Guest Post: Emily Scialom

Hi everyone!

We’re back with a brief guest post from Emily Scialom, who has one book out already and another on the way from Austin Macauley very soon! Check it out:

emily_scialom_ps‘The Religion of Self-Enlightenment’ was begun in the summer of 2008. It was just before I went to America and travelled the States during the Obama election campaign; the air was sticky with hope for a better world. It was published by Olympia publishers, who are based in London, in the summer of 2016.

Immediately, things got weird. I was out walking with my sister in a nature reserve named Paradise when a figure of light appeared beside me in a photograph of the spot where I previously had Bible study class with my very Christian friend, Christine. I posted it online and a musician who I was friends with on Facebook from a famous band named the Brian Jonestown Massacre wrote a song about me called ‘Ghost Ghost’. The lyrics? “She’s a ghost/And she holds me so close/She is Jesus Christ/And all the Holy Hosts.”

People always told me never to write about religion. When I first started out I knew there was a problem with organised belief, even though everyone told me I was wrong; by the time the book was published I had been well and truly vindicated.

So I began writing about other topics which interest me: sex and hating the Tories. ‘The Rivers’ emerged over the course of about four years while working for the music app Spotify. This novel will be published soon by Austin Macauley. I very much look forward to sharing it with everyone.

jesus and me

‘The Rivers’ centres around a married couple who are hopelessly in love, named John and Elizabeth. Throughout the development of their story, however, there are a plethora of situations where true love cannot be easily found. Amidst the heartache there are discussions on serious global and cultural issues, as well as the nature of love and God.

roseAs for ‘The ROSE‘ (a beautiful acronym, I’m sure you will agree?), it’s been declared a “cult classic” by television and “a classic of near-death experience literature” in reviews. It’s now selling out on-loop in Cambridge book shops and has only five star reviews on Amazon. I am hoping it will be a tremendous success amidst all the craziness.

The story tells of a man named Carrick Ares, who has a near-death experience and writes a new religion in its aftermath, which is basically a philosophic work centred on the idea of oneness. If you have ever wondered for far too long about who you are and why you are here you will empathise with Carrick’s struggles, and he is very much an everyman who has captured the attentions of many readers thus far.

To purchase a copy for only 6.99 please go to Amazon, Waterstones or Olympia publishers.

There you have it, readers. Another book to watch out for in the near future!

Thanks for reading.

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The (extended) Adventures of Alan Shaw

Hi everyone!

This post is mostly for those who have read The Adventures of Alan Shaw and the sequel, Old Haunts, and who are eagerly awaiting the third and final instalment.

Yes, they exist! The voices in my head told me so! Sheesh.

 

Anyway, I have news.

I’ve been asked many times “what happens between the adventures? Sometimes Alan references things that have happened, but we haven’t read about them.”

It’s almost like he’s a real person whose life doesn’t end when you turn the page! And that was the way I always intended it. Alan continues to have adventures outside of the books, between the other stories. What you read in the Adventures trilogy are just his most stand-out, life-altering excursions.

“But, that means that there are potentially hundreds of adventures that we’ll never read.”

That’s very true, reader. And there are even stories from the other characters between Alan’s own. The whole world continues to turn whether you’re reading about it or not.

I think this comes from my love of being a D&D Dungeon master. Whatever the players choose to do, whatever adventure they go on, the rest of the world continues to change. It means that there are real consequences to the decisions that our fictional friends make. And that’s insanely fun to write.

With that said, I’ve recently been given an amazing opportunity. I’ve been contacted by the lovely C.G. Hatton, a sci-fi author worthy of your attention, who is putting together an anthology of stories with fellow indie authors. As we were chatting about it, we decided that I should write a new Alan Shaw adventure. And so, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

For existing readers, the story will fit into Alan’s life between the first and second stories of Old Haunts which means that all you fans of his straight-talking ace-pilot partner, Merry. You’ll also get more Alan, of course, at his most sardonic and there will even discover more about Harrison Stanhope, the Privateer from Alan Shaw and The Lovelace Code.

