Well... that was a good weekend for getting some art books out of the house and into good hands. The car was considerably lighter when I left than it was going, though I don't envy those who thought "It's only a few books, I can easily carry them without a bag". Those kind of thoughts are for people who don't carry art books around very often. Still, my work on that front is done. I'm filing that as a big win and it's left a good sized hole that looks like I've done something useful.

Anyway, when I got back from the show, I figured doing a 12 hour day after an 18 hour day, another 18 hour day the day before that and then driving five and half hours back home was probably a stupid idea. I was pretty tired when I touched down, I messed about with Hector for a little while, filled his water bowl up and then, just to make sure I was home for real, slipped in some of said water and knocked myself out for a little while by smacking the side of my face on the corner of the kitchen cupboard at high speed. 

Let me tell you... that hurt like a bitch, but I slept like a dead man.

After taking H to the beach for a little while...

...I spent some time today working on the cover for The Family Of Noise. I'm not going to change the softback edition too much from the original design it had wrapped itself up in... which was this: 

I still love this cover - it says everything I want it to with one simple image doing a lot of the hard work.

Today's question is whether I completely redesign the hardback version or not. I suspect not, but while I was chewing it over and playing around, a few things started to take shape that have so far not been thrown into the bin. I'll see how that pans out over the next week or so. 

Meantime, tomorrow, I'll be checking over the final manuscript again - which might actually take longer than I think... so let's call it the end of the week and then I'll move into type-setting mode, run like hell and hope I don't fall on the scissors.

Topically, I received an email this week from a German author requesting that I review a free digital copy of her book here and also leave a review on amazon - because obviously, book reviews is something I'm forever posting around here. Then again, the email also said it had already sold over 250,000 copies in its German variant so, perhaps it's me that's missing something. 

If I sold quarter of a million copies of a book - with or without having to cut in a middle man - I'm not sure I would be be scrounging for reviews online from a man who was sitting on the edge of forever.

Particularly a man who Doesn't Review Books. Ever. 

Go figure.

Finally today - because I still have things to do - quote of the season (so far) from Game of Thrones:

"Nothing will fuck you harder than time."

Jesus. Ain't that the truth.

Sion Smith
Pop Life

Work begins on my first 2017 release... shortly. I have the somewhat 'large' event - Tattoo Jam - to attend to from Friday to Monday, so even with the best of intentions, I know I'm not going to get anything done between now and the end of that. It would be foolish to even try, so best forget all about it in the physical world. In the mental/spiritual world however, it will still be going on... what to do, how to do it - those kinds of things.

I’m going to release The Family Of Noise in early October - which is not so far away, six weeks or so in fact, which will give me some time to mock up proofs for checking over as well. Being as it’s finished and has been sitting here for the best part of a year, I figure it needs sending out into the wild to fend for itself. I decided a long time ago that what happens to it then is not up to me. It’s up to those who read it and love it enough to tell others about it to give it life or, if they hate it, to grind it into the dust and kick it into touch. 

My job is to send it out to school in the correct uniform with a packed lunch, make sure it has a few friends to prop it up in the early days and have a snack ready for it when it gets home.

It will be released as a numbered limited edition hardback run of 100 (which will only be available directly from Bad Hare right here) as a softback (also available here but also available to order on amazon and from bookstores if you so wish) and then, soon after, across all digital platforms to suit whatever e-device you happen to be wielding. I'll post details and links as soon as I cement them into the floor.

Maybe that hardback variant will also have some bonus material - I’d like that a lot and hopefully, so will anybody who picks it up. 

So that's a plan, right? It feels good to get moving again. Meanwhile, in the gaps of all that and the magazine, I've been hitting the guitar hard. It's the best use of my time whenever the pen gets too heavy because no matter how much you improve, there will always be somebody who can whup your ass into a small suitcase. 

Meanwhile, out in the world that's not mine, my buddy Sean Herman mailed over some of his zines - which are great - from Serpent's of Bienville out in Mobile, Alabama:

It's kind of hard to explain what they do over at Serpent's - it may be easier to describe what they don't do! The one thing I do know is if ever you're down that way, you should go check out the place. The man even sent me a preserved alligator paw in the mail.

