Why Every Writer Should Join ALCS by David Gullen

ALCS, the UK Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, collects secondary royalties on behalf of writers for work published in the UK, and campaigns and lobbies on writers’ rights at national and international levels. The society is now in its 40th year and to date has paid £450 million to its 90,000 members.

ALCS logoThese royalties come from photocopying & scanning by business, education and other organisations, overseas library lending, retransmission, and several other sources. There’s more detailed information on their website.

Not every writer knows the ALCS exists. Everyone should be, and everyone should join. Lifetime membership costs only £36.00 GBP, deductible from your first royalty payment. In fact if you are a member of the Society of Authors or one of a few other organisations, membership is free.

I wasn’t sure of membership is open to all nationalities so I contacted the ALCS and they confirm that is the case – anyone can join.

So why should you join? Well, why shouldn’t you? If you have had any magazine articles, short stories, novels, scripts, etc published, you may well be owed money and the ALCS will collect it for you .

I’m by no means a widely-published writer but my payments are worth having – my last payment was just under £150.00. Honestly, I have no idea where this comes from and am very grateful to the ALCS for their collection efforts! So far, year by year, this has slowly grown. More successful writers payments are quite substantial.

Once you’ve joined all you need to do is register existing work and add new publications as they come along. Then, once a year, you can look forwards to some  extra income from your hard work.

Which reminds me, I need to update my publications.

gullen-dkg1-2012David Gullen
David was born in South Africa and baptised by King Neptune at the equator. His short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including New Scientist’s ARC, Albedo 1, and the Sensorama anthology from Eibonvale. He is a winner of the Aeon Award and been shortlisted for the James White Award. His novel, Shopocalypse, was published by Clarion (2013). He was also one of the judges for the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award. David lives in Surrey, England, with the fantasy writer Gaie Sebold and too many tree ferns.

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I never intended… by Vaughan Stanger

51PDSqik4aL I never intended to write a series of science fiction stories about a robot butler called “Reeves”, but the tale of how it came about is, I suspect, emblematic of many a writer’s life.

The original story, Writing on the Wall, came into existence because of a writing contest. Back in 2011, New Scientist magazine was offering a cash prize for a story of no more than 350 words on the subject of Forgotten Futures, i.e. futures that seemed plausible at some point in the past, but never came to pass. At the time, I was at something of a low creativity-wise. This contest seemed like a good way to reconnect with my muse. Faced with such a restrictive word-count, I decided to depict my alternate future via an all-dialogue piece featuring just two characters, who would distantly echo much-loved models. I took great care to do my world-building in passing, as Reeves and his then unnamed master, conversed with each other about their day-to-day life. I rather liked the end result, but it got nowhere in the contest. Not to be discouraged, I sent the story to Daily Science Fiction, who accepted it. I was delighted, though frankly surprised, as few dialogue-only stories get published. And that, I thought, was that.

A couple of years later, my muse had fallen silent again. Recalling how I’d rebooted my creative brain the last time, I set myself the task of writing a sequel to Writing on the Wall. Thus Warbling Their Way to War came into being. Daily Science Fiction didn’t take it, but fortunately Plasma Frequency magazine did.

From then on, whenever I needed some light relief, I wrote another Reeves story. To my delight, the third story – Supply and Demand in the Post-War Economy, a title I was particularly pleased with – sold to Daily Science Fiction.

In due course, I wrote a fourth story. Needless to say, that one didn’t sell to Daily Science Fiction and, by then, Plasma Frequency magazine had, very sadly, gone out of business. Eventually I found a good home for Delicious Served Cold at Space Squid. I am, of course, exceedingly grateful to the editors of all three magazines for publishing my Reeves stories.

But no series should continue forever, particularly one that employs such a specialised story-telling device, so I felt the time had come to bring the adventures of Reeves and what’s-his-name to a close. Hence I have written a fifth and final episode titled Speak for Yourself, which is published for the first time in Reeves Indeed! I decided to go the self-published ebook route for this collection because I’ve already reprinted many of my stories in that way and I suspect that it  is too niche to interest even a small-press publishing company. Also, it’s an excuse to work with my good friend Tony Hughes, who supplies all my cover art.

When I re-read the story notes I’d provided for Supply and Demand… to Daily Science Fiction, I was reminded that I’d hinted at revealing the name of Reeves’ master in some future story. I’ve treated that hint as a promise, but you’ll have to read the previously unpublished story that – definitively! – concludes this collection to learn that particular secret.

Reeves Indeed! is currently available to pre-order from all good online stores.

