Recommended Reads: The Subtle Fiend by Jane Dougherty

The Subtle Fiend

The Subtle Fiend is the second book in Jane Dougherty’s impressive Green Woman trilogy. You can read my review of The first book, The Dark Citadel, here. For full disclosure, since writing that first review Jane has reviewed my book Second Chance, which she really enjoyed. This hasn’t affected my views of her writing in any way but I like to be open about these things.

The Blurb

When reality becomes a nightmare, only dreams can save the world.
Deborah, daughter of the fabled Green Woman, has disappeared, and Hera, another grey-robed schoolgirl, has become the hostage in her place. Hera fears she will be left to languish, unnoticed and forgotten, in her prison cell. But the honesty in her eyes touches a young Black Boy, her prison guard—Amon.
Amon is destined for a military career, but convinced of the innocence of his prisoner, he begins to question the laws and values of his city. In befriending Hera, he risks his life by standing between her and the most powerful man in Providence—the Protector.
The Protector’s new hostage will serve her purpose. After all, one veiled girl looks much like another. But if Deborah has joined her mother and her host of myths and stories, the sham will be revealed. To hang onto power the Protector determines to destroy the Green Woman’s allies within Providence by lighting the sacrificial fires of Moloch. When the flames have burned out none will be left, not even the child at its mother’s breast.
As the flames of evil leap and dance in Providence, Hera and Amon resolve to defy the Protector, with courage as their only weapon.  

The Review

The Subtle Fiend is the second book in Jane Dougherty’s impressive Green Woman trilogy, concentrating predominantly on the politics of Providence, and what a nest of snakes that city is. With the forces of Abaddon and the Green Woman building outside their protective dome, prominent members of society manoeuvre themselves into position to take advantage of whoever, or whatever, wins out. Sides are chosen in the ensuing power play but it is the normal people, and the Dananns in particular, who bear the brunt of the consequences.

I really enjoyed this book, probably more than the first, because it concentrated predominantly on Providence. The city-state is a fantastic creation, described by Dougherty so well that I feel I know the streets intimately. As the book progresses Dougherty introduces us to a large cast of characters until halfway through the book I started to worry I’d lose track of exactly who was doing what, where, but while the novel isn’t for a person who likes a simple narrative, Dougherty manages to bring all the threads together nicely for the denouement.

Well, when I say nicely, I mean ruthlessly. This is a dark book and Dougherty doesn’t flinch at showing humanity at its worst. Given the timing of reading this book during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, it wasn’t difficult to see parallels in what was happening in Providence. Some may feel the subject matter a little dark for what is essentially a YA fantasy, but I applaud Dougherty for not only confronting the issue, but handling it in a sensitive way without losing any of the horror.

The only criticism I have is that the Deborah’s story, which is integral to book 1, while not being ignored, had lost some of the tension from earlier. This is just a minor point however, and I look forward to seeing how Dougherty takes that storyline, along with what happened here, through to conclusion. Highly recommended.

To buy The Subtle Fiend from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Subtle Fiend 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.

You know you’re a writer when…

Writing.jpg

I thought I’d have a little fun today so I gave myself an hour to come up with as many different situations I could think of when you know you’re a writer. So, you know when you’re a writer when…

