Posts

Emi is on her way!

Hi everyone,

Just popping in to let you all know that the book I’ve been itching to share with you all is almost here!

Thanks to the amazing support of my patrons and the expert editing of 6th Element Publishing, Emi will be hitting shelves both virtual and corporeal very very soon.

Here’s the blurb:

The stunning new dark fantasy novella from the author of Greaveburn and The Alan Shaw Adventures.

The world ended long ago. Humanity, burnt out by a global fever, is a distant memory and the creatures that came before have returned.

Christopher isn’t a survivor, The Sickness killed him long ago. Still, he walks through the wild paradise that the world has become, believing that he is alone. Until he finds a little dead girl chained in the ruins of a barn.

Emi.

As these two unlikely companions experience the new world and it’s host of weird inhabitants together, it becomes clear that even for the undead, there is something very wrong with Emi. As Christopher remembers more of his humanity, and Emi slips further away from her own, it seems there is still something to lose for the ancient Undying.

Inspired by Japanese mythology, this Apocalyptic Fantasy is like nothing you’ve ever read before. Read Emi now on Kindle or in paperback.

“So weirdly atmospheric, you get drawn into this world so much that you find yourself rooting for Christopher and Emi even though they’re already dead.”

And the awesome cover as well!

Book Composite Emi

Squee!

I can’t wait for you to meet Emi, Christopher, and all of the weird Yokai creatures they meet on their journey.

 

Thanks for reading!

The Tao of the Author: The Recurring Question

I’d like to talk about a question that I get asked a lot:

How do I get published?

My reply to this is another question which, in the moment and out of context, might sound harsh but I promise that I deliver it kindly: “Have you finished your book, yet?”
The amount of people who reply “no” is overwhelming. This might seem like an odd place to talk about this subject. It’s only the second post, after all. But this is suuuuper important.

You see, lots of creative folks like us are freaking themselves out, heading themselves off at the pass, getting bogged down when they should be flying. Everyone has a different opinion of where the fun comes for creatives. Is it in the creation itself? Sharing what you’ve made? Meeting new people? Getting reviews? No two people feel the
same way, I’m sure. But one thing we can be certain about is that we love what we do. We also get a bit ahead of ourselves, sometimes. All that imagination power has to go somewhere, right?

Imagination

I had this exact same problem. Hell, I still have it! I get carried away. As soon as I have an idea, I start thinking about where it’ll end up. Let’s use Aethertide as an example. I always wanted to write a comic. Eventually, I finished the script but, from the first moment of having the idea, I was thinking about what artist I’d love to draw it, which comic publisher I’d love to print it. I had to slap myself on the wrist and mutter: “Cool your jets, hotshot. You haven’t written the damned thing yet!”

I get carried away. I get ahead of myself. With that comes fear of the unknown and undue pressure. I’ve led myself to think “I can’t do this” before I’ve even grabbed a notepad. I’m bonkers, is what I’m getting at.

Becoming the full package

When I first started out, I wish someone had told me to think about “first things first”. Maintain the dream of becoming published/exhibited/having a ton of followers but don’t bog yourself down with the mechanics of it. You aren’t ready if your product isn’t ready. Your author self and your book come as a package, you see?

Approaching a publisher with a head full of dreams and a handful of scribbled-on napkins won’t get you very far. If it did, I’d have a hundred books out by now. However, if you’ve made your work the best that you can with the resources available to you, if it’s sat in front of you and you think “I can’t do anything more with this on my own”, then you’re ready to start thinking about getting published.

Research for authors

There is no single path after this. You have to find your own way. What’s essential, is research. If you come to my signing table with manuscript in hand and ask “how do I get this published?”, I can’t tell you. I wish I could. I don’t know you, your work, your vision. Only you can know that. Even if I did, I don’t know every publisher in the world. I only know a handful of the ones that are kind of around my area, and rarely on a first name basis. All I can tell you is how I did it. And we’ve already established that was bonkers.

You have to do your own research, folks. It sucks and it’s mind-numbing. It can feel like a huge comedown after the high of creating something, but it’s essential. Stalk people in a similar line of work on social media, read articles. Look up publishers and agents who specialise in what you’ve written. There’s no quick way, really. I’m sorry, but there isn’t. I wish there was.

