Sunday 21 October 2012

Bouchercon 2012: Hello Cleveland

A few weeks ago, I boarded a flight to the USA to attend my fourth Bouchercon. For those who don’t know, Bouchercon is the world’s biggest crime fiction convention attended by authors and readers from all over the globe.  My previous Bouchercons have been in Indianapolis IN, San Francisco CA and St Louis MO, but I think Cleveland was the most fun of all of them.

The host city makes a big difference to the convention. But possibly not in the way you might think. For a good con, you don’t want a city that’s got too much going on. For example, San Francisco wasn’t a great con; not because the convention itself was lacking – it most certainly wasn’t – but because there was too much to see and do in the city, so people scattered when they weren’t on panels instead of gathering in the bar. Indianapolis, on the other hand, didn’t have much to see other than the adjacent shopping mall, but the hotel bar was jam-packed all day long throughout the weekend.  St Louis might have been the same, but the layout of the convention hotel was strange; the panel rooms were too far away from the bar for things to feel cohesive.

You may spot a theme here: the bar is the most important part of Bouchercon. It’s the social aspect, meeting your fellow writers, that brings people back year after year. Seeing good friends like my Soho stable mate James Benn makes the trip worthwhile. If the bar scene isn’t happening, the convention won’t go down as a favourite.

Cleveland was good in this respect. The hotel was well located, with a decent (if under-staffed) bar, and plenty of other restaurants and hang-outs concentrated in the streets nearby. They included an eatery where you could order half a pig’s head (see photo), roasted, with the brain, eyes and tongue thoughtfully removed, as well as a Scottish take on Hooters called the Tilted Kilt (sorry, no photo). Me and a few other authors did pop in for a pint, but only ironically, of course.

What really made Cleveland for me, though, was the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Museum. It’s a glass pyramid-like structure that stands on the shore of Lake Erie, and it houses a huge collection of rock memorabilia, including a great range of guitars, which for a fanatic like me, is heaven. The actual Gibson Les Pauls played by Duane Allman and Dicky Betts on the Allman Brothers’ Live at Fillmore East; the Fender Strat played by Jeff Beck through much of the 70s; the prototype guitars built by one Lester Polfus before he teamed up with Gibson to create the Les Paul.

The memorabilia ranges from the magical to the macabre: hand drawings by Elvis Presley; the ZZ Top Eliminator car; pieces of the plane that Otis Redding went down in; a telegram from Malcolm McLaren to Sid Vicious’s mother, asking what to do with his body.

If you have any interest in rock music and happen to find yourself within driving distance of, or even a short flight from, Cleveland, I recommend you pay the Hall of Fame a visit. You won’t regret it.

What really makes Bouchercon 2012 stand out for me, however, is my publisher, Soho Press. Soho are one of the best groups of people in publishing, that’s well known throughout the industry. They hustle hard and they treat their authors in a way that puts other publishers – including the majors – to shame.

This year, Soho have gone all out promoting my new novel RATLINES, which is out at the start of January. As well as a cover spread in Publishers Weekly, Soho put ads on the Bouchercon lanyards, so every attendee was a walking promotion for my book. To cap it all, Paul Oliver, Soho’s marketing hero, organised a shindig at a local bar to celebrate RATLINES, with free ARCs of the book for those who got there early enough, and free booze for everyone else. We had a great turnout, and I want to thank everyone who dropped by – it was the highlight of my trip. I also want to thank Paul, Juliet, Rudy and Bronwen from Soho Press who pulled out all the stops for me.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

My Last Word on Sock Puppets

It’s a little over a week since I wrote that blog post about the sock puppet using author who had abused me and others on Amazon while giving himself glowing reviews.  I had expected my little chapter of the story to be buried under the RJ Ellory scandal, but instead it caused quite a ripple.  I spent most of last Monday fielding calls and emails from journalists.  It was incredibly stressful.  If that’s what it feels like to get caught up in a very minor press scandal, I’d hate to be part of a major one.