  1. Every argument you have becomes fodder for your WIP, but smarter, snappier and with you winning.
  2. You would rather spend time on your WIP than do work that pays more in a day than you book will likely earn in a month.
  3. You love every part of your WIP.
  4. You hate every part of your WIP.
  5. You know what WIP means.
  6. You stop a conversation mid-sentence to write down a plot point that’s just occurred to you.
  7. You cannot stop thinking about your novel. Ever. Even in your dreams.
  8. You know your main character better than your best friend.
  9. You have conversations with your characters in your head.
  10. Your friends stop asking about how your latest book’s going.
  11. You visit a beautiful park and wonder how you can squeeze the location into your novel.
  12. You’re on the suspect lists of law enforcement and intelligence agencies across the world due to your Google search history.
  13. Putting your feet up and staring out of the window are considered work.
  14. When something exciting happens you immediately create a mental checklist of how it felt, smelled, tasted, looked and sounded.
  15. You cringe every time you read a sentence containing an adverb, even when its use is perfectly reasonable. Including this sentence.
  16. You find yourself mentally editing a passage you’ve just read. In a published book. By a prize-winning author.
  17. You give character’s names that relate to people you know, in a way only you would recognise, then kill them off.
  18. You laugh to yourself whenever you read the part where the above character dies.
  19. Backache is a constant companion.
  20. You treat going to the bathroom as a reward.
  21. You know at least twenty alternatives to the word ‘look’.
  22. You growl each time you type the word ‘that’.
  23. You can be disappointed after writing 2000 words in a day, yet delighted on another day with just 200 words.
  24. You ignore every line in a flattering review except the one that starts ‘my only issue with the book is…’.
  25. When talking with friends, you mentally rework anything you say that ends in a preposition.
  26. You know every aspect of a town you’ve never visited.
  27. You have files full of first drafts of work – on your computer, on bookshelves or in the loft – that you will never, ever look at.
  28. You are the ‘pro’ in procrastination.
  29. You look up from your laptop after writing a particularly intense scene to find the whole coffee shop staring at you.
  30. You laugh whenever friends tell you they are too busy to do something.
  31. All of your friends think you sit around doing nothing, even when your ebook is published, yet look at you in admiration when they get their hands on your paperback.
  32. You cannot read your own work, even after it’s published, without editing it in your head.
  33. Instead of getting angry when somebody insults you, you appreciate their unique terminology and note it down for later use.
  34. You find yourself cursing out loud when something happens in a book / TV series / movie identical to something you’ve written months earlier but have yet to publish.
  35. Your friends start to worry what they tell you will end up in your next book.
  36. Your friends recognise conversations in your latest book.
  37. For every story you’re working on, there are one hundred others jostling for your attention.
  38. You use the same word repeatedly in a conversation over a short space of time only to never use it again.
  39. You look for subtext in every conversation.
  40. You throw a book across the room wondering how such rubbish could ever get published.
  41. You throw a book across the room knowing you could never write so beautifully.
  42. You can spend an hour editing a sentence in multiple ways to make it perfect, only to realise the final version is the same as what you started with.
  43. You classify reading this list as ‘research’.
  44. Your friends look at you funny because they’ve just read that scene in your latest book.
  45. You feel guilty spending time with your family because you should be writing your WIP.
  46. You spend an hour editing an email because ‘the pacing was wrong’.
  47. On bad days you include tweets as part of your word count.
  48. You organise a family day out so you can visit a setting for your latest book.
  49. You mentally divide the world into writers and everybody else.
  50. You know that even if you never write another word again, you will always view the world as a writer.

OK, I admit it took me a little longer than an hour (80 minutes to be exact), but that’s my list. What have I missed? What things do you find yourself doing that only writers do? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers 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. 

Recommended Reads: Family Tree by Vaughan Stanger

Family Tree

Earlier this year, Moondust Memories by Vaughan Stanger became one of my first Recommended Reads. I found it a great collection of short stories that kept me thinking long after I finished reading them. When I found out that Vaughan had published a new short story, I couldn’t wait to have a look.

The Blurb

Family Tree is an intriguing and moving science fiction story, set in an alternate timeline in which the Apollo moon-landing programme continued beyond 1972, leading to the establishment of a small lunar colony. The story focuses on one of oft-forgotten necessities of any future colonisation programme: the need for excellent teachers.

Family Tree was originally published in Helix (2008). This is its first appearance in ebook form.

Family Tree is dedicated to teachers everywhere.

The Review

We all remember our favourite teachers, the ones that took an interest over and above what was required professionally. Many of us took out first steps towards an enduring love of a subject because of these wonderful people. And what of teachers themselves? Do they have the same affection for some of their pupils, the ones who responded and grew over the course of being taught?

In Family Tree we meet Sarah Henderson, a teacher just retired and content to spend her time tending her memory garden, looking to capture recollections of her recently dead husband. But when a mysterious message arrives from a group of former pupils, it appears her she may not be as forgotten as she thinks.

Family Tree is a paean to teachers and the positive effect they can have on their pupil’s lives. It’s made clear in the book’s introduction the admiration Vaughan Stanger has for his former teachers, but even without this you can feel the love emanating from every page. If you like your short stories warm and life affirming, you really should give this one a try. Recommended.

To buy Family Tree from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Family Tree 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.

