Free Space Bacon

DeepShellAttention people of Earth. My novelette Deep Shell, 55 pages and 16,000 words of gore and space intrigue, is now available for FREE as an ebook on the amazon store of your choice.

Go on, download the bugger. You don’t have to read it, if you’re pressed for time and don’t like awesome stories. Just download it and help me climb the charts and get some traction so I can bask in fame and bathe in Donkey milk

Every single download really is a big help. Every review is a bigger help. And telling your friends and loved ones, well, I wouldn’t say no to that either. And hey, anybody want an interview…? I can be truly adorable.

By the way, you don’t need an actual kindle. Just get the free kindle app on your smartphone or pad and read away to your little heart’s content. Go!

/ paddy

Sale Number One

Monday March 23rd was pretty ordinary. I went to work and programmed some animated ducks and frogs for a new mobile game. Had sushi for lunch. Marvelled at the women in the sushi place who has fake nails two centimetres long, and wondered how she works the cash register with them. Went home. Said hello to the boy, who was in his room, playing a game while laughing and chatting with friends on Skype. Wrote a bit. Stared out the window. Scratched my head. Got started on dinner.

Then came an email with the name of one of my stories in the subject line. Hey-ho, I thought. A rejection mail. Oh well. I popped it up, expecting to read it quickly and get on with making dinner. But as I read it I stopped moving.

space-happy“I’m just dropping you a quick line to say that I like XXX and I’m going to take it for YYY. At this point, it doesn’t look like we’ll need any significant edits. You’ll have the contract via email in just a couple of weeks.”

My breath stopped. They wanted my story. I read it again. They still wanted my story. I jumped up and down a little. I wiped away a few tears. YYY, a major science fiction magazine, wanted to buy my story. With actual money.

This is huge. I’ve been writing fiction since the age of ten or eleven. Starting with terrible Star Wars fan fiction, I moved through Fighting Fantasy style gamebooks to short stories and finally novels. Over thirty years and a hundred rejections, first paper and then electronic, piling up with no sale to show for them. Several times I stopped sending stories out entirely, sure I’d never sell anything. But I always started again.

And now I have a sale. Magazine YYY (which I’ll name when the time comes) is one of the biggest print magazines for science fiction in the world. I am, it must be said, incredibly happy. I finally feel, a bit, like a real writer.

The moral of the story, I suppose, is to keep trying. I’ve heard it a million times. But maybe it’s true.

/ paddy

The Vagina in the Room

This Saturday finds me in a bit of a pickle. A slight pickle. A slippery micro-pickle.

As posted last time, I received the amazing final cover for my novelette Deep Shell. But just hours after posting it online for comment, the whispers began. “A fine cover,” they said. “A great cover entirely. But … isn’t it a bit … well … vagina-like?”

Now I won’t name and shame the filthy people who thought that, but the artist who made it decided to tweak it a little to see if the vaginal taste could be removed, as it were. He sent me this new one today.

And, as I like them both, I can’t decide. Is the new one better? Is the old too much like a gee? Or are we all just dirty-minded losers with too much time on our sorry fingers … sorry, our hands? Comments please.

/ paddy

DEEPSHELL-old

The old cover

DEEPSHELL-new

The new cover

Deep Shell

So I decided to blow a wad of money in a proper writerly manner. I’m having a novelette of mine professionally edited, getting a cover made, and putting the whole thing out on the kindle store. Putting my money, basically, where my mouth is.

The story in question, clocking in at 15000 words, is called Deep Shell. And it’s kind of a weird one.

The idea sprang from a fascination I have with holes in the street. You know, when they dig up the road to get at the pipes and shafts and all those lovely deep-buried bits. Those pipes and cables always struck me as vaguely organic. Kind of like a wound in the flesh of the city. And I started thinking — if it were a wound, then somebody would need to come fix it, before it all went yicky and bad. So what would that person’s job and life be like?

hole2I set about making up a world where it might happen. Science fiction was the obvious arena, and as I already had a science fiction universe, from an old put-in-the-drawer novel, I decided to set it in that — the universe of the Conflux, a short time after the galaxy-spanning waytubes collapsed for murky and unknown reasons, shattering that civilisation into scattered bunches of survivors, all trying to rebuild their lives.

