Saturday, 7 October 2017

Short stories, a guest piece and future novel plans

I've had a week off work so along with normal life stuff, I've really focused on writing for the last few days - two new short stories which I'm pretty happy with even if they're the usual messy first drafts. Working titles of She Waits For Me In The Snow, and The Whistler In The Woods. The second is 7k which is longer than my usual short tales (I wrote it over Wednesday and Thursday, pushing myself through 5k of it on the second day which meant I was totally knackered by the end of the session), and one I'll probably trim down a bit to get to the action sooner than later.

Short stories are a strange experience these days. While I obviously still enjoy writing them, the publishing side isn't so much fun. The market definitely seems to have shrunk over the last few years; many of the remaining publishers are closed temporarily or pay next to nothing. It's not an area a writer will ever make a pile of cash from, but let's be fair here: anyone who produces something should be paid for their work and time. You wouldn't ask someone to paint your kitchen and then tell them you'll pay them by telling all your mates how good a job they did, would you? So I stay away from markets that pay in exposure which does limit me a hell of a lot. Even so, I'd rather keep hold of a story until it finds the right home.

I've also done a Q&A and guest piece for Sam Missingham over at Lounge Books as Sam is doing a special on horror fiction near Halloween. Same great questions from Sam and as it's been a while since I've written a piece for another site, I enjoyed the chance to blabber on in a new place. Links to follow as soon as everything is up on Sam's site.

Novel wise, I'm chewing over the plots for two new books - one a linked series of pieces about characters faced with a certain Norse legend which will probably be 20 - 30k each and come together at a certain point, or an unreliable narrator tale set in the world of Anti-Social which you can read in the collection Die Laughing. Whichever idea shouts the loudest wins.

And then I write the next one.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Working on an old book

While my wife reads my latest book, pen and comments at the ready, I've spent the last few weeks going through an older book which caught my eye again for some reason. Almost immediately, it was obvious that while the story and concept are decent, the execution was pretty sloppy: repetitive terms, poor description and issues with the pacing. Funny thing is fixing all that stuff hasn't really taken a hell of a lot of work. Time, yes, because I'm reading through it carefully and literally checking each line, but the work has been fairly easy. Whether that means the overall book isn't as bad as I first thought with the new read or I've improved a lot since the first draft, I don't know. The latter, I suspect.

The original submissions didn't go too badly - several requests for the full book based on the opening and a contract from a small press which I passed on after spotting some flaws in the contract (missing clauses and terms that were much more for the publisher's benefit rather than mine) which is definitely more of a result than some of my other submissions. The plan is to finish going through it today, finalise the new cover letter (it's already got a new title) and then start a fresh load of submissions. Even if it goes nowhere, I've enjoyed the work and found it extremely useful. It's been a great tool for seeing what I get wrong or overdo in my fiction; I can take that with me into new books and  hopefully have more polished first drafts than I do usually. And maybe this one will find a home second time around.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

A newsletter and instagram. Maybe.

Been thinking lately of ways I can connect with more readers outside of my blog and Twitter. It's difficult for nearly all writers as obviously not many of us have the power of a big publisher behind us to take care of the marketing. Plus if people don't know you've got a new book (or an older one for that matter), they're not going to be reading it, are they? But then there's the question of time. I need to write the books that I then edit, rewrite and polish before submitting them to publishers. I also need to take care of my 9-5, eat, sleep, relax, see my wife on occasion (ditto friends and family) and switch off - just like anyone else. And let's not forget the time spent online already researching potential markets or blogging and tweeting.

But like I say, we don't all have one of the big boys in terms of publishers to pimp our books so I'm thinking about sorting out a newsletter or maybe having a go at Instagram (which struck me as a strange idea for a tool for a writer when I read about it the other day but apparently I'm behind the times). I did have a Facebook page, but frankly, it was pointless. Each post reached an average of about twelve people even though a few hundred people liked my page, so unless you're paying for it or you have several thousand people who give a monkey's, it seems like a waste of time to me.

Like most writers, I'm more about the actual writing rather than any social side which is probably why it took me so long to start a blog and join Twitter. Odd thing, both are more fun than I expected. Once again, it's just a question of finding the time.

So, anyone up for seeing a newsletter from me every couple of months? Or seeing what sort of rubbish I can post on Instagram? Let me know here or on Twitter and I'll look into it in more detail.

