Pay It Forward – an update

Pay it forward

It’s been four months since I wrote my original Pay It Forward post. For those unaware, I came to the realisation that I only bought books from traditional publishers and decided it was time to support my fellow self-published authors by buying their books and promoting those that I enjoyed both on this blog and through leaving reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Since the original post I’ve bought over 20 books from self-published authors in a wide variety of genres and styles. This sounds like a lot of investment but it only cost me a little more than the equivalent cost of one traditionally published book per month. As with any selection of books there were some that didn’t work for me (although I am sure they would be liked by other readers), but I have been pleasantly surprised by just how many I have enjoyed, including a new-found love for the short story format. The only downside is the number of books sitting on my ever-growing ‘to be read’ list.

Below is a summary of those books I have enjoyed to date, with a links on how to purchase. Please give them a try, you won’t be disappointed. And if you are a self-published author, if you aren’t doing it already, I encourage you to support your fellow authors in a similar way. I think you’ll also be pleasantly surprised.

 

Duck by Stephen Parolini

The cover of the book Duck, showing a picture of a bomb on an orange backgroundDuck is a short story about Thomas Lingonberry, a young boy growing up in 1950’s USA who’s life changes when a bomb lands on his desk. We follow Thomas on his journey of  love and discovery, as the fallout from that day resonates through. It is a wonderful and warmly written coming-of-age tale. Stephen Parolini draws you into a world which while alien to someone of my age and nationality was also strangely familiar. He brings to life beautifully the memory of young love and my only complaint was that it ended. Highly recommended.

You can buy Duck from Amazon.co.uk here and from Amazon.com here.

 

 

The Prying Game by David Palin

resource

If you found an old post-it note in a bush with a telephone number on it, would you call it? That’s the opening premise of The Prying Game, a wonderfully written novella by David Palin. It’s dark, erotic psychological thriller that twists and turns in unexpected ways. If you are looking for an intelligent page-turner with genuine surprises then this is the book for you.

You can by The Prying Game from Amazon.co.uk here and from Amazon.com here.

 

 

 The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin

Seneca Scourge

The Seneca Scourge is a great, fast-paced medical thriller, with a twist. The heroine, Dr Sydney McKnight, is asked to work with the eccentric Dr Casper Jones to fight what looks to be an deadly outbreak of a previously benign form of influenza. As the situation deteriorates, the behaviour of her partner raises different, more serious concerns.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a well written, easy read with characters you believed in and a plot that kept you guessing to the last. I was concerned to start off with with the amount of medical terminology but I needn’t have been; Rubin explained things in a way that any layman could understand. There is a point halfway through the book where the story takes a very different turn from the usual medical thriller but I urge you to go with it, because you will be well rewarded. Highly recommended.

You can buy the Seneca Scourge from Amazon.com here and from Amazon.co.uk here.

 

 Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming

Ravens Gathering

I really enjoyed Ravens Gathering. Graeme Cumming captures perfectly life in a close-nit hamlet. When one of their own returns, strange things start to happen and it is the newcomer and outsiders that shoulder the blame, at least at first.

From the insular outlook, mistrust of outsiders and the ongoing friction between locals; everything has an air of authenticity about it. History weighs heavily on all, and it’s only during the second half of the book that you truly begin to understand why.

While the writing style is straightforward, Cumming likes to play tricks on his readers, meaning passages you thought you understood are revealed to have a different meaning later on. If, like me, you enjoy piecing a story together as you read and having your initial expectations confounded, you’ll enjoy Ravens Gathering.

You can buy the Ravens Gathering from Amazon.com here and from Amazon.co.uk here.

 

Moondust Memories by Vaughn Stanger

Moondust Memories

This is a great collection of speculative fiction short stories. Stanger shows his breadth of range, moving from alternate history to pure science fiction whilst keeping us entertained with a range of interesting, well-rounded characters and scenarios. Whether writing about an alternate version of Mallory’s tragic attempt on Everest, alien first contact or the all to real possible ending had the cuban missile crisis ended differently; Stanger brings warmth and humanity to each story, allowing us to view the various what ifs and possibilities at a very personal level.

