Saturday, 27 December 2014

Where has the time gone?

This past month, I got so caught up in the thrill of writing, and in letting the ebb and flow of the words wash over me, that I completely forgot this blog was even here! The fact that I didn't have much to talk about, other than another "I'm still here, and I'm still writing book three!" type post is beside the point.

So what has happened since my last post? Well, Christmas, obviously, and I got print versions of my first two books as gifts to go on my book shelf. I think they look great. I'm biased, of course, but I'm also very harsh with myself, so when I think something I have done is pretty good, it generally means something. I'm looking forward to getting this third book out there so I can complete the set.

Speaking of the third book... It is almost done! As of yesterday, I have about three chapters left to write in the first draft. That's roughly 10,000 words, which I can probably get done in a few days. Assuming I can find the time of year of course. There has been so many distractions lately (aforementioned Christmas, and I also had to do a stint of jury duty recently), that I sometimes started to feel as if I had been writing this final volume for months longer than I actually had.

There was also a sense of urgency to get it finished. I wanted it available for January, in hopes of new kindle owners seeing a completed series and grabbing copies. In addition, my sales completely dropped off the last week (ten days actually) and I was panicking! I needed something new out there, and soon.

I've calmed down a little now. There's still work to be done. The last few chapters, and also the editing work. Not to mention the formatting and the book cover. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, and I am so excited to see this trilogy come to fruition!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Finale

Two days ago I started writing the third, and final volume in my Iron City series. So far, it is going well, with the first couple of chapters under my belt, and hopefully, by the end of today, the first 10,000 words written.

This is the big finale, the end game, so to speak. I know roughly where it is going, and how it is going to end, but how I am going to get there is so far, a mystery. One thing I'm fairly certain about at the moment, is that is is probably going to be the longest of the three volumes. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but there it is.

I'm extremely excited about this book. Mainly because it will prove to myself that I have what it takes to complete a full series of books. That's no mean feat. Granted, it is only a trilogy as opposed to a long running series, but to me, it is still something of an achievement. For the longest time, I was not even sure I could manage to finish a single novel, and now I have two, with the third on the way.

The working title, and probably what I will end up calling it, it Iron City Revolutions. I already have the cover for the kindle version done and ready to go, though the paperback version will have to wait until the book is actually written. It ties in nicely with the other two books, and it will be obvious that all three belong together.

It's been one heck of a ride, filled with all the highs and lows that you might expect, from the anticipation of hitting the publish button, the excited waiting, followed by dread when no actual sales appear. There were times when I really began to feel like I couldn't continue, that there was no point to it. Then someone would tell me they enjoyed the read and couldn't wait for the next volume, and that would give me the boost to carry on.

I've come to realise that, whether or not the book sells, I enjoy the experience and creativity far too much to give it up any time soon. Which is a good thing, because I have a lot more ideas just waiting to break out and jump onto the page.

I can't wait to share them with the rest of the world.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The One in the Middle

I've been a little quiet lately, but I had good reason. I have been writing and editing the second volume in my steampunk trilogy of books: Iron City Uprising. Today, I hit the publish button and let my work fly off on it's own for the first time. My own little bird, leaving the nest for the first time.

It's a little scary, a little intimidating, but there is only so many times I can reread the work, only so many changes I can make to 'improve' the writing, before it become a compulsion. Eventually, I had to take the plunge. And today was that day.

It is great to have it out there, in a finishes state, ready to be devoured by anyone with an interest. But it is intimidating too. I have no idea if anyone will buy it, and if they do, whether they will actually enjoy it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again; hitting the publish button is hard. And scary. Mostly scary.

Don't misunderstand, it's exciting too. There's always a chance, however slim, that the book will take off for some reason; go viral like that video about the cute cat. And the excitement lies in waiting to find out which way it will go. Am I going to wake up the next day with hundreds of purchases? Or, more likely, will I wake up to the fact that nobody has even looked at the book, never mind bought it? I have no idea which way it will go.

But in the end, it doesn't matter. I enjoyed writing it. I enjoyed following my characters on their sometimes emotional, sometimes dangerous adventures. And I enjoyed finding out where they would end up. It was as much of a surprise the second time around as it was for the third.

