Balancing act of life and writing

This week has been hell for writing and maintaining my attempts to market my book due to work. Some very long shifts thrown in with a load of other stuff on top of that which stole away my creative part of my brain. Instead it was replaced with a frustrated and completely spinning part of me so I thought it the very best idea not to even attempt to put fingers to keyboard or touch the new story.

Of course if I needed to write a part of the story that was dark, brooding and irritable then maybe I would have been able to write that but that’s not what it is about so I’ve (for once) been grown up and left it alone.

I did however have a nice parcel arrive yesterday which was a number of copies of Footprints in paperback that I intend to sell locally. The fact that my story was inspired by the former brewery that is a well known local feature it only seems fitting that I share my alternative vision with people here. To that end I have got enough copies to put in a local store (or two perhaps) to see if I can sell a few copies that way.

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I still have my GoodReads competition running which ends tomorrow so there will be another three copies (at my expense) but it has all been factored into my mediocre strategy to spread the word. As I keep saying to people this is like throwing a snowball up a mountain, by doing so it will always be there and I will have added something but who knows, over time it could roll back and get bigger in the process.

I was vicariously asked if I was running a book launch locally which seemed an alien idea to me. As an unknown fiction author with no fan-base beforehand it appeared to me to be something that more than anything would undermine my new found confidence in what I’m doing. Again though I am the unknown quantity in all of this – I am the inexperienced author, I am the fledgling writer who has made the leap, I am the man next door that tried something different but most importantly I am as I always say, the small ripple in an ocean of talent.

I freely admit I am still learning this craft. Yeah the writing was hard enough, but enjoyable of course, but the hardest part now seems to be breaking into the bigger world. Each time I sell (or give away) a copy of Footprints I feel like I have chipped some masonry away on a massive brick wall that stands between me and the wider world. One day I’ll eventually remove a brick but will that lead to me just having a view of the other side but never getting through? Who knows and really who am I to complain, I’ve started chipping away at that wall so that’s a start.

West Wing Central View
Kimberley Brewery Nottingham is a changing shell of its former self

Having seen the changes undergoing on my inspiration building which is in the process of its renovation and facelift I am quite looking forward to returning there for a part of Whispering Shadows. As with Footprints it will be split across three internal parts of the story of which one will allow me some time to revisit Dinymour. A prospect that again I am quite looking forward to, especially considering the fact that other people now know what I have made in my head then I have at least some other people with a little bit of expectation of what I want to do with Jack James.

Eminem – Survival Of The Fittest

Funny as I sit here writing this blog post a song has popped up that reminds me of many things, some good, some sad and some entertaining. That said the words ring very relevant so I leave you with a link (parental advisory) to the song, feel free to listen to the words but the title alone sums up so much about this experience:

“This is survival of the fittest, this is do or die…”

Eminem – Survival Of The Fittest

Method in my madness, taming my mind.

Although I have the main idea and story-arcs of Whispering Shadows I still have to find a way to get there. If I were to describe the way I write it is very much an adventure for me as much as those that eventually get to read the finished product. I take a lot of time to plan out the so called big events, the things that drive the story and become the crux of events. I develop them to a level I feel satisfied justifies the whole story and from there I then go a little freely into the story.

As in Whispering Shadows I know the three main events that feature as the main story. These are themselves integral to the continuing story-arc from Footprints but also independent enough to ensure this does not feel like a familiar journey already travelled.

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Only today on Chapter 6 of Part 1 “Conspiracy” have I actually arrived at the main event of this part. Even then I have only literally set the scene of hat is to become the biggest event of the whole story. The essence of what is to happen will have repercussions for all characters, old and new but getting here has been a day by day event.

Each time I write I sort of know what the chapter needs to do. It is a balance to neither rush the story along and keep events in singular chapters but also not drag out unnecessarily and break the motion of the story. Within the scene setting I need to introduce the new characters and set them within the story already set by Footprints. These new characters need to be solid enough to carry the weight of being thrown in but in the same vein I cannot spend too much time and risk breaking the flow.

So today I sat down knowing I would be building up to the big event, I had hoped to finish the chapter on a cliffhanger and leave the event hanging in the air. 1758 words later and the event is still building but it felt right to writ the chapter as I have as it adds so much more to one main character and one secondary character. I could not risk under developing them to simply rush a plot point.

