Patreon: My Experience

Hi everyone,

I’ve officially been on Patreon for two weeks now! How’s it going? Is it worth it? Is it complicated to use?

In short…brill, yes, no.

But what’s it all about? For those of you who are Patreon-curious, the idea is very simple. In days of yore artistic types such as authors, poets, painters and musicians would have patrons who would help them to afford to live while they created their works of art. Patreon does the same thing, allowing people who want to support the arts or creation of something new to choose a person or project that they like and help to fund it.

starvingwriter
“Starving Author” a self portrait by Craig Hallam

How is that different from Kickstarter, I hear you cry? Well, on Patreon you’re choosing a person that you believe in. You’re not taking one project, making it happen, then getting something at the end of it, you’re helping a person to reach their ongoing goals and receiving ongoing rewards as a thank you. An artists can have a monthly amount that they need to reach in order to be able to create full-time, or perhaps like myself they need help with the travel costs to attend events and book signings across the country. To me, that travel is absolutely essential to expanding and maintaining my readership. Also, instead of a one-off payoff like Kickstarter, patrons receive brand-new work from their favourite creators every month, often well before anyone else.

So, how hard is it to set up? Ridiculously easy. Within an hour or so I had my page ready to go. The system that they have in place is so easy to navigate through and the Patreon team have taken great pains to make sure that easy-to-read information is available on everything that you might be trying to do. The whole site is written with a chilled vibe and friendly atmosphere.

Two things to be aware of! You will need to submit your page for approval (to make sure that you’re not being sketchy) before it goes live. However, it took mine about two hours to come back so hardly a long wait. Secondly, you’ll need to fill out some kind of tax form. However, before you start to panic as I did, the forms are right there on the site, all clickable boxes, and Patreon has added super easy guidance so that you know what to put in each box. They then sort your tax FOR YOU. So anything that ends up in your bank account at the end of the month is yours and yours alone. No messing. How awesome is that?

Basically, I’m very happy with it so far. I think that this is exactly what struggling artistic types like me really need to be able to make beautiful things to share with you. I only have six patrons at the minute but I’m already half way to being able to afford the costs for one event table a month. That’s amazing! I really can’t express how lucky I feel to have such lovely people supporting me. And the real beauty of being a patron are the tiers. You can decide to be a patron for as much or as little a month as you like, and not only do you get the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping out your favourite artist (because every penny counts and is much appreciated) but you get to see some great new work, too.

My patrons are getting some really fun new material. Patreon is giving me an opportunity to share poetry, short stories and experiences that are just a bit different, a bit more vital or expressive or avant-garde that might struggle to get published elsewhere but I get to share it with you all, anyway. So far, patrons are getting access to:

  • Brand new spooky poetry for a collection called “Rhyme beyond Reason”
  • Also new poetry based on the Down Days novella about my experiences of living with anxiety and depression. This will be collected and printed, too.
  • A serialised novella, Oshibana Complex, which is a hopeful, philosophical, dystopian cyberpunk story featuring non-binary characters, all about the final evolution of humanity (whatever that may be…)
  • New and exclusive Alan Shaw stories just for patrons!

I’m also looking forward to meeting goals which will allow me to print the collections mentioned above and pay an artist as they should be to draw my Steampunk comic book, Aethertide. I’m eager for you to all meet Olivia and Raisa as they leap between dimensions.

All of these things are possible with Patreon and it’s a very exciting time. Because these are things that, once in print, I can not only take to the book signings, but also send to patrons before anyone else gets to see them.

What Patreon builds is a loving, interactive and supportive relationship between creator and patron. It really does give me the warm and fuzzy feelings.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on with me for the last two weeks. If Patreon sounds like something that you might be interested in either starting or joining, here’s the link:

http://www.patreon.com/craighallam

If you would consider sharing the link around, I would really appreciate it. You’ll be helping me to build my career, creating wild new pieces of writing and maybe even eat at the same time 😀

 

As always, thanks for reading, folks.

To the future!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a little quiet for a few weeks hasn’t it? Sorry about that. I’m afraid the constant juggle between life and work has had me clinging to the underbelly of a runaway ostrich and blogging has been left behind in the dust cloud.

I have a few updates, however. I’ll be updating the Tour Dates page shortly with events that I’m booking for next year as they’re coming in thick and fast. The likes of Scarborough Sci-Fi Con and Worldcon in Dublin are a dead-cert with UK Indie Lit Fest and Steampunk Asylum in the works, too.

I can now confirm that Oshibana Complex, my non-gender specific cyberpunk novella, will be worked on by Inspired Quill around November next year. That means we’ll all have to wait a while for another book from me, but I promise it’ll be worth it.

