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.

Using Found-Footage

For those of you who have read The Serpent’s Eye it will be no surprise to discover that I am a big fan of the found-footage style. But I’m not one of those fans who seeks out examples of the thing they love, no matter the quality. No, I’m one of those fans who has high standards and wants to see the thing he loves handled well. And, like so many tropes in fiction, its easy to get lazy and fall into the pitfalls that await those who don’t try hard enough.

Found-footage is a very effective way to set out a horror story. There isn’t really a simpler way of framing the “this really happened” scenario. But, as with many things, people mistake simple for easy and that they don’t need to put as much effort into it. And through that laziness they miss the one cardinal rule you must follow when you set your story using found-footage.

The reader needs to be able to answer this question: Why and how was the footage recorded.

This is fundamental because without it the entire premise has no basis. If you cannot answer this question without more than a minimal suspension of disbelief then your story will lack plausibility. All fiction needs to the reader to ignore a few points of reality, but that is especially important in horror as one of the main tenants is that you cannot scare a reader who cannot imagine that everything they are reading could plausibly happen.

The one thing that was always at the forefront of my mind while I was writing The Serpent’s Eye was keeping up a believable reason for the character to keep writing.It was easy to set up the principle of the journal he was keeping to take notes for his work, but why would he continue? What were the reasons for the parts he included, and for the parts he didn’t? How could I keep the tension growing and the right elements of the story on the page without making it feel forced?

To offer you an example of how this can be handled badly, I offer up a film rather than a book. The movie Cloverfield has a brilliant concept; a Godzilla movie told from the point of view of one of the crowd. The story is shown from the point of view of a group of friends who were filming a birthday party when the monster attacks. The fact that they continue filming as this happens makes sense. In today’s society we can easily believe that people would film an unusual occurrence without thinking.

But that plausibility quickly fades. As the film continues, the characters are put in situations where the fact that they continue filming becomes less and less believable. This includes a section where they climb a collapsed skyscraper. There is no need or reason offered for them to carry on recording. And once you hit the point where you can no longer believe what is happing in the story it loses all power to affect you. And above that, it’s lazy.

If you are looking to write something in the found-footage style, then please remember that there are no plot-points, styles or tropes that you can use that will work without effort. The effect of the found-footage trope may be simple, but that does not mean it’s easy.

Nothing leads to ‘lazy’ faster than ‘easy’.

A few thoughts following publication

So a few thoughts on my first week as a published author.

I want to start with a big thank you to those of you who have downloaded The Serpent’s Eye already, and another to those who have been sharing it with friends. During the five days where the book was available for free it has had over 400 downloads! That’s just amazing. That fact that the number of people who have downloaded my book is pretty much double my Facebook friend list (which is pretty much what I expected my audience to be) is awesome.

I’ve even got my first review on Amazon. And people I’ve never met mentioning that they are reading my book of Twitter. It’s strange how little things like that seem to validate what you have done. The fact that I know have a book available to buy, an author profile on Amazon, and that strangers are leaving positive feedback, somehow makes it seem more real. It’s like I’m a real writer or something.

But I do feel a strange conflict. There is still a small part of me that cannot shake the feeling that putting something up myself as an e-book doesn’t count as “real” publishing. This feeling annoys me, as I’m proud of what I have done and in no way feel it is any worse than books that have been professionally published. If I didn’t believe it was good enough for publication I wouldn’t have self-published it. The reason I didn’t go down the shelf publishing route for my last book was that I wasn’t confident it was good enough without the input of a professional editor to help me out.

The fact is that the first hurdle in self-publishing is the easiest to fall at: believing your work is good enough without the work. You can look around the internet for five minutes and find hundreds of works people have self-published online that can’t even be considered half finished by any professional standards. People who seem to honestly believe that “My Mother said it was good” is enough reason to publish something. I swore I would never be one of those people, but that doesn’t stop them swamping the market.

A basic fact about today’s literary market is that if you seriously want to make it, the first step is to make sure that you stand out from the crowd half finished and poorly constructed drivel. The internet allows you to put your work out for people to find, but if you are lazy, hasty, make the same mistakes as others, or are just simply untalented, any publishers and agents who you manage to get to pay attention will dismiss you without a second thought.

And so my next step is to get an agent, and to get The Serpent’s Eye “officially” published. While I will always keep writing and putting out my work myself if that’s what it takes, I won’t deny that the end goal is to move into the field of traditional publishing. And if any one thing can help me get the attention of agents and publishers, it will be my book selling without any professional help.

The problem is I am not a publicist. Nor do I have any marketing experience. These are not things that you traditionally consider to be vital skills in an author, but in the modern publishing market they have become essential. If you want to stand out and be noticed, you’ve either got to (a) get working on the self publicity, or (b) pray that you’ll get reallyreally lucky.

So my work is set out before me; to grow word of mouth and build both book sales and blog-hits.

So, you know, start bigging me up to your friends. Suggest The Serpent’s Eye. It may not be free any more, but £1.53 is still pretty cheap.

Oh, and if you’ve still to get your own copy, you can download it here.

Out Now: The Serpent’s Eye

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I write these words in warning. Do not make my mistake. I fear, should anyone start along my path, that they will find their fate inexorable. As I have.

In the summer of 1816, George Sandings is sent to Buenos Aires to investigate the death of the late Earl Edgar Leer; the infamous explorer and hedonist. He has a month to uncover what he can, in order that the Leer family might put their disgraced son’s memory behind them.

But soon the words of George’s own journal begin to show him that the fate of Earl Edgar may not have been so simple. That Edgar may have uncovered things that should have been left alone and forgotten. As he digs deeper into the secrets that surround Edgar’s final years, George finds his own mind is becoming entwined with some power that cannot be explained.

A power that may prove impossible for any sane man to overcome.

It is done. The Serpent’s Eye is out.

You can download The Serpent’s Eye as an ebook from Amazon right here. If you have a Kindle and you’re looking for a slow-burning horror story to enjoy over your holidays, pick it up now.

And as a special offer, this week only, it’s free. This offer lasts until Sunday 3rd July.

It’s a strange feeling, finally getting this out there. The internet and ebooks may have made it easier to get a book out, but it’s still a chunk of work if you’ve never done it before and you want it to have a level of quality. I’ve been working on this story for the last year. The first draft was just two pages long, written as part of the background for the characters of a roleplay group I was part of, and wasn’t intended to be anything longer. But the idea stuck with me, and when I was looking to start a new long term project it came back into my mind and just started developing and growing.

It’s been interesting to write. In the past I always used to plan my writing projects out in minute detail before starting. And looking back I think this stifled me. This time I decided to work more organically. I started with the basic idea and worked things out as the story progressed. It was a lot more freeing. I write most things this way now. It can mean more revisions, but it allows a freedom I didn’t have before.

I’ll write more about it later. For now, I’m simply going to encourage you to head over to pick up the book on your Kindle right now, for free! Did I mention it’s free and you should pick it up now?

Once you’ve read it, then we’ll talk.