Thursday, 18 December 2014

Write for Abaddon Books! Redux



Hey folks!

So, next year, Abaddon Books will have existed as an entity for ten years (the first book came out around a year later, in 2006, but we started being book people in 2005).

Ten years! Ten years. TEN YEARS! A lot can happen in ten years. Like me: I freaked out at the senior prom, joined the Army, went into business for myself and became a professional killer.

Wait, no; that’s the plot of the John Cusack vehicle Grosse Point Blank. I get confused sometimes.

Okay, so: I’ve been with Rebellion Publishing for a hair over five years, and it’s the best game in town. Big enough to swim at the deep end, small enough to do we want. Abaddon Books is a home for risk-taking, innovation and irreverence, and we’re immeasurably proud to have brought some of the best, brightest and most challenging new names onto the market.

And here we are doing it again! Our last subs month was a blast; the talent, passion and dedication shining through every page blew me away. The only drawback, in fact, was having to say ‘no’ to so many people who frankly deserved a shot, because so damned many of you were so good. And I’m pretty sure this is going to be even bigger. So go ahead and do it! Bleed and sweat on your keyboard and make my job twice as hard as last time. It’s all I want.

[turns on Netflix to look for Grosse Point Blank]

Man, that was a great movie.

Oh, wait, you’re still here.

So we’re looking for two things! Firstly, I would love to see a submission for a new 30,000-word novella set in one of our existing worlds, particularly The Afterblight Chronicles, Tomes of the Dead, Weird Space or Gods & Monsters. Pick up some our existing characters – I would love to see a “what happened next” for The Culled’s nameless hero and Kill or Cure’s Jasmine! – or bring a new character into the mix of any of our worlds.

Secondly, and more importantly, I’m looking for a new world! Find something we haven’t done. Hard SF, maybe, or a monster we haven’t done (werewolves? faeries?). Maybe something I haven’t thought of at all and therefore can’t give an example of! Again, I want a 30,000-word novella, which will kick start a new series in 2015.

You’ve got until mid-February. The doors open (metaphorically) at midnight on January 14th, 2015, and close at midnight on February 15th, 2015. Send us a 150-word “elevator pitch,” a 1000-word chapter-by-chapter breakdown, and a 2000-word sample, to submissions@rebellion.co.uk, by the deadline, and expect to hear from me... some point. When I get around to it. It can take a while (okay: you can start chasing me on the 1st March).

Do it.

What are you still doing here? Do it.


EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ADDENDUM! Abaddon is a Work For Hire imprint. That means that we buy your work off you outright, rather than the licensing-with-royalties deal you're probably more aware of. The money's a bit better up front, but you lose control once we buy it. This may not be for all people. If you want to understand more about the Work For Hire model, feel free to get in touch and ask some questions.

Friday, 28 November 2014

5 Years a Nerd: The memoires of a Mr David Thomas Moore

I was one of the lucky ones.

A bachelor’s degree in English is not notoriously a career qualification (there’s a whole song devoted to the fact). There’s academia, of course, or teaching (my initial plan, which didn’t survive uni); and English degrees serve as jumping-off points for unrelated careers, like law or politics. But actual jobs in word-wrangling are like hen’s teeth. It’s basically just journalism or publishing, and those are traditionally fields where a huge number of candidates battle fiercely for a small number of jobs on miserable salaries.

So, naturally, nine years after leaving university, with a modestly successful career in events and technology in the banking sector (because of course), I decided to pack it all in and become an editor. That should be easy, right?



But I got lucky. I got into Rebellion Publishing just as it took over the Solaris imprint from Black Library, beating down more than a hundred and forty other candidates for the junior editorial role, based almost entirely on my winning personality and on a powerful hypnosis gun developed by the CIA for interrogating super-criminals.

And I've never looked back. Five years – and, at a very rough guess, nine million words – later, I'm the commissioning editor for a punky, edgy midlist imprint I’m hugely proud to be steering and representing, I've learned skills I never imagined I’d need, and I’ve become part of a huge community of wonderful, neurotic, spirited, diverse and brilliant people.

That said, here are five things I've learned in five years being a professional word-nerd:

We really are the bad guys.
I wasn’t really prepared for this – possibly because, while I've always written, in a hobbyish sort of way, I’d never really tried to make a living from it – but some people out there really hate us. I went to a writers’ con a few years back (the excellent alt.fiction, in Derby), and in some of the panels, the vitriol from the audience – and questions like “So how long do you think it’ll take ebooks to kill publishing?”got slightly alarming. The sheer volume and intensity of the Hachette/Amazon thing may have seemed startling, but really it just tapped into something that’s been there for years.