The story would take place on the back of an enormous, floating turtle-like beast known as the behemoth, the only solid surface on the entire world-wide ocean. I put humans there, living in the ruins of the ancient ships that crash-landed after the collapse decades before. And I set the story clock ticking in the form of worsening fleshquakes, fading power cells, and people gone missing deep inside the shell.

Street Surgeon was for a long time the title, although I finally went with Deep Shell. I wrote it over a couple of months, edited it, polished it, work-shopped it with the excellent people at the Stockholm Writer’s Group, submitted it to a few places, got refused, and put it aside.

But then, six months later, something kicked it back into my life. After a tip from the excellent Jennifer Foehner Wells, I was enticed into sending it to a real, proper editor. Her editor, in fact. The cost of this person’s services put me off at first, but after I got a sample of his work, the corrected first two pages of the story, I was gobsmacked. It was so much better. Worlds better. I knew I had to take the plunge.

The editing took a couple of passes, which I buggered up just a little by fiddling with the story in between the passes, making more work that necessary for the editor. Warning: don’t do that, dear writers. But as that process neared completion, I needed a cover. So off I went into the jungle, searching around for a good cover designer.

I was finally pointed to this guy by a Facebook acquaintance. He had only done a few covers, and it was a risk, but we decided to give it a shot. And as a first draft, he delivered to me this:

DEEPSHELL-PaddyKelly-DRAFT1 2I must say I really like it. I have a few comments and we’re doing a new version. But this is definitely a large step in the right direction, and hopefully it’ll be done in a few weeks and ready for the kindle store sometime in April.

Will Deep Shell languish at the bottom of the bog hole or rise and bob proudly on the top-selling list, like a bloated and gilded turd? Only time will tell. Time, and lots of people buying it.

Like the cover? Hate the cover? Have ideas? Want to give me a book deal? Let me know below.

/ paddy

Wicked Games

When I was a schoolboy, it was the 70s. This might surprise a lot of people, especially me, but it seems that I was in fact alive and thinking almost forty years ago. Weird. And back then, I was a student in Tarbert National School, a pretty dismal establishment where priests would float in and out of our classroom and tell us what to do, and sent groups of children – children – to confession once a month, where we could make up a bunch of sins we’d never actually enjoyed, and request forgiveness for them, from a priest who was probably reading a western novel on the other side of the booth.

But to keep us sane, we had playground games. I remember several of these, all to do with running fast and hard, banging into people and being manly, even though we were all seven years old. The one I remember most strongly was a thing called “guards and prisoners”. It might sound like a delightful game of admin and paperwork and legal proceedings, but alas, no. It was a game of running and banging into people and being manly. And here’s how it worked.

Tarbert-First-Communion-class-May-2014In our playground there was a shelter – a concrete structure with a hard bench designed to keep children outdoors and in a minor but constant amount of pain. The shelter – measuring five or six square metres – was the free zone where the prisoners in the game would gather. Outside of the shelter were the guards, standing at random points around the much larger schoolyard. And deep in their territory was the “jail” where captured prisoners would be placed.

The idea was for the prisoners to charge out and run around the playground without getting captured, and then back into the shelter, where they would be greeted as heroes. But if they were wrestled to the ground by guards, they would be put into the jail. From here they could only escape if another prisoner ran by, right through the jail area, and made a peculiar “baaa-aaa-aaaa-a” sound, which I always assumed was a machine-gun from the 1920s, or a panic-stricken sheep.

3216354285_a753b577daIn this way, the prisoners would build up in the jail until the last one was caught and the game ended. However, an interesting loophole emerged, in that an occasional prisoner, having been imprisoned according to the rules of the game, would suddenly decide, from inside the jail area, that he was in actual fact “just pretending to be caught” and make the feared “baaa-aaa-aaaa-a” sound and free every single damn prisoner in the jail. This was frowned upon, but if the boy doing it was large, it really didn’t matter, because it happened anyway.

