Sunday, November 30, 2008

Psst - Pass it on

Andromeda Spaceways offer

I've taken on the job of mailing out Andromeda Spaceways back-issues, and half my office is now stuffed with copies of the magazine ranging from issue #2 to #37.

Therefore, I'm going to run a quick "help to clean out Simon's office" special. Until Christmas, if you order any print issue of Andromeda Spaceways, I'll throw in another print issue of your choice for free.

How much are you up for? Well, older back-issues are just A$5 each, while newer ones are $7.95 or $8.95. Add $1.20 postage per 2 issues (paid + free) and for as little as $6.20 you can score two copies of ASIM, which is 1/3 the price of a single paperback.

(By the way, I have fiction in issues 3 and 6, and a daft drinks article in issue 2.)


1. Despatched to Australian postal addresses only (Sorry, but overseas postage costs more than the magazine. However, you can still buy the current issue as a PDF for around US$4.)
2. You can have one free issue for each issue you pay for (buy 4, get 4 free)
3. The free issue must be of equal or lesser value to the paid one.
4. Tell me which free issues you want in the comments
5. You can only choose issues we have in stock. (Some issues are sold out, and say so under the cover pic.)
6. If the issue you pick has run out, I'll ask you to nominate another.

Every order will receive a Hal Spacejock bookmark & fridge magnet while stocks last.

With 37 issues in print, Andromeda Spaceways has a huge back catalogue of fiction, reviews and articles, and it's all wasted sitting in my house.

If you take advantage of this offer, please consider blogging about it, reviewing the magazines when they arrive, or just letting a couple of people know about ASIM.


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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nanowrimo day 22

On Friday the 21st I only managed about 700 words all day, but dashed off another 600 after 11pm to end up with my smallest daily total for quite some time.

On Saturday the 22nd (yesterday as I write this), I really didn't feel like writing anything. Friday's 1300 words were reminiscent of a scene in Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch, and so I needed a new direction and some fresh ideas. That's never good when you're facing an empty screen first thing in the morning.

Eventually I abandoned my plans for the characters, skipped ahead an hour or so of their time, and threw them into a dangerous situation. Having Hal and Clunk protecting someone else was a novel experience for all three of us, and I ended up writing over 3000 words.

I guess the editing side of my brain will just have to piece all this together later...

The graph below shows my NanoWrimo progress from day one. The grey part represents the required daily count, red shows under and green over.

The reason for those two zero days, and two huge green days? The NanoWrimo servers are based on US timezones, so if I submit my wordcount after a certain time of day it's added to the NEXT day's tally instead.

You can see how the required daily count has been shrinking at an ever-increasing rate, thanks to my goal of writing 2000 words every day. As it stands now I only have to write about 900 words a day to finish, but I'm sticking to 2000 because I need a 120,000 word first draft by Feb next year, and December is always a write-off. (Hah)

How's everyone else's Nano going? Feel free to gloat or moan in the comments ...

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Win all four Hal Spacejock books

.. including worldwide postage, via the Ebooks Just Published blog:

I've just finished reading Simon Haynes' hilarious sci-fi, comedy adventure Hal Spacejock and enjoyed it so much that I've decided to run a competition to give one lucky reader the chance to win signed copies of the entire 4-book series (print edition). Here’s the deal ...

Read the rest on their blog, and please note that winning this particular comp requires skill, not random luck:

Entries will be judged on their originality, creativity and humour. Don't feel you have to limit yourself to a review. Other possibilities include writing an extra or alternative scene, some witty dialog between the main characters, a back story, critiquing a particular passage, etc, etc. Believe me, once you've read the book, plenty of ideas will flow.

What a nice chap ;-)

Please feel free to share the competition, even if you don't intend to enter.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What I don't like

I thought I'd take a trip through a few things I dislike in novels. They're not dealbreakers, but the more of these an author incorporates into their work, the less I'm likely to enjoy the result.

In the comments, you're welcome to add your own. Mine aren't listed in any order - they're just hitting the post as I dream them up.

1. A cast of thousands.
In a movie you get to put a face to every name. In a book you just get the name plus a description, which is promptly forgotten. The worst characters are those which are so similar to half a dozen others in the same book you end up wondering why the author didn't just roll them into one. Mentally, I already have.

