Recommended Reads: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Andrew Knighton

lies-high-resolution

The Blurb

“I have no objection to truth,” I said, “but I enjoy untruths too, they’re the building blocks of human culture. Actors pretending to be kings, singers faking heartbreak or elation, novelists inventing heroes in their heads to escape the mindless dullards around them. Reality is a vast sea of tedium interrupted by brief flashes of the repugnant – why would anyone chain themselves to that?” 

A spin doctor forced to deal with aliens who loath lies. 

A squad of soldiers torn apart by the fiction in their midst. 

A hunting submarine with its dead captain strapped to the prow, the crew promising that one day they’ll revive him. 

We all tell lies to get through the day, some of them to ourselves, some to other people. Now read the extraordinary lies of the future in these nine short science fiction stories. 

The Review

Andrew Knighton is fast becoming my ‘go to’ guy for short-stories. I thoroughly enjoyed his collection of Steampunk shorts, Riding the Mainspring and now he’s back with more, this time from a genre with which I’m more familiar, science fiction.

This collection of tales is loosely tied together by the theme of lies and self-delusion, whether they are lies of political expedience or the type of lie to keep you going when you know admitting the truth means losing all hope. Each tale is wonderfully crafted, and Knighton has the knack of being able to develop characters and scenes of depths with just a few words.

The real strength of this collection is not necessarily the stories themselves, although each stands up well on their own,  but the sheer breadth of imagination on display. As with Riding the Mainspring, Knighton is bursting with ideas, whether it is a crop types on a distant planet or genetically modified marine predators gone wrong.

If you are looking for well crafted science fiction shorts that are both playful but also contain hidden depth, I would highly recommend this collection.

To buy Lies We Tell Ourselves from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Lies We Tell Ourselves from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – 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.

27 Author Recommendations for Holiday Gift-Giving …

If you read one of my recent posts you’ll know that the best gift an indie author can receive is one of their books being given as a present to somebody new. Well here are some great recommendations, including a couple of suggestions of books I’ve enjoyed this year. Go have a look, you might find something you like!

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

No, wait! I didn’t mean you should wrap up an Author and give THEM to your friends, although I’m sure any of us mentioned below are flattered for having been considered gift-worthy … Let’s start over.

What could be better than giving or receiving A BOOK (or several) – at any time of the year and for any occasion? If you’re stumped as to what to give people on your list, or if you’re looking for something new for your own reading pleasure, please allow me to make a few suggestions …

I highly recommend the writing and books published by the following six Authors who have previously been featured on my other blog, Reading Recommendations:

Tim Baker and another book (featuring contributions from 6 Reading Recommendations Authors, including ME!)
Kevin Brennan and another book
Seumas Gallacher
Dylan Hearn and another book
Rebecca Heishman
S.K. Nicholls

But wait! There’s…

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Everybody fails, it’s how you deal with it that counts

sochi ringsWe all fail. All of us. It could be a small thing or it could be an enormous, publicly humiliating failure in front of a global audience, like when one of the rings failed to open at the Sochi Winter Olympics this year. Failure is a natural occurrence. It’s what you do next that’s important.

sochi closing ringsIf you believed the press at the time, after the Sochi opening ceremony Vladimir Putin either sacked, imprisoned or executed the person responsible. After the bad publicity the Sochi Games had received about gay rights (and quite right too) it was another humiliating embarrassment. The press was full of pictures of this ‘catastrophe’ for days. So how did the organising committee deal with the situation? By making a joke of it at the closing ceremony, embracing their failure and dispelling a few Russian stereotypes at the same time.

The publishing rollercoaster

When you publish a book there will always be ups and downs. Maybe it doesn’t sell as well as you would like, maybe it doesn’t sell at all. Maybe a promotion flopped, or you received one or more 1-star reviews. These things will knock anyone’s confidence, especially when it involves something you’ve spent months, or even years, pouring your heart into, and our first reaction is to either curl up into a ball or rage at the sheer unfairness of it all.