The tell-tale sign of great speculative fiction is that you are still thinking about it days after you finish reading. This has been the case for me with Moondust Memories. Highly recommended.

You can buy the Moondust Memories from Amazon.com here and from Amazon.co.uk here.

 

Identity Part 1 by Claire Duffy

identity

This wonderfully dark & complex nordic thriller comes with plenty of twists and turns. Don’t be fooled by the “part 1”, this is a self-contained story with a satisfying conclusion. However, if you like your stories to follow a comfortable, predictable path where you know where you are at all times then this book is not for you. The narrative is split between a number of charter’s viewpoints and location. This can be confusing at first because other than a page break there is no indication of you moving from one scene to the next, however don’t be put off. Once you become used to the structure the story unfolds at a rapid pace and you will be rewarded by a gripping tale where your gradually built assumptions are continually pulled out from under you.

The writing style can be a little rough around the edges at times, especially early on, but one of the pleasures I gained while reading the story was to see Duffy’s confidence develop as the book progressed. All in all a really enjoyable mystery and I can’t wait to find out what she has in store for us in part 2. Recommended.

To buy Identity Part 1 from amazon.co.uk click here
To buy Identity Part 1 from amazon.com click here

 

The New Mrs D by Heather Hill

new-mrs-d-cover-design-smaller

It’s safe to say I’m not the target demographic for The new Mrs D but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying the book. In it we follow the eponymous Mrs D. as she embarks on what she thinks is the start of her honeymoon but soon becomes a voyage of self-discovery. While I may not have been able to relate to the main character directly myself, I know a number of people that share some of her characteristics and it didn’t take long to get sucked into her adventures. While reading I smiled a lot, even laughing out loud on occasion.

The book generally has the light touch but Hill isn’t afraid to explore some tougher themes in an open and honest way. For the most part, though, it stays true to its roots – a good, light-hearted comedy. Yes, the plot is heavily signposted at times, there are one or two clichéd characters and the story occasionally strays into the area of cheese, but this is cheese in a good way, like Dirty Dancing or Abba Gold. If you enjoyed Bridget Jones or Shirley Valentine then this is the ideal holiday read for you. Highly recommended.

To buy The New Mrs D from amazon.co.uk click here
To buy The New Mrs D from amazon.com click here

 

Contract of Defiance by Tammy Salyer

salyer_spectra_defiance_ebookedition

Contract of Defiance is a blast from the opening paragraph to the closing page. We follow the story of Aly, a smuggler and ex-military fugitive who becomes separated from her brother and crew on a botched job. She is rescued by a group of hardened settlers and becomes embroiled in a series of adventures that take her further from her goal of rescuing her brother and at the same time raises questions about what really went wrong.

Salyer has created a very believable future where a dominant military forces good people onto the wrong side of the law. While the story contains plenty of action to keep things going, it is the characters that draw you in. In Aly you have a strong, female protagonist who is no caricature. She is flawed, makes mistakes but continues to struggle against what life throws at her in order to save her brother.

As the motivations of the support cast are revealed, you realise what a fantastic job Salyer has done to create an ensemble of characters of real depth while at no point slowing the plot through overuse of back story or exposition. Another thing I really liked about this book was that each act of killing has an impact on the characters involved and isn’t purely there as entertainment. There are consequences for each and every action and Salyer isn’t afraid to show them.

If you like the fantasy of Joe Abercrombie or Glen Cook, or if you are a fan of the film Aliens, you will love this really enjoyable book. Highly recommended.

To buy Contract of Defiance from amazon.co.uk click here
To buy Contract of Defiance from amazon.com click here

Since writing this review I’ve also read the follow up books in the series – Contract of Betrayal and Contract of War – both of which maintain the excellent standard of the first.

