Archive | March 2013

Dreaming Of Serial Killers

Dreams – as mentioned yesterday – can be strange things. But for a writer they can be a rich source of inspiration as well as good entertainment.

Thin IceMy novel Thin Ice* was sparked by a particularly intense dream that led me off on the wonderful ‘what if’ trail that few authors can resist.

*FREE on Kindle for the next five days!

In my dream my wife and I weren’t married and she didn’t even know me – but I knew we’d been married and was trying to convince her we should be together.

Like the other night’s dream about typing crocodiles – yes, really! – I’ve no idea what sparked the dream as my wife and I hadn’t even fallen out.

But it did get me thinking. In my dream, I knew something from an alternative reality (the fact that my wife and I should be married) and I started to wonder: if someone found themselves in a parallel existence what else might they know? Could they use that knowledge to change – or prevent – events in the parallel world.

Fractured Lives

Initially, I wrote a short story called Fractured Lives – which appears in my short story collection of the same name. To read the original, click Fractured Lives.

Later, when I thought more about the potential implications, I expanded the short story into Thin Icethe story of young journalist Danny Harper and his bid to not only win back the girl he loves but also halt a serial killer stalking the city where he lives.

Thin Ice is free on Kindle over the Easter weekend. Click on the links below or keep reading for a more detailed synopsis:

Download from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Everything is going perfectly for young journalist Danny Harper: a new flat, a career on the up and the girl he loves about to marry him. Then he wakes in hospital to find none of it’s true.

Refusing to admit he’s imagined it all, Harper tries to regain his lost life. But, while his claims are initially dismissed as delusion, he knows secrets that can’t be easily explained.

Thin Ice is the story of what happens when two parallel universes collide – one world where Danny Harper’s life is a success, the other where it’s a mess.

Stuck in the ‘wrong’ life, Harper starts trying to deal with this new, alternative existence. But in the process he has to deal with something that casts a new perspective on his problem – a deranged killer with a fanatical obsession for the ‘sins of woman’.

In Danny Harper’s ‘real’ world, the killer has already been caught. But in this alternative world – due in part to a mistake by the ‘other’ Harper – the killings have so far gone undetected. And the latest victim is a complete innocent.

Should I Worry?

Sometimes I do worry what’s going on in my head. My dreams are often vivid and usually a bit surreal but last night’s was a corker.

free_wallpaper_of_a_crocodile

I dreamt that I was at a place where crocodiles were being taught how to use typewriters. It all seemed quite logical at the time – one of the crocs was lying on a beach busy typing while some kids were running past.

But where on earth did that come from? I hadn’t consumed anything I shouldn’t have – not even any alcohol. I hadn’t watched any wildlife documentaries or read anything about any kind of dangerous animals. It does make me wonder what’s going on inside my brain!

The inspiration for my books does come from all sorts of places: Thin Ice is based on a particularly lucid dream I had – but more on that tomorrow when it goes on promotion.

Findo Gask was inspired by a road sign, The Vault started as a single line about a night-time kidnapping attempt and the idea behind Pagan’s Sphinx came from a TV documentary about the origins of the Great Sphinx at Giza.

But typewriting crocodiles? Not sure I’ll get a book out of that one!

Watch Out – Wolves About!

Authors aren’t always that worldly-wise. After all, we’re creative types, known for having our heads in the clouds rather than engaging with the nitty-gritty of everyday life.

It’s not necessarily that there’s anything wrong with ‘real’ life – just that there’s so much more excitement to be had in our private alternative reality – and all those stories clamouring for our attention.

Once we’ve written our books, though, the big question is ‘what now?’ – and that’s when a healthy dose of caution is needed.

In many ways, the advent of e-publishing has given us a huge amount of freedom. But for indie authors who want to actually sell books writing the things is (believe it or not) the easy part. Even once all the editing is done and we’ve got a (hopefully) professional standard product we’ve then got to sell and market the thing.

Like many other indie authors I’m on a big learning curve here. There’s a big, baffling world out there and mastering it takes a lot of skill and knowledge.

It’s also common knowledge that increasing numbers of people are turning to self-publishing. Which means – surprise, surprise – there are also growing numbers of wolves and sharks circling around looking for easy prey (and easy money).

I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic. Don’t know if that’s a result of being a journalist or whether cause and effect are the other way round. I also have a tendency to be careful with my money.

