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Designing an ebook

Over on the other blog, I've done a detailed blog post on how I designed an ebook cover for a new novel, The Tyranny of Heroes, by Terry England. If you're interested in ebook design, go and check it out!

Read the blog entry...

Web Design from Scratch

Over on the other blog, I'm starting a new blog series on planning, writing, designing, building and launching a new author website. I'm hoping to cover absolutely everything you'll need to know in order to create your website.

The first entry is here: http://patricksamphire.blogspot.com/2012/07/web-design-from-scratch.html.

Drop by, leave comments, or just follow along! If you've got anything you'd particularly like me to cover, then let me know.
The following is a rant, and is political. Skip if you don't like that stuff.

Today, I listened repeatedly as various newsreaders on the BBC announced that the twelve-year-old leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, had "admitted" that his party had been wrong on immigration. They should not, he apparently now believed, have allowed so many Eastern European immigrants into the country.

Now, you (and everyone else) are entirely and completely entitled to your own opinion as to whether immigrants are evil blood-sucking demons who will steal your jobs, scrounge off welfare, and eat your babies, or whether immigration is generally a good thing. That's the not the point of this rant.

The point of this rant is the word "admitted". This word was used repeatedly, without attribution to the boy Miliband, by BBC newsreaders.

The word "admitted" implies that the case is beyond debate. That it is a fact that there are too many immigrants, and that the Labour Party had been wrong until now.

This is a perfectly legitimate position to take in a debate on immigration; it is not a legitimate position for a newsreader to take while reading the news.

The thing is, in Britain, broadcasters are required by law to be impartial, politically. There is an even greater moral obligation on the BBC, which the national, state broadcaster, not to take a political position itself.

By using the word "admitted" on this political issue, the newsreaders were showing that either, a) they were unaware of the implication of the word, in which case they were incompetent, and should be fired (or their editors should be fired, if it was a decision made higher up), or, b) they were very well aware of the implication, in which case they should be fired, for failing to meet their obligation of impartiality.

Now, they could easily have gotten around this problem. They could have made it clear that they were quoting Miliband directly. (Ed Miliband has said that he admits..., for example), or they could have used a more neutral word, such as 'claimed' (Ed Miliband has claimed that...). But they didn't. They took a political position, and that is not the job of the BBC.

Ed Miliband: You wouldn't want this clown serving your burger, let alone running your country.

Now, it is of course no surprise that Ed Miliband, who has all the moral fibre and strength of character of one of the soggy, balled-up tissues he deposits at the bottom of his waste paper bin, should have come out and said what he said. It is also true that both major political parties in the UK now have essentially identical anti-immigrant views. Those views may even be shared by a majority of the people in the country. But that does not in any way mean that the BBC is meeting its requirement for political impartiality by creating the framing that they are creating by using the word "admitted".

The job of the BBC news is to present the news in as neutral a way as possible, to provide the facts, so that listeners can make up their own minds.

Words matter, and journalists are paid to use those words well. Here, they have failed to.

/End rant.

New cover, plus free story

Okay, my latest cover is for a short story by YA author Karen Mahoney. The story is a prequel to her brilliant novel The Iron Witch and stars Xan, one of the main characters from The Iron Witch, but the story does stand alone if you haven't read the books yet.

Here's the cover:

Best of all, this short story, The Lost Boy, is absolutely free if you sign up to Karen's (also free) newsletter via her website. If you like YA urban fantasy, definitely check this out.

Flora's Fury

It could sound like an exaggeration, but in this case it isn't: I have been looking forward to this book for years.

Now, this isn't a book review. I haven't got my copy yet, but I can't wait until I do.

You see, back in 2007 I think it was I was at Wiscon, the science fiction and fantasy convention, and everyone seemed to be talking about this astonishing book, Flora Segunda. Being a tad contrary and far more grumpy than my age justifies, I humphed and didn't take much notice, proving not for the first time that I am my own worst enemy.

Anyway, not so long after, my wife, Stephanie Burgis, pressed a copy of Flora Segunda into my hands, and I actually read it, and I realized that everyone had been right. It really was an astonishing book.

Here's the goodreads description of Flora Segunda:

Flora knows better than to take shortcuts in her family home, Crackpot Hall--the house has eleven thousand rooms, and ever since her mother banished the magickal butler, those rooms move around at random. But Flora is late for school, so she takes the unpredictable elevator anyway. Huge mistake. Lost in her own house, she stumbles upon the long-banished butler--and into a mind-blowing muddle of intrigue and betrayal that changes her world forever.

