Friday, 31 August 2012

Guest Author Interview - Bev Allen

This week we welcome Bev Allen for a guest author interview.

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Bev Allen. I am married and the mother of two grown up children. When I’m not writing, I work as the administrator of a small charity which publishes articles on military history and as a military history researcher.

When did you first start writing?
I told stories from as early as I can remember, but I think I began writing them down about the age of twelve. I wrote quite a bit in my teenage years, fortunately none of it has survived

What about writing do you find most satisfying?
Allowing the people in my head out to tell their story/stories.

If you could give one piece of advice to new authors what would it be?
Edit, and then edit again. Then find a good editor and have them do it.

If you could meet one person from history who would it be?
What a question! There are so many people I would love a chance to meet. For sheer curiosity’s sake, I think Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II. I would hear her views Hugh De Spencer, what she saw in Mortimer and who she thought murdered her husband, if anyone did.

What is your favourite book and why?
I can’t possibly choose one book, or even one author, I have so may I love. But my current favourite author is Ben Aaronovitch. I am loving his “Rivers of London” books and I very much enjoyed the latest “Whispers Underground”.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished another sci fic action/adventure story; it’s currently with the editor. It’s called “Lucien and the Tattooed Tribes” and has an eco-warrior theme. It is more light hearted than “Jabin” and Lucien is a completely different sort of hero. Hopefully it will be out by the end of the year.
I am currently working on a fantasy without magic, I can’t get to grips with magic, it feels like cheating. It will feature pipes and drums and flintlock muskets. I am enjoying the research enormously, especially the lovely smell of black powder.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
My latest work and first novel is “Jabin and the Space Pirates”. Despite the title, it is aimed at the older YA reader. It is the story of one kid’s search for a home and a chance of happiness, but it is set against a background of religious intolerance, violence and abuse. Fair warning, whilst I have avoided detailed descriptions of gore etc., I haven’t pulled any punches and if you are upset by the reality of inhumanity, this is not the book for you.
I have tried to deal with some of evils facing society today, drugs and sex trafficking and neglect, but to do it in the context of an action/adventure story, the sort of thing that used to be described as a “ripping yarn.”
You can find it on Amazon, both kindle and paperback here

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jabin-the-Space-Pirates-ebook/dp/B0087UYNI0/ref=pd_rhf_pe_p_t_1
And here
http://www.amazon.com/Jabin-the-Space-Pirates-ebook/dp/B0087UYNI0/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t#_

My thanks to Bev for sharing her time with us, next week Nick Wastnage will be joining us.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Indie book cover map of the UK

Rosen (http://www.rosentrevithick.co.uk/) over on the Kindle User's Forums (http://www.kuforum.co.uk/kindleusersforum/thread-9788.html)  is putting together an indie authors map of the UK. I have pride of place out on the coast of East Anglia :-)

http://www.indie-book-bargains.co.uk/british-isles-indie-map.php?width=420

She still has some slots to fill, so if you're an author who fits into a missing slot in some way, check the forum link above.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Featured on Joo's interogations

Two posts in one day :-) I have been featured in Joo's interogations, check it out at:

http://joobook.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/interrogating-michael-brookes.html

Thanks to Joo for having me on his blog.

New Short Story (The day I destroyed the world)

As it's a Bank Holiday over here in the UK I've taken the time to finish off a story I've been working on  - The day I destroyed the world. I'm also going to start on a new one for a Goodreads anthology. My last confession is also going to be used for a Kindle Users Forum anthology. I'll post more about them when they get released.

Most of my writing has been on a very similar vein and of course I'm working on The Cult of Me's sequel (I'm just under half way through the first draft - although a few new chapters were added to the plan last night), so it would be nice to do something a little different. I'm not sure what that'll be yet :-) Although a ghost story sounds like fun.