The Amateur Reviewer

What a wonderful way to start the weekend! I’m truly touched by this thoughtful review. Thank you, Geoff 🙂

TanGental

I started my indie book reviewing career recently and here we are at book two already. This time we move from memoire to futurism and sci-fi – at least that is how I would categorise this excellent debut.

dylan cover 2

Second Chance by Dylan Hearn

This novel is set in the not so distant future after a major catastrophe has changed the world’s governance and the balances of power.

This is what the blurb tells us:

 Four lives become linked by a student’s disappearance: a politician looking to put integrity back into politics, an investigator hoping to atone for past mistakes, a data cleanser searching for a better life while haunted by his past and a re-life technician creating new lives for old souls.

But it soon becomes clear this is no ordinary case, and in the pursuit of the truth, long-held secrets risk being revealed.

Set in the near future…

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Regrets? I’ve had a few… My 5 biggest self-publishing mistakes

no-regrets

It’s been one year since I pressed the publish button and Second Chance took its first steps out into the big, wide world. Looking back, I realise just how lucky I’ve been to have escaped relatively unscathed from some of the mistakes I made. I’m not unusual in this, most self-published authors blunder at some point along the way, and I’m not talking about trying things that don’t work, but simple, elementary mistakes.

So, rather than keep these lessons to myself, I though I’d expose what I view as my biggest mistakes so hopefully you won’t do the same.

Regret 1 – Not reading up about self-publishing

Made up my mind to publish and after a few days had launched an ebook. I read voraciously, but not the right material. I read about how to format an ebook, good sites to purchase book covers, how to create a paperback book – the mechanics of self-publishing but not about self-publishing as a business. It was only a few weeks after launch that I picked up a couple of ebooks that changed my thinking completely.

The first was Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, the second Let’s Get Visible (and later, Let’s Get Digital) by David Gaughran. These books take you a step-by-step through the pre-launch, launch and post launch phase of self-publishing, giving good, simple advice all the way through without promising the world. If I’d read these books beforehand, I might not have made the subsequent mistakes I did.

Regret 2 – Not researching my categories and keywords

When I made the snap decision to publish I’d been blogging for 6 months, mostly about other aspects of my life. I’d made little attempt to generate interest in my book because I wasn’t even sure if I’d publish, and if so, how? So, when I published I bombarded my friends on Facebook (I’ve never had an author page), many of whom were curious to see what I’d written.

Because of the generosity of friends (or morbid curiosity) Second Chance spent its first few days in the high 4000’s in the amazon.co.uk charts. It was a great result for such little planning, but sadly nobody knew because I hadn’t set up my categories correctly. I’d selected a category (science fiction – dystopian) but had no idea how popular that category was. After the initial rush, my book disappeared from view.

It was only afterwards I found out about how to research sub-categories to see how competitive they are, allowing me to choose one that enhanced my chances of visibility. I set my book up differently and since then Second Chance has only spent a couple of weeks out total of the amazon.co.uk Science Fiction – Cyberpunk charts. However, if I’d had this set up from the beginning, it may even have got to no.1.

However, this turned out to be a bit of luck because…

Regret 3 – Not taking ownership of my text

I’d spent 15 months writing Second Chance, producing seven drafts in total. I knew the importance of getting the book right. I’d heard of issues with self-publishers not proofreading their work and knew I didn’t want to be one of ‘them’, so I asked a friend to give the book a ‘quick once over’ as a favour. He came back with some corrections, which I made, and I then published. The more experienced writers will know what’s coming next.

A few days later I was contacted by friends letting me know my book had a few issues with typos. They offered to note them down and a couple of days later sent through a list of 58 errors. I was mortified. The book had been checked through. How could this have happened?

The issue was that I hadn’t taken ownership of my text. Not only that, I hadn’t the first clue on just how much work was required and how many passes needed to get a pristine copy. Over the coming months I arranged a second thorough edit which identified another 200+ changes. Not all were typos, but it shows you how much more work was required.

I was lucky. I only received one review, on Amazon.com, knocking me down because of those typos. It is the review I regret the most, not because I have an issue with it or the reviewer, but because if I had taken full ownership of my text it would never have happened. What I don’t know is how many readers I lost because of those early errors.

