Monday, 7 December 2015

Speaking Out for Indie Writers

I'm indebted to Richard Vobes of for producing a 5-minute audio extract from my novel, Unreliable Histories. His reading can be found here: Unreliable Histories on YouTube.

Richard's Book-Snippets is a new site dedicated to helping readers to find stories by unsung writers and giving those same writers a new and innovative platform for promoting their works. Though still young, the site already features a host of excerpts from talented writers such as Jemahl Evans, Jeanette Taylor Ford, Lucinda Elliot, Phillip D Curwood and Sue Harris. Comedy writer Robert Wingfield also has an excerpt there, and we can expect more comedies to come soon.

(Apologies to all those I haven't mentioned but it's perhaps testament to the site's success that, already, the list is getting pretty long.)

It's an interesting way of encouraging readers to engage with new works and I really hope it takes off. It's certainly a fascinating experience to hear one's own words spoken by someone else. In my case, I chose an obscure chapter featuring one of the book's lesser characters - a young apprentice named Tymacht Jul. He recurs fleetingly throughout the first book and since most of the comments I receive typically refer to only four or five key characters, I thought it might be nice to give him an outing. His chapters are short asides from the main action and I thought one of them might work well as a short, self-contained extract.

Richard has clearly invested a huge amount of time and effort into this new venture so please do show your support by visiting the site and having a poke around. There's some good stuff there, I promise.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Rising up the Slush Pile

November got off to a good start. I heard that Unreliable Histories had made the list of top 5 novels  in 'The Slush Pile' - a new, online competition that aims to put writers in touch with literary agents across the world.

It's an interesting concept - essentially a vetting process that seeks to present beleaguered agents with a selection of writings that the Slush Pile's editorial team consider to be the best of the bunch for any given week. In theory, agents can use it to devote their time more usefully to books that experienced writers have already judged and deemed worthy of further examination. It's a no-promises sort of deal but agents are undoubtedly very busy people, so there's a certain logic underpinning the whole idea.

To any of my indie author friends out there, might I suggest you give this one a look? 
A basic competition entry costs nothing and the top five novels are promoted to a list of participating agents in the UK / US. There are also paid options that promise useful feedback from the team.

It will be interesting to see what sort of following the site develops and whether it provokes any response with respect to Unreliable Histories.  It's early days - the site only launched today (3rd November) - but it's an idea that I hope finds traction.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Due Thanks

I think it's important to say 'thank you.' It's probably an 'upbringing' thing and hearty congratulations are no doubt due to my parents but however that feeling came about, now it's sort of ingrained.

For example, if I'm poised by a pedestrian crossing and a driver slows to let me across, I don't think I'd be physically capable of moving my legs without first having offered a grateful wave and a clearly mouthed 'thanks.' Conversely, if I'm the driver and a pedestrian crosses without displaying the same simple courtesy, I get cross. I mean, I know they're within their rights and everything, that the Highway Code is on their side and that crushing them beneath my wheels would be something of an overreaction but nevertheless... I think the world needs a few more expressions of gratitude.

With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Amazon reviewer Mary Jane for a very detailed and considered review of The Endless Land. (The sequel to Unreliable Histories.) It contains some lovely comments, many of which I will certainly be repeating to my friends until such time as they ask me to stop.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Wild Places

I'm currently reading The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane and, goodness me, that man can write. The book is filled with just the most beautiful descriptions of Britain's dwindling wildernesses. Part celebration, part exhortation and part elegy, it's a bittersweet joy to read. This is what the English language sounds like when an author has mastered prose.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Next Steps

At what point can a writer consider a book finished? I mean, seriously, I'd like to know. When does an author sit back and think: 'That's it; that really is as good as I can make it'? If experience proves anything, it's that such a moment can never really come.

I've just finished the revised second drafts of both my novels and, thanks to lots of helpful feedback from many indie authors (and those kind editors at Harper Collins), I have to concede that the new versions are considerably improved. They've donned the magical boots of critical analysis and have marched leagues ahead of the originals.

I'm pleased about that, naturally, but it makes me wonder how much further they could go. What new changes might a chance comment from an enlightened reader yield? What fresh re-workings might stem from a moment of idle musing?

