Blog

FAB: Revolver – What Is It?

 

Write the book you want to read.  Isn’t that what they say?  In other words, write the book that no one else in the world can possibly make but you.

I might have done that by accident with this latest one.

FAB: Revolver.  What is it?  Well it’s a combination of stuff I like – The Beatles, time travel, the 1960s, science fiction (not the hard stuff, good God no), a few laughs, a bit of action and I hope, a good story.  I didn’t deliberately set out to write the sort of book I’d love to read and it was only in retrospect that I realised what I’d done.  I doubt anybody else would have come up with the material in this book, but then there a lot of authors out there who’d say the same thing about their work.

It just kind of turned out that way.  Influences – I guess they jump into your story whether you like it or not.  If it’s in your head, it’s in your book.

With that in mind, here’s a brief list of the ‘stuff’ that influenced FAB: Revolver.

(I’m excluding The Beatles because that’s a bit obvious.)

 

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

I’m definitely exploiting a love of certain 80s/90s action movies in the book.  I was a child in the 1980s, a teenager in the 1990s – I was exposed to some good stuff.  So why the hell not people?

There’s a clear Terminator vibe going on in FAB: Revolver.  A futuristic cyborg goes back in time to kill someone and change history.  Yes, I’ve pretty much stolen that premise and tossed it into a Beatles flavoured stew.

Hey, everybody steals a little, right?

 

TIMECOP (1994)

And speaking of the 1990s.

Yep.  It’s that Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that’s either terrible or brilliant depending on who you ask.  Sure, this time-travelling adventure received mixed reviews but what’s not to like?  Personally I think it’s a well-written story.  It’s not just JCVD gets in a time machine and kicks some ass.  Okay it’s exactly that, but I still cared about the characters.

Definitely one of JCVD’s better films in my opinion.

So what have I nicked here?  Well, the Time Enforcement Commission I guess.  In FAB: Revolver, I call them Time Travel Detectives, but it’s kind of the same idea – a police force designed to stop people committing crimes in the past.  They don’t feature much in the book, but they do make one very important appearance close to the end…no spoilers here…

 

WESTWORLD (2016 – TV/1973 – Movie)

During one particular scene in the book, I was thinking about HBO’s impressive resurrection of Westworld.  Without spoiling anything, I was trying to write ‘humanity’ into a machine and (no surprise if you’ve seen the TV show) this is the source that came to mind.  Westworld is a fascinating, cerebral show that asks interesting questions of the viewer.  Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it yet.

Having said that, FAB: Revolver is more akin to the spirit of the original movie, which starred Yul Brynner as the robot gone haywire.  This is a great idea.  A theme park with robots acting as entertainment fodder for the paying public.  Then one of them goes crazy on the guests.

Yessss!

In comparison to the TV show, the movie is a bit more fun for fun’s sake.  Something I’m all for.

 

TIMELESS (2016)

And speaking of fun for fun’s sake.  I hope that more than anything, that’s what FAB: Revolver is.  In that sense I’m drawing on the spirit of Timeless – the recent TV show that saw a historian, soldier, and scientist jumping back in time, trying to protect history as we know it.  The great thing about Timeless is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Amen to that.  We don’t need to know the science behind every little thing and Timeless doesn’t give a hoot about the intricate details.  Fun for fun’s sake, remember?

It’s interesting how many bits and pieces have come together to make a whole.  In the case of FAB: Revolver, I was quite conscious of these influences but I was careful not to try and rip anything off (too much). I hope that by tossing The Beatles into the mix, I’ve made something fresh that stands on its own.

Time will tell.

 

Launch Week Deal – If you haven’t tried the FAB Trilogy yet, you might like to know I’m having a deal on the entire series from March 31st to April 7th.  During that time you can grab all three ebooks for less than $4/£3.

Here are the (Amazon) links:

FAB (Free)

FAB: The Fifth Angel ( Down to 0.99)

FAB: Revolver (Special Launch Price – $2.99/£1.99)

Or save yourself multiple clicks by going to my Amazon Author Page, featuring all the books (US page), (UK Page)

 

Thank for your continued support.  I truly appreciate it 🙂

Over and out!

 

TIP: When You Finish A Book, Don’t Have A Blank Page Waiting For You

 

If I could give one piece of advice to writers hoping to gain some momentum with their work, then it’s this:

When you finish a book, don’t have a blank page waiting for you. (Yep if you haven’t finished a book yet this probably isn’t the blog for you – you should be writing!)  In my opinion, you should already have started the next book.  It doesn’t matter how much you’ve done – maybe that means you’ve got an outline or you have some rough chapters already sketched out (as rough as you like, it’s better than a blank page!)

But avoid that blank page at all costs.

Writing a book is exhausting.  It really is.  I couldn’t imagine finishing a book, going through the publishing process, doing the promotion and then when you realise it’s time to keep writing – returning to the desk, turning on the laptop and staring at a blank page.

Starting from scratch?  Nope.  No thanks.

How many books will you release in an average year?  There is no ‘correct’ answer to this of course.  From what I can tell, the number varies greatly between authors.

I released four books in 2016 and that’s the target for 2017.

For some that’s a crazy number while for others it might even be lazy (yes these people exist).  If you think it’s crazy then you’re probably one of those authors who take at least a year to write a book.  Fair enough.  If you think it’s lazy, you’re probably one of those berserker authors who put out a novel a month.  What are you people on?

Fair play. Each to their own.  Who am I to judge?

I don’t think I write that fast.  I also write novels that are on the slim side, averaging between 45,000 to 65,000 words.  I don’t think I’d be able to stick to the release schedule that I’m on if I was doing 80,000 plus words.  That’s just not me.

But whether you think I’m crazy or lazy, I can only keep this output up by avoiding the blank page when I move onto the next book.  I do this religiously.  And how do I do that?

I use something that I call the A/B Project system.

(As with the vast majority of writing advice, feel free to disregard it if it doesn’t work for you.  This is just something I thought I’d share.)