I really didn’t intend to cause such a fuss.  Because I’d been part of the movement for author ethics, and party to the drafting of the open letter that was published last week, I felt it was disingenuous of me to keep my experience a secret any longer.  While good people like Jeremy Duns and Steve Mosby were putting their own reputations on the line, I couldn’t continue to tiptoe around the issue.  It was time to speak out.

It wasn’t an easy decision.  I didn’t casually point the finger.  It took more than two years to come to the point where I felt I had to tell the truth.  Knowing what I know now, would I do it again?  I’m honestly not sure.

What, if anything, did I learn from all this?

Primarily, I learned that the crime writing community is as supportive and friendly as I’ve always found it to be.  There are some exceptions to this, as became clear over recent weeks, but these rogue authors only emphasise how generally decent most writers are.  I am deeply grateful for all the messages of support I’ve received, both publicly and privately.  It would have been a much harder week without them.

Others, however, have made me angry.  In particular, the blog posts by JA Konrath in which he dismisses the issue of author ethics, saying: “Leaving fake one star reviews isn’t wrong.”  Such a statement beggars belief, and it’s an insult to those of us who stuck our heads above the parapet.  He calls the signatories to the open letter a “mob”, that the swell of support for the letter was a “moral panic”.  Without that so-called “mob”, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to speak out.

Shame on you, Mr Konrath.

RJ Ellory had the decency to admit to his actions, and apologise.  He didn’t equivocate.  He didn’t hide behind denials in the face of overwhelming evidence.  He didn’t pop up in the comment threads of other articles around the Internet, lying about what he’d already said publicly.  Roger is the only named author in this scandal to come out of it with a shred of dignity.  Some might argue that he only confessed and apologised because he’d been caught, and while I understand that point of view, I feel it misses the point.  Roger Ellory was man enough to put his hands up; in contrast, others have shown themselves to be spineless.

Right now, I want to put all this behind me.  I have no interest in feuds; I bear no ill will towards anyone involved.  I’m not going to pursue it any further.  This will be my last comment on the matter unless something remarkable comes to light in the coming days and weeks.

In conclusion, I’ll allow my friend (and excellent writer) Gerard Brennan to sum it all up:

Tuesday 4 September 2012

An Update, and a Statement from Laura Wilson

The Guardian has published a piece by Alison Flood on the recent controversies surrounding author ethics, and my last blog post features prominently. In the article, the managing director of O'Brien Press, Ivan O'Brien, said:
"It is a strong case and Stuart has put time into putting it together, and from his perspective it definitely looks as if Sam is the perpetrator ... It looks very bad."
Mr O'Brien goes on to argue that in light of Mr Millar's denial, they must take him on his word.

Also in the article, Laura Wilson has gone on record backing up my allegations. Laura has also been in touch with me, and provided the following statement:
"I reached the conclusion that the writer who posted negative reviews of my books on Amazon under the names 'Cormac Mac' and 'Noir Fan' was Sam Millar by following the same 'trail' of lists of reviews, wish lists and signatures as did Stuart Neville. I did this entirely independently of Mr Neville who had not, at that point, been on the receiving end of malicious sock-puppetry from the same source. I am aware that Mr Millar has denied being the author of these reviews, but I feel that the evidence (some of which has now been removed from Amazon) is pretty conclusive."
Speaking of removing evidence, at the time of writing, some of the reviews linked to in my previous post have been removed from

Sunday 2 September 2012

Naming Sock Puppet Names: Sam Millar

Update 5/9/2012: As I thought might happen, some of the reviews linked to below have started to be deleted from

The issue of author ethics has been occupying many minds recently, not least of all mine. After Leathergate, the revelations about John Locke's buying of reviews, and the most recent allegations against RJ Ellory, I've been agonising over my own position in this. As I've detailed before, I have been attacked by another author using 'sock puppet' accounts on and I've had a good idea all along who was behind it, but until now I've preferred to keep that information to myself. But given all that's happened in just a few weeks, I feel keeping quiet is no longer an option. So here goes:

I believe the author who has targeted me, along with Declan Hughes, Laura Wilson, and others, is Belfast crime writer Sam Millar. It's possible I'm mistaken, but I feel the evidence is overwhelming.