2. Excessive description.
To me it's a table, or a sword, or a room. You can just about get away with 'large' and 'small', and you're only allowed to embellish the description beyond this if said item reappears later in the book. By which time I'll have forgotten the description. And the name.

3. A cliffhanger ending.
There's a reason I wait until TV shows are wrapped up for good before buying the mega boxed set with a ton of extras I never look at. I hate cliffhangers! (Not as much as I hate ads, but we're getting close.)
Give me cliffhangers in scenes and chapters, but not at the end of the book. If the book DOES have a cliffhanger ending I'll get the whole lot when the last one is released. (And trust me, I'll know. A book with a cliffhanger ending has 'book N of Y' on the cover, and I'll wait until N = Y thankyouverymuch.)
Why the antipathy? Because I once got caught out by an author who spent five years writing the last book of a series. By the time I read it I couldn't remember the characters, the plot, OR any of the names. It might just as well have been alphabet soup for all the enjoyment I got out of it.

4. No plot
Plots are a handy little aide-memoire. If I can't remember the character's face OR name, I can at least try and remember what they're supposed to be doing. Give me something to distinguish this book from fifty thousand others published at the same time.

5. No typos
A few of these sprinkled around liven things up, especially if I can't remember why whosisname is doing whatever to whatsisface, but if I stop reading for enjoyment and start reaching for the red pen, look out.
I realise they're not all down to the author, but I never said this was fair.

6. Misleading or fabricated cover blurbs.
You know the ones: "Its ... steaming!" standing in for "It's a steaming pile of crap and I only managed to read the first chapter!"

7. Completely misleading cover
If there's a face on the front I'm going to associate it with the protagonist. If there's a plot on the back, I more-or-less expect the book to follow it. If none of it bears any relation to the contents I'll rip the cover off and attach my own version, and then donate the book to the local thrift shop. With a pencilled review above page one.

8. Contractual obligation books
Anything trotted out to meet a deadline, instead of being written because the author loves the entire process from beginning to end. (That includes rewriting and polishing, folks.) There are plenty of new writers out there who would kill for a chance to get published. If you write garbage for the pay cheque, it's your spot they're after.

9. Tie-ins written from movies which were adapted from a novel in the first place.
Kerching! I have nothing against movie tie-ins, books written from TV shows, etc, etc. I'm specifically talking about books which are competing against the original, by way of the movie. As far as I'm concerned, anyone reading the novelisation or a movie of a novel is getting short-changed.

10 and last: Really good novels I wish I had the talent to write*

* Nonono, not literary fiction or classics or worthy books. I'm talking about fun books which hit a nerve with the public.

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

For Portland, OR residents

Portland, USA: You're not doing too badly when it comes to the Hal Spacejock books, are you? The distributor, ISBS, is based there. Powell's books of Portland stocks the entire series, and I've just had a NanoWrimo message from someone who works in the SF section at the Portland library telling me they have the books on their shelves.

I just took a peek in the Multnomah County Library online catalogue and they have 24 copies of various Hal Spacejock books across a number of branches.

So, if you live in the area and have been hanging out for some Hal, try the library ;-)

If you live elsewhere in the USA, you can either ask your local library to get them in (from ISBS), or move to Portland asap.

Surely that's not too much to ask?

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

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Couple more things

First, io9 has interviews with James Strickland and myself, where we discuss NanoWrimo and how a month of madness led to at least two published novels.

Second, Sarah Wise from the Creaking Shelves Bookshop in Scotland just sent me a snap of Hal Spacejock sitting in her shop window. Note the spaceship and the mini Lego Hal sitting on top of the book ;-)

Third, I spent part of yesterday plotting and now have a bunch more scenes to write. I'm still trying to get the characters to do what they're supposed to, and they still keep trying to run off the rails.

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

Friday, November 14, 2008

This is one with a rant in front of it

I've started seeing this in the media recently, and it's driving me nuts. When talking about figures, politicians and reporters have started using phrases such as 'we expect inflation will be a number with a two in front of it' or 'unemployment will be a number with a four in front of it.'

First, it's not accurate. Is the former two point something, twenty point something or two million point something?

