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This blog has moved

Hi, I have decided to merge my existing blogs into a single blog and concentrate my passion and energy there. So this blog has now closed, and has reincarnated here:

http://beyondthedream.co.uk

I hope you will check it out! Look forward to seeing you there.

 

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I’ve now finished and uploaded my second short story. It’s free to download in multiple ebook formats from Smashwords here. It’s also available on Amazon Kindle, although it’s surprisingly difficult to give away stuff for free on greedy Amazon, but from tomorrow for five days it will be for free! And you can always freely download it in Kindle format from Smashwords at any time.

“The Royal Runaway” is a direct prelude to my novel “Eladria”, set during the eponymous heroine’s childhood. It’s a short, character-driven tale about coping with a devastating childhood loss and learning to face your problems head-on. I hope you enjoy it. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Synopsis

Princess Eladria is devastated to learn that her mother has been officially listed as missing. Extensive planet-wide searches by the Royal Military have failed to yield a trace of the queen. Shocked that her father seems to think she won’t be coming back, the wilful seven-year-old sneaks out of the palace and prepares to embark on a desperate quest to find her missing mother. It’s a quest that’s fated to end badly, but a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger could mark a turning point in the princess’s life…

When the publisher was evaluating my novel for possible publication, one of the things they noted was that I do not currently have a “platform”. A relatively new publishing buzzword, a “platform” is the means by which an author reaches people; their level of public visibility and the number of people who’ll hopefully be lining up to purchase their work.

Let’s be honest, most publishers are more interested in the size of your platform than the quality of your work. That explains both why it’s so extremely hard for even a talented first-time author to get published and why publishers are lining up to publish the latest literary extrusions of people such as Katie Price and Jeremy Clarkson. They’re famous. They’re gonna sell loads. It’s money. Innit!

When it comes to non-celebrity authors attempting to build platforms, I think all comes down to the their drive and ability to pimp themselves. This comes more easily to some people than it does others. What I’ve noticed from online social media such as Twitter, is that Americans are often far better at it than Brits such as myself. Many of the American writers I’ve seen, self-published or otherwise, are exceedingly confident about themselves and their work and are relentless in their resolve to push their books and get other people to buy them. Some of them are actually like literary Terminators!

Good for them, I say. I’m not that kind of guy myself. I’m automatically turned off by pushy salesmen; any hint of the “hard sell” and I run a mile. I suppose I have a contrarian streak, and when it comes to myself and my work, I’m a bit shy and reserved. I’ve poured my heart and soul into my novel, and I’m immensely proud of it. I believe that people will enjoy reading it. I just can’t see myself ever trying to ‘push’ people into reading it.

I have very little interest in marketing and promotion, but I realise I’m going to have to change that, because I do want my book to sell. There would be no real point in spending years of my life writing something that only five or six people ever read. My books were written to inspire and to generate thought and reflection, to help us question the habitual ways we perceive and respond to ourselves, others and reality. I know that possibly sounds pretentious; it’s hard to write about anything that veers into the realm of philosophy without sounding pretentious. I suppose you just really need to read the book to see what I’m talking about. It works in the context of the book. Honest!

I admit that I’m drawn to the romanticised notion of being an isolated, reclusive author who spends all his time writing and then hands it over to a publisher and publicist, allowing them to do all the promotion and marketing, while perhaps doing the occasional interview.

Alas, that’s just not the reality of the 21st century publishing world. It’s a ridiculously overcrowded market and so very easy to get lost amid the noise and bustle, especially when people’s attention spans have so dramatically decreased these days. I think we’ve gone beyond the information age to an information overload age. It’s little wonder we’re all so busy, stressed and overwhelmed and no surprise that our attention spans are starting to rival those of goldfish.

It often seems that those that get ahead are the ones with the loudest voices and the most confidence and bravado. I was evidently born at least a century too late to get away with being the ‘reclusive, enigmatic writer’ type. Instead they tell me I should just suck it up, build up my Twitter followers and try to get more people to ‘like’ me on Facebook. There’s no avoiding it: if I want this book to sell and to lead to the possibility of further books being published, then it seems I have no option but to get with the times and join the media circus. I can do that. What I intend to do is find ways to do it that feel right to me and that reflect who I am and what I’m about. If I can do that, then I may even start to enjoy it. Wouldn’t that be cool!

Stay tuned. This is all a work in progress :) And if you have any thoughts, comments or advice, don’t hesitate to holler. I’d love to hear from you.

