An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

epublishing

Post-Christmas Post

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.


Marketing your book: How I did it

Take a seat, and let the Wise Man kwell your fears...

Take a seat, and let the Wise Man kwell your fears…

With Greaveburn on its way Inspired Quill have seen fit to assign me my own Marketing Womble, as I like to call her. (Hi Lea! More from her soon!) And since we’ve been working together on our plans for world domination, it’s got me to wondering how I ever managed to do all this myself with Not Before Bed. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure. But, in an effort to help you lot do the same (while avoiding my mistakes) I thought I’d do a rundown of the steps I took in getting NBB to where it is today. So here we go:

1. Your writing persona
Whether we like it or not, our work as writers/artists/whatever-it-is-you-do isn’t just read/viewed in a vacuum. How you come across is vitally important to whether you’re accepted or not by readers, agents and publishers alike. With this in mind, we need to start thinking about your writing persona. By this, I don’t mean dressing in black, wearing a beret and dark glasses to all your public appearances (although, if that floats your boat…). What I mean is the image you generate; mostly online. We’ve all been bitten by a badly worded email or forum post before. Typing in capitals is shouting etc. And as writers, we REALLY have to be careful. Not only do people expect eloquence and perfect grammar, but think about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Humour, especially, is a mine field online with all kinds of interpretations going wrong with the simplest of statements. Be careful! Because these people don’t know you’re generally nice and generous and utterly wonderful. All they see is your words. And grudges are borne easily. Also, with this in mind, think about what you want people to know, and what people NEED to know. Do you want to be complaining about your unrelated day job to potential readers? Do they need to know about your cat’s bowel operation? Probably not, no. And that leads us on to…

2. Social Networking Sites
This is the true necessary evil of creating your writing persona. Your Twitter, Facebook and whatever-else are how people interact with you. Be tactile! Talk and tweet about subjects around your work, and people will find you. With that comes a simple suggestion: Dont just plug your book, over and over. No one likes a plugger 😀 The counter to my Pro-networking argument is that you are a writer, so don’t let social networking distract you from actually creating. It’s shiny, and interesting and enthralling. Don’t get sucked too far in!

3. Spread yourself around
Yes, you literary hussy, spread yourself around. If you’ve networked properly, you should now know lots of like-minded people. Be polite then…ask favours. Will they guest post on your blog? And don’t forget to offer to reciprocate. It’s this part that’s particularly important. Getting on other people’s sites and blogs gets you seen. Go for it!

4. Forums
This can be a real-time consumer, so picking a few forums and making a good impression is often more beneficial than just dipping in and out. People need to get to know you (or your persona) if they’re going to take an interest. The same stands as before. Don’t just plug your book. Pick threads that will discuss topics around your genre/content and insinuate yourself into them. Remember, if no-one’s talking to you, don’t fear. Forums can be cliquey. Dont be afraid to drop the forum and move elsewhere. Bonus Tip: Goodreads forums are generally full of very polite, nice folk who love to read. Start there!

5. Money, money, money
Do NOT pay for someone to do this lot for you. There are too many “pro” marketers on the net who actually work in Kwik Save as a shelf stacker (slight generalisation). This is nothing you can’t do yourself.

6. Beg, borrow, steal
That’s right. You’re an amateur writer. You need help to get your career into the big time. No author is an island, as they (don’t) say. So ask for help. Beg favours. Most people will be only too happy to help. Which leads us into…

7. Act like a Big Shot
Got your book out? Then hit the locals. Newspapers, radio shows, libraries. Make your own mini-tour in your local area. Local interest can go a long way toward helping you. Write horror? Do it at Halloween. Romance. Valentine’s Day is the time for your tour. Erotica? Well…anytime is good for that! ;D

8. Speculate to accumulate
It don’t have to spend much to make it look like you are. Vistaprint.com will sort you with professional-looking business cards, posters, leaflets etc. for your mini-tour. There are even banners and T-shirts if you really want to go for it. And a Goodreads giveaway is a great way of getting enthusiastic readers who you can be sure will review afterward. The giveaways are very easy to do with the website doing all of the hard work. All you have to do is turn up, and then distribute afterward.

9. The Golden Tip
Your work is you. Be careful. Double check. Use Beta readers. Get your mum to read it, if you like. But don’t put out a sub par product. The excitement can carry you away, rush you. Don’t let it.

 

I hope this lot will help you out. It certainly did for me. Anyone else got any tips to share?

Thanks for reading.


New Project Alert!

I mentioned this a while ago, but it was a whiiiiiile ago and so I’ll recap. While doing my Creative Writing courses with the Open University, I met some great people with a real passion for writing which rivalled my own. Since then we’ve met up every month or so to chat, share ideas and encouragement, and drink too much coffee. In the course of these meetings we decided that we should form a writing group and get an ebook compiled with our short stories in. Hence was born…

Does that look cool, or what?

Of course, I’d already released Not Before Bed, then re-released it and hit every hurdle it’s possible to hit along the way. So it seemed like a good idea to use that experience for the good of mankind (see the gravitas I’m trying to instill in this project?), and it would be much easier than doing it all myself this time. Apart from that, it was an opportunity to sandwich my own work between some great pieces of fiction by other people. And so, the project began.

The Brief: Two short stories and a poem from each member of the group.

And so, without any more of a preamble, I would like to declare that our short story collection is now available absolutely FREE from Smashwords…

Simple, effective. Just like me 🙂

 

That’s right, kids! The first collaborative work from the Steel City Writers is finally here!

Now it’s a very different beast to what you’re used to from me. There are some twists, some thrillers, some humour, and…some poems. I’ve even avoided going too dark with my own entries (yeah, I can do that if I want to. I just never want to :D). But it really is worth a read. We’ve even started a blog so you can find out more about each of us and drop us some feedback if that floats your boat. It’s HERE. And don’t forget that Goodreads is great place to share your reviews!

 

Thanks for reading.


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.


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.


A good week!

Well, it started off with the suspension dropping off my car, tearing a brake hose when all I wanted was an MOT. That cost £300 of my New York fund (have to stop typing so the tears won’t short my keyboard…)

*sniff* That’s better.

But, this week has also been kind. Thanks to a rather enthusiastic reader of Not Before Bed, I have a new review on Smashwords and Goodreads. Here it is:

“I absolutely love this book. Craig has a unique way of telling stories that leaves the reader hooked from the beginning. I haven’t read that much of spec fiction, but enjoyed immensely every tale that was included in this collection.

Some of the stories don’t have dialogue, but in all honesty, they don’t really need it. He’s able to weave a tale in such a way that you find yourself so immersed, so focused that you lose track of what you’re doing. At least, I did. I found myself imagining every scene of each story as I read it and in some cases, wanted to read more of these short stories.

This book is a definite must-read. Truly recommend it.”

by Lisette Manning

Bloody hell! What a great review! And the 5 stars she awarded is making  my average look fantastic. Also, I’ve also been inititated into Goodreads’ Best Indie Books/Authors list. Ok, I’m placing 105th, but it’s a great start!

And now, off to work on Emi.

 

Thanks for reading.