An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

amateur writer

Distractions

This should start with an apology. I’ve not been around of late, and for that I am deeply sorry. This poor blog has been neglected and, by extension, so have you. Since I’ve been slacking off I figure you all deserve an explanation as to what it is that’s keeping me from your loving embrace.

Every aspiring author, and probably some established ones, will know exactly how distractions can have an effect on your productivity. And they can be anything at all. Family responsibilities, the day job, and any number of variables. But we’re talking about what has kept me from you specifically. Here are my greatest distractions over the last month:

Reading

I’m a major Book-geek. And it’s one of the many factors in my geekdom that I’m particularly proud of (Unlike my hatred of people spelling Spider-man without the hyphen).  And apart from my enjoyment of a good, engaging book, there’s a deeper philosophy to this one. I firmly believe that in order to be a good writer, you have to be an avid reader. Anything will do. Not just in your favourite genre, but outside of it, too. The best novels you will ever read won’t fit into a genre at all, but straddle several. How can we, as writers, do the same thing if we don’t assimilate all the books we can?

Can't wait to see the movie!

Exactly, you can’t. And recently, I’ve been reading all kinds of stuff. My fellow Inspired Quill author, Matthew Munson has released his debut novel called Fall from Grace. Read it. The increasingly-popular Hunger Games. Read it. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Read that too. And it’s been great to give myself time to read again. I’ve missed it with all the work I’ve been doing lately.

What’s next..?

Learning

As some of you will know, I’m curenty taking two Open University courses with a view to getting my English Literature degree (to accompany my Nursing degree. I know, I’m mad right?). And since I’m doing two courses at once, and we’re getting toward the end of the year, the ante has been appropriately upped. this month alone I have three assignments due in. One hs just been submitted. two more to go. Bad times. Or good times, depending on your perspective. Learning more about Literature and the Arts in general has caused some great flashes of inspiration. New stories, characters, places and scenarios. All kinds of juicy stuff. The ideas are coming faster than I can scribble. And I love it. But it still keeps me away from the blog. And so does…

Gaming

I’m not a massive gamer. I avoid TV as a rule (although I watch loads of movies). Things like this just seem to be  waste of my brain, which is very easy to overpower and needs regular oiling and periods of rest for cooling before it overheats. But now and again I need something nice and brainless to give myself a break. Something to help switch off. And MMORPGs are the way to do that. This may be controversial, but I dont like WoW. There’s too much of a hard-core people-without-priorities or eyes that can withstand sunlight feel to it all. And so I play Runescape. Sure, the graphics are shoddy, but it’s huge, diverse, and easy to play with only half a brain. You can also dipp in and out of it as you see fit. The fact that it’s a fantasy world like the ones I love to create is just a bonus 🙂

And then there’s the worst distraction of them all. That essential evil…

Social Networking

Twitter is my choice of poison here. I love it. Short, punchy, regularly hilarious, and everyone on there has been so good to me since I hit it with my writing presence, I can never let it go. Unfortunately, it can also be so immersing, and the sense that you’ll miss something so strong, that it can eat your day in a single swallow.

And somewhere in between all these things, I’m supposed to write the next novel…

and blog…

and eat, presumably.

Such is the curse of the modern writer, I suppose. But I wouldn’t sacrifice any one of these for another so I’ll just have to learn to juggle. Anyone have their own distractions that they can’t/dont want to avoid?

Thanks for reading


Versatile Blogger Award!

Thanks go to H. Conrad Miller for nominating me for this lovely blog award. I always try to be as varied as possible with my posts and it’s nice that people noticed. And so, without much further ado, I’ll complete the few rules needed to solidify my name in the Versatile Blogger list. Here Goes:

So here are 15 blogs I think deserve to touch the torch next:

Ugly Moose

The Bottom Rung

Fiona Paul – YA Author

Craig McGray – Adventures in Writing

The Writings of Martin J Frankson

The Vampire Flynn Trilogy

Ruth Ellen Parlour

Welcome to my Place

Aileen Pettigrew

Highest Form of Whit

Ava Alexus

Vanessa Chapman

Richard Pierce

Alice Loves Books

From the Rooftops

So there you go, my versatile blogs. The last three are particualr favourites which I advise ANYONE to visit as soon as humanly possible, but they’re all great.

And now 7 things about myself…

1. I hate making lists

2. Right now, I’m listening to the easy stylings of The Eagles.

3. My favourite book is probably Titus Groan/Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake.

4. I love 80’s music such as Psychadelic Furs, Simple Minds and The Cure.

5. I’m currently shopping for a Steampunk outfit for the Weekend at the Asylum later this year. Any ideas?

6. I’m on Skype as craighallam84. Come find me!

7. I really hate making lists…

 

Thanks for the nomination, Conrad! And thanks for reading, folks!


Not Before Bed update!

