Tag Archives: reading

How many pages do you give a book to grip you before giving up?

Having just put down a book before reaching the end, I asked this question on Twitter as I was curious about how others felt.

To my surprise the majority of people stop reading if they are not enjoying a book, rather than persisting to the end. There was a range of answers related to page count and chapters, with the most extreme answer, I think, coming from Philip Pullman:-

Sometimes the answer was proportional to the length of the book

Sometimes the answer was related to cost

So, here’s a follow up question as a poll. I wonder, if the general stance has changed because in 2019 we have TV and films on demand, whole TV series arrive in one chunk and can be binged, hundreds of cheap digital books available at the press of a button, and there’s more content than ever before.

Are we less patient with books? Do we want them to get to the good stuff sooner? Has all of this impacted your reading attention span? Are you less forgiving?

 

 

 

 

Comments Off on How many pages do you give a book to grip you before giving up?

Filed under Books, Writing

November round up

A general update on what’s been going on for the last month or thereabouts. Starting with some book news.

Book 4

The first draft of book 4 (currently untitled), the first book in the new Age of Dread trilogy, has been sent off to my publisher. Phew. I got it in a couple of weeks early and I had enough time to do a pretty solid revision with some input from a trusted source. As it was the first book in a new trilogy, and even though it was set in the same world, I was super nervous. Digging in and giving it a good polish before it went off to my editor, and getting some positive feedback, has helped a lot. So now I am cracking on with book 5. I should say, you don’t have to have read the first trilogy (Age of Darkness) to read this book, however, it does follow on chronologically from the first and there are lots of overlaps in terms of characters and so on. But it is possible to come in as a fresh reader and it will all make sense. Book 4 comes out next year in October.

Blog posts

I’ve recently done some guest posts on a few blogs. The first was My Book: The Movie, where I was asked who would I cast if they were going to make a film of Battlemage. My answers often change but right now these are the people I see in the roles, so it gives you a bit of an idea what they look like in my head beyond what you read on the page.

The second blog post was over on The Page 69 Test. This is where if someone were to open my book to that page, what would they find? Is it representative of the whole book or not? Would it give new readers enough to make them keep reading? It was an interesting idea to explore and in this case p69 of Battlemage gives a flavour for one aspect of the book.

Interviews

There are a couple of these coming up. One I did for Mur Lafferty on her podcast, I Should Be Writing. Once this goes live I will repost it. I also did my first video interview! Very nerve racking and tense. However, I got through it and the two people who interviewed me were very friendly and helped me relax. This was during my recent trip to the MCM Expo in London and it was for Solarstorm Entertainment. The video will be on YouTube. I was interviewed along with several other Orbit authors on the day. [edit, the interview is now live]

Gaming

I don’t tend to talk much about games, but I thought I would add something for a change. I mostly say I’m a lapsed gamer, as I don’t have time to play as much as I used to. However, recently I have picked up the odd game from Steam and the best of them has been Fallout 4. This game is remarkable. It’s probably one of the best games I’ve played in the last 10 years or more. It has all of the elements that I like, exploration, a deep back story and world building, a sandpit aspect to the game, a strong storyline with some major twists that keep me guessing and also wondering about my actions and the choices I’ve made as my character. It is also massive. There is a lot to explore. It’s been a great way to unwind while wiping out a few settlements of Super Mutants.

That’s it for now. If you have read any of my books and would like to do me a favour, please post a review on Amazon or Goodreads, as it does help to me noticed by other potential readers.

Comments Off on November round up

Filed under Books, Games, Gaming, Writing

Comics are a medium not a genre

I thought this post was apt as Saturday 3rd May is Free Comic Book Day. A date where shops order a quantity of special comics which they then give away free. It generates a lot of business for them and it attracts a lot of people, some of whom will hopefully be new readers. So if you’ve not tried comics before, now is the time to try.  Also if you’re not convinced about comics, keep reading.

Comics are a medium not a genre. I’ve said it many times already and no doubt I will continue to say it many more times in the future. For those who don’t read comics, for those who’ve only become aware of them via other media, in particular films, it can seem like comics are just superheroes. But it’s worth repeating, comics are a medium, not a genre.

During the last fifteen years or so, comic book movies have gone from those that don’t appear to be based on comic books at all, such as Blade, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, The Losers, RED, right up to billion dollar box office smash hits with larger than life characters in bright costumes, like The Avengers, Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the X-Men franchise. It’s a wonderful and amazing time to be a comic book fan as now we can enjoy seeing these characters all over the world, and watch as people discover them for the first time. The films might even attract a few new readers to the comic book medium, but sometimes there’s still that moment of surprise that comics are more than superheroes.