I remember the feeling of charging around the yard as a prisoner, avoiding the grasping hands of larger boys, and back into the shelter at high speed, except for the time I ran into the concrete wall and blacked out, waking to find a ring of boys gazing down at me in bewilderment, as I felt the throb of the massive cranial lump I would carry around for the following week or two.

I wish there was a life lesson from this time, but I can’t find one. But it sure did point out to me the importance of a sense of balance, and a mistrust of people in prison, and of people in charge, along with a healthy dislike of hard concrete walls. So I guess that was something. Not much, but at least something.

(Note: I tried to find an image on google to conjure up those long-gone schooldays, but nothing came even remotely close in terms of grimness. So you’ll have to make do with stock footage of cows at a market and a photo lifted from the school’s website of present-day children, the poor bastards, as they are slid deeper into the glistening fan club of Jesus Christ, our dude and eternal saviour, using the burning, tingling lube of gloriousness and prayer. Amen indeed.)

/ paddy

Amusing Clips And All

As it’s Friday and wine has been consumed, I thought I’d post some of my all-time favourite youtube videos. And there’s a fuck of a lot on youtube, but I’ll go with my top five ever. Ready?

1. He-man. Doing it. It’s marvellous.

2. Okay, so I like a bit of goth. What can I say?

3. Weird Al. He can be great. He can be rubbish. But this is one that I love.

4. Yes, I’m a huge Air Supply fan. Sorry. But this version is sublime. It helps to know the original.

5. Musicless music videos. Genius. Here’s The Prodigy.

And yeah. Have a decent weekend. Not great, just decent.

/ paddy

The Sound Of Noise

Often, I see discussions on twitter about the best music to write to. Many people make playlists and listen to them over and over to “set the mood” of the book. It seems quite common. But to me, it feels totally alien.

I write best without music and without people around me. Total silence doesn’t work, unless it IS total, but some nice background rumble usually does the trick, to keep me wrapped up in that nice bubble. But not music. If I hear music, I focus entirely on it and my brain locks up. Some music does work, but only if it’s very abstract – ambient or minimal electronica is usually good, but even not that for very long. Rain sounds are perfect.

Silence

Which is why I can’t understand the need for music in bars and restaurants and cafés. It confuses me. If you go somewhere to talk to other humans, then what the hell do you need music for? In a loud environment, I can’t hold a conversation. Even though I might hear the other person, my brain can’t grasp what they’re saying, because of all the overload of input. I hear them, but they’re just face parts moving, making a noise.

It comes from being introvert, I’ve discovered in later life. I think and relax much better when I’m by myself. Too much exposure to other people drains me and leaves me an emotional wreck. My son had probably noticed that after a few days of holiday in a new place, especially a city, I communicate in grunts and single words, until I can get home to recharge in silence.

the-silenceI understand that many people get recharged by being in company. They get energy from others. But many people don’t, and I don’t think extroverts really grasp that. They think we’re just not trying. But the truth is, an introvert needs very little input to feel stimulated, and for us, most modern environments are utterly draining, like getting slammed repeatedly over the head with a tray.

When I studied here in Stockholm, ten years ago, I was astounded that, in the university library, people chatted, and laughed, and talked on their mobile phones, out loud, as if in a pub. In the fucking library. And that’s when I first started to feel really old.

It’s a dream of mine to open a café where silence is the theme. You sit there, you eat, you sip your coffee, and you shut up. No music, no youtube videos at the next table, no idiots yelling into mobile phones. Just the natural sounds of everyday where you can sit and have a think or maybe do some writing. A church, basically, just without all the churchy stuff, with no irritating pop drivel on the radio, no large TV on the wall blasting ads into your tired stressed-out brain.

But until then I’ll keep looking for cafés without sound systems, and bringing my earplugs.

/ paddy

The Return Of Leprechaun Man

Well that went well.

I just spent three days in York at the Festival Of Writing and I can safely say I have never had a more fun time. What an amazing bunch of people, and what a great experience. Three days of intense focus on writing and all things related, with a whole lot of socialising. I’ve never been to a place where it was easier to walk up to strangers and just get along with them. And I’m not by nature a very social person, but at the FOW it was simple and it was fun and fuck it I want to go back.

