Gathering Momentum

by M.J. Hearle

In my last post, I offered a few random thoughts on why books will survive well into the digital age. To summarise, I think the reading experience goes beyond merely scanning words, that the tactile quality of books is more important than we may be aware of. Certainly, I believe we’d miss them if they vanished from our shelves and existed only as files on a computer. However, that doesn’t mean I’m anti-digital.

Quite the contrary, I’m actually looking forward to getting an eReader. As much as I love books, I don’t necessarily enjoy squashing two or three hefty paperbacks in my luggage when I go on holiday. They take up precious space and invariably end up creased and damaged. An eReader on the other hand is slim and compact. It slots nicely into the front pocket of a bag and you don’t have to worry about the pages getting sandy.

Not only are they compact, eReaders offer access to a whole range of content that simply isn’t available in print form. Content like short stories, essays, and other fiction and non-fiction pieces published by notable authors. In the past, a whole range of magazines and newspapers existed which specialised in publishing this sort of content, but they’re becoming rarer the further we travel into the digital age.

Which brings me to Momentum. Momentum is an off-shoot of Pan Macmillan and has the distinction of being the first major digital publishing label in Australia. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Momentum launch party where I met some of the key players in the formation of the label. They’re all traditional ‘book people’ – certainly not tech heads – and see the digital frontier as just another delivery system, one that can exist side by side with traditional printed media. Chatting with these fine folks, I was struck by their enthusiasm and passion, so much so that I left the party inspired to write something.

Not a new novel; a short story. I’ve always loved short stories, specifically those by Stephen King, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman (big surprise) but haven’t written many myself. Bite-sized story ideas occur to me occasionally but being so time poor I can’t justify working on them when I should be writing novels (ahem…I’m looking at you Winter’s Tale #3). Meeting the Momentum folks really opened my eyes to the possibility of the digital medium, specifically that there might be a home for some of the short stories rattling around in my noggin.

And so, I’ve decided to write a vignette set in the Winter-verse. Something eerie and magical about a character who seems to have caught readers imagination – Claudette, Blake’s mad sister. Without ruining any surprises, the short story takes place decades before the events described in Winter’s Shadow. Think about the flashback chapters in Winter’s Shadow and you’re won’t be far wrong. I’m only halfway through the first draft but at this stage it looks like the story is probably going to run ten to fifteen thousand words. Not really long enough to be a novella but the perfect length to be digested during that long boring bus/train journey to work/school.

This is where I think digital publishing has a real opportunity to shine – supplying short fiction and non-fiction pieces which readers wouldn’t otherwise be able to get their hands on. Of course, I’ll always prefer to turn the pages of a book rather click through them, but I can foresee a future where there’s an eReader on my bedstand as well.

M. J.