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Showing posts from 2011

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams . . .

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Twelve months ago I was in a bad place. The New Year was looming, I had some personal problems that were kicking my behind, and my writing career was not progressing the way I'd hoped. Then, on Jan 2nd, I received a late night phone call from America. It was Joni Labaqui from the Writers of the Future Contest. The story I had entered almost four months previous (and which, to be honest, I had forgotten about) had reached the final 8 of the quarter. Ms Labaqui assured me that my story was really good and that I was a talented writer. I almost cried. As it happens, the story didn't make the all-important Final 3 but shortly after I went on to sell it to Realms of Fantasy Magazine*. [*That's another story.]

Anyhoo, this episode taught me a couple of things. One, I can do this. I've "got the chops", as they say. Two, I started telling myself to stop waiting around for things to happen. Make your own opportunities. At the time, I didn't quite know what that mea…

Probability and Chaos

Probability and Chaos'If you jump,' the cop bellowed, fighting to be heard over the buffeting wind, 'you’ll be dead before you hit the ground.'The jumper, a young man in a white lab coat, glanced over the ledge on which he was standing, taking in the endless tiers of sky-traffic coursing by in every direction below them. The young scientist let out a short, high-pitched laugh. 'You would think so, wouldn’t you?' he shouted to the cop.'What are you talking about?' said Officer Pullman. 'If you throw yourself into that traffic, the odds of surviving are a million to one!'The young scientist smiled grimly. 'Actually, the odds are 123,570-to one, to be precise.' He observed the puzzled expression on the officer’s face. 'That’s my field of research - probability and chaos. You’re quite right that the odds against me not being hit by a single vehicle during my descent are considerable. But for the last six months I’ve been working night an…

The View from the Bridge

“Potential suicide, Golden Gate Bridge. Officer needs assistance.”Sergeant Harris studied the figure in his rear view mirror. Dark clothing, black raincoat, raised hood. It was a miracle Harris had seen him through the thrashing rain. But this wasn’t the first time he’d come across someone loitering conspicuously at that particular spot. In his ten years on the beat there’d been a dozen suicides there; he’d attended two of them himself. The first one had jumped - a middle-aged woman driven to despair after ten years in an abusive relationship. Harris had never really gotten over her death. He could still remember the feel of her dress as it slipped through his fingers. Helpless, he’d watched her fall - silent, graceful - into the roiling waters below.He’d made a promise to himself that day - he would never let it happen again. Thankfully, the one which followed, a young man, had been pulled back from the brink. Afterwards, Harris had asked him why he’d chosen to jump from the Golden …

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Star Pilot

JOURNAL ENTRY #3138 Date: 11/04/2199 Time: 1046This is Cory Dealth, captain and pilot of the cargo freighter, Alexa. I’ve just chartered the final leg of our course for Delta Centauri, but I’m certain that I won’t reach journey’s end alive. I am in the grip of “the Sorrow”, “the Loneliness”, “the Pilot’s Despair”; it doesn’t matter what you call it, I know it has only one cure — death.Continue reading the story here: Planet Magazine

The Thing All Parents Fear

Some years ago, I recall Stephen King talking about Pet Semetary (still one of my favourite King books) and the hesitancy he felt about actually publishing it. The cause of his hesitancy? The fact that the story featured the death of a child - surely the greatest fear of all parents. I believe SK referred to that particular plot development as "real horror". There's another quote out there (I forget from whom) which goes something like this: "In a novel, you can kill as many men as you like. You can kill women if they deserve it (if they're really bad) and you can kill a child if you have very, very good reason. But if you kill off a dog in your book, you're probably going to alienate your readers completely." I'm paraphrasing here but that's the essential gist. Incidentally, I love the irony of the quote that dogs spark a greater emotional reaction than children. Anyway, point being that no matter how great the tale you are spinning, readers (a…

Lazarus Island Offer

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Hi folks. My latest novel Lazarus Island is currently discounted on Smashwords until 20th December:

USE COUPON CODE UE63U at checkout to get this ebook for just $1.50.
Smashwords - Lazarus Island

As always, all feedback is greatly appreciated.

LAZARUS ISLAND AVAILABLE ON KINDLE FOR HALLOWEEN

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Into the Realms of Fantasy (see what I did there?)

I am very pleased, proud, and all kinds of excited to announce that my dark fantasy story 'The Transmuted Engine' has been picked up by Realms of Fantasy Magazine. I do believe this will be my very first professional sale. It was a long and interesting process.

