This is where it all began – my story!

As I have sat pouring over a million and one ways to spread the message of what my stories have to offer I forgot one very important thing.

Where it all came from!

The Magdon Series, which forms the foundation for my latest novel INTO THE DARK came from the imagination of me trying to entertain and grow my own children. The fable and myth of Archy came from me creating an ancestor in the form of a fictional Great Great Grandfather for my sons. Someone, they could look up to and admire, someone that showed them that the dark corners and caves of the world may be terrifying but in the same sense can offer a whole world of adventure.

I remember running away with the story with my youngest son (now I have a daughter too who is just growing to know what Magdons are). I had done a shift at work with the dog section and in a desperate attempt to try and show my timid little boy that he could be brave with monsters I made up The Magdon (Dog Man – how original). He asked what it looked like and if I had ever seen one.

It wasn’t really a lie when I said I had seen one. At that time I was the only person who had seen one as I was creating it in the wildest depths of my imagination.

I have always been an absolute bugger for blurring the lines with my children. Encouraging, rightly or wrongly, to believe in things that may or may not be real. My youngest son grips everything I say and foolishly believes it all. So, when I created The Magdon and his little eyes twinkled I knew I had caught a very big fish.

From that throwaway idea I had to put meat on the bones and so Great Great Grandad Archibald was born, the man who last fought a Magdon and survived. So much so he wrote down his adventures in a diary and I then wrote books from that diary.

I even made the bloody diary. Hours spent pouring over images and false maps to make it look real and authentic enough that they would believe it. I even used FaceApp or some other program to age my own face so they could see a grainy photo of Archy. My oldest latched on (now he is nine he knows it isn’t real but still plays along for his brother’s sake). One day, I remember it being a typical British rainy day yet I gathered up a bunch of handwritten clues and a map I had scribbled the night before and took the boys on a treasure hunt.

Soaked to the skin we walked a mile or so around our little town until we arrived in the local graveyard. Once there I had found a grave that caught my imagination. Years of exposure to the elements had wiped away the name once carved into the headstone. Now it was a pitted and scarred nameless tombstone wrapped in ivy that looked like something from a Hollywood film….the perfect burial place for two hand-painted wooden “training” swords that our mysterious ancestor had left for my boys to find.

Wrapping them in tea-stained bandages when they found them the boys were ecstatic. It had gone from me telling them stories to actually having something physical to hold. That is where I blurred the lines, in that moment both of them committed their belief to me and I went to town with it.

From that moment other people noticed the boys talking of Magdons and Nivags (these being other monsters I invented to protect The Magdon – Gavin = Nivag again how original my non-pseudonym name). People started to ask questions about “what on earth are they talking about?” even teachers at school so I very quickly had to explain it was my madness and not theirs!

The stories I had started jotting down now seemed like a great idea to share.

So THE MAGDON SERIES was born and I began releasing novelettes of Archy’s adventures. I set them to be short on the advice of someone in the industry who advised stories of this type to be 10-12,000 words so I could reach a broader audience, even considering making the books, in time, dyslexia friendly. I wanted the stories to be read by a younger “middle-grade” audience so other children could seek to draw the sense of adventure I wanted to nurture.

It was a big leap. From something so personal to releasing it I found a great deal of pride in committing the stories to the page. I even used a photograph I took of my oldest son with his treasured training sword while out Magdon Hunting as the front cover of the first book.

The feedback was great and I continue to see copies disappearing from the virtual shelves which is always good. What I did find, however, was a disappointment from the older readers who wanted more.

And so I obliged and created INTO THE DARK. Bringing my whole legacy to a new generation and a new modern setting.

So, knowing this why should you trust me with your time and imagination? I can’t answer that other than to say my world is one that will offer you some engagement and entertainment in the pages. For now, I offer you the chance to see where it all began for FREE.

The link below allows you to download your own copy of the true Origins of this story. The one story I poured over the longest to introduce my madness to my sons. I pray you take the offer, download and enjoy the taste of the world of Monsters I have created.

And then…

When you want more you can journey with us INTO THE DARK.

DOWNLOAD THE TRUE ORIGINS HERE FOR FREE

Through a BookFunnel link you will be asked to provide your email address which will only be used to keep you up-to-date on my developing imagination and the stories I am releasing upon the world.

