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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Why you're already a master.

Writing is hard. I seem to be starting a lot of posts like that lately. But it is. Amirite?

You see a lot of negative writing by writers, for writers, by people who use social media as a ranting outlet / soap box.


"You haven't got a book published."
"You don't know what you're talking about."
"You are a failure."

You go on social media to be told you're a failure. You are drowning in a sea of negativity. It starts with the do-gooders. Advice blogs, those sorts of things. Yeah. Things like this one.


If you don't write everyday you're not a writer, you're a loser. 


Well fuck you. Sometimes life does get in the way. You try to write everyday, writers try to write everyday. But we can't all write everyday.

WRITE ALL THE WRITING.

You do, though. Yes, sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes Mad Max does. Age of Ultron. Holy shit, the sun's out for the first time this year. I'ma sit in the garden an have a beer. But you write, right? You have written.


Maintain a massive social media presence.


How? When? When I'm not writing? But you just said...?

SHUT UP AND WRITE.

Party on the web. Maintain social media. Have friends. Have colleagues. Be interested in things other than writing.

NO. BREATHE WRITING. IT IS THE ONLY THING. ALL HAIL WRITING.

You've been there. You have a deadline. You do breathe writing for days. Sleep. Day job. Write. What did you feel like at the end? Relieved? Hell, yes. Pleased? Yep! Self-congratulatory? Absolutely. Bit like shit? Oh, God, yes. Exhausted? *whimper*

In order to write all the writes, there must be moments of not writing all the writes. Don't burnout.


Have an agent. Self publish. Small press. Whichever you choose, you're wrong.


What? Wait. No. But I'm. You're doing what is right for you. Look-y here at my post on European Geeks about publishing choices. It's your manuscript. Do what you want with it. There is no wrong.


Spam the internets with your work.


No. Don't. Facebook group after Facebook group with page after page of links to books. No one is looking at them. No one. Of course maintain the social media. Maintain an image. Don't be a spambot of self promotion. No one likes that.

And what does it all come down to?

Them telling you that you're not doing it right. You're wrong. You're a big poopy head. Listen to them. Listen to me. Pay them to do it for you. Don't learn to do it yourself. Learn to do it yourself.


"Contradiction"
"Depression"
"Incorrection"

You know what? Don't listen to them. Don't listen to me. Learn yourself. Find your own way.

You're already a writer, right? No. You're an author.


Author: the composer of a literary work. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

An Interview: John Moralee

Today, FW has with us author, John Moralee.


John writes crime and horror stories, often mixing the two genres into dark suspense fiction. He lives in the UK, where his short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies including The Mammoth Book of Future Cops, Crimewave, The New Writer, Ten Deadly Tales, Hideous Progeny: A Frankenstein Anthology, Acclaim, the British Fantasy Society's magazine Peeping Tom, and the Fish Short Story Award book Scrap Magic and Other Stories.




FW: Firstly, could you tell readers a little about yourself?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. The only other careers that appealed to me as a kid were President of the United States or an astronaut. Since you had to be born in America to qualify for the first and extremely lucky to get into NASA for the second, I abandoned them as possible careers aged around ten. From then on, I wanted to be a successful writer. I knew it would take years of practice before daring to submit anything – so I started writing stories for my own entertainment. I have boxes of my early efforts locked away in the attic, where they should always stay. Those stories were never meant to be read by anyone apart from my family, as I wanted to learn the skills necessary for publication before sending anything away.

I only started submitting my stories to magazines after a teacher secretly submitted one of my short stories to a regional competition. It won first prize, which was a great boost.

These days I enjoy writing short stories because the time involved is short, but I also like writing longer pieces, like my first crime novel Acting Dead and a YA dark fantasy called The House on Willow Lane.

FW: Tell us about ‘Edge of Crime'.

Edge of Crime is a collection of crime stories written over a period of about a decade. Most of them are dark suspense, with twists, though some were added for a little light relief. It’s an omnibus of two smaller collections – Under Dark Skies and Thirteen: Unlucky For Some – plus some extra stories. I wanted to produce a single-author collection of my published stories, with a few new ones.

I have also published a collection of horror stories called The Bone Yard and Other Stories.

