As some of you may know, I love everything Gothic. Among my favorite books are Gormenghast, Wuthering Heights, Dracula and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, alongside movies such as The Crow, Dark City and Franklin. Everytime I walk the streets of Edinburgh or see a particularly good cathedral of dilapidated churchyard (there’s a great selection of the latter in Doncaster where I live), I get a silly grin on my face. Right now I’m listening to the haunting vocal stylings of Robert Smith as I type, to get me in the mood…I’m weird and I love it.
And these things have been a huge influence on my writing, culminating in the release of my Gothic Fantasy novel Greaveburn last year.
And so, it is with great pleasure that I am here to inform you of this year’s World Goth Day! Every year on the 22nd of May, the darklings crawl from their crypts, or take the winding stairs from their 17th century apartments, and grace the world with their midnight glory.
The website HERE has a fantastic array of information and other great stuff, but otherwise I implore you just to get involved!
And in honour of this most awesome event, my publisher Inspired Quill have granted an epic discount on Greaveburn for World Goth Day. Take a look at the blurb and click the pic below to get yourself linked over:
A Hero murdered.
A Girl alone.
A city of Villains.
From the crumbling Belfry to the Citadel’s stained-glass eye, across acres of cobbles streets and knotted alleyways that never see daylight, Greaveburn is a city with darkness at its core. Gothic spires battle for height, overlapping each other until the skyline is a jagged mass of thorns.
Archduke Choler sits on the throne, his black-sealed letters foretell death for the person named inside. Abrasia, the rightful heir, lives as a recluse in order to stay alive. With her father murdered and her only ally lost, Abrasia is alone in a city where the crooked Palace Guard, a scientist’s assistant that is more beast than man, and a duo of body snatchers are all on her list of enemies.
Under the cobbled streets lurk the Broken Folk, deformed rebels led by the hideously scarred Darrant, a man who once swore to protect the city. And in a darkened laboratory, the devious Professor Loosestrife builds a contraption known only as The Womb.
With Greaveburn being torn apart around her, can Abrasia avenge her father’s murder before the Archduke’s letter spells her doom?
There’s also a new juicy interview with myself over at The Pen Punks blog which some of you itching for a sequel might be interested in reading *knowing wink*
That’s all from me for now.
Embrace the weird.
If you read my last post, you’ll know what I’m talking about here, so I’ll keep it short. The Steampunk Doncaster event has an indiegogo page which we’re hoping will help us to make the festival extra awesome in June this year. If you hit the hyperlinks above, you can see the campaign itself, so feel free to share or donate or scoff and look at something more interesting.
What you WILL be interested in seeing is the outtakes reel of me trying to make that damned video with the help of Toucan Media.!
It certainly had me rolling, watching myself make cock-up after cock-up. Take a look:
And if for some reason that video doesn’t work, you can Youtube it HERE.
Let me know what you think! And don’t forget to share
Thank for reading.
I don’t do this often, or at all, but I need your help.
As some of you may know, I’m the literary co-ordinator (Man of Words) for my local Steampunk Doncaster Festival. This year, on the 15th and 16th and June, we’ll be holding our very first event.
We’ve already got a stack of brilliant authors (including Jonathan Green, Anna Chen and the graphic novel writing duo of Moore and Rappion), a stack of brilliant crafters and tinkerers and an exhibit stacked with artists and sculptors. We’ll be based in Donacster’s Deaf Trust building, a huge old place with lots of history, and the main aim is to bring something to our local area be it artistically, or in terms of tourism in years to come.
Basically, we want to give back to the area we live in and love.
But here’s the thing. We can’t do it for free. Being a poor starving author, and the rest of the teeam being similar creative types, we’ve poured as much money as we can into the festival to make sure it happens. But there’s only three of us on the crew and we can do no more than we already have. The Deaf Trust building, being a registered charity, has cost a small fortune in itself. And that’s why we need you to visit our Indiegogo campaign.
We don’t expect you to donate your life savings, or anything at all, for that matter. But every single hit, share, Like and Tweet we can get, spreading the word, is a massive help. And that’s where you guys come in.
If you need incentive, I look an absolute fart in the campaign video (well worth a chuckle, I assure you). Here it is!
That’s pretty funny, right? What a doofus.
Anyway, please hit the page there and share your little hearts out. And encourage people you know to share it, too. We want to make this thing grow, year after year, and get better and better, so every little helps.
Thanks for reading guys!
That’s right, it’s finally official. Just about every waking moment of my existence has become embroiled in some kind of cog-based awesomeness in one manner or another.
The Steampunk Doncaster festival continues to grow at an exponential rate (and there’s still room for more to get involved!), particularly my own section, the Litarium where we now have not only a stack of author signings and workshops, but graphic novelists, poets, competitions and the like going on. Brilliant!
We’ll also be shooting a video for a kickstarter campaign which might help us cover the costs of some of those brilliant things that’ll be going on. As Steampunk Doncaster is a non-profit kind of thing, we’ve begged and borrowed all we can so far, but to make it extra special I’m afraid cash is necessary; if only for posters, leaflets and to get our hands on some cool prizes for the competitions. So keep your fingers crossed, everyone,a nd I’ll post the vid as soon as it’s done.
Elsewhere, work on my next novel continues. The Adventures of Alan Shaw has almost had its first full edit and will soon be ready for consumption by Inspired Quill and a few trusted honest folk to let me know if it’s utter tosh or not.
And I’ve been making things again! As always, with festivals and the like coming up, I’ve been tinkering with some doodads for my outfit including some elbow pads (I’ve torn too many shirts falling off my velocipede) and a sidearm just in case things get a little bit hairy…
I’ll show you the final result sometime later in the week, I hope. Any ideas on improvements that you gusy might have are more than welcome
I’m also gearing up (hardy har) for my appearance at the Doncaster Turn The Page literary festival next week where I’ll be expected to string together coherent sentences for a whole hour infront of a crowd. Trying to figure out what people will be interested in hearing about from a little squib like me is baffling and I’ve had to turn to Twitter for suggestions. But not much has been forthcoming. Again, any suggestions are welcome! Otherwise the festival may be the last place I’m ever seen alive.
