Why so short – my answer and promise.

Well, this week has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in respect of writing as I have pretty much completed the full drafts of Archy’s story. That is of course without edits and redrafts but in essence, the actual story is told, and it was quite touching to feel the connection to him dwindle.

I have been planning the next stage in the series which will bring The Magdon Series into the modern world but at the same time have roots back to where it al started for me.

Having started to spread copies around of book one Origins Of The Magdon: Vercovicium I have been receiving feedback that some people feel the stories are too short. I feel I need to defend this, as for me it was very hard truncating the stories as I have in order to achieve what I am trying with the Origins Of part of the series.

Origins is born from me and my sons creating the world of The Magdon from our adventures. Although I would love nothing more, and initially tried to, write Origins Of The Magdon as a full-length novel I felt I was cheating the younger generation out of a story. Having started it as an adventure for my boys, I felt I was not doing them justice by cutting them out of the story and making it inaccessible to them. Well, at least until they could manage a novel length book.

For that reason, I spoke with other children’s/mid-grade authors and realised to keep the story true and accessible to EVERYONE the optimum length was between 10,000-12,000 words. That way, in the future, I can even start planning a dyslexic friendly format and again increase the scope and reach of the story.

And so this in itself has become a double-edged sword. To keep the story true to all audiences I have had to take a simplistic approach, hence focussing primarily on Archy, with brief interludes for supporting characters. This has, obviously, alienate some readers who feel there could be more. I totally agree. But with more comes lengthier instalments which then become longer and longer until finally, they become what I didn’t want. I loose the foundation audience, those I want to inspire and kindle that sense of adventure.

On the flip side, though admittedly short, these stories seem to resonate with the readers of all ages, leaving them wanting more. That in itself tells me there is something in this idea, something that has indeed connected with the “bigger” readers (I didn’t want to offend anyone and call them older)…..the fact I have adults wanting more is only a positive thing for me.

And so, with the continuation story (currently under the Working Title Generations or Legacy), I promise to service the older audience. By then, the younger ones, will have their foundation into the world of The Magdon and can grow into the longer stories.

I am juggling a difficult task of creating an enticing, entertaining and adventurous story while at the same time trying desperately not alienate one demographic or the other by creating something too long or too short.

Who ever said this writing malarky was easy!?!

I felt I needed to justify my decision to limit length. In the same vein, it has prompted me to bring the next story up a level. Generations/Legends will be a novel-length affair offering its roots back to Archy but standing a new story with a bigger adventure in a modern setting. This will hopefully, come 2018, fill the gap some of the adults who have read the book are feeling.

I only hope that I haven’t pushed away a good portion of the audience and if I have, then Legacy will perhaps be the biggest waste of effort and energy so far.

 

Whilst I have put so much effort into advertising The Magdon stuff I realise I too have done a little disservice to my full-length novel Footprints On The Other Side. This most certainly caters for an older audience. Whilst I realise it is my fledgeling attempt to become a published author, and since its release, I have grown in technical knowledge and (hopefully) skill, it is still a story I am immensely proud of.

2017-03-27 03.34.50.jpg

Working nights lets me see things differently, the world in a different light.

So really this is an explanation, in a more serious way than normal, of why I have created a five-part novelette series as opposed to one bigger novel with more to it. Hopefully, those that aren’t “digging” the length can now understand the reasons behind it and forgive me for teasing and not fulfilling entirely the more competent and older reader’s expectations.

I realise too that I am unconventional in the way I do things. I am not playing this game by any rules other than the ones I set myself or learn along the way. Some of what I do may work and some may not. Perhaps even trying to justify my choices is frowned upon by “real authors” but in the end I want people to come to my stories and enjoy them for what they are. If that needs a little explanation/justification then so be it. I am not here to sit aloof and pretend I am not affected by opinions or ignorant to people’s feedback or questions. Who am I to just sit back and say “like it or leave it”. I don’t have the money, support or fan base to be so cocky(?) and pretend I know best.

Hopefully, you see I’m human. I’m trying to create a story for all, to entice new readers into a world and feed enough for adults to enjoy it too. Perhaps I have over-adult marketed the books, perhaps I am just trying to find my feet in everything I do.

We live and learn.