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
Cheers!

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…

13,426 downloads!

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.

While it may be like this...

 

...it feels more like this.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.


The Editor Cometh…

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…

Om Nam Shiva...Om Nam Shiva....

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!

Air guitar celebration!

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.

The Doors would be proud.

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.


100th post!

It seems that the planets are aligning, the Ley Lines are pulsing with mystic energy and Druids all over the Britain are capering around naked to the sound of a flute.

Yes, it’s my 100th post. And, as if by divine intervention, I have good news.

A submission to Misanthrope Press’ Werewolf anthology Children of the Moon has been accepted! Hunting Grounds is a werewolf tale with a difference. Stephen is a werewolf who works in a coffee shop, because the smell of roasting beans drowns out the stench of humans that usually assaults his senses. We find him on a regular day at work, tryign to keep his wolfishness under control while wooing a regular customer. And all seems to be going well, unti after the coffee house is closed and the smell is gone. That’s when Stephen comes across a powerful scent lingering around one of the tables; a scent that sets his inner wolf growling.

And this gives me an excuse to post one of my favourite screen Werewolves...George from Being Human

Based in my home town of Doncaster, people from around here should recognise the landmarks and routes taken throughout the story (I hope). This story was used for my final assignment on the OU’s Advanced Creative Writing course and I’m really glad it got to see new life in an anthology.

The deets? All I know thus far is that Children of the Moon is due for release in September this year. Although it’s published in America ( My first overseas publication), you’ll be able to order print copies for delivery (as I’ll be doing). As I hear more, and see covers etc. I’ll keep you updated.

 

Thanks for reading!


The Quest continues…

No, Greaveburn hasn’t been accepted, published and raised  to international acclaim. But in the pile of rejection letters, I’ve found some little nuggets of hope for the future. The latest letter, which I got this morning, has reinforced my belief that there is such a thing as a good rejection. The people at PFD are not only quick to respond, but generally nice people too. Then again, I would say that, wouldn’t I? They offered me this lovely compliment (even if they didnt want me. Boo-hoo-hoo):

Thank you for sending us Greaveburn. We very much enjoyed reading your work and think that you do have a talent for writing. However, in the current publishing climate it is increasingly difficult to sell publications and as a result we will not be able to offer you representation at this time.

However, every agency feels differently so please don’t let this discourage you from sending out your work, and we would strongly advise you to keep pursuing your writing.

We wish you the best of luck with Greaveburn,

(Insert nice person’s unreadable signature here).

Isn’t that nice? What more encouragement could I ask for? Jeez, I don’t get those kind of comments when my Mum reads it! If anyone’s interested, she generally ‘doesn’t understand’ what she just read but she’s ‘sure that it’s good’. Brilliant. Cheers, Ma!

Anyhoo, what a great letter. However, it does raise a few more questions for those of us who are striving for Publication Nirvana. If we’re writing for an industry where it’s ‘increasingly difficult’ for professional agents to get people published, how the hell are we supposed to fair in this dog-eat-dog world of literature? Surely Yeti-eats-chinchilla would be a more accurate analogy. It certainly encourages self-publication and e-publications. Especially when even someone as unheard of as myself can get approx 250 Twitter followers from all over the world. It MUST be easy.

These rejections have been helpful and encouraging. If nothing else, it’s proved that I can interest an agent, even if I can’t  seal the deal. Maybe Greaveburn won’t make it this time around. So what if Abrasia and Darrant and the insane Professor Loosestrife don’t cut the mustard. At the end of the day, they’re like old friends to me and I love them more than most family members. Maybe this book is just for me to enjoy. That said, there’s no way I’m stopping trying just yet. As my motto goes:

Expect the worst, and hope for the best.

Yes, you can quote me.

Until the next rejection letter, thanks for reading.


Upgrade…complete

Welcome to the new, improved, and working version of Pseudo-writer!

Hopefully, you’ll remember the old version on Blogger and be revelling in the juicy shiny-ness of the new blog. If you’re new: Hello! Come on in! Take a seat, it’s all-new IKEA furniture and an abundance of soft furnishings.

For those of you who dont know, and haven’t clicked the ‘about’ tab yet, I’m Craig. Nice to meet you. Full-time Nurse and aspiring writer. I’ve just finished two years of Creative Writing with the Open University, and I’ll be working another three toward a degree in English Literature (I already have one in Nursing, obviously). I write dark speculative fiction, mostly. All of the short stories I’ve had published have been horror-based, which makes me feel like I should be slightly worried about my state of mind. You can find those wonderful magazines on the ‘Publicationment’ page above.

There are some short stories for you to check out on the ‘Here Be Stories’ page, too. And my Works-In-Progress are up there along with the two books I’ve finished. Just have a dig around, see what you can find, and let me know what you think!

Old friends and new…

Thanks for reading.