Remember that evocative line from the old Bobby Darin hit? About someone’s exotic and beautiful lover waiting patiently on a golden beach, watching the ships sailing? It’s a line to make you dream of dusky beauties or darkly handsome hunks (depending on your gender and preferences, of course).
I know what’s wrong with me this week. My latest work, The Satnav of Doom is almost finished. Actually, by the time I either post this or you read this, the work probably will be finished and delivered into the eager hands of my publisher who has had to wait a little for this one. I hope that it is worth it. Of course, any of you daft enough to part with your hard earned stuff to read my meanderings will have to wait a while longer as it won’t be released until the very end of October. Tough.
Anyway. Even I can’t write non stop, and when I do stop, I tend to read, to clear my mind. I don’t really watch TV, as I don’t enjoy it much ( apart from the music or archaeology programs of course), so I read. But as I write fantasy, I daren’t read it when I’m writing at full flow, just in case I inadvertently ‘borrow’ some ideas. So I tend to read travel and adventure books, and then this happens. I get itchy feet. Not that itch, there’s a powder from the chemists for that. This is the itch that says: you’ve sat in one place for too long, you want, you NEED to get out and see places. Buy a boat and sail away; get a motorcycle and drive until the fuel runs out and see where you are then; go to the airport and take the first flight you find with a seat. (All right, I know you can’t do that anymore, but you know what I mean.)
Maybe it’s part of being a writer, I don’t know. I think I’m allowed to call myself a writer now, with 5 books in print and the sixth just delivered to the publisher. Not an author yet, I’ll need to produce something I’m finally satisfied with before I do that, but a writer, yes. My imagination wants to take flight, to sail into a red/gold sunset,to drive a majestic road into the far horizon. Quiet, you at the back. No, I’m not drunk, just a little wistful tonight. I think it’s the feeling I get whenever I actually look at finishing a book, even though I’ve already written most of the first chapter of the next one and need to be writing onwards.
There’s a big wide world out there, begging to be dragged into my next book, and I want to go and look at some of it. Anyone coming?
Actually, I should have ripped off a line from ‘Mixed Emotions’ for this week’s blog. Because that would be a bit more accurate, in some ways. Half of me is doing happy dances around the living room, terrifying the dogs and making my teenager speculate on how much she can blackmail for (not to put the pics up on Youtube and Facebook of course): the other half wantys to crawl under my desk and whimper in fear. What’s it all about? Well, my brilliant publishers Safkhet Publishing, not the ones that do the horror books, not that they aren’t brilliant too of course, oh why did I start this? Never mind it’s too late now.
Where was I? Oh yes, Safkhet Publishing. They have cleverly decided that my fantasy series, The Banned Underground, should now be allowed to continue beyond it’s initial extension to eight books, and now continue until the end of: me, Safkhet, the world (delete as appropriate). That means I am going to be writing quite a lot more of them. Pauses for applause, not a sausage. Better next blog post, with any luck.
Anyway. That’s the reason I have been jumping around the house screaming in delight. Of course, Karmic balancing also means that I’m slightly terrified, as I now have to write more than I ever envisaged. So that’s what I’m doing: writing busily. Which means i don’t have time to write this blog post, so you’ve probably imagined reading this. And because I’m too busy (my technical author’s thesaurus translates this as too lazy, by the way) I’m going to indulge in a common author’s practice: here’s one I made earlier.
I was lucky enough to be invited to write a guest post for Morgen Bailey’s excellent writer’s blog recently, and here it is. Unless I imagined it, of course. I will now implode on my own logic, so there.
I’ve had a few arguments with a writing friend (who for the sake of this piece I will call Doctor Sam. Those who know her, will know who I mean). She claims that I am wrong, insufficiently medically aware and probably stupid. Charges that in most cases I would be unable to contest from her. However, in this case – even though she is right, she is most definitely wrong. I have been describing imagination in terms of a muscle.
When Wales recently humiliated the English rugby team (sorry, couldn’t resist) in the climax of the Six Nations tournament, the losing coach talked about fitness levels and physicality. I’m convinced that we writers need to consider our imaginations in the same way that a professional sportsman considers these aspects of their game. I’m a fantasy writer. So to me, my imagination is the most important weapon I can employ in the fight to produce an entertaining book. And the empirical evidence has shown me that the more I make my imagination work, the more I exercise it, the stronger it becomes.