Querying publishers

I still go through this process all the time. What it all boils down to is that you have to find your own path. Published authors aren’t gatekeepers to the world you want to live in. We’re just like you. We are still very much at the whims of agents and publishers. We still have to send out queries for our next book and hope the pubs like it, we still have to worry that no one will read it. You see us as ahead, but we’re right by your side, looking at the same view.

I know, I know, there wasn’t much solid advice for you there other than “finish the book” and “do your research”. I know that’s frustrating but, as we talked about last time, there is no Magic Bean. But focus, finishing the job and putting in the leg work really are three of the very most important things an author can have. With those three things under your feet, you’ve set yourself on the path to really getting published, your way.

Thanks for reading!ask-blackboard-chalk-board-chalkboard-356079

 

Tao of the Author posts are shared with my patrons a whole year before reaching the blog. To get the latest posts as they come without delay, head over and check out my Patreon page.

Patreon is the only way that I can get to book signings and meet new readers. It also helps me to release new books and collections so please do check it out.

The Tao of the Author: The Magic Bean

Welcome to the first Tao of the Author column!

This will be a series of posts on the more philosophical side of being an author. We’ll cover organisation for the sake of your sanity, dealing with rejection, comparing yourself to others and a host of other subjects. This is the kind of advice I wish I’d had when I started out. I think it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights.

So let’s get start by talking about The Magic Bean.

 

How do I become a successful author?

Every author, and possibly every creative, at some point in their careers has asked the same question whether aloud, internally, or of Google. How do I become successful? (We’ll talk about what “success” actually means in a future newsletter ). We’ve all wondered how we get from where we are to where we perceive others to already be. What magic formula, what golden ticket, will get us that status?

The fact is, unfortunately, these legendary secrets don’t exist. Despite how many “overnight success” or “they did it all themselves on the internet” stories you read, they’re not real. Because the people who are the subjects of these toxic media stories aren’t overnight successes. They didn’t rub the Lamp of Publishing and a genie appear to answer their wishes. Every creative person begins the same way, the same as me, the same as you. One day, the voices in their head got too much to ignore and they sat down to do the work. Then, they finished it. After that? They belly-crawled, persisted, tore their clothing on razorwire, persisted, got smacked down and infuriated by themselves and others before arriving at a finished project. Because that is the journey of the creative. Then, and only then, did they succeed.

What is an overnight success?

Yikes, that was a heavy start, wasn’t it? Let’s go with an analogy that doesn’t sound like a monochrome war movie tableau. Those creatives planted their magic bean and cared for it.

Ah, magic beans. That’s better.

You see, there’s no fast way to grow a beanstalk. You plant your magic bean; you water it and tend to it; when it begins to wilt you strap it to a bamboo cane; when it rains too much, you shelter it, and when the sun comes out, you rest in its shade. The magic beanstalk is the hardest plant to grow, which is why it grows the highest. You have to be prepared to tend your beanstalk (is that a euphemism? Possibly).

For us creatives, that can mean simply finishing your project. That book, painting, fan film or piece of music can’t go anywhere until you’ve finished it. Then it could be spreading the word about your work, getting friends and family involved, or sending manuscripts to publishers. All creatives, everywhere, go through this process. J.K. Rowling was dubbed an overnight success after years of struggling and an avalanche of rejections. It finally took a publisher’s 8-year-old daughter to see the potential of the Harry Potter series. J.K. tended her bean, and slaved over its growth for years to become an “overnight success”.

What do I need to be an author?

The beautiful thing? You already have your bean. All you have to do is place it in the earth.

That idea you have (you know, the one that keeps you up at night) is your bean. You hold it in the palm of your hand, the tip of your pen, the bristles of your brush. Just plant it.
Of course, there comes a warning. Not everyone’s beanstalk will reach the clouds (there be giants). Some people’s beanstalks stop growing around head height. Some people end up with a field of little shoots. But you should always be proud of what you have grown with the soil, the sunlight, and the rain that nature affords you. Looking at other people’s beanstalks just distracts you from your own; they had different soil, sunlight, and some have greenhouses. It’s pointless to compare. J.K. had hard work and luck on her side, if the tales are to be believed.

