Trappings of Memory now free

trappings cover 1b s

The Trappings of Memory (industrial/dark urban fantasy) is now available on Amazon, but is FREE via my website if you sign up to my newsletter. As I’ve built the website myself, set up the Mailchimp integration, written the book and jimmied the whole thing together there’s a reasonable chance it won’t work quite as expected.

So if you feel like trying it out, that would brilliant! I’d love to know if you can get the book and if so how easy it was.

Please click here if you feel like giving it a try!

New free book cover reveal!

My new story The Trappings of Memory is going to be available soon, and if you join my author mailing list, the Learned Society of Tempus Abbey, you’ll be able to pick it up for free. I’ll make another post once that giveaway is in place, with the signup link. In the meantime, I’d like to do a little experiment…

Here’s the new cover. To see if it does its job, leave a comment below telling me what genre you think it might be or what it could be about. It’ll be fun to know what, if anything, people presume just from one image.

And if you leave a comment I’ll send you a copy of the story so you can find out if you were right!

trappings cover 1b s

Forcing Yourself to Write: Results

In March I set out a challenge for myself – to produce a short story 1000 words at a time, and upload the sections each day as a way of forcing myself to produce something consistently. And it sort of worked!

Alright, so I didn’t finish the story, but I got far enough through that the general shape of it was visible. In fact, apart from the ending, it was basically done, so that’s a success of sorts. I’ve now decided to enlarge the story into a proper novella, which I’ll be giving away for free when it’s done

There was another benefit too! Not only does publishing each day’s writing keep me somewhat more productive than I would otherwise have been, it also last month gave the readers of this blog a little story to read along with. Take a look!

blog views

Admittedly my blog is hardly setting the world on fire even at its most “popular”, but equally I know I won’t have to point out to you where it was I stopped uploading each day. The fact remains that while I was uploading this blog enjoyed its greatest popularity so far. Since then, um, not so much…

Having looked back over what I wrote last month, I’ve think the story needs to be a little longer in order to iron out some pacing issues, so I’m going to resume uploading one chapter at a time for your enjoyment, and hopefully see some more progress!

Are you a deadline writer? How do you approach the mechanical task of sitting down and producing something?

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Making yourself write

I’ve decided to try a little something, an experiment, if you will. I was watching a video on YouTube the other day from a filmmaker whose work I enjoy a great deal – Khyan, seen here – who was talking about the dangers of “falling into a kind of pre-satisfaction” as a content-creator, in which telling everyone you’re about to produce some new work actually stops you doing it. Why? Because you’ve already had the buzz. The satisfaction of being told “Hey, that’s a great idea, can’t wait to see/read/hear it!” kills the desire to make it happen.

In his video, Khyan concluded the technique would, however, probably still be valuable if in failing to put out everything you promised, you still put out more than you otherwise would have. That is the spirit of this post: announce greatness; achieve more than nothing.

Anyway, I’ve got a new fantasy novel out (Right here, fans of quality and excitement). But how to attract audience? How to drink sweet, sweet nectar of popular acceptance? Do I write more? Market… somehow? (That’s an arcane art, and is it me or are there exactly equal numbers of people promoting certain approaches as there are issuing assurances that they don’t work?)

I know one thing, and that’s that a novel (even a mighty 500+ page meisterwerk) sitting all alone by itself is a sad thing. It needs a little brother. So, I’m going to write one, 1000 words at a time. And to prove to myself and the nonexistent audience of this blog that I can do it, I’m going to do 1000 words per day, and post it here each and every day for your delectation until it’s done. Then, after a week or two, I’ll have a little novella that I can put up alongside the novel. Genius. Watch this space.

Tempus Abbey – 2hr Audiobook Preview is Ready!

Looking for something to listen to? Interested in a thrilling northland world in which industry and religious might are pitted against one another in a battle of wits for the integrity of a whole country? Intrigued by the story of two children and their rabbit companion playing a game with the past deep within a vast frontier abbey?

