Monthly Archives: January 2016

Now Available: Shattered Realms – A Supernatural Collection

Greetings on this wet and windy Sunday (at least it is ‘oop north in the UK). I’ve collated my four remaining short pieces (don’t ask about the rest, it’s a sore subject) into a collection that’s now available for purchase on Amazon, and free on Kindle Unlimited.

The reasons why are two fold:

  • I felt that $0.99 was too much to charge for one short story, even if a couple of them are over 10,000 words long. Amazon won’t let me put them on cheaper, otherwise I would.
  • It’s a little snippet of something for people to (hopefully) enjoy before Auran Chronicles #2 comes out in a few months.

Anyway hope you enjoy, if you read any I’d suggest Mirror Man, which is my personal favourite still. Coma Companion is my first ever published piece from way back in 2005 but it still holds a special place in the story vault.

The Blurb:

A collection of four creepy stories exploring various elements of the supernatural, from the subtle, growing dread of Mirror Man to the mind-bending revelations of Cogito Ergo Sum, Shattered Realms is a must for fans of the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits.

All four stories have been published previously as stand alones, but are now available for the first time as a collection.

The Mirror Man

Steven Cree wakes up at the same time, every night. With every passing day, injuries appear on his body, cracks appear on his walls, and the trees that surround his estate seem to encroach upon his home.

But worst of all, it’s the man in the mirror. The face that was himself, but is slowly changing into that of a stranger.

Cogito Ergo Sum

“…you never wonder how you’ll react to a defining moment in history until you experience it for yourself…”

Gareth Young makes a tweak to the most powerful experiment on earth based on just a hunch. The result is a revelation of the most profound, but is all it seems to be?

The Reality Trip

A routine flight takes a turn for the supernatural as Chris finds himself in an altered reality where the world he knows no longer exists, his identity is in doubt and where terrifying beings hunt him down.

Coma Companion

When Doctor David Baines creates a machine that allows him to directly enter the mind of a comatose patient, he encounters a twisted reality that, rather than being the inner workings of one person’s mind, is actually a limbo world beyond life, and death, in unexpected forms, awaits the unwary.

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Halfway there…

So I’ve passed the 50,000 word mark now, and am approaching 60,000 at a good pace. With a target of 100,000 words (Message Bearer was 101,000), it’s looking good.

I’m coming into the back end of the middle section now too, which is a great relief. It’s this area that always sags and where the story seems to meander all over the place as it strives towards that end goal. True, I have my “must have” scenes that link the story together, but the path getting there can be a confusing spaghetti-like mess of random scenes, conversations and characters that appear in one chapter only to never be seen again.

Thankfully, the beginning of the end is in sight. I’ve just written a pivotal sequence of scenes that not only ramp up the tension significantly but also explore in much greater detail the mythology of the Auran Chronicles.  There’s a lot of history behind the magi and the Weave, and it’s nice to delve even more into that, especially when it relates directly to our protagonists. Obviously there’s going to be a heavy amount of chopping, changing and re-aligning for the second draft, but I’m happy the end of the story as envisaged in my synopsis is on track, even if all the stuff in between hasn’t quite so stuck to plan 🙂

The problem now, if indeed, it is a problem, is that not only am I almost certain that the story requires four books not three (although I really want to get in done in three) , but in expanding the world significantly in book 2 I’ve also introduced a new bunch of characters, of which at least two I’d love to spin off into their own series, or at least, to steal a Disney term, an Auran Chronicles “anthology” story or two. Aside from Cade, the half-daemon Brotherhood warrior who so deserves his own story (mental note – Auran Chronicles: Born of Blood), we also meet Shimmer, a Borderguard from the barren lands that exists between shards (the shattered worlds of the Auran Chronicles), who has a fascinating back story of his own that I can’t wait to explore.

So all in all, definitely a good problem, the challenge is, which one to write first?

Anyway, must dash, last night I left Seb several hundred feet up in the air with the ground rushing to meet him. I didn’t know how he was going to get out of this one, so just left it like that. It seemed a good idea at the time, but as I stare at the flashing cursor I’m not so sure. The joys of writing I guess!

 

Review: Vampire Crusader

Vampire Crusader
Vampire Crusader by Dan Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vampire Crusader follows the adventures of young knight Sir Richard of Ashbury who battles the terrifying William de Ferrer throughout history.

The story is vivid and gripping, and you find yourself enthralled in the world the author has created. It is obvious a great deal of research has gone into the historical elements of the book and this only adds to its authenticity. Such characters as King Richard the Lionheart (who until know only existed as Sean Connery in my head!) are brought to life as living, breathing characters rather than names from history. This particular entry in the series follows the Crusades where Richard, through his pursuit for vengeance, finds himself following King Richard to battle in the Holy Land against Saladin and his armies. Whilst the focus is on Richard and his personal story, this is subtly blended in with the wider events as a whole which gives a wider context to the story and its events.

