An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

Posts tagged “fantasy

To the keyboard!

Hi everyone,

Well, after that horrible down period comes the upswing. This is the part that I wish I could ride forever. My fingers can hardly keep up with my brain. I’m still leaving Alan Shaw 3 to stew for a while. The ideas are coming thick and fast with one in particular that has tickled me into thinking that it’s brilliant (I’ll probably change my mind later), but I think I need a break from the Steampunk world. So, I’ve tinkered with my Cyberpunk novel a little, adding another 1k words. That seems to be going very slowly but I think I need to get into a flow with it, is all. The one I’ve picked up this morning, on a complete whim, is Emi. Remember that one? It was a while ago since I last talked about it:

Two dead humans, a man and a girl, wander through a post-apocalyptic landscape where the creatures of folklore and myth have returned. With their humanity forgotten and no purpose or destination, what could possibly happen?

I still love the idea of this story and I can’t wait to finish it. I think it has real potential to be brilliant…if I don;t mess it up. Right now, it feels a little disjointed and choppy, but it also fits with the style of the book. The character have no human drives or needs, only distantly remembered values that have no bearing or place in their new world.

I love books like this and I’ll admit that it’s a little experimental. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going, or if it has a story at all, but these characters keep going from encounter to encounter and I’m totally hooked on what weirdness will come out next.

It’s also going to be quite short, as I find most experimentally odd novels are, but that’s no bad thing. I think it might actually work in the story’s favour. I guess well have to see.

Anyway, I’m off to write more. Hope you all have an excellent writing day!

 

Thanks for reading.


How D&D helped my writing

I’m totally addicted to Dungeons and Dragons.

I’d always wanted to play and never had anyone who knew how but, after dropping into someone else’s game for just the one session, I gave myself Gygax.

Since my exntded shore-leave from the blog, I now run two games, both very different, as Dungeon Master, and I play in another. I really can’t suggest it strongly enough. Especially for writers. There is no end to the creativity you can play out in the games. The story can be sci-fi, fantasy, horror, thriller, you name it!

I’ve found it’s a massive help to maintaining creativity. When my books are stumbling (all talk about the several projects I’m working on in a later post) and I can’t get my Auth-on, D&D has been exactly what I’ve needed.

Not only do I get to come up with ideas that don’t have to have every detail planned out, but the players do half the work for me! With a brief set-up, the players drive their own plot based on whatever they want their characters to do, often coming up with paths through the story that I would have never come up with

I would never straight-up novelise the games I run. Those are for me and my friends alone, to enjoy spending time together and having fun. But those little sparks of inspiration that playing gives me; those are priceless.

Being forced to think on the fly when a player takes a tangent, having to ad-lib and (my favourite part) playing all of the NPCs (non-player characters) is not only immense fun and such a rush, but brilliant for my story and character-generating skills.

Let me give you an example.

So, the players, who are a crew of a ship, have been attacked by an undead pirate and all of their belongings have been stolen. Limping to the nearest island and left to their own devices while their ship is fixed, they decided they wanted to head to a tavern.

While in the tavern, one player picks an arm-wrestling match with a local (who I had to make up) but the true moment of excellence was Eugene. A player asked if there were any locals at the bar, as he intended to fleece one of them out of some money (the players didn’t even have money to eat).

Anyway, I said there was indeed a young elf at the bar. He seemed out of place, nervous, with a large backpack at this feet. This, as it turns out, would be Eugene. Over the next few minutes, the player decided to tease me by asking Eugene’s entire backstory (which I didn’t have prepared) but the funniest part was the voice that came out when Eugene spoke. Because I hadn’t written this character before hand and, perhaps because of his name, the poor NPC ended up with the voice of Professor Frink from Futurama.

I could barely hold it together. Eugene tickled everyone around the table. And every time they go into the bar, they ask if Eugene is in there. Probably just to mess with me, actually.

The moral of this story, is that D&D is a GREAT writing tool. You should try it.

 

Thanks for reading.


Happy New Year!

Hello, fellow readers!

Once again, time seems to have totally evaded my grasp. I can’t believe how fast everything seems to be moving of late. As a Whovian, I’d suggest some kind of time-dilation anomaly that only The Doctor himself can save us from. But until he turns up, we’ll just have to deal with it.