Millar has been using the screen names Cormac Mac, Noir Fan, Crime Lover and Crime Queen. I also suspect he has been using the screen names BookFan and Feelthepain, but less actively. He also uses other aliases on various websites, but for the purposes of this post, I'll concentrate on the four main names I've listed.

Before listing the following links, I should point out that all of these have been saved as HTML and screengrabs in case they are deleted in the coming days. I also have saved files going back two years. All of these are stored at a secure location.

The Evidence

The easiest place to start is at the lists of reviews for each of those four IDs.
By browsing through each of those lists of reviews, a few patterns emerge:
  • All of Sam Millar's books receive five-star reviews.
  • Many of the reviews for other authors' books contain references to Millar, sometimes with links to his own book, often claiming to have heard him review the book on BBC radio (see note).
  • Some of the five star reviews are for self-published works, the authors of which have placed reciprocal five star reviews for Millar's books when he self-published his own backlist titles to Kindle.
  • The most frequent tag used by all of these accounts is "Sam Millar".
  • Some books (including my own) have been given malicious negative reviews.

Wish Lists and Signatures

One of the give-aways for sock puppet accounts on Amazon is the Wish List page. In fact, that was how the infamous Orlando Figes case was discovered. Two of the accounts listed show people with surname Millar as the account holder: click to see Crime Lover's Wish List or Noir Fan's Wish List.

(Update 3/9/2012: The Wish List attached to the Crime Queen account also shows a user with the surname Millar.)

Until fairly recently, the Cormac Mac account also had a Wish List attached, showing the account holder's real name. That has now been deleted, but fortunately I saved the page some time ago. Here is a screengrab. The name listed is Sam Millar (click the image to enlarge).

Another strong piece of evidence appears on Cormac Mac has commented on a five-star review from a reader, thanking them, and has signed the comment: Sam Millar.


I am not the first to have been suspicious of these accounts. Here are three examples of Amazon users raising questions:

The comments on this review of one of Millar's books question the use of sock puppet accounts after Crime Lover attacks a user over a negative review.

Another Amazon user directly challenges Sam Millar on his Amazon author forum. Millar has not responded as yet.

Yet another Amazon user challenges Millar over the use of sock puppet accounts on the forums (see note below about forum abuse).


As well as providing Millar with five-star reviews, and mentioning his works in reviews of books by other authors, the four accounts have been very active on the forums. This link is a simple search of the forums for the phrase "sam millar". It returns 265 results. Scrolling through the results, you'll find the vast majority of them are from the four listed accounts, all recommending Millar's books, and sometimes even talking to each other about them.

It is also worth noting that some, if not all, of these accounts have been banned from the equivalent forums at; all forum posts have been deleted by Amazon admin for spamming, in other words, the same behaviour as has been exhibited at

Attacking Others

Using sock puppet accounts to promote the work of an author is of course unethical, but it is less serious than using such accounts to attack other authors. When I first raised this issue over two years ago, the four listed accounts had between them posted seven one- and two-star reviews of my debut novel on and Since that time, some have been deleted, and some have been modified. There are now four reviews between the UK and US Amazon sites.

Three of these are one star reviews, visible here, and here.

Strangely, the fourth review is particularly vitriolic, calls me "Another wanna-be tough guy who wouldn't know the first thing about being tough", yet still rates the book with five stars.

I have not, however, suffered the worst of these attacks. There are currently many more one- and two-star reviews online for the books of British crime novelist Laura Wilson. Here are seven negative reviews placed by the suspicious accounts at An Empty Death, Stratton's War, The Lover, A Little Death, another for An Empty Death, and here are three for An Innocent Spy. There are more at  In each case, those reviews have had an impact on the relevant book's overall star rating.

It is significant that all of these reviews were posted in the months following Laura Wilson's less than spectacular review of one Sam Millar's novels appeared in The Guardian.

In a similar vein, a string of one-star reviews appeared for the books of American writer Tom Piccirilli after Tom stated that he didn't care for one of Millar's novels on a message board. Here is just one example.