But that’s about all for now. Not a long post, but a succinct one, I’m sure you’ll agree. See you all soon!
Thanks for reading.
Hi everyone. Hope you all had a good festive period. Mine was quiet as I was working the night shift and sleeping the rest of the time, but for an old Scrooge like me, that’s no big deal.
In writing news…
With the first draft of The Adventures of Alan Shaw in the bag, I’m going to let it simmer a while, which means I’m at a loose end. And so, a few little side projects have sprung up for me to tinker with. Firstly, I’ve decided to try something completely new and out of my realms of experience in writing a graphic novel script. The basic premise can only be described as a cross between Evil Dead and Hellraiser, and who knows what means, right? I had the idea originally as a horror movie screenplay, but I just can’t make the jump to the writing style and all that formatting etc. Not yet, anyway. I’m afraid the project doesn’t have a title yet (Let’s just call it “the comic” for now) but I’m enjoying it. Thinking of how to move the action along in snapshots instead of in prose is proving a challenge and it’s keeping me entertained. Also fitting the story to the set boundaries of what would fit into a single issue of a comic, and then the story arc into a graphic novel’s length is a tough one. I’m jut winging it so far. We’ll see how it goes.
Also, I’m working on my non-fiction a little more. Some of you may know that I’ve written movie reviews for a long time now, for all kinds of different websites, and that recently ishitonyouraocalypse.com has taken me in to do exclusively horror-based reviews. Since I’m a huge horror fan, this is pretty much an invitation to disaster since I’ll just end up watching even more films than ever before. I’ve also taken a complete tangent away from that and started to use my nursing experience to write opinion articles. Coming up with ideas is really challenging, and I doubt they’ll ever get published because they’re a tad…unusual. But they’re great fun to write. I think I might be pitching the concepts a bit high, though, since my first one was about nurses having an existential crisis in the current NHS climate. I might want to break that one down a tad.
I’ve also been editing, as I may have mentioned before, someone else’s novel. And THAT’S an interesting experience. It’s so hard to edit your own work, to see it objectively rather than as your little paper baby, but editing other people’s is pretty fun. I’m mostly sticking to grammar and punctuation at the minute, but keep branching out to suggestions on how to enhance theme, character, dialogue and all those other lovely little nuggets that make a good story. I think I could do this full-time. Definitely. In fact, I’ve been looking into it. What do you guys think? Would anyone be interested in my opinion on their work? Or am I getting ahead of myself? With one published novel and a flurry of short stories, I’m hardly Stephen King. But even if I haven’t won the Booker Prize, I do know a hell of a lot about writing. I think I might even know more about that than nursing, which is potentially quite scary…
And so, as you can see, I’ve been busy. I’ve also been reading for my uni course, a load of T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf at the minute, which is kind of interesting and it’s leading me toward reading things that are more up my alley. I’ll leave it there, because I feel a subsequent blog post coming on.
Thanks for reading.
January 19, 2013 | Categories: author, epublishing, horror, learning, Literature, Movie review, studying, Work in progress, writer, writing | Tags: reading, Studying, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, writing | 3 Comments »
Being of a creative state of mind pretty much every day, be it with writing, drawing, or fantasising about the movie script I’ll one day (probably not) write, I’ve come across creative indecision fairly often. Recently, when working on Alan Shaw (see the WIP page), I had a choice between putting in a piece of dialogue that was pretty damned good (I thought) but might not necessarily fit, or removing it and making the flow of the story better. I ummed and aaahed over it for quite a while. But, in the end I took the risk and cut it.
That’s what we dabblers in the arts have to do. We make a decisive move for the aesthetic or plot-based gain of our work, be it a brush stroke or a sentence. And so it annoys me when people who make movies get away with any such deliberations. Hollywood is a sod for this. They must sit around a table, chewing on their pen lid, and they just go…
“Bugger it. We’ll just shoot both endings and shove one on the DVD.”
GAH! How annoying. Let me give you an example. The most recent is a perfect one. Prometheus is about to be released on DVD. As a fan of the Alien movies (at least Alien and Aliens) I had to see what was supposed to be a loose prequel to how those damned xenomorph eggs got on that planet in the first place. So I went, I watched, I wasn’t blown away, but I appreciated what they did and how they did it. I’m looking forward to the next prequel when we find out a bit more. But then I saw the advert for the DVD.
“…with an alternate beginning and ending”
That’s right. Not only could Ridley Scott not decide if the ending should be different, but the BEGINNING as well! So, essentially, this is an entirely new movie. Changing these two vital parts of a story, it doesn’t even matter what happens in between. This is evidently a huge money-making scam on the part of The Company (no, not Weyland Yutani). But Scott had to have agreed to film the extras or it would never have existed.
I put this down to Creative Indecision. It’s like performance anxiety for creative types. Scott knew what a huge deal an Alien prequel would be, and has decided to “please everyone” by doing these alternate sections for those who didn’t like the original. Excuse my french, but when did directors of Ridley Scott’s caliber stop having balls? He’s a legend for a reason. He makes damned good films. So have a little faith in yourself, Scotty!
Basically, all this for a bit of extra fluff on the DVD. Next, every film will go totally Paranormal Activity and have 46 endings, just in case. But the lesson we must learn from this, dear friends, is to not let ourselves fall into the same trap. We must be decisive, amost righteous in our decision making. Our worlds are ours alone. Your readers/viewers/appreciators only see what you show them, so show it in the way that you think best. No one knows your story better than you do. Otherwise, we’ll end up with books stuffed with extra chapters at the end, with alternate bloody endings.
Thanks for reading.
As we all know, sometimes you pick up a book/kindle/newspaper or whatever, and those words on the page just hit you. They soak into your blood, firing neurons of imagination and hooking you like literary crack. Sometimes it can be just a little snippet. The first line or a little description, perfectly written. Here are some of the snippets, quotes and excerpts that get my brain making that happy little noise inside my cranium. Enjoy!