In case you missed the title of this post, and have been in a particularly potent coma of late, you’ll know that we are now firmly placed into the year 2014. Every time I look at that date, I can’t help thinking how close we are, or even how we have passed by, some of the predictions made by favourite sci-fi movies. Here’s hoping that Skynet doesn’t finally get traction, eh?

But this year, while swift, has been good to me. Greaveburn has sold more and more copies and gained a growing group of appreciative readers (Fans is too strong a word). The reviews have remained brilliant, although I’m still waiting for that first stinker of a one-star, since I’m an optimist, you know. And I think it’s time for this year’s Greaveburn Awards. Three people made special contributions to my sanity this year, letting me know that it’s ok to get lost in my fantasy worlds. And those are:

Jess Booth

jessJess bought Greaveburn at the 2013 Weekend at the Asylum convention, and promptly read it in about 6 hours. She also left a lovely review on Amazon. This kind of book-fanatical behaviour warms the cockles of my heart. Thank you, Jess. The next time I’m in Widow Cullen’s Well, I’ll make sure to buy you a pint ;D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ash Lithgow

ashI think Ash made it into the awards last year, too, but he has maintained his uber-fandom this year by reading Greaveburn more times than I ever did. He also stepped in as assistant fact-checker in a workshop I did at the Steampunk Doncaster convention this year, because he knows the characters better than I do. I actually had to defer to him once or twice in the workshop. God bless you, Ash!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frances Rockett

Not only does Fran win an award for the most Steampunk name on her birth certificate, she has been a huge help to the Greaveburn movement this year. She has acted as shop girl for me at several events, drawing in the crowds and then promptly sending them away again, one book heavier. She’s  a machine. A book-selling automaton.

fran

So thank you to those three people in particular, but to everyone else to picked up a copy of my work, read it, borrowed it, reviewed it, entered the Readers’ Gallery, Liked, Shared, or told a friend. You’re all my favourite people.

But now we have hit 2014. A new year means moving forward.

This year is going to be a busy one, too. The itinerary goes something like this:

  1. I turn 30 (yikes!)
  2. I finally finish my university course, giving me my second degree (this times in English). So look out for photos of me in a silly hat later this year!
  3. I get married (double yikes!)
  4. My next novel, The Adventures of Alan Shaw gets released! YIPPEE! That’ll be around June time with a new shiny edition of Not Before Bed, too.
  5. At some point, Greaveburn will develop a cult following and the masses will demand a movie be made. I already have the cast list in my head ;D

Ok, so maybe that last one is a push. But the others are very true, and very scary. I really can’t wait for you all to meet Alan Shaw. But I’m very nervous about it, too.

Anyway, whatever it is you have planned for this year, I wish you all the best of luck and happiness. Remember that the lows never sink the highs, they’re just anchor points between your adventures.

 

Thanks for reading for another year.


Reader’s theories on your work.

As soon as your novel, poem, screenplay or artwork leaves your hand, it’s open to the interpretation of others. That’s just how it goes. And to a certain degree, that’s the whole point. Especially with books. How I imagine one of my favourite characters, Harry Dresden, is mine alone and will be subtley different from how others imagine him. It’s part of the fun of picturing things in your head.

The way that I’ve come across this kind of thing is in readings, workshops and at signings. People seem to really want to know what Greaveburn “is”.

There have been several theories offered to me:
1. Greaveburn is an alternate history.
2. It’s a parallel universe.
3. It’s an alternate dimension.
And, most recently,
4. It’s a post-apocalyptic city.

That last one came from a recent review by Scott Kinkade, which I won’t link to as it has lots of spoilers in it, but his theory is a good one, as theories go.

I’ve wondered whether to dispel these theories or just let people carry on, and I’ve finally decided to do the latter. What people get from the book is their own personal experience and I’m happy to have it that way.

But it points to something interesting in human nature, I think. The constant search for solid answers. None of the people who made these theories could just let Greaveburn be. It has to be something. Odd don’t you think? And worth bearing in mind when you write your own work.

Thanks for reading.


My fifteen minutes…

It’s been one of those weeks, faithful Blog-Readers. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s been a week full of interviews!