Like my own debut novel, some books appear have been attacked by the four suspect accounts for political reasons. For example, All the Dead Voices by Irish novelist Declan Hughes received two one-star and one three-star review. Voices from the Grave by Ed Moloney was attacked in a similar way here and here; in these reviews, Moloney's integrity as a journalist is attacked, and by association, the research work done by Anthony McIntyre. Moloney's book is also attacked at

Finally, and most bizarrely of all, books by veteran broadcaster Terry Wogan are hit with one-star reviews.  Here is one example, and another, and yet another.

Looking Forward

I reported these sock puppet accounts to Amazon two years ago, but as others have found when reporting malicious activity, no action was taken. I hope one of the results of the recent controversy surrounding fake Amazon reviews will be a tightening up of policy. I also believe the publisher of an author's works cannot divorce themselves of that author's behaviour, because it also reflects negatively on them.

There is also the issue of credibility in other areas. For example, Sam Millar is a frequent reviewer on the New York Journal of Books website. If he uses sock puppet accounts to review his own work, and that of others, this must call in to question the validity of his contributions to that website, and as a result, the credibility of the website as a whole. Even the positive reviews Millar has written for my second novel, and one Laura Wilson book, have to be viewed with suspicion.

I believe Sam Millar has posted malicious reviews of my novel because it clashes with his personal politics. If Mr Millar wanted to voice his disapproval in an honest way, under his own name, I would have absolutely no problem with that. My book touches on some raw topics, and I fully understand that not everyone will like it.

Negative reviews are never pleasant to receive, but when they're genuine, one has to take them on the chin.  Malicious reviews, though, carry the sting of knowing someone is that mean-spirited, and is directing their bitterness at me. The crime fiction community is a friendly, open and welcoming one, with very little rivalry, so the kind of sniping that has come to light in recent weeks is a real disappointment.  But I am continuously grateful for the support of my fellow writers, many of whom knew about these attacks.  I must also express my gratitude to Jeremy Duns, whose dogged pursuit of ethics in writing has to be applauded.

Note about other authors named: I did not consult the other authors named in this blog post before writing it. Although I have discussed the issue with some of them over the last two years, the decision to write this post was mine alone.

Note about BBC radio: Many of the five-star reviews mentioned above claim that Millar has reviewed these books on BBC radio. I have never heard Sam Millar review a book on radio, and I'd be very curious if anyone at the arts desk at BBC Radio Ulster has ever had him review books on air.

Friday 27 July 2012

Confessions of an E-Book Agnostic

I'm going to say this right up front: I don't dig on e-books. I'm not against them; it's not a point of principle, I have no strong feelings about their effect on the publishing ecosystem. It's just that I like to read on paper. That's my preference, and I can't see it changing any time soon.

It's not that I'm a technophobe. That's one thing I'm pretty confident that I couldn't be accused of. Before I got my break as an author, I spent ten years as a partner in a web design business. I even helped build the Mysterious Press online e-book shop, including the back-end coding.

It's not that I don't have the devices to hand. Between me and my wife, we have three iOS devices that run the Kindle app, as well as iBooks. I've dowloaded a few e-books to my own iPhone, read a few short stories (I can recommend Chris F Holm's 8 Pounds), tried to read a novel by a well-known self-publishing advocate (couldn't, it was sucky), but that's about the height of it.

Despite all the convenience that e-books offer, and the ease of availability, we still have a house full of old-fashioned books (see photo - our little girl getting a head start). We have one room dedicated to their storage, and even then, we have bookcases in other rooms for the overflow.

There are two driving forces in my (and my wife's) failure to move with the times:

Books are Objects of Desire

We like owning books. We like to have them on our shelves, lined up, spines out. We display some vanity in how we arrange them, the volumes we're proudest of getting the most prominent display, the trashy paperbacks banished to the spare room. We like nice, hefty hardbacks.  Special editions are even better. The books on display say something about us in the same way that the pictures on our walls do. They're a visible illustration of who we are as people, the places we've been, the things we value, the things we aspire to.