See, Doctor Sam? Just like a muscle.
And one way to exercise your imagination is to write a lot of flash fiction. As a reader of Morgen’s excellent blog, you have probably read quite a few of the flash pieces she has posted from authors. To write a convincing story in a very few words is a test of the imagination, and if you have never tried it then I strongly recommend to you a diet of flash fiction. Try writing a totally different short story every week for a month or so, or even longer. It’s really tough at first, but you will be amazed with yourself after just a few weeks, and who knows? Some of those pieces may be worth expanding into full novels. That’s worked for me. It can work for you, too.
Your imagination. Use it, or lose it. Just like a muscle.
I very rarely remember to put any marketing on my blog, so why not have a quick peek at my websites, instead?
Yesterday, I had a surreal experience. I met myself. Or at least a version of myself that I know some of my friends would recognise. I was in Waterstones (All right, I know that’s not going to be a shock to anyone, although possibly a cause for my bank manager to despair) and I stopped to exchange a pleasantry with the author signing books that day. He was, I hazard, about five years older than I am. He had a children’s fantasy novel series he was promoting, with a large (Vistaprint) banner behind him, and a box full of books below the table. He too was stood up, dressed in dark clothes, and wearing a winning smile. Familiar to anyone who’s been to one of my signings?
Anyway, yesterday, I had decided to pay a little attention to the man in the mirror. I had got up early and done some of the chores needed around the house, and mowed the lawns. Then I went off to Carmarthen, and did some personal stuff: I had a haircut ( yes I know I’m almost bald. But the almost bit still insists on growing in an unsavoury fashion, and needs occasional grooming. In the absence of my ex there is no longer anyone to run over me with the lawnmower if I lie down on the grass, so every so often I have to invest in a haircut.) Plus, my favourite shaving balm had run out and I wanted some more. After a quick browse at the second hand vinyl on offer in the market, my feet were dragged – entirely against my will and better judgement – into the bookshop. Fortunately I had had the foresight to leave the credit card at home, so I was pretty safe.
There he was, this month’s sacrificial goat, looking like he was having a blast. No, I wasn’t crass enough to ask him how many he had sold. But as we chatted, astonishing simularities emerged. We both write childrens’ fantasy ( my stuff hasn’t yet found a home, unlike my more grown up fantasy). We both knew – and had been rejected for exactly the same, slightly bizarre reason by – a local long established traditional Welsh publisher. We both enjoyed signing events, he had been writing for about five years longer than I.
And he was living the dream. My dream, and possibly your dream, too.
Two months ago he told me, he quit his job to write, promote and sell his books full time. Now he spends his time in bookshops, in schools and libraries, talking about his work and his life and his books. And writing more. And I came away awed and energised by this meeting. Chance? Karma? Co incidence? Who knows?
And yes, I have passed an uneasy and disturbed night wondering: have I just met a version of myself, from five years in my future? If so, could whatever mystical force sent him please send the next version, ten years aheaad and tell me if he’s happy and successful, but that wouldn’t half be useful information!
Anyway. this is him. http://www.colinrparsons.com. Go and visit his website, you might be doing me a favour.
And Colin, if you read this, I apologise sincerely – if you aren’t five years older than I am!
I’ve been indulging myself this week and listening to a lot of my vinyl. And before you all start shouting at me, yes I know that the version I’ve been playing by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band is not the original. I just happen to like it, that’s all. I like the man’s voice, I always have. Not the most famous rock band perhaps, but certainly one of the most original.
SAHB have been on my mind because I’ve been reflecting somewhat on what my friends and I are likely to achieve as writers. SAHB never made the biggest time but they had a lot of fun and made some great music (as well as some not so good, being honest). I have a suspicion that we may all be in the same place as the immortal – and sadly deceased – Alex. I’m on a (publisher organised) blog tour at the moment. No, I’m not going to put all the links down on here. They are available on the Facebook page of The Banned Underground, if you are terribly bored and need a distraction. So bits and pieces about my latest book are all over the internet, the reviews, both good and bad and even the ones from other authors who feel jealous, are coming in and Bass Instinct has been granted the accolade of a listing on the prestigious Awesome Indies website.