William Hughes Mearnes – Antigonish (1889)
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)
Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away
There is just something about this poem that reaches down into the animal part of my psyche and tells me to be utterly afraid. The first and last stanzas are often used in isolation and they’re the most evocative, but I think the whole poem really needs to be read with the lights on. And with this one in mind, there’s a quote from the eminent Stephen King which I think sums up that animal compulsion which gives the unfounded fear of the dark which we all have:
The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle.
We’ve all been there right? We’d like to think that it was back when we were kids, with the covers over our head, trying to breath quieter so the thing wont get us. But you and I both know it was far more recent than that…
Anyways, on the back of Stephen’s awesome quote, I’d like to share one of my favourite lines from a book. The opening of The Gunslinger, which I think is a brilliant piece of understated genius:
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
They always say that you should try to intrigue your readers in the first few pages of any book. With this opening line, Stephen (I like to pretend we’re on first name terms. It’s creepier) managed to make me think “Shit, who is he and what’s he done?”. Good work, King, good work.
I know I seem to be obsessed with Dark Towers (and I am, no doubt about it) this description from one of my favourite books, Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan, may have been one of the most influential sections of literature to ever grace my brain:
This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.
Yowza. Creep-tastic! I want to go and read it all again now. It’s officially back on The List.
But I’ve been a bit dark so far so I want to share some Pratchett with you. However, as it turns out, everything he’s ever written (particularly in the Discworld series) is absolutely hilarious and I’m struggling to not only hold my stomach while reading, but to pick from the plethora of geniosity that is Pratchett. So here’s just a couple to tide you over. Hope you haven’t had recent abdominal surgery, because you’re about to burst your stitches:
“Sodomy non sapiens,” said Albert under his breath.
“What does that mean?”
“Means I’m buggered if I know.”
“I’m not going to ride on a magic carpet!” he hissed. “I’m afraid of grounds.”
“You mean heights,” said Conina. “And stop being silly.”
“I know what I mean! It’s the grounds that kill you!”
- Rincewind and his unquestionable logic (Sourcery)
Well, that’s it for now, folks. I hope that’s given you a little insight into what has made my brain tick over the years.
Thanks for reading.
Hi everyone. This is a first for me, the blog and the world at large. This is my attempt to go all multimedia on you and so I hope it works. As some of you may know if you saw the Midweek Announcement post earlier this week, I have had the very unexpected honour of having one of my short stories from Not Before Bed read out on my local Doncaster radio station Sine FM. The Book It show have been good to me of late. Not only will they be airing an interview with myself about the release of Greaveburn on their next show, but they jumped in early to ask me if I minded them reading one of my short stories out on air. Of course, I snatched their proverbial hand off. Of course I didn’t mind! Now, I think you should hit the earlier link to listen to the whole show. Sheila North, who does most of it, has a lovely American accent with a very calming influence. But, for the sake of the blog I’ve cut to the juicy bit and just edited the story for the file below. Have a listen if you have a few minutes to kill.
(EDIT: The link has now been fixed!)
Yes, writing a book is a damn good start. It’s the ONLY start, in fact. But what comes after that? I don’t know about you, dear readers, but when I was feverishly typing well into the night, pulling out my hair when characters didn’t do as they were told, yelling EUREKA when everything starting coming together, I didn’t really consider what would happen afterwards other than “I want this to get published”. Such a simple dream, right? Well, it’s no easy task. I’m not going to bash on about how to get yourself an agent/publisher (I honestly believe that there is no one on the planet or in this dimension who can truly tell you how to do that, only tell you what NOT to do). And I’m not going to profess to understand all the ins and outs of publishing, marketing and selling books to you. The point of this post is to show you all the stages that I’ve come across in going from accepted draft to book-in-the-hand, and hopefully shine a little light on how complicated getting a book in print really is.
The irony of this stage is that it comes at the very beginning of your Book-Having journey, at a time when you’re still bouncing around the room at the idea of being accepted for publication, quaffing ale in celebration (I always wanted to quaff) and giving yourself a hearty pat on the back. It also happens to be the time when you need to be the most level-headed and thoughtful. Read it. Read it again. Email your potential publisher with questions. Read it again. No, really read it. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.
Important things to note:
- Does it mention how much input you’ll have in the editing process? No publisher will relinquish the final word on decisions about your book, but somewhere in there it should mention negotiation and your creative right to withdraw should you be displeased with the path your novel is taking. It’s YOUR novel. You should be able to run away if you’re not happy with what’s going down.
- Does it tie you into a deal for your next few books? This is a mixed blessing. If they’re willing to sign you for the next few books, you have some solidarity for your next project. Just also be aware that this clause means you’re going nowhere. If you’re unhappy with the publisher for any reason over the course of this whole process, you might still have to submit your next book to them for consideration, even if you don’t accept the further contract in the end. This can be VERY restrictive for your future projects, or support them. Think about what it means to you.
Other than that, remember that a contract ties the publisher to you as much as the other way around. If they’re willing to sign you, they have faith in your work as a marketable product. That’s a bloody good thing. Go back to quaffing ale! WOOHOO!
Every author’s nightmare, the edits come first and so are gotten out-of-the-way fairly early on. Your publisher will assign you an Editor/Project Leader at this point. Get to know them. Give them a list of questions. Tell them what you were aiming to do with the book; subplots/subtexts, themes, character developments. That way, when they read your novel, they’ll know what you were aiming for and be able to pull at those strands, giving you an idea of if you’ve succeeded or not. Then any good Editor will tell you what areas to develop and possibly suggest how you might go about it.
They WILL ask you to rewrite. No-one’s novel goes through unscathed. This might be YOUR fifth draft, but it’s only the first as far as they’re concerned. Expect things to bounce back and forth a little. This is where your ability to take constructive criticism really needs to shine through. There are so many writers out there that bitch and whine at the slightest negative comment. You’ve met them on forums, Twitter, Facebook. You’ve thought “what a douchbag”. The Editor will be thinking the same thing. Don’t be that douchbag. Ask questions in order to clarify what they want you to do. You ARE allowed to negotiate. Maybe suggest other ways of making a similar plot/character change if you have another idea. But in the end, they generally know what they’re talking about. Unless it’s absolutely imperative to your novel, don’t be precious. What’s that famous bit of advise we’ve all heard a million times?