 

A/B PROJECTS 

 

I’m always working on two projects – the A Project and the B Project.  The A Project is the main focus.  This is the one that takes up about ninety percent of my creative time.  This is the actual writing and rewriting and all the really tough stuff that makes your head rock and roll.  This is the grind.  This is the one you loved when it was a B Project but now that it’s the A Project and things are getting hard, you hate it.

And you can’t wait for it to end.

The B Project on the other hand is light and easy/bright and breezy.  There’s very little going on here in terms of pressure or hard graft.  In fact, you’re hardly doing any writing at all – you’re thinking for the most part and making notes at best.  BUT – when the A Project is in between edits or if you’ve sent it away to a professional editor, that’s when you need to step things up with the B Project.  Just a little.  Otherwise when the A Project is published, you’ll be coming back to that dreaded blank page.

Noooooooooo!!

But I always try to avoid making the B Project feel like hard work.  So if the A Project is ninety percent of the heavy lifting, the B Project is the other ten.  You’re working on it, but you’re not sweating bricks.

When the A Project is temporarily on the sidelines, have some fun with the B project.  Relax your mind after the gruelling slog of working on the A Project.  Loosen up and let your creative muscles fly.  Write your ideas down, start working on the outline, picturing scenes in your head.  Jot them down but don’t work too hard.

Remember A Project = Torture.  B Project = Fun.

Save your energy, infinite patience and loathing for the A-Project.  Enjoy the B Project now ‘cos soon the B-Project will be the A project and you’ll hate it.

That’s how I keep my momentum going.  That’s how I hit the target last year and that’s (hopefully) how I’ll do it again this year.

Two projects, one heavy, one light.  That’s all there is to it.

I’m super-duper glad when I see those rough chapters waiting for me (when the B Project turns into the A Project).  Sitting down to a blank page would break me.  Dramatic, but true.  No need for anyone to break however – I have an outline/story map and I might even have some rough chapters – my minus first drafts as I call them – already on the page.  It’s encouraging.  I can work from there.  And when I start from there, it doesn’t feel THAT long until I’ll have a first draft on the go.

Avoid the blank page.  Did I mention that already?

 

 

 

Movie Recommendations – T2 Trainspotting and Logan

 

After a couple of weeks binging on Hammer Horror movies at home (Yes I still prefer blood that looks like paint and fake, crappy looking bats with strings attached over CGI), I finally got back to the cinema to see something new.

Here are a few spoiler-free thoughts (not a review or synopsis – just my thoughts!) on two great movies I saw recently.

T2 Trainspotting

Like a lot of people, I was apprehensive about this.  You just can’t follow up a movie like Trainspotting right?  How dare they?  The original was a perfect thing and why would Danny Boyle and crew want to piss all over their 1996 masterpiece by making a shoddy twenty-years later sequel?

(Note – The Colour of Money was made twenty-five years after The Hustler and although it has its critics I actually think it’s a pretty good film.  Later sequels CAN work)

T2 Trainspotting works brilliantly.  A few friends back in Scotland went to see this before me and their positive reports were enough to convince me that it was going to be good.  Props to screenwriter John Hodge, who’s nailed it with a brilliant script.  This is a very moving, funny/tragic film about growing older, disillusionment and all those weighty things that happen when you’re no longer in your early twenties.

The performances are all top notch.  Beforehand I was a little worried that Robert Carlyle might be caricaturing his original and outstanding portrayal of Begbie.  He doesn’t.  Although Begbie is still a psycho with a grudge (understandable!) he’s carrying as much baggage as the other characters and there are some great scenes with his son who is the complete opposite of his father given that he’s working on getting a career in hotel management.

Begbie Junior running the Hilton?  Makes you think…

Favourite scene?  Spud coming out of the boxing gym and witnessing a scene from the original film (and from his own past).  A few lingering notes of ‘Born Slippy’ add tremendously to the atmosphere.  That for me was the most moving moment of the film.  Quality stuff.

I saw this in Australia and I’m pretty sure my Scottish accent was more Begbie-esque as I went swaggering out of the cinema.

So what next?  T3?  I’d actually like to see an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s The Blade Artist which sees Begbie in very different surroundings.  I enjoyed the book and there’s an interesting film in there.  Apparently Irvine Welsh is up for it and so is Robert Carlyle.

Someone give them the money.  Please.

 

Logan

I didn’t know much about X-Men before seeing this.  In fact, until recently I’d never seen any of the films and I’d never read any of the comics either.  But recently I kept noticing articles about Logan and the premise had me intrigued.  I love the whole superhero getting older thing.   No matter who it is, it makes the character more human, fragile and ultimately much, much more interesting.

So in advance of seeing this, I binged on the X-Men movies over the past week or so.  And I enjoyed them.  Most of them 🙂  But it set me up nicely for going to see Logan a couple of days back.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s a great, emotional violent frenzy of a movie.  A kick in the guts in more ways than one.

There are some tender moments in there for sure, so it’s not your typical Marvel thing, which to be honest can get a bit boring.  This movie has soul – the magic ingredient and the one thing I demand in everything that promises to entertain me.

Patrick Stewart is brilliant.  He’s always brilliant.  Ever since I saw him prancing around on a horse in Excalibur I’ve loved that man.  Hugh Jackman is great too.  This is his last appearance as Wolverine and in my opinion it’s his best.  Again, something about fragile heroes – like Bruce Willis in Die Hard.  Knowing that the hero is vulnerable and that he really could get hurt or even die makes a story so much more engaging.  So much more tense.  That’s why the violence in Logan (and there’s lots of it) has the impact that it does.  It feels like life and death and much less like the cartoon violence of some other superhero movies.

Is Wolverine gone for keeps?  No way.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing the character again brought to life by another actor.  (There’s an obvious character in this film who should take up the mantle.  Why does Wolverine 2 have to be a man?)

Richard E. Grant is in this film too.  Anything that has Richard E. Grant in it makes me smile.  Even in this film where he plays the big bad villain, he’ll always be Withnail to me (lots of Withnail and I quotes buzzing in my head right now.  You haven’t seen it?  You must.  You bloody must!)

Anyway, this was a great film.  Logan was everything I’d hoped for and more.  Great characters, fast-paced and with an emotional core that will kick you where it hurts but in a good way.