FW: And what do you have forthcoming?

I have a load of unfinished novels and short stories on my computer. Too many to count! I plan on finishing some of them, while also working on new stories for competitions and anthologies. I don’t believe anything you write is ever a waste of time. It is all experience. Right now I’m rewriting a comic fantasy novel that I started at university. My manuscript wasn’t ready back then for publishing – but I can see how to improve it now.

FW: What tips can you give new writers?

Read widely outside your chosen genre. If you don’t, you will write generic rehashes of the works of others. The wider perspective might make you realise that you like other genres, which happened to me. I used to think I’d only write horror because I liked reading Stephen King, Clive Barker and Shaun Hutson, but I discovered Dan Simmons mixing genres and realised I didn’t have to limit myself to just one genre. One of my favourite writers – Joe R Lansdale – writes horror, crime and SF, often all in the same story. Cross-genre fiction is a huge success thanks to writers like Stephenie Meyer creating a new genre. You have to think outside the genre expectations.

Never use a fancy word for ‘said’. Never add an adverb to the describe how something is said, either. Good dialogue should stand alone. Only use ‘said’ sparingly as a pause. Elmore Leonard gave great advice on this subject.

Avoid clich├ęs like the plague.

Don’t take rejection personally. There are a thousand reasons for it, none of which has anything to do with your submission. Don’t assume your story is bad.

Don’t choose to be a writer unless you have enormous patience and realistic expectations.

Don’t expect instant success. It’s a rare thing. Prepare for the long term.

Write what you want to read.

Edit for your audience.

Keep a book like Fowler’s Modern Usage within reach for tricky grammar problems.

Keep writing. And writing. And writing.

Don’t quit.

FW: When writing, music or silence?

I prefer silence when I’m trying to focus on a first draft.  It’s important to have no distractions. If I listen to music, I tend to stop writing to listen to my favourite songs. I turn on the radio when I’m editing a completed draft because I don’t need to concentrate as hard.

FW: At home, or in a coffee shop?

JK Rowling loved writing Harry Potter in a coffee shop – but I would never feel comfortable writing in public. I’d be too distracted by the noise of conversations at nearby tables, which I would eavesdrop for story ideas. It’s amazing the personal stuff people will say out loud – things too interesting to ignore. I’d never get a word written in a coffee shop.

I can’t write anywhere except at home, where I have everything handy – like a good dictionary, reference books and a drink of coffee that didn’t cost £5.

FW: Who is your biggest influence, and why?

I suppose my biggest influence has to be the writer that made me want to write. That’s Stephen King. His books were in my local library so I read them when I was about eleven. Wow! His short stories were exciting and inspiring. I filled dozens of notebooks with my own stories after reading his collections – so he had a huge influence. I admired his prolific output, too. After the massive success of Carrie, he could have rested on his laurels. But he didn’t. He wrote the epic Salem’s Lot and The Stand, as well as hundreds of short stories. Even after his tragic accident, which he wrote about in the excellent book On Writing, he didn’t stop. That’s inspiring.

FW: What is in the future for you?

I just like to keep on writing and hopefully have people read my stories.

FW: Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d just like to say that I am optimistic about the changes to publishing brought on by the digital revolution. There are now thousands of writers producing great work that would not have been published traditionally. It’s great to see them finding an audience for their work, which would remain unread if they could not self-publish. The publishing business is like the Wild West at the moment with writers and publishers fighting each other to get their books noticed – but I hope everything will become more civilised as the business matures. Once we have a fair system, properly policed, I think writers will be better off in the long term.

FW: Thanks for coming in and talking to us John.

You can find more about John here: www.mybookspage.wordpress.com

Or on Twitter: @mybookspage


Sunday, 16 November 2014

An Interview with Rebecca Besser

Today FW are pleased to have author Rebecca Besser with us to talk about her newly re-released book: Undead Drive-Thru. 



FW: Hey, Rebecca, thanks for being here. Tell us a little about yourself.

RB: I’m the mother of a (soon to be) ten-year-old boy, and a wife of a little over thirteen years of marriage. I’m also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and a published author in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for various age groups and genres. I’m best known for my work in adult horror. And I think I’m turning into a “zombie chick,” since my I’ve turned back to the zombie genre with my Undead Series.