The past couple of months I’ve felt a little burnt-out creatively. Isn’t that weird? It’s been an amazing year creatively, I got a publisher for my novel Eladria, which should be released at the end of the year and I self-published my first short story (‘Artan’s Night’, now available as a free download) which has received some really good feedback. It’s also such a kick to be able to search for my name on Amazon and iBooks and actually find my work on there! That’s nothing short of a dream come true, and whatever else happens, I’m really proud of that.

So I’m not sure what happened when I started to my second short story. I had it all planned out and I knew exactly what I was writing, but somehow I was struggling to get the words out. The flow just wasn’t there. I was having to force words onto the screen, and even then was rather unsatisfied with them.

I realised I’d been struck by the dreaded writer’s block! I think virtually all writers experience this affliction at one time or another. It’s something I encounter now and again and I’ve thus far managed to uncover two main causes.

The first cause of writer’s block, for me, is that I’m trying to write something I’m simply not ready to write. Rushing into a project too soon can be a mistake. Before clothing them in words, sentences and paragraphs, I like to let the ideas percolate in my mind for a while. This is almost an unconscious process, for even when I’m not consciously working on the story or essay and playing around with ideas and structure, I often feel there’s something taking shape on an unconscious level, as though the piece is forming itself. All I need to do is wait until I feel it’s ready and then get into a clear-minded state and allow it to emerge and reveal itself. It’s a kind of passive approach to writing, but that’s how I’ve done my best writing. Once I ease myself into the creative flow, the words pretty much write themselves and it’s a marvellous process too, one that feels invigorating and exciting.

Attempting it the other way — trying to wrestle with ideas and words and force them onto the page — is often an uphill struggle and one that leaves me frustrated and drained. So in order to stay in the creative flow, I find I have to remain in the mode of ‘passive writing’, which is almost a kind of listening; listening to and observing the ideas, stories and characters as they take shape, allowing them to emerge fully formed, and then dictating what I see and hear in my mind.

The second possible cause of creative block is perfectionism. I’ve always been a terrible perfectionist, rarely satisfied and prone to editing a piece of work to within an inch of its life. No matter how many times I’ve chopped and changed a sentence I still think it could be improved. That perhaps makes me a good editor, but it’s not so great when I’m trying to create a new piece of work.

I learned a long time ago that in order to create a good first draft I have to switch off the internal editor and write first, edit later. If I can’t do that, I never tend to get anything written, as I’m still stuck on trying to fix and perfect that first sentence.

I believe perfectionism stems from a kind of performance anxiety. Obviously you want your work to be as good as it can possibly be so other people will like it. I think this is at the root of my recent bout of writer’s block. My short stories are being written and immediately published and there’s part of me that’s immensely freaked out by that because, quite simply, if they’re not up to scratch people won’t like them and won’t want to read more. The idea of publishing some free short stories prior to the release of my novel was as a means to get people interested and compelled to read more. In the back of my mind I was concerned that my stories might not be up to the standard of the novel and might in fact put people off buying the novel.

That hasn’t happened though, so I need to get over that. And what’s more, I need to get back to enjoying the process of writing. The best way to get over debilitating perfectionism is to let go of all concern about what others might think and remember why you write in the first place: namely because it’s your passion and you love doing it. When you lose the love and enjoyment and get crippled by fears and doubts, you sabotage yourself: the process of writing becomes an arduous struggle and the quality of the output suffers as well.

So, the solutions I’ve found to writer’s block are pretty simple. First of all, make sure you’re actually ready to start writing. At the risk of sounding ridiculously touchy-feely, the gestation period of any creative project requires a degree of sensitivity and intuition. You have to be alert to know whether the project is cooked and ready to serve up or whether you need to let it simmer a while longer. There’s nothing worse than trying to force out undercooked ideas. Indigestion is inevitable.

The second and most important key is to let go of the inner critic for a while. Send it on a paid vacation, get it to take all of its fears and anxieties with it, and simply ENJOY what you’re doing. Keep it fun and exciting. If you lose the enjoyment, you’ll eventually lose your passion and this will be reflected in the quality of the work. Write (or paint, sculpt, or compose) as if you’re just doing it for yourself and your own enjoyment. Do it freely, without inhibition and without concern for what other people might think. It’ll get edited and polished up at a later stage and the rest will take care of itself. Until then, don’t lose the enjoyment. And I suppose that’s a great rule, not just for creative work, but for life as a whole.