Of course you are 🙂 Well, fortunately for you I’ve created a 2hr preview reading on YouTube so you can dip in your toe (and hopefully get hooked) prior to the actual release of Tempus Abbey.

Take a look!

I’d love to hear your feedback, on the story or on the production quality. I’ve given it my best shot, with a new mic, careful editing, custom artwork and so on, so tell me what you think! And if you’re interested, I have a blog post right here on the setup I used to make it.

Making an Audiobook version of an indie Novel

I recently decided that as a useful way of proofing my new novel manuscript, I would do a reading of it. Let me expound my reasons for you.

It’s a 160,000 word novel, and after reading it through several times, over what feels like many, many months I just can’t face the idea of reading it in my head again.

I’ve purchased a shiny new microphone. After some research I settled on a RODE NT-USB, which, as its name suggests, has the advantage of connecting to one’s computer using a USB port, which makes things simpler. In addition to that it comes with a built-in pop screen and offers a very impressive level of quality. Yeti microphones are another popular option, but the RODE was my personal choice.

I’ve got a YouTube channel. So far I’ve only really got one video of note up there, a Wind in the Willows complete illustrated audiobook that I put up in 2013. As of now, it’s got about 78,000 views, which I’m pretty pleased with. The reasons for that solid number (I suspect) are the fact that there is a fairly large and stable base of people using You Tube to look for audiobook, and a fairly large proportion of those looking for Wind in the Willows, which means that a video that can distinguish itself (mine offers completeness – it’s the whole book, unique illustrations for each chapter, and is read in an English accent that works better than it might for, say, Huckleberry Finn) will attract a certain, stable number of clicks. Mine gets about 100 views per day, give or take 20. So that’s good and dandy, but I’m also trying to promote my new novel, and you have to use the tools you’ve got, after all. So I’ve decided to put out a preview on my channel, and hopefully a small number of people will come by and decide to give mine a look.

But, you cry, how do you make your new audiobook?

Well, having had some experience before, might I first refer you to the point above about the choice of microphone. The Wind in the Willows audiobook was recorded using a small voice recorder with a kitchen sponge stuck on the end to act as a pop screen. It worked… adequately, for what it was. I guess. Not great, anyway. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve got a feeling that some of the dislikes my first effort received (fortunately a small number compared to the likes) were due to sound quality, which is perfectly listenable-to, but not exactly studio.

So you’ve got a microphone. Good start. You will also need: some writing; a computer; some software to record audio; some software to edit audio; some software to turn audio into a video; some software to make imagery to go with the audio on the video, and; somewhere to put up the video when you’ve made it. Got all that? Smashing.

My setup is somewhere between hobbyist and rank amateur, so I’m rolling with the following:

  • A RODE NT-USB microphone
  • My novel
  • A six year old Dell laptop with dodgy screen hinges
  • Audacity (which is free) for the recording and editing
  • Windows Movie Maker (also free; stop laughing at the back there) for making a video
  • GIMP (free – you see a pattern) for creating video imagery
  • The aforementioned YouTube channel for uploading the gourmet AV experience these ingredients serve up

Other than that, the main thing is to be aware than recording in a dynamic and listenable way is quite tiring, physically, and going from laying out your equipment to clicking the “Publish” button on your platform of choice typically takes many, many times longer than the actual run-time of the video.

This is what I’ve come up with: https://youtu.be/xbOMAEsCHMg

Please take a look and let me know what you think. This is very much still a learning experience, so any advice you can offer is well appreciated. And if you’re wondering, the novel will be available very soon!

All My Terrible Book Covers, Ranked

As I’m currently getting seriously into self-publishing, I thought I’d talk covers for a bit. Basically, they’re tricky…

I’m lucky enough to have had an education in architecture, so I’m reasonably handy with graphic design. Of course, if you spend a moment on any online advice for new authors they’ll invariably say if you’re anything less than full-on  pro don’t even think about doing your own cover.  Well, I’m obstinate and had the time, so I went ahead anyway.