 

If you haven’t seen either T2 Trainspotting or Logan, go catch them in the cinema while there’s still time.  If I WAS reviewing them (and I’m not) I’d give them both five out of five.

Oh shit.

 

Amazon Ads for Authors – A Few Tips

Hey everyone,

This isn’t an in depth post on Amazon ads.  It’s just a few thoughts based on my initial experience using Amazon’s handy wee marketing tool.  If you’re just starting out and are looking for a fairly comprehensive guide on how to get things going with Amazon ads, I suggest you try this article on Jane Friedman’s site.  It’s written by Robert Kroese, it’s easy to follow (with screenshots) and that’s what I used to begin with.

What follows are just some scattered observations based on my own recent experience.  I’m not an expert by any means but if you’re interested in going the AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) route, you might find them useful.

It’s early days but I’m pretty happy with my initial experimentation with Amazon ads.  I started using them around early January and I’m pleased to report that approximately two months later, I’ve made more money that I’ve spent.  I’m not talking great sums here – I’ve probably made just over a hundred dollars via AMS but I’ve spent considerably less and for me that’s a winner.

My initial advertising has been focused on two books – FAB: The Fifth Angel and Mr Apocalypse.  As mentioned earlier, I used Robert Kroese’s article to get things up and running and while the set-up is fairly simple, it can be time consuming if you’re adding keywords (more on that below)

If you’re thinking about Amazon ads, here are a few things to remember:

 

SPONSORED PRODUCTS/PRODUCT DISPLAY ADS

There are two kinds of ad that you’ll use with AMS.  Sponsored and Product Display.  My advice?  Use Sponsored Ads only, especially if you’re just starting off.  Product Display ads are those rectangular displays that appear on any given product page – they’re usually tucked away on the right hand side and within close proximity to the main product on that page.

As a reader/potential book buyer, I don’t like these ads.

Product Display Ad – Bottom Right

They’re intrusive and what’s more they just don’t look all that good aesthetically with the blurry background and all.  I get it.  It’s not meant to be pretty, it’s meant to be seen.  And they are prominent, there’s no denying that.  These ads can also appear on the Kindle screensaver/Home Page and that’s pretty cool.  The thing is however, that Product Display ads require more of a financial commitment upfront.  To get one of these going, you have to start with a minimum budget of $100.  That”s not ideal for indies who just want to test the water.

I haven’t tried Product Display ads yet.  All the advice I’ve read suggests that indies shouldn’t bother.  If you’re tempted to give it a try however, Robert’s article offers a few pointers.  But again, if you’re on a tight budget you probably want to give those a miss at least for now.

That brings us to a Sponsored Ad campaign, which is what most indies – including myself – are doing.  These are the ads that sit below the also bought section and in my opinion, they’re a whole lot less annoying than Product Display ads.

Sponsored Product Ads

But are they more effective?

You’ve probably got the best chance of getting a positive return on your investment with a Sponsored Ad.  There is no minimum budget here.  Start as low as you like although the consensus seems to be that $5-10 is a good starter point.  I use $5 for each book.  Some days, I go through my allotted budget but there are days when few people are clicking and I don’t.  In fact, the odd day – I don’t spend a thing.  Remember you pay for clicks, not impressions.  If we paid for impressions the cost would be astronomical.  So if you’re not getting clicks with your ad, you don’t pay.

I would suggest you start out with a Sponsored Ad.  As you’re setting up, you’ll have to decided whether you want Amazon to target automatically or whether you want to set up a manual campaign.  If you choose manual then you’re going to have to choose your own keywords.  Mostly these will be books in similar genre and author names.  This is the bit that took the longest but it’s well worth investing the time.  For me, it was half a day at first, searching through Speculative Fiction sub-genres and authors both on Amazon and elsewhere online (scouring through best alternate history lists/best apocalyptic fiction lists, and things like that).

 

KEYWORDS AND TWEAKING

I’ve read various opinions about how many keywords you should be aiming for.  In my own experience, the more the merrier.  I started off with about a hundred keywords for Mr Apocalypse and FAB: The Fifth Angel.  Since then, I’ve built up to over two hundred keywords for each.

I do this when I’m periodically refining each ad.

How to refine?  Tweak, tweak, tweak…and then tweak some more.

Every 2-4 weeks, I go through the data to see what’s working.  I study what keywords are getting clicks and of course, which ones are leading to sales.  I then use these leading keywords to generate new ones.  To do this, I go onto Amazon and find new keywords which are related to the successful ones.  For example, if a particular book title is getting me clicks/sales then I go onto that product page and look at the also bought section.  From there, I’ll usually find new book titles and author names to add to the keywords in my ad.  Over time, this has gotten me a better conversion rate and more clicks have turned into sales.

When it comes to using big mega-sellers and huge authors as keywords, just remember – these might get you a lot of impressions but (for me anyway) there are few clicks.  Still if it’s not costing you anything then these impressions aren’t necessarily a bad thing.  You’re in the shop window and that means somebody can find you if they come looking for a book just like yours.

Look out for keywords that are costing you a lot in terms of clicks but not resulting in sales.  This will drain your budget and you’re best ditching some of these as you constantly refine your ad.

Be wary of sticking rigidly to whatever advice you hear (including everything on this page) Break a few rules and experiment.  I’ve read things like don’t use single book title names as keywords, but this has actually worked out well for me on occasion.  Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora has worked out well for me, not only in terms of clicks but sales.  A lot of my tweaking has come via the also boughts on KSR’s product pages.

See what works for you.  But stay on top of things – don’t just set up an ad and then slack off.

 

MICRO-BLURB

The last thing you’ll do before running your ad is to write a micro-blurb that sits alongside your book cover in the Sponsored Ads row.  This is copywriting folks and that means it’s time to sell.  You need to sell your little baby in a just one or two sentences.  After keywords, this is what takes me the longest because I hate any form of blurb writing.

But it has to be done.

Anyway – you’re all set to go after that.  You’ll wait for a little approval period (not long) and then your ad is up and running.