FW: So, Undead Drive-Thru, tell us about it, what’s it all about?

RB: Undead Drive-Thru is about a woman whose husband comes home from work bearing signs of being tied up and drugged. He dies in her arms and wakes up a zombie. She vows to protect him no matter what, because she still loves him.

Flash forward a bit… The woman with the zombie moves to another state and decides to renovate and re-open a rundown diner she’s received as an inheritance. She hires employees, and with the help of her nephew, tries to keep the zombie a secret.

It doesn’t go well… And the nephew has to decide whether to stay loyal to his aunt (who has gone off the deep end) or be a decent human being and try to protect innocent people from harm.

FW: And the over-arching series?

RB: The sequel, Undead Regeneration, will follow the lives of the survivors of Undead Drive-Thru as they try to find out the origin of what turn the man into a zombie in the first place. They do this while trying to maintain their relationship and their safety – not an easy task.

They get to the bottom of things, but tragedy strikes. They don’t know if they’ll have a future left after everything they’ve been through.

The prequel, Undead Origins, will go back and tell the man’s story before he arrived home to his wife and became a zombie.

FW: Tell us about the Undead Drive-Thru journey. It has already been published, was to be re-published, and now it’s being self-published. What happened?

RB: Indie presses and their drama is what happened. The press I originally had the book published with had issues because of some of the shady dealings of the owner. A lot of people boycotted their books, and sadly, my book was stuck there until the contract was over. I managed to absolve my contract early.

I then had the entire series planned out when another indie press showed interest. This time, the owner of the press had a public fit about finances, insulting the authors they’d signed because they wouldn’t’ renegotiate their contracts to help pay for the cost of publishing their own books. I hear now that the press is going to revamp their business this coming year – hopefully they’ll figure out how to keep it afloat. And hopefully, there won’t be any more toxic outbursts from the owner. If those continue, even with the business end under control, no decent writer will want to be published there.

The decision to self-publish is established on the basis that I know how to edit, format, and produce books already from work I’ve done for indie presses in the past. I’m not going into this blind or stupid. I’m just hoping to do the best I can for my titles, knowing that there isn’t going to be this variable in another person who is going to do something stupid and cause people not to buy my books. I won’t have to worry about someone else’s actions affecting my sales.

The first release has a decent amount of great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so I’m hoping the book will sell itself once people read it and share their enjoyment of the title with their friends. And, obviously, I’ll do my best to reach as many new readers as possible.

FW: And what else is in the works?

RB: Nurse Blood, my first full-length novel, is being reviewed by agents currently. As I would like to have an agent so I can focus more on writing. I’m currently writing Undead Regeneration, so it can be released in 2015. After that will be Undead Origins or the sequel to Nurse Blood (Blood Trail).

FW: Do you have any particular writerly habits? Listen to music? Shut yourself away?

RB: No, I don’t have any particular habits, unless you want to count me telling my inner editor to “Shut the hell up and let me write!” as one. I do tend to like peace and quiet when I write and edit. I can do either with distractions if I really try or have to though.

FW: With your horror writing, do you write what scares you?

RB: I’m actually extremely hard to scare, so that would be difficult. If I ever write about sharks, you know I’m writing about something that actually scares me. ;)

I tend to try to feed off of the fears that come naturally to humanity in general, like helplessness and hopelessness. There isn’t always going to be a happy ending and not everyone is going to live through the bad things that happen.

FW: Anything else you would like to mention?

RB: Yes, there is! I’m giving away two signed copies of Undead Drive-Thru (one first and one second edition) to one lucky winner of my re-release giveaway! Three runners up will win signed copies of just the second edition!

Look for official rules and how to enter on my blog:




FW: Thanks for coming in Rebecca. Good luck with the release!

You can find out more about Rebecca at her blog, here, or follow her on Twitter, here. We've had the pleasure of reading some of Rebecca's work previously, and you can read our reviews of Hall of Twelve and Cursed Bounty here and here.

But enough of that! You want to buy the book, right?

It's available in ebook from Amazon US and UK. Here are the links:

Undead Drive-Thru (US)

Undead Drive-Thru (UK)

Friday, 14 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 5: Bringing it home...