So there you have it. I’ll obviously keep you all posted on the anthology’s title and release date as they become available. But that’s been your heads-up, so to speak. I’m pretty excited to delve back into Alan’s past as I’m writing the final book of the trilogy. I hope you’ll enjoy reading both when they hit shelves.

 

Thanks for reading!

The Tao of the Author: Success!

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to The Tao of the Author, a new thread of blog posts that will address the psychological and philosophical aspects of being an author in an effort to help people like me with the mental health issues they might come across during the course of their career. Click the category over on the right side of the page to read the previous posts.

This week, I’d like to talk about success. That one, shining word that covers whatever it is you want to get out of being an author. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to remember what our idea of success is when the world/internet is telling you what it should be.

Let’s delve.

When you start on your path to becoming an author, or any kind of creative for that matter, you have two things in your head. The first thing is the idea; that little nugget of inspiration that you absolutely have to get out of your head and into whatever medium you want to work in. The second is the goal; where you want to be, what you want to get out of doing what you do. Some people write only or themselves. The love of it is what drives them. Some people want to share with others what they’ve done. They want to find a publisher, maybe even move on to getting a movie deal, or becoming a New York Times bestseller. That’s their ultimate goal, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is when people equate gaining their ultimate goal with gaining success. These are two very different things.

For the sake of your mental health, I implore you to learn the difference.

The internet/media deals in “success stories” when it comes to these things. We hear about “overnight success” an awful lot. What they try to tell us is that success is the end, the finish line. J.K. Rowling is considered a success because millions of people have read her books. Same goes for E.L. James (the less said the better about that one). They’re a success because they’ve taken their stories as far as they can go, into other languages, travelling across mediums, making millions.

But there are a lot of writers out there, and although most of them would love to walk the path of J.K. Rowling, statistically almost none of them will manage it. That’s a harsh truth but a truth none-the-less, a truth that shouldn’t stop you trying, anyway. But, if you only consider yourself to be successful when you reach the ultimate goal, whether it’s the one you set yourself or the one set for you by others, then you’re setting yourself up for what I can only describe as misery.

In an effort to explain, I’ll use myself as an example (eek!).

Am I successful? Let’s see.

I’ve been writing seriously for about nine years. When I started out, I wanted to get an agent, get a book deal, have readers and write awesome stories that people enjoy. Maybe I even dreamed of having a movie made out of one of my books. I certainly thought about writing a comic book at some point. I think I wanted to be Terry Pratchett more than anyone else. Maybe the ultimate dream was to be able to pay my bills with my writing. Now, almost a decade on, how much of that have I accomplished?

  • Agent? Nope. Skipped it.
  • Published? Yep! That’s a tick.
  • Readers? Not many, but the few I have are lovely, enthusiastic and supportive. I couldn’t ask for nicer people.
  • Movies and paying my bills by writing? Not even on the radar. The radar hasn’t even been invented in terms of this analogy.
  • Written a comic? That goes in the yes column, although it hasn’t been drawn, yet. Still, the work has been done and I had fun doing it.
  • Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t spontaneously become Terry Pratchett.

Now, do I consider myself to be successful?

This is a tough thing for me because, as you may know, I struggle with self esteem and depression. I want to say “no” very badly. But, I’m going to talk to myself like I’d talk to any of you: positively. For the last nine years I may not have reached my ultimate goal of world domination and financial freedom from my writing but, dang it, I’ve worked hard. There are ticks on that list. And, on the whole, I’ve loved the journey.

Am I successful by the media/world definition of success? Definitely not.

Am I successful by my own standards? Definitely yes!

Whether you’ve just put pen to paper, or you’ve finished your first novel. Even if you never get a publisher or an agent, if three people read your work and they’re your family, it doesn’t matter. A feat of creativity is a success by its very nature. I don’t care if it would win awards, and neither should you. You have done something that no one else has done or can do; you’ve told your story the best that you can.

