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!

Guest Post: Austin Chambers

Hi everyone,

Marketing is not only expensive but eldritch in nature and beyond mortal comprehension. In an effort to spread the word about talented people without them needing to remortgage or decipher R’lyehian texts, I’m sharing writery and artisty types with you all so you don’t miss out.

Today’s guest is Austin Chambers, a gentleman (he made me say that) who has been my convention neighbour many-a-time and is always interesting and intriguing to be around. He also has an excellent beard and looks good in a hat, of which I’m insanely jealous. Without any further ado, I give you Austin Chambers…

Perhaps it’s all in my head.

A.S.Chambers.

Hello. Is this thing on? (Hits router).Austin

Yes, I think that should do it. It’s always strange writing on other people’s blogs. It’s something akin to sneaking into their house in the middle of the night and wandering around in their well-worn slippers. (Yes Craig, that’s why they’re never where you leave them when you go to bed…) [I knew it! – Craig]

So, anyway, my name is A.S. Chambers, and young Mister Hallam has kindly invited me to take the reins for 600 words or so. Some might say that this is a sign of friendliness from one author of the fantastical to another. Personally, I think he’s buttering me up because he knows that I’m going to kill him in a rather gory manner in my next Sam Spallucci novel. [You’re delivering villainous monologues again, Austin ;D – Craig]

Which rather neatly brings me onto my beleaguered, down-at-heel investigator of the paranormal.

So far, Sam has survived four major outings under my cruel penmanship. The first, Casebook of Sam Spallucci, was released back in 2012 and the most recent, Sam Spallucci: Dark Justice, saw the light of day (ironic that, considering that it’s about vampires) just a couple of months ago. They are a blend of urban fantasy, film noir and quirky humour. I normally tell people that if Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett had teamed up and rewritten the works of Stephen King, then you’d be about half way there.

Sam’s world is set in my beloved Lancaster; albeit a Lancaster where things go bump in the night and lurk in the shadows. There are satanic sit-com actors, vampires dressed as Vulcans, bondage-loving banshees and all-manner of weird and wonderful characters that my hero has to encounter or endure.

When I venture out into the land of the living to try and sell my wares at comic cons and book signings, one of the most common questions that I get asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I normally answer with the rather flippant reply, “You’ve obviously never been to Skerton on a Saturday night.” (For those of you not accustomed to Lancastrian geography, just imagine Ankh Morpork’s Shades but without the loveable dwarves or goblins.) However, I suppose it is a very valid question. I mean, just where do these curious creatures come from and how do they find their way into the heads of writers of fantasy and horror?

In my case, I have this issue of overthinking absolutely everything. As I type this, I’m waiting for an engineer to come and fit one of these new-fangled smart meters. This means that I currently have going through my head, in no particular order:

  1. They’re already late. How much more of my day will be spent finding tasks to do around the living room where I can hear the front door?
  2. Did I adequately tidy the stairs down to the cellar or will they slip and break their neck?
  3. What if I desperately need a cup of tea when they’re here? I mean, the fate of the world might depend on it. The phone might ring and Donald Trump could be on the other end demanding, “Mr Chambers, if you do not make a strong Earl Grey in the next ten minutes, then I will press this shiny red button.”
  4. Someone told me last night that these meters give off radiation. What if I acquire a really stupid super power? I would much rather be a master of time and space than have the ability to kill baddies with hyper-flatulence.

So, yes, if these are the things that go through my head with the perfectly mundane, then I suppose that having vampires owning local comic book shops, restaurateurs dressed as mummies nicking the Eric Morecambe statue, and a werewolf running the local park’s petting zoo are not that great a leap of the imagination.

Perhaps you’d like to try a taste of the weird and wonderful that lurks in the Lancaster of my mind?

 

Somewhat useful links (ideal for stalking…)

Website: www.aschambers.co.uk

Facebook Group:The World of A.S.Chambers

Facebook Page: @A.S.Chambers

Twitter: @ASChambersUK

Instagram: @aschambersuk

Amazon.co.uk: A.S.Chambers

Amazon.com: A.S.Chambers

There you have it, Gentlefolk! Hop over and take a look at Austin’s work if it tickles your  urban fantasy fancy.