I learnt my lesson. When publishing Absent Souls, the book was proofread by myself, then by my wife, sent to a copyeditor for his first pass,  sent to a proofreader, sent to a second proofreader, proofread by myself again, sent to my copyeditor for a second pass, then finally proofread twice more by myself. This isn’t to say it’s perfect, but I’ve yet to hear of any errors (and if I do, they will be corrected and the book immediately updated).

Regret 4 – Not setting up a mailing list

Many of my regular followers will know I have a mailing list. I’d been meaning to do it for some time but never got around to it. What made me change my mind? My damp squib of a launch for Absent Souls.

Mailing lists are great because the people who join up are interested in your work. Nobody is forced to join. These lovely people want to be kept informed about book launches. Studies have shown that promotions through “sign-up” mailing lists have a hit rate of 30-40%. This compares to 1-2% on a random mailing or 0.0001% via tweeting.

Because I hadn’t set up a mailing list, only a few people bought Absent Souls at launch (although I’m grateful to everyone who did). Since then, the sales of Absent Souls have grown, but I’m still approached by people asking when my next book’s out. These are people who are interested in my work but had no idea Absent Souls had already been published, exactly the type of people who would sign up to a mailing list. I’d lost the chance of having a bigger push, and therefore bigger visibility, at launch.

Now, with a growing mailing list, coupled with a special launch offer exclusive to those on my mailing list, I’m hoping my next launch will be a little different.

Regret 5 – Not starting on the next book straight away

After writing Second Chance I spent a couple of months basking in the warmth of having completed a novel. What I should have been doing was writing the next book. In fact, I should have started even earlier when I’d put my first draft to one side for a few weeks. That would have been the ideal time to start planning book 2 ready to start writing as soon as Second Chance was published.

One of the big lessons I received from Write, Publish, Repeat is that very few authors have great sales from their first book. The majority of authors who make a living from writing do so through moderate sales, with these sales multiplied across many books. They also publish new books on a regular basis to maintain visibility. Even though Absent Souls came out 10 months after Second Chance, I believe I could have knocked 2 months off that timescale if I’d been a little more organised. This would have given me more months of sales, but also meant I would be much further down the path of writing book 3.

You’ll notice there is one thing I don’t regret: publishing my book. Despite the hard work, the mistakes I’ve made and the fact I’ve not hit the bestsellers lists, I don’t for a minute regret doing this. It’s been one hell of a year and I can’t wait to see what happens during the next one.

So those are my biggest regrets. What are yours? Do these ring a bell or are there other things that you would go back and change if you had the chance? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers 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. 

A Great Debate: E-Book or Paperback–Which Do You Prefer?

I really enjoyed this post. So how about you? Which do you prefer, and why?

Write of Passage

ebook-vs-printI used to work with a girl who never bought books–NEVER bought books.

Before you light your torches and sharpen your pitchforks I should probably mention she does READ books–she reads all the time; however, she only reads e-books, and only if they are free.

I’ve known people on both sides of the spectrum: those who only read e-books (old coworker) and those who only read paperbacks (my mother).

I’m sure most of you, like me, fall somewhere in the middle.

My personal philosophy: It doesn’t matter as long as you read.

Let me make a confession: I was once one of those people who used to touch, dust, and eye-caress my paperbacks, swearing to them I’d never betray them by downloading an e-book. Yeah, well I also swore I’d never join Facebook and twitter, so . . . (cough, cough)

Life changes and so do we. Granted, I didn’t buy my first e-book until last year…

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You need commitment to succeed

commitment-quotes

I recently wrote about how difficult self-publishing can be in my post 5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about, and that it wasn’t automatically a road to fame and riches. It hit a nerve, with over 3000 views in less than a week – the equivalent to 2 months worth of views at my normal rate – and many of you who commented spoke about how the post represented your own experience.

One point raised was that it felt as if I was trying to put people off self-publishing and telling then not to try. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I would encourage anyone to write and publish a book. While I too haven’t had the fame and riches I’d hoped for (but not expected), I have no regrets about starting out on this journey, so much so I’ve published two books and am currently working on my third. The main purpose of the post was to make people aware of what they are facing. However, that doesn’t mean you just have to sit back and accept that fate.

