they didn't start with Hal 1, but if you live in the area you can probably request it as an inter-library loan and read it for free. (You should also request Hal 1, just to even things up.)


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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Damn those forking plots

Early in 2004 I dreamt up a plot for Hal Spacejock 4 involving a large amount of money left to Clunk in a will. (Hence the provisional title - Hal Spacejock Legacy)

The idea was that he'd have to go to great lengths to prove who he was, which would also introduce readers to his forgotten past. There would also be a family who'd inherit if Clunk failed to prove his claim, making them a decent antagonist for the book.

I managed to write about 16,000 words, but unfortunately for Hal 4 (and not for me!) Fremantle Arts Centre Press took on the first three books in the series soon afterwards and all new work ceased while I prepared those for publication.

Despite that, in November last year I participated in Nanowrimo and wrote 50,000 words of 'Hal 4' during the month. I introduced a sub-plot, where Hal and Clunk are hired to transport a concept artist's works across three luxury planets. Clunk is awed by the artist and entranced by his exhibition, and won't hear a bad word against him. Hal is ... Hal, and he thinks art is something you stick on the wall to cover up the stains.

Anyway, the idea grew into a whole series of funny scenes, and there's also a pair of Peace Force officers chasing the criminals responsible for ... but no, that's giving away too much. Suffice it to say I was really getting into a sendup of the whole arty scene.

Then, in December, I stopped work again to rewrite Hal 3.

This morning I glanced over my Hal 4 project in yWriter, and soon realised I had two books in one. (There's a good reason writers should take a rest from their projects. You get a wider view.) I just spent an hour splitting the two plots apart, moving the artist and the Peace Force officers into one book, and the legacy and Clunk's secret past into the other.

My question is, which sounds more intriguing, and which would you rather read first?

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mega cool

Planet Fantastic (an SF Bookstore in Perth) just posted a list of the top 50 bestselling authors through their store over the past 12 months.

I'm at equal 35 (with CS Lewis), and if you look at the names below that point you'll see Hal Spacejock 1 & 2 outsold a raft of world famous SF writers. Neat.

Although I'm a local I don't get to that part of town, so it wasn't me ripping the covers off other books or turning mine face out. Credit to the staff though, because I know they mention my book whenever someone is looking for 'something like Red Dwarf or Hitchhiker's guide'

So, here's the list in full:

Planet Fantastic Bestselling Authors (Based on sales from July 2005 to July 2006)

1...Mercedes Lackey
2...Terry Pratchett
3...Neil Gaiman
4...George R. R. Martin
5...David Weber
6...Raymond E. Feist
7...Naomi Novik
8...Alastair Reynolds
9...Peter F. Hamilton
10..Orson Scott Card

11..Stephen King
12..Charles de Lint
13..Stephen Dedman
14..Anne McCaffrey
15..Robert Jordan
16..David Eddings
17..Stephen Baxter
18..Philip K. Dick
19..Richard Morgan
20..Sean Williams

21..John Ringo
22..Terry Goodkind
23..Isaac Asimov
24..Lois McMaster Bujold
25..Arthur C. Clarke
26..Marianne de Pierres
26..Neal Stephenson
27..China Mieville
28..Robin Hobb
29..Elizabeth Moon
30..Dan Simmons

31..Laurell K. Hamilton
31..Shaun Tan
32..David Gemmell
32..Grant Watson
33..Kate Forsyth
34..Fiona McIntosh
35..C. S. Lewis
35. Simon Haynes
36..Alan Dean Foster
36..Garth Nix
37..Robert J. Sawyer
38..Sara Douglass
38..Jasper Fforde
38..Harry Turtledove
39..Katharine Kerr
40..R. A. Salvatore

41..Lee Battersby
42..Iain M. Banks
43..Larry Niven
44..William Gibson
45..Trudi Canavan
45..L. E. Modesit
45..Connie Willis
46..Michael Moorcock
46..Charles Stross
47..John Birmingham
47..Stephen Donaldson
48..Greg Bear
48..John Varley
49..Clive Barker
49..Ray Bradbury
49..Greg Egan
49..Jennifer Fallon
50..Susannah Clarke
50..Robert A. Heinlein
50..Barry Hughart

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


I emailed Miss Snark with a plea for help earlier today, and while it might seem like an odd thing to be asking about I'd still like to know what she thinks.