 

Thanks for reading!

Tao of the Author: The Recurring Question

Hi everyone,

[EDIT – The Tao of the Author series has moved! Due to the necessity for funding, the column is being continued over at my Patreon page as part of the lowest tier reward newsletter.]

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 your 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

 

Con-report: Sci-Fi Scarborough

Hi everyone,

I return to you all with tales of great revelry and joy. Last weekend was Sci-Fi Scarborough, situated in the seaside town’s elegant spa. It’s one of the few events that I make sure to hit absolutely every year and that’s because it’s unerringly one of the best.

In true Sci-Fi Scarbs style, there were a host of folks from TV and film to meet with this year being dominated by MONSTERS. Actors who played the Silence, and Weeping Angels of Doctor Who, a genuine White Walker from Game of Thrones, a Harry Potter Death Eater and the sculptor/artist behind your favourite movie creatures, Brian Muir. Luckily there were a couple of good guys with Jimmy Vee (R2-D2) and Dominic Keating (Enterprise) providing tactical support.

As always, the market areas were stacked with geeky relics and also amazing artists and authors (and then me huddled in a corner). More importantly is the atmosphere of Sci-Fi Scarborough. From the second that you step in and all through the experience, you just feel good. The staff are perpetually lovely and helpful (even with how exhausted they must be) and everyone who attends is happy and having a good time. The cosplay was on point as well with some incredible outfits that had taken people a lot of effort to put together.

On a personal note, Sci-Fi Scarbs is always a pleasure. Whereas some events have you thinking “do I really want to do this to myself again?”, Scarbs has me looking forward to it months in advance. Not only because I’ve met incredible people who have become fast friends but because it’s one of the most receptive conventions for authors that I’ve ever been to. It seems that while some events are dominated by POP! figures and plushies (although I have a weakness for those myself), the attendees at Scarborough just love EVERYTHING. Art, books, nicknacks, autographs, you name it, they love it. From an author’s perspective, it’s great to come back year after year and have people return to my table for the newest book or asking questions about writing. As we know, fellow writers, sometimes you can feel like you’re working in a void and getting no feedback, throwing your work to the wind with no idea of where it lands. Events are the best place to get in touch with your readers. I come away from Sci-Fi Scarbs every year with my faith renewed and fingers itching to write the next book so I can have it ready for next year. The Scarbs geeks are not only lovely but hungry for cool stuff and I’m very lucky that they like my stories.

Best part of the weekend – Coming third in the very prestigious Geek Quiz on Saturday night with our annual quizzing group Voldemort’s Backing Singers. That’s one place better than last year and we were all cheering like a cheery thing that cheers. I got a signed piece of artwork from the goody bag that we shared out.

Funniest part of the weekend – Listening to Dominic Keating swear profusely at whatever football team he was watching on his phone on Sunday.

Cringey bit – Having to watch someone winning a copy of The Adventures of Alan Shaw in the raffle and then swiftly google it on his phone. The Voldemort’s Backing Singers made this especially cringey, the little sods 😀

Honourable mentions to those people who I see every year and who always make my day are (I won’t put surnames for privacy reasons, but you guys know who you are):

Lynn and Mike – The hosts with the mosts (Pasta and rum? Perfect first night!)

Meshell and Brad – Our curry gurus

Amy (Emily!) and John – Lovely to meet you and looking forward to geeking with you again

My fellow members of Voldemort’s Backing Singers – Third place, guys! Woohoo!

And in the readers category:

James, Katie, Becky and Aoife, Tracey and Bob, and every one else whose names I forget every damned year but I’m trying very hard to remember. Thank you so much for coming back to Alan’s stories. I really appreciate your support.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll keep you all posted on Alan Shaw 3 which is in the works as we speak and the possibility of a few other upcoming projects.

 

Thanks for reading!