You see, it isn’t about one huge, final success. You’re not completing a computer game. You’re not working up to the final scene in a movie. This is life. Every time you do something worthwhile, it’s a little success. Your life, and your writing career, is a series of those little successes. Extending that logic, you’re already a success. You can only get more successful because no one can take from you the hard work that you’ve one.

 

The Philosophy

Here we come to the real philosophy section of the post, where we try to find the things that have been said by much smarter people than I, that you might bear in mind when thinking about your own success:

“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Teddy Roosevelt.

That’s a good point. Why compare your own success to that of another? Get distracted by their success and it’s easy to miss your own.

“Success has always been a great liar.” – Friedrich Nietzsch

In case you hadn’t noticed, I think Nietzsche and the Stoics are pretty useful for authors:

“A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” — Seneca

And finally, this is another nice one, although slightly off-topic:

“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Henry David Thoreau

There was another quote that I had in mind for this post, but be damned if I can find it, now 😀

 

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Guest Post: Dorothy Winsor

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to another guest post. This time we have Dorothy A. Winsor, another fellow Inspired Quill author who is sharing the ideas around her previous novel, Finders Keepers as we eagerly await her next novel, The Wind Reader (due for release autumn 2018).

The Calendar Is Ending! We Are All Doomed!

dorothyMy middle-grade fantasy, Finders Keepers, turns partly on the struggle to avert a disaster that will occur when the calendar changes to the year 4000. As the story approaches New Year’s Eve, 3999, a plague kills more and more people, earthquakes swallow buildings, and floods threaten to drown the city. All will be lost unless the book’s 12-year-old hero, Cade, is willing to risk his own well-being to save everyone else.

I got the idea for that plot point while I was drafting this book in 2012. The internet was abuzz with speculation over what might happen on 12/21/12, the last date on an ancient Mayan calendar. Speculation that the world would end was so common that NASA put up an information page that explained why it wouldn’t. (http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/podcasting/jpl-asteroid20120307.html)

The furor reminded me of similar fears when the calendar rolled over to the year 2000, and we endured the so-called Y2K panic. Even some rational people feared civilization would collapse because of computer problems caused by the date change. Given how dependent we are on computers, it was hard to say people had no reason to worry, but a portion of the population entered into the panic with gusto, buying guns and stocking up on food and fuel. They generalized from a computer glitch to a gigantic social meltdown, and in a few cases, the end of the world.

Why do people put so much weight on the change from one page of the calendar to the next? After all, dates are a humanly created and somewhat arbitrary system. Why do we lend them such significance?

I think it’s because we human beings want to understand the unknown. We want cause and effect.  We want meaning. Psychologists say our brains are wired to find patterns, to connect one thing with another even though there’s no necessary connection. So in a primal way, the link between the end of a calendar and the end of the world makes sense.

Given this need, fiction is satisfying partly because a plot shapes events into a pattern. If something happens, experienced readers expect it to matter. If an event has no consequences, we’re likely to be annoyed. Or at least wonder why the editor didn’t insist the scene should be cut.

Events that matter and form a pattern create the difference between plot (one thing causes another) and chronology (one thing simply comes after another). My life has chronology, but not much of a plot. What I’m doing now probably has little connection to what I’ll do this afternoon. On the other hand, my character Cade’s life has a plot. Everything matters. That’s one reason fiction often feels richer and more satisfying than daily life.

On the other hand, Cade’s plot causes him a lot of problems and pain. I was happy to still be around to give an open house on January 1, 2000. Maybe I’m contented to enjoy plots mostly in fiction.

 

Winsor spent years as a technical communications professor, studying the writing of engineers, before discovering that writing YA and MG fantasy was much more fun. Finders Keepers is Winsor’s first novel, though if you look closely, you can probably find a literal million words of Winsor’s Tolkien fan fiction posted somewhere. Winsor lives in Iowa.

