Good News in a Bad World

Donald Trump. Egad. I mean, really? And the UK still seems to be pushing ahead with Brexit, without much sense of having a plan or even a clue. I’d much rather we didn’t leave the EU, but if we’re going to I’d far prefer for us to have something outlined that might give us a fighting chance in the world economy. Not much sign of that, sadly, unless “have our cake and eat it” is a plan.

But I can do nothing about that. All I can do is be happy and grateful for the smaller things in my life that are good.

First of all, we have a confirmed release date for the US edition of DARK SKY, which will be coming out on July 11th from Saga Press. I’m really excited for this: I think it’s a better book than DARK RUN (I know I’m hardly likely to say that it’s worse, but honestly, I think it’s better) and I hope everyone on that side of The Pond will agree! I’m also looking forward to seeing the final cover for it too, I saw the rather fantastic initial artwork a while back (by John Harris, just as DARK RUN was) but I haven’t seen the finished product yet.

Secondly, as I have mentioned online previously, I’ve started doing freelance work for Black Library, the publishing wing of Games Workshop. What I thought I’d do at this point is to give a brief overview of how this came about, and what it entails.

First of all, I live in Nottingham and have done since 2000 (full time since I graduated in 2003). Games Workshop’s HQ is in Nottingham. As a result, it is no surprise that I have encountered many people over the years who work for them given the cross-over with interests in fantasy and science-fiction, and indeed with the rock/punk/metal etc “alternative music” subculture.

Every year (I think) Black Library does an open recruitment month, where anyone who’s interested is encouraged to apply to write for them as a freelancer. I tried this a couple of years ago and had to do a couple of short fiction pieces, no more than 500 words long.

They didn’t want me.

Then, earlier this year, a writing vacancy came up in the newly-created Specialist Games department. This would involve some areas of games design but also writing background text and the sort of flash fiction that fills gaps in the company’s rulebooks, and so on. So I applied to that, as it sounded like a really fun, interesting job.

They didn’t want me for that, either (although I did get good feedback on the short story I’d written as part of the application).

Then, a couple of months ago, I was chatting to a friend who works for Games Workshop and has also had some novels published with Black Library and, at least half-jokingly, said “Oh, I don’t suppose Black Library would be interested in a novel about [not particularly serious Games Workshop-related idea] from a randomer, would they?” To which my friend replied “Well, you’re not a randomer, you’re a published author. I’ll drop one of the commissioning editors a line.”

And he did. And then I found myself talking to an editor at Black Library who asked me a bit about my knowledge of the company and its products, and then gave me a brief to write the first thousand words of a short story on. I did this and sent it to him, and he and his fellow editors were happy enough with it that they commissioned the full-length piece from me, and sent through a Contract To Provide Goods Or Services to Games Workshop (which involved me having to confirm that I don’t break EU laws on child labour and similar stuff, which I certainly don’t think I do…).

So I wrote the full-length short story and sent it in, and then had to do an invoice. I’ve never done an invoice before! Luckily I was able to tap up another freelance author I know, who gladly gave me some advice on what should be on an invoice and when I should send it in, and so forth. And now I wait for the rest of the editing process, to see what changes I’ll need to make so it fits in with my editor’s vision of what he wants.

And so there you are. Suddenly, I’m not just a published novelist releasing novels through Saga Press and Del Rey UK, I’m also a freelance author.

(I’d like to give thanks to Gav Thorpe and Andy Hoare for their assistance with my burgeoning Black Library career, as well as Stuart for the feedback on my initial draft)

One of the main lessons here is a lesson I’ve espoused before (bottom of that entry): sometimes it’s not just what you can do and how hard you work, sometimes it really comes down to luck. It might be a case of being in the right place at the right time, or it might be a case of who you know (or both: I wouldn’t have met the friend who put in a good word for me had I not been living in Nottingham). Neither of those things in and of themselves are likely to give you a new opportunity if your writing sucks and you have no work ethic, but sometimes it can be enough to open a door that would otherwise have remained shut (the other thing is persistence: if I’d just given up on writing for Black Library after my first rejection and hadn’t even mentioned the possibility afterwards then it wouldn’t have come about either, or at least not in this way).

Pretty much every part of my writing career has, in one way or another, come down to luck. Knowing the right person, being in the right place at the right time, seeing the right link to click, or whatever. So if you happen to be reading this blog as a writer who’s struggling to get recognition: keep trying. At some point you might get the break that means that, if your work’s good enough or simply what someone’s looking for at that moment in time, you’ll be up and running. And once you’re up and running, other doors can start to open.

And that, for me, is a good thing in a world that, while maybe not truly bad, certainly isn’t always good.

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