The first draft of this story was written waaay back in 2008. I was a regular at Critters Online at the time and after honing the story as best I could I submitted it for critique and four weeks later recieved about fifteen or sixteen critical evaluations, ranging from in-depth monologues to a few scant lines. After fixing the issues which arose in those crits, I sent it to a number of magazines, including Interzone, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Weird Tales, GUD, Andromeda Spaceways and a bizarro anthology, amongst others. Despite the rejections, I still believed in the story. I felt it was the most exciting and imaginitive piece of fiction I had yet produced. In August 2010, I sent it to L Ron Hubbard's Writers of the F…

My Author Page at Goodreads

I now have my very own shiny new Author Page over at Goodreads. If you're a fellow author or reader, please consider adding me as a friend. I'd love to hear from other booklovers.

Why Do We Write What We Write?

It's a question writers are often asked, and which they may sometimes ask of themselves. For my money, Stephen King provided the best answer to this question. He proposed the idea that we all have a filter in our brains and as we go through life certain things stick in that filter, things which may pass through everyone else's. For King, the things which seemed to frequently catch in his filter erred on the darker side of life. Hence the horror. For other people, their filter may catch the weird and the amusing, the fantastic, the mysterious or even the downright saucy.

I've found that I tend to write about the extraordinary, sometimes the fantastical, but my stories are always grounded in the human experience. After all, a fantastical tale told without any emotional human connection is really just an empty exercise, in my opinion. I also tend to write about tortured heroes. I like a happy ending as much as the next guy, but my protagonists need to go through a pretty hard…

Two Free Kindle Ebooks

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Last week, Amazon made my ebooks Forever and Symbiosis free in the Kindle store. Since then, these two ebooks have been downloaded a total of 13,000 times. At the moment they are only free on Amazon.com but will hopefully be free on Amazon.co.uk in the very near future.

The Vanished Race - OUT NOW

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If Agatha Christie Wrote Science Fiction . . .

Two years ago my first novel, The Hotel Galileo, was published by Wolfsinger Publications and one of the back cover blurbs declared the following: "If Agatha Chrsitie had written fiction she would have stayed at the Hotel Galileo . . ." (Thank you, David Boop). After pondering that sentence for a while it struck me that what I was really trying to do with the book (and consequently the series) is what all writers do: create something they can't find in the current market.

How many times have we enjoyed a certain book or film or tv series and said afterwards, "Yeah, I really enjoyed that . . . but what if they did it this way, or in this type of genre, or with vampires?" For me, The Barclay Heath Mystery Series (which now includes The Hotel Galileo and The Vanished Race) was borne of a love of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mysteries and an underlying desire to do something different with the genre. I loved the traditional 'Britishness' of Christie…

The Healing Power of Stephen King

It's happened before. Many times. When I'm feeling down, moping about in what Dorothea Brande called that 'slough of despond', there's only one tonic I can rely on to reinvigorate the creative juices, to fight off the shackles of despair and stop the old Muse from draping herself languidly over a metaphorical sofa like a pampered tart with a headache. The name of this miracle tonic? Stephen King.

In tough times I've always turned to one of King's books. Non-fiction works are just as good as novels. On Writing always helps relight the fires. As does Danse Macabre. But anything from the opening passages of Carrie to the epic conclusion of The Dark Tower is usually enough to drag me from the pit of despairing writers and hoist me, breathless, onto safe ground. This latest bout of fear and self-loathing has been a pretty protracted affair (months rather than weeks or days), and even the surefire King cure-alls failed to work. But in the end, I found the pill I …

What is a Slow Learner To Do? Guest Post by Lee Thompson

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I remember when I was younger, all the hours I put into martial arts and how people thought it came naturally. But I lived it, breathed it, dreamt and caressed it. And then in my twenties playing guitar and having other musicians around Detroit say I had something unique going on, something really special, while I let my soul bleed through my fingertips. I wish I was a natural at a lot of things but know I’ve never been with anything (except maybe daydreaming.) So yeah, I’m a slow learner. My buddy Ken made a blog post recently about discipline, how he wished he had more of it. That’s one thing I’ve always had, luckily. Whether I was imagining, training, writing songs, or whatever, I was committed and they were a priority—those things occupied space in the forefront of my mind even when I was doing something else. I’d work out the images, the motifs, the substance and structure constantly and consistently.Something I read a long time ago that I think has a lot of benefits if put into …

Live to Write, Write to Live

By any standards, being a writer is not a sane life-choice.