OOTM 1 3D Transparent.png

Advertisements

Spinning head! AMS/FB Ads

Well, I have finally decided to try my hand at marketing through Amazon, Facebook and BookBub Partners. To say I’m overwhelmed is a bleedin’ understatement. I’ve sat and watched videos about KDP Rocket (yes I have just purchased this and so far it is giving me ideas about how to try and figure out keywords and other bits which I can slowly filter into my blurbs and such like). I’ve listened to people tell me how to structure adverts and keywords and audiences and pictures and more and more and more.

I’m still pretty pants at it though! I start with the best intentions but very quickly I find myself getting lost and utterly confused. After about an hour of filtering thorugh keywords from KDP Rocket and listed I’ve about had enough. There’s only so much time in the day and there are so many other things that I could/should be doing.

I’ve put together a handful of ads so far and have to say I’m not impressed at all with the way they are going. Clicks are there but sales aren’t and aside from standing on a building stark naked with the name of my book written all over me I feel I’m hitting a brick wall.

Who wants to read a book from a crazy Englishman?

Ok so now I’m ranting. I’m well into the realms of “shall I even bother with any of this anymore?” Then I open Word and start writing my next story again and all is well.

 

All is well…………………UNTIL……………………it’s time to market again. Then we are back here again.

So, I am saving my excel spreadsheets that are in all manner of beautiful colours. The one thing I sit and think when I do my keywords is where I sit in the world of books. What genre am I, what world do I want to occupy? I’ve always listed myself as Action & Adventure with Mystery to boot. Is that right? Am I hitting the right audiences?

Oh we’re off again aren’t we!?!

Right! Behave Mr!

I’m going to persevere with all of this, I have to. I’m into double figures (woohoo break out the sparkling wine and get that Ford Mustang on order from my profits…..oh wait maybe not). I just need to find a way to be seen, to stand out and get that little world of mine to be taken in by people.

If I’m totally honest the writing part is fun and enjoyable. The advertising is anything but for me. It doesn’t help that my profession is anything but about being seen and known. I spend my life very much in the company of a select handful of people or else in the face of people that really don’t want to have a conversation with me never mind listen to what I have to say.

I know these are barriers I need to overcome but it’s so draining.

Let’s see if any of these things work.

I can but hope!

Work-ness, Illness, Pokemon-ness, Author-ness!

It’s that time of year again where the best-laid plans and all seem to just disintegrate in lieu of the impending holiday festivities. I’m sat trying to juggle some work revision for next year alongside advertising BLUE LIGHT CHRISTMAS and realising this year that more people want to buy it from the internet than direct from me! That’ll teach me to stock up! The first runs needed some tweaking but I am so happy with the way it turned out. Profits, while hardly bank-breaking, will be well into triple figures for COPs charity so it can’t all be bad!

Then, at the same time, I have been working furiously to try and market INTO THE DARK which comes out on New Year’s Day. I’ve been trying quite a few different things including (quite belatedly) creating a mailing list for readers from BookFunnel. I’m not sure if I’m getting the full hang of all of this but I’m trying.

1 FC v18.jpg

INTO THE DARK has been sent out to some advanced readers and I’ve been blown away by the feedback and support. So much so I have decided to punt BLACKOUT, my novel for 2018, a little earlier and try to get myself submitted to the Kindle Scout program.

I know my following isn’t in the realms of a legion yet but I’m hoping the little guy can shine with this one so I’ll be asking everyone to cast a vote onKindle Scout when it’s live for voting as of 22/12.

At the same time I have been amusing my children getting out and about playing Pokemon Go, resetting my Circuit Training and who knows what else. Just when I think it’s going to be fun on my two weeks of leave from work leading up to Christmas…..each child goes and gets ill on different days. SO all those plans of productivity, creativity and fitness have become a little less achievable (unashamedly fitness tends to disappear last as it’s most important I keep myself sweating and healthy).

I’ve been testing myself with some new projects in support of other people’s creativity and I am waiting to see if that goes anywhere. I’m also having conversations with someone to narrate the audiobook version of INTO THE DARK so while I have been quiet in sharing things I’ve not been doing nothing….I promise.