It’s understandable, if you've been knocked back enough times, and I totally appreciate that I’m in the hugely privileged position of pulling down a monthly salary instead of scraping by on advances and royalties, but it was... eye-opening.




Writers can be some of the best – and worst – people to work with.
Long before I became a professional editor, I was a sort of de facto one. I was everyone’s one guy you send things to to make sure they’re spelled right. Bosses would ask me to read emails, friends would send me their CVs. And I got to learn that most people don’t want editing, aside from a very light spelling and grammar check. They want to be told that their writing’s fine by someone who should know.

At their worst, that habit carries over into a writer’s professional writing career. I've had writers fight me over every change, demand extra passes, cling desperately to their darlings, profess to having been driven to tears (or drink), and demand to be assigned a different editor (or to be assigned to me from another editor). You listen patiently, you try and show your reasoning, you negotiate, and – ultimately – you let them have their way, because it’s their name on the cover. Editing is a collaboration.

But the vast – vast – majority of authors are a delight. They want to be edited; they want their work to be the best it can, and the closer and more brutal an edit I give them, the happier they are. I’ve had veterans of upwards of forty books singing my praises for excoriating their work, and new writers thanking me for helping them learn their craft. It’s absolutely bloody wonderful, and as long as it’s the majority I’m happy I’m doing it right.



This can be a pretty cynical industry.
(Some my personal experience; some related to me by friends and peers.)

“Can we have an exploding spaceship on it? People buy books with exploding spaceships on them.”
“The readers won’t get this from the title. Can you put a vampire on the cover?”
“Is this more like Terry Pratchett or Joe Abercrombie? For the tagline.”
“Make the covers look like George Martin books. Make it easier for them.”
“Add another male character. We need to appeal to the core male market.”

’Nuff said.


Nobody knows what’s coming up.
“Zombies are over.”
“No, steampunk's over.”
“Vampires are over, mummies are next.”
“Post-apoc’s over, it’s child spies now.”
“Space opera’s over, it’s transhumanism next year.”
“Epic fantasy’s still in, but it needs to be by a person of colour.”
“No, epic fantasy’s over, it’s grimdark now.”
“No, grimdark’s dead, it’s political fantasy.”

Nobody.


You guys are the best.
Alright, gushy moment. But having spent a decade having to have a nerdy, flamboyant private persona and a (somewhat) more serious work persona, it’s been such a relief coming here. Publishers, writers, agents and community folk are bright, creative, intensely neurotic, interested in science and technology, hugely politically and socially aware, progressive, diverse, welcoming, relaxed, and engaged in an extraordinary mix of hobbies: my Facebook feed, at present, includes articles on historical martial arts, crochet patterns, cupcake recipes, Fermi’s Paradox, punctuation and grammar, bunnies, medieval manuscripts, politics, copyright law and mathematics. Every day’s an education.




A really odd education.

Cheers,

David

p.s.: The Munsters pics was Lydia’s idea. No, I don’t know either.

All images from The Munsters TV show and are ©1964-1966 CBS.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

My Favourite Library

Slightly dodgy composite picture courtesy of Google StreetView
Hey all,

So as you may or may not have heard, the City of Liverpool recently decided against a backdrop of library closures and protest campaigns across the country to close 11 of their 18 libraries; a decision, happily, that was reversed in response to a protest and a love letter to libraries by more than 500 authors, illustrators, musicians and actors. Its a lovely story and a testament to the power of positive, collective action. And its a really big deal.

In response, Book Week Scotland and the Guardian are running a “Love Letters to Libraries” event, in which readers are invited to share their memories of their favourite libraries. And so I decided that Id jump on the blog and share my own.


-o0o-

Goodwood is a busy little suburb near the centre of Adelaide, South Australia. Its a popular commuter neighbourhood, being close to and convenient for the City, with a long row of shops, a slightly historic cinema, a number of beautiful colonial-era churches and any number of pubs. There are cool coffee shops and quirky little boutiques, because it’s that sort of area.

Goodwood Library isnt particularly grand. It doesn’t have an extraordinary number of books, its not a vast or ancient building, no-one particularly famous wrote their manuscript in its reading room. You cant even find, as I discovered today, a good picture online of it; the above slightly distorted image is a Google StreetView grab, and the best I could get.

What it is, however, is less than a hundred yards from Goodwood Primary School, where your author spent his formative years. It had close ties to the school, ran afterschool groups and, with a large playroom full of beanbags and climbing blocks, was generally very welcoming of kids.