Second, it's GOT to be a number. Inflation can't be a 'word with a two in front of it', unless it's 'Two High'

Gah. Next it'll be book on favourite pastimes with a 69 at the end of it, or a round of golf with a four in the middle of it.

Yes, I really am expecting it to spread like wildfire - look out for the robbery with the gun in front of it, the scandal with the policitian in front of it, and the writer with the manuscript with the rejection in front of it.

Now I have a smile with a wan in front of it.

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

A third to enjoy

Tobias Buckell, fellow SFNovelists member, has just posted the first third of his third published novel, Sly Mongoose, on his website. (His third website? Dunno.)

You can find the first third of books one and two at the same location.

Speaking of SFNovelists, if you'd like to check out regular writing-related posts by published authors, you'll find the group blog here.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nanowrimo day 12

I'm powering ahead now - on Monday I switched to a new character, and after two days of solid writing I know his name, his situation, his deepest desires and his secrets. I've also given him a love interest and a couple of major problems, neither of which I knew about yesterday.

THAT's why I love NanoWrimo. Forget the roadmap and go charging off through the scrub. You never know where you'll end up, or even how you got there.

(Sometimes the widgets lag the real count, so for the record I'm currently on 23482 at 2:40pm on Wednesday the 12th of November.)

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

Monday, November 10, 2008

For UK Hal fans, and those who want to be

Just a reminder that The Creaking Shelves bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland, is the only place you can get the Hal Spacejock series in the UK.

They're selling imported copies and bundles, and I signed every copy before they were sent over.

If you're interested, here's where you get them (and they do mail order, too.)

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

Saturday, November 08, 2008

One picture is worth 14811 words

(As of today, that is)

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

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Nano progress day 6

Hit 10000 words today, and I took a bit of a breather to mess with the plot outline. I've been juggling two different pieces of this book for some time now, and today I realised I can move one of them to the last 1/4 (ie. the end section), which solves the problem neatly.

Before this insight I kept streamlining and compressing one piece of the plot into the smallest possible chunk so it didn't delay the introduction to the other piece. (In past Hal Spacejock novels this has led to chunks of plot being compressed into thin air, which is why I have almost a million words of unused Hal scenes sitting in a folder.)

I don't know whether this plot outline will work, but that's what NanoWrimo is about - bang out the wordage and worry about where it all fits later.

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

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Interview with Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis’s latest book, The Black Ship, is the second in her Crosspointe Chronicles series. It a novel of adventure at sea, friendship, betrayal and magic, and will be released November 4th, 2008.

1) What was your inspiration for writing The Black Ship?

Well, there were a couple of things that led to writing this book. First, I meant for it to completely stand alone, so very little of the first book in the series, The Cipher, ends up in this book. A bit of it is there as backstory, but this book is really about Thorn and his big mouth and the trouble he gets into. At the same time, I wanted to tie into the unrest and political events that started showing up in The Cipher, but hopefully those flow naturally from Thorn's story. Probably most importantly, I wanted to get my characters out onto the Inland Sea because it is such a marvelously strange sea. It's a magical see where what was shallow a moment ago is now deep, where the currents shift in the blink of an eye, and it's filled with magic and monsters. Many ships don't survive. Exploring the sea, more than anything, is what pushed me to write this book about these characters. And once I met Thorn and Plusby and several others, I had to tell their stories.

2) What do you find most interesting about Thorn?

I’ve become very interested in flawed characters—in people who don’t always do things in their own best interests, or who are contradictory and sometimes dangerous to themselves. These flaws can be incredibly valuable, when you think about people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others. Yet those flaws can be dangerous, too. Thorn fascinates me because he ends up in a place where he’s torn between doing one version of right and doing another and he doesn’t know which is the more right thing to do, but he can't do both. That and he’s snarky and sometimes rude and he was huge fun to write.

3) What is it about fantasy that attracts you?

I think it’s the possibility for real heroism, and that an individual can have an enormous impact on his or her world. That a person’s decisions matter to the larger world, and that honor is worth something, and so is sacrifice.

4) What sort of research did you do to write this book?