Which is why when promoting my books I’ve stuck – so far – with the free options. But I’ve noticed the growing number of websites, blogs etc offering to promote my books for me. Some only charge a few dollars but I can’t help wondering about how ‘real’ this help is.

Some sites boast about their thousands of subscribers but my inner skeptic says: ‘Sure, but how many of them are indie authors like me who are trying to sell books and how many are genuine readers looking for the next great novel?’

I know most sites are only charging a few dollars for a listing but there are a lot of indie/self-published authors out there and a few dollars from each one of us will soon mount up. Makes me wonder how much money is being made.

I was partly prompted to write this post by reading Cameron D James’ piece about the difficulty of engaging with readers rather than just fellow authors. I also read a recent post by Michelle Proulx about entering her first book contest and wondering how ‘real’ the contest was.

Then yesterday I came across the Writer Beware site run by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. This lists not just fake writing contests but also warns authors about all sorts of other scams out there – ranging from literary agencies run by convicted fraudsters to publishing agreements where you have to sign away exclusive rights to your work. (There’s also a Writer Beware blog if anyone wants to keep track of the latest alerts.)

Anyway, having waffled on and probably come across all doom and gloom, here’s a question for all my fellow authors out there. Can anyone recommend any paid advertising options that work? Or have you taken part in a contest that has led to real results? Or any other thoughts on how to be a successful indie author?

Sombre Skies

We got home this afternoon after a five-hour journey back from Cornwall, down in the far south west of England.

We used to live in Cornwall and although good to catch up with some old friends it was otherwise a very sombre experience. An old colleague of Carolyn’s was having a retirement party – aged 57 – having been told about a month ago that he’s got terminal cancer and can only expect to live another few months.

It was a strange experience going to what was – in reality – a funeral wake in advance. Knowing what to say under the circumstances was hard, particularly as the person concerned is such a lovely, good-natured guy who will be sorely missed.

So, it was a bitter-sweet time back in Cornwall and – as you can see from the pictures – the weather was in suitably sombre mood.

Cornwall 01Cornwall 02Cornwall 03Cornwall 05Cornwall 04

Rules? Not For Bestsellers

There’s so much advice out there for writers. Do this, don’t do this – and sometimes it gets right up my nose!

I know, I know: lots of it makes sense. After all, rules are there to give us guidance. And the people telling us the rules are experts who’ve had hotshot careers in publishing (or so they tell us) or have spent years studying and teaching English literature/creative writing at the University of Wherever.

But how many of us really like being told how we should write? So, this particular technique works for John Grisham or Stephen King or… whoever. Do we care? Do we want to be the next whoever?

No, we don’t. Personally, I want to be the first ME! And if I can get away with telling my stories in the way that comes naturally to me then so much the better.

book-cover-100-year-old-manWhich is why I’m finding my current read so refreshing. I recently started The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared.

And one of the things that struck me very quickly is that it’s nearly all ‘tell’ not ‘show’. And it works!

This is one of the best-selling books in the UK at the moment and it’s had all sorts of glowing praise heaped on it.

So yah boo sucks to all those experts who are always nagging us ‘show don’t tell’ and hurrah for Jonas Jonasson not only having the courage to break the rules but demonstrating that you can also write an excellent book without following everyone else’s advice.

YeeeHAH!

Being the sad obsessive that I am, just got out of bed and checked the figures for my current giveaway on Pagan’s Sphinx.

While I’ve been over here sleeping, thousands of wonderful readers in North America have been downloading the book and it’s currently at No 37 in the top 100 Free – and No 3 in the Action & Adventure chart on Amazon.com!

Keep going, keep going… it would be wonderful to get to No 1.

The book’s free all of today too. To download a copy go to:

Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Free Trip To The Sahara

Fancy some adventure in the desert, looking for an ancient statue that might have been built by the people of Atlantis?

My most recent novel – Pagan’s Sphinxis on free promotion from Amazon for the next two days (Friday and Saturday).

A battered journal left by the lone survivor of a plane crash provides a tantalising clue to an ancient mystery…

Pagan's Sphinx#Written under the pen name William Webster, the story tells how former expedition leader Ben Drummond is trying to settle down back in England and forget the girl who broke his heart.