You can read The day I destroyed the world here: http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-day-i-destroyed-world.html

Friday, 24 August 2012

Guest Author Interview - Christine Hannon

In this week's Guest Author Interview we have the pleasure of inviting Chrisitine Hannon to share some of her experiences and thoughts.

Introduce yourself, who are you? What do you do?
I am sixty seven, retired, and residing in Paris Ont. Canada. I have three amazing children, two sons, and one daughter. I brag about my grandchildren, two, twenty seven-year-old granddaughters and a seven-year-old grandson. Ron and I married at nineteen have been married forty-eight interesting and adventurous years.
A severe, car accident thirty-four years ago (caused by a drunk driver), robbed me of my careers and left me to live the rest of my life in chronic pain. Until then I was a successful hairdresser, make up artist and a model. That was one of seven car accidents. None caused by me. Someone once said I was the unluckiest person they had ever met. Ron quickly corrected them, telling them I am the luckiest. Although in pain, I am still walking and alive.
It came as a surprise when my son in law suggested I write about my life, and the hairdressing stories I had been telling for so many years. I have been writing poetry for as long as I can remember but writing a story was foreign to me. Having received no formal training in art or writing I rely strictly on raw talents provide by God. I am hoping my stories will inspire someone to live their dreams too. I want to pass my strength on to others. I am a two-time cancer survivor and if it is in Gods plans, I will survive this third pending threat as well. Thus making it the 30th time under a surgeon's knife.
I pride myself on being a happy, positive and giving person who likes to share as much as I can with others. This cannot always be physical and I do believe laughter is contagious and I have lots of that to go around.

You started writing with poetry, do you find that creeps into your writing still?
Yes. It is amazing how partway through a sentence in a story I will stop because a word I am typing will inspire a poem or when writing a poem it will bring a memory of something that should be in my book. I have included a poem I wrote to my mother when I was very young in A Hairdresser's Diary.

As well as an author you are also an accomplished artist, does your painting compliment your writing? Are they very separate, or does one inspire the other?
To help deal with the daily pain I taught myself to paint. First on clothing, then murals, wooden pieces, shale and now on canvas. I started with acrylics and now paint with oils as well, often blending the two. Now that I paint on canvas, the answer to your question about complimenting each other is, "Yes." In my book of poetry, I am trying to figure out how one of my own original pieces of art can accompany each poem.
In a way, they are also very separate; when I am in the mood to paint, I will just start. Very often, I have nothing in my mind ahead of time. I just grab a colour or two and a brush and what happens, happens. Most times, I am amazed at what turns out. It is quite the sight to watch me paint. No matter the size of the canvas or material I am using, I need to balance it on my lap. My chronic back problems do not allow me to stand or sit without my knees slightly elevated. So I make do.
I do not have one subject. I paint abstracts, wild animals, people's pets, faces, landscapes and the list goes on.

If you had to write a biography, who would it be about?
My book is a biography of my life .But the story of my Baba, her struggles, pain and determination, when her and my Guido came to Canada to escape Ukraine which had fallen on Polish domination. With no money, and only the cloths on their backs and a handful of memories they arrived. Settling on a small piece of uncleared land, in which they built their own shelter. Also having to grow their own food, during this time, she lost two out of her four children to starvation. One of the survivors was my father .We would follow as she moved from the deep unforgiving woods to the city where Guido as a carpenter and Baba as a seamstress made a living and bettered their lives. I would have you feel the love I did as she took care of me during my unhappy childhood. Her fight with breast cancer and her love for life until she died at age 86, just the day before she had harvested her own garden for an upcoming Ukrainian church feast.

What is the most amazing thing you have seen?
Watching caesarean the birth of my granddaughter Shandra

What is your favourite story? This can be a book, film, song, or whatever.
I love the film The Notebook. It as every emotion that touches ones heart and soul.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am writing the sequel to A Hairdresser's Diary and preparing my book of poems for publishing.