Last week I spoke to Heather Hill, author of The New Mrs D, and she kindly sent me through a list of everything she did on her path to becoming an Amazon bestseller. As you can see, not everything she tried worked, but it is a great example of what you can achieve if you have the commitment to succeed, put the long hours of work in and refuse to take no for an answer. It also nicely mirrors the message from Kameron Hurley and the effort she put in to turn her writing career around.

  1. I started a blog, after gaining a decent following and wonderful feedback from my comedy twitter ramblings. It gathered momentum, people were reading me! And it was good.
  2. I bought ‘The Writers & Artists Yearbook and read everything in it that applied to my writer style and goals.
  3. I began writing my book. I did not stop to edit, I just kept going. Even on days when I felt like everything on the page was nonsense.
  4. I followed experienced authors through various social media channels; I observed them. I looked at them as a potential reader NOT as an author in training. I was picking up on the elements of their online persona that attracted me as a reader.
  5. I attended a few signings and talks from literary agents, getting real advice.
  6. I reached a halfway crisis of confidence. Got advice from a good friend to read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. Best move ever!
  7. I shared my writing with three friends that I knew would give me honest feedback and then did several rewrites.
  8. I employed the wonderful editing services of Flora Napier at Blueprint Editing.
  9. I rewrote again.
  10. I read three books on submissions to agents. They were Sex, Lies & Book Publishing by Rupert Heath Literary Agency, ‘Dear Agent’ by Nicola Morgan and ‘From Pitch to Publication‘ by Carole Blake
  11. I submitted to a total of thirteen agents after thoroughly researching the type of books and authors they were representing already. After six weeks, I was signed by an agent.
  12. I rewrote again, with suggested changes from my agent.
  13. We received thirteen publisher rejections. I gathered all of the editor comments and picked out the common themes – then rewrote again.
  14. I paid for a full manuscript report from Cornerstones.co.uk, got the report back, gave myself a few days to digest all of the advice and rewrote again.
  15. I decided to publish with agency assistance via the Amazon White Glove Programme.
  16. I made a list of everyone I knew personally and everyone I networked with in order to announce the release of the book via a one-off email. I explained that they weren’t on some circular mailing list; just that I wanted to share my good news with them all and thanking them for their support thus far.
  17. I blogged regularly via my WordPress site and shared my entire experience with followers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Stumbleupon.
  18. I sent contacted 29 book bloggers asking for a review (only 5 said yes) and 23 to Amazon reviewers (only 2 responded). I also contacted a number of women’s websites. Only 1 responded – Britmums, who agreed to an interview & feature but then stopped responding to my emails without a word.
  19. My book was launched on 4th July 2014, but hit the Amazon Best Sellers List two days beforehand… on pre-orders.
  20. A Kindle Daily Deal promotion on Amazon Australia rocketed my novel to no1 overall bestseller on the site in August 2014.
  21. I produced a hard copy of the book via Createspace and wrote to every major bookstore in Australia and some in the UK hoping they would consider stocking it. Everyone (eventually) declined – distribution problems to Australia and the UK were a major barrier. I had failed to realise Createspace only distribute to the US.
  22. In November, for personal reasons, I left my literary agency, who promptly and without warning unpublished my original ebook sending it crashing out of the Amazon chart and in to obscurity.
  23. In December 2014, I placed my book in a Kindle Free promotion for three days. In preparation, I entered news of the promotion to as many free Kindle book websites as I could find and applied for a BookBub promotion. Luckily, Bookbub accepted me, although I went with one of their smallest, cheapest genre lists. My book went to no4 in the Free Kindle chart overall in the UK and no 7 overall in the US during the promotion. It was downloaded 29,000 times in that three days. 17,000 of these downloads were on day one – the day of the Bookbub email.
  24. It is still in Amazon UK and US best sellers lists at the time of writing.

It would be very easy to read this list and say “well, it all came down to a BookBub promotion,” but that would be missing the point. Everything Heather did, the continual revisions to write the best book possible, the mailing list to get that initial exposure, sending out to bloggers to get good quality, neutral reviews – all provided a foundation that made her book attractive enough for BookBub to accept her submission.

So what do you think? Is there anything you’ve tried that worked for you and is not on the list? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers 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. 