“Murder your darlings”
Now you’ve gone through the scary bit, we get to the utterly cool part. Don’t lie to me, you’ve imagined what that book cover will look like ever since enumerating the first chapter. Your publisher will have their own ideas, but that doesn’t stop you making suggestions. If they’re any good, they’ll ask you what you think, anyway. Look for artists yourself. It doesn’t hurt. The publisher might have their own cover artists on hand already, but getting some ideas from elsewhere is helpful. Find a few different things you like, drop it in their inbox (in a purely platonic sense). Why not?
The prelims (preliminary designs) will come back and you’ll probably pass out from excitement. Dust yourself off, splash your face and have another look. This is what people are going to see ON SHELVES. Squee! (Quaff quaff)
The cover is the face of your book. Once you’ve calmed down a little, think about what the image says about the content. Again, your publisher will have already thought about all this and taken it into consideration. But you have a duty to consider it too. The main point I’m making throughout most of this post is that you shouldn’t sit back and be quiet once you’ve “finished” your writing. You know the content of your novel better than anyone else, without exception. It’s your baby. Make sure you don’t regret any decisions so that when the release date comes around, you can beam with pride and oil your oversized head rather than fretting.
You’re already doing this. Blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads and Gods only know what else. You’re selling yourself as an author and a professional. But your Marketing Womble (some don’t like being called that. I wouldn’t suggest it unless you’re pretty confident in their sense of humour) is about to take that and hopefully blow it off the charts. Listen to them. It’s funny really, because as Writers we constantly paw over our wording, hidden meanings, trying to get across out ideas in the most succinct and effective way possible. So why do we tend to suck at writing about ourselves? Your bio needs to be as good as Chapter 1 of your novel. Maybe even better. You’re a writer. That makes you creative, interesting, intelligent, maybe a little eccentric (I don’t feel a single one of these things apart from the latter, but readers will kind of expect the others, too). Make sure that all your social networking reflects what an utterly fantastic human being you are behind that keyboard.
Your Marketing Womble will be compiling a press release pack. This is everything about you and your work in a neat little package. Work your angles, but make them obtuse (see? I did maths at GCSE!). For instance, while I’m trying to sell myself as an author and my novel is inherently a Gothic Steampunk story, that doesn’t mean that they’re the only niches I should appeal to. I’ve hit the Steampunk circuit about as hard as it’ll take, and the Goth scene, too. But I’m not restricting myself too much. Readers of all kinds of Speculative Fiction will be interested in Greaveburn (honestly, they will!) so similarly, make sure you tell everyone about your novel, not just the little nuggets of folk who are expressly interested.
In addition to that last point, remember that unless you’re a super-selling author, you’ll have a day job, too. I’m a Nurse, for example. So make sure that other people in your profession know what you’re doing. They’ll be interested. Who doesn’t have a day job and secretly harbour some other ambition, be it Rock Star, Writer or Athlete? Be that person who did what they want to do, and be as inspiring as you can be.
Now, as you all know, I’m still moving toward this point myself, and so I can’t go into detail about exactly how scary/brilliant the signings stage might be. Expect further input at a later date including photos and rants (and weeping fits when I make an ass of myself). What I can tell you about is interviews. Petrifying. Utterly petrifying. I made a major mistake here, folks, so pay attention and don’t do it yourself. DO NOT do radio interviews first. You’re live, recorded, and if you’re anything like me, you’re nervous as hell. Recipe for a big Disaster Cake with face-palm flavoured icing. Written interviews with newspapers/blog tours etc. mean that you can hone your answers so you don’t sound like an ass. Don’t get yourself into a situation where you’re live on air and the radio host puts you on the spot with a ridiculous request such as “come up with a codename for our other guest who wishes to remain anonymous…NOW! QUICKLY! THREE SECONDS TO GO!” (actual example). Hideous. I still have night-sweats. This is a pretty extreme example, but another is when people ask me what Steampunk is. As anyone who is into the genre knows, there is no succinct answer to that. Try not to ramble.
I could go on for ages about stupid things I’ve said or done on air. One was comparing a really irritating and obnoxious co-presenter as a zombie Bernard Manning LIVE-ON-AIR. I thought it was hilarious, and as it turns out, so did a lot of people who contacted me after the interview, but it was a huge risk. Have more control over your mouth than I do! Another example is how I’m so nervous that I start to answer a question without knowing what I’m going to say, and then in my rambling, forget what the original question was. I’m chuckling as I type this, but I could cry when I do it If you want a gret example of this, tune in to the July edition of the BookIt show on SineFM and listen to me make an utter fart out of myself while go from discussing Steampunk, to the fashionable benefits of plaid in five seconds flat. Hilarious. And pathetic.
Well Folks, that’s all we have time for this week. As always, I hope some of this has been informative/useful. Happy writing!
Thanks for reading.
Welcome back! If you attended yesterday’s simposium, you’ll remember that Lea Tierney is an up-and-coming Marketing expert and the poor person assigned to plug Greaveburn when it’s released this summer. She must have been bad in a former life, that’s all I can say. Yesterday she told us about what life is like post-uni for many young people in our country. Bloody scary. And today she’s going to tell us all about finding her place as an intern for Inspired Quill Publishing.
Becoming an Intern at Twenty Four Years of Age
All of this, I realise, doesn’t make up for a marketing qualification but I already have a degree: I have already shown I can study and learn the theory. What I really needed was experience and professional recommendations to show that I can do the job. I did an awful lot of thinking at this point about the best thing to do to gain experience: could I really afford to give up my paid job – that was providing great opportunity for self development and networking – to do an internship that wasn’t guaranteed to improve my prospects? Not really, but I did consider it and, in hindsight (such a fine thing), I should have done internships as university (although I couldn’t really afford to do it then either as my student loan didn’t cover my rent so I had to maintain part time paid employment the whole time).