Being an author

Still, when growing a beanstalk, it doesn’t matter how high it goes, or how you got it there. None of it matters. It’s that you planted it in the first place. Everyone’s beanstalk makes the world a little greener.

I hope that all makes sense. Analogies can get strained sometimes, and generalisations can be the work of the devil. But I hope that you can see what I’m getting at. Your work is your work. Your journey is your journey. No one can tend to your garden for you, or tell you how. But you can be fulfilled, and have a great sense of pride and self-worth from the work that you do, no matter where it goes or how many people read it.

That kind of mentality is how an author survives, and that is what I’m hoping to promote with these Tao of the Author posts.

See you next time!

Thanks for reading.

 

Tao of the Author posts are shared with my patrons a whole year before reaching the blog. To get the latest posts as they come without delay, head over and check out my Patreon page.

Patreon is the only way that I can get to book signings and meet new readers. It also helps me to release new books and collections so please do check it out.

Patreon: My Experience

Hi everyone,

I’ve officially been on Patreon for two weeks now! How’s it going? Is it worth it? Is it complicated to use?

In short…brill, yes, no.

But what’s it all about? For those of you who are Patreon-curious, the idea is very simple. In days of yore artistic types such as authors, poets, painters and musicians would have patrons who would help them to afford to live while they created their works of art. Patreon does the same thing, allowing people who want to support the arts or creation of something new to choose a person or project that they like and help to fund it.

starvingwriter
“Starving Author” a self portrait by Craig Hallam

How is that different from Kickstarter, I hear you cry? Well, on Patreon you’re choosing a person that you believe in. You’re not taking one project, making it happen, then getting something at the end of it, you’re helping a person to reach their ongoing goals and receiving ongoing rewards as a thank you. An artists can have a monthly amount that they need to reach in order to be able to create full-time, or perhaps like myself they need help with the travel costs to attend events and book signings across the country. To me, that travel is absolutely essential to expanding and maintaining my readership. Also, instead of a one-off payoff like Kickstarter, patrons receive brand-new work from their favourite creators every month, often well before anyone else.

So, how hard is it to set up? Ridiculously easy. Within an hour or so I had my page ready to go. The system that they have in place is so easy to navigate through and the Patreon team have taken great pains to make sure that easy-to-read information is available on everything that you might be trying to do. The whole site is written with a chilled vibe and friendly atmosphere.

Two things to be aware of! You will need to submit your page for approval (to make sure that you’re not being sketchy) before it goes live. However, it took mine about two hours to come back so hardly a long wait. Secondly, you’ll need to fill out some kind of tax form. However, before you start to panic as I did, the forms are right there on the site, all clickable boxes, and Patreon has added super easy guidance so that you know what to put in each box. They then sort your tax FOR YOU. So anything that ends up in your bank account at the end of the month is yours and yours alone. No messing. How awesome is that?

Basically, I’m very happy with it so far. I think that this is exactly what struggling artistic types like me really need to be able to make beautiful things to share with you. I only have six patrons at the minute but I’m already half way to being able to afford the costs for one event table a month. That’s amazing! I really can’t express how lucky I feel to have such lovely people supporting me. And the real beauty of being a patron are the tiers. You can decide to be a patron for as much or as little a month as you like, and not only do you get the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping out your favourite artist (because every penny counts and is much appreciated) but you get to see some great new work, too.

My patrons are getting some really fun new material. Patreon is giving me an opportunity to share poetry, short stories and experiences that are just a bit different, a bit more vital or expressive or avant-garde that might struggle to get published elsewhere but I get to share it with you all, anyway. So far, patrons are getting access to:

  • Brand new spooky poetry for a collection called “Rhyme beyond Reason”
  • Also new poetry based on the Down Days novella about my experiences of living with anxiety and depression. This will be collected and printed, too.
  • A serialised novella, Oshibana Complex, which is a hopeful, philosophical, dystopian cyberpunk story featuring non-binary characters, all about the final evolution of humanity (whatever that may be…)
  • New and exclusive Alan Shaw stories just for patrons!