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/dorothy.winsor

http://dawinsor.com/

Finders Keepers: https://smile.amazon.com/Finders-Keepers-Dorothy-Winsor-ebook/dp/B01LBEU6RK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1519914733&sr=8-2&keywords=dorothy+winsor

Deep as a Tomb: https://smile.amazon.com/Deep-as-Tomb-Dorothy-Winsor/dp/1624320244/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Con Report: Whitby Steampunk 2018

Hi everyone,

On a lovely weekend in July, I had the esteemed pleasure of attending the Whitby Steampunk event. While I’d heard excellent things about his event, I’d never managed to make it until this year. Boy, am I glad that I did!

Set in Whitby Pavilion, which overlooks the very waves on which the Demeter brought Count Dracula to England (spooky spooky) the event is the perfect in a lot of little ways.

Ran by an excellent team who were as pleasant and helpful as they were frazzled, the event was off to an excellent start before I even arrived. It’s always nice to know what’s going on before you arrive at an event and the Whitby Steampunk team made sure that you knew.

The pamphlet for the weekend was stacked with exciting and informative content including talks by the authors in attendance (Leesa DeVantier, Gareth Clegg and myself), Bartitsu demonstrations, and practical workshops by McSkelly Leathers on how to make your own steampunk gadgets and attire. As usual at these events, there was a host of market stalls for people to fill their eye holes with the awesome aesthetic that is Steampunk, and there were plenty of the uninitiated who came to see what it was all about (and left as converts, of course).

The main thing for me, as always, was the atmosphere. Every single stallholder, organiser and attendee was in great spirits, helpful, pleasant and an absolute pleasure to be around. My whole weekend was made by standing stall-by-stall with the excellent Lurcher Gallery ran by Allison and Marcus who had my jaw aching and mind exploding from the riotous fun we had. They also make excellent Victorian clothing.

On a selfish note, I did very well, selling over 50 books over two days. I’m incredibly grateful to the people of Whitby and all of the Steampunks who either bought their first of my books or who came back for another.

Fun stories:

  • Starting an argument between two avid readers who both wanted to read The Adventures of Alan Shaw first which had to be settled by Grandma (hilarious).
  • My usual nerves at doing talks was met with relief when, on the first day, no one came (secretly pleased that I got out of it, I know that makes me a terrible person). The second day I had a small audience of four people that I already knew. I did a little reading and we had a nice chat about writing and steampunk in general which was lovely.
  • Scaring the bejeezus out of two Whitby tourists. How? I’ll tell you. The scene is shortly after midnight. I’ve had a few beers and I’m heading up the famous 199 stairs to the hostel next to Whitby Abbey. To get there, I had to pass through the graveyard that Dracula made his home on his arrival to England, and where thousands of Goth photos have been taken ever since. I, as usual, was dressed in monochrome Victorian attire, and a little giddy. So, when I hear voices from between the gravestones, I realise that there are tourists in the graveyard, making spooky sounds to each other and giggling at the scariness of it all. I slow my pace, remaining hidden for as long as possible, before stepping out from behind a gravestone at the pace of a lost soul. I’m a bit pale at the best of times, and the moonlight must have almost gleamed from my skin. Walking past the couple, I turned my head, slowly, and gave them an emotionless nod of greeting as I drifted on by, straight toward the abbey. Suffice to say, they weren’t giggling when I left. Mwahahahahaha. I felt utterly evil and it was very, very funny. Those poor people.

Shenanigans aside, the whole event was very enjoyable and I’m already looking forward to attending again next year. Maybe I’ll get to scare some more folks in the graveyard (hehehe).

 

Thanks for reading!

Tao of the Author: The Recurring Question

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to The Tao of the Author, a new thread of blog posts that will address the psychological and philosophical aspects of being an author. The first post The Magic Bean talked about how it’s important to remember that there’s no quick track into authorship, and no magic ticket. This week, 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 our book, yet?”

The amount of people who reply “no” is overwhelming. To those people, and to anyone who is reading this who has the same question, I would like to suggest that you do so. Think about first things first. Maintain the dream of becoming published, but don’t bog yourself down with the mechanics of it. You aren’t ready if your book isn’t ready. Your author self and your book come as a package, you see?