So Shutter Speed is out. Redemption is out. The Hand parts 1 and 2 are out.

I'm currently writing two novels. At the same time.

Lesson 8: Don't write two novels at the same time. It might sound obvious, but I thought it would work. I could move between them. Keep my mind focussed. Oh dear God. No. Oh, and I was trying to write The Hand part 3: Celestials at the same time. Doesn't work. Not for me. Plots get confused. I was confused. I had no sense of achievement. As we speak, two projects shelved temporarily, one novel first draft, and I'm on act III.

So, I thought, The Hand. Why doesn't it sell? Well, the reason is that the cover looked like this:



Bit shit, yeah?

So I changed it. Both that and part 2.



It's amazing what happens to sales when you put a decent cover on a book.

But I know. Covers can be expensive. But here I am, reading and learning and understanding the legal side of stock images. Again: keeping costs down by doing it myself.

So, sales are on the up, I'm writing, I've got work in the bag. It's on shelves. But I sit and look at my back catalogue. I have a lot of back work, short stories, that I am now out of contract on. I sort of ignored them after they were published. So I started up the spreadsheet, did some math. I have 90K words of shorts that I have the rights to. So what do I do?

The choices three:
  1. I can submit them to open calls, much as I did the first time they were published, if they fit and the publishing house accepts re-prints.
  2. I can sit on them and do nothing.
  3. I can self-publish them in a single tome, as my collected works.
Remembering that I have the rights to the Human Condition back, I already have an anthology in my possession of previously unreleased work.

I decided not to try and have them re-printed in anthologies. I don't know why. It just felt...wrong? So using all my new skills, I re-edit the whole lot. I format. Cover art. I self publish. (Just done, in fact).

So, the future?

I'm here. Now.

The Human Condition was re-edited by Eden Royce and Rebecca Besser. Two of the best editors I know. It is sitting with a press, and I have my fingers crossed. I'm writing solidly. The future?

I'm writing a dark Sci-fi called "Trinity". It's by far the best work I have put out. Once it's done I'll try to find a publishing house for it. I have another novel half written, "Vampire Blue". More of my Hell Noir material. That one I might try and agent.  And of course, The Hand goes on.

The past?

Should I have made different decisions? Of course. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But would I?

HELL NO.

I have three novel length books out and another with hope. I'll have another in the bag by the end of the year, and another, hopefully, by April next. My journey has taught me. I have made friends in the struggle, and found love.

It is me.



***






Murder and madness, monsters and monstrosities, here within lies a collection of tales each too terrifying to be told alone.

Meetings in heaven, deals in hell, SMALL CUTS itch, but dare they be scratched?

From the acclaimed author of SHUTTER SPEED, REDEMPTION, and THE HUMAN CONDITION comes 27 stories of desire, hate, love and death.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 4: A Home for a Novel, or Maybe two...?

Right. Where was I?

Ah yes.

I feeling pretty good at this point. I am ready to start shopping around Shutter Speed, and Charles is shopping around Redemption. Things are on the up. Except sales for The Devil's Hand. But with that, it doesn't seem to matter what I do. I'll turn it around one day.

Finding a home for a novel.

So, do I find an agent, or do I find a Publishing House. I nominated a Publishing House. I've been writing for years, but I am still learning my trade. Particularly novel length work. (I'm not saying I know everything about short stories. If I did I'd be rich.) I don't consider my work to be ready. Why? Confidence. Straight up confidence. Should you agent your first novel? Don't ask me. Maybe. That's on you.

Lesson 5: Finding a Publishing House for a novel is a slow process. Even with small presses, and new presses, the turn around time on a novel is - can be - vast. Having just finished writing something as monumental as your first novel, you want people to read it, of course. Well, you might have to wait 3 months for someone to read the first chapter. Or six. Or twelve. Or more.

So I put it out there.

With confidence as it is I start with what I thought of as mid-level submissions. Publishers who had a track record, but weren't big six, as such. Some that I had see people work with and some that I had researched.