Tell us about your latest work and how we can learn more.
I have been asked to write guest blogs for 2 hairdressing publications. Dates for these will be posted on my blog  http://ahairdressersdiaries.wordpress.com  and my website http://ahairdressersdiary.com
My book is available at Amazon in soft cover. In E book form, it is available at Kindle, LULU, for a variety of e readers. Being self-published is a rewarding, frightening and exhilarating experience. It is impossible to thank all the wonderful good-hearted, talented people out there for all their help and support, individually. May I say it here? [Michael: Of course!] Thank you all.

Many of my reader ask for signed copies so I have the books in a variety of local places as well from myself.

A Hairdresser's Diary can be found at:
Amazon: Paperback e-book
Lulu: e-book

In next week's interview we'll be meeting Bev Allen.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Paperback writer and a surprise email

I'm at the end of week 2 of my paid advertising and unfortunately the conventional wisdom has been correct (so far at least). However a fellow EG author (thanks meme!) pointed out that there are intangible benefits as well, which by their very nature are difficult to quantify. These benefits primarily concern raising awareness of the book (more people looking at the page may increase the likelihood of Amazon recommending the book on the people also viewed slot) and awareness of me as an author. While it would have been nicer to have got some extra sales, raising awareness is good as well.

A few days ago I posted about how I considered Paradise Lost to be the greatest story ever told in the same post I mentioned the Paradise Lost: Parallel Prose Edition as an excellent and easy to read for those struggling with the original text. Dennis Danielson, the person who wrote the modern translation will be featuring in a guest author interview in  afew weeks  time.

Over the weekend I also worked on the layout for the paperback version of The Cult of Me. The proofs are currently winging their way across the Atalantic. Assuming that I find no major problems they'll hopefully be available for sale within the next two weeks - exciting!

This morning I also had a pleasant surprise in my inbox. There was an email from Amazon UK with the title - The Cult of Me. My immediate thought was that there was a problem with the book, but openin the email I saw that it is the first featured book in a recommendations list. Hopefully this email has been sent to more people than just me!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Paradise Lost - The greatest story ever told

Last night I finished John Milton's Paradise Lost and for me it is the greatest story ever told. Note that it's not my favourite book, that place is taken by something much more modern (and the topic for a future post). I'm sure that while many people will have heard of Paradise Lost, they won't have read it. Or will have tried and given up pretty quickly. It's easy to understand why, by today's standards it is a difficult read. Although I prefer the original text I have discovered a prose edition that provides an excellent translation of the original.

I'm not a scholar so I don't intend to provide an in depth analysis, but there are a few key points that make this the greatest story ever told. The first is scale, the story is epic in every sense of the word. It deals with the start of all things, a war in Heaven, the creation of the universe and the fall of man and promise of our redemption.

Let me state right here that I am not a religious person. I was brought up in a Catholic household, but have since become ambivalent about religion. Paradise Lost is very much a religious text, but that doesn't mean it has no relevance for non-believers. In fact in some respects I think it contains more relevance for the non-believer. Why so?

Milton provides an elegant understanding of the glory of God and his creations in a way that might not be felt by the reader, but certainly in a way that can be understood from the text. He also brings God, Christ and the other eminent entities into our understanding by making the characters we can relate to.

Probably not Milton's intention, but a side effect of this is to create the ultimate anti-hero. Lucifer, or Satan as he he becomes known after his fall. After all his place has been usurped by the anointed Christ he rebels. He rebels against the ultimate authority and I think most of us can find some sympathy with that. He also demonstrates many human qualities, admittedly some are less admirable like jealousy, envy and deception. However he does also present qualities like loyalty, courage and determination. A character more complex than his title as the Prince of Evil would suggest.

Another interesting aspect is the paradoxes it raises. They all represent the sacrifice that faith requires. For example why did God require than humanity has free will and that we must be tested in our devotion by temptation? On the face of it this is clear support for the illogical nature of faith. But on the other side of the coin it represents the foundations for faith. That you accept your part in the mystery. Milton makes great efforts and succeeds in portraying the majesty of this belief, something I can respect even if I do not share it.