I began writing Eladria in August 2009, and the final draft was completed and handed over to the publisher in August 2012. But although this book took three years to complete, it’s origins stretch far back. It’s part of a larger story that’s been with me most my life.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, or at least a storyteller of some kind. I remember sitting in my room as a child of probably only 6 or 7, a pad of paper and felt tip pens in hand as I conjured whole new worlds from my imagination. I knew I had a story I wanted to tell. I wanted to be able to share the magic of my inner world with others. I think I originally wanted to call my story ‘The Lost World’. But I recall my dad telling me there was already a book by that title. Beaten to it — by Arthur Conan Doyle no less!

I grew up and got on with school and watching cartoons and drawing comics, something I particularly enjoyed. It wasn’t until I was about 16 years old that I finally got back to the story I wanted to tell. It started from a fairly broad premise: a group of people that had lost their home and banded together in search of a mythical paradise. For a number of years it was called ‘The Journey’. It was a fantasy adventure, but also something more. It was a story about life; a metaphor for our journey through life, dealing with immense odds and searching for something better, striving to become something better.

It took a number of years to write my first novel. In that time, the title changed to The Key of Alanar. I poured my heart and soul into it and learned a heck of a lot about writing, structuring stories, creating characters and dealing with arcs, narratives and themes. After several false starts, I finally started the novel properly in 2001 and completed it in 2007 (although it underwent several subsequent revisions). It was a more or less self-contained novel, yet designed as the first in a series of books.

I was immensely proud of it and I still am, but despite my best efforts, I didn’t manage to find a publisher. This was in the days just prior to the explosion in self-publishing and ebooks. I was actually rather heartbroken that I’d put so much of my time, effort and love into something that is still just sitting on my bookshelf. But something compelled me not to give up. I decided to have a second shot, a second attempt at getting a foot in the door of the publishing world.

I knew I wanted to write another novel, but I wasn’t entirely sure what or how. I had a vague idea that it would be set in the same universe as The Key of Alanar and would serve as a kind of parallel story, a book that, if published first, would lead into my first.

The funny thing about this second book was how effortlessly it came to me. I was sitting outside on a hot Summer’s day and suddenly a flood of ideas began rushing into my mind. I simply sat and jotted it all down. It was as though I was watching a film unfolding in my mind; a fully-formed story with a beginning, middle and end, along with a set of characters and an entirely new world, different to the one I’d created in my first novel. Eladria was born in the space of an hour or two. Some of the details were later refined or changed, but the blueprint was more or less all there. It was an extraordinarily effortless act of creation.

The act of writing it, of course, took a little more effort! I started straight away and set myself the goal of writing three pages a day. I more or less managed to stick with that, and as the weeks and months passed, the novel began to take shape. I didn’t initially know how it would tie in with my first novel, until I later realised it was essentially a prelude. It was a self-contained story featuring a different world and characters, but which would be tied together in the third book. Eladria and The Key of Alanar are like two points which, with the third book, will be joined to create a triangle. One of the things I tried to do with Eladria was to create as immediate a start as I could; a means of instantly hooking the reader and drawing them into the story. I hoped that would make it easier to get this novel published. Once published, I would then be able to release The Key of Alanar, which was still quietly biding its time.

So Eladria has an interesting history. If The Key of Alanar had been published as I’d originally hoped, I wouldn’t have written Eladria and the overall storyline of the series (which is entitled The Alanar Ascendant) would have been quite different. In a way, it’s a novel that was born out of failure, but in retrospect I’m glad it happened as it did. I’m very proud of Eladria. I think it works as a solid fantasy/science-fiction novel with a vivid protagonist whom I immediately fell in love with and had a wonderful time writing. I also imbued the story with a certain depth that stems from my true consuming passion in life: exploring the nature of consciousness, identity, life and reality. The book can be read on a number of levels: as a fast-paced action adventure filled with twists and turns, or as a philosophical work, touching upon themes of purpose, destiny, loss and love and the nature of reality. Different people will take different things from this book, and that’s one of the things I like most about it, and hope others will too.

I’m delighted to know that Eladria is now in the process of being published and I’m really excited to be able to share it with the world. It’s always challenging for a new author to find a way to stand above the crowd in an over-saturated market, but I’m hoping I’ll find an audience for my stories.

Once Eladria is published, I’m going to get back to The Key of Alanar and ready that for publication. As it’s already completed (bar some final rewriting), there shouldn’t be too long a wait between the two books. And if enough people are interested in my work and are eager to read more, I will set about writing my third book. At present there are five books planned in the Alanar Ascendant series.

I really look forward to sharing the journey with you.

I’m excited to announce that my first short story, Artan’s Night, is now available to download, and it’s FREE!