On the Friday evening I stood on the main stage and read out my stuff in front of bloody everyone. It must have been two hundred people watching, and I was one of only seven finalists. Nerves were wracked and rolled and toasted. But, long story short, my piece well down very well and, in a very tight vote, I scored second place.The bar staff told me they rooted for me to win, which I think means I actually won in a Tom Waits sort of universe.

2014-09-12 20.48.25

The fuzzy view from the stage

My prize: the attention of agents, three of whom said to send the book to them when it’s done. Which in this business is fucking gold. I also earned some momentary fame, with people coming up to tell me they liked my piece all weekend. Although, because my piece concerned leprechauns, I was known as “leprechaun man” for the duration of the festival. Oh well.

One person I met who deserves a shout-out was science fiction writer Hal Duncan, with whom I hung out a bit and drank many beers. A friendly, brilliant and interesting individual, I recommend that you all go buy his book, Vellum, which I’ve just started reading. It is, in a word, fucking whammo.

Now all I have to do is get my book done and ready for sending out to those agents who expressed an interest. I figure it’s completely ready in February, unless I can get my job to honour my ongoing request to work a bit less than full time, which they don’t seem to want to do. So that means early mornings, late nights, and all weekends for a bunch of months until Rare Beasts is ready to hit those inboxes, slushpiles, dart boards and cat boxes and the next stage in the slow crushing of my soul may commence.

But yeah – next year, go to York!

/ paddy

A Date With A Room

As mentioned, tomorrow I’m off to the Festival Of Writing in York. For the folks in the UK, it’s maybe not much of a trip, but seeing as I’m in the frozen wastes of Sweden, it takes a tad longer for me. Getting up at four in the morning and stumbling onto a bus is such a precious treat.

As also mentioned, I was one of those picked out to read my 500-word piece to the assembled throng on Friday night. What I recently learned is that only seven people were chosen and, according to the previous winners, you will have the attention of every agent in the room for the evening. Which is damn nice.

It feels that things are moving along, writing-wise. The last year was the first time I felt that my fiction writing was good enough. As in, I wrote things I feel proud of, and can read them back and go “wow, is that mine?” I received a few positive no-thanks from agents, and one agent even asked me for a whole manuscript, a rare occurrence. Which she rejected (for good reasons) but just being asked for it made me stupidly happy.

So maybe this is the break I’ve been working towards. And if it’s not, it doesn’t matter that much. Because something occurred to me a few months ago: I’m not writing to be rich or famous or spotted in the street. Well, clearly I am, a bit, but it’s not the major reason. I’m writing to become a better writer, to be proud of what I put down. And as long as I keep doing that, interest from agents and publishers will come. Realising this has made me a great deal happier about the whole enterprise. If I can see an upward trend in my writing ability, then I’m doing it right.

For those looking for a snappy summary, here’s what I’ve gleaned from my years nosing around the periphery of the publishing trade. If you want to get a book accepted and published:

1) Write a great book
2) Don’t be an arsehole.

It’s really not any harder, or easier, than that.

/ paddy

Friday Night In York

Well now, who would have thought a relevant topic would come up this quickly? 

Feeling shy to speak-756129I am off to the Festival Of Writing in York next weekend, for talks, workshops, meetings with agents and various social events with lots of other writers. It’s a great chance to make contacts, maybe get an agent interested, but for me it’s also just great fun to hang out with writers and speak English for a whole weekend. Swedes understand English, of course, but it’s not the same as being able to freely talk shite (as we say in Ireland) with other native speakers. 

There’s a contest on the Friday night, called “Friday Night Live” where you submit up to 500 words, of any piece you might have to hand. The best ones will get the chance to read out their piece to the whole assembled group — writers, agents, waiters, whoever. Massive instant exposure. And — hah! — I was chosen. Holy crapping crap. There’s a whole lot of excitement in the Kelly Mansions right now, I can tell you. And plenty of cartoon squealing.

Now for a week of test-reading in front of a mirror while deciding what shirt to wear. And whether or not I should wear nail varnish. I’m thinking yes. Coal black. If nothing else, they’ll sure as hell remember that.

/ paddy