Finally the book at its core is a love story. Not in the sense of romance, but something more noble. It starts with a love triangle between God, Christ and Lucifer and ends with the triangle between Adam, Eve and God. It is our capacity to love that allows us to join the hosts of Heaven.

The book in many ways is a product of its time. This is most apparent in the writing, to our modern eyes it can seem incomprehensible. It can be learned, but that takes time. A few years ago I discovered the Paradise Lost: Parallel Prose Edition which makes reading and understanding this great work a pleasure rather than a chore. The original work is shown on the left with the prose for the same passage on the right, allowing you to easily switch between the two.

I recommend this to anyone who is interested in this great work.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Guest Author Interview - Jonathan Hill

Last week's feature where I interviewed fellow Eurogamer author Mark Underwood proved very popular. It's already acted as a way for me to get to know some of my fellow authors and I'm looking forward to developing this as a weekly feature.

This week we meet Jonathon Hill, but I'll let him introduce himself.

Introduce yourself, who are you? And what do you write?
I'm Jonathan Hill and I have just published my first book of short stories on the Kindle.  My day job is in the medical profession and it can be quite intensive and stressful so I see writing as a welcoming contrast to all that.  Although I have started with short stories, I intend to write longer stories as stand alone pieces.

If you could meet any one person, alive or dead - who would it be?
That's a tough one!  Well, I read Roald Dahl when I was little and, as an adult, I read his 'Completed Unexpected Tales'.  So, I'll say Roald Dahl purely because it would be fascinating to meet someone with such a great imagination...and, if he were still alive, I might try to get into one of his tales!

What piece of advice would you give to new authors? Or those thinking of becoming authors?
Well, it's great now you can self-publish ebooks as it has become possible to get your writing 'out there' relatively easily.  (Although, getting noticed is the hard part). I would advise new authors not to give up the day job as, unless you become very successful, you simply cannot rely on it as a sole income.  Also, you have to write about something you are interested in and characters you care about.  If the author themselves isn't interested or involved in what they are writing, this will come across and put off readers.

What first inspired you to write?
I've always enjoyed reading and, since the Kindle, my reading has increased ten-fold.  I only started writing earlier this year.  The triggers were reading Susan Hill's 'The Woman In Black' and Roald Dahl's 'Tales of the Unexpected'.  'The Woman In Black' was so atmospheric and well-written, that I wanted to see if I could write a ghost story.  The result is in my book, 'Eclectic', but I'm not telling you which one so as not to spoil the surprise!  Roald Dahl's stories were totally engaging and surprising and I loved the fact he could wrong-foot the reader at the last minute.  His book of adult tales inspired me to write some short stories and I found I really enjoyed it!

Your collection of short stories covers a range of subjects - do you have a favourite genre of subject you like to write?
It's hard to say, really, as I enjoy writing so many different genres.  I love to write something dramatic or creepy that has a twist at the end, but I also enjoying writing to get emotion from the reader.  If the reader empathises with a character or feels something for them, I am delighted.  The comic stories in my collection were probably hardest to write as comedy is hard to get right.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on my first book's follow-up 'More Eclectic Tales' which will again display a range of genres all within the same book.  Alongside this, I am also writing a longer piece, about which my lips are sealed!  It's a thriller though.

Tell us about your latest work
named my latest (and first!) book 'Eclectic: Ten Very Different Tales' as the book contains many genres.  My aim was to give readers a book where they may be laughing at one story and shocked, surprised or saddened by the next.  Many of my stories have twists or reveals near the end; I like to surprise my readers!
So thanks to Jonathon for sharing his time and thoughts with us. You can find his book on Amazon: ECLECTIC: TEN VERY DIFFERENT TALES You can check out his blog as well: jhillwriter.blogspot.co.uk

If you're an author and would like to feature then just leave a comment and I'll get in touch.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Experiments in advertising - week 1

Unfortunately it seems that conventional wisdom is correct. In the first week of my paid advertising experiment I have seen no increase in sales. Of course any possible benefit in increased exposure is difficult to quantify.