I’m also looking forward to meeting goals which will allow me to print the collections mentioned above and pay an artist as they should be to draw my Steampunk comic book, Aethertide. I’m eager for you to all meet Olivia and Raisa as they leap between dimensions.

All of these things are possible with Patreon and it’s a very exciting time. Because these are things that, once in print, I can not only take to the book signings, but also send to patrons before anyone else gets to see them.

What Patreon builds is a loving, interactive and supportive relationship between creator and patron. It really does give me the warm and fuzzy feelings.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on with me for the last two weeks. If Patreon sounds like something that you might be interested in either starting or joining, here’s the link:

http://www.patreon.com/craighallam

If you would consider sharing the link around, I would really appreciate it. You’ll be helping me to build my career, creating wild new pieces of writing and maybe even eat at the same time 😀

 

As always, thanks for reading, folks.

Guest Post: Alexandrina Brant

Hello everyone!

I have another treat for you today, a guest post from the excellent Alexandrina Brant, a writer with bundles of literary pots on the stove of life.

Alexandrina Brant grew up in Oxford and is still fascinated by those intimate spires. After her BA in Psychology and Philosophy at Reading and MA Linguistic at UCL, she’s now a part of the NHS while she works on editing her Steampunk novel and planning a multi-POV woman’s fiction novel (which involves a baby-stealing scene!) for NaNoWriMo this year. She currently lives just outside York with her husband and their fur-daughter, Salieri, who is so full of sass that she might as well be a tiny tiger.

Alex’s post is talking about a subject close to my heart, the balance of life, mental health, and literary aspirations. I hope you enjoy it!

Writing, Depression, and the Wandering Mind with Alexandrina Brant

I was eager to write a guest post for Craig, but when it came to a topic to write on alex(given that Craig is letting me write whatever I like, hehe), I have been stumped. I used to write a lot; however, I have been struggling more with my depression for the last couple of years, coupled with finishing my Masters (in Linguistics from University College, London) and applying for jobs as one does when one is thrown into adulthood, and it’s come to be that I’ve struggled to find the joy and motivation I had in writing and editing in the past.

As adults, we’re scrounging for whatever time we have to do those things that don’t involve the day-to-day slog of the office and the many tasks of the household, too. And I happen to need downtime after work and with dinner the tv is on thanks to my husband and we get lost in easy fiction and relaxation. Not to mention that I’m an early bird and better work in daylight – when it’s dark outside and electric lights go on, my energy is sapped along with any creativity and inspiration. Which bodes well for the upcoming winter months if I plan to attempt NaNoWriMo in November (not).

The problem is—currently I’m a writer with no focus. I think that’s why blog posts have been coming to my fingers and the screen more than editing and new writing has. They’re short, succinct, they have a point. Writing fiction for me has always been…open-ended, even when I’ve known the direction in which a novel should travel. Which means my mind is constantly rambling along, not quite fitting pieces of the puzzle together.

I suppose I should be thankful. At the moment, I don’t have enough oomph to get going on a new project, which means I should be easily working on something older. But…it doesn’t happen. Instead, my mind dreams about other stories I could be writing; to me, stories have always come the wrong way: hook and cover pitch first, often jointly or closely followed by the title, then some of the simple plot and 2-d characters.

And it’s frustrating, as you can imagine.

Not just the trying to write through the veil of depression but that’s a big part of it. What is the veil, you say (perhaps)? Well…I’ve always empathised with Ralph towards the end of William Golding’s iconic – and much oh-kill-me-it’s-the-class-set-text-said – novel Lord of the Flies where he tries to make leadership decisions and think clearly but narrates that a ‘veil’ has come down over his thoughts. I can relate to that. I know the veil, where ideas should be easy to come because I’ve put myself in the same situations where I used to write so freely, but nowadays they’re absent.

What is to be done? What can we do to move forward through these blacker episodes?

