30 October 2016

#Horror Anthology Launch - 666

Back in the dead of last winter, Fantastic Books Publishing put out a call for professional contributions to augment its competition for Horror Fantabbles of exactly 666 words. I thought it an amusing distraction from the work-in-progress. After all, how hard could it be?

Argh!! Writing short is an artform. Writing to an absolute length is a recreation for masochists. Some ideas simply won’t fit, no matter how many thrashing tentacles are hacked off with a rusting blade. As readers of my speculative fiction know, I’m not into gorefests, I much prefer atmospheric creeping dread. By definition, creeping does not flash by at the speed of a lightning bolt.

Yet I refused to be defeated. No wordage constraint would leave me a quivering wreck, though it very nearly did. Not until the fourth idea had been dragged screaming across the keyboard did that frisson truly erupt. The story was submitted, and accepted.

Number Thirteen will take its initial breath on Monday evening – All Hallows Eve, naturally – alongside professional contributions from four other authors as well as the competition winners, the highly commended, and those who made the shortlist. Congratulations to them all.

The paperback and ebook is now live on Amazon, the ebook on the Fantastic Books Store. The launch event - with prizes - will be on Facebook Monday 31 October. Howling begins at 19:06 GMT [6 hours and 66 minutes after noon... evidently]. Costumes and/or cushions to hide behind may be considered optional.
Update: check the FBook link to see a reading, by the light of flickering candles (naturally), of one of the stories.

Be there AND be scared! And if you haven't been scared enough, check out the book trailer to my 99p Horror short Scent of the Boggel-Mann.

29 October 2016

Halloween #BookTrailer for #Horror Short – Live!

I’ve been considering producing a book trailer for some time – see Post 1 & Post 2 – but it became evident very quickly that the necessary skills were simply beyond me. I did, though, learn a lot in the process, which I’ll be blogging about in a couple of weeks. Suffice to say that I turned to an expert, YourBookTrailer.

Timed for Halloween, the trailer is for Horror short, Scent of the Böggel-Mann. It can be viewed in widescreen/fullscreen on Youtube HERE. Enjoy!


Got a taste for Horror? Return tomorrow for a new title announcement – 666.

22 October 2016

Are You Still #Writing?

Chapters of  'Pilgrims of the Pool' in precis
That question has been asked of me three times this week. Considering that in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy I maintain the Celtic belief in the ‘power of three’, and one of my main characters adamantly refuses to believe in coincidence, perhaps it is time to show that the long-overdue final novel, Pilgrims of the Pool, is still breathing.

So here you have it, the proof>>>

This is my ‘chapters completed’ list, each precis fixed with Blu-tack to my office door for an at-a-glance structural flow. That’s why each is topped with a colour, signifying one of the three storyline viewpoints [you can’t say I didn’t mention the trilogy’s thing about threes]. 

I also use it to ensure Time has some sort of wavy leading edge: X has to happen before Y mentions it, sort of thing. The two lonesome chapters at the bottom of column three show where I have written ahead of this.

When the first novel was released, a Goodreads' subscriber soundly lambasted me, and other writers, for not waiting until all novels in a series were finished before releasing them. At the time I was astounded, but now I smile wryly and don’t bite. It merely portrays the gulf that still remains between readers and how a book is written.

Sure, there are writers who can produce a full-length novel in 4-6 weeks, others who can fall out of bed at 5am and have 3,000 words on-screen before waking their children for a cooked breakfast and taking them to school on their way to a stressful day-job. I’m not one of them. I need equilibrium and head-space. When I tried to plough on without those two ingredients I unwittingly took a left turn and subsequently found myself in a universe running at a tangent to that envisaged at the outset of writing the novel.

Does it matter? I didn’t think it did at the point of realisation – there are a lot of good things in this at-a-tangent universe – but as the novel has progressed it has become clear that some of those good things are mere charades, and the gulf between the two universes is widening. Tone has changed; character motivation has fallen down a hole or splintered into contradictions; the mirrored surface of each storyline has dulled so is unable to produce reflections. 