It's also unknown whether it has increased awareness of my book. And also there's still the question of whether advertising can help when a book is released from a more well known author. So I will repeat the experiment at a later date with new releases to see if there's any impact.

My experiment has also used smaller sites with a limited budget, so maybe a larger campaign would have better results, but whether it would be enough to justify the extra expense is debatable.

However it is the first week in a month long campaign, so I'll report in as the weeks progress to see if there has been any change. But the conclusion so far is that advertising isn't an effective way to get known as a relatively unknown author.

Friday, 10 August 2012

First guest author feature - Mark Underwood

Welcome to the first guest author feature. I'm aiming to introduce a new author every week to see what they're up to and to showcase their latest work.

So first up is one of the talented writers from the Eurogamer forums - Mark Underwood

Who are you and what made you start writing?

My name is Mark Underwood, and I always had an itch to write from a very young age. Unfortunately my tendency to think creatively often got me in trouble at school as I would diverge from the set assignment and go off on some flight of fancy. Eventually I started writing and illustrating a tremendously silly book aimed at young children while I was supposed to be training to be an accountant. Soon after my father became ill and I had to start working as a full-time carer for him. This gave me the time and freedom to write seriously and resulted in my debut novel - 'The Lives of Nobody Important.'

Eurogamer is a gaming community, what is your favourite game?

I find it hard to pin down one favourite game, having played so many fantastic ones. How about the one I'm most looking forward to this year? That's Darksiders II, and I really can't wait!

Games are a relatively new form of story telling, do you think they are an effective way to tell a story? Is there a standout example?

I think when the time and effort is put in to telling a really good story, games can be tremendously effective. A standout example was released recently, Spec Ops: The Line. Whilst the gameplay is only average the story really pulled me through and I am so glad I saw it through. The final choice in the game - that blew me away. It was tremendously brave of Take-2 to actually release this game.

Who is your favourite author & why?

My favourite author has to be Chuck Palahniuk - writer of Fight Club amongst many others. I find his view of the world, expressed through the characters, to be tremendously fascinating. I only got into him after watching the movie, but now I have all of his novels as well as his non-fiction work and I can't get enough of him! He also has a site with a number of essays on writing (although you have to pay to join) and these have helped tremendously with my own work.

Tell us about your latest work.

'The Lives of Nobody Important' could best be described as a dark revenge thriller, with a supernatural twist. The unnamed protagonist dies early on, and comes back to life in a different body for reasons unknown. He takes this chance to wreak havoc on those that wronged him, and try to bring down a gang of drug traffickers. Does he succeed? Well, you'll have to read it to find out!

What are you working on next?

I'm working on another thriller tentatively titled 'The Chaos Room', although there's a very large chance that may change. It's centered on the idea of memory manipulation, and has an ensemble cast who are drawn together. I'm currently about half-way through writing the first draft, although it has taken me a lot longer than 'Lives' did. Keeping track of so many characters and their interactions is certainly challenging, and the narrative is non-linear, but I hope by the time it's finished everything will fit together nicely.