(That's right... if you cast your mind back, I was writing a column for them called Beautiful Creatures. Now look down to the floor and you will see all of the balls I dropped on that front. I must get back on top of that because I'm starting to feel bad about it.) 

Sion Smith
Burning Time

Despite the purge of a lifetime of accumulated books, I still read as much as I ever did. I have not fallen out of love with it in any way, nor books themselves for that matter. 

The publishing world - alongside of the music business, the movie/TV business and more than likely, every other business you can think of - continues to change. It's confusing out there for writers. Hell, you don't even have to be new to the game to find it the business equivalent of the Grimpen Mire. 

To bring us up to date with the world of me, a couple of years ago, I released a book called The Family Of Noise. I didn't make a huge deal out of it and pushed it out only to a few friends and people who like to follow me here regularly with a plan for a real PR campaign in the following weeks. I thought it was good... but word came back from many of these people that I should put it out through major channels for it to get the audience it deserved. That's just what you need to hear when you've spent two years smashing yourself in the face with a hammer.

I retracted the book from public eye along with any sales channels and set about pitching it to agents and publishers. Although you can apparently find a used copy on amazon for £120... in French! I don't think this item exists because I sure as hell never got it translated and know exactly where every single copy went. Go figure.

The upshot of which is that it's still sitting here a good year later - maybe it really does suck, but oh, how I wanted that book to be picked up by a huge publishing house and for all my dreams to come true but such a thing is not to be - at least not yet.

All that has happened in that year is a year has passed by in which nothing has happened.

Such is the price you will pay (if you want to view it that way) if you want to be a writer... but this is not quite true. 

There are two types of fiction writer and both are very real and proper. For some, validation comes from being picked up for mass publishing and it's a big deal. It means your material was good enough for somebody with something to lose to invest in you - and it is a big deal. It's the traditional way and it makes all of the wheels spin. It's what I've spent my whole life investing in on a weekly basis. I am not pouring scorn on it...

...but I have decided, I don't have that kind of time to squander, hanging around waiting for something to happen with my own work.

This is a really long way around of saying, I am going back to publishing my work through Bad Hare - which is my own imprint. I will likely sell as many copies as I would through any publisher that wasn't one of The Big Four, I like being responsible for my own cover art (which is not something I can bank on anywhere else), I will probably make more money from it but mostly - and this is important, I will be writing and moving forwards instead of waiting for somebody to tell me it's OK to keep writing. 

I do not write because I want to be an award winning writer. It would be nice I guess but I do not want it and I sure as hell am not hankering after such a thing. I don't write for money because I have a great job already and the actual odds on me making enough money to live on in such a niche game are slim. I do not write to be part of a group in which we all slap each other on the back and meet for beer once a month, not for kudos, sex, fame or anything else that might spring to mind. I don't even blog to try to convince anybody passing to sign up to a mailing list so that I can 'harness the audience' - to my eyes, that's cheap, desperate and smells of 'me-me-me-marketing' at its very worst - the internet is littered with them.

I write because I like writing and I want to write.

I write because so far, the people who have read what I write, like what I write - hell, some even love it.

I write because I have no idea what else to do with my life.

My only real fly in the ointment without a publisher is finding an audience... then again, here's the cover of Mary Miller's The Last Days Of California, which I thought was incredible for all the right reasons but have you read it?

No. You have never even heard of it, so I rest my case.

But sometimes, there are those little voices in my head that tell me I am Super Wrong and that I should hold out - but they are lying and I know this because this morning two things happened.

1. The voices began their dawn chorus

2. A few minutes later, I saw this in a thing Mr Gaiman did with The Guardian today:

There’s nothing like studying the bestseller lists of bygone years for teaching an author humility. You’ve heard of the ones that got filmed, normally. Mostly you realise that today’s bestsellers are tomorrow’s forgotten things.

I went to have a look at what was hot at the New York Times this week throughout a few random years. Here:

1995: Beach Music by Pat Conroy

2000: Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

2005: Lifeguard by James Patterson and Paul Kemprecos

2010: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

2015: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee 

The first two I have never heard of - author or book, Lifeguard is unsurprising because J.P. knows how to sell a book no matter what you think of him. Nobody cared about Larsson until Dragon became a film, so that too is understandable and Watchman is a blip on the radar - and also, compared to Mockingbird, garbage - that's nothing but a lawyer, a publisher or an estate cashing in on a legend. For point of reference with that, the week after Friction by Sandra Brown was sitting at the top.

