2016: Looking back, then forward

So, that was 2016. It’s been a bit of a year all told, hasn’t it? Remember that old curse; “May you live in interesting times”? I think a lot of us have gained a new appreciation for that one over the last twelve months.

But anyway, the Christmas trees are up, the cards posted, and the final gifts are being wrapped, so as the year draws to a close let’s have a look back on everything that’s been happening here.

2016, and things that have been

The big news this year has been, of course, the publication of The Æther Collection, a themed collection of horror short stories. (If you’ve not picked up your copy yet, you can do so now in paperback or ebook now).

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My original reason for deciding to do a collection of short stories rather than a single full-length novel was that it would allow me to post them up as and when they were completed. After finishing The Serpent’s Eye I didn’t want to have another two years pass by without having anything new to release, so I thought rather than intersperse a longer project with breaks for short stories I would just do a full collection I could just release as I went.

It was an interesting experiment, but I’m glad I did it. It’s taught me a lot about structure and theme, as well as giving me very useful experience working in a non-linear fashion. I’ve always been someone who revises their book in a linear order and finds it hard to jump about their manuscript while being able to keep the overall picture in my head. Hopefully, I’ll now be a little better at focusing on small sections in isolation, working on the weakest points in a narrative without having to work through parts that don’t need work as urgently.

With this being a short story collection, I honestly wasn’t expecting any attention from agents. I’ve been told directly that authors aren’t picked up based on short stories. So the fact that I had three personal, positive responses has really picked me up. While – as I predicted – none of them wanted to sign me up this time around, each of them said they really liked my writing and asked me to send them a working version of my next full novel as soon as I think it’s ready. So that’s one step closer.

The decision to focus my time on The Æther Collection has meant that I’ve not been able to get much in the way of stand-alone short stories done this year. I have been working on a couple, as and when I could but, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get any placed. I do have a couple nearly ready to go out, and a few submissions I’ve not heard back from yet, so fingers crossed for better luck next year.

I have, however, had a couple of articles published on the Huffington Post. The first was a defence of the NHS on the anniversary of my wife’s transplant, and the second was a few thoughts on the state of the UK Labour Party. I enjoy doing these more serious works every so often, but they tend to only get written when Inspiration and Having Time coincide.

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The Festival of Writing in York was again one of the highlights of my year. Getting to visit York is always worth it, and getting to spend the weekend hanging out with other writers is even better. I got to catch up with a couple of friends from 2015 and make a couple of new ones. I’d really love to go to more events like this. There are plenty of conferences and lectures around the country each year. I know it’s partly laziness that keeps me from properly researching, but I know that time and money constraints will always be an issue. Maybe in 2017 I’ll be able to put a little more effort into this side of things and I’ll get to a few more.

And the other new thing I tried this year was my Halloween Countdown. I had a lot of fun putting this together, and I think I’d like to make it an annual thing. Next year I hope to try and make it from films released during the previous year, rather than from the last few years. Not only would this mean I was helping share the work of hard working, aspiring filmmakers, it means I have an excuse and reasons to spend my time watching horror shorts online.

So hopefully this October I’ll be able to do a countdown of my favourite shorts released in 2017. Maybe I’ll even get the countdown right this time.

Oh, and thanks to my sister – who is also my designer – I was able to attend the memorial for Sir Terry Pratchett. It doesn’t seem much in the grand scheme of things, but being able to attend such a celebration, surrounded by other fans, was a really wonderful experience and helped me say goodbye to the man who really got me into reading, and therefore writing.

 

2017, and things that are to come

So, what do I have coming up next year?

My big project for 2017 is a novel, provisionally titled New Perceptions. (This is a very provisional title, mainly picked so I had something to name the Scrivener file when I started and so almost certain to change.) I’m not going to say much about it, as I don’t even have the first draft completed yet and there are likely to be many changes. Right now, I’m wrestling to get the third act together. I’m currently hoping to have something ready to get out to alpha-readers in the summer. Then, in an ideal world, I’d have something ready for agents by the end of the year, but I know full well it always takes longer than I’m hoping.