Then you check in a week later.  See how it’s going…

 

LOTS OF CLICKS…NO SALES?

There are several reasons why people don’t buy after clicking.  Maybe they took a closer look at the cover and weren’t too impressed.  Maybe you don’t have enough (or any reviews yet), maybe you have a couple of bad reviews that put them off, or perhaps the synopsis wasn’t gripping enough.  Of course, just because they didn’t buy this time doesn’t mean they haven’t added you to their Wish List or made a mental note of your book for another time.  There’s every chance that they might see your book again during another shopping session and purchase second, third or fourth time around.

Obviously we’d rather they bought first time.   We’re paying for those clicks after all, but it’s out of our control.

I think the review thing might have cost me a few sales.  My reviews are mostly good but for these two books in particular, which are my latest, the reviews are still in single figures.  Having said that, people are buying so who knows for sure – every book buyer is an individual after all.

 

Conclusion

  • Use Sponsored Ads (about $5-10 a day is a good start – or lower)
  • Take your time when adding your keywords.  Don’t rush it.  Do your research and the more keywords you add, the better your chance of getting noticed.
  • Check your ads regularly/tweak/even copy the campaign and start afresh from time to time in order to keep track of what keywords are working and which are redundant.
  • Experiment.  Ignore standard advice if something is going right.

These are just a few observations based on my limited experience with Amazon ads.  In short, I like them.  In contrast to Facebook, people are on Amazon to shop.  That means there’s a better chance of actually converting interest into sales.  So far it’s working okay for me.

Good luck people 🙂

Over and out.

 

Why I’ve Decided To Launch A Patreon Page

 

As somebody else said, if Kickstarter is a one-night stand, then Patreon is going steady.

Wanna go steady with me?

A small announcement.  I’ve decided to start a Patreon page and I’ll briefly explain why.  By the way, I’m not asking random strangers who have no interest in what I do to get involved.  Why should they?  You can ignore this if you’ve no interest in what I do.  This is specifically for fans of the books or people who just want to support the arts or even those who just like me as a human being 🙂

So…

Here’s why I’ve just launched a Patreon page.  At the rate I’m going, I’m releasing four books a year.  That involves not only a lot of writing/rewriting/editing time but it costs a lot of money to produce these books.  Most people probably don’t realise the production costs associated with getting a book ready for public consumption.  It’s not like recording music or a film where you need tons of equipment, right?  Well sort of.  We have some production costs of our own and they’re quite substantial.  Editing is the great white shark taking a bite out of the indie author budget.  Graphic design is another big fish.  There are others.  And all of that comes before marketing and promotion costs.

It all adds up and you really feel it at the beginning.

Between December 2015 and December 2016, I released five books.  Two of my five titles are currently listed as free.  Yes that’s on me of course, but I did so as a way of drawing readers into two different series.  Those books were always going to be free.  Another book is a small collection of short stories that are early curiosities more than anything else and besides, shorts are a harder sell.  That leaves me two out of five books making a profit.  And did I mention production costs?

That’s the situation and that’s why I’m setting up a Patreon page.  I do admire the economic model of Patreon in that it allows creatives some breathing room while they’re getting things up and running.  There aren’t many outlets or sources of funding to fall back on and while some people might resent the concept, don’t forget, that ‘Earth’ without art is just ‘Eh’.

As is the custom, I offer small rewards to my patron.  Behind the scenes material, creative contributions, and you can even make a small cameo appearance in the Future of London series.  You can see what it’s all about on the Patreon page.

You can support for as little as $1 dollar a month.  That’s about 80 pence for those in the UK, $1.30 in Australia and so on…

If you’re a fan of the books (FAB Trilogy or Future of London) or maybe you’d just like to support in some small way, you can visit my Patreon at the link below this post.

And finally, don’t worry if you can’t – there’s absolutely no need to get involved unless you feel compelled to.  You’re not a bad person 🙂  I’ll continue to write anyway and there’s no getting rid of me.

(Unless I die of course – and then you’ll feel guilty!!  And if my kittens starve, well…)

Thanks everyone,

Mark

Self-Publishers CAN Wear Two Hats. Knuckle Draggers CAN’T Handle It

 

Yesterday I was reading a short, fairly innocuous article about self-publishing on a random business website.  It was basic stuff, nothing groundbreaking and I skimmed mostly.  But when I got to the comments at the end, I noticed that the first one was yet another sneaky little dig at self-publishers.

I sighed.

Here’s the comment.

‘Love the fact that self-publishers ALWAYS address things like marketing and sales, but NEVER talk about their lifelong efforts to hone the craft of writing (because the vast majority aren’t career, professional writers.) Probably why 99.9% of self-published works are (charitably speaking) mediocre.’

So in other words my fellow independent authors, if you’ve ever considered marketing your work in order to boost sales, don’t you dare think of yourself as an artist/author/creative type.  You’re a marketer who writes books!  Go spit on yourself now.  Take off your turtleneck sweater, your Che Guevara beret and go put on a suit or something square like that.

And give yourself a slap on the wrist while you’re at it.  Damn you!

Now I know that most mature, independent authors are supposed to do nothing more than roll our eyes when we read comments like these.  We’re supposed to just get on with the work and prove the naysayers wrong by our actions and the quality of our work.

And that is the right thing to do.

But for some reason, I couldn’t let this one go.  Of course I replied, politely informing her that she was mistaken.  It wasn’t so much that she was having a dig at self-publishing that bothered me.  It’s the fact that she was saying in a roundabout way that being an author and an entrepreneur is somehow incompatible.

Knuckle dragger.

That’s the term that kept popping into my head regarding this sort of perspective.  I have no idea why this person thinks that artists or creative types can’t also focus on promoting and selling their work.  They’ve been doing it for donkeys years!  In the early 1960s, The Beatles took off their leather jackets and dressed up in suits.  Why?  Because they were selling themselves.  They wanted to succeed in the music industry and they knew they had a better chance of doing that by changing things up.  Later on, they could do whatever they wanted but in the beginning they had to think about their image and not only their image, but the product itself.  Which songs work best as a potential break out hit?  That type of thing.