And so you see I had one plan and ultimately allowing myself to write the chapter freely I did more than I had hoped and less than I had planned. So in lies the contradiction of writing. I have my book of ideas but that’s all they are. They represent a collection of ideas with no formal structure. I can flip through the pages and pull from them what I need but I cannot plan a chapter in advance. That is too constrictive and restrictive for me and results in a story that doesn’t flow naturally for me.

I’m not saying what I do is right, it simply works for me and helps me create a story as I go. By being free in my style it makes me enjoy the whole process a lot more and feel that I develop along with the story. Ideas come to me randomly and I play them out in my head. Although there’s nothing more disconcerting than when I’m in the gym and partway through a set I decide I want to play out an idea. It’s not particularly safe with dumbbells teetering above your head mid-press and your mind wanders! For once I can say thankfully I can on those occasions multi-task, almost.

Looking back at the idea of publishing Footprints I held the file so long on my cloud account that I had decided not to do anything with it. Inspiration comes from unlikely sources but when you look at the sort of people I admire  (one being in the background of my chapter photograph above – Arnold Schwarzenegger – who shows what foresight, drive and determination can get you) it makes sense that I took that leap. I don’t regret it, yes you feel exposed t the world for criticism and such but there’s also a sense that “I did this” and I did it the way I wanted.

Hopefully though, back to my writing, this style works for me and allows me to write in a way that I enjoy. Ultimately though you are all the judge. I can only do what I do and hope that the end result not only justifies the means but also justifies the time and effort I put into the whole affair.

We shall see as for the moment I can proudly say there is more to come from me!

Sharing to increase the presence

This weekend I decided to use the “Free Book” option on the Kindle format of Footprints On The Other Side through Amazon. It was interestingly successful allowing a good number of new readers to have access to my book and thus increase the chance of word being spread between people and helping increase my presence in the busy literary world. Although it is not about the money, which with royalty options under self-publishing aren’t the greatest, it was still a hard choice to release the payment option and offer my book for free. In reality the method is to show a light at the end of the tunnel and work towards the end game!

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Having taken advice from numerous other authors it was useful to open my eyes to the other options available in the world. Obviously on this occasion it was for me to dare to release the book for free.

It’s easy to be ruled by the pride of fear for releasing the book free of payment but I decided to look at the bigger picture. By releasing it for free it has allowed me to increase my audience. That way it can travel further around and hopefully those that have chosen to download the book for free have the opportunity to give feedback but also, if they enjoy the story, to spread the word.

Many things in the world of self-publishing are unknown. It has been for me very much a trial and error affair. Without the ability to fund a massive campaign I have to take the harder route of getting myself out there on my own steam. Thus far I have seen a fair level of success. The book has caught enough interest, from paid and/or free options but till there are now a good number of people in the world who have now read what I have to offer and dared to enter the world I have created.

The fact people take up what I have to offer only adds to the encouragement to continue to do this. I still continue to work on the next instalment of Jack James’ story and hopefully those that have entered Footprints will want to read more and come back for more as and when I complete enough of the story to “let it loose” on the world.

Really this entry is just to say thank you to those that so far have supported me. Those that have chosen to read what I have to offer and I only hope you have all enjoyed it.

Tired imagination – fighting the writing

Yesterday I spent a grand total of three hours asleep due to working the dreaded night shifts. After a nice family orientated afternoon out I decided to try and tap-out the next chapter in Whispering Shadows which was met shall we say with some…..resistance.

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Three times I wrote the opening paragraphs of what is set to be “chapter 4”. 500 words, deleted all, re-wrote, deleted all and then re-wrote again. By the time I got to the third attempt I could tell then that my words were not flowing. It was too difficult to engage fingers from brain. I could see an idea of how I wanted to take the chapter but no matter what the words seemed laboured and a very poor representation of exactly what I was trying to put across.

Frustration then set in – I know that frustrated writing is a very bad mindset to be in.

Reluctantly I closed Word and left the book alone for the night. It’s always hard, I’m one of those types of people that is naturally hard on myself. Failures aren’t simple things and I always put that added pressure on doing the best I can and if it’s not the best then I am very quick to get critical. Needless to say it was a time of thinking if I should bother etc (a little like a petulant child I know). Well having left the book alone for the rest of the night I decided after my Saturday morning gym session and pre-swimming with my youngest son I would try and see if I could pick up where my tired imagination left off yesterday.

In the absence of free flowing ideas I noted a few ideas. Planned myself where character arcs were intended to interact and cross within the story and suddenly my imagination woke up. Needless to say I managed to juggle (with the awesome aid of split-screen function on the laptop) to finish chapter 4’s first draft whilst also watching a cheeky episode of Strike Back.