Whilst the novel is about vampires, it is done in a subtle way rather than having any kind of stereotypes (both modern and old) that scream “vampire story”. These creatures are strong, fast and savage, but from the perspective of our hero and those around them they are obviously different, but treated with an air of mystery that I look forward to exploring in future books in the series.

I should also draw attention to the depictions of combat within the novel. It is gritty, brutal but feels so authentic. Rarely have I read battle scenes where I could practically feel the cut of the blade through muscle or the breaking of bone and cartilage. It’s grim, but necessarily so and really adds to the realistic feel of the book.

Richard himself is an interesting character. You feel through his narration the years of hell he’s been through (over 800 years of them!) without him having to explicitly describe them. This is a hero who’s been through hell many times over, and there’s almost a world-weariness about him that layers his perspective. When some of the bad things happen to him (and I mean, bad!) you genuinely feel the rage he feels and I was racing through the pages purely to see if the wrong-doers would get their comeuppance.

As the story progresses more layers are peeled back in both on the vampire mythology itself and Richard’s history. There’s an excellent balance of both that promises good things for book 2.

Really enjoyed Vampire Crusader. Once I’d picked it up I raced through it. Recommend.

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2 Months Self Published – Lessons Learned So Far

Technically that headline is a lie. I’ve been self-published since 2014, but it’s only been two months since I published Message Bearer, which is my first novel-length foray (and my best, hopefully!) and so felt more appropriate this time round.

Some may also think that two months is waaaay to soon to have lessons learned, but, as with any venture into something new there’s lessons to be learned at various points along the way, they just change depending on your experience.

Anyway, in bullet point form, please see below some key things I’ve learned (both “do’s” and “don’ts”) in the past couple of months.

  • DON’T keep checking the Amazon sales dashboard every five minutes. Unless you’re the Next Big Thing and people are buying your books like there’s no tomorrow, there’s going to be little movement in that red/blue line between 14:02 and 14:03. Trust me. I’ve done it, especially in the early days where my eyes were glued to that cursed dashboard. Now, I’ve managed to limit myself to 3 views a day – first thing in the morning, half way through the day and last thing at night. As most of my readers seemed to be in the U.S the sales seem to start coming when my american cousins are up and about.
  • ENGAGE with the community. Now, when I first heard this piece of advice (and it’s repeated widely by those with much more experience than I) I didn’t really buy into it. What’s to gain by posting in forums, twitter, facebook etc? How would it help sales? And you know what? I’m not sure it does. However, what it DOES do is give access to many talented and friendly people who are happy to give their time and knowledge to help newbies like me in this scary new world. Everyone has their own experience, their own advice and so forth. Some of it won’t work for you, but other stuff will resonate and you can add to your own portfolio. And most importantly, you make new friends who understand the challenges of indie publishing, who can emphasise with the fear of that empty page or the damage of the plot doubt monkeys. Do it. It’s worth it.
  • LEARN from your peers. Find other indie authors who’ve done the job well, especially those in your genre. See how they promote, see how they engage. Look at their covers, their blurbs. I’m not saying copy them, I’m saying stand on the shoulders of giants and learn from those who’ve walked the road already. It will save you time and you will learn a lot.
  • MARKET. But do it intelligently. Look at the Self Pub forums on Absolute Write, see what sites are recommended for promoting work. When you do run a promotion, monitor the impact it has on sales whilst it’s running. Learn what works and what doesn’t. I’ve made the mistake of running multiple promos at once so it was hard to track which one was working (or were they all working?) and which wasn’t. Retweet when your book is featured, Like it on Facebook. Let your followers know. Don’t spam. DON’T SPAM.
  • KEEP READING, but try and avoid your genre. In my last post I talked about the plot doubt monkeys that arose when reading in my genre whilst working on book 2. Others may disagree, but I still stand by this. Read, and read widely, but do it in different genres. I’m currently reading a crime whodunnit and loving it.
  • BE PATIENT. Don’t fret. Rome wasn’t built in a day. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I’d insert another wise statement but I can’t find any more. The point is, don’t fret about slow sales, no reviews and all that. It will come, but this kind of thing takes time, it’s organic. People will read, they will spread the word, but it won’t happen overnight. When you read about the latest overnight success I suspect if you look deeper you will see said author has been plugging away for years before they finally struck gold.
  • KEEP WRITING. KEEP WRITING. KEEP WRITING. I felt this one was worth repeating. I’ve written several novels and many short stories over the years. Only a handful I felt were good enough to self publish and many of the others now reside in digital heaven (a bad usb stick and a bad backup strategy on my part – don’t ask), but the key thing above all else I’ve taken from the release of Message Bearer is to KEEP GOING. I’ve continued into book 2. I’m still talking about and plugging Message Bearer but if I’m serious about this writing game I need to get more work out. It keeps the writing muscles honed and you feel like you’re progressing. My writing is improving every week and it’s nice to see how it’s evolving.
  • WRITE EVERY DAY. Now, this advice is nothing new, but it’s so relevant. It really is. Perhaps not even every day, but try for at least 5 days a week if you’re serious. I try for 1000-1500 words a day, which I fit in after family and work. Sometimes it’s bloody hard, but what I’ve found works is that even if I get one line down, one sodding line, it has a psychological impact that I can’t explain. You feel like you’re making progress, even it’s just a few words that day. I’ve found that if I stop writing for one day, then it easily becomes 2, then 3, then a month, then…you get the picture.