Readers might not even notice in the run of the three books, but I want it not only to be right, but to be the very best I can produce. My reputation depends on it. And there is no worse critic for a writer than Self.

16 October 2016

All Things CON-ventional

At the end of September I attended my first FantasyCon. For any writer or reader of the speculative genres it proved a long weekend of intellectual overload. Catch my post-Con thoughts HERE

Still on a high, I went on to investigate Bridlington ComicCon – a first for both the town and me. Yes, there were comics, boxes and boxes of them on tables and tables, all wrapped in protective plastic and labelled as if rare artefacts, which I’m sure some were. Enough to whet the appetite of any collector. 

It was fascinating to watch illustrators and graphic artists bring to life 3-D worlds on 2-D paper with nothing more than a couple of Sharpies and a bucketful of talent. Cosplayers mingled as if in a surreal marketplace, complete with a patrol of Stormtroopers ex Star Wars telling us all to move along; nothing to see here... when there was plenty to see everywhere I turned.
In for a penny... This weekend it was off to Hull HorrorFest

It wasn’t as busy by the time I arrived, though I didn’t venture upstairs to the movies being run with Q&As from their writer/directors. Doubtless ravenous hordes of decaying figures were lurking in the comforting darkness. If you wanted to feast on the delights of cupcakes topped with gore-oozing eyeballs, or slice up a celebration cake in the shape of a greenish severed forearm, this was definitely the place.

There were zombies, though not as many as I’d expected. I have to admit, though, there is something unsettling about being urged to contribute to a hospital charity by a shuffling once-human medic in a tattered white coat, even when you know it’s all in the make-up and gait.

The biggest surprise was chatting with a member of MadAboutHorror.co.uk in front of its wall of head-masks and discovering that not only is it based close to where I live, but that the majority of its sales aren’t Halloween entertainment but to “collectors”. Er... collecting for what, exactly, neither of us wanted to discuss in depth, but a seed of a story started to fester before I’d even left the booth.

At the turning of the year Hull becomes City of Culture 2017, and I came across a roaming monk carrying a hemp noose (as you do) and proffering leaflets for new venture Dark History Museum of Hull, part museum and part immersive attraction by the sound of it, due to open mid-year. I wish them well.

There were green-screen selfies on offer, make-up artists offering their skills from quaint Dracula-for-children to the air-brushed full-body outfits of The Walking Dead, and people were signing up to be considered as extras in the forthcoming LARP film Xisle.

The event, both events, were an interesting and cheap way to grab a few hours entertainment; but writers and books? A scattering of authors did attend, yet they certainly weren’t being mobbed. I guess it depends on the genre and the Con.

That’s it for me until FantastiCon where I have an author table and am on a panel discussing writing. It won’t be so much graphics and make-up as NERF wars and VR gaming. And actors. And cosplayers. And lots of authors. See you in Hull’s Guildhall late November.

8 October 2016

Mainsteam, Indie, Small Press, or Hybrid #Publishing?

When Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) first opened its doors to the wider world back in 2010, there was an inevitable furore, everything from world domination to trash writing. To self-publish – the ultimate dirty word – was to tar yourself for life in the eyes of mainstream publishing. Self-publish, and no agent or publishing house would touch your other works.

Did authors cower? Of course not. Even mainstream published authors took possession of their backlists, long ignored by their publishers, and their older works found new readers where it had been insisted no, or not enough, new readers existed.

Slowly this industry stance has faded. Agents view hybrid authors – those who have a publishing contract and also independently (self) publish – as writers with drive. Indie authors with drive and whose sales prove they also possess business acumen, have been offered contracts by mainstream publishers who realised such authors brought a supply of willing readers with them. Almost in the same breath Amazon opened a print-publishing arm to do the same. Quietly, almost in the background, small press publishing began a resurgence.