No. Me neither.

What can you deduce from this? I'll tell you... people bought what they were sold. As always, Mr Gaiman is bang on the nose. Some made some money with their books, some still are... and at least two of them are dead.

I just want to write, so I am signing out of using my limited time on the planet firing shots at the publishing world. I am going back to flying solo - which also means I don't need to be concerned with ever looking at such lists again and can content myself with doing what I want as best I can and hopefully, finding an audience who like what I do too.

Le Fin.

Sorry it was a long-ass way around the block and if you got to the end, I salute you. If nothing else it made me feel better about the future.

Footnote: I do think however, that if you are writing a crime/mystery novel or police procedural, a publishing house is unmistakably the way to go. A series - like John Connolly's Charlie Parker series - needs it. I'm not sure I would have discovered it otherwise and that would make me sad. Maybe we should all just know ourselves a little better by being honest. 

Show Me How To Live...

The purge continues. Little by little, it continues in the right direction. Yesterday, (not so) small person (anymore) asked me why I was giving all my books away when - aside from my record player, a few albums and my guitars - it was almost all I had left. It was a question that deserved an even better answer.

I sealed her mouth shut by giving her my record player (hey, in for a penny and all that) and a few albums she might actually like. She took to it well, fell in love with the concept and this morning, disappeared to an inner city nightmare in search of her first slab of vinyl she could call her own… and came back with a Michael Jackson album. 

It could have been worse and I’m good with that, though it would have been neat if she had discovered Mother Love Bone all by herself. 

Anyway, I chewed her question over and I guess the real answer is that many years ago when I left home, I had very little to call my own - but a year or so later, when I left town to head for London, I had even less. A few clothes in a bag, a copy of an Ed McBain novel (See Them Die) I was dipping in and out of, a Walkman and two cassettes. One featured Rick Springfield’s Living In Oz with New Jersey from Bon Jovi on the other side and tape two had The Doors Morrison Hotel and Zodiac Mindwarp’s Tattooed Beat Messiah

What more could a man possibly need on a shamanic quest to find himself?

I can’t recall ever feeling more like anything was possible than I did back then when I had nothing - and while this isn’t an attempt to reduce myself to the meagre possessions of Gandhi - it is certainly an attempt to get down to what’s either useful or beautiful… and the one thing I’ve discovered already is that very little truly belongs in either category. 

Thus, my codex for the future is going to be something like:

Tread softly and leave a big fucking scar in the wind

...which I think is harsh enough not to be called a tree-hugging hippie. Hugging things ain't gonna fix jack. What the world needs is a warrior and warriors don't carry backpacks full of crap around with them. 

Ummm... that might be taking it a little too far but the sentiment is there. 

The wisdom of samurai is priceless. 

As a footnote to this on the subject of music, I've done my time with vinyl. I have no regrets about handing the magic of it down a generation. I've spent more money on vinyl than I ever did on books for years on end. I've tried to resurrect what I felt for it but in the real world, jacking my iPhone into Creature Speakers has more power behind it than any record deck I've ever owned... 

...and if MP3 is the worst format in the world, that's OK because my ears are so hammered after all those years, I honestly can't tell the difference any more. 

August and Everything After

I have an appointment with a doctor this afternoon. I have been 'doctor-less' for nearly eight years now but figured I had best get my ass checked over. Well, not actually my ass - that's a figure of speech. You know what I mean. 

Medical stuff aside, I thought I would leave behind some gifts while I was there - see previous post if you have no idea what's going on here.

This for one, which I picked up at Denver airport a few years back:

And this, which I picked up at Philadelphia airport a year later:

Never release a book with a white cover. They collect debris for no reason like there's no tomorrow And then there's this - which I didn't pick up at any airport - that I still haven't made my mind up over whether it was good or not:

I can think of no better place to leave behind a few books of short stories than somewhere where traffic is transient. In fact, they can have this too... which I've owned since around 1993: 

What's interesting about this last book - particularly if you're a writer - is a) this publishing company no longer exists. I think it was a spin-off from Serpents Tail (or at least a joint venture), b) I would wager that everybody who reads this post has never heard of Benjamin Weissman and c) the book is excellent. Consider all the boxes for success ticked and yet...