Thanks to Magda at the Bulletfilms blog, you can read one of them HERE. Telling you all about Not Before Bed, the upcoming release of Greaveburn and…oh yes, there’s an AND…little tidbits about my WIP and other random information that I’ve never put into interviews before.

But the interview, I’ve been REALLY excited about is my spot on my hometown’s local radio station, Sine FM. What I was expecting to be a quick “fifteen minutes of fame” turned into an hour long grilling about everything from where I was born to what my (estranged) father used to do for a living. Awkwaaaaard! Then, on to the principles of Flash Fiction and eventually back round to a brief mention of Not Before Bed. It was extremely fun, extremely nerve racking, and you can listen to the whole thing right here:

http://www.sinefm.com/a_z_of_shows/doncaster_is_great

Tip: Listen to part 1, and skip the first ten minutes 🙂

But before you listen, I’ll give you a little context to some of the things you’ll be hearing. I wasn’t the only person on the show, of course. In the small 10ftx6ft room, there were 9 people. That’s right. Here’s a run down of who else was there:

  1. Craig McCann – Local lad and Olympic level fencer.
  2. Steve – Mortage Broker
  3. Another guy who’s name I forget – Tasked with finding Louis Tomlinson (another local lad and one fifth of One Direction) and getting him to come on the show.
  4. Andrew Isaacs – The show’s presenter
  5. “Negative Nigel” – Andrew’s co-host and apparently a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
  6. And two “Private Investigators” who’s real names we weren’t allowed to use on the show.

A summary: A sword expert, a martial artist, two detectives, a solicitor (Andrew), a man who stalks Louis Tomlinson and a writer of Speculative Fiction. Does that sound like the set up for a Miss Marple adventure to anyone else? It was a bloody dangerous room to be in, I’ll tell you!

Now, this is where the pressure started 🙂 The “P.I.s” didn’t want to use their real names. And, since Andy thought that Writers have an inbuilt name-generator in their cerebral cortex, he gave me the task of coming up with a name for the female PI seconds before the show started. Asking her quickly what she was after, I got an unhelpful shrug and so I was heavily in the shit and expected to think of a name while balancing a ball on my head and riding a unicycle (or that’s how it felt). With nothing forthcoming from my nerve-paralysed brain, I went for the code-name Stiletto. I thought it was pretty funny. She, however, was not impressed hahaha. If you listen to the show, you’ll hear my explanation to the crowd of why I chose stiletto (double meaning, anyone?), and the awed silence afterward that I think proves that no one got it. Never mind 🙂

Anyways, since I’d already done my part, and Andrew had got me to mention my lovely partner, Laura, on the show as one of my prime supports to my publishing, it comes about that he chose her name to give to the female PI. So, if you listen to the podcast above, you’ll all understand the conotations of every time he calls her Laura Hall. Suffice to say, Laura herself (the real Laura) was highly amused that her name was used over and over again. She was pretty giddy about it when I got home and kept chuckling to herself.

It was a complete mind-f**k of an evening, and an absolute blast, too. I’m hoping I’ll get to do it all again when Greaveburn is ready to be released later this year. Who knows who I’ll end up int he roo with this time!?

Thanks for reading!


HUZZAH!

Hi everyone, and welcome to the blog post I never thought I’d write.

Those of you who’ve been reading my blogs for a while now (even since the beginning?) will know exactly how long I’ve waited for this moment. It’s been a year and a half of hard work, trawling through the literary agencies online and off, making my submissions fit their precise and often wildly different criteria. The hardest part, as always, has been the waiting. Then there’s the mountain of rejection slips, most very nice, that came without fail every time. That’s a whole lot of envelopes and whole lot of stamps. I think I’ve kept Royal Mail in business all by myself! 🙂

But the time has come. The time when I can make this announcement. Something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a teenager, and working towards with bleeding fingers for the last five years.

Milking it? Me? Oh, ok. I’ll get to the point.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, after much searching and sweating, Craig Hallam (slipping to third person for effect) has found himself a publisher!

 

Yeah, you heard right. My debut novel, Greaveburn, has been read, liked and accepted to the loving embrace of Inspired Quill publishing house! I’ve put off writing this post for almost a week now, mostly because I’ve been making little squee noises in the back of my throat and wandering around dazed since I got the email. But now I think it’s time to share my fantastic news!