Before my first effort, there was another book. Which will now be the next book. (Writing and publishing not necessarily in the same order – another thing I’ve learned). It was called Freya, until I realised how played out Freya is as a fantasy heroine name. Current working title is Fray the Sky, but it’s changed quite a lot and will probably change again.

Here are my efforts. Please don’t laugh too hard.

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Attempt 1: 1/10

I’ve awarded myself half a point here because the grey-brown and blue do sort of work together, even if they hardly stand out.

Plus another half point for putting a fancy shadow effect on the text. When everything else has gone wrong, just throw in a bit of shadowing.

 

 

 

 

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Attempt 2: 2/10

There are some elements of this that work. The blue over red is just hideous, but the tree-and-hand motif (the banner of a country within the story) is strong and there’s also the weird eye/roundel thing going on in the background. That’s actually got little scenes painted all the way around it, so it’s a phenomenal amount of work considering the miserable effect overall.

That’s the mark of a true novice – maximum effort, zero result!

 

 

 

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Attempt 3: 7/10

Admission time: I actually rather like this one.

But it’s more the sort of thing I’d stick on my wall rather than the front of a book. It’s a fun picture, but there are a couple of problems.

Firstly, it’s got nothing to do with content of the story.

Secondly, the text would need reformatting. (Although that’s a small problem really).

 

 

 

mechanical apostles cover.jpg

Attempt 4: 5/10

This one actually is up on my wall. If you’re not familiar with printing, dark blues and purples are about the hardest thing you can ask a printer to turn out, so this image is one that’s very difficult to get looking good on paper. Most printers will make half of it pretty much black, although for screen display it’s okay.

Trouble is, it’s just too fiddly and dark an image. Book covers are advertisements – they need to hit hard and fast, and with this one there’s almost no place for the title and author either!

 

 

cover concept 8.jpg

Attempt 5: 6/10

So, want bold, do ya? How about this!

Well, it’s one option, I guess… I admit I do rather like it, but I wonder if it really reflects the content of the book. You might almost think it was for some kind of horror story.

Maybe changing the red to blue…?

Maybe not.

 

 

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Attempt 6: 2/10

Better than the first one. Barely.

Bland colours, badly drawn, dull idea, wrong genre, no relation to book content… No. No. No.

 

 

 

 

 

cover concept 10.jpg

Attempt 7: 4/10

Going back to the bold, flat graphics thing. Took me ages to draw those wings, and while I quite like the result, it looks more suitable for a political satire than any fantasy novel I’m likely to pick up soon. Totally wrong, tonally.

Back to the drawing board.

 

 

 

 

cover concept 11.jpg

Attempt 8: 4/10

Extreme perspective is difficult folks. I’m not a graphic artist. I tried, I failed. I accept that.

Also, grainy low contrast pictures don’t grab the attention,  you can barely tell what this image is meant to be of it’s so badly drawn, and the text doesn’t stand out enough.

Next!

 

 

 

cover concept 12.jpg

Attempt 9: -7/10

I don’t even know what to say.

Why did I do this? At what point did this seem like a clever idea? It’s bold and illegible, shouty and meaningless, busy and overcrowded…

 

 

 

 

 

cover concept 13.jpg

Attempt 10: 6/10 (10/10 for wackiness; 2/10 for effect)

Well, it’s different, I’ll give myself that. Illegible, admittedly, but different.

There are some rather lovely things going on with texture and surface here, but a book cover is first and foremost a functional piece of art, so this won’t wash.

 

 

 

 

cover concept 15.jpg

Attempt 11: 8/10

Could be a nine, I reckon, but the text isn’t quite right yet. Need to get the framing sorted a bit better.

This one’s actually the culmination of quite a lot of work – and not just the above. It started as a pencil drawing straight onto my bedroom wall, seven feet tall. The outline took two weeks to complete, and then I started painting it. Then we moved house.

It became a piece of graphic art from photos, for obvious reasons, and was completed in full colour using hand rendered photo textures, then that digital painting was turned into the cover you see here. Whew!

 

What do you reckon then? Favourite? Or should I have paid someone?