Background: Books one and two of the Hal Spacejock series have done quite well. The first has just about sold out and is likely to be reprinted RSN, and the second appears to have sold more copies than the first did after a similar amount of time. Distributors are actively pushing the books into schools as something reluctant boys might choose to read. (They're adult books, but fine for ages 14+. In fact, being adult books with the odd smutty double-entendre makes them perfect for reluctant boys. Girls too, I hasten to add, but boys do seem to prefer the zap-pow-crash-bang of SF space opera. As a side note, more than half the email I get about Hal comes from females.)

Anyway, I've handed in book three pending editorial wrangles (in a nice sense - my editor does a great job of highlighting the flaws which I may be blind to) and that's the end of my current contract.

Onto the question: I believe the books have done well enough for my publisher (or another, if FACP aren't interested) to seek more in the series, but I'm not sure about committing to three more. Logically, you want a contract for as many books as possible, e.g. twenty-five, which would keep you writing from here until doomsday. But from a creative point of view you just have to dread any series which loses the sparkle as each book plods onto the market. That's something I won't be party to, whatever the incentives.

When FACP approached me I'd already written 300,000 words across three Hal books. Each was quite different, and while they underwent a heap of editing before they were published, I had those rough drafts I could point to as a kind of comfort blanket. There they were, and they only needed shaping and polishing. (How much shaping and polishing I'll leave for another post. Suffice it to say I have 3 large boxes full of annotated drafts.)

So, facing more Hal books, where do I turn? I wrote about 60% of Hal 4 during NanoWrimo last year, and I'm planning to return to that novel once final edits of Hal 3 are in. I want to write 50,000 words of Hal 5 during NanoWrimo this year (November), so by the time Hal 3 comes out in January 2007 I should have an almost complete Hal 4 and just over half of Hal 5.

By then I'll know whether Hal 6 is a possibility, or whether I'm just treading water. For now, I think if the subject comes up I'll just stall for time.

(Another side note: If you're reading this as a writer trying as hard as possible to get published, all of the above probably sounds like the most ridiculous thing to worry about. I'm not making any apologies - the challenges you'll face are different when you're published, but they're still challenges and they're still worth talking about.)

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Well-earned success for friends

This follows on nicely from my post a couple of days ago, where I spoke about the magic ingredients which go into a successful writing career. (That's hard work and persistance, if you weren't paying attention.)

Well, here's proof.

First, Karen Miller's Kingmaker/Kingbreaker duology is a gripping fantasy tale which has been storming bookstores across Australia and NZ. In a very smart move, Orbit Books has snapped up the UK publishing rights and will release the books there in 2007.

Second, and hot on the heels of that announcement, Orbit Books has also signed Glenda Larke's fantasy series 'The Mirage Makers'. This series debuted in Australia recently and has been doing very well by all accounts.

So, well deserved success. And when you hear great things about these authors, don't kid yourself it all happened overnight. Read their blogs and websites, and you'll see years and years of hard work and setbacks. Bet they're not thinking about that now ;-)

It's also a reminder to Australian writers to look in their own backyard. Many Aussies reach out to overseas publishers, thinking their local market isn't worth the bother. On the contrary, a good reception here might very well hasten your move into the UK and US.

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, July 07, 2006

And the rewards ...

Forget the money and keep your fame. This is what motivates me (Received via email):

I just wanted to say thanks for writing the best damn books ever. I had never read a book in my life until I read Hal Spacejock (and I'm 15 years old). We've only just got the second book in at the local library but I am eagerly awaiting your other books.

I replied with thanks and a short list of authors writing SF and Fantasy humour, because once someone's been sucked into reading ONE book they might try a few more.