Here’s what I have done while not blogging:

  • Finished and edited BLACKOUT
  • Marketed and appeared for BLUE LIGHT CHRISTMAS 2
  • Negotiated external support for BLC2
  • Edited my main website
  • Created INTO THE DARK WEBSITE
  • Built a mailing list
  • Researched and practised at Amazon Marketing and Facebook Advertising
  • Tweaked INTO THE DARK
  • Advertised INTO THE DARK
  • Revised for work commitments
  • Amused the children (although yet to see the new Star Wars)
  • Restarted my Circuit Training instead of weightlifting
  • Decorated my cellar (planned to be my “imagination cave” area)
  • Negotiated audiobook plans for INTO THE DARK
  • Signed up to BookFunnel and sharing groups
  • Interacted on Facebook Groups
  • Written newsletters and emails to mailing lists
  • Written a short story
  • And more…

It’s been mad and I’m sure it won’t stop there. Now BLACKOUT is done I’m not sure waht to do……………….prt of me says to finish the sequel to FOOTPRINTS ON THE OTHER SIDE (whcih is about half done but untouched for 16+ months).

IF ANYONE DOES WANT TO OFFER SUPPORT AND HELP NOMINATE MY BOOK BLACKOUT THEN CLICK THE BIG BLUE VOTE NOW BUTTON BELOW AND DO THE NECESSARIES. YOU NEVER KNOW…….I COULD WIN (HMMMMMMMM).

votenow-300x128

Influence and inspiration

I have had a short break from writing lately. There are many reasons, not least of all I have felt a little disconnected from my stories due to a family loss and not wanting to write something inappropriate to the situation. I was considering this National Novel Writing Month but felt too rebellious towards the idea of “having” to write. Even when I make myself write to a time limit or word amount I find my head and imagination naturally rebels and switches off so for me it can be counterproductive.

That said I have still been mulling over many ideas and while I have not, up until last night, written anything in my main project I have toyed with some little ideas.

One thing I have done is done an “inspiration” piece. By this I mean I took a photograph of something while out and about and let my imagination run free. WHat came up was a short story based on a picture of a set of steps…yes a set of steps.

 

2017-10-20 10.56.17.jpg
A former WW2 Anti-Aircraft site near to where I live…my inspiration

 

It has encouraged me to start compiling a series of these ideas and stories in some sort of madness collection in the future. It’s nothing serious, just an outlet to allow me to release some of the clutter that can often build up in my overactive imagination.

The story doesn’t even have a title, it’s a story set in World War II about a boy who has to become a man in one night has to become a man. Its overtones are coming of age and loss but told in a simple story that I really liked writing. It’s another project I would like to transcribe into a screenplay simply to offer as a short film but there is me running before I can walk again.

In the last few weeks I have had a short story published in a horror anthology DOWN WITH THE FALLEN which was a story born from a whim and seems to have been well received by the publishers compiling the anthology. This has not only allowed me to become “supported” in the sense I have been “published” but also gives me a little appearance over the pond in America and that can only be a good thing.

Last night I picked up where I had left BLACKOUT and reconnected with the story well. I was worried it would fall by the wayside as WHISPERING SHADOWS (the Jack James sequel) has done. That has been gathering virtual dust for almost sixteen months. The funny thing is, lately, I have been thinking about the story and realising there is still legs in it BUT for the moment I need to concentrate on Blackout and not bog myself down.

At the start of November, I launched BLUE LIGHT CHRISTMAS 2 this years charity endeavour raising funds for Care Of Police Survivors. I loved writing this story as my novel endeavours have been quite emotional in their storytelling. It was nice to have some simple fun with an audience a little less in need of tragedy or twists. Once again I suffer at the hands of my own (lack of) skills in marketing. I have managed to get a little more exposure this year and I am hoping that this will be a skill I slowly get my head around…only time will tell I suppose.

I have suffered the “why do I bother” feelings lately because I’m not making the big bucks or sitting at the top of the bestseller lists but I’ve realised this….I am going to keep doing it because for me it is more about releasing my imagination than making money (that would be nice). If I don’t tell my stories then they will never be told. If I can sit and have a conversation with a single person who has read my story and wants to know more then I’ve done my job.