It takes a monumental feat of perseverance and self-belief to achieve the goal of being published, usually over a long (sometimes considerably long) amount of time with no promise of success at the end of it, save of course for the personal satisfaction of having written and, hopefully, having been read. Whilst pursuing this crazy dream, the writer must also juggle the usual demands of a modern life: family, work, studies, and many other responsibilities; so finding the dedication to apply themselves in whatever limited free time they have to sit down in a room and write takes incredible self-discipline, especially when deep down we would really rather be relaxing, enjoying a Babycham or two, or, just for once, sleeping. But for those bitten with the writing bug the dream, and the will to succeed, is so strong that despite the madness of it all, we just have to do it. As Samuel Lover said, "When once the itch of literatur…

Serial Fiction in the Kindle Market

After having spent some time immersing myself in the indie Kindle market (and when I say that I am really referring to the wider ebook market as a whole, it's just that I'm a Kindle owner and so that's my direct experience) both as an author and reader, it has become clear to me that the one thing that really excels in this brave new digital world is serial fiction. By that I mean series of books which follow a recurring main character or books set in a particular 'universe' in which several adventures take place. Of course there are stand-alone indie novels which have achieved great success, but those indie authors who have found long-term, sustained success have most often achieved it through offering a series of books to their readers (or more than one series if they're really prolific).

I can see the appeal.

Since the TV series Lost exploded onto our screens back in 2004 I've become a bit of a devotee of quality serial telly. [Okay, so people take issue w…

The Vanished Race: A Barclay Heath Mystery

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Cover art and design by Steve Upham

It's almost here . . .

VISIT THE AWESOME TEMPLE OF TOBRIOSUS
SOLVE THE GREAT MYSTERY OF THE VANISHED TOBRII RACE

For Barclay Heath, it was a mystery too great to resist. But as night falls on the deserted alien world, his fellow passengers begin to vanish one by one . . .

Heath must unravel an age-old mystery before time runs out, before he, too, suffers the same fate as the Tobrii . . .

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The Barclay Heath Mysteries are set in a whimsical alternate-1920s, where humanity has ventured out into the stars but Twenties values and attitudes prevail. Barclay Heath is a gentleman detective enjoying semi-retirement from Earth’s Secret Service. Unfortunately for Heath, murder and subterfuge are never far away. As he travels the cosmos, he comes up against fiendish plots involving mysterious lost races, strange alien artefacts and, of course, a generous sprinkling of devious humans.

The Vanished Race is the second volume…

Reaching the Kindle Top Ten

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Last week was a particularly exciting time for this author. Without any warning, my supernatural horror story collectionThe Midnight Men and Other Stories spent two days in the Amazon top ten charts.

For 48 hours I watched as it jumped about the Top 100 list for Horror Short Stories, reaching its highest ranking of #9, before falling down the rankings a bit then rising again to #10 briefly. At one time it was sandwiched between two HP Lovecraft collections! Cool! Another time it was also sandwiched between two of my literary heroes - Stephen King and Joe Konrath! As you can imagine, I was in a very happy place.

Thanks to everyone who purchased a copy and/or downloaded a sample. Its little moments like these which make the whole journey worthwhile.

My first fully-fledged novel for Kindle is almost ready

It's been a long and difficult road but my novel Lazarus Island is almost done. And when it is finally done it will be my first fully-fledged indie novel. A quick look at the lovely My Books scrolling-thingy above shows the ebooks I currently have to offer on Amazon, and you may notice they are all short story compendiums of varying length. Although I've had some minor successes with the short story collections (particularly The Midnight Men which this week hit the top ten in Amazon's Horror Short Stories chart) I am continually reminded that it is novels which sell well in this new Kindle/Nook age, so I'm really hoping Lazarus Island will liven things up. I will report on its success once it goes live next month.

Watch this space. No, not that one. This one.

(For more info on Lazarus Island visit the website)

Prismatica by L David Hesler

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From April 13th to the 21st, author L David Hesler is offering to donate the profits from his book Prismatica to the charity Relay for Life. Please consider buying this book. I can't recommend it highly enough.

You can purchase it at Amazon.com and here at Amazon.co.uk.

Here is a little more about it.

"1993- Michael Duncan is a rural police officer. He meets a mysterious young girl during a routine search and rescue mission in the woods of Soldier Creek, a haunted stream on the outskirts of Mason's Post, Missouri. His encounter with this tortured girl has consequences that reach nearly twenty years into the future, when a madman possessed by something dark and primal threatens to tear apart a family... and the fabric of reality itself. As Michael's story unfolds in four different sections, the mystery only becomes more maddening. Why was he chosen? And where will he go when he's fulfilled his destiny?"

Find out more at L David Hesler's website: http:/…

(r)Evolution of a Noob: INDIE AUTHOR SHOWCASE 2: Lee Moan

I'm very pleased to be featured on the website of fellow writer L David Hesler today. This is the second author showcase following on from Daniel Arenson. Click the link below to pay a visit.

(r)Evolution of a Noob: INDIE AUTHOR SHOWCASE 2: Lee Moan

I love my Kindle

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I'd been planning to get myself a Kindle for ages, and after a recent trip to my local Staples store to purchase a memory stick and browse their range of laptops, I asked the sales assistant if by any chance they sold ebook readers. She pointed behind me and I was stunned (and a little suprised) to find a massive display dedicated to the Kindle towering over me. What's more surprising is that they were selling them at the same price as Amazon. So I got myself the Wi-Fi 3G version and haven't looked back since.