If you walk into a bookshop, a Waterstones in the UK, or Barnes and Noble in the USA, you wouldn’t expect every title on the shelf to just be crime, or history books, or biographies. It’s exactly the same with comics. For every single genre you can think of, and many you’ve probably never considered before as they mash-up different elements, there is a comic book. Superheroes dominate the US and UK comic book market, and I have a theory about why this is which I will come back to, but in other countries superheroes are seen as just one of many genres, not the main focus.

Comics are an important medium. There, I said it. Over the years I’ve heard many stories of how children first learned to read with comics and how it helped create a love of stories and reading in general. That has to be something that is cherished and encouraged. We all start out with picture books as very small children with only a few words, which then progresses to fiction and non-fiction for school work. But comics are not a poor man’s novel, it is a unique medium which I’ll address in a bit.

Comics can and have been used to tell some of the most important stories in modern history. Art Spiegelman chronicled the experiences of his father, a Polish Jew, during the Holocaust and his life at Auschwitz. It is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever read and in 1992 it was the first comic book to win a Pulitzer Prize. Yes, THE Pulitzer Prize for an outstanding work of journalism or literature. Only last year Top Shelf Comics published March, a graphic novel memoir about US Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis who has been fighting for equality for over 50 years. March includes his memories of the Civil Rights Movement, including the 1963 March on Washington, and it is his first-hand account of the struggles over the years. It is an important piece of literature that just happens to be in comic book form.

Of course comics don’t have to be about heavy subjects. They can be light fun, entertaining, humorous, silly and entertaining. From coming of age stories, to romance, to horror, to westerns to crime to science fiction and fantasy. I grew up reading superhero comics, but now I read all sorts, such as Saga, an intergalactic space adventure, reminiscent in some ways of Star Wars, or Sixth Gun, a pulpy horror western, or Grandville, an anthropomorphic steampunk crime adventure series. I still read and enjoy superheroes, but like any other medium I don’t just stick to one genre. The possibilities with comics are endless.

Comics are also a unique medium. They’ve existed in one form or another for thousands of years and a creative team on a comic book (writer, penciller, inker, colourist, letterer) can create stories in such a way that it can’t be done in the same way in any other medium. Scott McLeod is a cartoonist and comic book theorist who has written several non-fiction graphic novels about this that detail different aspects of comics, from their ancient history to their rapid evolution. He breaks down and explains some of the elements that make comics unique and a remarkable medium. Understanding Comics is the first of his books and the best place to start if you’re interested, then he moved on to Reinventing Comics which looked at how much comics had changed since he first started writing Understanding Comics. The medium is also constantly evolving and being reimagined by creative people who even now do things on the page that I’ve never seen before.

Going back in time a little, and focusing on the American market, comic books in multiple genres used to be common. During the 1970s, Marvel published among other things horror, western, war, martial arts, and humour comics. These days both Marvel and DC, the two biggest publishers in the US market are synonymous with superhero comics. They do a little in other genres, but superheroes are their bread and butter. They feed into all of the other areas, from film and TV to computer games, merchandise, toys and even clothing. But it all comes back to those iconic heroes. So why are we still obsessed with them?

I have a theory, and it’s not an original one, so I’m not claiming I came up with it first, but of the many ideas I’ve heard it seems the most plausible to me. Superhero comic books are the equivalent of modern myths and legends. I grew up reading the likes of Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Greek and Roman myths and legends, folk tales from all around the world in fact, and these parables and mythological stories are being replicated in comics. They are the ongoing adventures of larger than life characters. Some superhero characters are direct figures from mythology in modern day, such as Thor and Hercules, some are obvious analogues such as The Flash as Mercury, Aquaman as Poseidon. Some are not as clear cut and they represent ideals such as Hope, Justice and Equality, but these basic principles, wrapped up in an interesting character never go out of fashion. There are other reasons we love superheroes, but I believe this is a key element.

I realise that getting into comics can be difficult and intimidating. But this weekend is the perfect opportunity to try if you’ve not done so before. If you have a local comic shop go along and talk to the person behind the counter. Tell them the kind of genres that interest you, the type of stories you like, even the type of TV shows and books you read. They’ll be able to point you in the direction of a few different places to start. Getting into superhero comics can be difficult, with over 75 years of character history in some cases, but there again they can give you some good jumping on points. If you don’t have a local shop, then I’m happy to make suggestions myself. So tell me what kind of stories you enjoy, in any medium, and I’ll try to pair you up with some comics to suit your interests. There’s a lot going on in comics and if you’re reading them then you are missing out on some amazing stories.