I’ve seen many posts and tweets by authors complaining about this or that aspect of their career. We’ve all felt like it at times. I’m an optimistic person at heart so I always expect things to go well. An old colleague of mine was the complete opposite. When I asked him why he had such a bleak outlook he told me “because then I’m never disappointed.”

I don’t suggest you all become pessimists overnight but at the same time, without trying to appear heartless, moaning about a particular situation is a pointless exercise. When you do this, the only person you’re hurting is yourself, not only by gaining a reputation of being a complainer, but because you’re doing nothing to change what’s happened.

A successful author is an unsuccessful author who never gave up

new-mrs-d-cover-design-smallerOne of my author friends, Heather Hill, wrote a wonderful book called The New Mrs D (you can read my review of it here). She tried for a long time to get it published but was turned down because the subject matter “would put people off buying the book”.

She managed to find an agent who believed in her but not a publisher, so the two decided to self-publish. This went incredibly well – at one point The New Mrs D was at no.1 in Amazon Australia – mostly through the work Heather did to promote the book, build a mailing list and following on her blog, as well as utilising twitter and instagram to spread the word. She hadn’t taken no for an answer and proved everybody wrong.

For various reasons, Heather and her agent parted company and Heather retained the rights to her work. Unfortunately, her book was then unpublished, vanished from the Amazon store losing all the sales ranking and visibility. It was devastating. All her hard work from the previous months had disappeared, all of the time and money she’d invested, gone. At this point most of us would have given up.

Not Heather.

She re-published the book, organised a campaign of social media promotion and spent what little money she could afford on a bookbub promotion. Her book was downloaded 29,000 times and at one point she was in the top 10 free books on amazon.co.uk and top 20 on amazon.com. Since then she has remained flying high in the paid charts, all due to how she reacted to adversity. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

This is what it takes to be a successful author.

If you would like to buy Heather’s book, The New Mrs D, you can get it from amazon.com by clicking here, or from amazon.co.uk by clicking here.

I can also recommend her blog, Hell for Heather, and following her on twitter @hellforheather. Say hello, she’s very friendly.

Recommended Reads: The Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey

wool_trilogy

The blurb

Wool

In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Jules is part of this community, but she is different. She dares to hope. And as her walls start closing in, she must decide whether to fight, or to die.

Shift

Donald Keene was recruited by the government to design an underground shelter. Over fifty years later Donald’s design has been realised and the last remnants of mankind live in his silo. But no one can remember what life was like before. In fact, they’re forced to forget. One simple pill erases a memory. And with it, any chance of hope.

Dust

In the aftermath of the uprising, the people of Silo 18 are coming to terms with a dangerous new order. And some want it destroyed. The battle has been won. The war is just beginning.

Review

I’ve been avoiding these books for a long time. It’s not that I’d heard bad things about them, quite the contrary, Wool – and its author Hugh Howey – has become synonymous with indie publishing success. The problem was I was both concerned that the books would have too much of an influence on my own writing and at the same time worried that the hype surrounding them was too much to live up to. I shouldn’t have worried.

With the Wool trilogy, Howey has created a very plausible and quite frightening vision of our future. For reasons unknown, what remains of humanity now lives in an underground silo. Each member of society has specific roles, whether that be as a porter, a gardener or in IT, and the silo is run by a triumvirate consisting of the Chief of Police, the elected Mayor, and the head of IT.

The only view of the wasteland outside is through a video image broadcast in the canteen on the upper floor, a view that gets obscured over time through dust and grime, only to be cleaned by those who have committed the ultimate crime, a wish to go outside, something that only leads to death.

In Wool we start with the story of Holsten, the current police chief who wishes to go outside, just as his wife did a few years before. It raises a mystery about why both he and his wife decided to take this ultimate step, which is first taken up by Mayor Jahns and then Holsten’s successor, Jules. As the story progresses the answers they find raise more questions, about why they are in the Silo, for what purpose, and the truth about who really is in control of their lives.