Full of wildly clever plot twists, this extraordinary first novel establishes Ysabeau Wilce as a compelling new voice in teen fantasy.
But it really doesn't do justice to the fantastic, alternate-world version of California that Wilce created, nor the incredible adventures that engulf Flora.

The second book, Flora's Dare, came out in 2008, and it was just as good. And then ...

Well, publishing has its own reality, and it's not for the likes of you or me to explain or even understand them, and for some reason, the publisher then sat on the final book in the trilogy. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, the final Flora book was released. Flora's Fury: How a Girl of Spirit and a Red Dog Confound Their Friends, Astound Their Enemies, and Learn the Importance of Packing Light is now out.

You can find out more about the book, and the other two books in the series, at Ysabeau's website, www.yswilce.com.

I will declare an interest here (other than the fact that I am an enormous fan of Ysabeau's work). A few days ago, Ysabeau contacted me because she needed her old website updating. Unfortunately, the website is old and cranky, and we've decided that it really needs an overhaul from scratch. So, I've put up a new, temporary homepage with links to where you can buy the book and where you can find out more about Ysabeau and her books.

Hopefully, over the next few days we'll have more stuff up there (including, with permission of her publisher, the opening of the novel). But, in the meantime, here's a screengrab of the temporary front page I've put up.

Enough of that. Now go and buy this awesome book! You won't regret it.

And today...

Back, oh, all the way in 2001, I was living near Bristol in the U.K., and I was training to be a science teacher. I'd just quit a job as a publisher/editor of scientific journals, and I'd taught abroad before, so I figured I'd give it a go.

The truth is, I would have been a terrible teacher. I'm a bit of a control freak, and really, that's not exactly a great qualification for dealing with a room of 30 bored teenagers. Oh yeah. Believe me.

Anyway, I was bored and I was flailing around for something more meaningful in my life. And, completely by accident, I found it. I'd finally got back to writing after many years (the benefits of a profoundly tedious job...), and I was spending a fairly high proportion of my 'work' day on Critters, the online writing workshop, critiquing other people's work and having mine torn to bits in return.

Sometime in that period, I heard of Clarion West, the actual, real, live, in-person, face-to-face, six-week, bootcamp of a writer's workshop which was held in Seattle each year. I didn't have much expectation of success, but I fired off an application anyway, and pretty much forgot about it.

Then, suddenly, out of the blue, I got a phone call from one of the administrators of the workshop saying that I'd been accepted. Wow. I don't think I came off very well in that phone call. When I'm surprised or shocked I tend to revert to a very neutral, calm, unemotional facade. Here I was, getting incredible, exciting news, and I reacted like I was being told I was due a eye appointment.

I'd wanted to be a writer since I was 14 years old. At 14, I'd been absolutely sure I would sell and publish a novel by the time I was 18 (ha!). Every day after school I scribbled away in pencil in my notebook, blatantly ripping off Terry Pratchett and thinking how awesome I was. Then I went to university, and other things took over, but I never stopped wanting to be a writer. Now, here was my chance.

But there was one problem. The workshop began two weeks before the end of the teacher training course I was doing, and there was absolutely no way they were going to let me leave early. (I still have issues with this: I had finished and passed all the assignments and the teaching practice, and the last two weeks had no formal classes; I'm sure we could have figured something out to make up the attendance requirements. Still.)

I decided to Clarion West anyway, and screw the teaching qualification. So I did.

It really was the best decision I ever made. Not only did I meet my future wife, Stephanie Burgis, there, but I learned more about being a writer than I did in all the years before or since. And two of the stories I wrote in those six weeks were subsequently published. I loved it there. I loved the writing and critiquing late into the night. I loved hanging out in people's rooms chatting and laughing and throwing ideas back and forth. I loved wandering Seattle.

I even loved the class's trip to see AI, possibly the worst SF movie I've ever seen.

Most of all, I loved my classmates and our instructors. In our very first week, we were taught by the great Octavia Butler (and she even like my story!) Yeah, we had our tensions and our bust-ups. We ripped into each other's stories, and gritted our teeth when others ripped into ours. But despite it, we stayed friends. We went through that fire together.

Almost eleven years later, most of us are still in touch.

And today, we are launching an anthology of stories from eleven of the participants in Clarion West 2001. Best of all, right now it's free to download from Amazon!

Here's the table of contents:

Under the Needle's Eye

The Worry Doctor by Linda DeMeulemeester
Angelfall (novel excerpt from Book 1) by Susan Ee
Selling Short by Raymund Eich
Everyone Gets Scared Sometimes by Ari Goelman
Ruined Spa Day by Samantha Ling
Coyote Discovers Mars by Emily Mah
The Guy Who Worked for Money by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Everybody Stops at Boston's by Allan Rousselle
Rosamojo by Kiini Ibura Salaam
Lavender's Blue, Lavender's Green by Patrick Samphire
The Fire in Your Sky by Ibi Zoboi

The anthology was organized by the enormously energetic Emily Mah with Raymund Eich (equally energetic, no doubt, but in a much more manly way). My story is a reprint of a story that I published in Realms of Fantasy in 2005.

