Am I an author yet?

What is the benchmark for when you can finally call yourself an author?

It seems that anyone can put on their profile information that they’re a writer or an author, and that most of these people spend a lot of time complaining about how little of their time their professed title takes up. I never had that problem. Anyone who has been following my progress through the murky world of authordom will see that I’ve only just started to change my profile from “aspiring author” to just “author”. And that was only because my Marketing Womble, Leah, told me to do so. Otherwise I would have happily left it as it was.

Why is that? Performance anxiety perhaps. If I’m an author now, then that comes with all kinds of connotations. I should be professional, knowledgeable, prolific. I quite often feel like none of those things all at once. There’s still so much to learn, so much to do, so many more novels to write and characters to nurture, and I never seem to have all the time I’d like to fire off a few chapters or do all the little projects that I want to take on. But it has struck me lately that perhaps that’s what being an author is all about. The constant striving to be better. If that’s what being an author is, then I’m certainly striving my way forward.

I’m not saying that there’s a list of things that you must do to be an author/writer. Except perhaps one: write! But as I look back over the last few years I start to put together a few pieces of evidence that my low self esteem needs in order to prove that I’m becoming the author that I want to be.

I’ve had a book published (kind of an obvious one, I know), had several great signings, I’ve done workshops and talks in colleges and with writing groups, I’ve helped others to edit their own work, I’ve tried to impart a little knowledge on this blog to other aspiring authors, and I now have my second novel finished and submitted to my publisher (Inspired Quill) for the first round of edits. I’ve also helped to put together the literary area of next weekend’s Steampunk Doncaster convention, which was a great honour.

In short, I’ve been very fortunate and very lucky. That’s certainly how I feel.

But am i really an author yet? I suppose I may never feel like one, because I don’t know anyone who can describe to me what it feels like. Maybe I’m already there. Maybe I’m a mile away. Maybe I should stop asking stupid questions and just get on with the writing. But it took writing this blog post to realize that last option even existed. And so, with that in mind, I’m going to throw on my goggles, and enjoy the Steampunk Doncaster festival next week. Then I’m going to work on my comic book script, short film screenplays and other little projects while I wait for the novel to come back from the Editor. Then I’ll edit it…then it’ll be published and the whole signing/marketing awesomeness will start again. Then…who knows?

I think I’m trying too hard and not enjoying it enough. It’s time to have some fun. And perhaps bu myself a “Do not feed the Author” t-shirt.

What do you guys think is the point when you become an author?

 

Thanks for reading

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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!

The Editor Cometh…

Well, it’s finally that time I’ve been waiting for since November. The stars are aligned. In the dark treeline, the black mass is on the lips of the hooded monks. And on the central dais, hog tied and with fear in her eyes, is the sacrifice. We are about to invoke the spirit of The Editor…

Om Nam Shiva...Om Nam Shiva....

Luckily for me, my Inspired Quill editor, Peter Stewart, doesn’t really need any of this. So, I send the monks back to their day jobs as civil servants, cut the sacrifice free and give her a tin foil blanket before making sure she’s home before 10 pm. The sacrificial athame goes back in the kitchen drawer with the spoons and pizza cutter.

The point of this elaborate introducion is this…

The edits for Greaveburn are finally back!

Air guitar celebration!

The last few months have been a steady stream of flop sweats and half-believed self assurances as my mind flits between ‘they’re going to tear my book apart and salvage its parts for the black market’ and ‘it’ll be fine, they like it enough to edit it, so they won’t be too cruel’. The former has definitely been winning in terms of brain space. In fact, when my inbox pinged, I froze. Do I really want to read this? Can I take the beating if the result is a complete rewrite/cutting of beloved characters/stylistic overhaul? The answer, as I’m sure you’ll guess, was ‘we’re about to find out’.

Email open, file downloaded, hovering of finger over OPEN.

Like some rabbid lipstick merchant had taken slashing across the pages, there was red text. EVERYWHERE. My heart sank. But I decided to read the actual words before checking the tensile strength of the light fittings for noose-application. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Hell, the comments are GOOD! Useful! I find myself nodding, whisking through the pages focussing on just the comments rather than overthinking what I’ll do about them. They all make perfect sense. Little things I’ve missed with grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, all easily fixed with Peter’s expert suggestions. A few little vocab comments where words could be changed for better effect.

And all of a sudden, I was at the end.

The Doors would be proud.

What the hell had I been worried about? This guy knows what he’s doing. I didn’t find a damned thing that I disagreed with or anything I couldn’t easily fix. There were just as many positive comments as negative (although none were really negative, more like necessary highlights). It may have been preying on my mind for the last few months, being the first and last things I think about on a day to day basis, but it’s all come out ok. To be honest, as I read through the suggestions and comments and tweaks, I realise that with Peter’s help, this novel has the potential to go somewhere!