It is a gripping story. Howey describes life in the silo wonderfully, gradually revealing the social and political aspects of a society living underground over hundreds of levels joined by a great spiral staircase. All of this is done very skilfully without resorting to great info dumps or dialogue full of exposition. The characters are well-rounded, not just the main but all the minor cast too, and in Jules he has created an outstanding, driven female lead.

The real key to the success of the book is its readability. Howey has great mastery of how to pace a story, and due to the episodic nature of how it was originally there are hooks galore to keep those pages turning as you want to find out what happens next. He’s also not afraid to make his characters suffer. You have been warned.

Shift takes us back to the inception of the Silo and explains what happened and why. While I found the story interesting it lacked the intensity of Wool and was the weakest of the three books. That’s not to say it was poor, just that I found the other two more compelling.

Dust brings the trilogy to a conclusion, drawing together the two strands from Wool and Shift to their exciting climax. Overall I found the trilogy to be a wonderfully dark exploration of how far humanity is prepared to go to survive and what the consequences of those decisions, highlighting both the worst and the best of us. It’s no surprise the books have proved as popular as they have. Highly recommended.

The books are available to buy either separately or in one large volume. If you are still unsure I would highly recommend Wool just as a standalone book, but you get a far better deal buying the full trilogy.

To buy Wool from Amazon.com click here

To buy Wool from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy the full Wool Trilogy from Amazon.com click here

To buy the full Wool Trilogy from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – 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.

What every indie author wants for Christmas

Christmas Present

I was going to write a long post on the best things to buy an indie author this Christmas but I hit writers block. It wasn’t that I’d run out of ideas, it was because one gift idea completely swamped the others in terms of relevance. What is it that most indie authors would like for Christmas?

That a book of theirs was given as a gift to somebody else.

Most of us are too modest – or think the idea too crass – to give our own work out at Christmas. We hate self-promotion at the best of times but even for those of us who have reluctantly grasped the marketing nettle, giving out our own work as presents to friends and family is a step too far.

However, this doesn’t stop us from gifting the work of our peers that we’ve enjoyed to our friends or family, or from you for giving our work as gifts to your friends either.

So if you have a writer in your life and you wish to give them the best Christmas gift ever, buy a book of theirs for somebody else. If you are a writer who has particularly enjoyed another indie writer’s book this year, why don’t you give that out for Christmas. It’s a double whammy, making both the recipient, and the author, very happy.

 

E-books

how-to-give-away-kindle-booksIf you live in the US you can simply click on a button, add the email address of the person the gift is for, add the date you wish the ebook to be sent, and it’s done.

Sadly this option isn’t available in Europe (please fix this soon, Amazon), but you can still give an Amazon gift voucher and email the recipient a recommendation of a book to purchase.

Paperback books

There is something about receiving a paper book that’s very special. If it was down to me, the only gifts I’d give are books*. A paperback is a great option as a gift, especially if you know the author (hint, hint to my friends and family) as you can also ask them to add a personal message to the recipient, making the gift extra special.

*It’s not down to me.

If you’re interested in finding out more about my writing, going my mailing list and get one of my books absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Dylan Hearn – new novel update

Susan kindly offered to feature me on her Reading Recommendations blog, where I get to reveal a little about Absent Souls, what I’m working on next, as well as some of the books I’ve recently enjoyed by other indie authors.

Reading Recommendations

Dylan Hearn was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Aug. 2014. He’s back now to tell us about the second book in his trilogy.

Absent Souls - Low Resolution

Dylan Hearn‘s new release is Absent Souls: The Transcendence Trilogy Book 2. It’s the sequel to his novel Second Chance, which was published in January 2014. It’s a thriller set in the near future, so while it’s classed as Science Fiction it’s really a character-led thriller – with a bit of prediction thrown in for fun.