The Beatles, advised by their manager Brian Epstein, did this willingly.  This is marketing and promotion – or am I mistaken?  No one held a gun to their heads or questioned their purity as artists.

I could sit here all day and write about similar artists (and great ones too) throughout history who had to consider how to market themselves.  It’s not a new thing by any means.  Indie authors discuss this subject a lot because – thanks to constant technological advancement – it’s important to keep up with the latest and most effective means of getting yourself out there.  Right?  If you don’t then you run the risk of being left behind and if you’re an author who wants to be read then that’s not a good thing.  Or are we to be looked down upon for wanting to be read?

Readers won’t automatically flock towards us.  We have to find them.

Sure there are bad indie authors out there who don’t give a shit about craft.  But that’s not all of us.  In fact, from my experience of the indie author community, it’s a tiny percentage but it’s the bad ones the knuckle draggers like to highlight over the skilled writers.  Most indies that I know care a great deal about the quality of their writing but hopefully not to the point of being pretentious assholes who spend ten years rewriting a sentence over and over again.

The person who commented on the aforementioned article was wrong.  They ALWAYS address things like marketing and sales’.  I don’t but I certainly give it the time it deserves.  And unless I’m very much mistaken, these days the majority of traditionally published authors also have to consider marketing.  Seeing as how we’re living in the digital age and all.  It’s just part of the game.

She was also generalising with her use of the term ‘ALWAYS’ – (in caps too, give me a break).   She was throwing us ALL into the same basket as if to talk about ONE indie author was to talk about EVERY indie author.

Generalisation is lazy thinking.

Yes, we care about marketing.  But none of that stops us from working on our craft and becoming better writers.  Does it?  Self-publishers and traditionally published authors who focus on their marketing strategies are not turning their back on the craft of good writing.  We’re just moving with the times, wearing more than one hat, and no matter what the knuckle draggers say, that’s what we’re going to keep on doing.

 

A Blog About Failing

 

I think about failure a lot.  Past failure, present failure, the possibility of future failure – you name it.

Out of all of these it’s the past failures that really bite me on the bum and motivate me to work harder.  Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think about sunshine, rainbows and kittens when I’m down in the dumps with the indie author blues.  I’d rather be motivated than comforted if you get my drift.  So how do I do that?  I think about how I failed.

Failure, the great motivator.

But how exactly did I fail?  What is it that gives me a kick when I need it most?

This is a sensitive issue for me but I’m going to write it down anyway.  At best it can be used as an example of how failure can be a good thing or at least a useful thing to those who may be currently searching for motivation in other places.

I failed at being a musician.  By that I don’t mean I never learned how to play the guitar or the piano as a little boy.  Not quite.  I actually worked as a musician for ten years between 2001 and 2011.

So you succeeded, you might say?  Well, no I’d say I failed miserably.  It’s perhaps a matter of perspective.

I was fifteen when I started to think seriously about being a musician (1992 I think!)  One day my brother came home with an acoustic guitar that he’d borrowed from a friend and when he wasn’t there, I used to sneak into his bedroom, pick up the guitar, run my fingers down the steel strings and I was the happiest boy in the world.

I was hooked.  There are no words to describe the way that music reels you in.  Its charms are incomparable and I think it’s even fair to say that my first love affair was not with another person.  It was with music.  I fell hook, line and sinker and things would never be the same again in my life as a result.

Of course my parents and everyone else thought it was a phase that I’d grow out of.  But I knew better.  Get a real job and play gigs at the weekend, they said.  No thanks, I said.  This was the real thing.  For better or worse, I’ve always been all or nothing in terms of pursuing what I’m passionate about.  I still am.  And I’d never been as passionate about anything like I was with music when I was in my teens/early twenties.  I set the bar high in terms of future ambition.  I would be a successful musician and that’s all there was to it.  There was no room to fail.  I would be in demand, recording and touring the world and earning good money because well, because it was meant to be.

I believed I could do it too.  I was determined enough and what’s more I was a damn good bass player.  I don’t mean to sound arrogant because I’m hopeless at so many things in life.  But I could play the bass well and I don’t think anyone I ever worked with had reason to complain.

Eventually (at the age of 23) after many years of playing on the local band circuit in Glasgow, I got my first regular paying gig as a musician.  After that, I took whatever paid gigs I could get my hands on.  One thing you learn quickly when you’re trying to pay the rent through a music career – money is hard to come by.  On top of that, I was always the kind of guy who lost money down the couch.  I was never the type to find it.  You might even call me Mr Money Repellant.  So in those days, I took what gigs I could get and certainly I did a few thing that I’d rather forget.

The truth is I barely survived as a working musician between 2001 and 2011.  No matter how much I tried, my lofty goals were far from coming true.  In the big picture it was great of course – I was working as a musician but still, I was very much on the lower end of the music ladder.  Reality and my ambitions were poles apart.  I just couldn’t seem to get it going.

MeRosesExperience

It’s not like I didn’t try either.  I worked my ass off, practicing three hours a day without fail.  When I wasn’t practicing I was looking for work.  Before I had the Internet at home, I used to stand in Borders book store in Buchanan Street, picking up every doorstopper sized book about the music industry off the shelves.  I’d look through them right there in the shop (the average price was sixty pounds that’s why) and write down the contact details for music managers, agents and artists in a little notebook.  This took ages and I’m surprised the staff didn’t ever chuck me out.

After that I’d go to my parents house and use my dad’s laptop or go into an Internet cafe and sit there all day, sending emails to these supposedly important people (even letters at one point!), bullshitting (a little) about my experience and announcing to the world that I was available for work.

I thought the world would answer but it didn’t.

So this was my life.  My twenties were all about failing, playing gigs, hustling, rinse and repeat.  I put ads in music magazines like NME.  I started original bands from scratch searching for the right chemical mixture but it just never happened.  Sometimes I’d get invited down to London to meet agents to talk about future work opportunities.  On several occasions, these meetings fell through on super short notice and that stung because I’d already travelled down from Glasgow to London to meet them and had spent money that I couldn’t afford on travel expenses.