Website: markunderwoodwrites.com
Book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFGATvaxReE
Paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lives-Nobody-Important-Mark-Underwood/dp/1478335874
Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Lives-Nobody-Important-ebook/dp/B008IP5IVK/
Tumblr: http://markunderwood.tumblr.com
Blog of one of the novel's characters: http://islandofsecrets.tumblr.com

So thanks to Mark for joining us. If you'd like to feature as a guest author then leave a comment below and I'll get in touch.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Starting the first draft

I started the first draft of Conversations in the Abyss last night. Slow progress so far, but that's normal at the start of the book. Usually when I'm a few chapters in I get into the flow of it. My method for writing a first draft is to just get it down. I basically speed through it and just get the story onto paper. The writing is usually terrible, but that doesn't matter, that's what the re-writes and edit passes or for :-)

In other news, my ad on the UK Kindle Users forum goes live today. I'll be inetrested to see the results of that.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Experiments in advertising

The common wisdom seems to be that paying for advertising is a waste of time for indie books. I can imagine that would be the case, but I like to make my own mistakes :-)  My sales have flat lined a little so I want to look at all the methods for boosting sales.

The big improvenment should come when I release the sequel, now this is obviously some time I away - I want it to be good, not rushed! However advertising may help provide a short term boost for the first book. Eventually I'll be adding a page to this blog summarising all the methods I've tried which will be of use to other authors publishing their own books.

So this experiment in advertising, when does it start? It starts this week. The first was paying a modest fee to get listed on the Best Indie Book website. That's done and up and you can find my ad here: http://bestindiebooks.com/great-indie-books/show-books/914/The-Cult-of-Me/Occult--Supernatural/

The more visits I get, the higher in rank my book goes, hopefully some will buy the book as well. For $20 the book is listed for 3 months, so we'll see how it does.

The other experiemnt starts on Wednesday, here I've bought banner space on the UK Kindle Users forums.

I'll be tracking the effects and I'll report over the next few weeks how the promotions go.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Getting started - Planning & preperation

The Cult of Me is the first book in a trilogy. Having now released the first book I'm now embarking on the second book - Conversations in the Abyss. I'm obviously not going to provide details of the story yet - I'm hoping you'll all want to buy it and read it for yourself when I've finished :-) However I do want to share the process I use in writing a book.

All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. As the second book I already know the start as it follows on from the end of the first book. I also know how I want the book to end, to set-up the third book in the trilogy. So the big question I have to answer is, how to I get from the start to the end? I already have some thoughts on the flow that fill a large part of the middle, although not it all.

Filling in the gaps is essential for me before I start actually writing the first draft. It's a common saying that no plan survives the first contact with the enemy. A writing plan is no different, as you start writing the plan will change. That's fine, but the plan comes into its own when you hit blocks as all writers do. Then the plan gives you the target for what needs to be written next.

So how do I put together the plan? The first step is a short overview of what the story is about. You can write this down as a sentence. Then expand it to a paragraph. Once I have that I start sketching out the chapters. At this stage only a title for each chapter. This provides the overarching flow for the story. It's also at this stage I conduct research into any areas that I need for the story.

Research is an important part of the planning process. I recommend doing it before writing any words. Often learning more details about a subject can help guide the story in new and interesting directions. This has already proved the case for me, a little research has helped fill a substantial part of the middle.

As you develop the chapter plan you'll encounter the main characters, it's worth pausing at this point. Sketch out the characters separately. Who are they? What are their motivations? Why are they important to the story? If you answer these questions in advance you'll make it a bit easier for yourself when you start rising.

My final piece of advice is don't rush. I know it's tempting to just dive in and start writing the first draft, I'm having to resist that same temptation right now. However to paraphase another army saying "Plan hard, write easy", the more you plan, the easier your book will be to write. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Short story added (My final confession)

As with all writers, improving your craft is a question of pratice and learning from others. Hopefully we all do it because we enjoy it as well. In the lull after finishing The Cult of Me, I wanted to keep writing, but without all the pressure of writing a book. So I've put together a short story, it's written in a similar style to the novel, if you like the story then you should check out the novel as well. You can preview the first few chapters on Amazon.

This story is about a man who needs confession for an act he hasn't commited yet, you can read the story here: http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-final-confession.html

I'd love feedback and comments on the story. I'm not too proud to accept constructive critisism :-) I hope you enjoy reading it.

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