So book two is done. One more to go, and I'll have a full set.

Wish me luck!

If you are interested in reading the book (and I sincerely hope you are), you can find it at the link on the right. In fact, you can find links to both the first and second volumes there, both with brand new covers.

However, if you are too lazy to go look, or just can't be bothered sliding your gaze to the side, the link is right here:*Version*=1&*entries*=0

I know, I am too soft.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Putting some 'Punk' into Steampunk

I expect anyone reading this right now already has a pretty good idea what steampunk is. For those that don't here's a quick and fairly brief explanation.

It is generally considered to be a sub-genre of science fiction which typically features steam powered machinery, usually incorporating a Victorian aesthetic. It also often utilises futuristic technology envisioned as being powered by steam engines. Some of the usual tropes of steampunk are airships, goggles, and twist on the Victorian fashion style.

A few examples of the genre at work come from some of the great science fiction authors of the past. Jules Verne for instance, with his portrayal of a submarine long before they had been conceived or invented, and of course H.G. Wells and his time machine and Martian invaders.

This is as far as most people get, and that's fine; unfortunately, it's forgetting an important part of the genre: the 'punk' element. There is a very good reason punk is used there, and it's because there is an idealogical and political focus to the genre, that in my mind is just as relevant as the other elements.

Punk culture is generally looked at as one of rebellion, personal and social freedoms, and of course, anti-establishment ideals. Unfortunately, this aspect is usually forgotten when most people think of steampunk. Or perhaps overlooked in favour of the more visual and stylised elements.

To me, the 'punk' is just as important as the 'steam', and it's that focus which has been a big influence in my current trilogy of books. A running theme throughout the series is one of revolution, where a small group of idealistic freedom fighters struggle against an oppressive regime in an effort to change their culture and society. My aim was to get across the sense of rebellion, idealism and struggle for personal freedoms. I'm not sure how successful that has been, but I hope it at least shines through in some way. I guess time will tell.

Of course, that's not to say that I don't love the steam element just as much. There is something aesthetically pleasing about mixing the modern and the old that I find fascinating and exciting. Whatever else you might think about them, the Victorians had a certain style which can be very appealing.

Saturday, 4 October 2014


One odd thing that I have noticed since starting this journey, is that ideas have been flowing far more frequently and more freely than they ever did before. I had been wondering why this might be; I hadn't been thinking any differently, as far as I was aware, nor had I been doing things in a different manner. So why the new ideas? Then it suddenly hit me.

The idea of being published has been at the back of my mind for a long time, years in fact. Up until recently, the options were fairly limited. Basically, they were restricted to finding an agent and hoping they get you a publisher. Or skip the agent and go straight to the publishing houses (even less of a chance than the former).

The problem here was that whenever I would think about writing something, I was not thinking about writing for the audience, I was thinking about writing for a publisher. In other words, any idea I could come up with had to be something that I felt would be suitable to submit to what I imagined as being grim-faced, red-pen-wielding monsters who delighted in rejecting anything outside of what they considered to be marketable and capable of selling. Of course, with this in mind, my stock of ideas rapidly dwindled.

As you can imagine, having this self-imposed restriction, however subconscious it was, would have a negative effect. I found my ideas growing more stale and less interesting as time went by. They had to appeal to a broad audience, which meant they could not be too niche or too narrowly focused. The characters too had to have a broad appeal; that meant they could not be too quirky, so as not to alienate the less flamboyantly inclined.

One has to wonder why you would want to write at all, given those circumstances.

Then along came self-publishing. Suddenly gone was the need to sell an idea to a publisher. Instead, I could write in any genre I wanted, to as narrow a field as I wanted, and there was nobody to tell me otherwise. Granted, there's still possibility that they won't do well, but that is beside the point. Now I was free of those horrible, stifling restrictions. The possibilities were almost endless.

This, I realised, was why the ideas had begun to flow again.

It must be rather a common problem I imagine, this mental block on the imagination. Whenever you stop writing for yourself, and by association, your audience, you restrict yourself needlessly, and that is a mistake. Stifling creativity is a terrible thing, especially when it is your own creativity.

Well, happily I no longer need to worry about it. I can write what I want, when I want.