I did something incredibly bizarre. I set this book on a square-rigged clipper ship, even though I’d never been sailing. Ever. I didn’t know anything. So I did a lot of research on clipper ships, square-riggers, the commands that are used, the feeling of being on the sea, life aboard and so on and so forth. I went out to Washington to take a short cruise on The Lady Washington and asked a whole lot of questions. I read all sorts of sailing accounts and manuals and fiction about sailing. I looked for diagrams and slang, I looked for everything that might have anything to do with sailing anywhere. I watched The Deadliest Catch to see a cold, vicious ocean in action. The process was wonderful. I think that when people read this book that they’ll really feel like they are aboard a ship. At least I hope they get that.

5) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

I have so many favorites. Wow. Well, early on I read the Narnia books over and over, and of course the Madeleine L’Engle books. But I remember that the books that really jolted me into reading broadly in fantasy were Zelazney’s Amber books. I still don’t know what it was about them that appealed so much to me at that time, but after that, I became an avid reader of fantasy, almost excluding anything else.

As for favorites now . . . I love Carol Berg and Robin McKinley. I’m a fan of Marjorie Liu, Anne Bishop and Guy Gavriel Kay. But really, I’m a voracious reader and I have so many favorites that I couldn’t begin to cover them here.

6) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

I have always been a storyteller, but I didn’t start writing until I got into college. Then I tried to write mainstream sorts of fictions. They were bad. My heart wasn’t invested in them. Eventually I began to write fantasy, which made me so much happier. As for how I got where I am now? Hmmmm. Where am I? Essentially I did some short stories and published a few of them, but I am really more a novel writer—short fiction doesn’t really come to me very often and it's uncomfortable to write, not like novels. So I worked on a novel, then another one, and then another one. At the same time, I was getting my MA and my Ph.D.

Then one day a friend (Jennifer Stevenson) asked if I’d like to do a novel in a week. I said . . . “wha…?” She explained that a novel in a week is when you take time off from life. Most people can carve out a single week of life from work, family, and other obligations and totally focus on writing. The idea is to write as much as you can during that time. When you’re done, you’ll know if you’ve got the beginnings of something (or maybe a complete draft if you’re really kicking butt on the writing), or you’ll know if it’s not worth pursuing. Either way, you’ve only lost a week to it.

So I did this, and found that I was really rocking on a novel I liked. It turned out to be Path of Fate, my first published novel. I did the submitting rounds and it was picked up by Roc.

7) What does a typical writing day look like for you?

There’s no such thing as typical. I’m still working full time, and I have a family with kids, and so I end up squeezing the writing in wherever and whenever I can. I’ve become a lot better about getting more accomplished in shorter bits of time, but really, I’m always scrambling to keep all the balls in the air and hoping none of them shatter if they fall.

8) Where do you write?

I usually write in my office. It’s a room in the upstairs of my 1917 house. It’s painted purple and has a bank of five windows that looks out over the front yard and lets in a lot of light. It’s got wall to wall books and my ‘desk’ is an old kitchen table from when I was growing up. It is about eight feet long and about five feet wide. It’s also piled with papers and books, my computer, printer and scanner. On the walls are swords, a battle ax, a munch of maps, and a bunch of pics. I also have two lava lamps, one shaped like a space ship.

9) What is hardest for you as a writer?

You know, it really all depends on the day. Like many writers, my ego is sometimes fragile so some days it’s just hard to believe that what I’m writing isn’t utter dreck. Then other days, it’s squeezing out time to write. And then maybe it’s getting through a particularly tricky scene, or figuring out how to fix a scene that just won’t work the way it is. The hardest thing changes every day.

10) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

The Path books (Path of Fate, Path of Honor, Path of Blood) are traditional epic fantasy. The first focuses on Reisil and how she has to make a choice to do something she absolutely doesn’t want to do, even though everybody else thinks is a great honor. In the second book, she finds out that not everybody is what they seem to be, and that evil can be really seductive. In the third book, she finally comes into herself and must really embrace who she’s become.

The Cipher is the first of the Crosspointe Chronicles, and is about Lucy and Marten. They are both very flawed characters and must come to terms with their flaws. In the course of it, they do some pretty awful things, even though both want to be good peopel. I really like them both. This world is not your usual epic fantasy world and has a lot in common with Victorian England.

11) How do people find out more about you and your novels?

First, thanks everyone for hanging out with me. I appreciate it. To buy the books, head over here to Mysterious Galaxy , Barnes and Noble , or Amazon. For more about me, a taste of the books, or random useful information, go to my website. Here’s a link for my blog, Mad Libs.