Recommended Reads: The Whisper of Stars by Nick Jones

The Whisper of Stars

A few months ago somebody recommended I should read The Whisper of Stars, saying it trod similar ground to my books. I put off reading it for a while as I was worried about being influenced by another writer’s ideas, but over the Christmas break I decided it was time to have a look. I’m glad I did. If you have read and enjoyed either of my books, I highly recommend you read The Whisper of Stars. It covers similar ideas to those in Second Chance and Absent Souls but in a very different way, and it’s a cracking read to boot.

The Blurb

The year is 2091. With accelerated warming and global population out of control, the survival of humanity hangs in the balance. On the brink of extinction, science delivers one last hope. Human hibernation.
Jennifer Logan is a tough cop in the newly formed Duality Division, tasked with enforcing hibernation. When she uncovers a memory, hidden deep within her mind, her belief in the system she protects is shattered. Together with an unlikely partner, and convinced that her past holds the secret to mankind’s future, she embarks on a dangerous search for the truth, one that rapidly turns into a struggle for her life. Pursued by the very people she once trusted, Logan must risk everything for answers to the mystery that unfolds. As her world unravels and the layers of deceit are revealed, she is forced to question everything and use all of her skills to survive. In The Whisper of Stars, author Nick Jones delivers a breathtaking, sinister vision of the future, where nothing is what it seems. He shows us that some secrets cannot stay buried, no matter how deep.

The Whisper of Stars is the first book in the Hibernation Saga. A fast-paced, futuristic thriller starring a tough, female protagonist. It features conspiracy theories, romance and intrigue and is set in a dystopian world, making it an ideal read for any fans of the sci-fi genre and also suitable for a young adult audience.

The Review

With The Whisper of Stars, Nick Jones has combined detective, espionage and near-future dystopian thriller genres to produce a cracking story that is both compelling and makes you think about the challenges we face in the future.

With Earth’s resources dwindling, the UN has taken control, forcing large parts of the world’s population to go into hibernation – sleeping one year on, one year off. Jennifer Logan is part of the Duality Division, ensuring people go into hibernation at their allotted time, but after a failed mission, old memories are awakened leading her to embark on a quest for the truth about what happened to her father many years before, a quest that has her questioning everything she knows about her life and the world she lives in.

This really is a great read. Each chapter draws you into the world Jones has created, one that is both futuristic and very, very real, with neural implants rubbing shoulders with a night down the pub with friends. As the story progresses Jones gradually reveals a dark vision of the future, where those in power are forced to make difficult decisions which in turn become further corrupted by the desire to manipulate and control.

All this on its own would make an interesting read but it’s with the character of Jennifer Logan that this book stands out. This is a strong, non-nonsense female lead who just doesn’t give up, using her own skills and ingenuity to overcome anything in her path. Once the search for the truth starts, Jones successfully ratchets up the tension chapter after chapter and I found myself staying up late just to reach the satisfying climax that sets up book 2 very nicely. If you like near-future thrillers, then you should read this book. Highly recommended.

To buy The Whisper of Stars from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Whisper of Stars 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.

Reading Challenge

reading challenge

 

I wrote recently about how a good author needs to be a good reader. I read daily and have done for as long as I can remember, however I have been known to become focussed on books from particular genres. Since starting Pay It Forward – where I support indie authors and those from small presses by buying their books and recommending those I enjoy – I’ve found I’ve enjoyed books written in genres I previously wouldn’t have touched.

Now I want to take my reading to the next stage, with your help.

On today’s calmgrove blog there was an update on a reading challenge he started at the beginning of the year. The aim of the challenge is expand your reading habits by ticking off each of the 52 items on a list (shown above). I think it’s a great idea, so I plan to do the same, but combine this with Pay It Forward by selecting only indie published books or those published via a small press. Looking through the four books I’ve read this year I can already tick off 10 items, but that still leaves me with 42 items to cover.

This is where you come in.

I would love you to tell me ONE indie or small press books you’ve read and loved, that could help me tick off items from the list. It could be from any genre and by any author, but you have to have read the book and loved it yourself. The only other rule is that you can’t nominate your own book or one with which you have any commercial link. This is all about paying something back to the indie community.

I can’t promise I’ll read every suggestion but I will look at them all and if I think they fit the challenge and cover an area that hasn’t been covered, I’ll buy it and read it. I will even review and recommend those I’ve enjoyed under my recommended reads. If I don’t enjoy a book for whatever reason, the author will still have had my money and the sales uptick from my purchase.