Synopsis

Artan is a young man with a secret. He has the ability to read people’s minds and hear their thoughts. Struggling to survive in a war-torn, poverty stricken town, he’s been using his newfound power to cheat in casinos; a game that soon backfires when he gets caught. But the worst is still to come. In the middle of the night, the town comes under seige by marauding Ha’shon warriors. Artan is forcibly taken from his home and led on a journey that will change his life – and the fate of his world – forever.

The story serves as a prelude to the upcoming novel Eladria, introducing readers to the world of Tahnadra, establishing the backstory and setting up various elements that will be expanded upon and resolved in the book.

Now available for free download!

Artan’s Night can now be downloaded in multiple formats (including Kindle, Epub, PDF, HTML and plain text) from Smashwords click here to download it now!

It will be available on Amazon and iBooks and other stores in the next week or so. Due to the specifications of these sellers I can’t guarantee it will be available for free in all stores, but it can still be downloaded for free in any format from Smashwords.

I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know what you think. This is actually the first short story I’ve written since my school days! More to come, as well.

 

Now that the manuscript for Eladria is in the hands of the publisher, I’ve finally been able to get back to the short stories I’ve been intending to write.

As always seems to be the case for me, the process of editing, redrafting and proofreading takes at least two to three times the amount of time it does to write the initial draft. I wrote my first story about three months ago and I’ve only just got it to a stage where I consider it ‘finished’ (or as finished as anything I ever do!). Admittedly I was juggling a number of other projects at the time, so hopefully it won’t take me nearly as long to complete the next story.

I plan to release the first one, “Artan’s Night” in the next couple of weeks. It tells the story of Artan, a young man with an astounding secret who finds his life in jeopardy when his town is invaded in the dead of night. The events of the story serve as a prelude to Eladria, introducing readers to the troubled world of Tahnadra and setting up various threads that will be resolved in the climax of the novel. My hope is that people will enjoy reading the story and will want to read more.

This is actually the first short story I’ve written since my school days. I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it at first. I took a look some short stories and read up on the theory a little bit. I then realised that when writing my novels, I essentially approached each chapter as a kind of short story. Whether writing a novel of 120,000 words or a short story of 1,000, the same basic dramatic structure (which is essentially “GOAL > CONFLICT > DISASTER!”) remains the driving force of the narrative. I wanted to make sure that, as in my novels, the characters had an arc and a sense of progression to their development. I always ensure that each of my characters has an unresolved need, an unfulfilled yearning or lack which can drive the story and that by the end of it, they have changed, developed and grown. I think that’s the key to telling satisfying and emotionally fulfilling stories.

I did find it quite challenging fitting all of this into a single story. As a result, clocking in at around 9,500 words, “Artan’s Night” is quite a long short story. But I’m pleased with it. I think it’s quite atmospheric, tense, action-packed, intriguing and emotional. I enjoyed creating the character of Artan and although he doesn’t feature in the novel personally (he is still there though, and his fate is revealed at the end), I’d like to revisit him one day.

Stay tuned – I plan to release this in the next couple of weeks vis Smashwords. And, like the best things in life, it’ll be free, as well!

Wow, it’s been a while since I last updated this blog. It’s not that I’ve been lazy. Honest! In fact, I’ve been working flat-out to the complete the final edit of “Eladria”. I’ve learned that writing a novel is actually the easy part; the hard part is the endless rewriting, editing and polishing that’s necessary in order for it to be as good as it can possibly be. In my experience, that’s what takes most the time. I spent a year writing the first draft, then another two years doing the successive drafts and edits.

But it’s all paid off! For I’m delighted to announce that I was offered and have accepted a publishing contract! “Eladria” will be published by Cosmic Egg books, a brand new imprint of John Hunt publishing and should be available to purchase in paperback and ebook format toward the end of this year. Between “Eladria” and my first, as yet unpublished novel, I’ve spent a total of nine years looking for a publisher. So it just goes to show that persistence and perseverance do indeed pay off!

In that time the publishing industry has changed immeasurably. There’s been an explosion in the field of self-publishing, which was once prohibitively expensive for most, but which is now readily accessible due to the advent of Amazon’s Kindle. Having weighed up the pros and cons, I was considering self-publishing myself. There are certain advantages (such as complete creative control), but also disadvantages too (to put it bluntly: because absolutely anyone can self-publish, there’s a high percentage of genuinely terrible stuff out there. As a result, a number of people simply refuse to read anything that’s been self-published). If there was some way to issue a quality-control seal on self-published works — something that would assure potential readers that what they’re purchasing is of a certain standard — then I believe this just may be the future of publishing. 