Next year there are set to be two additions to my library hopefully. The first being INTO THE DARK which is a New Adult addition to the world of my Magdon monster. It is set to be a family-centric adventure bringing with it a sense of mystery and adventure. I have loved writing this story as I wanted to create something to appease the adults who invested their time (and money) into the ORIGINS OF THE MAGDON series. That shows me listening to my audience as a lot of older readers were “wanting more” from the legend and history so I have given people just that. Something bigger but not at the cost of the sense of intrigue and adventure I wanted to capture from the stories in the first place.

And that brings me back to influence and inspiration. INTO THE DARK is personal this time because I have set parts of it in places that mean something to me. Wollaton Hall features as does a trip to Mount Snowdon, places that have been part of my life for a long time so the story is born from things I have seen, places I have been and things I have done.

Today I have spent a lot of time researching parts of the Ukraine for BLACKOUT. Tomorrow who knows where my imagination will take me.

In fact….tonight I shall mostly be writing a screenplay for the short story I have no name for……must now think of a name!

Working behind the scenes.

Firstly an apology for not being too active on the social and blog front but there are good reasons. Mostly it has been about getting this year’s Christmas Charity book ready Blue Light Christmas 2: A Cry For Elf. I’ve had a lot on getting the illustrations, my awesome illustrator has created, formatted so they can be in the paperback. At the same time I wanted to get them showcased so will be featuring them on my author website in their best resolutions full colour (as they have to be black and white in the book so more money can be raised for Care Of Police Survivors). I’ve gone through so many format changes I’m now into the “what if everyone hates it” phase of worry but am pushing through.

Along with this I have been experimenting with Amazon ads (mixed feelings so far) and trying to use Facebook ads (not a massive fan). I’ve put one together for Blue Light Christmas which is my primary focus between now and December – not only for marketing but also making sure I get as much exposure as possible for the book to raise as much as I can.

Scary as it is it also looks like I’m going to do some face-to-face with this book again. I think it is possibly the fact I have t split my personality between real name (work) and my writing name that makes me uncomfortable. Work has stressed how much I need to not use my work-life to influence interest and keep myself separate from my writing identity that I always feel on edge with it. I do feel I look uncomfortable at first but hopefully, I settle in and when I get going I could talk about my made-up worlds for hours on end.

That is the problem with all of this for me – the fact by going it alone you always feel that you’re not quite good enough so then sets in the doubt.

Right! Enough of that. It’s been such a productive year of writing and in fairness nobody has sent me hate-mail or told me not to bother so I’ll take that as a good sign.

Future projects-wise……….I’m just over 47,000 words through Blackout which is my second planned novel of 2018. It’s a character-driven sci-fi thriller with quite a different take on an age-old concept of time travel but rest assured it’s not about the science of it. I need to finish it to see how I will best write it up but at the moment I’m enjoying throwing some curveballs into the mix so you will get an interesting ride where the sci-fi element is secondary to the intrigue and character’s journeys.

There’s also Into The Dark which is at the formatting stage as, although I have submitted it for publishing considerations, having heard nothing (yet) I’m planning it as a self-published project again. This will bring my Magdon monster to a more mature audience. It is very much an action adventure but I want it to feel like a film, feeding you with a family-driven story that is all-enveloping on a humanistic level.

Which brings me back to the self-doubt. I see so many other Indie Authors making the right moves towards exposure. I suppose I suffer from the idea that without an Agent saying “oh that’s good let me punt it for you” I fall into the cycle of disbelief in my own work. I am SLOWLY realising that I don’t need someone to rubber stamp my work but sometimes it’s nice to have that backing. So much in life, I go alone and roll with my own belief but sometimes.

On that note, I can take some confidence in the fact one of my short stories has made it into horror anthology Down With The Fallen: A Post-Apocalyptic Horror Anthology. The fact my story made it into a print form controlled by someone “in the business” must mean I’m not as bad as I fear (but most definitely don’t feel). I suppose what I want is someone to see some potential in what I write and put faith enough in me to help me.