Hopefully, those who want MORE from The Magdon will be happy with what I am sculpting at the moment in Generations/Legacy. This will be a mix of action, adventure and family. I have big hopes for something that will be more than the foundations of the Origins Of aspect and perhaps draw in a newer level of audience in the Young Adults along the way too.

Hell, I’m just trying to please everyone, and I suppose that is nigh on impossible.

Advertisements

Revelations – it’s always been there

Another six days at work and roll into the rest days with plans for the new stuff for The Magdon Series and marketing. It is quite funny the fact I sit staring into the ether coming up with random ideas on my journeys home (or naughtily when on training at work and not taking part). Well, what other time do I get to build this world of madness I have created?

It was quite amusing yesterday. Having been to the local retail park I got a new shirt for the Archy outfit (feedback is that people expect more variety in his clothes – however in the same vein people must appreciate this isn’t a Hollywood gig, it’s a stopgap UNTIL it becomes a Hollywood gig!) That said, a new pink shirt that is yet to be “customised” with some dirt, grime, blood and tears to add to the authenticity.

 

DSCF2462
I’m probably enjoying this business a little too much

 

So, having purchased the newest ensemble I quickly scurried into the building site that is my unfinished cellar, slapped on some make-up around my face to add some bruises and decided the best way to approach that day was to interview Archy. Before I even went shopping I did my usual gym session, came home then took my oldest son to the youth gym. Whilst he’s pumping his own weights I sat in the reception area tapping out my ideas for a character interview.

It was then, as I was writing Archy’s answers to the questions, that I realised it has been done before. You see quite a few character interviews but I wanted mine to be different. That’s where the idea to do it in person popped into my mad brain. Of course, any excuse to get changed into costume can be forgiven. Funnily enough when I came downstairs the first thing my (soon to be three-year-old) daughter said is “Oh look it’s Archy!” I must be doing something right.

Off I pop into the cellar (with her whispering “daaaaddddyyyyyy” through the keyhole breaking my improvisation and character¬†for just a moment.

It went well. I don’t half hate my own voice so I tried not to listen to what I had recorded if I didn’t have to. I sound like some over-posh wannabe!

Needless to say, it was when I was talking about Archy’s adventures in 1911 (the focus of the first book in the series Origins Of The Magdon: Vercovicium) that I had a flashback. You can probably see it in my face when I’m talking about throwing a stone at the wall that I get my glazed look that means my brain is somewhere else (or in this case some TIME else).

I was reminded of a small ruin of a building I found many years ago. I was seventeen at the time and used to walk to see my then girlfriend, now wife, along an old Roman Road and through the local countryside. It was always a nice walk and there was a private wood at the top of Roman Road that I decided to walk through one day. I remember literally stumbling overt his small wall and found the outline of an old house of building. To this day I have no idea what it used to be but I remember it in summer, the air close beneath the thick trees and bluebells growing all around. I used to meditate there it was so isolated.

There, sat talking about Arcy’s discovery leading to the adventures of the series, I realised that his find in the woods was mine from some sixteen years ago. I don’t think I’ve given that place a second thought for the last decade or more, yet here it is as vivid as anything manifesting in my story.

 

2017-03-19 10.12.32.jpg
I’ve written all The Magdon books on this laptop – just look at the keyboard!

 

That made me realise how much of the real world seeps into my stories. I’ve come to accept what I have created as truth simply because I have thrown myself wholeheartedly into the world of my books.

Don’t get me wrong, I may have spent a few hours interviewing myself dressed up as a fictional character less than 1% of the population even knows exists but it felt the right thing to do. No matter how hard I look I can’t seem to find the “get famous publishing your books and perfectly advertise it without costing millions” portfolio that people seem to hint exists.

I am making this up as I go along. Much like my way of writing. I get an idea, a whim, a tickle of something and just run with it. Life is about, for me, taking those chances. As they say in training at work, I need to be a little more prepared to “suck up more risk”.

I don’t know if what I am doing is right. People keep downloading the freebies, I make occasional sales and interactions seem steady from what I do put out there to advertise me, my books and my world but who knows. I haven’t opened that email/letter from some Executive Producer or Publishing Giant that begins “we think your ideas are fantastic and would love to discuss with you the option of……….”