We were a single-parent household, for most of my childhood; my mother worked long days, and my brother and sister and I took ourselves to and from school every day. The Library was a haven, at the end of the day, or at weekends when I wanted to get out of the house. Looking back, an extraordinary number of my memories of that time involved the library: reading, playing with friends, bothering the staff. I made friends there; I encountered the divine Miss Bette Midlers stand-up routine in the record room; I played video games for the first time (I even won a competition one of the librarians ran, one Sunday); I even had my first slightly confused lesson about sex there, (shamefully) stealing a copy of The Joy of Sex to read (look at) out of sight.

And more than anything, I read. Id go and read all day, then take home as many books as they let me borrow at the end of the day, so that I could keep reading until I came back.

Ultimately, my love of books (and my career in publishing) originated in my parents, both of whom kept houses full of books and both of whom I remember reading to me in my infancy. But it was nourished and nurtured by Goodwood Library, and while I have stood in many libraries since leaving Goodwood behind some of them ancient and grand indeed this will always be the library I remember best.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Alec Worley interviewed

Last month Alec Worley launched our latest 2000 AD tie-in series with his new eNovella Judge Anderson Rookie: Heartbreaker, a brand new prose title which saw us taking readers back to veteran Psi-Judge 

AB: SO WHAT’S ‘JUDGE ANDERSON: HEARTBREAKER’ ABOUT?

AW: Like the Dredd: Year Zero books, this is set during the character’s first year after graduation. So at this point Anderson is still fresh out of the Academy of Law and getting to grips with life on the streets. You don’t need to know anything at all about Anderson’s history from the comics or even the movie. You can just dive right in and meet her for the first time.

Anyway, about the story: Anderson is on the trail of a telepathic killer who has been selecting victims via ‘Meet Market’, Mega-City One’s premier dating agency – a sort of cross between eHarmony and eBay. Anderson has to go undercover and bring the murderer to justice before the citizens attending the upcoming Valentine’s Parade find themselves smitten with something even deadlier than love.

AB: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO WRITE ANDERSON INSTEAD OF DREDD?

AW: Anderson’s one of my favourite 2000 AD characters. She’s just awesome. In those early stories she’s so full of life, such a perfect foil for Dredd. I just really, really wanted to write her. But also, prose is perfect for getting inside a character’s head and I think the effectiveness of Dredd’s character lies, for the most part, in you not being allowed inside.
With this story, I know a lot of readers will be coming to it from having watched Anderson in the 2012 Dredd movie, so I wanted to apply that grimy procedural feel to the world of the comics in which this is set. But I also wanted to make Anderson more sure of herself than she was in the movie and show what she’s made of right from the beginning. This may be her first year on the street, but she’s no pushover. I really wanted to emphasise her strength, smarts and determination as someone who’s survived 15 gruelling years of life-or-death Judicial training. Despite her ‘rookie’ status, she doesn’t need to prove herself to anybody. She’s a Judge!

I’m fascinated by the idea of what it might be like to be psychic. Make that character a cop and you can really go to town. This is a woman who can literally hear what people are thinking. How does that work exactly? What does it feel like? How would that affect you as a person and your view of everyone around you? When I was pitching ideas, I found this article I’d read about online dating and got imagining about how you could take that to an extreme in the crazy world of Mega-City One. Straight away that suggested all these cool conflicts and ideas about how people relate to each other. A psychic like Anderson was perfect for that setting. I’m not sure I could imagine Dredd going undercover at dating agency!

AB: DREDD IS A NOTORIOUSLY TOUGH CHARACTER TO WRITE. WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES OF WRITING ANDERSON? HOW DO THEY DIFFER?

AW: Dredd needs more contrast, I think. You have to have these contrasting supporting characters or else place Dredd in situations that bring out just how much of a badass he is. Let’s face it, all Judges are hard-as-nails law-machines, dedicated to nailing perps, so Dredd stories have to dramatise just how dedicated and ruthless Dredd is compared to everyone else in the Department. Anderson is more human, more volatile and unpredictable, and as soon as I started writing her I realised that I had to come up with a very specific way in which she perceives the world.

The fact that she’s psychic also makes her a nightmare to deal with when it comes to plotting. This is another way in which magic and the supernatural can poison a story if you’re not careful. Scenes often rely on characters withholding information from each other, so Anderson has the potential to kill a scene stone-dead the minute she walks into it. If Anderson was the detective in, say, Chinatown or Silence Of The Lambs, the movie would be over within ten minutes. And this story had to be a whodunit, which presented so many difficulties when it came to breaking down the story. I can see now why so many of Anderson’s adventures in the comics tend to be action-adventure or psychedelic supernatural stuff where her psi-talents have less opportunity to directly impact the story.