 

Othella: Arcadian Heights #1 by Therin Knite

othellasmaller

What a fantastic read. It is 60 years in the future and civilisation is close to collapse. To save the world, hard decisions need to be taken. The best scientists are brought to Arcadian Heights – a purpose-built oasis in this crumbling world – with one goal: to develop technologies to avert disaster. But how far do you go before those trying save humanity end up losing theirs?

The book is written from the point-of-view of three main characters: Quentin – a spokesman for Arcadian Heights, Georgette McClain – a hard-nosed investigative reporter, and Marco Salt; each tied to what is happening in Arcadian Heights for reasons that become clear as the book progresses. The first two-thirds of the book switch not just between the different character’s points of view but also varying timelines, so I would recommend you pay attention. However, this structure worked perfectly to draw me into the world and lives Knite created.

This book works on two levels. On the one hand it is a fast-paced, science-fiction thriller, on the other a treatise on the moral grey area of the good of the whole over the good of the individual. Knite’s writing style is tight, hard-edged and uncompromising; as if Raymond Chandler decided to have a go at re-imagining Hunger Games. I was hooked from first page to the brutal finale.

I’ve read and enjoyed many self-published novels but this is the first one I wish I’d written. I cannot wait for its sequel.

Othella by Therin Knite is available from all major ebook retailers. To buy click here

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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you have spent the last month on a desert island, there is a good chance you have heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It is a craze that has spread around the world, where people are challenged to pour a bucket of ice water – the icier, the better – over their heads, all on film. The participant then nominates three others to take undertake the challenge. Where this craze differs from other internet memes is that it is designed to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – known as motor neurone disease in the UK – as well as raise money for the charities involved in supporting sufferers and looking for a cure. Each participant donates money to the ALS Association in America, or the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK, and if a nominee refuses to take part, they are encouraged to pay a fine.

ALS or motor neurone disease is a terrible, debilitating illness that causes the sufferer’s muscles to weaken and atrophy over time until they are eventually unable to move or look after themselves. There is no known cure.

As with all crazes, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has attracted its share of criticism, from participants being accused of taking part as a means of self-aggrandisement, to other media commentators like William Foxton from the Daily Telegraph describing the challenge as “a middle-class wet-T-shirt contest for armchair clicktivists”. The cynic in me can understand these points of view to a certain extent, but there is one aspect of the craze that cannot be argued.

According to Time Magazine, since it started, the campaign has raised over $50 million in the US for the ALSA. It is estimated over £8 million has been raised in the UK. This is an incredible amount for these previously little-known charities, and will provide a welcome boost in both the support for sufferers and the ongoing search for a cure.

Yesterday, I was nominated to take part in the challenge by my step-brother. I thought long and hard about taking part. There is an element of self-centredness in taking part, especially in the posting videos. There is the risk that those taking part feel they have “done their bit” and sit back while other worthy causes lose out. But it would take a hard-hearted person not to see the benefits from the Ice Bucket Challenge far outweigh these criticisms, both in money raised and in much needed exposure for this horrible disease, so I decided to take part.

Here is the video of my Ice Bucket Challenge:

If you are in the US and would like to donate money to the  ALSA, please click on the line here.

If you are in the UK, you can donate to the Motor Neurone Disease Association by clicking here.

Recommended Reads: Othella by Therin Knite

othellasmaller

What a fantastic read. It is 60 years in the future and civilisation is close to collapse. To save the world, hard decisions need to be taken. The best scientists are brought to Arcadian Heights – a purpose-built oasis in this crumbling world – with one goal: to develop technologies to avert disaster. But how far do you go before those trying save humanity end up losing theirs?