So, what do you do when you get to twenty four years of age, knowing its three years since you graduated, you still don’t have the job you always wanted and you’re still living with your parents? You know which career path you want and which skills you already have that you can utilise. The next step is to bag the experience and recommendations that you are looking for. Surprisingly I found that finding an internship was remarkably easy: employers are desperate for passionate, bright and enthusiastic types to join them and, if you’re already online, there are some really helpful groups out there waiting to help. Yes, it is, essentially, free labour. You should, however, bear in mind that this is a mutually beneficially arrangement, they do get to benefit from your skills for the time you agree to spend with them, but you get a whole lot in return: quality experience, recommendation, training, networking opportunities, support from experienced colleagues and the confidence to apply for roles that will then be suited to the level of experience that you have achieved – by yourself.
I found one of my internships through GraduatesNeedExperience who were advertising on behalf of Inspired Quill Publishers: looking for a marketing intern to join their marketing programme. Now I had been crossing my fingers hoping for the kind of opportunity that would slot nicely into my current life style without much expecting it to happen and then, here it was: a minimum of ten hours commitment per week, working from home on an assigned author’s marketing plan for their book launch. This was it, the perfect opportunity! At the same time I also managed to organise two, one week long, internships for my pre booked holiday time. I waited with baited breath for two weeks to see if my application to the Inspired Quill programme had been successful and was thrilled when I received an email, late one Sunday evening, from Sara Slack (founder of Inspired Quill) informing me that I was, in fact, ideal for their programme. Now, what’s so exciting about being an Inspired Quill intern? I’ll let Sara explain the premise of her publishing house here:
Well, we started out as a book review blog in 2009. At University, there was a scheme running called ‘Enterprise Inc’, which offered a token amount of funding and a very intensive business-skills course to people with an idea that they wished to develop into a business. I had the idea of creating paid-for-content on the site, so I signed up and was approved.
Over the course of that…course…I adapted my idea, and by the end of it, I incorporated IQ as a not-for-profit publishing house on April 5th, 2011.
Our target audience is difficult, because obviously that shifts between each book. In terms of our authors, it’s primarily new authors that we aim for – because we’re very into skills development…but that’s not exclusive. I suppose in a, fairly fluffy term, we’re aimed (both readers and authors) to forward-thinkers. We love tradition, as long as it doesn’t stand in the way of progress.
Our books are printed and distributed by a company called Lightning Source, which is part of the Ingram group. They use ecologically sustainable forests, and since we’re utilising their Print on Demand system, books are only printed when they are ordered, which means we don’t have five hundred spare at the end of a print run. This distribution system includes all of the major shops: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith and Barnes&Noble. We have distribution contracts which include the UK, the US, Mainland Europe and Australia.
The next step for us is to enhance our standing and really start emerging as a true, quality alternative to the ‘Big Six’ publishing houses. At the same time, we need to work on the ‘Social Enterprise’ side of things. To begin with, that will obviously be more to do with how we utilise our time, since we’re not in a financially stable enough position to do anything on much of a scale yet.
There are many things about Sara’s explanation of what Inspired Quill stands for that make me very excited to be one of their interns. One of these things is just how new IQ is meaning there is so much potential for growth, development and creativity: for IQ itself, for its “staff” and for its interns. It also means there will have been plenty of things that haven’t yet been done by IQ before. Plus, IQ is further proof to me that a simple blog page can lead on to bigger and greater things.
The fact that IQ is founded on the principles of being a Social Enterprise is very important to me: to know that they see themselves as part of a bigger picture – as all books are – is vital to understanding the ethos of the company. Obviously part of being a social enterprise is being an environmentally friendly publishing house. It also involves:
Being a Social Enterprise, Inspired Quill is already looking toward the future, where our aim is to develop and present a number of creative writing workshops to disadvantaged areas. Our main focus will be with Young Adults, Single Parents, and individuals with Disabilities. Why do we want to do this? Well, we believe that the power of creative storytelling is huge, and it is surprising at how many other skills can be developed just by being given the tools to start on a creative journey, and being given a safe place to show that creativity.
What’s not to love about this publishing house? Then, of course, there’s the author I have been assigned to based on my answers to questions Sara posed to me when I accepted a place on the course. I have to say that Sara is very intuitive having kindly given me an author I have already built a fantastic working relationship with.
So there you have it. The journey begins. I wont post what Lea put about working with me because she’s far too nice and I’ll get a big head. Suffice to say, you’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. So keep your eyes peeled. She might have some knowledge to impart about marketing your own books!
Thanks for reading.
Hi everyone. Today, we have part one of Lea’s story. Not only is she an up-and-coming marketing genius, but she’s the marketing genius behind the release of Greaveburn! In today’s post, she shows us that Marketing is like any other job, and astoundingly similar to making a break in writing. That is, it’s damn hard. Take a look at what she’s been up to since she graduated:
Finding the Right Path to Go Down
This July will be my third year since graduating. What have I done with this time? Well, on the face of it I have simply been working in a shop, keeping my head down, waiting for my life to start. And, to an extent, for some of the time I probably have done a bit of this when I’ve become disillusioned with how damn hard it is to get to where you want to be in life. Throughout school, college and even university itself we were all told that degrees are the keys to success, the door opener, the life starter: but that has proven to be far from the case. I can’t tell you how many jobs I have applied for across how many industries. Most of those job applications haven’t even resulted in a “thanks but no thanks” email. In part, it’s because my CV needed rewriting. It was also due to me not really having decided where I wanted to go in my career. I also found that I quite enjoyed the job that I had fallen into after I left university and was unsure as to whether that meant that this was where I was meant to be.
The role I am currently in doesn’t require a degree at all. However, would I have brought the same thing to the role if I hadn’t done a degree? Maybe, maybe not. It’s no secret to my employers that my current job isn’t my “dream job”, but they do know I appreciate the opportunity to simply have a job – very much – and have given it my absolute all.