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

How to get published and have a successful career

Here's the surefire path to a successful career in writing:

1) Churn out approximately one million words of fiction. This is your practice session. Can be short stories, stillborn novels, crappy stories you just can't finish, fan fiction, anything. Blog posts and email don't count towards the total, but they're all good practice for typing what you mean to say and learning to use the language professionally.

This is going to sound harsh, but if you don't care whether your emails and blog posts are grammatically correct and reasonably free of typos, then you may not care enough about the language to be a writer. Take a minute to think about the impression you're leaving with the people you write to. They will probably be the first you tell about your book, and if they're used to shoddy grammar and typos in your emails they might jump to the conclusion that your book is more of the same.

(I just know there's going to be a typo or a grammar issue in that paragraph, even though I've read it nine times. When a writer gets up and makes a point about the language, it's only natural that they screw up in the process and make themselves look like idiots. In my defence, I just spent 8 months editing and revising an 80,000 word manuscript and only got 5 hours sleep last night.)

2) Write a good strong book and polish it well. Sometimes it's hard to spot the flaws in your own work, so ask first readers to pick holes in it. Accept their comments gracefully, because if you argue they won't make any more. And if you're not going to listen to them, why ask them to read it in the first place?

Years ago I read something for a contact of mine, and I did a thorough job on it, too. I ended up with several pages of queries, but every point I raised was argued down to the wire, until eventually I gave up. That author wasn't after feedback, they just wanted kind words and a pat on the back. The experience wasn't a complete waste of time because it taught me how tough life is for editors, and it taught me to explain to readers what I needed from them.

3) Query agents (At least 100 before giving up on that novel) Boy, did I get this one wrong. I thought 'No unsolicited submissions' meant they didn't want to hear from people they hadn't asked to submit work to them. No wonder I gave up looking for an agent so quickly.

What it actually means is they don't want your manuscript or even the first three chapters. They just want a one page letter telling them about you and your book. They will get in touch if they want to see a partial (sample chapters)

(By the way, 'No unsolicited queries' means they don't want to hear from you at all.)

For fiction, you don't query agents until you have a finished manuscript.

And a timely reminder: Never pay an agent Agents take a cut from the publisher's payment to you. You don't pay them up front for anything.

The other reminder: If the agent suggests an editor who will help tidy up your manuscript for a modest fee, say no thanks and find another agent.

4) While doing 3), do 2) again
You're a writer, not an envelope stuffer. If you do get published, you'll discover that your editor is interested in your current book but everyone else wants to know what your next project is. So make sure you have one.

Now repeat 3-4 until you get an agent. If it takes you two years you might have 2 or 3 completed novels, and they get better the more you write.

Repeat 2 until the agent sells your book
If you DO get an agent your best bet is to write more books. If they discover they can't sell the work they signed you up for, they might have better luck with your next project. It might take them 12 months to give up on the first book, so wouldn't it be great to have another to offer them?

Repeat 2 until the agent and/or publisher ditches you.
If agent, find another one. If publisher, let your agent find another one. You should be writing.

Skipping any of these steps will reduce your chances considerably.

Glenda Larke suggested another step... READ READ and READ some more. How can you possibly hope to write a publishable manuscript if you're not absorbing others just as fast as you can?

So much for my ideas. What pointers can YOU share with people reading this blog? Comments below.

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Just Desserts Just About

The final draft is DONE.

This is my THIRD go at Hal Spacejock Just Desserts, the third book in the Hal Spacejock series, which means I've put more work into this thing than most authors put into an entire fantasy trilogy. Each time I've torn the plot apart and started again, and this time I believe I've got it right.

Only 3 people have one of these...

The first version was a political satire. The second had less of the politics but not enough of anything else to replace it. This one has zero politics and a load of the Hal & Clunk goodness people have come to expect. It will undergo tweaks (particularly the very last chapter) but at least my publisher now has something to print. And only 7 days past my deadline.

In September 2005 this was a 'finished' book, and I've spent most of the past nine months rewriting it. Twice. Over the past three months I've done nothing but eat, sleep and write. After all that work, I sincerely hope it meets expectations.

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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)