Lesson 6: Follow Submission Guidelines and write a good letter. Having dragged myself through the short story submissions of my early days I am lucky enough to be able to follow guideline submissions with ease. It is something you learn hard and fast when submitting to anthologies, and you get used to the idea they are all slightly different. BUT THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT. Then you have to write a submissions letter. Some guidelines will tell you what they want from the letter some won't. There are plenty of websites that will advise you on content. My winning letter? I got lucky. I sidestepped it. I queried a Publishing House from an online form about submission periods and was fortunate enough to strike up a dialogue with the owner. He asked for the first five chapters, and the rest was history. In fact, the novel was snapped up. Wheels turned quicker by this lucky meeting than I could have wished.

The letter I was using was polite. Personalized first paragraph addressing the press, a couple of blurbs about my other work, synopsis, polite finish.

Which leads me to:

Lesson 7: Keep notes, keep on top, keep informed. I was submitting to Publishing Houses that accepted simultaneous submissions. This means I am submitting my work to many places at the same time. Shutter Speed was picked up and I was over joyed. Within hours of the contract being signed (I read this one much more carefully, and I queried sections I was unsure of), it was plastered over social media. My "baby" had a home. Everyone rejoiced. Except I got an email from a Publishing House. One I had simultaneously submitted to. I was, probably is still, one of the most important emails I ever received.

It was like an email from a friend. I was congratulated on publishing my novel. Then in the most polite way possible I was advised that before I start shouting on social media about my publication, I should inform other presses that it had been accepted. It was the polite and professional thing to do. It used the term BURNING BRIDGES. And it was right. Not only did it teach me a valuable lesson, but the close of the email asked if I would give the press "a first exclusive peek", "love to see another novel from you in the future", and " feel free to pitch something to me any time".

They had given me invaluable advice, and a confidence boost. I was on top of my game suddenly.

Then Charles informed me he had a bite on Redemption. I had another contract to read. He'd found us a home.

It was all happening.

And then out of the blue I got contacted about my short story collection captured in contractual hell. It freed me. A single, short, sharp, email releasing me from my contract.

Shutter Speed was coming out. Redemption had contractual negotiations. The Human Condition was mine again.

OMG.

Tomorrow: One comes out, two comes out, I find out why The Hand doesn't sell. Another Book? Oh, my!


***




Jimmy Tasker is an ordinary child. He loves to take pictures: has an eye for it. When some common bullies take things too far, Jimmy ends up burned… and different. It starts when his father is killed in a mysterious house fire.

Him and his mother move away… change names… disappear.

Some years later a group of friends are finding it tough. They are unemployed, short of cash, and one of them comes up with a great idea. A robbery. But they are a rag-tag bunch, and Steve declines, leaving the other three, a misogynist, an addict, and poor, easily led Peter, to pull off the ‘robbery of the century’.

But Jimmy is still in there, somewhere…

… and he’s killing for fun.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 3: Enough Parts Out to Call it a Series, and Turning One Thing into Another

The Devil's Hand Part 2: Conviction, written and ready.

This time I decided to pick up the ball and run with it on my own. I edited my own work. I formatted my own work. I created my own cover (bit shit).

I released it: same price as the first one. Then I needed to drop the price of Crossing Guard to free.

Lesson 4: Amazon will not charge what you want it to. Unsurprisingly, Amazon, being a company, want to make money. So I've decided as a marketing ploy to make my book free. Hold on. That doesn't work for them. I mean, if I have a shop, do I want to give products away for free? No. Obviously.

So Crossing Guard was free on Smashwords, and Amazon was still charging. I tried the known tricks to get Amazon to drop the price. I had people report it as free and link to Smashwords. But no cigar.

Sales? Still damningly low.

Maybe The Hand wasn't as good as I thought? Hm.

Still I will strive.

Anyway:

Redemption, a novella collection I had written with author Charles Day came back from another Publisher. Same story each time. "We like it... but it would be better as a novel."

Okay. Two authors, 3000 miles apart. How hard can it be to meld a collection into a novel?

THIS HARD.

Turning a collection of your own work into a single work is hard. But trying to get multiple peoples work together, with multiple people involved is near impossible. Perhaps if it was to be novel from the start? Who knows.

It was hard on us. Not just as authors, but as friends.

But it got done. Finally, novel length work is complete. Charles starts the work on getting it out to Publishers. That was work off me, thankfully.