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Exploring a House of Unlit Rooms by Jim Anderson

Typewriter 3One of the things I find most fascinating about the writing I do is how different it is from my day job. In my day job, I’m a mathematician. In my day job, I take a question, a strange little idea, and I spend time, months or years, exploring that idea, wandering through the maze of its subtleties. Its dark alleys and blind canyons that lead nowhere. Its occasional moments of clarity and advancement.

The art of doing mathematics has been described as exploring a house. We start in one darkened room and we grope our way around, finding where the furniture is located, the layout of the room. And then the light goes on and we realize that our view of the room was largely wrong. We missed some pieces of furniture, misjudged others, and missed a door entirely just because we never made it to that part of the room. We then go through one of the doors and start all over again in another darkened room.

Lightbulb ID-100401888But for me, writing is different. I tend not to follow, to explore a writing idea to the same depth I do a mathematical idea. I am much more butterfly than miner, moving from one thing to another. And I have started to ask myself, why.

I don’t know whether other writers follow ideas as deep as they go, largely because I think I don’t read entire oeuvres. I’ll read a novel from X, a collection of stories from Y. But I don’t start with the first thing X wrote, and then read everything they wrote chronologically from that first thing. I’m not sure it would help, and I’m not sure it wouldn’t. I’m sure that some writers do this and I’m sure that some writers don’t, and I’m wondering in which group I might want to place myself.

I think that I’m much more the sort of writer who needs to dive into an idea, wallow in that idea, explore it like I explore the house of mathematics and find everything I can find. And that’s what I’m doing. But there is something more of which I need to be aware. That is, exploring an idea to its deepest depths takes time, and my mathematician side is used to producing one paper a year, perhaps a bit more, once the exploration reaches a natural end.

But if I’m going to do this exploration as a writer, I’m going to need to change how I view things. I’m going to need to become willing to let people see the midway points. I’m going to need to become willing to let people see me camped in the blind alleys. I’m going to need to become willing to expose my explorations while they are still only half formed. And for me, this shift is the hardest thing.

 

jim_andersonJim Anderson Professor James W Anderson is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Southampton, and is also the Associate Dean (Education and Student Experience) for the Faculty of Social, Human and Mathematical Sciences. Beyond mathematics, he practices the traditional Japanese martial art of aikido and writes science fiction and fantasy.

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Nevertheless, She Persisted: A Book View Café anthology – By Nancy Jane Moore

I don’t think Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader of the U.S. Senate, intended to encourage dissent when he sanctioned Senator Elizabeth Warren with the words, “She was warned. She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.” He probably thought shutting Warren up would end the matter; instead, he gave women across the United States — and maybe the rest of the world — a rallying cry.

Mindy Klasky was one of the women who got angry when she heard those words. As she writes in the introduction to the Book View Cafe anthology, Nevertheless, She Persisted, [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nevertheless-She-Persisted-Book-Anthology-ebook/dp/B073WLFKGH/] “Within twenty-four hours of hearing Senator McConnell’s outrageous explanation, I reached out to my fellow members of Book View Café. … I asked if anyone wanted to contribute a story to a new anthology, built around the theme of persistence.”

NeverthelessShePersisted600x900Nineteen members of Book View Cafe, which is an international cooperative publisher run by writers, responded. It seems that the concept of persistent women hit a chord with many of us. Members volunteered to do copy editing and formatting for both ebook and print editions. Mindy made the decisions on stories, did the substantive editing, and sheparded the book through the publishing process.

The anthology, which was first proposed on February 9, 2017, came out August 8. One of the many advantages of a writer-owned co-op publisher is that it’s possible to move quickly when someone wants to bring out a special project.

Book View Cafe has put out a number of anthologies, including the three-volume Shadow Conspiracy [http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/the-shadow-conspiracy/] series of steampunk stories based on the idea that Mary Shelley wasn’t writing fiction when she penned Frankenstein. The process — an editor or editors for the project, with other members helping with the production work — has been the same for all the anthologies and is similar to the process we use for publishing our members’ novels, collections, and stories.

Book View Cafe started out on an email list of women science fiction and fantasy writers when one member said she wanted to get into ebook publishing and a bunch of others chimed in to say “me, too.” Most of the initial members had a backlist of fiction to which they held e-rights, as well as some new material that needed a home. Later, a few men joined. And although most of our members are spread across the U.S., we have a presence in Europe and Australia as well.