To the rest of you who do have a book/comic/poetry collection/whatever completed, I would say this: Do your research. Because every track into the creative world is different depending on your product. But, from a philosophical standpoint, I think the mindset behind the question is an interesting thing to discuss. You see, people are focused on doing things “the right way” when there is only “your way”.

We are creative. Our minds are attuned to the world in a way that some people can never experience. Everything we see, hear and feel, while ignored by most, is assimilated by us. We see through the cracks, around the corners. We ask questions of society and normality and, when we realise there is no satisfactory answer, we create one of our own. Whether you write “Chick Lit” (a genre name that I don’t believe reflects how good it really is), Horror, Sci-fi or Fantasy, you are taking the real world, holding up a mirror, and either dissecting or representing it in a way that touches others, that brings people together who otherwise feel as if they exist alone. The nature of humanity is that we can never see what another is thinking, feeling or planning; we see only into our own minds. That can be lonely. Creatives bridge that gap, showing how we all share experiences in a way that everyone can understand. Art, in all it’s forms, is the closest we humans get to telepathy.

And yet, your standard creative will still fall into the trap of asking for a solid answer to shoehorn into our ephemeral world.

We are creatives. From the first time that we see a landscape, or the play of emotion on a stranger’s face and think “I must represent this with art”, we’re walking an uncertain path. But we don’t deal in certainty. Our currency is ideas. Everything we do is outside of comfort zones and social norms. It has to be, or we can never craft anything entirely new.

Our journey into creativity is not an earthly thing. It’s born of a dream, and made of human connection beyond mere words on a page. That kind of connection doesn’t come from a 9-5 bubble. It doesn’t come from the classroom or from grades. It doesn’t come from manuscripts printed in 12pt, times new roman, double-lined spaced with generous margins. It comes in spite of those things.

What am I getting at? There is no certain path. My experience is not your experience. My path is not your path. And no one can tell you how to get published. I got published after years of hard work and then, when I was about to give up, I sent out a tweet. And got a publisher. Is that the “usual” way? No. But it was my path. And I can tell you stories of people who have gotten an agent before getting a publisher, some have self published and Amazon have bought their book that went straight on to a movie deal, other people self publish and sell copies out of the boot of their car on Sundays, more still have diversified themselves to the point that they can write simply anything and make a good wage from that flexibility.

There is no one path. Find yours. You do so by first preparing your equipment. Make sure your book is the best you can make it with the resources available to you. Then head into the woods. Veer off the track. Stumble through the undergrowth. Grow thirsty and hot and lost, and I swear to you, if there is a way for you, you will find it. But no one ever got anywhere by sitting down when the track turned uphill. And sometimes the old man who you meet, whose directions seem so useful, so easy to hold onto as a sign of some certainty in the vastness of the forest, are half remembered lies from when the forest was but a copse of firs.

How do you get published?

By keeping your boots strapped tight, and throwing away the map. You do it your way.

The Philosophy

And here we come to the real philosophy section of the post, where we try to find the things that have been said by much smarter people than I, that you might bear in mind when thinking about your creative path:

“No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life, no one but you yourself alone.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

And what about if we go even further back in time? Confucius suggested:

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

And, equally important:

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

 

Thanks for reading!

Guest Post: Mark Cantrell

Good morning, everyone!

As promised in a recent post, we’re being visited today by the excellent, fellow Inspired Quill author, Mark Cantrell. Journalist, author, and all-round stand-up human being, Mark is someone who I’ve never met in person, but who has been a constant support throughout my own author journey. Among his many novels, Citizen Zero and Silas Morlock are not-so-distant reflections of our own society, as all good sci-fi should be.

Come and meet him…

Critical Overlord

By Mark Cantrell

markONE of these days I’ll figure out how to switch off.

No, I’m not talking about relaxing. Well not exactly, more like stepping out of this world and into the ‘zone’ – at least until the over-eager critical faculties crash me down to Earth.