That got me to thinking how that series was born of a Chris Ryan book. And so my activated imagination then moved on from the story to the world of “what ifs”. What if a studio executive read my book and liked it, what if Sky looked for new series, what if……and then I remembered, what if I actually sold more copies. It’s fine to dream but also there has to be a solid grounding in reality Fun as it is to dream of a fantastical future it’s also important to take things at a realistic pace.

So now I will simply focus my attention on promoting myself, get my book out there and see what interest and buzz I can generate. The GoodReads Giveaway is going well, Twitter followers and Facbook followers continue to grow steadily and tweets seem to be spreading the idea out there. I have decided to offer a free day in the future so that the Kindle edition can get out there to a wider audience. It’s a difficult thing to give it away but it makes sense as it is not about making money, it is more about getting my story out there. The more people that read it the more chance I have of one day being “discovered”.

So on that note tomorrow being Sunday 21st February 2016 and a good day for reading, for that day alone Footprints On The Other Side will be available on Amazon Kindle Only for a measly……NOTHING. The book will be free for that singular day so those who need a new book or else something to escape the mundane reality of everyday life then give this a try.

Characters and details, my way!

Well this week as been a very different and challenging one. Not one I would wish to be repeated for numerous personal reasons but I suppose that would turn this blog into a personal as opposed to professional related blog which is what this is aiming to be. Something where I can share my journey as a writer and author and not pollute it with stuff that detracts from that.

Although on the other hand I am human. I suppose sometimes the personal stuff influences what I do so you’ll have to forgive me if it bleeds into this a little on occasion. For the most part though I shall keep you in the world of imagination and creation that is my writing side and out of the drama and events of my everyday life!

Alongside my working week I haven’t had much chance to write and so have left the pages of Whispering Shadows alone for a few days. I have been monitoring my Giveaway progress and general sales which still continue to grow so I am more than happy with that as my audience continues to grow as does my Twitter, Facebook and WordPress followings.

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This evening though I was left an hour to myself before work (night shifts) and the family out so I decided to see if I could write something. Thankfully I came up with a chapter and still they all remain first draft I can indeed see the basic story developing. I’ve started making my usual notes and done my usual character naming trick which is taking the first name that springs to mind – I always find first names easier to generate spontaneously over surnames. Then from there every character has two have a first and last name in my stories, even I they are only mentioned once, it’s important as I feel they are a more completed entity.

When I write and create my stories I have my little things I like to do. Full naming is one of those things, everyone has to be a “complete” person and that way I can invest myself into them all the more. If I just give them a first name then I don’t feel as connected to the characters.

So this week I have introduced three new characters to the growing story and they are:

Cassandra Fox – Metropolitan Police Sergeant and lead of their task force
Colin Green – Newly introduced antagonist

Both characters will be introduced alongside some of the recurring characters from the original story and allow me to develop both those characters we already know and the new ones.

It’s always funny with characters I do like to sit there and get a mental image in my head of what they look like. If it is one that will form part of the integral story and recur more than just a few pages then I need to invest in them. Building them in my mind lets me put them into the wild scenes I generate within the story. Like I’ve said before I am very visual and so I need to be able to play scenes and events in my mind before, during and after I write them. A lot of my ideas over the years have been ideas I have absent mindedly played out in my over-active imagination. They themselves embed themselves and eventually I remember them and they form part of the stories I write.

As a reader I’m not sure people realise how difficult it is to create everything that goes into a story. For me I can read a decent book in a couple of days and then its done. Most of the time an author will pour themselves into those pages for months, years, decades and who knows how long. I’m as guilty as the next of just reading and running but than in itself is still a compliment to the author. As long as you’ve invested in and enjoyed the story then all that heart ache, all that hard work and development means it was worth it.

Hopefully by throwing my journey out there in a blog it will inspire others or else maybe explain how and why I do the things I do.

There is always a critic and for the most part the hardest critic is yourself. For me with my story I have to ground it as much as I can. Long gone are the days where I could make things up and leave plot holes as big as the book itself. Over the years I’ve understood that the more effort I go into with details (such as full naming my characters) the more I get invested and try to perfect the story and produce something that I feel is a proper offering to people. With the quantity of self-published authors out there it is easy to get lost in the mix but by being the best I can and working to make my stories something a little different I hope to eventually break through the barriers and become one of the names people come to for more.