It really is a marvel. Without wanting this post to turn into an advert for Amazon's baby, I just want to say how this device really has changed the game for readers and, more importantly, writers in the 21st century. Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Yesterday, Saturday, I attended my Open University graduation ceremony. I took my Kindle with me just in case there were some lulls in the day. There were. Anyway, during the ceremony an honorary de…

Coming Soon: Lazarus Island

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WELCOME TO SCALASAY

For mystery writer Sam Thorne, moving to the island was supposed to be a fresh start—an idyllic refuge for his young family, and an escape from his past indiscretions. Things he wanted dead and buried.

But on Scalasay, the past has a way of catching up with you . . .

The horror which tore the island apart ten years earlier is returning. Ben Garrett, the convicted rapist and murderer, is coming back to the island to visit his dying mother. But no one could have foreseen the shocking turn of events which are about to unfold.

A storm is coming . . .
And on this terrifying night even the dead will not stay dead . . .

WELCOME TO
LAZARUS ISLAND


The Midnight Men and Other Stories

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THE MIDNIGHT MEN AND OTHER STORIES
A collection of supernatural tales guaranteed to keep you reading until the bitter end.

My short story collection The Midnight Men and Other Stories is now available to purchase from Smashwords.
Introductory price $0.99. For a limited time only.

SYMBIOSIS gets a new cover

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Although the original cover (see my earlier post) for Symbiosis wasn't too bad I thought I could improve on it. So I did. I went away and spent a bit of time crafting a cover that was a little more eye-grabbing. That's the beauty of publishing in the new digitial age. Authors now have so much control over their work...and things can only get better.

In the course of its first week, Symbiosis sold over fifty copies. Not bad for a 7000-word short story. It did get some extra exposure during Smashwords' Read an E-Book Week promotion, so now that's ended it'll be interesting to see how it does from here on in.

This is all incredibly exciting. I just can't wait to see how The Vanished Race does once it's published. Watch this space...

It's Read and E-book Week

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Yes, folks, it's Read and E-Book Week and Smashwords is participating for the third year running. Lots of good e-books out there all at discounted, low prices or the best price of all - free!

My new ebook SYMBIOSIS (see previous post) is in there and is now available for free until March 12th when the promotion ends.
Check out all the e-books on offer here: Read an E-Book Week at Smashwords

Happy reading!

SYMBIOSIS

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Light years from home.
Bonded to an alien for survival.
A dark secret is about to be revealed . . .

The planet Verdana was supposed to be their new home, their new Eden. But shortly after arriving the human colonists were faced with a dilemma - join with the alaahi or perish. In the end, they chose the process of symbiosis, a physical conjoining with the native alaahi.

But now there are whispers amongst the colonists. The alaahi are not the benevolent beings they made themselves out to be. Before long a dark secret is about to be revealed, and young Jena must make a terrible choice . . .

SYMBIOSIS is available from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Deisel, and many other formats. Visit the Smashwords page for SYMBIOSIS to download a free sample.

The Vanished Race OUT NEXT MONTH

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I am very excited to announce that the publication date for The Vanished Race, the second in the Barclay Heath Mystery series, will be March 2011. The series is set in an alternate 1920s and follows the adventures of retired detective Barclay Heath as he travels the cosmos and comes up against some fiendish plots involving mysterious lost races, strange alien artefacts and, of course, a generous sprinkling of devious humans.

In The Vanished Race, Heath finds himself amongst a small group of passengers visiting the deserted planet Tobriosus, once home to the ancient Tobrii race, who mysteriously disappeared almost a century ago. It's a mystery too tantalising for Heath to resist.

Then, one by one, the passengers begin to vanish into thin air. . .

Out next month and available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all good online bookstores.
Don't forget - The Hotel Galileo, the first Barclay Heath mystery is also available.

How Lord of the Rings spoiled my movie enjoyment forever (well, almost)

I love movies. I really do. But over the past decade something has happened. Although I still watch movies regularly (a subscription to LoveFilm gives me my regular fix) I have found that I haven't really truly enjoyed a movie for a long time. About ten years, in fact. Which strangely enough takes me right back to 2001 and the release of the film which, for me, changed everything. I'm talking, of course, about Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Yes, Peter Jackson, it's all your fault.

Looking back it's hard to recall what expectations I had of the movie before seeing it. Although I had been an avid reader of fantasy growing up I'd never actually managed to tackle Tolkien's epic so I really didn't have the same expectations fans of the book would have had. And up until that point fantasy movies had a bad reputation for being slightly disappointing (see Legend, Krull, Hawk the Slayer, etc.) So there I was going into the cinema not knowing what I wa…