So I plow forward.

Finish the first draft of Shutter Speed.

And then the second.

Third.

Muck with it.

It is ready.

Tomorrow: Trying to find a publishing house for a debut novel and taking Traditional Publishing to a new level.


***




Jessica won’t stay dead. And when she comes for you, it’s already too late….

When old friends Al and Benny hit the town for their usual alcohol-fuelled binge, things go wrong when Al insists on driving home. All the while, young Jessica is cycling along their dangerous route home. When the three collide, Jessica is left for dead and the men hide the evidence.

But what happens when the dead don’t stay dead?

 Risen from beyond, driven by a vengeful rage and wielding an unnatural command over nature, Jessica leaves behind a relentless trail of suffering and destruction as she seeks out the two men responsible for the evil she became…. Redemption is supernatural horror at its finest and, just like Al and Benny, you won’t see the terror coming for you until it’s too late.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

My Journey of Many Halves 2: Self Pub Sales and the Traditional Contract

So, The Hand is out.

First Quarter Sales are in.

Hm.

First Quarter sales are not what I expected. I've never done this before. I didn't really know what to expect. But I expected... more? I set my expectations low. I did it on purpose, so as not to be too disappointed. And I priced it cheap. 99c. It was good. I know this. But even my lowest expectations had been limbo'd under.

So what went wrong?

Lesson 2: Books don't "just sell", and people owe you nothing. "Why should you buy my book?" That was what hit me in the face.

So I'd done something wrong. Clearly.

But I put it behind me. No problem. I did some research. "Write part two," it said, "then make part one free. The sales will roll in..."

So I start on part two. But, meanwhile...

The Human Condition: A collection of short stories.

It had been sitting at a publishing house for a while and I got an email. It said something along the lines of "congratulations" and had a contract attached.

A CONTRACT.

The turn over time wasn't bad. I had only waited a couple of months. Things were looking up. I mean, very up. I knew how to self publish successfully (in theory, anyway), and traditional publishing had knocked on the door.

I was going to be a famous author.

I opened the contract. I started reading. Like I said before, I'm smart. How could this go wrong? Skip to the finances - the meat - percentages, copies, ebook release, etc. It all looked good. Signed and returned.

And Wait.

The contract was with a press that I had worked with previously with anthologies. I sort-of knew the owner.

It went into editing, and I was asked about a cover. What did I want? What should it look like? Here: I was given an artists mock up. It was good. I mean WILDEST DREAMS GOOD.

You couldn't stop me from bouncing off the ceiling.

Cover came in. OMG. It was awesome. Book comes out of editing. Waiting a place on the release schedule. Eep!

And then contact stops.

Um. Excuse me? I mean, I'm the next Shakespeare, right?

But it didn't just stop for me. Everyone seemed to be having problems contacting the press.

What was going on?

And that was that. Publicity started, ball rolling, I had started shouting "look at me", and then it disappeared. But I didn't know where.

Lesson 3: Understand your contract and what it means. The publishing house never went out of business, per se, The contract was still legally binding. I think. And that was the problem.

I'm no contract lawyer. I didn't know where I stood.

I didn't understand my contract.

I wanted to scream bloody murder, but it was my own fault. I've said it before. It was all on me. And then the months started to pass. I looked at my contract. I think I understood it. From my gathering I was tied for 5 years. I'd lost my book for five years. And to compound it? The publisher was in a different country to me. I didn't even understand the laws.

I was starting to feel sunk.

It was at this point I was at a low. Nothing selling. Work lost. But with a little help from my friends I continued.

My story wasn't finished. I have more to add.

And all the while the writing of my first novel Shutter Speed was coming to an end, and the novella collection was still out with publishers. I finished writing part two of The Hand.

Tomorrow: Two books in the series released, sales figures in, and market forces... what to do?


***





The Devil's Hand returns with old problems and new. Someone more powerful has escaped to Melbourne, and Darin still can't find those journals.

Follow The Hand as he struggles to find what is lost, whilst he uncovers something far greater than he could have imagined, something maybe even he cannot overcome...

Maybe the end of everything...

Conviction is part two of The Devil’s Hand series, a dark fantasy with spatters of humor and a dash of inter-dimensional romance.