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.

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.