An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

Posts tagged “writer

Back in the saddle

This is about as Romantic as my work normally gets.

With one thing and another, editing Greaveburn and working on my Open University assignments, I’ve not had much time to write lately. The problem, of course, is that my current WIP isn’t going to write itself either. I think there might have been an issue around my character development that I haven’t been confident enough to tackle just yet. My main character (Alan Shaw, see the WIP page for more) has to fall in love with another character; enough to get hurt later. Now, for regular viewers of this particular blog channel, you’ll know that romance isn’t exactly my forte. Creepy beasties from the netherworld, fine. Falling hopelessly in love, not so good.

This is about as Romantic as my work normally gets.

And so I’ve been putting it off, telling myself that I need to think about it more. That I don’t understand how to write simple romance, never mind the complicated love/hate divide necessary for this part of the plot to really work. What’s an author’s favourite word? Procrastinate! So the assignments and Greaveburn work has been a happy distraction. Until last week.

Finding that I hadn’t taken my alloted amount of holidays this year, and that I have to take them by April or lose them, I ended up with Monday through Thursday off last week. Laura was at work all day. I had just finished the latest round of assignments and no more are due for a couple of weeks. Basically, I was in the perfect position to get some serious writing done. All I could think was “shit, I’m going to have to write that romance section”.

So, I set my jaw, opened my notebooks to the copious amount of research and plotting I’d done over the last couple of months when nothing else was forthcoming, and started to type…

And, as always, I was proved wrong by my own lack of confidence.

My fingers couldn’t type fast enough. The images were coming thick and fast, the dialogue made sense. What my main character found compelling about his love interest was the very thing she hated in him, but they have so much in common despite wildly different cultural and social backgrounds. Where was this stuff coming from!?

Suffice to say, by the end of the four days, I hadn’t exactly broken any word count records, but a good chunk of work had been produced. And, when I read it back, it was actually ok! I’ll leave the final decision as to whether it works to you lovely readers when The Adventures of Alan Shaw (working title) is released eventually finished. But for now, I’m happy with it.

The next step…ripping out my main character’s heart. Now that I can do!

Thanks for reading.


Haiku

haikuFuji

That’s right, kids, I don’t just write short stories. And, to be honest, I avoid poetry like the plague. But Haiku are nice little snippets that I can get really engrossed in. Sorting them into syllables is like a little creative writing brain-teaser. A  crossword for authors, if you like. And so I can’t get enough of them! Now, I know that traditionally, haiku are supposed to reference a season at some point, and theyre supposed to follow the 5/7/5 syllable rule, but some of these don’t. What can I say, I’m a callous, literary rebel. But anyway, have a look. I hope you enjoy them.

Meteor Shower 
Sparks shed a trail.
Atmospheric Grinder.
Wormwood coming home.
 
 
The Beautician
Above a crest of
plastic breasts and Matalan tan,
not much goes on.
 
 
Guitar
Poor dusty Fender,
Missing a string, out of tune.
I’ll pick you up soon.
 
 
Made-up words
If there is one thing
I absitivley hate,
it’s comboined words.
 
 
Woman on the train
New haircut, old face.
New bagm new shoes, new coat.
Same old face.
 
 
View from a frosted window
Trees expose themselves,
despite Winter’s bitter bite.
Rough, naked skins.
 

That’s enough for now, I reckon. Hope you enjoyed them.

Thanks for reading.


My Writing Timeline

Hi everyone,

With things really starting to spark off with Greaveburn and my next novel underway, I’ve been thinking about how long it’s taken to get here. It’s been a long process with lots of hard work and plenty of setbacks. There’ve been things to jump over, scuttle underneath and generally steamroll through at times, but in the end, I think it’s turned out pretty well. Some of the scars are even starting to heal. But my nostalgia took me back to a simpler time when I first put pen to paper with a vivid image in my head and a character with a story to tell; way back when I was still in school with a haircut like a pineappale and NHS glasses (I’ll show you a photo one day if you’re good). And, since I was bored, I broke out my Photoshop (you know how much I love it), and thought I’d share with you the result. And so here it is, a history of Me, a timeline of how I went from that spotty little toerag to a larger Pseudo-writer toerag you now know:

A real tear-jerker, eh? I’ve decided that Alan Rickman will play me in the movie. He looks nothing like me, but he has such awesome sarcastic delivery. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little forray into my seedy past. There’s a lot left out of this little infographic for the sake of your sanities, but I hope it’s been at least mildly amusing. See you next time!

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.


Not just a Cardboard Cut-out Writer

It seems to me that with the internet being the beast that it is, it’s very easy for people to only show the parts of them that they want to. People I’ve met on Twitter give their 140 character bio, and that’s all you see. People on Facebook only post photos of themselves having a massively good time, drinking and holidaying, so that we think they’re fun people to be around. But are we giving the internet community a true vision of ourselves? Is that even important? Well, to me it is, yes. I think that I want people to get a real feel for who I am, rather than just a Cardboard Cut-out Writer who hits all the artistic marks but has no real depth.

This post started off with me trying to think of something interesting and non-writing related to post so that my regulars (you know who you are! Thanks Guys and Gals!) don;t get bored of listening to me bash on about Greaveburn or the next writing project. And so I thought, “what else can I do?”. That led me in a round about way to the philosophical debate you see above. Let me know what you all think about internet personas and how realistic they are/need to be.

But anyway, in order to show you that I DO HAVE another facet to my personality (or what there is of it :D), let’s talk music.

Recently, I was bought a new guitar by my lovely girlfriend (Yes, geeks and Fuglies do get them sometimes, you know) and I have to say that it’s been hard to put down since. Now let’s not give any false illusions here, I’m no fantastic guitar player. Eric Clapton doesn’t come round my house asking for tips on how to play, neither does Joe Satriani ask me to get him out of a sticky situation with any of his compositions. I can’t read music, and I definitely can’t sing. What I do is find a song I like the sound of and then simplify it to the point that I can play along and it still sounds vaguelly recognisable. See? Honesty on the internet! It can happen! 🙂

Ain't she purdy?

But what kind of things do I like to play? Well, I’m a serious rock music fan. I don’t mean scream-at-your-mic-with-unintelligable-syllables rock. I mean rock that makes you tap your feet, sing along and play air giutar like  a mental.

Foo Fighters are my epitome of awesome. Dave Grohl and the boys have managed to win God-like Genius Award, 5 grammys and the Brit Award’s Best International Band in the last year. Say no more. But I love the old-style rock, too. Give me some Boston (see the vid above), Styx, KISS, Kansas, Whitesnake….dear lord, I could go on forever…and I’d be forever happy. Let’s have another vid to emphasise the point:

 

So, you see, I don’t just write. I Rock, too 😉

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.