However, I can say that it will be a coming-of-age haunted house story and a full-length, single story novel. After a novella and a short story collection, I feel that my new project needed to be a full-length novel, both for creative and commercial reasons. Creative, because it’s the next logical step in my growth as a writer to show I’m able to grow and develop character and plot across 70,000 words. And commercial, as I’ve been told multiple times that agents and publishers will only pick up new authors with a full-length novel to sell.

And as I mentioned earlier, I’ve already had agents ask to see a working draft so I’m telling myself I’m starting this one already a couple of steps ahead. Fingers crossed.

Hopefully I’ll have time for a couple of side projects – stories or articles, and of course blog posts – in between drafts, but we’ll see. I really want to focus on getting this complete over the next year, so may really need to focus.

So, here’s wishing you a great Christmas and an amazing 2017! Here’s hoping this one’s a little less “interesting”. Or at least only exciting in good ways.

Out Now

And remember, both The Serpent’s Eye and The Æther Collection are available now on Amazon, iBooks and other online stores. If you’re looking for a present for the reader or book fan in your life, or just want to pick up a good horror story as a gift for yourself, click the links to grab your copy now.

 

 

 

Appeal: Reviews

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I have a brief appeal for all of you.

Do you know how important reviews are to a self-published author? The answer – if you don’t know – is “very”. When you don’t have a marketing team or publishing house behind you, word of mouth is mana from the gods.

So I just wanted to put out a quick request for those of you who’ve gotten around to reading ‘The Æther Collection’ already. Please take a moment to leave a review – ideally on Goodreads or Amazon, or wherever you purchased it. I will be eternally grateful.

It doesn’t have to be much. Even just a rating is so incredibly useful. While I love to hear what people think, I’m not asking you all to put together a book report 🙂

And for those of you who haven’t gotten around to buying their copy yet, click the links above to order your copy now and catch up.

And then leave a review.

The Æther Collection – OUT NOW!

The Æther Collection is out now!

That’s right, as of today you can now purchase my new horror anthology in both e-book and paperback.

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Æther. The fifth classical element. A theory. A myth. A joke. A fringe theory no scientist in the modern age would ever take seriously.

That is until 1898 when Professor Goldfarn proves its existence and the possibilities it offers. Soon æther permeates every aspect of the of the scientific world, with research providing new technologies in power and communications the likes of the which the world has never seen.

But sometimes… sometimes things happen that can’t be explained by technology. What if æther could be more than simply a power source. What if it played a far greater part in human evolution that anyone has considered? What if is has other properties? What if it could be used to affect human emotion and thought?

What if could it even be a link between this life and the one that comes after?

 

Those of you lucky enough to be selected as winners in my GoodReads and Twitter giveaways should have already received your copies in the post. I hope you’re all enjoying them.

And for the rest of you, you can get your copies here:

A quick note; currently there is a glitch on Amazon stating that the paperback is temporarily currently out of stock. If you’re looking to buy from here, please ignore and go ahead and order. The warning should be gone soon. 

And please, once you’ve finished it please leave reviews or recommendations on places like Amazon and Goodreads, or any online reading forums you might use. Reviews and word of mouth are the self-published writer’s best friend. The more reviews I have online, the more likely it is people will discover my work. Even if it’s just an anonymous star-rating, every single one helps.

And, of course, I just like to know what you all think.

So go out and spread the word. Word of mouth is my friend, as are you, so let anyone you know who enjoys reading that The Æther Collection is available now.

The Æther Collection Cover Reveal!

We’re almost there!

The story is locked down and I’m now just waiting on my last two copy editors to finish running through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Once that’s done and I’ve gone through it myself one final time, The Æther Collection will finally be ready for publication!

And, in honour of this, I thought it was time to officially reveal the cover art, provided by my wonderful designer (and sometime organ-donor) Emily.

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Eagle-eyed followers may well have spotted this image before, as it’s been going up on my various forms of social media recently, and has actually been the banner for this website for a couple of weeks. But this is the “official” launch, so take a moment to enjoy it.

Now begins the painstaking task of completing the manuscript and getting it published. This weekend has been spent sending things out to agents, but while I am waiting on responses the process of preparing everything to self-publish will begin. So, barring an agency picking this up and taking the tasks of publication out of my hands, or any unforeseen events that might cause further details, The Æther Collection should be out in August.