While the idea for Nevertheless, She Persisted was born in political anger, most of the stories in this book are not directly political. Instead, they are stories of women from the beginning of time to the current day to the far future who hang in for the long game. And win.

Some stories center on characters out of our myths. Lilith makes an appearance in Irene Radford’s story, “Den of Iniquity.” Penelope is the one persisting in Marie Brennan’s “Daughter of Necessity.” Others deal with women of the present, such as the knitter in Brenda Clough’s “Making Love.” Vonda N. McIntyre imagines women of a far, far future of living ships and lengthy lives in “Little Faces.”

The authors aren’t all women, or even all from the U.S. The idea that women are capable of persisting is much more universal than that — another reason why the actions of the Senate majority leader were so ill-considered.

There are some who say fiction writers shouldn’t be political. Since politics is the way we come together as a society – as a world – to figure out how to live and resolve conflicts, I think it’s everyone’s duty to be involved in some way. As the stories in this volume indicate, a piece doesn’t have to be directly about a particular political action to have a political effect.

Nevertheless, She Persisted debuted August 8 at Book View Café [http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/]. It is available on Amazon UK [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nevertheless-She-Persisted-Book-Anthology-ebook/dp/B073WLFKGH/] and other online booksellers. The authors and stories are:

  • “Daughter of Necessity” by Marie Brennan
  • “Sisters” by Leah Cutter
  • “Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross
  • “Alea Iacta Est” by Marissa Doyle
  • “How Best to Serve” from A Call to Arms by P.G. Nagle
  • “After Eden” by Gillian Polack
  • “Reset” by Sara Stamey
  • “A Very, Wary Christmas” by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
  • “Making Love” by Brenda Clough
  • “Den of Iniquity” by Irene Radford
  • “Digger Lady” by Amy Sterling Casil
  • “Tumbling Blocks” by Mindy Klasky
  • “The Purge” by Jennifer Stevenson
  • “If It Ain’t Broke” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
  • “Chatauqua” by Nancy Jane Moore
  • “Bearing Shadows” by Dave Smeds
  • “In Search of Laria” by Doranna Durgin
  • “Tax Season” by Judith Tarr
  • “Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre

 

nan300Nancy Jane Moore is the author of the science fiction novel The Weave, published by Aqueduct Press. Her other books include Conscientious Inconsistencies from PS Publishing, Changeling from Aqueduct, and Walking Contradiction and Other Futures from Book View Café. She is a founding member of Book View Café. In 2002 she made it to Milford and she’s been trying to get back ever since. A native Texan who spent many years in Washington, D.C., she now lives in Oakland, California.

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Fantasycon by the Cathedral, Peterborough 2017 – A Review by Terry Jackman

Peterbro 03Peterborough. A slightly puzzling location at first sight, a mix of some rather ‘mean streets’, a very pretty shopping arcade opposite the hotel – which hosted the art exhibition – and a beautiful Medieval cathedral area beyond.

Peterbro 02Where the prettiest medieval house front I can recall housed a Pizza Hut on the ground floor. See what I mean about a mix?

The con itself was much more consistent, and of a high standard, both for content and efficient running. Many thanks to those who organised it, and a special mention for whoever designed all the gorgeous posters. I was also impressed by the double page spreads allotted to each GOH, with faces, bios and book cover images, though the programme size was unfortunate. Most people I knew resorted to ripping the day’s pages out rather than lugging it around. And I did find it odd that several pages were given to a piece of fiction, but there was no layout map, or indeed any opening times included. But that was a blip in an otherwise exemplary effort.

The event has become a contrast to say Eastercon by being increasingly geared towards writing rather than readers. I find this both a useful distinction, and an attraction. This year’s selections certainly seemed aware of that. Panels covered such topics as reviewing, critiquing, writing courses, ghostwriting, collaboration, writing for TV, audio or gaming. Then there were options such as being a business, markets, self publishing, small presses, assessing book covers, building anthologies. All good stuff for writers and/or those with related interests.

Not forgetting the workshops on such things as podcasting, world building, comedy, self-editing and writing submissions. I doubt I was alone in being impressed by the choice, and quality. For once most of the discussions I saw seemed to have been properly prepared rather than the dreaded ‘off the cuff’ variety.