The book is written from the point-of-view of three main characters: Quentin – a spokesman for Arcadian Heights, Georgette McClain – a hard-nosed investigative reporter, and Marco Salt; each tied to what is happening in Arcadian Heights for reasons that become clear as the book progresses. The first two-thirds of the book switch not just between the different character’s points of view but also varying timelines, so I would recommend you pay attention. However, this structure worked perfectly to draw me into the world and lives Knite created.

This book works on two levels. On the one hand it is a fast-paced, science-fiction thriller, on the other a treatise on the moral grey area of the good of the whole over the good of the individual. Knite’s writing style is tight, hard-edged and uncompromising; as if Raymond Chandler decided to have a go at re-imagining Hunger Games. I was hooked from first page to the brutal finale.

I’ve read and enjoyed many self-published novels but this is the first one I wish I’d written. I cannot wait for its sequel.

Othella by Therin Knite is available from all major ebook retailers. To buy click here

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Twitter tip for WordPress users

twitter logo

image source: twitter.com

One of the great things about the WordPress platform for blogging is the sharing facility. These little buttons at the bottom of each post allow people who have liked what you’ve written to share it across many different social media platforms.

Like many other bloggers I use twitter. Twitter is fantastic a platform on which to share you content, but I’ve noticed recently that a a number of bloggers I follow are missing a great way of expanding their online community by not linking their blog to their twitter account.

Why is this important?

Whenever anybody shares one of your posts by twitter using the share button, your blog generates an automated tweet structured like this:

Blog title – blog post url – linked twitter name

Below is the text generated for my last post:

The difference between creativity and inspiration http://wp.me/p3Dds0-fH via @hearndylan

If you notice, I’ve already linked my twitter username, @hearndylan, to my blog. This means whenever anybody shares one of my posts, I get a notification from twitter letting me know what has been shared and by whom.

This is incredibly valuable information.

Think about it for a moment. This person has not only read your post, they liked it so much they wanted to share it with all their twitter followers. And if they enjoyed your post, there is every chance their like-minded followers will also enjoy the post and share it to their followers, and so on. Every time this share is retweeted, your twitter username is tweeted with it, meaning you get to see each and every person who enjoyed your post. How cool is that?

But what should you do with this information? The most effective twitter users know that engagement is key to building a strong following. This is where the true value of linking you username comes in. If the person who retweeted your post likes your writing so much, wouldn’t they be a great person to get to know better? The very least you can do is thank them for sharing your post. You could ask them what they most liked about it, you could follow them (if you don’t already), respond to some of their tweets in return. From these small interactions, friendships blossom. I’ve lost count of the number of great twitter friends I’ve met this way.

But, if you haven’t linked your blog to your twitter account, all this information is sent to @wordpressdotcom, and is lost to you forever.

So how do you change your settings?

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 09.10.08The good news is this setting is very easy to change. Simply go to your Dashboard – Settings – Sharing. Fifth from bottom you will see an option snappily titled “Twitter username to include in tweets when people share using the Twitter button”. Replace ‘wordpressdotcom’ with your own twitter username (without the @), then press save.

 

The difference between creativity and inspiration

Anne Tyler-WritingQuote

There is a big difference between creativity and inspiration yet many people assume they are the same. One of the comments I often read on Twitter is that a writer doesn’t feel in the mood, that today isn’t a creative day, that their muse isn’t with them. It sometimes comes from an established author but you mostly hear it from those starting out on their writing journey. The problem is, these writers are confusing inspirations with creativity.

The math of creativity and inspiration

In order to help understand the difference between the two and why it’s important, I’ve drawn up a couple of equations for you – no, don’t run, they are really simple.

Here’s the first one:

Inspiration = right time + right place + notepad

And now the second one:

creativity = inspiration + perspiration*

Why is this important?

Because waiting around for inspiration is a pointless exercise. You have no control over when inspiration strikes. Those lightning rods of enlightenment hit you when they feel like it, not when you want them to. Some writers enhance the chances of it happening by visiting places that inspire them, listening to inspiring music or looking at inspiring art, but nothing is guaranteed. Some people appear blessed with ideas, continually coming up with something new and exciting, but my impression is that these people just happen to be better at recognising inspiration than the rest of us. All most of us can do is have a notepad and pen (or a handy smartphone) to note down ideas when they arise.

