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.

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Not Before Bed…the return

Oh yes, it has been a long time in the making but it’s finally here. The short story collection which I put together and self published before Greaveburn was accepted by Inspired Quill has finally come home. IQ have graciously accepted to reprint the old warhorse of nightmaresthat is Not Before Bed. With new editing, amazing new cover and even some re-hashings and new endings for some of my old work, the beast is definitely back.

The inimitable Charley Hall has produced a creepy cover, and there is even an internal illustration inspired by NBB by Chloe Lisa. It looks pretty great, I have to admit. I’m very chuffed with it. Check out the Tour Deets page for where me and the new books (The Adventures of Alan Shaw is still doing the preliminary rounds), or follow my Facebook page to stay up to date.

Other than that, feast your eyes on this juicy cover art and await the release date on 15.12.14 (Just in time to darken your Christmas, Horror-fans).

NBB ebook cover

 

Thanks for reading!

Listen to “Lovecraft”

Hi everyone. This is a first for me, the blog and the world at large. This is my attempt to go all multimedia on you and so I hope it works. As some of you may know if you saw the Midweek Announcement post earlier this week, I have had the very unexpected honour of having one of my short stories from Not Before Bed read out on my local Doncaster radio station Sine FM. The Book It show have been good to me of late. Not only will they be airing an interview with myself about the release of Greaveburn on their next show, but they jumped in early to ask me if I minded them reading one of my short stories out on air. Of course, I snatched their proverbial hand off. Of course I didn’t mind! Now, I think you should hit the earlier link to listen to the whole show. Sheila North, who does most of it, has a lovely American accent with a very calming influence. But, for the sake of the blog I’ve cut to the juicy bit and just edited the story for the file below. Have a listen if you have a few minutes to kill.

(EDIT: The link has now been fixed!)

Click the pic to listen in!

Research is your friend

It strikes me that I don’t talk about my writing process very much and, contrary to popular belief, I do have one. While I do most of my plotting in my head, only setting it down in notes when it’s exceptionally vivid to me, the rest of the idea-to-page process is pretty normal. One of the things I think are incredibly important, possibly beyond all others and especially for writers of Speculative Fiction in all its glorious forms, is research.

If you’re going to make your story/novel/flash fiction/novella as realistic as it can be (and by realistic, I mean believable despite the wierdness) then research is where it’s at. As an example let’s use my current WIP, The Adventures of Alan Shaw. This is a very different beast to Greaveburn. Alan Shaw is an Alternate History/Steampunk novel based in the very real Victorian era of England, albeit with some technological flights of fancy. But in order to make my Neo-Victorian elements work, I had to understand what the victorian era was really like. If I had a motto, it’d be:

Learn the rules before you break them.

And so I do research. A lot. Of course, the internet is your friend. There are sites or wikis on every subject known to humankind somewhere in the unending virtual vaults. But call me old fashioned, I still like my books now and again.

Here's what I used for Alan Shaw so far.

As you can see, there’s quite a mix in there. Let’s break down what I think is important about researchas the groundwork for your writing:

1. Know your genre

When writing Greavburn, I had no idea that I was actually working on a Steampunk novel. I was aware of the Gothic literature sub-genre and loved its aesthetic. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake is one of my favourite books, and that was the kind of grand darkness I wanted to instill in Greaveburn. But Steampunk wasn’t even on my radar. And so, when I discovered that it existed, and that Greaveburn fit the bill, I panicked. What if someone had already done what I had? How restrictive to Greaveburn’s reception would that be?

I learnt my lesson for working on Alan Shaw. I’ve read James Blaylock’s Homunculus, J.W. Jeter’s Infenal Devices and pretty much memorised The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer and co. And now I can confidently say that I know what to do and what not to do, what’s old hat and what’s relatively new (hey, that rhymes. I should write that down). Knowing your genre makes sure that you hit your demographic while avoiding any “it’s all been done” style comments.

2. Go simple

Finding reference books that are quick to read, while still being representative of the subject you’re researching, can be a real struggle. People love to bash on about their expert subject to the point of mind-numbing boredom. But you dont need a huge tome, reaching 3000 pages across four volumes about Victorian London by Lord Cyril Fanthorpe the 3rd esp. to know your stuff. In order to make your story realistic, all you need are the little touches. Those little details make the difference between just some woman in a dress and a young governess wearing a crinoline pinofore. You never have to mention it again, but that’s the kind of period detail that shows you’ve put the effort in.

But as I was saying, there’s an easy way to find those things out. Go for children’s books. They’re brilliant! They have pictures to help get the right feel in your prose, they hit only the important topics and give you great overview of any subject. The Eyewitness series is brilliant for historical stuff, if you’re interested in that stuff.

3. Get your facts right

If you’re writing about a certain place, be it a city or town or foreign country, get your facts right. Never forget that your readers know their stuff. Don’t think you can flim-flam them with sweeping references to places. With Alan Shaw, I have to evoke an image of Victorian London that rings true to someone who’s never been to London and someone who walks its streets every day. Google Maps can take you anywhere you need to go, and even tell you the quickest way for your character to walk/drive around their environment. You dont have to give an itemised list of corners turned between your Detective’s home and the mortuary, but it helps if you know how long it would take and what’s in between so you can describe it if need be.

While Google Maps is great for the present day, historical settings pose a little more of a problem. And so I got myself some maps:

Victorian London, imprisoned in plastic.

They came in four pieces, originally, but with a little industrious folding and one of those frameless plastic frames (contradictory, I know) I now have an easily accessible map of Victorian London. What’s better than that, with the plastic covering, if you get some dry-wipe markers, you can plot routes, circle areas or points of interest to your heart’s content without ruining the source material for later use! (This is an Art Attack!)