I’ve always been told (as have you, for that matter, fellow Writer) that Editors are essential. They know their shit, if you’ll excuse the French. You should take their comments seriously and take them without offence or that horrible knee-jerk reaction that makes us scream “WHAT DO YOU KNOW!?” and stomp off to sulk. But you don’t really believe it until you’re on the receiving end of a bloody good Editor.

The point of this blog, dear friends, as well as to throw on the net whatever oddments cross my mind, is to teach. Looking back over previous posts, you’ll see all the mistakes I’ve made. All the assumptions and diversions that have led me not only down the wrong path but into the soul-sucking quicksands of Indie Writer Hell. And I want you to make these experiences your own. Learn from what I’ve done wrong and don’t bloody do it yourself (using Createspace if you’re not from America, for example. Waste of time and money, folks). But sometimes, just sometimes, I get to tell you about something I’ve done RIGHT. Not very often, mind. But here’s one of those times. Submitting my work for a proper read-through and commenting may just be the scariest and best damn thing I’ve ever done. INDISPENSIBLE is the word I’m looking for.

And now the hard work really starts. The revision stage. I’ve never hit this part before. Taking someone else’s thoughts on my work and moulding them not only as they suggest, but keeping with my own style and intention toward the novel. This is going to be a lot like a collaboration. I’m out of my depth again, folks. But I’m actually looking forward to it! Stay tuned for how well/badly this next bit goes 🙂 And when all’s said and done, this has made me realise something which, at the back of my mind, I’ve still doubted; that Greaveburn is going to be a reality. These edits are going to sharpen it up, make it really rock, make it a book that YOU might read soemtime soon. With discussions on potential cover art going on (more on that in a later post), things are rattling along at an alarming rate. Sometime this year, my book, my words, my characters and plot twists and dark descriptions are going to hit the public. It’s fantastic, and I’m suddenly petrified all over again, with a big old grin on my face 😀

 

Thanks for reading.

Steampunked!

As you can see, my little blog has had a make-over. I’ve retro-fitted the whole thing with a slightly Steampunky edge in a homage to the recent acceptance of Greaveburn to Inspired Quill (IQ) publishing. In the true Steampunk tradition, I’ll no doubt be tinkering away at it for quite some time but the rivets and stanchions are there for now.

Speaking of Steampunk and Greaveburn, I’ve recently bought tickets to the Asylum Weekend Convention 2012 in Lincoln’s historic city. A whole weekend of ‘punkery with loads of great exhibitions, entertainments and of course the fabled Bazaar Eclectica where ‘punks fence their wares. I’ve been in touch with Tinker, the convention’s organiser, and he’s been kind enough to offer me a spot in the exhibition area. So there’ll be me (in my neo-victorian gear, by Jove!) and copies of Greaveburn for sale and even signing if you’re that way inclined.

But there’s more…the enthusiastic and very helpful Tinker has also offered me a spot on a panel, potentially alongside the likes of Robert Rankin, Toby Frost, Sam Stone and others! Of course, I accepted, but I’m PETRIFIFED.

It strikes me that the good thing about going nowhere with my writing is that I always know what to do. All of a sudden I’m very far from home with no map and the nagging sensation that I’m going to make an ass out of myself! Still…I’m excited enough that I’ve completely forgone sleep since signing to IQ.

 

In other news…I’ve re-released Not Before Bed in print (only from the american Amazon, I’m afraid) but it’s also now available for your Kindle (all over the globe). I know, the sensibility isn’t very Steampunk but than again neither is Not Before Bed. I think those short stories deserved one last flourish of attention before I pass it into the hands of fate entirely. While my Horror writing has served me well with some great publications that I’m very proud of  and practice with submissions etc. I think I’ve moved on, now. Not Before Bed was an earlier me, one who was still finding his feet. Greaveburn is the next step in the journey, not away from those much-loved old stories and everything they taught me, but moving a little down the road to where there are whole new set of things to learn.

And I can’t wait to start!

 

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.

Author Interview: D.H. Nevins

Hello and welcome once again to Pseudo-writer for the lastest author spotlight. This time we’re talking to D.H. Nevins, author of Wormwood. For those with a penchant for post-apocalyptic and religious fantasy novels, this one will be for

This is your next read. Guaranteed!

you! Here’s the blurb:

This post-apocalyptic tale, set across earth’s freshly devastated landscape, follows the intertwined paths of a half-angel, tormented by the necessity of completing tasks he has no choice but to follow, and the book’s heroine, Kali, who must trust her greatest enemy in order to survive.
What people say about it:
“Wow, I actually thought I was out of breath. Very well done…an excellent read”