Creativity is hard work

The biggest lesson all creatives learn, whether in art, music, design, writing or any other of the creative areas, is that moment of inspiration is just the start. Then it is hard work all the way. That’s why the most common piece of advice you’ll get from a writer is to write every day, whether you feel like it or not. It’s one of the key reasons experienced writers tell you to never self-edit during the first draft, because they know that the ideas and inspiration generated during that process need honing again and again until you get it right.

It is very difficult to approach a blank page with no idea of what you are going to write. That’s where your inspirational notepad comes in handy. It is much easier to take something you have written, adapt it, develop it, improve it step by step until before polishing it until it shines. That’s not to say it is easy, as I said before it is a lot of hard work.

But none of this is possible if you’re not writing.

 

 

*stolen from Thomas Edison’s quote “Genius = 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” Don’t worry, I’m sure he won’t mind.

 

Dylan S Hearn

I was lucky enough to be featured on the Reading Recommendations blog by Susan Toy. Susan spends a lot of time and energy promoting many self-published authors. You should take a look at her blog.

Reading Recommendations

Photo on 22-05-2014 at 17.17Dylan S Hearn

What is your latest release and what genre is it? My book is called Second Chance. You could call it a dystopian thriller, or a technological thriller.

Quick description: Newly elected Delegate, Stephanie Vaughn, throws her weight behind the investigation of a missing student. When lack of progress prevents the popular boost she expected, she must accept covert assistance from Randall, her ex-boyfriend. But Randall’s motives for finding the student are equally tainted: and they soon become drawn into something far bigger than either expected.

Second Chance - High Resolution

Brief biography:
I’m a 43-years-old writer from Suffolk, England. I’d worked in the marketing industry for 25 years before deciding to take up my passion for writing. Second Chance is my first novel.

Links to buy Dylan’s book:
Amazon Worldwide

Dylan’s promo links:
Blog
Twitter

What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished the first draft of the (as yet…

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Recommended Reads: Contract of Defiance by Tammy Salyer

salyer_spectra_defiance_ebookedition

Up until this point most of my Recommended Reads have been written by self-published authors I have come into contact with through blogging or social media, but Contract of Defiance was a little different. It was recommended by Mike Fedison on his Eye Dancers blog and what caught my attention was that Mike spoke of  how supportive Tammy had been when he had started blogging. She sounded like just the sort of person deserving the pay it forward treatment and I’m very glad I decided to buy her book.

Contract of Defiance is a blast from the opening paragraph to the closing page. We follow the story of Aly, a smuggler and ex-military fugitive who becomes separated from her brother and crew on a botched job. She is rescued by a group of hardened settlers and becomes embroiled in a series of adventures that take her further from her goal of rescuing her brother and at the same time raises questions about what really went wrong.

Salyer has created a very believable future where a dominant military forces good people onto the wrong side of the law. While the story contains plenty of action to keep things going, it is the characters that draw you in. In Aly you have a strong, female protagonist who is no caricature. She is flawed, makes mistakes but continues to struggle against what life throws at her in order to save her brother.

As the motivations of the support cast are revealed, you realise what a fantastic job Salyer has done to create an ensemble of characters of real depth while at no point slowing the plot through overuse of backstory or exposition. Another thing I really liked about this book was that each act of killing has an impact on the characters involved and isn’t purely there as entertainment. There are consequences for each and every action and Salyer isn’t afraid to show them.

If you like the fantasy of Joe Abercrombie or Glen Cook, or if you are a fan of the film Aliens, you will love this really enjoyable book. Highly recommended.

To buy Contract of Defiance from amazon.co.uk click here
To buy Contract of Defiance from amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.