The Experience Matters

I've been an iPod user for a few years now; unlike e-books, I put up little resistance to that advancement. But I rarely buy music through iTunes. I still buy physical CDs. I still spend time flipping through racks in HMV, hoping to find something special. I still order them online and wait the few days for them to show up.


Because I care about the quality. I want better than the iTunes standard bitrate of 128kbps, so I'll wait a few days, or drive to a store, and rip the CD with lossless audio. Besides, I want to physically own what I buy. In the event of some terrible catastrophe wiping my iTunes library, I know I'll still have the vast majority of my music safely stored on shiny discs.

The importance of the format became more apparent to me when I recently bought a good quality turntable to pair with my stereo. Not only could I revisit the vinyl I collected in my youth (yes, I'm that old), I could also buy some of favourite albums on superior quality black groovy plastic. Some of these were albums I hadn't discovered until long after I'd made the move to CD, so I'd never heard them as they were originally intended. I'm talking about mono pressings of LPs like Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, and John Mayall's Blues Breakers Featuring Eric Clapton. And they sound magnificent on vinyl, with more weight and presence than any version I've heard before.

The most important thing I noticed, however, is this: I listen to music on vinyl in a very different way. When I thought about it, I realised that I experience music in completely different ways according to the format. With iTunes, music becomes a backdrop for whatever I'm doing, whether that be writing, reading, doing the dishes, whatever. I tend to listen to CDs in my car, when I'm on the move, so I get long stretches if I'm heading out of town, or short snippets if I'm only going to the shops. It's rarely a start-to-finish listen.

But with vinyl, I do nothing other than listen. And I listen actively. I don't read, I don't tidy, I do nothing other that get up and turn the record over so I can listen to side two (ah, the loveliness of actually a side two is not to be underestimated). In other words, the format on which my content is delivered has a huge impact on how I experience that content.

The same applies to books. The reading experience is different. It's not the tactile aspect, though that is important. It's the importance one places on the reading itself. I'll go further and say the experience of reading a mass market paperback is different to reading a first edition hardback. The experience itself has greater value.

But That's Just Me

Your mileage will vary, of course. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong on this. It may well be true that I'm missing out on a world of reading possibilities. And I'm not ruling out ever making the transition to the Kindle, Nook, or whatever device is de rigueur by the time I finally give in. But this is where I am now. Agnostic, sticking with what I know, but willing, someday, to change my mind based on the evidence before me.

I've got a couple of related topics I want to blog about over the next week or so; check back if you're interested.

Monday 23 July 2012

On Leathergate and Sockpuppets

I attended the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate last week. If you were there, or keeping an eye on events via Twitter et al, then the controversy surrounding a panel discussion on E-books won't have passed you by. If it did, these links will give you a few different points of view on the matter:

We Love This Book's summary:

Stephen Leather's side of things:

Panelist Steve Mosby had this to say:

And finally, a very thorough round up of events:

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I know some of the players personally. I should also say I'm neutral on E-books and self-publishing, and I may address those topics (along with others raised here) in later blog posts. Anyway...

Given that this particular panel was titled 'Wanted for Murder: The E-Book', I think it's fair to say that a heated debate was expected, and Stephen Leather rightly points out that he was encouraged to make his arguments in strong terms. I've read quite a few posts scattered around the internet, mostly from people who weren't there, seeming to give the impression that Stephen Leather faced a hostile audience, and panel, from the outset. That simply wasn't the case. In fact, the general mood in the earlier part of the discussion was surprisingly cordial, and there seemed to be a genuine interest in sharing different points of view on various aspects of the E-book revolution.

I've had a few brief conversations with Stephen Leather online, but I only met him in person for the first time after his panel. He came across as a genuine and friendly bloke, and I look forward to meeting him again in the future. But I have to say, and I do so without bearing any ill will towards Stephen, that during the course of the debate he gave the impression of being arrogant, perhaps a little smug, and at times even belligerent towards the other members of the panel. That insults were shouted from the audience is to be regretted, but to say that Stephen didn't earn the crowd's hostility through his own efforts would be a lie.

