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.

 

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The Next Book Cometh

Hi everyone,

We’re getting pretty close to an incredibly exciting time. Well, I’M excited 🙂

Not only is Old Haunts (The Adventures of Alan Shaw book 2) so close to its release date that I can smell fresh ink on the air, but the re-cover of book one is looking goooooood.

You might remember that we had a little trouble with the cover for book one as we had an artist also do the internal covers for the individual adventures, but that person disappeared only a couple of weeks before we went to print. That meant a huge panic as myself and Inspired Quill CEO, Sara-Jayne, scrambled around trying to find a new artist. Suffice to say, at such short notice, we were not successful. But with signings booked in and events to attend, we needed a book.

So, I stepped up.

That’s right! Yours truly did an art and drew the pictures with my own not-so-fair hand!

Suffice to say, I am no artist. But we got The Adventures of Alan Shaw out in time and many people have enjoyed it since (I hope). Still, it always bugged me that book one wouldn’t match the others, and so when me and Sara got our heads together for Old Haunts, it was the perfect time to ask a huge favour from my already very accommodating publisher.

Could we re-cover book one?

Luckily, Sara was pretty much thinking the same thing and so not only do I get to share the next stage of Alan’s story with you, but we get to give you two super sexy covers as well!

For those of you who have been keeping track, you’ll have seen book two’s cover already. But, over the next month or so as we build up to the official release, I’ll be sharing tidbits, quotes, insights and that elusive first book recover, too. I really hope you guys like it.

You can already take a look at Old Haunts on Amazon along with some blurbage and coverage. There’s also an option to pre-order if you’re feeling that way inclined.

I’ll be hopefully getting back to the blogging a little more now that I’ve finished…wait…I’ll tell you next post 😉

Thanks for reading!

The Adventures of Alan Shaw Volume 2

Morning everyone!

I come to you today to share some great news (well, I think it is, anyway). The sequel to my Steampunk epic adventure, The Adventures of Alan Shaw, is completed and ready to rock!

That’s right. The edits are done, the cover is complete, and it’s ready to wing its way to your shelves.

But wait…

As I’m sure you all know, it isn’t as simple as that. First, we must perform the ritual of book marketing whereby many innocent posts and tweets are sacrificed to the Dark Gods of Publishing. Inspired Quill have provided me with some teaser material to share with you all in little tantalising nuggets for the next week or so, possibly ending in a giveaway of some kind that I’m sure I’ll figure out when we get there (I’m so organised it hurts).

Anyway, over the next week I’ll be releasing the cover, the title, the release date and the blurb for all of you to salivate over (or possibly not, but I have to hope, right?) and, with that in mind, I would like to give you the first teeeeasery tease. A sliver of the book’s cover!

Title Teaser 2[2340]

Is that a cog I see? Who’s the dark blade-wielding figure in the background? Is that a revolver and duster I see before me? Could that our first peek of our damaged protagonist?

I hope you’ll all agree when I say…

Squee!

 

I’ll see you all in a couple of days for the next reveal…the title!

 

Thanks for reading!

Go big or go home

Hi everyone,

This morning, this author has submitted a story to one of the most prestigious magazines on the planet. My novella, Emi, is winging its way to Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, as we speak (or as I type).

Now, let’s not get excited. I think that F&SF is the second longest running magazine of its kind, and possibly the highest selling. This is a huge market. Also, Emi is a little longer than they typically accept and will probably have to be serialised, which is something that they haven’t done since…well, a long time. The only one I actually know of (as a non-reader) is The Gunslinger by Stephen King. So, you see what kind of high expectations the magazine has.

With all that in mind, my chances of getting in are particularly slim. Wafer thin. Leaf on the wind light, and just as easy to blow away.

But, if we don’t try, we don’t succeed, am I right?

If I’m unsuccessful, there is an upcoming open submissions for Tor Books’ novella imprint that I’ll have a go at. That one is similarly unlikely. But after I’ve been rejected by those two, at least I can say that I gave it a go and then move on to other publications.

If any fledgling authors such as myself are reading this, then I hope you take heed of these words. Go big or go home. Try everything. By only going for “smaller” magazines etc, you’re selling yourself short. Let someone else turn down your work, don’t do it for them. You see, a rejection slip isn’t someone saying to you, “this is the worst thing I’ve ever written. You should give up.” Unless, of course, it literally says that. Generally, rejection slips are from someone who has a thousand submissions to get through, who has a very tight criteria to adhere to, and who must, for the sake of their sanity and their job, make pretty quick decisions about the fiction that they accept.

In order to be accepted to a publication, your work has to hit their eye-line at the exact moment that they’ve had their coffee and the sugar from that donut has worked its way into their system. It has to be the right time of day. Not too early that they’re half asleep, not too late that they’ve read a hundred submissions already.

Basically, if the person considering your work is not too tired, not too wired, not trudging through a fictional mire, and ready to hire, then you’re on to a winner.

And if not, then try somewhere else. Or, if you want to be sneaky, then take any advice they give, rewrite, and resubmit to the same place. You never know. Next time, you might hit their sweet spot.

I’ll keep you updated with how it goes.

 

Thanks for reading, folks.

Moving along nicely

Hi everyone!

Well, things are finally looking like they’re hotting up in my little bubble of existence. I’ve finally gotten some writing flow back, after months of creative drought. Just in the last week, I’ve written the opening chapter to Alan Shaw’s third volume of adventures, poetry (which I still suck at but enjoy) and been catching up on articles and blog posts that people have been waiting for for months.

More than that, Inspired Quill have started the editing process with The Adventures of Alan Shaw volume 2 and apparently it’s going well. I had a lovely compliment from Sara, The Boss, who asked if I’d already sent it to an editor beforehand. For someone with crushing confidence issues, that really meant a lot. It’s hard to tell if you’re improving as a writer, or whether you’re just coasting. It seems I might actually be learning! Who knew that was possible, eh?

In other news, my blog on living with depression, Down Days, has now had over 3000 views. It shot up by about 200 in a single day when I posted yesterday in an unexpected explosion of interest. How nice is that? If you have any experiences to share, poems, posts, or artwork, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. It’s very rewarding to share your story, both cathartic and helpful for others.

Well, I’ll let you get back to your weekend.

Thanks for reading!