So, if anyone out there is interesting in maybe getting their hands on an early review copy, now’s the time to let me know.

 

Novellas: Are they worth it?

Apparently Tor are looking to expand their output of e-book novellas. Having written a novella myself I find this especially interesting, as every agent I’ve spoken to about The Serpent’s Eye has told me no publisher would ever buy anything of novella length from anyone other than a well established author they were already making money from.
 
I personally feel that shorter fiction has a lot going for it. I love epic novels (The Wheel of Time is my favourite series, and that one is definitely not a light read) but sometimes, if you have a good story, you don’t need to pad it out. A novel of 150,000 words is not automatically better than one of 40,000. Other than the fact it will last you longer for the price. 
What do you guys think? Do you prefer books that will give you a longer read for the price you pay, or shorter reads that are easier to get through in the time you have so you don’t have to invest so much of your life to get through it?
 

2015: Looking back, then forward

Happy New Year, folks. How was your 2015? I think I can safely say that mine was definitely one of the more eventful years in my life.

2015 and things that have been

So, looking back at this year, was there possibly anything that kept me a little too busy to get as much writing done as I would have liked?

Oh yes, my wife going through a kidney transplant. That was it.

It has to be said my family started off 2015 on a bit of a stressful note. On February 9th my wife went through a transplant to receive a kidney from my sister. Understandably, this took all my focus and energy for quite a while. Between the build up, preparations, the stress of the day of the operation itself, visiting them both in hospital and then looking after Frankie during the recovery period, I think I can say the first 3 months of the year were a write off, writing wise.

And then this autumn I’ve had a massive project at the day job that completely absorbed all my mental energy. I’m not complaining as such. I like my day job, and bigger projects means more responsibility means more chance of advancement. But between working through lunch breaks and coming home exhausted I essentially lost another couple of months of writing time.

So I think I can say I lost at least five months of 2015 for writing. That’s not to say I didn’t get anything done in that time. It’s just that I had other things on my mind that had to take precedence.

One thing I did get done was producing the paperback edition of The Serpent’s Eye. Like the e-book, putting this together turned out to be one hell of a learning curve, but I’m happy at how it turned out. Especially as I had very little idea what I was doing. There are a couple of small things I would like to tweak, but they’re tiny in the overall scheme of things. But my designer tells me there are a couple of little things she can see now it’s a physical book she would like to fix, so there may be an updated version sometime in the future if we get around it it. And at the moment that’s a big if, as there are plenty of more important things to get done first.

Short-story wise, it wasn’t a prolific year. The thing with so much else going on simply did not have the time to work on any independent projects. I had to prioritise. Annoyingly, the anthology with which I was involved, with Thomas Hill Publishing, fell through, so that story is now looking for a new home. However I was included in Verto Publishing’s Halloween Celebration. Those of you who caught it were able to read the first story in The Æther Collection, complete with a wonderful illustration from P. Emerson Williams. It’s still up, so head over if you want to check it out.

The rest of the year got taken up by working on The Æther Collection. 

And I feel I do have to mention that this year we lost possibly one of the greatest English writers, and the man who got me into reading; Sir Terry Pratchett. I’ve written about my feelings on his passing here, so I won’t go into them again. But it’s sad that 2016 will be the first year since I was born that there won’t be a new Discworld novel to look forward to.

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I will keep you all updated on my sister’s campaign/project to get a permanent statue of Sir Terry erected in Salisbury. I think we can definitely call it a project now as everyone involved seems onboard. Watch this space for updates.

2016, and things that are to come

So the big project for this year is, of course, completing The Æther Collection. At the start of last year I had hoped to get this done for Christmas, but obviously with everything going on it has been pushed back. I do have the first full draft completed and with my Alpha Readers (you can read more on that here) and should hopefully have notes to begin redrafting by the end of January. I’m not sure how many more drafts it’s going to need, but my gut is telling me a least four more; one from readers notes, another just from myself, a second round of notes, then a final polish and copyedit.