As writers, we all hanker for such things - write a book, get it published and have as many people as possible read it but I would go so far to bet a LOT of money that none of you reading this has ever read any of these books even though the first three are by people who have done other, sometimes very big, things in the world and are pretty well known out there. I'd also throw a heap of cash into the arena with a rough guess that none of you knew Molly Ringwald had even written a book.

If your next question is "who is Molly Ringwald", it's OK. It just means you are substantially younger than me and that's OK too but you really should watch The Breakfast Club as soon as possible.

So what hope does Writer X have of fulfilling their dreams? This exercise of giving books away has given me the ability to see behind the curtain and there really is an old man sitting on a stool rattling levers backwards and forwards. Writing is a crap-shoot. You might get lucky and you might not. 

So, the answer I have arrived at today is this: you can get yourself an agent and subsequently a publishing deal... and your book will be released and that will be a Big Deal - and so it should be.

But what then?

Tomorrow, somebody else will publish their book and the next day, somebody else will too. In fact, somebody will release their book on the same day as you from a different publishing house and this will be 'competition'. Over the course of the week, dozens (hundreds?) of books will be released and people will have to choose you over the other people.

(How I would hate to have a book out and have it sit on a pile of things 'to be read' - because that happens too. Can you imagine buying an album and putting it on a stack of things you might listen to later? It just doesn't happen. People who by books - and I am one of them - are a strange collective that's for sure.)

Next week, the world really will have moved on - you won't even be a popular social media post - repeatedly telling your social channels you have a book out will piss people off, you will start to look desperate and that's not a good look on anybody.

I honestly believe, here in 2017 and for the foreseeable future, that you must make yourself into your own brand. You have no other option if you want people to buy your book and listen to what you have to say. If you're a band with an album, you hit the road in support of your release - that's the mindset you need to be in to make it as a writer because writing is not enough anymore unless you're happy firing one gun and then staying at home to proudly clean it for the next 30 years.

TV is the new cinema and screenplays will continue to go that way as actors strap themselves to long-term projects... and wisely so. An hour and half on the big screen versus six months week after week on the TV. That's a no-brainer for your 'brand'.

Apparently, nobody buys albums anymore. It's all about the single... or at least individual tracks. Does anybody ever get to the last couple of tracks on an album? People have power now. Your good stuff will find itself on a personal playlist and your not-so-good stuff will be banished to the back-end of the internet. 

So if you're an author and you think a book every few years is good enough for commercial success, you're wrong. I believe you need to be episodic in your writing now. Don't ask me how you can make it work because I don't know but feeding new material to the world daily, weekly or monthly, is what your average person either wants, needs or expects... or at least it is of you're new to the game.. and particularly if you don't write super-commercial airport books.

I am no marketer. I struggle with this shit more than most but I have spent the majority of this year pitching at agents and publishers to find myself sitting here empty handed regardless.

Am I bad writer? Maybe.

Am I a good writer? Maybe.

Those things are not for me to decide. That's the job of the reader and nobody else. It's also important to differentiate between being a good writer and being a writer whose work sells millions of copies. Sometimes you have to decide which one you want to be, but again, these things are not mutually exclusive.

I know dozens of good writers who can't get a break and I have (started to) read hundreds of books by people who should never have gotten through the gate.

All I have is this:

The worst thing you can do is to write because you want to be a success. 

The best thing you can do is write because if you don't, you'll feel like the most important part of you will die.

That's all I've got. Still working on the rest... and by the end of August, by the time I am done with this book purge, I will have come to a decision about how I'm going to approach my future as a writer.

A very short Big Bear Rescue update but an update all the same. Stage Two of the project is underway. With the wind behind me, I'm going to have multiple shirts available in the store at any one time with overlapping end dates so there is always something available at any one time.

The biggest news is that I have some quite brilliant new artists in the wings getting ready to roll - but right now it's a secret simply because if I tell you now, I won't have much to say in the next update. 