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

US Election coverage

The BBC is streaming their coverage live.

And, because it's the Beeb, the feed is commercial-free.

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

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nano day 4

I had a lousy writing day yesterday - I'm seeing my accountant on Thursday, and I have to take all of last year's figures with me. That means sorting through the typical shoe box full of receipts and statements, entering everything into a spreadsheet and coming up with subtotals in all the different categories.

It's hard to concentrate on fiction writing when you have that much fun awaiting your attention, and so on Monday I only managed 800 words or so in between the spreadsheet chicanery. I'd just got into the swing by 11:30pm when my wife pointed out we had to be up at 6:30 am to get youngest off to band practice. (Thanks to daylight saving, 6:30am is a body-clock time of 5:30 am. I don't function at all before three coffees and/or 10am, body clock or otherwise.)

Oh yes, and yesterday I also spent half the day writing an HTML-based print routine for Remind-Me-Please 3, because I recently upgraded my wife's PC from v2 and she was the first to notice the new version didn't print anything when she clicked the buttons. (I tried telling her the printer was out of paper, it was all down to Windows XP, she wasn't clicking the buttons in the right place, etc, in the hope she'd ask me about it after the end of November, but in the end I confessed there was no actual code behind the buttons.)

Today, after a massive six hours of sleep, I've managed 3000 words before 3pm. I did this by ignoring most email, my accounts spreadsheet and other niceties of civilisation. I did get the usual three coffees in, and I'm surviving on a diet of mini Snickers, Mars Bars and Bounties... all the loot I bought for Halloween trick-or-treaters, which nobody tried to claim.

Anyway, I'm about to tackle the accounts spreadsheet again, which is a pity because I was really into the writing. It was one of those days where I could half-convince myself I could write one 90,000 word draft a month.

Maybe later I'll get another thousand words in. And not just on my blog.

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

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hal Spacejock Website

I've just updated the main Hal Spacejock site with a new front page (6 covers! Woot!), pages for Hal 5 and 6 (now with even more FAQ), news pages for them both (pathetically empty), and a few additional bits and pieces.

Check it out

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

Hal Spacejock books 5 and 6

I just got off the phone from my publisher and they've verbally confirmed Hal Spacejock book 5 for November 2009 and Hal Spacejock book 6 for November 2010.

After that, who knows? I have more plot ideas than I can possibly use, and I still love the characters, so it's really down to the publisher and the book-buying public.

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

International Backup Day

I'm unilaterally declaring November the 3rd International Backup Day, or IBD for short. Grab a blank DVD, memory stick or removable hard drive and take a copy of your important files, right now. This is doubly important if you don't know how to do a backup, or have never bothered.

JA Konrath recently posted about various backup and restore methods, so head over there if you're uncertain about the whole concept of storing a copy of your data.

If you're not sure whether it's time to backup or not, consider this: If your PC died tomorrow, what would you lose?

You might like to post about IBD on your blog if you believe backing up is important.

Windows users: At the very least you should take a copy of your 'My Documents' folder - right-click on it, select properties and note how many gb it takes up. You'll need a memory stick at least 10-20% bigger than the total, so 3gb of files will require a 4gb stick or a blank DVD. 500 megs of files will fit onto a CD.

If you have a lot of data, I recommend an external USB hard drive. Just remember not to leave it connected to the power or the computer when not in use, or a lightning strike will take it out along with all your other gear. If you DO pick up a 500gb drive, don't waste all that room. Make folders called Jan-Dec and schedule a monthly backup into the relevant folder.

If funds are tight you can pick up an empty 3.5" USB hard drive enclosure and fit an old 10 or 20gb drive. That's equivalent to 20-40 DVDs, which is masses of room for the average user. If you have a huge collection of digital camera pics, consider how much you've saved on film and developing, and put a tiny portion of that cash towards a backup solution.

Personally I'm a backup freak, with a dedicated 200gb partition containing automatic daily, monthly and yearly snaphots of My Documents, two dozen external hard drives, backups on two completely different computers and a pocket full of memory sticks. But you don't have to go that far.

Finally, a free backup app you might find useful. (Windows only)

Official International Backup Day page

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