One day it may happen, maybe it won’t. I cannot predict the future but really, like I said in a comment on Facebook, I can’t rely on anyone else to be as connected, as invested or as caring about my project than I am. Heck, I can;t afford to ask some supermodel fella to become Archy so I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with my ugly mug until that happens (or doesn’t).

I’ll leave with this parting thought.When I asked Archy/myself the following question this is the answer he/we gave:

Q:
Is there anything you would like to say to people who might read your story?

A:

I am no motivational speaker, no influential figure of history so it feels quite strange trying to say something people might listen to but I suppose I would say this.

Never turn away through fear, dare to tread along forgotten paths as they lead to a world of adventure. Believe in yourself and one day, eventually, the world will too.

An anchor from childhood

One place that I have always visited, from being a pushchair to now pushing my own, has been Wollaton Hall. It’s funny, I can always remember thinking about all the stuff you don’t see as a kid. I remember as a teenager riding up there most days in the summer holidays with my friends. We would leave our bikes outside and rush inside to walk through the museum, but for the most part, obsess about the staircase that led to the third level…..the staircase that was never open. Why was it never open? Why could we never go up? Who was up there?

All these questions and we still to this day have never found out the answers.

 

DSCF2297.JPG
The rear view is my favourite, shame the old pond isn’t full anymore!

 

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have some great ideas in my fevered little brain as to the so-called truth. We had everything from the ghost of an old resident of the house to a recluse hiding (which is ironic when we come to the filming that took place there later in the post).

The amount of made-up games and imagined adventures I created in the house and on the grounds aren’t even measurable. Funny how I have always gravitated here, though, all my children know it, my wife and I take the children them at least a few times in the summer holidays and generally a fair few times throughout the year.

I have always loved the majesty of the house, something has always tickled my imagination and I can, and often do, find my WRITER’S STARE setting in as I look at it and think what I could do in one of my stories with this place.

So yesterday, for the first time we took just our daughter with us. The boys were at school and very rarely do we get time just the three of us, so we decided to go there. Needless to say, my head almost exploded with ideas as normal. This time though I took the camera for once (I normally leave it behind or forget the memory card). There we were walking the grounds (catching Pokemon obviously too), and I’m already telling my little girl it’s a Castle and making up some new spurious story.

Thankfully she’s too young yet to give me the look of doom as if to say “dad you’re being stupid……again!”

I stood to take a picture of the front when I remembered back to when they filmed The Dark Knight Rises there. I was in full flow, at the time, in writing Footprints On The Other Side and I remember feeling something akin to jealousy as they filmed everything. I think at that moment I saw how much I wanted to make a story worth telling, to write something worthy, one day, to be filmed. I never got to “officially” meet the cast (I did get a work deployment that got me into their hotel but professional as I am I couldn;t go for an annoying fan selfie).

I remembered then that I had hit a writer’s block stage with Footprints and I went for a run around the exterior wall when they locked down the site, not only to sneak a peek but also to get some inspiration. There I could see all the props (when it re-opened I even got to see the graveyard at the end of the film and also Bruce Wayne’s Lamborghini under tarpaulin – sad and nerdy I know). But seeing all that made-up in the real world only helped to toss more fuel to the imagination fire.

That night I was talking to my oldest son about making a trailer for Footprints, and he couldn’t see how editing makes different places look the same. It was entertaining him mull over how one place can become another by clever editing. In fact, we have decided to try and set a summer holiday challenge for him and his brother to make a film together. Script it, prepare it and record it, as some sort of imagination-led activity. We will see how that goes down, I fear perhaps the sibling rivalry will lead to some very realistic fight scenes!

I love this place. It carries so much of my life there that every time I go I feel I am in touch with me. That may sound completely idiotic, but here I used to come on my own and just ride around the lake, go through the gardens or even just walk if nothing than to be out and about in my own little world.

Yesterday when we went it was so refreshing seeing my daughter greet the place with the same excitement I did when I was her age I expect.

The ladies enjoyed the museum and exhibits whilst I amused myself taking pictures of this, that and the other. Not to mention a very conveniently displayed Bison skull (which has always been the basis for The Magdon skull from when I first created the beast). I must have had some very strange looks with the angles I was taking the pictures as I wanted them to be physical reminders for me so I can use them as inspiration in the modern Magdon book for next year.