So, it’s over to you. I can’t wait to hear your suggestions.

If you’re also thinking of doing a reading challenge, why not get a head start by joining 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. 

Top 10 tips on overcoming writer’s block

writers block

The existence of writer’s block is something that divides writers. Some say there is no such thing, others that they have suffered from it and often. Regardless of whether you believe or not, I don’t know of a single writer that hasn’t struggled at some point to get words on the page. I know I have. So here are my top 10 tips on overcoming this hurdle so you can get back writing again.

1 Sit down and be ready to write

If you are the type of writer who has to ‘wait for their muse’, then I can’t help you. You can’t write if you don’t want to write. We are often at our most creative when finding excuses not to do something. As Dorothy Parker once said, “writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” If you can’t do this, nothing else will help you.

2 Set up a routine

Before I write I make a cup of tea. This ritual allows me to switch from whatever I’ve been doing or thinking about to focussing on the task at hand. I also like to eat biscuits, though I’m not sure if that helps or is just an indulgence. As people we like routine and are conditioned to do certain things in a certain way. Most of us have a morning routine to get us ready for the day. If it is altered our whole day feels out of synch. It’s the same for writing. Get yourself into the practice of doing the same things before you write and you will find writing comes naturally.

3 Allow yourself to write badly

I’ve never been in a situation where I found myself staring at a blank screen. Maybe I’m lucky. However, I have often spent the day writing a sentence then deleting it. Writing another then deleting it. And again. And again. And again. It was only when I allowed myself to write badly that this practice stopped. Any writer will tell you that a book is created during the edit, not during the first draft. You can correct anything during the edit, except a blank page, so even if it feels like you’re writing the worst scene in the world, let it out. You can always go back and change it afterwards.

4 Music

I know a number of writers that like to use music to get them in the mood, whether before writing a scene, or while writing a scene. I have to write in silence as I find myself distracted by what I’m listening to, often ending up with a song’s lyrics in my manuscript. I do, however, have certain songs for certain characters in my books, almost like their theme tune, and I often listen to one of the songs before writing a scene, to help me get into that character’s mindset.

5 Visualise the scene

For me, the biggest reason for struggling with a scene is because I can’t picture the location. I may have an idea of where it is but I can’t visualise it. It’s at this point I’ll do a google image search on the type of location I’m thinking about, just to get some visual clues. It doesn’t take a lot but once I have the location clear in my head I can go ahead and write the rest without a problem – well, almost without a problem.

6 Change the point of view

Another good way to overcome writer’s block is to write it from a different character’s perspective. Even if you are writing a book set purely from a single character’s point of view, writing the scene from another’s perspective can help identify what happens and how. You can then always change it back, using the first scene as the framework for your edit.

7 Just write dialogue

Most scenes are driven forward by dialogue. If I’m really, really stuck on a scene I just write dialogue. I may put in some attributions, a couple of beats if they come easily to hand, but I keep going until the scene reaches its conclusion. Afterwards, I’ll go back and add in description, action and whatever else is required.

8 Work on a different scene

There is no right or wrong order in which to write your book but most of us start at the beginning and follow some form of chronological order until we get to the end. While this works most of the time, sometimes this can cause us to struggle, especially with scenes that are either difficult to convey or not clear in our minds. If that’s so, write something else. If I get stuck I’ll choose to write a scene containing a character I enjoy writing about (we all have our favourites, don’t we), or one I’m looking forward to writing. It doesn’t matter when it appears, if it gets you writing again it’s a good thing.

9 Stop writing at a point you want to finish

I learnt this tip quite late but it’s a really good one. We’re often told to strike when the iron’s hot but stopping when you’re getting to a crucial and exciting part is a good way to get you raring to go the next day, and as we know, once you start writing it’s much easier to keep going.

10 Prepare your next scene the day before

I always like to have sketched out a rough order of play for any scene I’m about to write. It doesn’t mean I’ll always stick to it but it at least gives me a start point. I find the best time to do this is the day before you plan to write because I then have the rest of the day, and night, for my subconscious to chew it over and come up with ideas I’d never otherwise have thought of.

So, these are my top 10 tips to overcome writer’s block but what works for you? When the words fail to appear, what do you do to get things moving? I’d love to hear from you.

If you’re interested in finding out more about my writing, join 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.