An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

indie author

It’s been a long road…

Hi guys, it’s me again. Well, it’s been a busy time! Quick update, I guess.

Author First, my editing service, is going well. I have a few recurrent customers now, which is always lovely, and it’s managing to keep me from starving.

Also, the free e-book on living with depression, Down Days, is doing well. There have been a lot of supportive comments and lots of shares which is always appreciated and makes me think that perhaps I did the right thing by pouring my heart out on paper, although it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

What else? Ummmm….The Adventures of Alan Shaw Volume 2 is now with Inspired Quill. I’m just waiting for my turn in the editorial queue as they’ve taken on a lot of great authors lately who are itching to get their first books out. I don’t mind waiting, to be honest. I remember well what it was like to wait for that first book to be released, and the euphoria that came afterwards. They deserve it for all their hard work. IQ have also launched a training course for any aspiring authors that you can find HERE

In other news, my column over at Geek Syndicate is going well, too. Lots of D&D related fun happening there. While we’re on it, my D&D games are getting to be really fun. I think i’m getting into my stride as a DM and acting out characters is getting to be my favourite part, where roleplaying used to be the bit that I dreaded most.

As for writing…it’s going sloooowly. I quite simply haven’t had much time to write lately. Emi is still stuck in a rut that I can’t seem to get out of. I have started a new novel, though, a cyberpunk story which mixes the gaming and real worlds with questions about humanity and where we’re headed. That’s a lot of fun to write and I’ve decided to use only non-gender specific terms and names to show how gender equality has progressed even if the world is otherwise falling apart, a subject close to my hopes for the real world.

I have a signing booked at the Sandbach Author Event on the 5th of November. It’ll be the first one I’ve managed to attend in a while since my car exploded the day before my last signing (long story). Hopefully I’ll see some of you there.

That’s about it from me. Pretty boring, really.

 

Thanks for reading, anyway!


Marketing your book: How I did it

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.


Research is your friend

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.

Here's what I used for Alan Shaw so far.

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:

Victorian London, imprisoned in plastic.

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!)

My doodles marking Covent Garden Market, and routes for Alan to take around London.

 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!


The road goes ever on and on…

As you lovely folk are reading this, I’m taking a trip. I know, it’s just another reason to be separated from my laptop and doing NO writing whatsoever, but I think this might have some great research potential. You see, dear friends, I’m off to Budapest today.

Can't wait to explore this!

I know NOTHING about the city. Nothing at all. And I think that’s why I’m so excited. New York last year was incredible and I can;t wait to go back, but one of the main problems was that I knew too much about it. Being the utter Film-Geek that I am, I knew where all kinds of movies were shot and OBVIOUSLY had to visit them, then hitting the tourist attractions because there’s a compulsion to at least see the big stuff. And then I absolutely had to see the National History Museum. It was great, but there was a lot of pressure to run around and not much time to chill.

Budapest should be the exact opposite. There’s no pressure to see anything or be anywhere, nothing I really must see. And so it’s going to be an utter chill out. More than that, I have a real love of going places which have a completely different culture to ours. Again with New York, it was great, but the culture is so similar, and the language identical, that I didn’t really feel like I’d left home at all. It was lovely and warm and cosy and friendly. Now and again, I like a bit of cultural and linguistic discomfort. I like struggling to get by. It makes me feel like an explorer, if only in a diluted way and for a few days.

And then there’s the research. Being in such a wildly different place with its own architecture and styles (and from what I’ve seen, quite a gothic style) will be a great boost to my creativity, I’m sure. Alan Shaw’s next adventure might even be based there. Who knows? We’ll just have to see. But you know I’m a sucker for a gothic facade and a network of alleyways. they make me go all gooey and goosepimpley 🙂 Expect dark things to be walking abroad when I return.

Another reason for going somewhere different is to drop off a whole bundle of my writer’s business cards. Lets see if it works! By this time in a month, I might have a whole new bunch of Hungarian readers! Probably not, though… 😉

Anyways, folks, I’ll see you when I get back, and regale you with tales of Hungarian adventure. I hope you all enjoy your week!

 

Thanks for reading.


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!


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.