Anyway, I’m rambling here and apologies.  I don’t want to sound like a miserable, ungrateful git.  It certainly wasn’t all bad luck or somebody else’s fault that I didn’t make it.  I made bad choices for sure. 

So anyway I failed at music.  My ambition flopped and that failure felt public and humiliating for a while.  Still I got to play with some amazing talent from all over the world for sure.  I paid rent for a while but it was always a ferocious struggle to stay afloat.  I had dreamed bigger dreams than these.

In 2011, burned out and exhausted, I played my last gig.

IS THERE LIFE AFTER FAILURE-

Yes there is.  And that’s the whole point of this post.  A lot has happened in the last six years.  I took up writing in 2011.  I got married to a great woman (who I met on tour!) and then I picked up my degree in English Literature and History, spending some time in New Zealand along the way.  In 2015, my wife and I emigrated to Australia to begin the next chapter of our lives.

For me that next chapter has been in play for a year and it’s the indie author journey and a shitload of hard work.  Of course it’s another thankless task 🙂  Twelve hour days, crap money and if we’re being honest, not a lot of people giving a shit when push comes to shove about what it is that I actually do.

Still I’m very fortunate and count my blessings every day.  I do know that and if you’ve got your health, well you’ve got it pretty good.  And when I do get a little down in the dumps or the work seems hard and pointless, I think about how I failed before and that really pushes my buttons.  I let it piss me off because I haven’t forgotten how much it hurt in 2010/2011 when my music career came to an end.  These days however, I have no expectations as to what’s going to happen.  I’m taking it one day at a time.  My ambitions are modest but I’m determined again and I one hundred percent believe in what I’m doing.

So what am I saying?  In any walk of life, it’s what we do with failure that either makes or breaks us.  And some of us will break irreparably.  But instead of letting it break you, why not use your past failures to spur you onto better things?  Get angry, get mad!  Exploit them for your own sake because God knows, if you’ve had the guts to ever fail at something then you’ve earned it.

2017 – Productivity Or Else

 

Happy New Year everyone.  First of all, best wishes for the next twelve months.  And that goes double to you Bill Murray and all our other international treasures who didn’t die last year.

Okay.  This is a short post about productivity, what I did with my 2016 and what I hope to do with my 2017 in terms of creative stuff and getting things done.  Hopefully this post doesn’t come across as being all about me (it’s short anyway as I mentioned!) and it’ll make you think about your own plans for this year – whatever it is that you do and hope to get done.

If you’re an author then I’m sure you’ve got your own productivity schedule mapped out for 2017.  That doesn’t just include what you’re creating bookwise but also other things such as what you can improve on in terms of marketing and promotion.  Things that’ll make you make better art.  Things that’ll help more people discover who you are and what you do.  Maybe you need to implement some changes to your lifestyle, cutting out things like TV or socialising in order to be more productive.  Yep that might sound harsh but this writing lark is all consuming (especially if you’re indie).

Increased productivity requires a sacrifice of some sort.  Usually it’s the fun stuff that has to go but more often than not it’s worth it.  I’m not saying don’t watch TV or go out with your mates but couldn’t you cut back on it just a little?  How much is entirely up to you.  Maybe you’ve been dying to start work on a novel for ages but can’t seem to find the time.  What about cutting out some sleep?  An hour?  Forty minutes?  Where there’s a will there’s a way.  Who needs eight hours anyway?  I average on six and it’s plenty.

We can all improve.  We can all become more focused.  This is the time of year when we’re most likely to implement changes in our lives.  But sadly in the months to come, a lot of us are going to blow it.  We’re going to get distracted, burn out or just lose interest in the changes we’re thinking about now.

That doesn’t have to be you though.

2016 was a productive year for me personally.  I released four titles and I’m proud of them all.  That makes a total of five books (the first was published in December 2015.)  For the most part, I’ve just completed my first full year as an independent author (late 2015 to late 2016).  And it was hard bloody work I can say that much.  The good news is that it’s only going to get harder.

So I’m putting it down here on the website.  My writing goals for the next twelve months.  This is what I’m going to produce in 2017.  And I’ll be back at the end of December to check up on myself:

 

March 2017 – Release the final book in the FAB trilogy.  This is what I’ve been working on over Christmas and New Year.

May 2017 – Produce and release a FAB box set.

June 2017 – Release the third book in the Future of London series.

September 2017 – Release the fourth book in the Future of London series.

November 2017 – Release a box set of the first four Future of London books.

December 2017 – I plan to be in Scotland next Christmas and New Year.  But I’m hoping to get the last original release of the year out before I go – the fifth book in the Future of London series.

***

Right, I’ve done it.  Made plans, published plans.  Four original releases and two compilations.  Six releases.  It’s down and I have to do everything I can to stick to these goals.  That doesn’t mean I’ll be skimping on quality or taking shortcuts though – I’l continue to work with a professional editor, graphic designer and formatter.

Obviously if I get hospitalised for a long stretch then my plans might have to change.  Same thing if I meet my maker in 2017 but fingers crossed that doesn’t happen.  To those authors who crank out a book a month (what are you on?) it probably looks like I’m slacking in 2017.  To those who write one (or less) book a year, you must think I’m a sadist.

Each to their own.

Best of luck all to you all.  Work hard, have fun and happy writing/creating/living.

 

Mr Apocalypse (Chapter Sample)

 

The walk to the New River always filled him with dread.

He made his way along Stanmore Road, his hands gripped tightly around the steel handles of the wheelbarrow. It was a miracle the old thing was still in one piece. The blue paint on the tray had mostly flaked off and the tire wasn’t far from being completely flat. It was long overdue for the scrapheap or at least a major reworking that might give it a second chance at life. It was worth a shot. He’d been spending too much of his spare time staring into space and thinking about the past and his parents. Maybe it was time to do something practical. To be constructive.

He travelled west. The morning air had cooled slightly and he’d decided to wear his dad’s old leather jacket over his usual black t-shirt and jeans. As he walked, he could hear the helicopters in the distance. They were moving towards Central London, which meant that most of the drops in the north had already been made. The supply parcel would be there waiting for him at the river – sitting on the edge of the walkway like it always was. Maybe he’d get lucky and find two of them today.