Did I spend any money? I’ll own up to a little over the bar. Didn’t we all? I also spent some in the dealer room, which was a much better location than last year when the tables were so scattered some were invisible. This year’s setup was one location and even included a snack bar area; intelligent and probably a real boon to dealers who were glued to their stalls so much. I always like the secondhand stall for those forgotten gems, though I’d love to be able to buy ebooks at cons too. And ah yes, the jewellery stall…

So overall, as you can see, it was well worth the trip ‘down south’ and meeting up with friends is always the icing on the con cake, especially those I wouldn’t see otherwise. So, a great choice of things to do, places to eat, smooth organisation and a very good venue, if you didn’t mind the stairs in the hotel. Plus a crowd of cheerful, like-minded people.

Well done guys. I’d go again!

author pic 1Terry Jackman: wrote articles, study guides and actual exam papers for about ten years. She has several short stories published. Attended Milford for the first time in 2011, and several times since. Runs the BSFA Orbiters crit schemes. Her first novel, Ashamet, was published by Dragonwell Publishing in 2015, and she blogs at TerryTalk, to be found on www.terryjackman.co.uk
Twitter: @terry_jackman

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It’s the Best Novel I’ve Ever Written by Gus Smith

I recently came across my very first novel, buried away in the bottom of a drawer, 179 pages of badly-typed foolscap. It’s called And We Shall be Changed, and the page after the title page carries a quote from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Class, I thought. I wrote it for the BBC Bookshelf/Gollancz First (Last?) Fantasy Novel Competition in 1976. At the time I could say, without fear of contradiction, ‘It’s the best novel I’ve ever written,’ because there was nothing to compare it with. By the same logic, it was also the worst, and it remains so. I doubt if the Gollancz reader who was landed with it got past page 1.

It’s an odd hotchpotch of a story, with the narrative interrupted here and there by poems, news items, upside-down writing, even songs complete with music. I hand wrote it off the top of my head. I can remember churning out page after page of weird and bizarre stuff, with a portal into another world that makes a wardrobe look like hard science. There isn’t a word of dialogue until page 39. I didn’t do any rewriting, just typed it up and sent it off.

Gus picIt took me over twenty years to get round to writing longer fiction again – my debut published novel, Feather and Bone. In the interim I’d produced a slew of plays, musicals, poems and short stories, and been to several Milfords, so I’d learned a thing or two about writing. Weird and bizarre stuff still happens, but in a more organised and purposeful sort of way. People actually talk to each other, characters have backstories and develop as the story progresses, it comes to a more-or-less satisfactory conclusion – for some. There was no doubt that it had become my new best novel.

Since then, of course, I have written other novels, and the picture is less clear cut. I like the idea of improving, of feeling that I’m getting better at my craft, but once you’ve reached a certain level of competence, brilliance or somewhere in-between, progress is more difficult to discern. Nobody regards you as ‘promising’ any more, but is your current novel better than the last one? Have you plateaued, maybe? Peaked, even, with the prospect of facing a slow decline? I find it impossible to tell. I’m too close to my own work to make an objective judgment, and I know I’m not alone in that.

What matters, ultimately, is that I should think I’m capable of improvement, and not just in the detail of work in progress – Milford-style critiquing leaves me in no doubt about that – but overall. I’d like to say, like Robert Browning’s Rabbi Ben Ezra, Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be, to tell you that my best novel is still out there, waiting to find its way onto the printed page. Or at least that it might be.

 

GusGus Smith spent most of his working life as a teacher in as wide a variety of schools as you could possibly imagine. He was also Chair of Ecology Building Society for a number of years, which involved non-fiction writing and broadcasting, a semi-pro folk singer for a while, ran a smallholding and raised a family with his wife Tessa. After Feather and Bone he diverted into children’s literature; writing novels, short stories and poems as Gus Grenfell. He has recently returned to adult fiction, as now, in the second half of his eighth decade, he feels a bit more grown up.

 

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Things I Didn’t Know When I Started to Write a Trilogy – by Jacey Bedford

Nimbus cover 400pxNimbus, the third book in my Psi-Tech trilogy is out today.

Let me say that again because I only have twenty four hours to keep repeating is and it’s one of those phrases that doesn’t get old.

Nimbus, the third book in my Psi-Tech trilogy is out today, Tuesday 3rd October 2017.

In all fairness I never intended to commit trilogy, but when I sold Empire of Dust to DAW my original three book deal it was for Empire of Dust, an unnamed sequel, and Winterwood (a fantasy and the beginning of another trilogy). My editor, the lovely Sheila Gilbert actually bought Winterwood first, but she said those words that every author is gagging to hear right after, ‘I want to buy your book,’ and that is, ‘What else have you got?’

