My long and short fiction skirmishes through Mythic Fiction, Paranormal, Horror, Thriller, Crime, Historical, Literary, SF, Fantasy, Mainstream, Romance and Western. Sign up for my new releases Newsletter or Follow the Blog by email as I chat about all things writing related.

19 April 2014

Do you Read or Skim?

A recent article in the Washington Post asked if living in the online Social Media world was having a detrimental effect on our overall reading habits. As reading is a learned skill, are we training our brains to skim-and-click for information we consider relevant to the detriment of longer, in-depth reading skills where we savour nuance and metaphor?

It caught my eye (yes, I did skim as an initial pass) because I’ve had reviewers who took me to task over aspects of my books which were simply incorrect. At the time I couldn’t understand how the mistakes could have been made as these were part of the reflective balance between characters, but could it have been down to the speed, and the way, of reading?

This question was raised again when I was sent a link to a speed-reading test. I clocked up 255 words per minute and answered all the subsequent questions correctly, which I considered fast, but others who have taken the test have hit 500+ words per minute.

I certainly know readers who regularly challenge themselves to complete a 100,000 word novel in less than a day, but is this beneficial? Perhaps it all depends on the person, the clamouring of their mental debris at the time, and how multi-layered the text.

So... I’m obviously a slow reader. Are you a fast reader? Does this affect your ability to draw from your reading what the author seeds within the text?

5 April 2014

Back-Blurbs and Interviews

As has probably been noticed by those following this blog (thanks, great to have you along) there's not a lot of creative writing being done at the moment. At least not of the type I enjoy. I am currently formatting The Bull At The Gate for paperback, and that means copywriting the back-blurb. Allow me a quiet arghhhh!!

The thing with a paperback is that it is a solid item. Unlike an ebook, it can't be tweaked at will, so the back-blurb has to be correct first time. It's not a product description which can go into detail about the triple storylines, Roman historical thread, the haunting from beyond a watery grave that may be more than it first appears. It is a short tease, and they can easily sound either cliched or risible. I doff my hat to those who can write them before breakfast, though having searched the Net it would seem that not many can explain the how of what they do.

So when a request to be interviewed on marketing & promotion appeared in my Inbox, I grasped the displacement activity with both hands. It's just been uploaded onto a blog entitled Self Publishing For The Technically Challenged

At least it says what it does on the tin. I wish my back-blurb did.

30 March 2014

Launching a Novel: How it *should* be done!

Today, good friend Stuart Aken launches Book 1 of a trilogy of epic fantasies, A Seared Sky: Joinings. Cracking, luminescent cover, isn't it? And this is just the tip of a gigantic launch iceberg propelled by his publisher.

Fantastic Books Publishing is from Yorkshire UK, whose sights are set on a global market and whose thinking is very much author and reader centric. Social media is not an after-thought; it permeates every thought, yet FBP's products are not digital-only; the paperback launches today, too. Readers in the UK can purchase a signed copy with a personalised message for the same price as offered by Amazon, including p&p. [Other publishers please take note.]

Supported by Twitter, the launch event is taking place on Facebook with both publisher and author at the keyboard chatting to people who drop by. There is a spectacular book trailer, supported by video interviews with the author, and the main characters, and regular give-aways. It's all listed, and being added to, under the pinned Welcome at the top of the page.

Indie authors such as myself can learn lessons here.

23 March 2014

Romancing the Fantasy - Stuart Aken

With a week to the release of the first of his Fantasy trilogy: A Seared Sky: Joinings, I am pleased to welcome Stuart Aken to talk about a subject dear to my heart...

Romance in fantasy? But, isn’t fantasy all about dragons, swords and sorcery, maybe elves, goblins and other magical folk? That’s certainly the image projected by much that falls under the umbrella of ‘epic fantasy’.

Fantasy, of course, includes dozens of sub-genres, and strays into areas reserved for other forms. Perhaps, before continuing, we need to define what fantasy is in regard to story-telling? It’s a tale set in a world, time, or dimension, or a combination of these, different from what we believe is reality. It may also involve animals as protagonists as well as beings that don’t exist in the known world.

Animal Farm, the Twilight series, the cult of Demonic Eroticism, Alice in Wonderland, paranormal stories, much of soft science fiction, animal-based novels like The Stonor Eagles and Watership Down, and many others fall within the wider definition of fantasy. And, clearly, romance does exist within this broader definition.

Noticeably, however, it’s far less common in epic fantasy. One reason may be that this specific sub-genre is often aimed at the YA/teen market and, more specifically, at boys. Boys are not, as a rule, attracted by romance. Sex, yes, but romance, no. There’s no more than a hint of romance in the most famous epic fantasy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Sam and Rosie, Arwen and Aragon), and this holds true for many within the genre. With the entry of more female authors into the field, it is becoming more common.

Perhaps we should also define ‘epic fantasy’? It usually involves a world that is ‘other’, a quest, magic in some form, battles, and themes that include ‘good versus evil’. But romance? Not commonly, especially from male authors.

No rules, and no valid reasons, exclude romance from epic fantasy. My own feeling is that the inclusion enhances such a tale and allows readers to enjoy the invented world much more. So, perhaps it depends on what readership the author envisages. In fact, I suspect that the exclusion of a romantic element has actively discouraged many readers who would otherwise appreciate this form of fiction.

My epic fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky, is aimed at an adult readership, though it is also suitable for a YA audience over the age of 15. I’ve woven the story around three sets of couples in each of the three volumes. These threads are romantically based, though the underlying story they carry is far more complex than that simple scenario might imply. I have some magic, in the form of a limited type of telepathy. I have battles, physical and mental, involving war between good and evil. And I have a central quest, involving many characters in a search for what they believe is a crucial artefact.

Romance is as fundamental to the telling of my tale as any other element. But the story remains a fantasy and is an epic, covering adventure over many lands in an invented world. Will you see it in those terms? Discover for yourself. Joinings, the first volume, is published by Fantastic Books Publishing on 30th March in both paperback and ebook formats. There’s a launch party, to which you’re all invited. The publisher is putting on quite a show. It’s a virtual event, online, so you can attend from anywhere in the world. To find out more, click this link.

P.S. As an illustration of how little romance there is in epic fantasy, I searched for hours to find a suitable illustration for this post and the one up top was the best I could find!

22 March 2014

Guest-blogging #6: The Bull At The Gate - Interview

I'm being interviewed today on Penny Grubb's blog, but don't think it's the usual dark chocolate and fluffy slippers stuff - oh no! The title should give you an idea of what to expect... "Linda Acaster, Stephen King, Agatha Christie and Barbara Taylor Bradford on Writing". [Gulp]

So if you have a question on anything writing related, do ask. I'll answer, even if the others are somewhat spare with their responses. Oh yes, and there's the usual free draw for the novels if you leave a comment. Can't be bad.