He cut through the overgrown jungle that was once Ducketts Common. It had once been a well-manicured public space where people had picnicked and organised community fun days – now it was wild and vaguely threatening in its unkempt appearance. The pathway that cut through the common was barely visible anymore. It would probably have been buried underneath the grass altogether if not for his once-weekly visits to flatten it out.

Just as he was leaving the Common, his eye caught sight of something lying a few feet from the concrete, half-buried by a mound of drooping grass.

It was an envelope.

He put the wheelbarrow down and stared at the white paper. It was peering out at him in between the long blades of green grass. He took a look around. Standing still made him more than a little nervous. But curiosity got the better of him like it always did. He walked over to the envelope and picked it up. It felt slightly damp and was tattered at the edges. Although it had looked white from a distance, time had dulled the exterior to a warm shade of yellowy brown.

Tucking the envelope into his back pocket, he looked around again. All clear. He picked up the handles of the wheelbarrow and continued towards the New River.

He walked down Hampden Road. It had been a long time since he’d bothered with the local sights and when he passed the old Methodist church on his right hand side, he barely glanced in its direction. Still, on more than occasion he’d felt compelled to go into that place, sit down and see what happened. Not necessarily to ask for a miracle, but ask for something. But he never did go in. It was a large building and there was always the possibility that someone or something was lurking in there.

He didn’t linger around the houses on Hampden Road either. They were still and silent. There was something menacing about them. The gardens were overgrown wastelands with bloated hedges and wheelie bins that were drowning in grass and yet still neatly stacked in driveways. There were no cars on the street. Not surprising, most people had driven out of London back in 2011. It was the surest way of getting out in time and if you didn’t have a car, he imagined that people had begged for lifts off neighbours and strangers, filling the vehicles up until they were literally stuffed with bodies.

Whirr-Click.

He walked faster, making his way to the end of Hampden Road and then towards the grassy descent that led to the New River. Parking his wheelbarrow at the edge of the road, he climbed over a short metal fence and walked down towards the water.

The New River wasn’t exactly a river. It wasn’t new either. He remembered back in 2011 when he’d first moved to London, the disappointment he’d felt upon seeing it for the first time. If it was a river, then it was the skinniest fucking river in the world. It had an interesting enough history – it had been completed in 1613, and it functioned as a water supply aqueduct that brought clean drinking water from Hertfordshire into North London. It was a narrow waterway, barely the width of a small canal, and with a stone footpath running alongside which made for a pleasant walk.

It was upon this stone footpath that he now walked along, his eyes searching for a glimpse of the parcel. In the early years the supply crews had dropped several parcels on this footpath alone and in the neighbourhood as a whole. These were intended for the local residents but the number of people in the area had dropped significantly and many parcels were left untouched. Now there were only one or two parcels at most. That was why it was so important that he showed up at the river every week and why he meticulously counted seven days from each drop to the next – if he were to miss one Drop Day and if the parcel was left untouched then the helicopters would probably stop coming altogether.

He walked along the path. Every thirty seconds or so he’d look back towards the fence, keeping an eye on his parked wheelbarrow. That there was no one around to steal it didn’t matter. The need to protect his property was an urge that he couldn’t shake off, a deep-rooted instinct that belonged to another time.

After a short walk, he found the parcel. It was sitting on the side of the path furthest from the river, close to a fence that blocked off the back of a residential area. Supplies were always dropped in the same large white sacks, which were about the size of a king-size pillow. They looked similar to the type of packaging that he recalled seeing on old news broadcasts in which aid was delivered to Third World countries during the height of a famine.

Squatting down, he picked up the bag and hoisted it over his head. The package pressed against his shoulders and neck. He took a deep breath and secured his footing on the path. Packages were heavy – they were literally stuffed with the likes of fresh fruit, bread, meat, as well as toiletry items including toothpaste and toilet paper. All bundled into one sack and designed to last precisely a week until the next drop. Of course it never did last that long. He never understood why the parcels were always bulked out with large ice pads and absorbent pads, not to mention a shitload of scrunched up paper that was supposed to protect it from damage. But there was a lot of paper. They could easily have done away with some of the internal packaging and put some more food in there.

He looked around for a glimpse of a second parcel. Not that he was feeling lucky but it was worth taking a moment to look. If it were anywhere it would have been dropped further down the path. It would be nice to have it if it was there, to have a little more food in the house for the coming week.

Still holding the parcel over his head, he hurried back down the footpath towards the fence. Once there, he forced the sack through a large gap in between the metal bars and it dropped into the perfectly positioned wheelbarrow with a thud. Then he turned around hurried back down towards the footpath.

Five minutes. But don’t go too far, okay?

Okay.

By now the sun had come back out and the leather jacket on his back was getting heavier. His eyes glanced longingly at the river. What would it be like to take a dip in there? To soak his skin – would the water feel as good as it looked right now basking under the sunlight? Was this the warm bath that he’d been waiting for?

He stopped walking.

A noise. Behind him. Close – how had he missed its approach?

He spun around and his blood ran cold.

It was a man or something like a man. Staggering towards him. It was wildly bearded with hungry eyes that looked through him. It wore the tattered remnants of what appeared to be a navy suit, its colour and style long gone, the fabric bedraggled and in ruin. Half a tie swung from the collar as if someone had taken a pair of scissors and cut right through it. The red skin on the savage face was a mess – riddled with painful looking sores. Its nose was badly burned at the tip – either the result of excessive sun damage or it had been disfigured by fire. Its lips were dry, with chunks of dead skin attached. In one hand it brandished a filthy looking butchers knife and as it approached, the savage stabbed repeatedly at thin air, back and forth, like some sort of pre-murder ritual.

Seconds later, it lunged forwards.

He only just managed to get out of the way of its attack. He moved his feet backwards and manoeuvred his body out of range of the blade. Somewhere in the back of his mind he heard a voice repeating over and over:

‘Distance. Range. Distance. Range.’