In other news, I’m thinking about starting a Patreon. My main objective will be to help pay for table, travel and accommodation costs for future book signings as this year has been a tough one and I’ve had to say no more times than yes to event invites. That’s obviously not good for an author trying to get more readers and spread their work around. In terms of rewards, I’m thinking of offering monthly author tips, poetry and chapters of novellas that no one has ever seen, maybe even mixing in new Alan Shaw adventures that never made the books. What do you guys think? Do you have any other suggestions of things you’d like to see there? What would entice you? I’d appreciate any feedback and ideas that you all have to offer.

What else?

Ah, for those of you who are followers of Alan Shaw’s adventures, there is some good news. Firstly, the third and final book of the trilogy is going well. I’ve not had a lot of time lately but I keep picking at it and hopefully it’ll be ready for you sometime soon.

Secondly, a new Alan Shaw short story is being published in a sci-fi anthology (name to be confirmed) that will fill the gap between Alan Shaw and the Lovelace Code and Alan Shaw and the Wretched Revenge from Old Haunts (Alan Shaw book 2). For those of you who have been asking about how Alan got to Chicago in Wretched Revenge, this story will answer your questions.

I’ve been asked many times about what happens between the stories in the Alan Shaw books. Some people see the little leaps in time as tantalising questions to be answered. As I always tell people, there aren’t any gaps, only other adventures that didn’t make it into the books. Lots of them. In the coming months/years, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to share more of Alan’s stories with you.

Anyway, with that revelation hanging in the aether, I bid you all farewell. Until next time, my friends.

Embrace the Weird!

 

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

 

What is Speculative Fiction?

I got asked this over Twitter the other day, and until then I’d assumed everyone knew. Then again, it’s a term that I’ve only recently started using myself. As far as I’m concerned, it’s everything good and dear in the world of fiction. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and all their little genrelings like Steampunk, gothic, dystopian etc.

But it’s more than a genre classification to me. Spec-fic is freedom.

I don’t talk about my writing on a day to day basis. Friends and family know I write, many of them have read something I’ve written. But until they hear the high-pitched squealing that comes with an acceptance, they never hear of it again. My girlfriend is a sod for dropping me in it with perfect strangers.

Stranger: “So what do you do, Craig?”

Me: “I’m a Nurse” (although I usually change this for professional polo player or dumpster technician so people don’t show me their uncomfortable rashes)

Laura: “He writes too, you know! Tell them about your writing!”

I’d rather see the rash. Anyway, this leads to me muttering something and Laura swiftly taking over to express that I’m the next Coetzee/Gaiman/Tolkein. And just as I’m starting to edge away in search of another beer, the fateful question arrives:

“What is it that you write?”

Words, is the snide answer. Heiroglyphics is good in certain crowds. But eventually, I have to say the words Sci-fi, Fantasy or Horror. At which point the stranger looks at me like I’m the one with the rash. But Spec-Fic gets me out of this. Because it sounds brilliant. Because it sounds complicated. And there’s one thing strangers hate, it’s showing that they don’t know something. So I drop Speculative Fiction into the conversation, explain that it involves any form of fiction which uses speculative elements as metaphors to mirror and discuss current moral, social and religious philosophies in a metaphorical way.

Then Laura gives me the stink-eye because she knows what I’m doing, and the stranger’s glazed look frees me to go find the fridge.

Perfect!

Although this is my selfish point of view, I think you get where I’m going. Spec-Fic genres are frownded towards, scoffed at and generally shit on by anyone who thinks they know something about literature. It’s a horrible fact, but it’s true. The same people who quote Crime and Punishment as their favourite book, or continuously lift the likes of Middlemarch into the top books of all time. Pompous idiots, basically. But Spec-Fic takes back a little ground. It reminds people that there is more to fiction, that often the extremities of the imagination are what makes a book most potent. Look at Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Yes, it’s about a guy who hunts androids and owns the eponymous sheep. But it’s much more about maintaining a sense of reality and self in a world which is putting more emphasis on the manufactured and the generic. Go further, and it’s about social stratification by means of material possessions. The first you see in every celeb mag and newspaper in print. The latter you’ve seen friends, family and even yourself suffer from. So, when you put it that way, are the androids really such an important part of the book’s identity?

My fingers, they run away with me! (what a horrific image)

What this post is about (if there’s a meaning at all) is that Spec-Fic makes writing  our favourite genres ok. It’s like coming out of the proverbial closet. It makes it alright to talk about it in public. You’re a writer. Your main character is a mutant elf from another dimension. But the story is about stupidity of xenophobia and the right have to interracial relationships, and that’s the important part. Just like another other ‘proper’ writer.

And so we return to our original question like a politician that has rambled on for an hour without saying anything of worth so that everyone falls asleep and misses the final statement:

What is Spec-Fic? It’s a bloody blessing.

 

Thanks for reading.