More to the point, at what point does one put the keyboard aside and turn instead to the sobering business of marketing?

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Bittersweet Joy of a Perceptive Review

I'm a little embarrassed. I've been outdone.

Whenever the topic of my books comes up in conversation, the most common question I'm asked (apart from "who are you?" and "will you please let go of my arm?") is what the two novels are about. What usually follows is a lengthy period of esoteric rambling on my part, accompanied by uncomfortable looks on the part of the listener and their slow shuffling towards the nearest exit.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Second Thoughts and Second Editions

For a long time now, I've been promising to release the revised second edition of Unreliable Histories and its sequel, The Endless Land. It's taken longer than I would have liked but the job is at last complete; both second editions are now online.

Each book is about 5,000 words shorter than the respective original and I've simplified some lines that were, admittedly, getting a wee bit straggly and bramble-like. There are also some minor scene-tweaks that give more emphasis to a young apprentice wizard named Tymacht Jul.  (Given that it's a pastiche of conventional fantasies, I felt the story should contain at least one young apprentice.)

The revisions have largely been the result of feedback from fellow indie writers and, most recently, from the Authonomy editors mentioned in my last post. It's always very interesting to gather impartial feedback, but I do wish I was better at identifying the common threads...

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Harper Collins Review

Anyone who's been here before will probably know that I talk quite a lot about this strange place called 'Authonomy'. It's a site run by the publisher Harper Collins and it's essentially a community of indie writers who help one another to improve their work. home page.
Having this peer group of friendly reviewers is fantastic, making the site well worth a visit for any aspiring author, but there's the added bonus that the top five works each month get selected for 'The Editor's Desk.' (It's written with capital letters - that's how important it is. Some say the desk is made of purest gold and that the walls glow with an unearthly light...)

Anyway, my comic fantasy 'Unreliable Histories' was selected for The Desk at the end of February and the review came in a couple of days ago. I'd been a bit nervous because - well - this was going to be a professional review and who knew what they'd make of it? In the event, I was very pleased. It was thoughtful, it was constructive and, ultimately, it was very encouraging - to the extent that I've now earmarked most of Easter for a thorough edit/re-write. After all, who actually needs chocolate and bunnies?

Sunday, 1 March 2015

A Word of Thanks

On 1st March, my first comic novel, Unreliable Histories, reached the top of the charts on Authonomy -  a site on which independent authors review one another's works. It's a large and thriving community, and each month's 'top five ' books go on to be reviewed on the Harper Collins Editor's Desk.

It would be fair -though something of an understatement - to say I was pleased. However, there now follows a nervous wait for a publishing editor's professional review.

Getting to 'the desk' was by no means the result of a solo effort. Scores of writers provided invaluable help and support and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank them. Their feedback has enabled me to address flaws that I would never have seen, had I been left to my own devices. As a result of their scrutiny and suggestions,  I have edited, clarified and re-written, and I'm sure the finished draft is a far superior work as a result.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Fellow Travellers on the INCA Trail

Recent weeks have seen a pronounced rise in membership applications for the INCA Project. I mention this because I was one of the authors who help set this up (the key instigator, of course, being the irrepressible Rob Wingfield). It's good to see it enjoying a decent measure of success.

INCA is an acronym for Incorporating No Conventional Authors, and it's fast achieving its ambitions. It's growing to become an eclectic mix of independent writers whose works range from comedy and sci-fi to thrillers and erudite historical dramas. If you haven't yet paid a visit, I promise you'll find something there that will make it worth your while.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Guest Post - Alastair Miles

The guest post series continues this month with Alastair Miles, who is not only a wonderful comic writer, but also the founder of the much-mentioned Comedy Literature Only Group (CLOG) on Authonomy. Part of a small and very select group of top-hat wearers, he has created an online community of writers that feels, for a number of us, rather like home.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the excellent Mr Miles.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Making the Cut

Editing. It's a grim business.

I'm currently working on the second edition of Unreliable Histories - a modestly restructured version that, I hope, addresses some issues that were bothering me. On the positive side, it's meant that I've had a chance to slot in a few extra jokes that occurred to me after publishing the first edition on Amazon, and it also afforded me the opportunity to break some fairly long chapters into smaller, fun-sized chunks.