But he’s recruited by maverick archaeologist Sarah Pagan to lead a team into the deserts of North Africa looking for a lost statue that could predate the pyramids of Ancient Egypt.

Since being published in December, the book has got a 4.4* rating on Amazon.com (7 reviews) and 4.5* on Amazon.co.uk (2 reviews). To download a copy go to:

Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Enjoy and have a good weekend. Forecast for rain here – I’ll be wishing for some Sahara sunshine!

Beer – I Love It

Partly inspired by Maddie Cochere’s recent references to bacon on her blog, I’d like to sing the praises of one of civilisation’s other greatest inventions.

Beer.

I could just stop there but being a writer it’s hard to stop me prattling on when inspiration strikes. So, first of all here’s my desk:

The Boondoggle's gone - what next?

The Boondoggle’s gone – what’s next?

I sat down at my laptop an hour or so ago, not sure whether I was feeling inspired to write or not. Then I thought, hmm, I quite fancy something to drink.

In the cupboard I found the bottle of Boondoggle that I’d bought a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fruity, blonde beer that delivers a punchy citrus aroma and a well-balanced, moreish fruity taste. Well… that’s what it says on the label. More to the point it’s 5% alcohol and tastes damn fine to me.

I’m sure it’s also helped with the writing. I’ve just knocked out 750 words in less than an hour and almost got to the conclusion of the confrontation at the flower show between mad old Keziah Black and her snooty distant cousin Cynthia. (Coming soon in Church Of The White Rabbits.)

So. Beer – it’s good stuff. The big question now is which bottle’s next?

(Damn. Just realised – Carolyn now gets my blog posts. Now my wife’s going to know I’ve been sitting here drinking beer while she was out at her orchestra. Well… I did earn it, darling. I worked up quite a sweat shifting all those wheelbarrows of compost when I was gardening today!)

The Radical Button

Big moment. I hit the radical button yesterday and uploaded the final cover design for The Vault.

Vault full cover Mar 13 SM

I hope it meets with approval as all your feedback and votes helped played an important part in the final decision!

From the selection that I asked you all to vote on, the red cover with the image of the locking mechanism and the black cover with the picture of the boy in the woods came out equal first with 39%. However, another 21% of you voted for the third version. Since this also used the photo of the woods I decided that was the winning image.

Helped by comments made on the blog and via Facebook, I pulled everything together for the version above, which I uploaded last night to CreateSpace.

And – as if that’s not enough excitement – this morning I ordered two proof copies of the book. Unfortunately, since I’m on the wrong side of the pond, I won’t get to see them until the end of next week.

It’ll be a special moment having a hard copy in my hands. Then – assuming everything’s okay – the next part of the fun starts. Trying to sell the things!

In the meantime, I don’t think I’m going to do any gardening today. The snow’s back and I’m staying inside. Oh well, I’ll have to write instead.

It’s All Going Backwards

It really started to feel like spring today. Daffodils nodding in the sunshine, squirrels jumping around in the trees at the end of the garden and the thermometer showing 10°C by midday.

This afternoon we went out onto Hurst Spit, walking along the gravel bank that divides the marshes from the open water between us and the Isle of Wight. We could see cloud hanging over the hills on the island and the Needles were half-hidden in mist but the lighthouse next to Hurst Castle was gleaming in the sun.

lighthouse

Coming back was a different matter. As we turned around, the coast was fading behind a wall of mist and by halfway back along the spit the lighthouse had completely vanished.

Now the weather forecast is saying the highest temperature tomorrow will be 5°C and for Monday they’re saying 1°C with the chance of snow! I was hoping to do some gardening this week (and start advertising for new clients). Think the thermals and gloves might be needed.

In the meantime, I’ve almost finished the final mock-ups for the cover of The Vault. Thanks again to all who voted and commented – the red cover was a strong contender but the photo version won overall. Just playing with a few final variations then it will be decision time.

Last week I had a full week of teaching so my writing output slowed down considerably. After a day spent explaining the intricacies – and basics – of the English language to three multi-lingual classes, I find I don’t have a lot of mental energy left for anything very creative. Don’t think the 6.20am starts helped either!

I’m not teaching next week so hopefully I can turn my attention back to Church Of The White Rabbits. I’m over halfway through the first draft now so don’t want to lose the momentum.

Although I hope the weather stops going backwards. I think I’m a bit like the daffodils – I need the sunshine!