 10/09/2017 - Edited To Add: I joined Instagram last night. You can see me here - My instagram

Saturday, 26 August 2017

DarkFuse closes

Well, this isn't a post I expected to write, but here it is. The publisher DarkFuse, home to a lot of great writers and books, has gone bankrupt and closed for business. Included in those books was my novella Mirror Of The Nameless which is obviously now unavailable. To say I'm gutted is an understatement. I had a lot of fun writing that book and it came with a relative ease I find hard to believe now. I also struggle to work out how the hell I managed to focus on nothing but the basic story of it without any outside bullshit, but that's just one of those things.

I have zero clue what will happen with Mirror in the long-term. Possibly nothing as it's hard enough to pitch new work to decent publishers let alone stuff that's already been published. I can always do it myself, of course, and maybe I will. At the moment, I just don't know.

If you've been paying attention, you'll know this isn't the first time I've experienced this and it's no less of a bummer now. One of those older books is still homeless and maybe Mirror will join it. Anyway, my little tale I wrote as HP Lovecraft meets Mad Max is done for now along with some quality work by a lot of authors I admire.

Friday, 25 August 2017

New blog look

Afternoon, all. It's the first nice day of this crazy English summer in feckin ages (also the first day for a long time that I'm in shorts, but we probably shouldn't talk about that) so what better time to have a spring clean. In August.

It's been a fair while since I've done anything to my blog in terms of its layout so I've had a refresh of background, colour and overall look. I'm also thinking about binning a load of old posts just for the sake of clarity and size. Anyway, let me know what you think of the new look - easy to read, clear, an improvement or not?

Enjoy ya weekend, people.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Cat charity theft

I've written about some really nasty bastards over the years - people and monsters (sometimes both) who either think they're misunderstood or don't give a toss about being the bad guy, who embrace it. Every time one of these characters comes to the page, I try to ground them in some degree of reality no matter how small. After all, there is nothing more frightening than reality. All you have do to see that is watch the news for about five seconds.

At the same time, there are the good guys: people who are put into that position simply because they don't want to get killed or maybe because they want to stop the bad guys from their moustache twirling, cackling, tying women to train tracks ways (depends on the story, obviously).

It's the same in the real world as it is in fiction. My first reaction upon hearing about a robbery at a local cat charity that resulted in all the food being stolen and leaving the charity with literally nothing to feed their cats was something along the lines of what kind of fucking bastard piece of shit would do that isn't there any honour among thieves and then I saw the comments on the charity's Facebook page: people offering anything they could from a few quid to more cash to dropping off donations of food to blitzing the charity's Amazon wishlist.

The good guys, in short.

So, if you want to be one of the good guys and you've got a bit of cash you can do without, you know what to do.

Cat charity JustGiving page


Saturday, 29 July 2017

Dropping the bomb

I'm in the middle of a load of edits for my current book (working title The Kindred) which is taking a while because I've, unusually for me, added to the original wordcount instead of reducing it. As it's gone from 75k to 117K, I'm also trying to knock it down while tidying it up and sorting my mistakes. The basic plot concerns the aftermath of a nuclear conflict which occurred in the mid 80s. It didn't really dawn on me until a fair way into the first draft that it could be connected to the world of Ascent in as much as nuclear war is featured in both books. For what it's worth, I've never seen them as connected. They share no characters, settings or situations other than the bomb dropping. Still, the connection has got me thinking about my fiction in a bigger picture sort of way.

All writers have themes and areas they return to whether they realise it or not while writing. I know what most of mine are and if someone pointed out one or two I haven't considered, that would be no surprise as a lot of the time, I don't think about what I'm writing. I just follow the characters. It's their story I'm telling. Saying all that, I'm well aware I've written more than once about the end of the world - or at least the potential of it. I really couldn't say why other than it gives me a lot of scope to play with and it can be quite fun to wipe everything clean and let those who survive see if they can keep going through whatever comes next. Ascent is definitely about the potential of the end of everything for the few characters trapped in Greenham Place (incidentally, the name of the office block was no accident), and not solely the end of the world. It's about the end of their world and everything they think they know. I suppose it's me saying don't take all the elements that comprise your life for granted because any one of them can be broken in two without warning. Because life is just that much fun.

On the other hand, The Kindred is more basic when it comes to an ending. I've stopped the twentieth century at some point in the middle of the 1980s and although ten years have passed by the time the story starts, it's still the mid 80s because there's nothing left in culture, politics or history to change and develop. The world I've made has ended but  - again supposing - that doesn't mean we end.

In any case, the two books aren't connected by plot or character but perhaps they take place in the same universe. I'll let you know when I know.