End of update... but you'll find better and faster updates on twitter, instagram and as much as it pains me, facebook across the remainder of the year.

Sion Smith
A Very Small Stack Of Books

I'm going through a serious purge this week. It began last week and will continue until the purge is complete. Fact of the matter is, I'm purging books in a very serious fashion.  

My goal for the middle of August is to have given away at least 90% of the books I have here. It's pretty drastic but I have my reasons. The first is that I never read anything twice. Never - so why hundreds and hundreds of books line many shelves is a mystery.  

Actually, it's not a mystery at all. You buy the book, you keep the book and as the years pass by, they grow into something called a collection...

...and then I read something that rang an alarm bell right in the ear drum. I realised these books were all still here because I thought they said something about me I needed other people to know.  

But nobody ever comes round and if they do, they have better things to do than stand around looking at my bookshelves. It's an interesting question to ask of yourself but I also realised these books were dead. They're not books if they're not being read. They're just paper sitting on a shelf. For them to be books, they needs to be out in the world being read... though what other people choose to do with them after that is up to them.

The purge is going well. It was tough to begin with but now, not so much. A few things will stay - something like twenty books that are special editions or mean something to me - but not many more. There's also a few art books that will stay but the upshot of this is that I will be left with a few books that have a soul and I will have gotten over the biggest stumbling block in my minimalist head.

The point of such a thing?

Freedom of course.

Sion Smith
The Lost Gods

I went out last night to The Bookstore. Not for any particular reason, it was more like a calling. This happens sometimes and you don't actually know why you've ended up in the bookstore but somewhere in there, is a book you must read and your job is to find it. It can be a hard slog navigating your way through the piles of books they want you to buy, piled high and tempting you in with two for the price of one offers.

These are not the books you are looking for.

The search would never be so easy as that. Mind you, it would have been a lot easier if my ear had been to the ground for the release of this last October - how I missed it, I have no idea, but there it was: a single copy right in the corner, top shelf, spine facing inward so that nobody else would find it until I came to discover it... I only reached up to turn it around because things like that shouldn't happen in a bookstore.

I am easily pleased.

Anyway, I have even taken the rest of the week off work to give it my undivided attention because some books need such a thing. This should be one of them: 

I might be gone some time.

One of the internal illustrations... of which there are quite few.

One of the internal illustrations... of which there are quite few.

Something In The Water

I finished the first draft of The Man Who Lived Again today. I shall celebrate by throwing it in the back of a drawer and not looking at it again until the middle of next week. That's the best way to treat these things. Months is an even better way of finding out if what you wrote was any good or not but it's not super incredibly long, so a week should be enough.

Then I must figure out what to do with it but that can wait until it's finished for real.

Wrapping that has given me a jolt in the arm too. Seeing some pages mount up is always good for the soul - no matter how confident you might be to the outside world, those doubts can set in for anybody and if you let them take hold, they can really start a riot in your head. 

Anyway, while I'm in the frame of mind for this kind of 10,000 word novella format, I'm going to wrap up another I have lying around. This one is running with the name Just Like Living In Paradise and is in the same rusty nail format as this one was when I picked it up, so spirits are high that if I turn up in front of the paper with a pen and bleed like a prize fighter who needs to pay the rent, I can lick it into 'drawer-shape' by the end of the month... which is apparently just a couple of weeks away.

I found myself in the news yesterday and I wasn't even there! My friend Siân (horror actress, tattoo model, all round good egg and lovely person) was on Heno - a Welsh magazine show - talking about... well, I don't actually know what she was talking about because I haven't watched it yet but messages from back home kept bouncing around in my phone saying she was on and had mentioned the Big Bear Rescue project. 

Any moment now, it should go online and I'll catch up. My Welsh is awful these days. I might need the assistance of subtitles to keep up - or my mother! 

...and while I'm on the subject of things in foreign languages, this hit BBC4 at the weekend and is worth a watch:

If you go hunting for it, it's called I Know Who You Are. Highly recommended.

And now, back to work. Today I am accompanied by songs from the wonderful Sade simply because I need to listen to something unquestionably beautiful as I pick at scars with long fingernails.

Balance. Balance. Balance.