Download Under the Needle's Eye from Amazon.com
Download Under the Needle's Eye from Amazon.co.uk

Under the Needle's Eye is free for just two days, so go get it! Even though it's from Amazon, you don't actually need a Kindle to read it; there are free Kindle apps for computers, tablets, etc.

Here's the book trailer, again made by the I-don't-know-where-she-gets-the-energy-from Emily Mah (who also publishes as E M Tippetts; check out her books). It's pretty awesome.

The anthology cover is a joint effort by Raymund Eich and Emily Mah.

Cover of 'Under the Needle's Eye'

Go get it while it's free!


Today is the day for my very exciting (for me!) announcement:

I'm starting to offer ebook cover design services, alongside my existing web design services. I've blogged about designing covers before, and I've blogged some of my own covers, but now that I've caught up on my backlog of covers, I'm throwing open my design services to anyone who wants them!

Incidentally, here are the last couple of covers I've completed, both for re-issues of previously-published short stories by Stephanie Burgis.

Some Girlfriends Can Cover

Undead Philosophy 101 Cover

(Some Girlfriends Can is available on Amazon now, and Undead Philosophy 101 will be available tomorrow; both will turn up on Smashwords and other retailers fairly soon.)

You can see more cover examples and find the full details of my service on my ebook cover design website, but in short, I'm charging $200 for an ebook cover. This gives you an eye-catching, high-resolution, optimized jpeg cover, suitable for inclusion in any ebook.

These covers are ideal for authors re-issuing their back-catalogs and for those who are publishing independently and are looking for a professional cover.

I'm also offering ebook conversion services, and print cover design to go with your ebook. Basically, if you want it, I can do it! :)

Ebook publication news

Okay, ebook news:

I've finally uploaded a bunch of my previously-published short stories to Amazon as ebooks. Six individual short stories and a collection of nine stories.

Full details, including links to the stories, here.

If anyone is willing to spread the news, I would be enormously grateful.

Seven Tips for Designing an Ebook Cover

All's been quiet on the blogging front for a while (I've been busy, okay! Jeez :D ), but over on the other blog, I've finally blogged about designing ebook covers:

Seven Tips for Designing an Ebook Cover

Despite the apparent clue in the title, the blog post contains eight tips. So there.

Children's books

Over on t'other journal, I am blogging in irritated response to random trolls and snobs on the internet, on the subject of children's books.

Yes, you might have thought I would have learned my lesson by now, but...

Someone is wrong on the internet


I am very proud of my son.

All of this, by the way, he did with no prompting or intervention by me.

The other day, he settled down with his wooden blocks and built a very impressive wooden bridge (multiple arches, river underneath it). Then he got one of his lego figures and put it underneath. 

"This one is the troll, Daddy," he said.

Then he got another figure and said, "This one is the little girl."

He walked the little girl across the bridge to the halfway point. Then he brought the troll out to face the girl.

At which point, the troll turned on its heels and fled, screaming.

We are definitely doing something right. :)
Over on the other blog, I have written an article on "10 Things Every Author's Website Should Include".

I have also proved, once and for all, that my ten goes all the way up to eleven.


Over on t'other blog, I am asking for recommendations on techniques (or books about techniques) for outlining stories (novels or screenplays; I'm not fussy!)

Recommend to me, oh friendly friends!

A note to successive governments

A note to successive governments:

If you insist on giving knighthoods and lordships to people solely on the basis that they've gathered for themselves astonishing amounts of cash, it is going to come back and bite you, because there's at least an even chance that those people are sleazy and obnoxious, and sometimes corrupt.

I suggest that knighthoods (etc.) should be reserved for:

a) people who have achieved something exceptional in their lives (e.g., sports, arts, science, whatever), where that thing is not making and hoarding piles of money; or, 

b) are willing to ride into battle in a suit of armour, armed only with a sword and lance.

That should cut down on the problems.

Popular fiction

Today I am ranting about attitudes to popular fiction over at blogger: http://patricksamphire.blogspot.com/2012/02/popular-fiction.html

Feel free to rant also. :)

Writing and screenwriting

I've posted a new entry over on my blogspot about some of lessons fiction writers can learn from screenwriters.

Being a writer

I've blogged over on blogger again, this time about admitting that I'm a writer.