This job has allowed me to grow as a person and I have been able to figure out what it is that I am really good at and which transferable skills and passions I have that would actually lead me to a career. It finally dawned on me a couple of months back the things that really make me tick at work:
- Planning and leading promotional events
- Working with local businesses and media to promote and improve events
- Writing copy, my own blogs and promoting this via social media sites
- Working with my team to create a real buzz and atmosphere about the things we do everyday
- Coming up with creative new ways to promote new products and engage customers in these products
The things I love doing at work do, actually, translate into a job role and are in many a job specification for people in the marketing/events/pr category. It helps a lot that a more positive outlook led to greater productivity on the creative writing front: disillusionment can be a little bit of a block to writing. A good friend of mine used WordPress to publish her creative writing thoughts in the form of a comical run through of her life via blog and she seemed to take a real sense of achievement from this so I figured, maybe, this could work for me too. It helped that I had written a couple of brief focus features for the Kent Messenger as part of my promotional work in my current role and had received some fantastic feedback on these: getting someone to read something you want to publish before you do so is crucial. Now, I’m not saying blogging is the cure to all evil but it really has had a pretty profound effect on me. My blog “It’s A Wonderful Life” on WordPress isn’t ever going to win any prizes but it has:
- Helped me to improve my writing/editing skills
- Improved on my self-promotion skills
- Illustrated the importance of social media in promotion
- Connected me with some really great like minded people – as well as some really great, not so like minded people – WordPress provides a floor for discussion like I had never seen before
From the success of my WordPress blog came my KentOnline blog – expanding my audience and the opportunity to network and receive feedback on my work. Ok, so three years down the line from graduating I have finally figured out which career path is right for me, now what? Well, a whole lot of research was what came next: what qualifications or experience would I need to bag myself my dream job? I found that, much like everything else, marketing has gone digital – in a major way. I was going to need a strong online presence and a professional digital self. I created an account on LinkedIn and started using Twitter to engage in conversations with and about my chosen field. I signed up for online webinars which I watched in my own time and joined online groups to keep abreast of the latest updates in the industry. I also signed up to receive as much free relevant reading material as possible. I bought myself an incredibly easy to read and insightful book on marketing based on the recommendations of one of the staff at Waterstones “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” written by David Meerman Scott. Reading this book has made me realise that the skills needed to be a successful marketer are certainly transferable and I just need to make sure I maintain my focus as well as an open mind to new opportunities.
That’s it for today, folks. Come back tomorrow to see how Lea manages to juggle her internship with my Publisher, Inspired Quill, and life in general.
Thanks for reading.
I’ve been promising this to you all for a loooong time now. But I’ve finally put the finishing touches to my Steampunk costume for the Weekend at the Asylum convention in Lincoln. And so, since I owe you loverly readers a huge thank you for supporting me over the last couple of years, for buying your copies of Not Before Bed, for commenting on here, retweeting on Twitter and ’liking’ my Facebook page, here is your reward…
You get to see me in a bowler hat…
So what do you think? Punky enough for ya?
I’m a tri-virgin when it comes to cosplay, conventions and book signings, so the Asylum Weekend should be a really…interesting…experience. I’m so nervous about selling and signing Greaveburn, it’s unbelievable. But hopefully, surrounded by my fellow Steampunks, I’ll feel right at home in my costume.
In other news…work on the cover art for Greaveburn has begun. In the course of a couple of days our cover artist, Ravven Kitsune, has managed to go from my sketchy brief to a piece of work which is truly breathtaking. When I saw the prelims, I made a little squee of excitement. I can’t wait to show it to you all. Watch out for the big reveal coming VERY soon!
Thanks for reading.
Oh yes, it’s the weekend, and we all know what THAT means. It’s blog post time! I figured I’d do a general catch up post this week since I’ve been attempting to be useful with my post subjects lately and I don’t think it suits me
First of all, lets drop in on Greaveburn. The edits are pretty much done now, I think. My marketing Womble, Lea, is doing the last read through (first read for her). So I should have a polished final product and some juicy comments on the content headed my way pretty soon. Hope she likes it. Hell, I hope YOU LOT like it, too. But we’ll cross that Rickety Bridge (check Greaveburn out to explain that reference) when we come to it.
We’re still looking for a cover artist as far as I know. The last couple of people who were slated for the cover haven’t come through with a product. Who knew that this could be the hardest part of getting a book out? At first I thought it would be the writing, then the editing, then the finding a publisher, but al that pales into comparison to getting someone to do a suitably creepy image for the cover. We’ll keep at it, anyway, and you loverly readers will be the first to find out what it looks like when we’re done. But that aside, I think we’re still on for an August release date. Every time I think about it, I get this odd mix of sensations. Pride, excitement, finger-knawing fear, performance anxiety. You name it, I’ve got it.
In other news, the marketing drive has begun. I’m hitting Twitter pretty hard with teasers, you might have noticed an uptake in the posts on the blog of late and (insert drum roll) I’ve started a Facebook Page! I’ve avoided doing it until now but the time has finally come. It shows my timeline from first pen on paper to present day, trials and tribulations, blog posts and the few successes I’ve managed to scratch together along the way. It’s worth a quick look if you have time. Lots of pretty pictures etc. And if you feel inclined, please Like it. I don’t want to be a Like-whore, but every little helps in getting Greaveburn noticed. It’s much appreciated, as always.
What else? Well, the writing has taken a back seat at the minute as I’m revising for this year’s OU final exam. The last time I did an exam was…dear lord, about a decade ago. I’m pooping the proverbial bricks. I think after this I’ll be sticking to making things up.
My Steampunk outfit for the Weekend at the Asylum convention in Lincoln is coming along nicely. Got my goggles this morning. For a budding Steampunk, this is a very important time. Think about the first time a Trekky gets their pair of plastic Spock ears and you’re in the right arena. I’m starting to really look forward to this convention and meeting all the awesome folks there. Expect photos. Lots of photos. Preferably without me in them!
This has been a brief but wonderful interaction. Expect greater things next week, folks. I’ll think of something…
Thanks for reading
It strikes me that I don’t talk about my writing process very much and, contrary to popular belief, I do have one. While I do most of my plotting in my head, only setting it down in notes when it’s exceptionally vivid to me, the rest of the idea-to-page process is pretty normal. One of the things I think are incredibly important, possibly beyond all others and especially for writers of Speculative Fiction in all its glorious forms, is research.