And I am so much happier for it.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Middle Part

The last few weeks since uploading my first book to Amazon has been spent busily tapping away at the second book in the trilogy, tentatively entitled Iron City Uprising.

So far, things have been going pretty well, and I'm roughly a third of the way through my first draft. It is looking to be somewhat longer than the first book, though not by a significant amount. At least that's the plan. I am hoping to have it finished, with luck, by the end of next month at the latest. Barring any unforeseen occurrences of course.

In any case, I thought it was worthwhile sharing a passage from one of the earlier chapters in the book. This section is for a new point-of-view character, though not a new character to the series. Feel free to comment on it if you wish. I have relatively thick skin.

The largest, and most attention-worthy machine was in the very centre of the far wall. Built from thick poles of iron welded together, it reached from floor to ceiling and took up almost half of the wall. In between the iron bars were sheets of foggy glass that obscured what lay within. Pipes and flexible tubes snaked across the floor and penetrated the structure near the base. The other end of the pipes were connected to a huge beast of a steam engine that was fixed to the side wall and was constantly bellowing fresh vapours up towards the ceiling. More than anything, it reminded Rosalind of a strange, metal and glass coffin. Considering what it contained, the analogy was rather apt.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Writing for Pleasure

I often wonder, as I'm sure a lot of people do, whether authors write because of the lure of potential wealth, or simply for the pure pleasure of putting a good story down on paper. I expect that putting the book up for sale via Amazon or another e-book venture would sway people towards the opinion that it is the former rather than the latter.

For me, it is definitely all about the joy of writing, and the excitement of seeing my work coming together. Don't get me wrong, if I can earn a little bit of money from writing, I'm not going to complain, but it certainly isn't the primary motivator. Certainly not when I sell via an online marketplace as big as Amazon. After all, I am competing against almost three million other books in the kindle store, so the chances of me getting fat and rich from it are slim to nothing.

Not to say that I don't get a thrill every time someone buys a copy of my book. I can be a little obsessive in checking the sales reports almost constantly, but even that is not about the money. It's about seeing whether people find the book interesting enough to want to pay for it.

On the other hand, I expect there are people out there who write for the potential pay cheque rather than because they enjoy it. Like any other profession, writing can attract people who feel it would be a quick way to get rich. From my limited experience, however, I would say that's a misguided assumption. There's the already mention competition, which in itself is a huge hurdle to overcome, but there are numerous others. The contents of the book have to be well written, entertaining, and have the ability to grab a reader right from the start, then never let go. When self publishing, there is also the issue of getting a great, eye-catching cover; marketing (there's a real nightmare if you ever want one!); attracting a following; and just getting noticed. Unless you are really, really lucky, or just fantastic at all of those things, the sales are not going to come fast.

Which brings me right back to writing for pleasure.

I firmly believe that if you write, not with the intent of making a fortune, but because you love it, then eventually, the sales, and success will come anyway. In all honesty, and speaking strictly for myself here, I would not write if I didn't enjoy it. It's an effort, and it takes longer than you would imagine to write a novel sized book. It is hard enough motivating myself to sit down and write as it is, but if I didn't enjoy it? Not a chance I'd be able to get my rear-end in a chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

So, I'll continue to write so long as I'm having fun. That's what it is all about for me!

Get a copy of my first book, and the opening volume in the Iron City Trilogy at Amazon: Iron City Rebels

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Obligatory Background

I realised quite suddenly, after writing up my first post, that I hadn't bothered to give a background. Being new to blogging, I am not sure if this is a mortal sin in the blogosphere or not, but I decided I should rectify that error sharpish. And so here it is, the obligatory background post! Feel free to skip it if you want. I'm sure there will be more interesting posts coming along.

I started writing at a very early age, and I can still remember, rather vividly, the first story I ever wrote.

It was all the way back in primary school (or elementary school for any American readers). Teacher set a competition for the class to write a story that would be featured and hung on the main bulletin board in the hall for anyone in the school to read. Up until that point, I don't remember ever thinking about writing a story, or writing anything at all for that matter. I was an avid reader though, even at that early age, so I suppose it wasn't too much of a stretch for me to jump in, feet first so to speak.