You've all been in this situation before. You meet someone for the first time, in a casual acquaintance type of way. It might be at a party or it might be meeting another parent when you’re picking your kid up from school. Whatever. And they ask you what you do.

Here’s the thing. When people ask me, I never say I’m a writer. Not ever.
Yeah, this one is all about my paranoia and lack of confidence.

Read the blog entry.

There's a livejournal feed of that blog, but it seems to take forever for it to update: psamphireblog.

Complicating things

And another new blog entry over on blogger:

For the last couple of weeks, I've been working (on and off) on a couple of short stories, one of which was a kind of YA fantasy (with relatively little fantasy content) and the other of which was (I thought) an adult fantasy with much more fantasy content.

They were pretty different stories, and the only thing they really had in common was that I didn't quite know where either of them were going, and I was kind of stumped.
Read this blog entry.

That's the last blog entry for today, I promise...

A new record!

This year I declare a record: I have broken my single new year's resolution earlier than ever before.

My resolution for this year was to do something creative every day. I went for "being creative" rather than writing, because some days I just know I'm not going to manage to write anything.

Well, I managed two days. Sadly, on 3rd January I did absolutely nothing creative at all. Not a thing. 

I surfed a bit. I watched a bunch of DVDs. I read a bit. I looked after MrD. And that was it.

To be fair, I was coming down with a rotten cold, but still...

Maybe next year I can manage to fail by day 2.
Today's blog entry is a book review of Ben Aaronvitch's Rivers of London, over on my blogger blog.

Read the review.

On Writing

Today's blog entry is over on my blogger blog (there has to be a better way of saying that…):

Back in … oh, quite a long time ago now; let's say about 2002 … I read Stephen King's fantastic On Writing. If you haven't read it, you certainly should.

One particular piece of advice stuck with me, but for completely the wrong reason. In fact, I'm kind of embarrassed to say it here, because just about everyone will probably look at me and say, "Duh. We could have told you that."
Read the entry.

There's a livejournal feed of the blog, too, if you're interested: psamphireblog.

On Christmas

I don't know if this is just Britain, but right now I'm seeing a whole of miserable, cynical grumpiness about Christmas. Newspapers are full of features about miserable Christmases and awful experiences. Certain people seem to delight in being as grim and unhappy about it as possible.

Yes, I know it's cool to be cynical and miserable, but I'm not having it.

I love Christmas. I love being with my family. I love the Christmas tree and the decorations, and carols, and the food. I love the presents! I love the lights. I refuse to feel guilty about it.

So, if you celebrate Christmas, I want to wish you a wonderful, happy, warm, non-cynical time. If you celebrate another festival at this time, I wish you a wonderful day or days. And if you don't celebrate any festival at all at this time of year, I hope you have a great holiday.

Today's blog entry...

Today's blog entry is over on my blogspot blog:

I want to read ebooks. I really do. Every surface in my house is covered in books. The garage is completely full of boxes of them, and I can never find the one I want.

But here's my real problem:

I don't know how to choose ebooks. I don't know how to find good ebooks in the vast and deepening electronic sea.
If blogspot isn't your thing, there is also a livejournal feed of it at psamphireblog.

An aside

Today is one of those days that I wish I'd had a camera with me (and some decent photography skills).

I was driving MrD to meithrin (nursery). Out the windscreen, I was looking at an incredibly bright rainbow against black clouds, when a great flock of white doves flew right in front of the rainbow, catching the sunlight. They were only there for a few seconds, and then they were gone, and so was the rainbow.

In which I proliferate

I have always maintained (he said, despite all evidence to the contrary), that if you are totally failing to blog regularly, the solution is to create a second blog, so you have two to maintain.

This is why I now have a second blog over at blogger. Actually, I do have a rationale (he said...). 

I've figured out that my LiveJournal feed consists predominantly of friends. Maybe that's just because I've been on here for a long time and I've gotten to know a lot of you, met you at cons, and so on. On the other hand, I read a bunch of 'professional' blogs over on Blogger, things like agents and editors blogs, writers who I read because they have interesting things to say about books or publishing, but not so much people I know in person or online.

So, I figured I'd split my blogging. Over here, this is going to be my personal blog, where I'll talk about whatever comes into my head (I'm selling this to you, aren't I...?). Over on Blogger, I'll blog about things more related to my professional life. Things like tips on author websites, my opinions on publishing, occasional book reviews. That kind of stuff.

If you're on Blogger, drop over and say hi.

My first blog entry over there is "Five Reasons Every Author Should Have a Website".

Updated: There is now a livejournal feed of my new blog: psamphireblog


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