But I’m glad that my first novel is being handled by a publisher. It takes a certain weight off my shoulders. Now that I’ve handed over the manuscript they take over the process, including editing and design, assigning ISBN numbers, preparing press releases and promotion and listing the novel where they deem appropriate.

Of course, as is the case with virtually any publisher now, most of the marketing and promotion will be down to me. I suspect this is going to be a challenge, because it’s not something that comes naturally to me. I like doing the work; I hate having to market and sell the work. I don’t know whether this is due to a lack of self-confidence, or because the marketing industry fills me with a certain disdain. It often seems as though it’s largely based upon manipulation and deceit. I promise that I will employ neither. I’m going to find my own way in this regard. I only want people to buy my book if I’m certain they’ll enjoy reading it and would get something from the experience.

When it comes to marketing I’m going to be honest and straight-up. It is a book that’s been designed to be quite accessible and which may appeal to people who aren’t regular fantasy or science-fiction readers. Iinitial feedback seems to indicate that this may be the case. But still, it’s not going to appeal to everyone and I’m not going to try to force it on everyone. I’m going to do what I can and allow the rest to take care of itself. It’d be wonderful if it became a publishing sensation (and frankly, if “50 Shades of Grey” deserves to be, then my novel certainly does!), but that’s nothing an author can plan or count on. It’ll find it’s market and reach who it’s meant to reach. I live a very Zen approach to life and I’ve decided that this area should be no different.

Anyway, after a month of working tirelessly to complete the final edit, I’ve handed it over to the publisher. It’ll now go to a copyeditor who will work through it and then pass it back to me to approve any changes. I’ve uploaded my own cover artwork, but it remains to be seen whether the publisher uses this or whether they want to use their own design. I hope they use mine: I like it and think it looks good, but I’m always open to new possibilities.

In the meantime, I’m finally going to get back to the series of short stories I’ve been working on. These stories will be offered as free preludes to the events of the novel. The first, “Artan’s Night”, will hopefully be released in the next couple of weeks. I’ll keep you updated. I’ll also endeavour to blog more often! I have a number of topics I’d like to cover and insights that I’d would like to share. Until then, take care and speak soon…

Really excited to post these, as they are amazing. And I didn’t have to bribe anyone, honest…! These are endorsements very kindly provided by two fellow authors:

“This guy knows how to write. I’ve had the privilege to review his work, and he’s going to be big. From page one he fully captured my imagination with vivid worlds and wonderful characters and settings. I particularly enjoy his character interplay and the emotional description and language that goes with it. A talent like this shouldn’t go unrecognised.” - Harrison Davies, author of The Aduramis Chronicles

“This story simply makes my heart sing as the meaning of human existence is brought to our attention in this beautiful, richly and intensely woven tale. The author takes us on the journey of a lifetime.” – Patricia Iris Kerins, Voice of the Magdalenes

The following are comments from independent advance readers. I was really nervous reading these, as these people don’t know me and had no reason to like my work, but I was very pleasantly relieved.

“A really well paced and exciting story. The characters are three dimensional and they grow, change and develop as the story progresses. The descriptions set up the feeling of alien lands nicely and the story gets into the action straight away. It hooks the reader immediately and keeps them hooked until the end.”

“Well written, in a very popular style. Its pace and interest grab is immediate.”

“I really like this one. I expected the usual swords-and-sorcery-type fare, but was pleasantly surprised by the combination of fantasy and sci-fi. The narrative moves along swiftly without bamboozling with too much information, and the dialogue is excellent. The endorsement is absolutely spot on – this guy does know how to write.”

So relieved and excited to read these comments, and couldn’t wait to share.

I was surprised and delighted to learn that my great, great great uncle was actually a very successful 19th century author! He was from my mother’s side of the family, several branches of which are quite sketchy, which is why we hadn’t known of him until she began actively researching the family tree.

This is William Black:

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His Wikipedia entry can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Black_(novelist)

Born in 1841 in Glasgow, he was a both prolific and successful author and his work was compared with Anthony Trollope. Alas, his fame didn’t extend much beyond his death in 1898 and I don’t think his books are currently in print, although some of the texts are available via Project Gutenberg.

I was pleased to learn about him, and will definitely be checking out his work. It’s inspiring to know there was a successful author in the family and I hope, in the not too distant future, to follow in his footsteps. 

Here’s to my very great uncle! I hope I can do him proud.

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