The Æther Collection - 4th Draft

Of course, now I’ve said this, it will take far longer. At this point I’m hoping for a June release at the latest. I want to have time to get it out to agents and small press publishers, but I will put this out myself if this process takes too long. June would be two years since the original release of The Serpent’s Eye, which would be nice timing. But of course I don’t want to rush anything. Watch this space for more updates.

Outside of this main project I do have other plans. I would like to get a couple more short stories done this year and get them into anthologies. I have one I’m finally getting to finish at the moment, and at least two more in early draft stages, waiting for their turn. Possibly these will be palette cleanser projects between drafts of The Æther Collection. I would really like to get these done early in the year and start submitting them, but we’ll see. The Æther Collection has to take priority.

I’m also beginning to get annoyingly excited about my next big project. It’s a haunted house story, filtered through the views of an adolescent girl trying to fight to discover her place in the world while insisting that she shouldn’t have to fight for it. Over the last couple of months various ideas have begun to slip into my mind, fleshing out the main concept and I’m ready to start writing. This is great, but not quite so much when I need to get the previous project completed before I can get started. But hopefully I’ll have a least a first draft of this done by this time next year.

I’ve had a great little break over Christmas. I’ve kept away from the keyboard almost completely to allow my brain to rest. Now I’m itching to get back to work.

See you all in 2016.

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The Æther Collection – latest draft

So yes, it’s been a while. As I laid out in my last post, I’ve been a little busy recently. Would you like to see what’s been keeping me away?

This.

The Æther Collection - 4th Draft

The Æther Collection – 4th Draft

I present to you the latest draft of The Æther Collection in all its glory. A collection of 13 short stories coming in at just under 80,000 words. I can’t really say what number draft this is, as the redrafting process has been a little haphazard. At the start, when I was posting each story on here as it was completed, I worked on one story until it was done and then moved onto the next. Later I began working on several at a time and the process became more linear. And so this means that different stories at at different levels on completion depending on when they were written. Some of the entries are basically done, while others will still need work. But for the sake of clarity I’m calling this the 4th draft, as it’s the forth version I’ve exported and saved in its entirety.

Now I’ve handed copies of the manuscript over to my usual Alpha Readers to make a start. Hopefully in the New Year they’ll start getting back to me with their notes and I’ll begin the next stage of revisions. Hopefully I won’t get any points back along the lines of “this one is awful, get rid of it”, but we’ll see what they think. Then comes the traditional fooling myself that I only need one more draft…

So what do I do while I wait?

  1. I have several more ideas for short stories than just those that fit into this collection. The problem is when you are focusing on one project you work on any old idea as you’ll never get anything done. But now I finally have the chance to work on these for a change. I have at least one that’s half done and has been sitting on my desk for months waiting redrafting. Hopefully I’ll that one done and still have time to at least get one more into decent shape before I need to get back into the Collection again.

  2. I need to start working on designs. I’ve already got Emily – my sister and designer – to put together the first version of the cover image for The Æther Collection, and it looks awesome. When I’m at home over Christmas we’ll go over this and start working on the final versions. This time I have a far better idea of what I’ll need. One of the problems I had with The Serpent’s Eye – it being my first self published bookwas that I didn’t know what I needed until I needed it. This meant that every time I wanted to put the cover image on a new website I had to go back to Emily and get her to work on it fresh and send me a new version in a different layout or resolution or some other strange variation. This time around I can make a full list of everything I used last time and get her to create everything (hopefully) in one go.

  3. In preparation for book completion I need to start working on my Scrivener-foo. I absolutely love the programme for writing, and I know that in theory it’s great for laying out a manuscript and exporting it however you need. However, at the moment my abilities are pretty much limited to trial and error, which leads to hours of frustration as I desperately try to work out how to make it do what I want. I’ll definitely be spending some lunch hours watching online How-To guides.

  4. I’ve spoken on here before about how advertising and promotion are not my strong suits. However project management is. Therefor I’m intending to make my promotional efforts far more of a structured project this time around. This one is the hardest, as (a) it’s not directly linked to the creation of the book, and (b) I don’t enjoy it. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put the effort in if I want to get my work out there. So, time to start thinking in advance about these things.