 

Comments Off on Comics are a medium not a genre

Filed under Comics, Writing

Reading as a hobby

During my day to day life some people view my reading habit as odd and unusual. By that I mean I am always reading a book. Always. I never read more than one at once, but am always reading. In a spare 5 minutes, or on a bus, train platform, in a waiting room etc, my default is not to pick up phone and play a game, but to read a book. When I don’t have my book with me and I’m waiting, I will pop on Twitter, but I’d much prefer to read a book.

Among my group of friends my reading habit is not unusual as most of them are always reading as well, but outside that circle, during my day job or when I meet strangers or friends of friends, I sometimes get funny looks. To them it is unusual. Normally, if I can, I ask them why they don’t read and the responses vary. Other people have spoken at length and with far more clarity than I about why reading, books and libraries are important, for example Neil Gaimain’s recent lecture on why our future depends on libraries, so I won’t go over that. I wanted to focus more on the type of responses I have received over the years.

Some people have told me they only read one or two books a year, and one of them might be on holiday around the swimming pool. A paperback they pick up at the airport and then throw away as it’s been covered in sun tan lotion and the spine has been cracked and the cover bleached by the sun. Some say they simply don’t have time to read, which I would argue isn’t true, but I don’t press the point as reading obviously isn’t something they want to pursue. Others see reading as a chore, and not something you would choose to do for fun. As if they had to endure it at school and looking back on it gives them a chill and bad memories, as pulling apart the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner down the atomic level at school, does for me. I’m not sure I ever want to read that poem again, so thank my high school English Literature teacher for that and for ruining Shakespeare for me as well.

When I see that horrified reaction to reading I feel sorry for those people and I really pity them, because they’re missing out on so many amazing worlds and so many fantastic stories (fiction and non-fiction) than can shape and change a person, even as an adult. Of course that sort of response isn’t restricted to books, but that’s what I’m focusing on here.

The weirdest and also saddest response I ever heard was a few years. I had been in a new job for a few weeks and my boss saw me reading at lunch in the canteen. She asked what I was reading so I showed her the cover. She’d never heard of it. A few weeks later she saw me reading again, stopped by, looked at the cover and said ‘Another book?’ as if one book was more than enough for a lifetime, or all books are the same and once you’ve tried one, you’ve tried them all. She was genuinely surprised that I would choose to read, for fun, in my spare time.

At school I wasn’t very good at sport, not because I was particularly awful or overweight, but simply because I didn’t really enjoy it as a whole, so didn’t apply myself. If I had enjoyed football more as a boy then perhaps I would have developed a passion for the sport and tried harder. I might even have become a supporter and followed my local team over the years, although I still doubt that. Over the years I tried all sorts of sports and got involved with several to various levels including martial arts, swimming, rugby, and later fencing, but for various reasons they never stuck. I would focus on one for a few years but circumstances would change, sometimes beyond my control, and I’d find myself drifting away and then trying something else.

I distinctly remember in middle school (ages 7-10) sitting on a bench during lunch hour and reading a book, while others ran around on the field chasing a football. Sometimes I would join in, but not very often. I preferred to read about Garion and Aunt Polgara, I scoured the entire myths and legends section of the school library, I regularly visited the library in my home town with my mum and I spent a lot of time in second hand bookshops looking for fantasy books. I remember my mum reading me stories at bedtime when I was very young and being overjoyed (I still am) when I received books at Christmas. I also remember getting annoyed at having to be social and not being allowed to lock myself away and just read my new book, which also still happens.

With the saturation of technology into our daily lives I suspect for some young people growing up today it’s a very different story. What fills me with some hope for the future is that I have several friends with small children and all of them are very passionate about their children’s education and reading is big part of that. Reading has always been a part of my life and always will be and I hope it will be the same for others.

Comments Off on Reading as a hobby

Filed under Books, General

Why is reading important to you?

Someone in my day job asked me this today as they see me reading every day during my lunch break. I’ve always got a book on the go. Always. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book in progress.

The most amusing and worrying thing I ever heard about reading was from a manager a few years ago. She saw me reading one book at lunch time, then a few days later, I had started another book and her comment ‘Another book?’ As if somehow one was enough. As if reading two in a row was unusual. As if all of life’s answers or mysteries could be contained in just one book. As if I was unusual to list reading as a pastime and something I volunteered to do, without being forced into it, by a stern teacher or manager.