Quite a few of Stephen's more controversial comments have already been widely discussed online: the crowd-sourcing of copy editing and proof reading; that pirates, whom many authors regard as stealing the bread from their tables, are doing his marketing for him; and a comment regarding his own publisher that was, to say the least, ill-judged. But one particular admission got under my skin, and for very personal reasons.

Towards the end of the discussion, Stephen Leather spoke about using fake Amazon accounts to manufacture discussions about his own books in order to give the impression of a buzz around them. To my surprise, this wasn't seized upon by other panel members, other than Steve Mosby, who asked Stephen Leather to repeat that he used what are known as "sockpuppet" accounts. This did receive closer scrutiny, however, in the various conversations that were had around Harrogate throughout the rest of the weekend.

Let me explain why this bothers me so much: I know of another crime novelist, whom I shall not name, who uses sockpuppet accounts in a similar way. This author uses them to mention his own books in various Amazon message boards, but going further than Mr Leather, he constantly references his own books whilst posting dozens upon dozens of five-star reviews for other books in the same genre. He also gives himself multiple five-star reviews.

How serious a crime is that? Hardly a prison matter, of course, but the fact that it happens devalues the Amazon review system. It also betrays the trust of current and potential readers. Some might regard it as a harmless way to game the system; I regard it as simply dishonest.

Even worse, and why this bothers me most especially, this same author has used these sockpuppet accounts to post repeated one-star reviews for my debut novel, as well as for authors such as Laura Wilson, Declan Hughes, Tom Piccirilli, and Ed Moloney. I blogged about the issue some time ago while it was still ongoing. Many of the negative reviews of my book have since been removed, and it appears his fake accounts have been banned from the Amazon forums, which at least shows someone takes it seriously.

Now, Stephen Leather has done nothing as bad as that. To my knowledge, his sockpuppet activities have been limited to those message board discussions that he's admitted to. But it's starting down the same path as my own Amazon stalker. At best, Stephen's abuse of Amazon accounts is disingenuous. At worst, it's flat-out lying to his own readers. Most of all, I think it was the rather self-satisfied way in which Stephen made the admission that got to me; he spoke as if this was a cheeky-chappy dodge, but I know how malicious a purpose such deception can serve.

I've generally gone by the policy of not getting involved in contentious online debates. I feel it rarely advances any worthwhile cause, and I always stick to the rule of not posting anything online that I wouldn't be prepared to say to somebody's face. And I'd be prepared to say any of this to Stephen, preferably over a pint, and I think he'd be able to take it and make his own case in return.

Sunday 8 July 2012

2D or not 2D. That is the predictable pun.

I've been to the cinema twice in recent weeks. The first time was to see Prometheus. I'm a longstanding fan of the first two Alien movies, and I've been content to pretend the other sequels and spin-offs don't exist. I was very excited in the build up to the new movie, especially considering Ridley Scott was at the helm. How could it possibly fail?

Well, it didn't fail exactly, but it was a great big ball of existential 'Meh, so what?' In terms of storytelling, the movie was bogged down by its own pomposity. In the process of questioning the purpose of mankind's existence, it forgot the purpose of its own: to entertain.

But that wasn't my biggest issue. My real gripe was with the 3D presentation. Of course, I could have opted to see it in 2D at the same theatre, but I thought I'd better go the whole way and see it as the director intended. I'm not sure if the director intended me to see it as if I was looking through two toilet rolls and a pair of sunglasses, but that was the effect.

I've seen a few other movies in 3D, including Avatar, which probably made the best use of the technology, albeit within the confines of a so-so story. Toy Story 3 looked good, especially tied to a stellar story, and The Avengers had enough fun and bombast to make the indignity of putting a pair of glasses over the top of my own glasses worthwhile. But given the choice, I could live without this whole 3D thing. I don't think the extra dimension added a great deal to Toy Story 3 or The Avengers, which were good movies regardless of any gimmicks. I'll happily watch those again in 2D. But next time a big blockbuster that I need to see in the cinema comes out in 3D, I'm going to go with the 2D version.