“Wormwood is a must read! D.H. Nevins has created
something special, a fascinating read by a fantastic new writer.”
D.H. Nevins is one of those people who seems to have a whole lot of cool crammed into one place (the kind I hate ;D). As well as writing speculative fiction, she also has a bug for acting and spends her spare time (how she has any, I’ll never know) treading the boards. On top of that, she’s a self confessed thrill junkie and perfectionist, which is a great combo. You don’t want anyone but a perfectionist packing your parachute! And as if that weren’t enough, she’s a biker. That’s it, I can’t possibly describe any more coolness in one place. In fact, the jealousy is starting to well up in my fingers and cause cramps. So, without any further ado, let’s talk to her:

"Say, that's a nice bike" (Terminator 2 reference, anyone?)
Me – Hi D.H.. Thanks for gracing my blog with your literary presence! So that everyone can get to know you a little, why not give us a little history of your writing journey? When did you set your first pen to paper and what inspired those first words?

D.H. – Thanks so much for inviting me, Craig!  I’ve always enjoyed writing (I remember lying on my stomach under my picnic table when I was 8 years old writing a terrible little adventure about ‘Kelly the Dolphin’) and I’ve been a daydreamer with an overactive imagination for as long as I can remember.  But obviously, I’m also a little slow at connecting the dots because it took me quite a long time to finally combine those elements and write my first novel.  Then one day, it just kind of happened.  A few years ago, I simply sat down and started writing notes about angels and the end of the world.  The notes quickly became lengthier and more detailed—and before I knew it, I had plotted out my first novel.  Once I had fully formed ideas and characters, the words for the book simply flowed—I wouldn’t have been able to contain them even if I wanted to. 

Me – Kelly the Dolphin sounds like it has some potential as your next project 😉 I really enjoyed reading the first five chapters of your novel, Wormwood, on your blog. It really throws the reader in at the deep end with a great introductory scene. Did you do a lot of research for the apocalyptic theme? You certainly have some fantastic imagery.

D.H. – I’m so pleased that you feel that way about Wormwoods opening chapter, Craig.  Thank you!  You know, it’s funny.  I did spend a fair bit of time doing research for this book, mostly examining apocalyptic themes across a variety of religions, from Christianity to Hindu to ancient Babylonian stories.  But when it came down to describing the apocalypse itself, I relied almost entirely on my own imagination.  In fact, I could see that entire scene as clear as anything in my mind’s eye.  The difficult part was putting it down accurately in written form.  I really want my readers to be able to clearly visualize that scene and feel like they’re actually there, running for their lives.

Me – You nailed it! So, what are your plans for Wormwood now? Did you find the decision between traditional and e-publishing difficult?

D.H. – Wormwoodwill finally be published through Black Wraith Books (my own imprint) a little later on this month… I estimate the release date to be September 26th.  And yes, I did find the decision between going the traditional route and self-publishing to be a difficult one.  It would take far too long to go into the details about it now, but as a rendered version, I really felt that publishing it myself would be best for Wormwood overall.  Yes, I’m limiting scope and publicity, but not only do I now keep the rights to the book, I’m also ensuring that the cover is exactly how I want it, I can keep the title and maintain the story in exactly the way I want it to be told.  When it came down to it, I knew that the story itself and the characters within it were more important to me than how many books I sold.  I won’t deny that it was a tough choice, but it’s a decision that I feel good about.

Me – I had the same dilemma, and I think many indie authors out there can relate too. So what’s next for D.H. Nevins, the writer?

D.H. – I’m currently plotting out lots of ideas for a sequel to Wormwood.  The problem is that I have so many ideas, I keep changing my mind!  Also, my characters have become so real to me, I almost feel pressured to continue telling their stories.  Kali, for example, really exploded as a kick-ass character, and I’m anxious to continue on with her.  Additionally, Wormwoodoriginally had a prologue where we see Tiamat’s unusual birth.  I ended up loving that scene so much, I completely cut the prologue from the book and set it aside.  This is now the bones of a prequel to Wormwood, which will follow a young Tiamat through a very trying and bizarre childhood. I’m thinking of calling it Monster.  But this project is kind of simmering on a backburner, because the sequel has to come first.


Me – Sounds like we could be hearing about the Wormwood Trilogy soon enough! If you could resurrect any author for your End of Days celebration, who would you dig up? 

D.H. – I’d dig up both William Shakespeare andDr. Seuss.  Then, I would start an argument between the two of them… you know, just for fun.  They would probably have the coolest soundingargument ever!

Me – Thanks for dropping by, D.H., it’s been great talking to you. I look forward to reading more of your work.

D.H. – My pleasure, Craig.  It’s been an honour.

Wormwood is now available from the following places:
Amazon
You can contact D.H. Nevins all over the web here:

Website: http://www.dhnevins.com

Blog: http://www.dhnevins.com/dh-nevins-blog.html