As I’m sure you can all imagine (writers and readers alike) I’m over the moon. I’ve had to choke it back a little, letting Laura do most of the celebrating on my behalf, and letting my professional self take the reins. I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself.  I’m trying not to think about who will be the first person to buy it. Nor my first bad review or (hopefully) my first good one. No signings or promotions ahead of me. I’m definitely not imagining what the cover will look like…although I could draw you a picture if you like 😀

It’s hard to stay in the moment but I’m doing ok. I want to enjoy this little nibblet of a win but don’t want to throw it around until there’s nothing left to play with. There’s a lot of work to do from here on in. Thinking about the first round of edits, for example, is making little brown cakes in my undercrackers. But it’s also going to be fun. And the IQ team all seem fantastic, so far. My alloted editor, Pete Stewart, is a Steampunk fan so Greaveburn will hopefully go down well.

Mini-celebration time!

Anyway, I thought you should all know, being true believers and wonderful supports throughout my struggle. When it eventually hits the shelves, shiny and awesome and without a single spelling mistake (unlike these posts), be assured that you’re all invited to the party and, by God, there’ll be hangovers the next day!

 

Thanks for reading!


In the Zone.

*Feel free to play Dangerzone by Kenny Loggins as you read this post*

I feel juiced! I’m not sure why. I’ve just mashed out two assignments for my OU literature courses (Ingesting unhealthy amounts of info about John Webster’s Duchess of Malfi in the process). That left me pretty mentally exhausted. Then I’ve been on the good old night shifts which, during winter, means I don’t see daylight for five days. When I got up this afternoon, I clutched my hands to my face like Christopher Lee and hissed! I need Vitamin D!

Despite that, I feel good.

Submitting Greaveburn to Independent authors has thrown up some lovely (rejection) comments. More along the line of “good, but we’re not buying”. My shoulders have become so sloped with the weight of these flooding replies that they slide right off. No harm, no foul, thanks for your time. And so when I found (or was found) by Inspired Quill Publishing via my Twitter feed, I didn’t think anything of it. I reciprocate follows with quit a few publishing types, but not for any backdoor attempts to get noticed (which is good, because it wouldn’t work). But in my hour of need, when I tweeted for the assistance of my loverly (sp. intended) followers, for any indie publishing houses that might be looking for new authors, it was Inspired Quill who answered. Unlike most indie’s at the minute, they were open for submissions.

Why the hell not, thought I. So I did.

With only the first two chapters of Greaveburn (IQ’s sub policy) to make it stand out, I’ll admit I was worried. We all hope that the vital intro is awesome, and Greaveburn has just had a major overhaul, but would it be enough?

Apparently, yes.

Enough, at least, to warrant my first EVER callback. IQ liked the intro and wanted to read THE WHOLE THING!

Queue me dancing around the room making WHOOP WHOOP noises like a lunatic. Then the sobering thought…this would be the first time that anyone other than Laura (my very encouraging partner and earnest critic) had read the novel. Holy Schmoly! All my little characters were going to get the treeatment in the confines of a stranger’s head for the first time. How would they hold up? Professor Loosestrife could hold his own. In fact, I pity the poor reader who lets him loose in their cranium. But Abrasia, Darrant and Steadfast? Could they take it?

But, like all good cliffhangers, I’ll have to leave you dangling. It’s only been a few days since I sent the full manuscript and I’m not expecting a reply for quite some time yet. I imagine vetting a novel to be a much harder and time consuming process than we authors would like to think. But I have patience…oh yes…lots…Ok, not that much.

This minor step forward has also spurred me out of a little writer’s rut I’d got into. I’m back in the saddle after an extended absence and writing the Alan Shaw Adventures again. While on the night shift, I’ve finished the third adventure (the novel being a series of adventures spanning the eponymous character’s life) and really starting to enjoy it again. Let’s hope this spurt continues!

And so, now that I’ve kept you for far too long, I’ll leave you be. As soon as I hear something, so will you. In fact, you’ll probably the hear the sobs or cheers from wherever you are in the world. Keep your ears peeled. It comes on the wind!

As always, thanks for reading.