That’s the trouble with internal critics; they can be unsympathetic swine, with little or no regard for the literary process. Going off half-cocked instead of chilling out in the back brain until you’re ready for them, they can seriously cramp a wordsmith’s sanity.

If the creature doesn’t hit mid-flow and crash me out of the ‘zone’, then it undermines my regard for the latest draft I’ve sweated to finish. Snarling that my work is rubbish, it harasses me into a screaming fit, to send me wailing back to the keyboard to start afresh. Stretched thin, and wound-up, brittle me becomes lost in an endless round of sweat, tears and turmoil, while my critic cracks the whip.

Times like that, writing loses its joy, but bloody-minded obsession – maybe that slave-driving critic – won’t let me walk away. I have to keep going until, somehow, I come through the other side with words the critic can’t dismiss. I must admit, there’s a certain smug satisfaction to be had in leaving this mental gremlin speechless, but I know it’ll be back for another headbanging session sooner or later.

We all have our crosses to bear; this is mine. The problem is, as a journalist, I am expected to get my copy right first time. In a busy editorial office there’s no luxury of reworking and polishing an article until it’s ‘just right’. The deadline doesn’t give a damn about precious sentiments of literary art; that’s not what a news or feature article is all about, so get a grip and get that copy filed.

That’s journalism, but what works in the newsroom can play havoc with the author, at least in my case, because it doesn’t necessarily remain there: that damned internal critic demands the same right-first-time standards for my creative writing.

Now, it is possible to get that scene of a novel right first time. I know because I’ve done it, but right first time doesn’t mean to say finished first time. A draft is a draft – and it remains so until the novel is completed ready for publication. Until then, it’s subject to change.

Novels grow organically, I find. For all the planning and thought that goes into their conception and development, they still begin to exert themselves as the characters find their feet – and their voice – and the plot begins to blossom. Sooner or later, the novel starts kicking back and asserting itself.

That’s no bad thing. A novel that remains limp to the author’s touch throughout is nothing but a stillbirth in the making, but when it begins to come alive the newborn beastie needs a little tender discipline to ensure it reaches a healthy maturity. Cue that internal critic; it ought to be a crucial ally but that journalistic ‘right first time’ malady transforms a stern ally into a monster smashing up the lab.

To some extent, I probably owe the critic a begrudged vote of thanks, but let’s not go overboard. Here’s the thing: while at times those over-worked passages have resulted in the goods, more often than not any benefit has been outweighed by the headache involved in the endless re-working. The better re-writes have come at their proper time – in those second or third draft phases.

All the internal critic has really achieved is to hold up the novel’s progress by forcing me to waste time and effort (not to mention sanity) on a part best left to lie fallow in the backbrain for a while.

A novel is rarely – if ever – a continuous stream of structured thought. The whole is assembled from the sum of its parts. The parts, of course, are the disparate scenes and passages that are slotted together to create the seamless whole. It’s all too easy to be caught in the ‘right first time’ trap of endlessly trying to perfect each scene before moving on to the next.

Sure, sometimes, there’s a case to be made for taking another attempt, but for the most part you want to be getting your raw ideas down and moving on. Otherwise you’re going to fall foul of creative exhaustion.

Take it from me, it’s painful and the internal critic’s sergeant-major-style barking only makes it worse. When I find myself caught in this trap, all I can do is work through it, find the draft that pleases the critic or else – by luck or sheer will – force myself to unwind and relax back into the project. Then I can move on and take the novel forward. That’s the essential thing; plenty of time to rework later, and you’ll have a much clearer idea of the work it requires too.

When the time comes, you can let that internal critic go to town. Until then, if yours is as bellicose and exacting as mine, you might want to keep the thing bound and gagged until you’re ready to set it loose.

ENDS

 

Mark Cantrell,

Stoke-on-Trent,

13 April 2018

You can find his books here:

https://amazon.co.uk/Mark-Cantrell/e/B004WSWX6K

citizen

You can find Mark here:

Twitter: @Man0Words

Blog: tykewriter.wordpress.com