Strangely I found myself facing the closed door again. No matter what I still try the handle in case one day it is open, and I can rush up before some angry curator comes and tells me off. Alas, as always, it was locked. As if to console myself I am seriously thinking of featuring this place in (WT) The Magdon Generations if only so I can pretend to know what’s up there after all these years.

I, of course, dropped off one of my free copies of Origins Of The Magdon: Vercovicium in the hope someone finds it in my vain attempt at self-advertising.

Needless to say, my visit was, as always, inspiring. I came away with a dozen new ideas all from wandering around the grounds. I also came away with some proper pictures as opposed to snaps with my mobile phone which I will store away as inspiration. Naturally, I will bore you with some now, not just of the architecture but also of the wildlife there.

I had better be quiet now, you’re probably at the point of thinking “here he goes again”.

(WT) The Magdon Generations – character driven

Well, I am enjoying getting into the story of The Magdon Generations which is bringing my Magdon series into modern times. Origins Of The Magdon was exactly that…..an origins story for Archy. This is set to be a bigger beast compared to the five-part novelettes, I want a complete story in a novel format.

It’s interesting approaching this project as with Origins I was just focussing on Archy and all those around him were side characters. It was, after all, his journey we have been following. Whilst I have a little left of the main story for Archy his adventure for me is complete. It is more about final touches than idea development as I know where fate is taking him.

To that end, though, writing a series focussed on one character with supporting characters was easier.

With Generations, I want to bring a new theme into the story, one of family and commitment. These are my key themes for this part of the story. With Archy, it was discovery and adventure which I feel those stories capture and demonstrate well.

To that end, I have this week gone from the family element and a random villain to running two simultaneous story arcs to intersect through the story. From a “basic” villain I have now decided to give some meat to the myth of the Veks (worshippers of The Magdon) and bring them into the modern world as something more than a handful of shady worshippers living in dusty places. Now I want them to be something bigger, give that part of the Magdon mythology something more.

2017-02-27 18.24.19.jpg

Ironically I have always suffered with good-guyism. Even as a boy (I remember going to school dressed up as a pirate and had to explain to everybody I was a good pirate as I didn;t like being seen as the bad-guy). It remains the same now that I find it hard to portray the story of the villains as anything other than easily defined bad-guys. That way my moral compass is nice as obvious. However, taking the writing approach to give the villains in this piece a little more substance I have to challenge myself and put that aside. I probably suffer (being quite self-critical) of not fleshing out the villains enough in my stories so everyone can “dislike the bad guy”. Of course, the villain in this piece, Viktor Franklyn, will be a person to dislike but I also want to break my own stereotype and add a human element to them.

Oh, of course, he is going to be ruthless, as is his partner Tuilika but by giving them their own story arc I get to pay them a little more justice in the book. I do like running the two stories because I can feed into the story from different angles.

Normally my writing method is very linear. Most of the time I tend to write each chapter one after another, making notes of futures ideas for when I reach that part in the story. It served me very well in Footprints On The Other Side, my adult thriller, as the story was so complicated but needed to feed across the three parts of the book. I think it would have been far too easy to have got lost in the story had I skitted around the different chapters.

2017-02-26 16.31.21.jpg

That said, I do tend to write important key scenes in an early draft if they shape the story. I did it with the end of the Origins Of The Magdn series.

I think it is too easy sticking to rituals and routines. Come on, I know I am not a scholar of literature, creative writing or carry accolades to say I am in any way qualified to dare to write. To that end I suppose I need to test myself, push my own boundaries and see if it serves me well in the story writing.

As always though I digress.

This week has been one of working on whims and going with my gut. The free book release started that process. New characters, new story arcs and new ways of writing the next story.

I’ll probably end there with the confession that I have absolutely o idea what I am doing in any of this. Marketing being the main one, selling myself, approaching agents or reps from the “industry” but nobody has banged on the door and said “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME GO AWAY!” So I am taking that as a positive sign.

There is nothing worse than self-doubt as I have said before. I’m doing all I can to see the good in what I’m doing and in the end as long as someone, just one person, reads the story and likes it then I’ve done my job well.

It would be lovely to make it in this scary world and perhaps one day I will.

Until then, I’ll jut keep doing my best and see where it gets me.