AB: THE SCENES WHERE YOU’RE DESCRIBING HER READING PEOPLE’S MINDS, RETRIEVING THEIR MEMORIES AND SO ON, WORK REALLY WELL. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THEM? WAS THERE A LOT OF RESEARCH INVOLVED IN THE BOOK OVERALL?

AW: Loads. I read a lot on neurology and dug out of lot of New Scientist articles about how the brain works, how memories work and wotnot. Of course, there’s a lot of poetic license, and I used it really as a starting point. The thing is you have to articulate all this stuff. When you have Anderson reading people’s minds or engaging in psychic duals in the comics you can have all that wonderful Boo Cook-style phantasmagoria. You know, brain-waves radiating off her, weird images bursting from her head, all that stuff. But how do you express that in prose? Unless you can describe exactly what she’s going through, a psychic dual ends up more like a staring contest! Plus, there’s different kinds of psychic in the Dreddworld – telepaths who can hear thoughts, empaths who can feel feelings, and so on – so different psychics perceive things in different ways.
I was also reading a lot of non-fiction about police tactics and procedure, including David Simon’s Homicide, which is just amazing, beautifully written and full of detail. Reading this stuff I was thinking about how a psychic would read that room or conduct that field interview.

I think real world details have become increasingly important in Dredd. It’s a series that’s become steadily rationalised over the years, which has probably got a lot to do with the aging readership. But it’s a very tricky balance trying to bring a sort of adult rationality to something that was dreamed up for the amusement of little boys in the ‘70s. I think ‘realistic’ and ‘believable’ are two different things, but, for me, you can make a story both if you just see the world through the character’s eyes, which is an even more interesting proposition with a character like Anderson as she’s seeing the world through everyone else’s eyes too.

AB: THE FIGHT SCENES IN THIS REALLY STOOD OUT. I’M NOT SURE WE’VE EVER SEEN ANDERSON GET QUITE SO HANDS ON IN THE COMICS…

AW: Again, I wanted to bring in the grittiness of the movie. In the comics, I guess all these sort of kickboxing moves look pretty cool, but I wanted the fights in my story to be more real-world. All this came about just by thinking through who she was, thinking through the way cops and marines fight. It’s all elbows and chokeholds and it’s over in seconds. Plus, I’d just seen the Gina Curano movie Haywire and loved it. But you can’t put that sort of technical fighting in 2000 AD as it eats up too many panels. So again, prose proved ideal. My best friend does MMA. He’s also a massive geek. I showed him a picture of Olivia Thirlby and asked him if a woman of that build and height take out a room full of guys if she knew what she was doing. ‘Absolutely,’ he said and spent the rest of the evening showing me exactly how. I tried to get as much ferocity in there as I could without it getting too technical. It’s also less about how she looks and more about what she can do.

AB: TO SUM UP, WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON ANDERSON?

AW: I see Anderson as someone who – despite the Academy’s efforts to drill all these things out of her – is cheeky, hip and full of wisecracks and often struggles to keep her thoughts to herself. She can also be laid back to point of being cocky. She’s changed an awful lot since she first appeared in 2000 AD, but I’ve always seen her as someone who believes the city is worth fighting for and not just out of a robotic sense of duty like Dredd, but genuine compassion. She’s a brilliant character and I think she’s a terrific entry-point into the world of Judge Dredd.


***

Mega-City One, 2100 AD. Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson’s first year on the streets as a full-Eagle Judge.

After a string of apparently random, deadly assaults by customers at Meet Market – Mega-City One’s biggest, trashiest dating agency – Anderson is convinced a telepathic killer is to blame. Putting her career on the line, the newly-trained Psi-Judge goes undercover to bring the murderer to justice.

She'll have to act fast. Mega-City One's annual huge, riotous Valentine’s Day Parade is fast approaching, and the killer has a particularly grand gesture 

Heartbreaker is out now on the kindle (UK | US) and via our DRM-free eBook store.

About the author: Alec Worley was a projectionist and a film critic before completing his Future Shock apprenticeship for 2000 AD and creating two original series: werewolf apocalypse saga Age Of The Wolf (with Jon Davis-Hunt) and 'spookpunk' adventure comedy Dandridge (with Warren Pleece). He's also written Judge Dredd, Robo-Hunter, Tharg's 3rillers and Tales From The Black Museum.