14 March, 2012
Every writer I know is, like me, observing the new publishing technologies with interest. Some are doing more than observing – they’re leading the pack, exploiting all opportunities for digital publishing, social network marketing, and new format and platforms. Novelists are writing short stories for e-readers, serialized books are available on mobile phones, e-readers and tablets are finally able to handle illustrated children’s books. Even as I write these words, it’s old news.
A few writers are cowering in the corner, refusing to enter the fray. Good luck with that, I say. It may be possible to stay in the literary game even while refusing to play by the new rules, but I doubt it.
Electronic publishing has been good to novelists, and that includes me. And it’s been great to bring back into print books that have been unavailable for some time. My ‘vintage’ SF novels, Dream Thief and Empyrion, have enjoyed modest success in e-formats. Now I’m going to see if parents like the idea of curling up with the family Nook or Kindle to read to their children. I’ve just published Brown Ears and Brown Ears at Sea electronically. When these books were written – on an electric typewriter, y’all – they were meant to be a comfort to my son, Ross, who had lost his closest companion on a bus coming back from a holiday in Crete. Now Ross is himself a writer and the story of what happened after his rabbit got lost knows none of the traditional publishing boundaries or restrictions. Brave new world.
21 July, 2011
Writing is a three-ring circus, if you’re lucky. There is the book in production, about to be published …. the book currently being written … and the book looming on the horizon. Whilst The Bone House – second in the BRIGHT EMPIRES series – is about to be published in a few short weeks, I am neck deep in the third book of that series, and already jotting down notes for the fourth. All the while keeping in mind that the series needs to conclude successfully a couple years from now.
Research and more research seems to be the theme of this series which takes place around the world and across the boundaries of time. Having been in Egypt in February during the downfall of Mubarak, I found myself in Syria in March, when demonstrations were just beginning. I was in Damascus during the day of celebration (of himself) that Bashar al Assad provided for the Syrian people. Much flag-waving, horn-honking, and affection for their leader were on display on 29 March. It was a day of hope. The next day, Assad addressed the nation and agreed to reforms that amounted to …. nothing. Absolutely nothing. The change in the city was palpable that day. Shops were dark, people walked quietly in the streets, and our previously opinionated guide asked not to speak of political matters. That evening, my wife and I attended a worship service at a Syrian Catholic church and wondered what lay ahead for the people gathered there. We still don’t know the answer.
Damascus will figure in Book 3. For now, I hope readers will look forward to and enjoy Book 2 – The Bone House.
11 February, 2011
This letter comes from the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. From my vantage point I look across the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi Arabia and, farther north, Jordan. I can also see the border with Israel. A few meters out from shore is a coral reef that harbors exotic fish that are easily seen and appreciated with the most rudimentary mask and snorkel.
Hours away, there is political unrest in Cairo and as a consequence visitors to Egypt are few, even in the peaceful places. Today I went to St. Catherine’s Monastery in the middle of the peninsula, and was one of only a handful of people who came to visit this ancient monastery where forty-five monks, mostly Greek Orthodox, keep alive the rituals and disciplines of a life that dates back to Justinian’s 6th-century charter and the prophet Mohammed’s written instructions that the Christian monks should be allowed to inhabit this place in perpetuity. A mosque sits literally next to the church within the walls of the place; the former is no longer used, but it remains as a reminder that people of the book should live together in peace. Outside the walls, Bedouin traders are selling onyx eggs, guidebooks with lurid photographs, and cheap icons. Everyone wants to know where I’m from and what my name is; why do I feel compelled to tell them the truth? So we have conversations about Oxford.
My introduction to St. Catherine’s has come from reading Sisters of the Sinai by Janet Soskice, a fascinating account of how Victorian twins discovered at the monastery a palimpsest containing an older manuscript of the Bible than had previously been known to exist. I can’t recommend the book highly enough.
All this travel is in aid of my own book, and I’ll follow it up next month with a trip to Syria – if the political situation in the area allows, which is why one needn’t be in the Middle East very long before one quite easily appends all talk of travel plans with the prudent: insh’allah.