There are many, many reasons why reading is important to me, personally, and why I think it is vital for children, and people in general. But what about you? Why does it matter to you as an individual?

2 Comments

Filed under Books, General

Holiday Reads

It’s almost time for my summer holiday so I thought I’d do a quick post on what I’m going to be reading while relaxing by the pool. I’m not a fast reader at all, but when on holiday with few distractions, I can get through about four or five books in a week. So I often save up special books and also add books from authors who are new to me into the mix. I’m also taking a few trade paperbacks I’ve been saving up from my to read pile.

The Eigth Court Mike ShevdonThe Eighth Court by Mike Shevdon from Angry Robot Books.
I have very particular tastes when it comes to urban fantasy, and just can’t get on with some series, so finding something that I really like is tricky. Shevdon’s books are one of my favourites and this is the fourth and final book in the series which is set in modern day in the UK. There are some scenes in London, but it is not London-centric, and throughout the course of the series we get to explore all sorts of places and buildings with historic resonance. I’m being very vague on purpose to avoid spoilers because he mixes real world history with the fantastical. We follow an everyman into this bizarre world hidden in plain sight and delve into the world of the feyre and a secret history of the world.

Exit Kingdom Alden BellExit Kingdom by Alden Bell from Panmacmillan. This is the second book by Alden Bell set in a post apocalyptic world where zombies have overrun the world. The first book, The Reapers are the Angels, is one of my favourite books, probably ever. I’ve also read it twice already and it only came out maybe two years ago. Yeah, it’s that good. I came to his first book completely cold, I knew nothing about it, and absolutely loved it. In a review I compared it to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, but with zombies instead of vampires, so it’s really about the people, the situation and coping, it’s about isolation and humanity and not so much about running away from shambling ghouls. It’s also set many years after the fall, so it is not a world where everything has just fallen apart. The first book focused on a young girl called Temple and along the way she came into contact with an interesting character called Moses Todd. This book is set before the events of Reapers and this time Moses is the main character, along with his brother. I’ve been holding on to my copy of this since March when it came out and saving it. I’m really looking forward to it.

Ice Forged Gail Z MartinIce Forged by Gail Z. Martin from Orbit books. Martin is an author I’ve been aware of for a while, but I’ve not managed to find time to read something by her until now. The blurb for this book sounded exactly like my kind of thing, and it is a nice dash of fantasy, which is different enough from the other two books on my list so far. So I’ve avoided reading any reviews or interviews about this and am going to come to it, and her writing, completely cold and see what happens.

This is also the first book in a new series by Martin, so if I enjoy her work I can back and pick up some of her other novels in the interim until the next book in this series comes out! Discovering a debut author is always brilliant, but coming to a more well established one that I’ve just missed out on until now for whatever reason is a real treat as there is a lot more to read with no waiting.

Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell from Solaris BooksAck-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell from Solaris Books.
The first time I heard anything about this book was at Eastercon this year where Gareth was doing a reading. The reading was funny, crazy, full of action and very exciting. After investigating a little further and reading the blurb on the back I immediately picked up a copy at the convention. What’s not to love? A one-eyed cigar smoking monkey who was a Spitfire pilot in WW II. I’m sold on that sentence alone. From what I’ve read in reviews and from overhearing other people talking it, I think the book is going to be jam packed full of action and humour, making it another very different book to the others I am taking with me.

The Name of the Wind Patrick RothfussThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss from Gollancz.
It’s easy to assume everyone knows what this book is about and who Rothfuss is, but I’m also aware other people will be horrified that I’d never read a book by Gail Z. Martin until now as she is not a new author. The fact is there are a lot of authors out there, the fantasy market is more crowded than twenty years ago, and all of us only have so much time and varying levels of awareness via our various media channels. I’m very aware of who Brandon Sanderson is, and I have one of his books on my pile to read, but so far haven’t got around to it. Once again it comes down to too many books and not enough time.

So, The Name of the Wind is the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle, an epic fantasy tale by Rothfuss who I would describe as a storyteller. By that I mean he creates a wonderfully dynamic and rich world without bogging the reader down in pages and pages of detail. His story in some ways feels like an urban folk tale, about someone who actually lived, or it’s a parable that has been told down through the generations. It’s also very hard to describe the book as it doesn’t fit into any pigeon hole and is hard to put it alongside other books for comparison. It tells the story of Kvothe, a figure of legend almost, a man feared and loathed by some and respected and loved by others. The story begins with him as a grown man telling a scribe his version of events, starting with his childhood and gradually bringing him up to the present. But there are also chapters set in the present so it’s not just a look back at another time. Kvothe is also a renaissance man, and again you can’t say he’s a wizard, or warrior, or mage etc, he’s just a man who has adventures, gets caught up in weird and wonderful events, gets in to lots of trouble, goes through some terrible and awful moments, but also makes some amazing discoveries full of wonder and maybe even a touch of magic. There is a lot to tell, there’s no doubt, as Kvothe has lived a very interesting life and this first book is pretty weighty, and is one of at least three. The second book is even bigger I think but again, this is not because Rothfuss spends ten pages describing the smoke coming out of the chimney.