Mick O’Driscoll has a problem. A man has died in the Scrambles, and nothing happens in the Scrambles without his permission, or so he thought. The death spells trouble and O’Driscoll knows it. The question is, who killed the Prime Delegate’s brother on his turf and why?
Set two years after the events of Second Chance, Absent Souls follows the story of four people struggling to…

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How to set up a mailing list on WordPress.com

Mailing lists are a key tool to help any author build an audience, and for fans of the author’s work to have access to exclusive content and information about new releases before anyone else. These are not to be confused by your blog sign-up, which informs those signed up of new blog posts.

At the end of last week I announced to the world that I’d set up a mailing list to inform people about any future releases. While the mailing list has proved popular (getting a free book may have helped) by far the biggest question I was asked was: how did you set up your mailing list?

Sadly, unlike on wordpress.org self-hosted blogs, there isn’t a specific widget available to link to a mailing list service. However, there is a workaround you can use. I set my mailing list up with MailChimp, an excellent free-to-use service. There are many other services available but this example is specific to MailChimp.

Before you start you will need to:

1. Register on MailChimp and set up a mailing list

2. Upload an image you want to use to promote your mailing list into your media library (I used the MailChimp icon but you may wish to create something more specific).

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.49.35Step 1 Login to MailChimp and select Lists from the left hand Menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.50.28Step 2 Click on the drop down arrow on the left hand side and select sign up forms

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3 Click on General FormsScreen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.50.57

 

 

 

Step 4 You need to either copy or note down the sign up form URL.Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.53.01

This sign up is one of a number of form that come as standard for any MailChimp user (you can click on the down arrow when on site to see them all). They are unique to you and can be amended as you see fit. The pages themselves are hosted by MailChimp and therefore separate from your WordPress blog.

**At this point I would recommend you go through the MailChimp sign up forms and amend them to however you want them to appear. To find out how to do this, click here**

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 09.59.17Step 5 Go to your WordPress.com dashboard and select appearance – widgets

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.01.30

Step 6 Select an Image widget and drag it to your sidebar

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.02.21Step 7 Complete your widget form.

Widget Title should be the text you wish to see above the image

Image URL: This is the URL for the image you previously uploaded to promote your mailing list. You can find this URL by clicking media and selecting the appropriate image. The URL will be on the right hand side of the page.

Link URL is the URL you either copied or noted down from your MailChimp sign up page.

Then press save.

 

You should now have a working sign up image on your blog!

If you found this blog helpful, you can always sign up to my mailing list by either clicking here or on the image at the top right hand side of my blog. In return, you will receive one of my e-books, of your choice, absolutely free! I promise not to spam you or pass on your details to anyone else.

Join my mailing list and get one of my ebooks for #free

midimage_mailinglist

If you’ve visited this blog recently you may have noticed a monkey at the top right-hand side of the page. This is mail chimp and he signifies that I have a new mailing list.

The mailing list will be used purely to let you know when I’ll be publishing a new book. Those on the mailing list will be the first to hear when my next book is launched.

Even better, if you join my mailing list you can have either of my books in the Transcendence Trilogy – Second Chance or Absent Souls – absolutely free. If you have a non-kindle reader you can have it in .epub format, something you cannot currently buy.

All I ask in return is that once you’ve read the free book, you leave a review on either Amazon or Goodreads.

That’s it.

I’m also hoping to write a few short stories set in the same world as The Transcendence Trilogy that will only be available exclusively to my mailing list members, so watch this space.

If you sign up I promise not to fill your email with spam, or to pass on your details to anybody else.

So if you missed out on the recent promotion for Second Chance and would like to try it for free, click here. For those of you who have read Second Chance and are interested in learning what happens next, click here and I’ll send you your very own copy of Absent Souls, absolutely free. Or, if you prefer, just click on the monkey!

If you are one of those special people to have purchased both of my books, you can still sign up to have access to the exclusive material – along with a personal thank you from me for being such a wonderful person.