If you’re going to make your story/novel/flash fiction/novella as realistic as it can be (and by realistic, I mean believable despite the wierdness) then research is where it’s at. As an example let’s use my current WIP, The Adventures of Alan Shaw. This is a very different beast to Greaveburn. Alan Shaw is an Alternate History/Steampunk novel based in the very real Victorian era of England, albeit with some technological flights of fancy. But in order to make my Neo-Victorian elements work, I had to understand what the victorian era was really like. If I had a motto, it’d be:
Learn the rules before you break them.
And so I do research. A lot. Of course, the internet is your friend. There are sites or wikis on every subject known to humankind somewhere in the unending virtual vaults. But call me old fashioned, I still like my books now and again.
As you can see, there’s quite a mix in there. Let’s break down what I think is important about researchas the groundwork for your writing:
1. Know your genre
When writing Greavburn, I had no idea that I was actually working on a Steampunk novel. I was aware of the Gothic literature sub-genre and loved its aesthetic. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake is one of my favourite books, and that was the kind of grand darkness I wanted to instill in Greaveburn. But Steampunk wasn’t even on my radar. And so, when I discovered that it existed, and that Greaveburn fit the bill, I panicked. What if someone had already done what I had? How restrictive to Greaveburn’s reception would that be?
I learnt my lesson for working on Alan Shaw. I’ve read James Blaylock’s Homunculus, J.W. Jeter’s Infenal Devices and pretty much memorised The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer and co. And now I can confidently say that I know what to do and what not to do, what’s old hat and what’s relatively new (hey, that rhymes. I should write that down). Knowing your genre makes sure that you hit your demographic while avoiding any “it’s all been done” style comments.
2. Go simple
Finding reference books that are quick to read, while still being representative of the subject you’re researching, can be a real struggle. People love to bash on about their expert subject to the point of mind-numbing boredom. But you dont need a huge tome, reaching 3000 pages across four volumes about Victorian London by Lord Cyril Fanthorpe the 3rd esp. to know your stuff. In order to make your story realistic, all you need are the little touches. Those little details make the difference between just some woman in a dress and a young governess wearing a crinoline pinofore. You never have to mention it again, but that’s the kind of period detail that shows you’ve put the effort in.
But as I was saying, there’s an easy way to find those things out. Go for children’s books. They’re brilliant! They have pictures to help get the right feel in your prose, they hit only the important topics and give you great overview of any subject. The Eyewitness series is brilliant for historical stuff, if you’re interested in that stuff.
3. Get your facts right
If you’re writing about a certain place, be it a city or town or foreign country, get your facts right. Never forget that your readers know their stuff. Don’t think you can flim-flam them with sweeping references to places. With Alan Shaw, I have to evoke an image of Victorian London that rings true to someone who’s never been to London and someone who walks its streets every day. Google Maps can take you anywhere you need to go, and even tell you the quickest way for your character to walk/drive around their environment. You dont have to give an itemised list of corners turned between your Detective’s home and the mortuary, but it helps if you know how long it would take and what’s in between so you can describe it if need be.
While Google Maps is great for the present day, historical settings pose a little more of a problem. And so I got myself some maps:
They came in four pieces, originally, but with a little industrious folding and one of those frameless plastic frames (contradictory, I know) I now have an easily accessible map of Victorian London. What’s better than that, with the plastic covering, if you get some dry-wipe markers, you can plot routes, circle areas or points of interest to your heart’s content without ruining the source material for later use! (This is an Art Attack!)
4. The Counter-argument
Just remember: There’s another side to research. Don’t get too bogged down with it. Learn what you need and move on. It’s a tool to help you write, it’s not words on the page.
Well, folks, that’s it for now. I hope this post has been as useful to you as my researching endeavours have been to me. If you have any researching tips of your own, then feel free to share. I’m always looking for new ways to do what we do.
Thanks for reading!
April 28, 2012 | Categories: author, flash fiction, horror, indie author, short fiction, short story, steampunk, writer, writing, YA | Tags: author, creative writing tips, Gothic literature, horror, J.W. Jeter, James Blaylock., mervyn peake, speculative fiction, Steampunk, Tips for writers, writing | 8 Comments »
With things really starting to spark off with Greaveburn and my next novel underway, I’ve been thinking about how long it’s taken to get here. It’s been a long process with lots of hard work and plenty of setbacks. There’ve been things to jump over, scuttle underneath and generally steamroll through at times, but in the end, I think it’s turned out pretty well. Some of the scars are even starting to heal. But my nostalgia took me back to a simpler time when I first put pen to paper with a vivid image in my head and a character with a story to tell; way back when I was still in school with a haircut like a pineappale and NHS glasses (I’ll show you a photo one day if you’re good). And, since I was bored, I broke out my Photoshop (you know how much I love it), and thought I’d share with you the result. And so here it is, a history of Me, a timeline of how I went from that spotty little toerag to a larger Pseudo-writer toerag you now know:
A real tear-jerker, eh? I’ve decided that Alan Rickman will play me in the movie. He looks nothing like me, but he has such awesome sarcastic delivery. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little forray into my seedy past. There’s a lot left out of this little infographic for the sake of your sanities, but I hope it’s been at least mildly amusing. See you next time!
Thanks for reading.
Thanks to the very kind H. Conrad Miller, Not Before Bed has had another great review! Take a look:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A great collection of horror short stories ranging from Lovecraftian to werewolves to that thing that goes bump under your bed. Each story is finely crafted by Craig Hallam in an enjoyable and easy to read way while still having each story have it’s own voice and feel. I think that is one of the most remarkable things about this collection. While it is easy to see how all of the stories came from one author, each story was told with a voice all it’s own that was perfect for that specific sub-genre of horror.
Craig out did himself with his variety of stories. The dark sci-fi in Mandy in the Jar-O have an alien abductee’s horrific realization that her wildest dreams of being wanted are not so wonderful. The Lovercraftian tale of Albert that has little dialogue but such gripping description that every pool of water larger than the size of a drop suspect from harboring tentacled elder gods. These stories have the ability to catch and hold a reader’s attention. After every story I was left asking “When can I read a full story about this?”
I highly recommend this to anyone who loves horror. But I especially recommend it to anyone who wants to look into horror for the first time. It will give you a great primer for the genre and help you find a niche inside of it you will like.