My biggest flaw and I have said it since I began, is a lack of understanding about marketing. I really wish I had the funds to employ someone or some company to help me break through my own barriers. I love making my videos/trailers, my posts and my covers but I’m hardly the socialite monster and the same people must get sick and tired of seeing me sharing posts from my author profile.

Sorry this has become one of those blurgh posts where I spew out anything that pops into the old noggin.

In short I’m saying:

BUY BLUE LIGHT CHRISTMAS 2 WHEN IT COMES OUT SO I CAN MAKE MONEY FOR CARE OF POLICE SURVIVORS CHARITY.

Someone tell someone somewhere that I exist and if you like what I’ve written in my books then drop a review somewhere so I can at least see, in moments of self-doubt, that there are a handful of people who think “you know what, you’re not totally crap!”

20170904_111651AAATiltrudolph reindeerfullsetpolar bear

Take a step back and relax

Over Thursday and Friday this week me and my oldest son decided to have a disconnect from everything. Last year the pair of us scrambled, walked and clambered up Mt Snowdon in dear old Wales. Just over a month later he was hospitalised and could barely walk…yet the only thing he could ask me lying in bed swollen and in tears of pain was if he could walk it again.

How could I refuse?

So this year we have waited and waited and finally decided to make an adventure of it.

Sure, he has had a rough ride but I didn’t exactly realise how much I had done those 12 months too. We decided to sleep in the back of my car (enough space to make a double bed) so we found a spot with no phone reception surrounded on three sides by mountains totally isolated to just chill.

We lay back watched the stars and film before going to sleep.

Morning time and I’ve obviously hardly slept having had dreams of short people breaking into the car trying to steal it. That and I spent the night mulling over something that had carried over from work and getting myself a little frustrated.

Then came sunrise…the first thing he said was “I’ve never seen the sunrise before”. He has but there was something about him seeing it completely free of artificial light, city noise and tablet computers (he’s a bugger for tablets and watching YouTube).

2017-09-01 06.43.57.jpg

He was mesmerized and we ended up climbing two hours earlier than planned simply so the sun could rise behind us. Both of us were in awe as the mountain in front of us seemed to emerge from shadow painted in a bright orange light. It was more than magical and I spent the whole time just talking to him.

2017-09-01 06.36.34.jpg

Yeah I have stuff to deal with at work (good and bad), all the book stuff rolling around, family things, life stressed etc etc etc but as we walked up we just talked rubbish. And nothing mattered. Just the fact we were there together in the middle of nowhere being alone.

We had Left so early we only saw a half dozen people at most and one point he was stunned into silence, literally. Neither of us spoke and it was like we had entered a vacuum. No noise, no sound, the distant lakes below so far away even the rippling water made nothing we could hear. It was peaceful and perfect and I realised I had been getting myself heated up lately over things that really don’t matter.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my work, I’m really (I’m thinking and hoping) making headway into the published author world but it’s still early days. But really why should I get upset or stressed about it.

We walked up and down. Some would scoff and ask why is walk up and down a massive hill with an eight-year-old when we could play sports or something else…well to each their own. For me, that’s the time I get to be away from everything.

Those who know me understand I’m an antisocial bugger. Working with people, and not always the nicest society has to offer, I prefer my own company and that of my family most of the time. So for me being up there was just what I needed.

I couldn’t tell you how long we were walking at the time (obviously being a fitness freak I timed every last detail) but doing it was not important.

By the time we got back I honestly felt recharged (don’t get me wrong it didn’t take long for work to irritate me as soon as I got back but that’s a whole other story).

I did understand I need those moments. Sure I always use my writing to escape but that does come at a cost (as I am often told) when I am creating my fictional worlds it’s a very solo place. Creating is the time when I withdraw from humans and family. Only once I release the stories can other people join me but by then the damage of family time is normally done. This sort of stuff lets me have my lonely time but also be connected with those that matter most.

But what have I really said in this post other than I’ve had a lovely couple of days walking in the mountains? Nothing! That and everything. It’s a reminder to me and anyone else that sometimes we become consumed by everything…the real, the fake, the stuff that matters and the stuff that doesn’t. Sure I get my daily escape into writing but it isn’t really escape. Sometimes it is good to just get away from it all recharge and reconnect to the fact some things need to be attended to more than others.