This book has sold a lot of copies, I mean hundreds of thousands, maybe even a few million. It’s incredibly popular and rightly so in my opinion. It’s one of those lightning rod books in the genre like Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora or The Painted Man by PV Brett, or The Blade Itself by Abercrombie. It’s an incredibly unique book, something that is not perfect, and there are some bits I didn’t like, but overall it marks Rothfuss as an incredibly talented writer and someone who is forging ahead and doing his own thing, which others will then seek to imitate.

This is the second time I’ve read Name of the Wind, because it was quite a while since I read it, and now I have a copy of the second volume staring at me. I’ve also forgotten quite a bit from the first time around so I want to sink back into this rich world, rediscover the nuances of the character and get myself up to speed in readiness for reading book 2, The Wise Man’s Fear.

Comics
Reading comics is a very different experience for me compared to novels. It takes me a bit of time to sink back into a book, but with a comic I can read for five or ten minutes, read an issue and I’m in the story almost straight away and can be completely satisfied. So I always take a few trades to read for those smaller gaps of time when I want to read something.

Danger Club Image ComicsDanger Club by Landry Walker and Eric Jones from Image comics.
I read the first issue of this when it came out a while ago, thought the premise was very interesting, thought the artwork was amazing and the colours very vibrant. Briefly put, all of the worlds superheroes go off into space to fight a very serious threat and then they never come back. So, suddenly all that’s left are lots of sidekicks and kids with powers. So it’s a bit Lord of the Flies, and it focuses very much on the next generation of heroes and villains. What do you do when your mentor is taken away from you? Are the junior heroes ready to cope? And if not, what will they do? What effect will the responsibility have on them? Likewise for the junior villains. Are they really capable of carrying out some terrible acts?

Manhattan Projects Vol 2. Image ComicsManhattan Projects Vol. 2 by Jonathan Hickman from Image comics.
Simply put, what if the Manhattan Project that we know about was simply one of many strange, weird and wonderful scientific projects that were being worked on by the best minds at that time in history. This twisted science fact meets science fiction book focuses on a group of very weird almost mirror universe versions of well known historic scientists getting up to all sorts of stuff. It involves portals to other worlds, alien invasions and lots of other weird science. Hickman writes for Marvel comics and is known for writing very big stories, and by that I mean long term, big sky, complex but not convoluted stories which are structured into chapters almost like a novel, with rewarding endings. He did a great run on Fantastic Four that was planned out years in advance and now he is doing the same on Avengers. This comic is a breeding ground for all sorts of ideas he probably can’t fit in other places and for some stuff that is too weird to go into a mainstream comic.

Peter Panzerfaust Vol. 1 Image comicsPeter Panzerfaust Vol. 1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe from Image comics.
Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys, in World War II. That’s pretty much it. I read the first issue a long time ago, then lost touch with the series for some reason, but now I’m trying to catch up in trade. It begins with an almost Band of Brothers storytelling device, where an old man is talking about his experiences during the war, and it then flashes back to him as a young boy meeting a heroic and dashing and strange young man named Peter. The scope is vast, the twist on characters is only limited by imagination and this series has been picked up by the BBC to be adapted first into a digital motion comic (for some reason) and then later a live action TV series. I can see the latter working very well, not sure what the point of the former is, given that motion comics are the new dodo, and the real evolution in digital comics is coming from Thrillbent.com. Check out the website for free digital only comics where they are pushing the boundary of digital. Anyway, this series looks like a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the first issue.

Fatale Volume 2. Image comicsA possibly sneaky fourth trade, if I get time, is Fatale Vol. 2 by Brubaker and Phillips.
It’s crime meets Lovecraftian horror. Meta fiction within fiction, weird people who don’t appear to be quite human, strange cults, immortals, demons, random chaos that actually points towards something else. Lots of ideas thrown onto the page and you have to hold on to your seat and just enjoy the ride.

Comments Off on Holiday Reads

Filed under Books