Part of it is to take a step back from the production of work, of the self-imposed pressure of goals. I know that I sometimes go into writing – anything, even emails or letters at work – with the awareness that I have to produce a quality product once I’m done. With fiction writing, this must be restricting. I think sometimes writers have to take a step back and away from all this pressure that comes from the desire to be published…

So, how? Sometimes it’s handy to write a scene that you as writer know will never end up in the novel. Why? Because it can build up the characters, their motivations, and how they interact with each other. Sometimes it’s good just to write. Be it to create something new or to edit or reread a paragraph of something you once wrote. Write a rambling poem of half-rhymes to store in the back of your computer or an emotional letter full of half-truths just because it feels good to put something on paper for once instead of keeping it cramped in the attic of the mind.

My writing style definitely came with a different feel for years before I started editing with an aim to query agents and publishers, quite likely influenced by all the Latin poetry and run-on prose, a la Ovid and Cicero, I was reading at the time for my academic studies. When I started researching and reading and writing in a more accessible style so that my fiction could appeal to a wider audience, I halted a bit of the writing process that is the throwing up of words onto paper with reckless abandon, which a readership might think of as Latinate run on sentences. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I specifically lost a bit of myself, and it was certainly preferable to those moments such as when a critic asked me if English was my second language! (One set of grandparents may be Polish but my mother was born in England and speaks perfect English, so I’m not even bilingual, sadly.) But I did change the way I went about writing.

But then Latin has a particular preposition –que that likes to stick itself on the ends of words and do more for two clauses than ‘and’ can in English.

However, as a linguist, that’s an argument for another day.

About a month back now, I attended numerous talks at the Steampunk Asylum and it got me thinking about the approach I used for my blog at the time when I was applying for my psychology and philosophy undergraduate degrees – it was with a view to delving more into the inspiration and philosophy behind my magnum opus, my first novel baby now only known as WTCB, but I found that this did not appeal to a wider audience as much as my travel stories and real life tales. Yet, there are so many topics and themes about which the writer can espouse. I know there’s potential for more in my novels. I want to explore the imagery and metaphors as battles between the characters rather than just writing a plot with characters in a blog of text that’s straightforward. I like twists and turns that are fictionally ironic and when a reader looks back to each chapter, they see how the threads will have come together. That’s the kind of fiction I want to read and write and that’s what keeps me going by creating scenes that could add to the mystery and background lore. The only problem is that we’re then surrounded by facts that we have the urge to share with our readers! Hence, WTCB will always have the moniker of my magnum opus, as it’s the world I’m most involved with out of all my fiction. Temporal physics, Victoriana classes, genetics and family histories…

To conclude, I think that’s why writing around the piece of fiction works for me. If character Joe Bloggs wants to show Miss Sally the spyglass and ponder about how the sun rises at different times across the city instead of debating whether they should go on the risky hunt for his missing comrade, and that scene kickstarts my knowledge of his motivations to be a coward who observes the world instead of wanting to change it, then I fully support the creation of extra-novel fiction.

I could go into a whole talk about my works and the levels of metaphor and images that I endeavour or perhaps have endeavoured in the past to put into my fiction, but alas the depression has struck me dumb, in a way that inspiration is fragmented across my mind. “Catching butterflies” to use Craig’s own words.

Still, I get along. In what spare time I have away from working on patient record data in the NHS, I am currently editing the second full Steampunk novel I have written – this one set between alternate-history New York and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, featuring ghost-like spirits, automata, and an illegal skyship crew. I’m still looking for a way to write whilst during office jobs, without the stacks of paper printouts that I used to cover with red-pen and then leave for months on end. It’s a case of time again. And coordination.

As a final aside, my latest piece of fiction is being published in the anthology DARK AND LIGHT by the UCL Publishing team, coming shortly. Check out the Twitter and website for details. I’m particularly pleased with my piece, as it is a study of psychology and mental illness in the form of my protagonist, the unnamed woman, as she heads towards fulfilling her plans of murdering her ex.

In conclusion, thanks, Craig, for having me. Maybe next time I’ll have a more coherent topic to discuss.

Thanks for that, Alex! If you want to take a look at what mischief Alex is getting up to, check out her social medias here:

Twitter: @caelestia_flora
Instagram: lingua_fabularum
Website: http://www.alexandrinabrant.wordpress.com
UCL Publishers Prize website: https://www.uclpublishersprize.com

 

Thanks for reading!