I think that’s probably enough to be getting on with. I’m also hoping to give my social media a bit of a kick and get connecting with people again. Focusing on redrafting does tend to put you in a very inwardly focused world. But then I suppose writing as a whole does that. I just have to get my head around the culture shock of wrapping up the writing side of things and focusing on the other aspects of life.

Fun.

The Serpent’s Eye – Paperback Out Now!

So if you take a wander down to Amazon, you can now get your hands on the paperback version of The Serpent’s Eye. 

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It’s taken me a little while to get the physical copy of the book done, since the original e-book came out back in the summer. I would like to thank everyone who has already downloaded and given it a read. Getting so much honest positive feedback helped me move forward with my work and getting this final version out.

You can find it on Amazon (UK and US), or directly from the CreateSpace store.

There have been a few changes made since the original came out. The plot and the story are the same, I’ve just cleaned up a few typos that slipped through and made a couple of tweaks to real life fact that have been spotted in the text. (In retrospect I should have got my in-laws – who grew up in Buenos Aires – to check those sections before publishing, but it’s all fixed now.)

I have also updated the e-book version, so those of you who have already downloaded it should – if I understand how the platform works correctly – receive an automatic update. (But of course the only way to be safe will be to buy a physical copy)

One thing I have not been able to work out yet is how to combine both versions of the book on Amazon. Currently if you search on Amazon you get two different entries, one for the e-book and one for the paperback. I’m trying to figure out how to combine them so things like reviews show for both. It’s not a major sticking point in the release, but I would like to get this tidy. If any of you out there know a little more about how Amazon works, please drop me a comment to tell me.

I’m also working on getting it up onto the iTunes store, but currently it doesn’t want to play. Apparently my cover image is either far too big or slightly too small. I’ll keep you all updated on this epic battle as it progresses.

EDIT – That’s all done now, and can be found here.

 

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s helped me get this put together; those who’s have an active part in proof reading and giving advise, and those who’ve downloaded it already, read it and given me their opinions. It’s all helped push me through the last few stages to get this done. I love writing, but have discovered that I do not have the same passion or knowhow for layout or designing. Trial and error is all well and good, but it doesn’t half take up a lot of your time.

Anyway, enough from me. Go get yourself your very own copy of The Serpent’s Eye right now.

2014: Looking back, then forward

So 2015 is almost upon us. It’s been an interesting year, with lots of things moving forward in my career. And in the spirit of the New Year I thought I would have a look back at where I was a year ago and what I have planned in the future.

So you know, a New Years update. Groundbreaking, I know.

2014 and things that have been

So at the beginning of the year I was unemployed, and so therefore in the wonderful position of being able to write full time. At this point I was focusing on two things; working on building up The Æther Collection and the final polish of The Serpent’s Eye. I also had a couple of short stories out into the submissions cloud, but so far I had nothing published.

The Serpent’s Eye became available to download as an ebook in July. This is my first published work, and I’m very please with how it has turned out. I’ve had some great feed back, some from friends I trust to be honest with me, and some from total strangers which in a way is better that they’re not going to care one bit about my feelings.

I have discovered that putting together and self publishing an e-book is not a simple process. At least, not if you want it to be any good. You can write the best story in the world, but if you give it crappy production values people are never going to give it a chance. I’ve been very lucky that I have a sister who is an artist and designer, meaning I was able to get an excellent cover done for free. But even with that I had to teach myself how to actually format and produce all the necessary files and upload them correctly to the necessary websites. Honestly, it took me several evenings to get everything right on this before it could go up.

The Æther Collection slowed down a lot this year. Mainly this was due to my getting a full time job and my writing time being slashed. I have to really prioritise my projects at the moment, and unfortunately this has had to take a back seat. Still I’ve managed to get a couple of stories up, and I have at least two more almost finished.

Part of what has taken up my time are other short stories. I’ve been trying to get my work out into the world, and one of the main routes is getting my short stories into anthologies. This year I have finally managed to reach this goal, with my story ‘Nice, or Naughty’ being included in Dark Holidays. I have also had another story, ‘Hielora Road’, accepted in a new horror anthology from Thomas Hill Press which will be coming out in the New Year.