So instead of sleeping before nights I have spent time writing another chapter…..hopefully some caffeine and a gym session will wake me up at the right time!

Increasing my audience

Having got a few copies of Footprints through the post the other day I posted an image on my personal Facebook page and suddenly had a few enquiries if they could buy a copy from me. It’s quite interesting as I had just relied on the fact that the Internet was the be all and end all of this world. Perhaps I’m just used to the”digital age” and I have forgotten that there is an audience out there that I have completely overlooked.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/171916-footprints-on-the-other-side

Being inspired by the local town (Kimberley, Nottingham) I have overlooked the chance to engage with the local audience who may not necessarily grace Facebook and other social media. So I am taking some advertising to a smaller level. Thankfully I have family that own a quite well renowned local store and they have kindly agreed to host a poster and sell copies from the shop. Already I have people waiting for copies and even if it’s only adding another handful of readers I see it that everyone knows someone and they can spread the word.

Of course my GoodReads Giveaway is still running until the end of the month so there are three other potential audience members who get to taste my imagination (and hopefully like it) – you can enter the Giveaway HERE. It may be slow going but it is going none the less. It’s easy to automatically feel disheartened that your book isn’t propelling itself off the shelves but in the end why should it? Who am I? Nobody really knows who I am and so the work of writing the book may have been hard, getting it to be realised, recognised and appreciated is a whole different game entirely.

On the plus side no matter what this whole enterprise has encouraged me to restart my writing. As I alluded to in an earlier post I have once again begun writing at length and the next episode in the Jack James stories is well under way but still requires a helluva lot of work to say the least.

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My trusted kit for the gym – my guide book, my workout diary and me!

This morning (at ridiculously early 0520 before my shift at work) I was throwing the dumbbells around the gym when I realised that my book publishing is like my fitness. Most of the time it is just me that can appreciate exactly how much hard work and graft I put into it but that hasn’t stopped me from going and working like hell for the last four years. Writing is the same, over time people have realised how hard I do work and often ask me for advice. The book is the same – a handful of people are interested and that in itself is motivation enough to be there, to do what I do and share what I have achieved.

I suppose it’s a check in post that reminds me to keep doing what I do. So far nobody has sad “you really are being ridiculous” and hopefully they never will!

Toe dipping in the steady pool

Much against the agreement I have made I had an urge to write today so I did. Unlike what I feared it actually went quite well and there are the first signs of some bones to this whole “sequel” affair!

My opening chapter has been something I have written more than once when coming up with various ideas for stories over the years. It’s a scene I have probably gone over a hundred times and today I re-wrote it for the first time (yes that makes sense to me). It was nice to write again and although what I have written is completely the bare bones I need to flesh out it seemed to flow nicely.

I have been worried about writing to be totally honest, I don’t know whether I should write if there isn’t a massive audience and then again I think there IS an audience and therefore if I have the idea and the story that isn’t forced then I should let myself have some escape and fun.

The story is going to be linked but independent of Footprints offering new characters along with a whole host of returning faces. I am also deciding to play around with my own rules a little too and change a few things I have fallen foul of – give a few twists that would surprise me. I have the basic story in place in my head, the over-arching aspect is there but there is most certainly a way to go to get the finer points and the meat on the bones as they say. But we all have to start somewhere.

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My way of writing normally goes with me focussing on bit by bit unless I get on a roll and then I’ll storm through a theme or event in the story to its conclusion. At the moment I am finding my feet again which is terribly disconcerting in a way as I see myself self critiquing as I go through the initial draft. It’s hard and delicate at the moment as I suppose my ego is in the balance – am I any good at this? Is this just me making a fool of myself? Do people really want to know what happens to Jack James?

I have to say this is a very turbulent ride – from one day to the next you find yourself questioning yourself but the fact that locally I am being asked if people can by copies of Footprints from me direct it still means there is interest. Of course those who have read the book have asked me if there’s more coming and who am I to say no? I do have an idea that I think does the characters justice and also I think the story is a good one if I do say so myself.

Well aside from the fact in this blog post alone I have self scorned, self criticised, self praised and self doubted maybe now you see why my wife gets very concerned when I start writing it throws me all akilter a little.

Stick with me if you dare….hopefully by the time I actually write this (and it won’t be a short journey I know tat much) then you never know Footprints may have become a best seller and I’ll have a bigger fan base.

Although having a fan base no matter how small is better than having none at all, and I have some so yay!