My doodles marking Covent Garden Market, and routes for Alan to take around London.
 4. The Counter-argument

 

Just remember: There’s another side to research. Don’t get too bogged down with it. Learn what you need and move on. It’s a tool to help you write, it’s not words on the page.

Well, folks, that’s it for now. I hope this post has been as useful to you as my researching endeavours have been to me. If you have any researching tips of your own, then feel free to share. I’m always looking for new ways to do what we do.

 

Thanks for reading!

Book Trailers

As the Indie Publishing Steamroller really gathers speed, we’ve started to see developments in the way books are advertsied. If they’re ever going to compete with movies or tv, for example, they’re going to need proper adverts that move and not just static images in a newspaper or on a website. And that’s where book trailers come in.

This phenomenon is turning into a real franchise with plenty of companies springing up in people’s garages who are willing to produce one for you. Let’s look at a few good ones while we’re here, eh?

Here’s one for LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfield which uses the illustrations in his book for an epic effect:

 

Or what about this one for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters,which still gets me howling with laughter:

These two were the exception to the rule with an excellent budget and proper backing, however, for the rest of us, there are some that are simple but effective:

And so the question is, do these things really work? Well, based purely on the amount of hits on Youtube, I’d say yes. We have to bear in mind that the forst two trailers were exceptional and/or very funny which increases the hit-rate. But if you can make yours intriguing enough, or funny or scary or anything else that people want to see (smexy?) then yes, the trailers work.

Now, as I’ve said for those of us with no budget at all such as myself, there’s ALWAYS  a cheap option, and it’s very easy to make your own trailer. This is where I go all Blue Peter on you and tell you to go scrounge some empty toilet rolls, sticky backed plastic, ols washing-up liquid bottles and PVA glue…so go ahead, I’ll wait…

…got it? Good, now throw it away, what do you think this is, the 80’s?

Most of you out there with your brainstem jacked directly into the internet will have free software on your computer such as Windows Movie Maker which will allow you to make your own trailer. Most of you will have a mobile phone which can take video or photographs. And most of you have fingers with which to operate the aforementioned gadgets. Do I have to spell it out for you? Get out there and start taking some pics/videos/voice recordings. Get them on your computer and have a play around. It can take days, hours or minutes, as much or as little as you like, to create your own book trailer. And, just to prove it, I’ve made one of my own to show exactly how terrible the results can be.

I’ve cheated a bit here. I googled a lot of images to make sure they were appropriately creepy. I also downloaded the free sound file for the backing track. The movie maker “skills” are my own, of course. But I think you’ll get the idea of what I’m going for. And so, in celebration of me moving on from my old project, and with my next novel in sight, I’ve created a commemorative trailer for Not Before Bed before I finally stop bashing on about it. Here it is. Don’t have nightmares (yeah, right).

Due to technical issues, I’m afraid you’ll have to watch it here.

…Ok, don’t judge me.

Thanks for reading.

Not Before Bed update!

Thanks to the very kind H. Conrad Miller, Not Before Bed has had another great review! Take a look:

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great collection of horror short stories ranging from Lovecraftian to werewolves to that thing that goes bump under your bed. Each story is finely crafted by Craig Hallam in an enjoyable and easy to read way while still having each story have it’s own voice and feel. I think that is one of the most remarkable things about this collection. While it is easy to see how all of the stories came from one author, each story was told with a voice all it’s own that was perfect for that specific sub-genre of horror.

Craig out did himself with his variety of stories. The dark sci-fi in Mandy in the Jar-O have an alien abductee’s horrific realization that her wildest dreams of being wanted are not so wonderful. The Lovercraftian tale of Albert that has little dialogue but such gripping description that every pool of water larger than the size of a drop suspect from harboring tentacled elder gods. These stories have the ability to catch and hold a reader’s attention. After every story I was left asking “When can I read a full story about this?”

I highly recommend this to anyone who loves horror. But I especially recommend it to anyone who wants to look into horror for the first time. It will give you a great primer for the genre and help you find a niche inside of it you will like.

 

Good job Craig
Cheers!

Well, I could hardly have asked for a better review than that! Let’s hope that it hitting Goodreads and the web in general gives Not Before Bed another little jolt of downloads. I think this is probably the appropriate time for me to give you some updates on the collection itself, too.

Since moving the collection from Smashwords to Kindle Direct Publishing, I’ve forced myself to NOT constantly check how many downloads I’ve been getting every month. And, because of that, I actually forgot to check altogether. Until today. And so, I can now inform you all that in the last year Not Before Bed, Amazon and Smashwords combined, has had a staggering…

13,426 downloads!

I have no idea how this happened, but July last year showed a massive surge which then frittered out to just a few a month. And since I’ve only been looking at the last few months, I almost missed the huge 12,000ish downloads from middle of last year.

While it may be like this...

 

...it feels more like this.
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think this causes for a huge thank you to everyone, whether they’re reading this or not, who has taken the time to download Not Before Bed. I never thought my shoddy little short story collection would be such a (relative) hit. I have no idea WHY this happened, but I’m not going to argue. If I can get but a portion of those downloads for Greaveburn, I’ll be a very happy camper. Special thanks, of course, go to those who went the extra mile to review it, too; you’ve all been extremely supportive and helpful in your feedback.

And with that, I think it’s time to put Not Before Bed to….well, to bed. It’ll still be out there to download for all those people who still manage to stumble onto it. But for me, it’s been a great experience that’s over now. I’m going home to concentrate on the next project. From here on in, it’s all about Greaveburn’s release later this year. And so, I’d like to bid a final thank you to everyone who made Not Before Bed a huge personal success. Stick around, there’s more writing to come!

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!