Good job Craig
Well, I could hardly have asked for a better review than that! Let’s hope that it hitting Goodreads and the web in general gives Not Before Bed another little jolt of downloads. I think this is probably the appropriate time for me to give you some updates on the collection itself, too.
Since moving the collection from Smashwords to Kindle Direct Publishing, I’ve forced myself to NOT constantly check how many downloads I’ve been getting every month. And, because of that, I actually forgot to check altogether. Until today. And so, I can now inform you all that in the last year Not Before Bed, Amazon and Smashwords combined, has had a staggering…
I have no idea how this happened, but July last year showed a massive surge which then frittered out to just a few a month. And since I’ve only been looking at the last few months, I almost missed the huge 12,000ish downloads from middle of last year.
I think this causes for a huge thank you to everyone, whether they’re reading this or not, who has taken the time to download Not Before Bed. I never thought my shoddy little short story collection would be such a (relative) hit. I have no idea WHY this happened, but I’m not going to argue. If I can get but a portion of those downloads for Greaveburn, I’ll be a very happy camper. Special thanks, of course, go to those who went the extra mile to review it, too; you’ve all been extremely supportive and helpful in your feedback.
And with that, I think it’s time to put Not Before Bed to….well, to bed. It’ll still be out there to download for all those people who still manage to stumble onto it. But for me, it’s been a great experience that’s over now. I’m going home to concentrate on the next project. From here on in, it’s all about Greaveburn’s release later this year. And so, I’d like to bid a final thank you to everyone who made Not Before Bed a huge personal success. Stick around, there’s more writing to come!
Thanks for reading.
February 29, 2012 | Categories: amateur writer, author, epublishing, flash fiction, ghost story, horror, indie author, kindle, short fiction, short story, steampunk, writer, writers, writing | Tags: alien abductee, author, conrad miller, ebooks, elder gods, flash fiction, Goodreads, horror, kindle, Kindle Direct Publishing, monsters, not before bed, short stories, the supernatural, vampires, werewolves, writer, writing, zombies | 8 Comments »
Well, it’s finally that time I’ve been waiting for since November. The stars are aligned. In the dark treeline, the black mass is on the lips of the hooded monks. And on the central dais, hog tied and with fear in her eyes, is the sacrifice. We are about to invoke the spirit of The Editor…
Luckily for me, my Inspired Quill editor, Peter Stewart, doesn’t really need any of this. So, I send the monks back to their day jobs as civil servants, cut the sacrifice free and give her a tin foil blanket before making sure she’s home before 10 pm. The sacrificial athame goes back in the kitchen drawer with the spoons and pizza cutter.
The point of this elaborate introducion is this…
The edits for Greaveburn are finally back!
The last few months have been a steady stream of flop sweats and half-believed self assurances as my mind flits between ‘they’re going to tear my book apart and salvage its parts for the black market’ and ‘it’ll be fine, they like it enough to edit it, so they won’t be too cruel’. The former has definitely been winning in terms of brain space. In fact, when my inbox pinged, I froze. Do I really want to read this? Can I take the beating if the result is a complete rewrite/cutting of beloved characters/stylistic overhaul? The answer, as I’m sure you’ll guess, was ‘we’re about to find out’.
Email open, file downloaded, hovering of finger over OPEN.
Like some rabbid lipstick merchant had taken slashing across the pages, there was red text. EVERYWHERE. My heart sank. But I decided to read the actual words before checking the tensile strength of the light fittings for noose-application. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Hell, the comments are GOOD! Useful! I find myself nodding, whisking through the pages focussing on just the comments rather than overthinking what I’ll do about them. They all make perfect sense. Little things I’ve missed with grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, all easily fixed with Peter’s expert suggestions. A few little vocab comments where words could be changed for better effect.
And all of a sudden, I was at the end.
What the hell had I been worried about? This guy knows what he’s doing. I didn’t find a damned thing that I disagreed with or anything I couldn’t easily fix. There were just as many positive comments as negative (although none were really negative, more like necessary highlights). It may have been preying on my mind for the last few months, being the first and last things I think about on a day to day basis, but it’s all come out ok. To be honest, as I read through the suggestions and comments and tweaks, I realise that with Peter’s help, this novel has the potential to go somewhere!
I’ve always been told (as have you, for that matter, fellow Writer) that Editors are essential. They know their shit, if you’ll excuse the French. You should take their comments seriously and take them without offence or that horrible knee-jerk reaction that makes us scream “WHAT DO YOU KNOW!?” and stomp off to sulk. But you don’t really believe it until you’re on the receiving end of a bloody good Editor.
The point of this blog, dear friends, as well as to throw on the net whatever oddments cross my mind, is to teach. Looking back over previous posts, you’ll see all the mistakes I’ve made. All the assumptions and diversions that have led me not only down the wrong path but into the soul-sucking quicksands of Indie Writer Hell. And I want you to make these experiences your own. Learn from what I’ve done wrong and don’t bloody do it yourself (using Createspace if you’re not from America, for example. Waste of time and money, folks). But sometimes, just sometimes, I get to tell you about something I’ve done RIGHT. Not very often, mind. But here’s one of those times. Submitting my work for a proper read-through and commenting may just be the scariest and best damn thing I’ve ever done. INDISPENSIBLE is the word I’m looking for.
And now the hard work really starts. The revision stage. I’ve never hit this part before. Taking someone else’s thoughts on my work and moulding them not only as they suggest, but keeping with my own style and intention toward the novel. This is going to be a lot like a collaboration. I’m out of my depth again, folks. But I’m actually looking forward to it! Stay tuned for how well/badly this next bit goes And when all’s said and done, this has made me realise something which, at the back of my mind, I’ve still doubted; that Greaveburn is going to be a reality. These edits are going to sharpen it up, make it really rock, make it a book that YOU might read soemtime soon. With discussions on potential cover art going on (more on that in a later post), things are rattling along at an alarming rate. Sometime this year, my book, my words, my characters and plot twists and dark descriptions are going to hit the public. It’s fantastic, and I’m suddenly petrified all over again, with a big old grin on my face
Thanks for reading.