But what does it all mean? Well the first thing it means is that I’m having a great deal of fun. Some of the best fun in my life, if I’m being honest. Being published is without a doubt one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in my life. It fulfills my desire to create, which is an inner need I didn’t even know existed three years ago. In another song by SAHB, Alex growled: ‘I wanna be rich, I wanna be rich and famous.’ Well, I’m pretty comfortable that’s never going to happen. Possibly that’s for the best, too. But on a temporary basis, I have at least got the illusion of being a famous author. For a couple of weeks, I can dream the impossible dream, before it’s back to reality.
Actually, I so wish that could ever be true. You see, I love to travel, to go out and find new places. Well, places that are new to me of course: obviously they aren’t new to the people who actually live there, or those who have been there before me – the guys who made the maps of them for a start. Or the guide books. Or took the pictures that tempted me to visit in the first place.
And in passing, this has for me always been the argument, non-pareil, against the existence of a beneficient deity. There are so many truly wonderful and amazing places in this world that even the mega rich could not hope to visit them all in the course of one life time. No kind deity could devise such an outragous scheme. Sorry, don’t want to offend anyone, it just annoys me a bit.
Anyway, yesterday I was out on my travels, and found (just as well it’s still marked on the maps!) a completely derelict, silted up and unusable harbour. The sea had retreated from it many years ago, as had the village it had once served. Now, only some dangerous mud flats and an almost buried stream showed any signs of life, but the breakwaters still remained, mostly buried in the shifting sands and mud. A fantastic day I’m going to remember for a long time. I came away with a roll of used film, and a ghost story running through my head.
Which, with perfect timing, brings me back to books. Because i’ve been travelling all over again there. sadly not in person, but in the form of a ‘blog hop’ or ‘blog tour’. I prefer the sound of the first really, with its connections back to the ‘hops’ of the 1960s. Danny and the Juniors (At the Hop) anyone? So it seems I’ve been on the continent, as opposed to being incontinent, in the States, all over the world. Without leaving home or the laptop. At first it seems a bit exotic, but now I’m just a bit annoyed again. All these places I want to go and see for real, not by virtue of a virtual blog…But at least I’ve got an itinary now.
Got to go, another nice day and there’s an iron age fort a few miles away I’ve never been to before.
If you fancy a look, here’s the blog tour: it’s all about the release of the fourth of my fantasy series, Bass Instinct (Banned Underground #4)
Sorry, but I’ve been playing quite a bit of my vinyl recently and after quoting from that Genesis album the other day it’s been on my mind: principally I think because I can’t find the blasted thing. I might even end up having to buy another copy, which would be annoying. Anyway. The point of this week’s ramble is to talk about names, and how they rather affect us.
Ethel is not a very common name these days, is it? What image does it conjure of the lady who would bear it these days? I think of a very victorian person, perhaps a maid (in the employment sense) or a cook, rather than a great lady. My mother had three names from which to choose, and made another old fashioned choice. I sometimes wonder if she would have been a different person if she had chosen Helen, one of her other forenames instead? Would she have become a femme fatale, with men launching ships in her honour rather than a disappointed and slightly embittered housewife?
And that moves me along with a depressing inevitability, to writing. The choice of nomenclature for our characters is sometimes difficult. Names carry an image, or a feeling about them. Charles sounds slightly stuffy and formal, whilst Charlie carries a hint of hard work, maybe the scent of a pub? certainly laughter. My apologies to any Charles or Charlies (especially right Charlies) who may feel offended! When I’m writing a character I often try to carry a visual image of thet character in my head. I did try, once, to have a card index with names and character habits and stuff for reference, but quickly gave that up: the differing mental rhythms from the names was enough for me to keep them all seperate.
Think of Lord of the Rings: would Sam have been as staunch and dependable if he had been called Merry or Pippin instead? Would Aragorn have been so Lordly if he had been named Bert?
Some detective stories like to have different characters with similar names to help them create a little confusion in the mind of the reader, and I’m sure that it is for the same underlying reason. So what comes first? The character or the name? If you have a character in mind to fit a particular slot in your book, do you chose the nature of the character first and then select a suitable name, or decide on the name first and then see if the character fits? Have you ever had to change a character’s name because their behaviour didn’t quite fit the first name you had selected?
When I wrote my first novel, I was a bit haphazard about names. Now, especially as I’m stuck with a few of them, I’m very careful about the names I give my characters. It’s a lot more important than I first realised.