The other movie I saw on the big screen recently couldn't be any more different to Prometheus. My favourite movie ever, starring my favourite actor, and directed by my favourite director, got a cinematic re-release a couple of weeks ago. Billy Wilder's The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, was shown in the Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast. Because it was a Monday night, it only cost three quid. Three measly pounds to see an indisputable classic, fully restored in a brand new print, in one of the nicest movie theatres you'll ever visit. Bargain or what?

I loved every minute of it, enjoyed spotting details I'd never seen before, and relished the gasps of horror from the audience when Mr Sheldrake (played by a delightfully oily Fred MacMurray) offers Fran a hundred dollar bill for Christmas.

One thing struck me most of all: the set of CC Baxter's office floor, the desks receding into the distance, row after row, the brutal flourescent lighting above the workers crammed together like battery chickens. You want some depth of field in your movies? You want to feel like you can reach into the picture? Well, you don't need to stick a pair of goggles on your face. Just watch The Apartment and enjoy the Oscar-winning skills of Edward G. Boyle and Alexandre Trauner.

The biggest movie of this year, after the record-breaking success of The Avengers, will undoubtedly be The Dark Knight Rises. I wonder if any studio executives took director Christopher Nolan aside and whispered in his ear, something like, "Chris, how do you feel about going 3D on this one? What do you say? Everybody's doing it..."

I'm very glad Nolan has resisted any pressure he might have been under to follow this trend. There's huge expectation weighing on the third part of the Batman trilogy, and while I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Nolan will pull off the near-impossible feat of another triumph, I'm confident it'll look spectacular, and not a single soul will miss those batarangs flying out of the screen at them.

Thursday 5 July 2012

So, this blogging lark...

I gave up on blogging about eighteen months ago. It was a decision I agonised over for quite some time. Up to then, I'd been blogging for four years, albeit infrequently by the time I finally quit. I owe my writing career to blogging; you can read how all that came about over at, with most of the action occurring around spring and summer 2008.

Why did I give it up? The short answer is that I lost interest.

The long answer?

The purpose of the blog had been to record my attempts at writing a novel and getting it published. The blog eventually documented the writing of CONDUIT, a horror story that will never see the light of day.  Later, it was a genre-splicing thriller called FOLLOWERS that went on to be published as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST in the USA, THE TWELVE in the UK, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Spinetingler Award as well as getting shortlisted for a bunch of others, and has been translated into more languages than I can count off the top of my head. It even got optioned for a movie, though don't ask me how that's progressing because I've been kept in the dark since I signed the contract.

I owe all that directly and indirectly to blogging. If I hadn't become part of the online writing community, stalking agent and editor blogs, getting my stuff critiqued by other hopefuls, the planets would not have aligned in the way they did.

But once those planets had aligned, the blog's purpose for being had been fulfilled. It was no longer relevant to my situation. I posted less and less often, going quiet for months at a time by the end, and frankly, it became an embarrassment. Around the time I retired the blog, I set up another with the intention of writing about my great passion for guitars. I didn't manage a single post.

So, now, why am I writing this? For some reason, I'm thinking about starting to blog again, primarily on what it's like to be a professional author. It's partly to do with trying to raise my online visibility to where it had once been, but it's also maybe about venting a little, a way to deal with the daily terror of trying to support my family by making up stories. Which, let's face it, is a ridiculous thing to do.

But here's a question: How many people out there still read blogs?

I'm down to just a handful these days (I might list those in a separate post some time). A couple of them are for entertainment, a couple are genuinely useful, and one I visit for the sole purpose of annoying myself. There are numerous blogs that I used to follow religiously that I haven't looked at in a year or more. It seems to be that blogging is no longer about networking; Facebook and Twitter have taken on that role for most people. So what value can I bring to the blogosphere (blimey, it's a long time since I typed that word)?

In other words, should I bother my arse establishing a new blog? Is it a waste of time? Thoughts welcome.