The savage swung the blade with little skill, but what it lacked in finesse it made up for in ferocity. It aimed at his midsection. With every reckless thrust, came a primordial grunt that sounded something other than human. He was forced to retreat backwards and at such speed that he tripped and fell onto the grass behind him. At that moment, he was vulnerable. The world was upside down. He fought furiously to regain his coordination, all the while preparing himself for the sensation of a steel blade piercing his skin.

Fortunately the savage had already slowed under the heat. Its ferocious assault was now somewhat laboured and it failed to take advantage of this opportunity to finish the fallen man. It came after him but slower, like a raggedy man plodding through quicksand. It had lost his explosiveness and its breathing was heavy. Still, it wielded the butcher’s knife with the same murderous intent. That look of ravenous hunger in its eyes had not tired.

The savage squatted slightly, as if it was about to leap on top of him. But as it came forward, he launched a vicious upkick from the ground that caught the beast smack on its nose. Upon impact, the butcher’s knife flew out of its hand and the savage yelped and stumbled back towards the river’s edge. It put its sunburned hands over the damaged nose, which was leaking blood at a furious rate.

Quickly he rolled over to his right in order to grab the knife. But the savage was back before he could get there. The thing that was no longer human mounted him and threw down a volley of deranged punches at his face. As it did so, blood dripped from its nose and landed on his face like warm raindrops. It leaned forward, baring its rotten, yellowy teeth and snapping at his face like a vicious dog. Its breath smelt of death.

From the ground, he wrapped one hand around the savage’s throat. Then he pushed its head back with everything he had, forcing those foul teeth away from his face. It wasn’t hard to budge the neck – it felt as if the muscles inside the thing had wasted away, which meant it was running on little else but rage and hunger.

With the other hand, he reached frantically for the butcher’s knife lying at his side.

As he did so, the savage squealed with excitement.

After several attempts, he found the handle of the butcher’s knife. Without hesitation he brought it up and thrust it in a sideways motion, aiming directly at the savage’s brain. He missed the target and instead of going through its head, the blade slashed across its face, carving open a long and deep tear that ran down from the eyes to chin.

The savage screamed. It was a hideous sound. Then it fell backwards, its hand trying to stem the rapid flow of blood that was gushing out of its face.

He hurried to his feet, sensing that this was his chance to finish the job. But to his surprise, the savage wasn’t done yet. It charged at him once again despite the fact that its face was barely hanging on at the side.

It came forward at a manic speed. Fast and yet clumsy, like a throwback down the evolutionary ladder. It screamed, like a squealing pig hurtling towards its own doom.

He thrust the knife forwards. The blade found its home in the upper torso, entering deep into the stomach. There was no doubt now – it was over.

He took his blood-soaked hands off the blade and stepped away, his heart pounding, his lungs grasping for breath in the hot air.

The savage looked down at the butcher’s knife that was stuck in its chest. At the same time its face was still leaking litres of blood. With surprising gentleness, it tugged on the handle of the knife. Then realising it wasn’t going to come out, it let go again. It staggered backwards. The wild look in its eyes became something else. Serene. The fury faded to blackness. It seemed to accept what had happened and perhaps in its final moments, it remembered what it had once been.

It took another step back. This time it tumbled over the edge and fell backwards into the river. There was a loud splash and then silence.

He walked over to the edge and looked down. The body was floating in the shallow water. He stayed there for about a minute, trying to convince himself that the thing down there was indeed dead. That it wouldn’t come after him.

Then he took off, running towards the wheelbarrow.

***

He lay under the bed sheets for hours. His body shook violently as he saw the rotten teeth snapping at his face over and over again.

He could still its breath in the bedroom.

He’d already been sick six times and it showed no sign of stopping, despite the fact that there was nothing left in his body to throw up. All his strength was gone. Still he went back and forth between the bedroom and the bathroom, dry retching with all his might in an attempt to feel better, to vomit the experience and memory of what had happened.

After the seventh trip to the bathroom, he collapsed on the floor. His chest felt sore and dry. All he wanted to do was to get back to bed and stay there until he felt something other than what he was feeling. He crawled out of the bathroom on all fours into the hallway, steadily making his way to the bedroom.

Then he saw it.

It was curled up, tucked in between the hallway floor and the gap under the door – the door to the room that had been his parents’ bedroom. It was a hair – a simple hair, but it wasn’t his. This one was far too long to have ever belonged on his head.

His mother’s hair.

Gently, he reached out and clamped two fingers around the hair. He brought it towards his face and marvelled at its beauty, like someone with gold fever looking at a pan full of treasure. Such a simple thing. A single strand of tawny hair that shone in the sunlight. It could have fallen from his mother’s head that same morning.

He closed his eyes and tried to remember her face. The little things. How she had looked when she smiled and even the peculiar things, like the way her top lip twitched when she was angry with him.

But he couldn’t see her anymore.

All he could see were a set of rotten teeth, still snapping hungrily at his face.

 

Mr Apocalypse (Future of London #2) is available at these retailers:

https://books2read.com/MrApocalypse

L-2011 (Future of London #1) is now free to download:

https://books2read.com/L-2011

L-2011 is now FREE!

 

Hello everyone,

It’s almost Christmas and it’s time to give you all a wee gift 🙂

To mark this week’s release of Mr Apocalypse – the second book in the Future of London series – I’m delighted to announce that the first book , L-2011, is now free to download.

This is where the Future of London begins.  If you’d like to download L-2011, here’s a link that will take you there.  The book is free in several territories via Amazon (Apologies if that doesn’t include yours yet – it’s beyond my control) It’s free on all other digital retailers too.

Thank you and I hope you enjoy L-2011.

Mark

https://books2read.com/L-2011

P.S. If you’ve already read L-2011 and are ready for Mr Apocalypse, here’s a link to Part Two.

Latest Posts

  • Dystopiaville
    Dystopiaville
    KILLING FLOOR: The third and final book in the Dystopiaville series, Killing Floor,...
  • November 2019 Update
    November 2019 Update
    Hi everyone, Just wanted to post something on this poor neglected blog of...
  • Killer First Line...?
    Killer First Line…?
    It’s the piece of writing advice that annoys me the most. Write a...

My Latest Tweets

Join My Reader List