I submitted my story. Two A4 sized pages worth. Not too shabby for a seven year old. It was named Six Inches High, and it involved a young boy who magically got shrunk down to the titular size. As it happened, the teacher loved it, and it ended up winning. That was a defining moment for me; seeing those two pages hanging up in the school hall, seeing people read them, and of course getting praise for something I had created. It was a rather surreal moment for me, and from then on, there was just no stopping me.

A few years later, after hitting Secondary School, I was still writing away. Back then, most of my writing was aimed at children. Another strong memory for me is spending my entire Easter holidays - the whole two weeks of it - writing a book by hand. I got to 145 pages before running out of time. I clearly remember worrying a few times about the possibility of losing all feeling in my hand.

I still have both of those works at home. Six Inches High has since been typed up, while the second story is still in it's hand written form. The paper is looking faded and the writing is terrible (it was over twenty years ago, what would you expect?), but I'm still fond of it, and rather proud of my tenacity.

Some writing milestones for me? Asking for and receiving a typewriter (yes, the manual kind, with an ink ribbon, keys that had a tendency to stick and made it impossible to feed paper into straight); having two short stories published in a webzine (sadly now defunct); upgrading my manual typewriter to an electric one; finally getting a PC with a word processor!

All in all, it has been a rather eventful journey. But the greatest moment so far? Receiving a print copy of my completed book through the post.

Get a copy of my first book, and the opening volume in the Iron City Trilogy at Amazon: Iron City Rebels

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Terror of First Time Publishing

A little under three weeks ago, I uploaded and published my first novel to the kindle store with Amazon. It is a steampunk novel called Iron City Rebels, set within a dystopian city. It chronicles the rise of a rebel faction, and the complications that arise when they go up against the ruling body, and the thuggish police force that serve them.

I had spent the better part of a year writing away at the book, imagining fondly the moment when it would be unleashed unto the world. I pictured it as a sublime moment, when all my dreams and aspirations would be made whole; after all, isn't it the goal of every writer to let loose a finished work and let others devour it? Some may claim to write only for pleasure, but if you write fiction, then you are at heart a story teller, and all story tellers need to have their stories heard.

So, I finished the final draft. It was polished, spell checked, proof read; it was ready to go. I had already decided upon createspace. I knew Kindle would be the main focus, but I really wanted a print copy of my book to keep at home and to fawn over fondly. I spent a day creating a cover, filled in the details I needed, set a price, and hit that publish button.

There followed a period of anxious waiting while everything was reviewed. I needn't have worried, it all came back fine and ready to go. It was then that the terror set in. That final stage was sending it off to kindle, ready for purchase. But what if nobody bought it? Worse yet, what if people bought it, and they hated it. What if the book's page was quickly filled with scathing, derisive views, filled with venom for my dear little book. I wasn't sure I would be able to take that kind of rejection.

But of course, rejection is normal. I don't think there is a writer in existence, living or dead, who has ever written something that was universally admired. If there is, I'd like to shake their hand and buy them a drink. The truth is, that you can only please so many. I knew that when I started writing my book. It was even more true with my novel, since it was geared towards a very specific sub genre within the science fiction category, and it was a near certainty that there would be a limited number of people with a desire to read it.

So I hesitated. I gnawed my fingernails to the quick. I paced. I opened up other browser tags and checked my favourite sites. Anything to delay the inevitable. Despite knowing what I knew, despite telling myself that bad reviews were to be expected, I was still terrified.

And that was normal too.

When we put our work out there to be inspected and scrutinized like a scientist studying a bug under a microscope, fear and anxiety is to be expected. Nobody likes to have their writing criticised, especially by people we don't know and haven't met. It was intimidating.

Eventually of course, I had to make a choice. And it was an easy one at that. I wasn't about to give up on the idea of publishing my book. Not after it had been a dream for so long. And so I hit that last button, sat back, and waited.

And waited.

I wasn't sure what I expected. A sudden influx of eager, anxious readers ready to spend their hard earned money on an author and a book they had never even heard of? Perhaps. But if so, I'd been deluding myself. The sales were slow to come.

Even now, the numbers have barely moved, but that's ok. At least there are no horrible reviews for me to agonise over, right?

Get a copy of my first book, and the opening volume in the Iron City Trilogy at Amazon: Iron City Rebels