I suppose I’m lucky in the fact my world isn’t as stressful as others. I have my way to compartmentalize everything and different aspects of life which helps.me keep in balance. Sometimes though some parts bleed into others and pollute them but taking time away hits almost that reset button and lets me become the acceptable human being again.

Of course, the beauty of the place helps and even gives me some inspiration. What better way to immortalise the stuff I see than translate it some way into a story in the future.

Well, I’m currently sat in children’s soft play centre having worked nights and decided to write this on my phone (excuse any random spelling mistakes please). It isn’t like I can use my new laptop as that has got to go back because it isn’t working properly.

Here we go again…

 

20170901_073235.jpg
My favourite view into the valley with the mini-me!

 

Working, is it?

Well, I remember sending off many things for consideration and once it’s done, the obligatory “you may or may not hear in six to never weeks” means I often send and forget. I have learnt to forget and not dwell and when the email rejections come it always adds that surprise feeling that you forgot you sent the submission in the first place!

I know that sounds dismissive and believe me it is far from that…it is my coping mechanism to deal with the plethora of “thank you but…” and “no reply is coming” type emails having tried to pitch what we believe is worthwhile but the Agents and Publishers probably think we shouldn’t bother spouting about.

It is, after all, a very big game to play.

That said I did recently submit a short story I wrote last year to an anthology following seeing a post on a Facebook Authors Group. I never thought anything more of it until last week when I had an email.

I almost deleted it “regarding your submission….” my mind was filling in the gaps already, preparing me to deal with another rejection. That said, fully expecting the no thank you I was pleasantly surprised when the Publishing House said yes!

Did I read that right? A story, by me, in an anthology, published for proper? Filled with scepticism I decided to read and re-read the offer letter.

Which, I digress, but I recall about a year ago getting a contract sent through the post from what I now know to be a Vanity Publisher. Don’t get me wrong, getting that well laid out publishing contract pushed through your door seems almost too good to be true that your hand shakes with excitement. The big words and bumph of paper (they even had a personalised paperclip….come on who has that other than reputable people right!?!……WRONG!) I remember wanting to jump at the chance but decided to do my research. And that was when it all fell down. Pay us up front and we will “share the risk” a few thousand (pounds or dollars you choose) here or there and suddenly the offer isn;t as good as it felt at first. In fact, it was utter tripe and after a few conversations with other authors, it was a run a mile event that was both liberating and soul destroying at the same time.

So back to this anthology offer. I did my research and it wasn’t a Vanity Publisher (so we were nto a winner here). I did my reading up on the company, a new one, and thought this was a good path to go down. Who knows, it may open up something for the future considering my subject matter fits their submissions so I may send them a full novel.

I even had a conversation with one of the founders. It was just a normal conversation, nothing about the “business” but instead some praise for my story and a few answers to some questions I had. It was refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong I could end up with egg on my face but considering the fact I am not having to pay anything up front I cannot say the risk is anything other than handing over my story. The contract reads sound (but I am no legal brain….well not on this sort of law anyway).

I am going to take it as a good sign, a step perhaps in the right direction. Maybe it will open doors, maybe it won’t but you know what it is encouraging that someone enjoyed my story enough to have faith it was worth a part in the anthology they are putting together.

But with that glimmer of encouragement I have been on fire when it comes to creating and writing. Blackout, my mid/end 2018 novel is well underway and I am loving writing it. Into The Dark is ready to rock and roll with some final touches on the paperback version along with Blue Light Christmas 2 ready for finishing edits. Oh and of course the final in the Origins Of The Magdon Series for release in October.

Wow! Please, rest assured these are not rush projects. Origins Of The Magdon has been a two-year project split across five novelettes so have been written for some time just a staggered approach to release. As for Into The Dark, this will not come out until next year (and I am hoping to pitch it around some more to see if a mainstream Agent/Publisher wants to run with it). As for Blue Light Christmas 2 this is in the works along with the illustrator so I am hoping the collaboration will make an exciting new story to raise money for Care Of Police Survivors again this year.

So yes I am busy but for the right reasons and motivations.

Hopefully, I don’t let any of you down!