Psi-Tech 2015 6x4smTo cut the story short, I sent her Empire, which I’d written a few years earlier as a stand-alone with potential sequels. She liked it and asked me for an outline for a follow-up. I dashed of

f a page full of ideas that turned into Crossways. Part way through writing Crossways I needed to know whether to wrap up the story arc in two volumes or whether it would run to three. I was delighted when I got the go-ahead to write a third Psi-Tech book to round off the story of Ben, Cara, and the Free Company.

If you twisted my arm to offer advice on how to write a trilogy I wouldn’t say, ‘Write one book with no future plan in mind and see what happens.’ Though that’s what I did. Of course, I’d thought about the series potential, and I already knew that Crossways was under contract before I stared extensive editorial revisions on Empire, so I was able to sit back and think about a much longer story, one that I could finish in two books if I had to, but one that would profit from being given the breathing space that you only get with a three-book-story. These are not short books. Empire is 171,000 words; Crossways is 173,000 words and Nimbus is 169,000 words. That’s over half a million words to reveal a plot that begins with a personal story – a  lone telepath on the run from corporate skulduggery in an era of interstellar colonialism – and ends with a paradigm shift. (I can’t tell you more or I’d have to shoot you. Read the books, please.)

So what didn’t I know?

I didn’t know that writing sequels is difficult and writing a sequel to the sequel is even more difficult. How much of the story of the first book do you give away in the second? How much of the first two books do you give away in the third? Many times I was tempted to start the second and third books with a chapter of the story so far, but I didn’t give in. I tended to put in way too much backstory in the first draft, and had to pare it down, sometimes relying on fellow writers in our critique group, Northwrite, to scribble: Yes! WE KNOW! In the margin of my manuscript. Hopefully all those bits have been excised.

What else?

Rookie mistake, but when I wrote Empire, I didn’t know to compile a style sheet which noted spellings of names and terms used in the book. When does Telepath have a capital letter? (Answer, when it’s a Telepath whose talent comes from having a neural implant.) Is it air lock, air-lock or airlock? Is it jumpdrive, jump-drive or jump drive? The answer is that it can be any of them, as long as what you write in the last book is consistent with what you wrote in the first. The copy editor who dealt with Empire very kindly sent a style sheet. I added to it as the cast of characters and the specialised vocabulary grew. By the time I got to the end of Nimbus, my style sheet was (well, still is) 12 pages, double columned, using 10 pitch Calibri.

And…

I didn’t know how and when to kill off characters. I’m no George RR Martin about to drop the headsman’s axe on the neck of a beloved character, or wipe out a family at a wedding, but without losing some characters, the threat to the others wouldn’t seem real. I’m too soft. One of my characters died and was resurrected about three times (not in the plot, but in several early drafts) and he still made it to the end of the third book.

And then there’s the problem of writing about sex in a stable relationship.

OK, not exactly a problem, but I started Cara and Ben’s relationship backwards. They had unwise sex as strangers (in the very first chapter of the first book, so I’m not giving you much of a spoiler) but grew past it – and that was only the first book. So the romance sub-plot had to leave will-they-won’t-they? far behind (because they already had). I introduced Ben at the beginning of the first book, and he grew to be an equal viewpoint character with his own story arc. His problems intersected with Cara’s and they solved them together… eventually.

Rounding off.

I’m a sucker for circular plots and for actions growing logically from earlier actions rather than happening for the convenience of the author. I was a little worried about the motivation of one of my antagonists and the answer didn’t hit me until the very last revision of the very last book. I was one of those oh, yeah! moments, so logical that I wondered why I hadn’t planned it from the beginning. And then I realised that even if I had I wouldn’t have written anything differently, because I wouldn’t have wanted to spoil that final reveal. It still worked anyway.

Sometimes luck is on your side.

 

 jacey-novacon-2012-300pxsquJacey Bedford is a British writer from Yorkshire with over thirty short stories and five (so far) novels to her credit. She lives behind a desk in an old stone house on the edge of the Pennines with her husband and a long-haired, black German Shepherd – that’s a dog not an actual shepherd from Germany. She’s the hon. sec. of Milford SF Writers’ Conference, held annually in North Wales.

 

Jacey’s books:
Empire of Dust (Psi-Tech series #1)
Crossways  (Psi-Tech series #2)
Nimbus  (Psi-Tech series #3)
Winterwood (Rowankind #1)
Silverwolf (Rowankind #2)

Follow Jacey:
Web: http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk
Twitter: @jaceybedford
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jacey.bedford.writer
Blog: http://jaceybedford.wordpress.com
Milford: http://www.milfordSF.co.uk

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