Hopefully these lessons will resonate with some of you. In reality what I’ve said is nothing new, and there’s a plethora of more experienced and talented writers than I who will tell you the same. Check out Absolute Write and KBoards. There’s lots of support on these sites and advice (and tough love, if you need it) and they’re well worth a visit.

Anyway, good luck, and keep writing!

40,000+ words reached. Bring out the plot-doubt monkeys

So, progress on book 2 has been slightly slower than I would’ve liked, but hey, that’s the Christmas holidays for you. I did try and get some writing done but in the end family and good times won out, and rightly so, too.

Anyway, I’m back in the saddle now. I’ve been churning about 1000-1200 words a day out for 5 days a week since Christmas so that Scrivener bar is growing nicely.

Unfortunately though, my evil nemesis the plot-doubt monkeys have made their first appearance. These evil creatures tormented me throughout book 1, challenging the logic of the plot, making me think that the story I was trying to tell was too tricky to pull off at my level of ability. I ploughed on of course, but only managed to finish the book after a good few months off inbetween drafts.

It’s different this time I think. I don’t have the same fears I had before. I know once I get to the end of this draft that I can fix whatever issues I’ve created getting there. That’s the joy of editing after all and to be honest I’m quite looking forward to it.

Instead, I’ve made the mistake of doing too much alternative reading whilst I’ve been ploughing ahead with this draft. Normally this isn’t a problem, but I’ve also been reading books in genres similar to mine.

Big mistake. Big. Huge. (To coin a line from Pretty Woman)

The doubts that come from this are such questions as – “Is my world rich enough compared to X”, or “has this concept been done before?”.

I’ve found myself second guessing more than I would normally do. Previously I didn’t really consider other books like mine, or fear that my story wouldn’t match up to those. But reading a couple now as made me rethink certain story elements that I perhaps wouldn’t have before.

There’s no real way to unthink (that should really be a word) what I’ve pondered reading these books, but going forwards I’ve made a decision not to read in my genre whilst head down in a WIP. It intrudes too much on my own world and makes me actively tweak the story to avoid potential similarities to others. Stupid I know, but there you are.

On the flip side I’m generally happy with where I’m at with book 2. The story is coming along well, and Seb and co have just had a massive WTF moment that I really enjoyed writing. This sets the scene for the second half of the book now that hopefully leads into the gripping conclusion (well, it looks gripping in the outline) I’ve planned.

So…*opens a window*…Away with you, plot-doubt monkeys. Fly, fly away!

monkeys

Review: Sing Me To Sleep

Sing Me To Sleep
Sing Me To Sleep by Chris Simms
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven’t actually finished this yet (90% on kindle) but after reading well into the night yesterday I had to let people know about this little gem.

It’s a fairly standard ghost story in terms of set up (isolated cottage, sinister history, remote village etc) but it’s the deftness that Chris links this altogether that has me enthralled. The tension builds up throughout the story, and as each layer is peeled away it draws you in further, so much so you don’t want to leave!

The characters are vivid, and you really feel for Laura as she battles to save her sanity when those around her don’t share the same faith in her. There’s some history around her that’s subtly intertwined into the text that never feels like an “info dump”, and even the responses of those around her feel genuine and not just horror stereotypes (disbelieving husband, cynical authorities etc).

Can’t wait to finish this tonight!

A brilliant page turner that had me reading on into the small hours. Recommend.

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My Top 5 Tips For Launching a Writing Career

Great advice at the right time of year ☺

A Writer's Path

Business

by Meg Dowell

Everyone wants to be a writer.

Not just any kind of writer, either. A successful writer. Everyone wants their name on the New York Times bestseller list. Everyone wants to add “author” to their Twitter bio. Everyone wants to take what they enjoy doing and make a career out of it.

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