Attending my first FantasyCon recently - see post HERE - I was surprised to learn how mainstream and small press publishers work in easy tandem, with both emerging and big-name authors contributing short and novelette length fiction to the latter to be published in magazines and anthologies.

Is it a good way into print/digital? It can be. Small press publishing offers editing, just as mainstream publishing does. I used such to my advantage early in my career. By marking my submitted fiction to match the published version, I honed my own editing skills. The less editing a publisher needs to do the more likely a work is to be accepted.

With the rise in POD (print-on-demand), anthologies in particular, now abound. Search for variations on “anthology submissions” plus your chosen genre/sub-genre. If you want to gather writing credentials, this could be a good step. After all, it may take up to a year to research, write and polish a novel. It may take less than a week to do the same with a short story. Keep up the momentum and you could be looking at fifty submissions against one for a novel. If they all fall within a specific genre, there's a collection.

Give yourself a head start. Check out: Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction

1 October 2016

Should Writers Attend Conferences & Conventions?

logo of the BFS 2016 FantasyCon
For a host of reasons it's been a few years since I attended any writers' conferences. Last weekend I broke my duck by attending FantasyCon-by-the-Sea in Scarborough, a full-on three-day event. To say that it was flabbergasting is putting it mildly.

The British Fantasy Society has been going since the 1970s. I was a member a fair few years ago and even gained the enormous kudos of having a short story printed in one of its magazines. This year I was nudged into rejoining by an author acquaintance. After all, I’m working on the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, and in the interim have published a Horror novelette and novella. I’ve even a ‘Fantabble’ coming out in the 666 anthology to be published at the end of this month. With Scarborough a mere hour away how could I resist FantasyCon?

The venue was the enormous hotel The Grand, a Grade II listed building dating from 1867. It is shaped in a ‘V’ to honour Queen Victoria, and is built around the theme of Time – a fascination in itself for a Fantasy or SteamPunk writer, if only I’d had, er, time to explore. It has certainly seen better days, but not even its two ornate ballrooms and various adjoining rooms were enough to swallow the event. The Royal close by, itself dating from 1830, had its own ballroom and coffee shop pressed into action. They were needed.

Ignoring the karaoke, the disco, and the ‘bingo’ which I was told had a huge number of books as prizes, on offer were:
  • 30 panels
  • 16 book launch events
  •   8 Guest of Honour interviews
  • 11 Masterclasses
  •   8 Agent/Editor sessions
  • 33 double-author readings
Knit into that lot The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, The FantasyCon Banquet, and The British Fantasy Awards, and there was hardly time to sleep, never mind eat breakfast.

Of particular interest were the dealer tables, mostly of small presses, some recent start-ups like Luna Press, others, such as PS Publishing, with a long and illustrious track record of titles and awards. Big names from both sides of the Atlantic mingled in the bars, and if attendees set their sights on speaking with someone in particular, it was certainly doable. Everyone I met was giving of their time and experience.

So what did I learn?
  • Indie publishing is not frowned upon by agents or publishers
  • Fantasy and Horror, and their sub-genres, have markets outside the mainstream
  • Being accepted in award-winning anthologies and magazines helps gain an author notice
  • Podcasts need to be investigated
  • My breadth of reading is nowhere near wide enough
This latter failing was ably fed by both the dealer tables (I bought nine books) and the goody bag presented upon registration which, as well as a pen and a stick of rock (it even has FantasyCon lettered through its centre, and no, I haven't eaten it yet), contained a hardback doorstopper of a novel, a hardback novella, a paperback novel, numerous chapbooks and fliers, and the FantasyCon brochure, itself a 102 page A4 all-colour magazine of information, introductions to Guests of Honour, and samples of their fiction. This is no way to get my own novel finished.

FantasyCon 2017 will be held in Peterborough 29 Sept - 01 Oct. If you're interested in the Fantasy genres and live in the UK, I suggest you mark your calendar.