Before you ask, no I do not have a funny walk. Well all right, maybe occasionally but it’s not nice to mock. So shut up, you at the back. No jelly babies for you after class!
This week, I’ve been joined by Michael Brookes, who hides out in the same Goodreads group I frequent. He has some thoughts about marketing, and then a few comments about his latest release as payment for helping me out with this guest post. Over to you, Michael.
Spreading the word
After writing a story worth reading, the second biggest challenge for indie authors is generating sales. It’s difficult for new authors to get noticed even when they are supported by a publisher. So what can you do if you don’t have a big budget?
The first steps are simple. Picture a series of expanding circles around you. These illustrate your degrees of contacts. The smallest circle is your closest friends and family. Let everyone in this closest circle know you have or about to release a new book. It’s perfectly acceptable to use strong arm tactics with this group
As well as gaining a few sales you may find they have good ideas for spreading the word further. If you’re one of these lucky people then listen to them, their enthusiasm to help can be a boon.
The next circle out is your wider set of acquaintances, people you work with, socialise with or just know by sight. These will be a little less accepting of your book than the closest circle, but they’re still worth engaging. They already know you and hopefully some will help spread the word even further.
Of course engaging with people one to one isn’t the most efficient way to gain new readers, but it is a good way to get used to describing your book and telling people about yourself. In some ways that can be the hardest part of all. Not all writers are good at presenting themselves and their books, but like any skill it can be learnt.
Expanding further you can look around your local town for other promotional opportunities. Check with the local library, local bookstores, local colleges and universities. Also check with the local press.
Ok, so you’ve now explored many if not all of your local options. Hopefully that will have gained you a few more fans. Next we grow the circle even further thanks the wonders of the Internet. As we all know, the Internet is a great way to meet like minded people. There are forums and blogs for every type of interest. You know have to find the ones that match your book.
A good place to start is Goodreads. Goodreads is a site comprising of different groups, make sure to look for the groups that match your book as closely as possible. Some judicious searching will reveal other useful groups. When joining a new community don’t dive straight in and start promoting your book. Get to know the community, make sure you know the rules. More importantly try to make a contribution.
As well as websites there are the social networks like Twitter, Facebook and many others. As with sites you need to invest time and effort to get results, simply tweeting you’re book details over and over again will annoy your followers more than gain you sales.
And most of all keep writing. The more good work you have out there, the more likely it is to get noticed.
And now, the sales pitch!
Conversations in the Abyss
‘Conversations in the Abyss’ is the sequel to the 5 star rated supernatural thriller ‘The Cult of Me’
Stealing Lazarus’s miracle gifted him immortality. Combined with his natural ability of invading and controlling people’s minds this made him one of the most dangerous people on Earth.
But the miracle came with a price. His punishment was to be imprisoned within the walls of an ancient monastery and tormented by an invisible fire that burned his body perpetually. To escape the pain he retreated deep into his own mind.
There he discovers the truth of the universe and that only he can stop the coming Apocalypse.
Buy now from Amazon:
About Michael Brookes
Michael Brookes is an Executive Producer with a leading UK games developer. Working in games and writing are two of his life passions and considers himself fortunate to be able to indulge them both. He lives in the east of England, enjoying starry skies in the flattest part of the country. When not working or writing he can sometimes be found sleeping. Which is good as that is where many good ideas come from.
Other Books by Michael Brookes
The Cult of Me
For too long he dwelt apart, watched those who passed him by. With his unique abilities he entered their minds and inflicted terrible suffering upon them. They didn’t even know who he was. The game has lasted for years, but now the game has become stale. On an impulse he decides to make a final and very public last stand. After surrendering himself to the police he enacts his plan to seize the prison for his final bloody act.
There he discovers that he’s not as unique as he once thought.
An Odd Quartet
A quartet of dark short stories (10,000 words) to thrill and chill.
The Yellow Lady
Grave robbing is a dirty business, in more ways than one. When he disturbs the grave from a childhood scary story he discovers it’s not always treasure to be found.
This Empty Place
At the heat death of the universe, Death contemplates his existence.
Terrorists seize an average suburban house. A Special Forces hostage rescue team is sent in and encounter more than they were trained for.
The Reluctant Demon
A young demon prepares to take his possession exam.