2015, and things that are to come

I have always planned to release The Serpent’s Eye as a physical book, but it has taken me some time to get around to finalising this. I had originally intended to get it out for Christmas, but as it was taking me more time that I planned I decided not to rush it. Deciding on a printing service and making sure all the layout is perfect is very time consuming for someone who has never done this before. I’ve been working my way along the learning curve, and am now doing one last proof read while I wait for my sister to complete the full cover art.

I was always aware that with an ebook I could always fix any errors that came up, but with a printed book I can never make changes if something slips through. I want this to look as professional as possible, and as much as I put effort in for the presentation of the ebook, but I’m being doubly careful. I am fully aware I am not the greatest proofreader of my own work. I know I’m going to miss some stupid mistake, but I’m doing my best to make sure it’s not so glaring and obvious that it ruins the whole thing.

At the moment I’m looking at a February release date, but I don’t want to commit to a time frame for fear of hubris. Having never done this before I have no idea how long it will take or what delays there might be.

Once that is done, my main project for 2015 will be completing the Æther Collection. This has been unavoidably on the back-burner for a while, but I want to get it completed and out to buy by the end of the year at the latest.

The main question I am trying to answer right now is how long do I want to make it. I currently have 9 stories written, and 1 more ready in my head for a first draft. That gives me 10 stories coming in around around 55,000 words. Ideally I would like a bit of a longer word count and a couple more stories. The problem is that so far stories have simply been added to the collection as they have come to me. I’ve had no real plan on how many there will be once it is completed.

So once of my tasks will be sitting down and having a long think about this. I need to decide if there are any more stories to be told in this collection, then I need to decide on what order to put them in. There is obviously the choice of chronological order, but I’m not yet convinced that this will be the best way. I have a feeling there is a thematic way to arrange them. I just need to find it.

One other thing is that I don’t think I will be publishing them online once completed anymore. As much as I want you all to read them, the original object of having them available up on my site was to have something up there for visitors to look at and comment back to me on. But now that is less of a priority as people can find my work elsewhere. I may actually take some of them down. They still need polishing, and I would like for at least some of the collection to be new to the reader. So expect some of them to disappear over the next couple of months so I can work on them in peace.

I also still fully intend to produce more one off short stories for publication. I have several in my mind that I really want to get done and a couple actually half written. The problem at the moment is time. With a real life job and real life family issues taking up a lot of my time, writing it limited. Short stories are a great palette cleanser between big projects, and also great fun in their own right, but often I have to leave them simmering in the background for longer than I would like. I then even when they are finished it can take time for them to get accepted into collections, and then however long for that collection to come out.

So that is the coming year. Hopefully 2015 will show an increase in my workload and publicity. I know that the next stage in my writing career involves an increase in marketing, but this is something way out of my comfort zone. I have never been any good at promoting myself, so it’s going to be an interesting journey trying to make it happen.

But it’s definitely going to be fun.

See you all in 2015.

Britain’s First Space Rocket: The Story of the Skylark

With rockets landing on comets, the UK announcing its leading roll in European missions to Mars, and Kickstarters funding new trips to the moon, space is back on people’s minds. But how many people remember Skylark, the first UK rocket programme that ran for almost 50 years until 2005?

My Dad did, and he’s written a book about it.

These days, few have heard of the Skylark sounding rocket. Yet, in November 1957, it was the first British rocket to reach space and became the basis of Britain’s earliest space programme. Over the next 48 years hundreds more were fired, launching into space thousands of instruments that made pioneering observations of the Earth, Sun, stars and galaxies.

Here for the first time is the full story of the Skylark rocket, a fascinating story of the birth of British rocket technology and space science, a tale that started at the end of WWII and lasted until 2005.

I know a lot of you out there who are interested in aeronautics, space travel, rocketry or just science in general. I would really recommend this book. 6 years in the making and featuring over 740 images, many of which have been been previously released, this is a labour of love from a man who grew up during the space race; someone who read comics full of space adventure, saw the first satellites in the news and lived in a time when moon landings, space stations, or landing a probe on a comet were pure science fiction.

Read a bit more about it here and here.

You can get your copy at YPD Books