Weekly Ramble #77

As promised a while ago Hall of Information Interviews shall begin very soon! After reaching and now surpassing the 500 follower milestone it’s time to find new ways in showcasing fellow creators efforts to my readership. 

To begin with I shall be approaching authors who have a unique voice in writing and will be asking a range of questions about writing, their available works and even some lighter subjects. It’s difficult for any creator to find interesting and fun ways to speak about their work and so I hope this works as a vessel for that.

Most of us know that marketing ourselves is no easy feat and like the many book reviews and content I create it’s time to shake things up and freshen that approach. Reading, writing and blogging are creative mediums that deserve to be celebrated and expressed through every way possible and so you can expect some interesting and insightful conversations with fellow creators very soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books With Unique Voices

If we don’t talk about books, then how is the world going to know they exist? 

In the past few years and even recently I’ve delved into some truly unique stories that deserve a little more than a review. And a little more than a review is simply talking about them. 

With that in mind let’s dive in and look at some books with unique voices…
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The Good Audit by C.P Aiden (cool pen name) tackles the subject matter of accounting in a funny but very accessible way where pretty much anyone can enjoy it. This book is unique because the delivery style intertwines with a sense of humor that captures every essence of the pressures, the laments and even the eating habits of those who work in accounts. Characters are simply named by their job title which is an original concept as well as a potential protective measure for any type of libel. You don’t need to know about auditing or accounts to enjoy this one!

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The Four Before Me by E.H Night is an 80’s slasher that brings a whole new dimension of intelligence to the genre. It’s unique because of that and over the years literature and cinema have churned out so many stories that follow the same slash, character makes a stupid decision, kill, repeat formula without any depth. This one breaks that mold with a twisting story of suspense and an array of realistic primary and secondary characters that make up the small town vibe where four women have previously gone missing, women who share similarities to the main character. By the end this book becomes more than a slasher trust me…

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Fated to Meet You by Despoina Kemeridou is a modern fairy tale that serves for some unique escapism much like the M.C ‘Nora’ who literally escapes to another world of Kings, Queens and Castles. It’s a quick read that brings a modern twist the the genre that might possibly be as old as time…

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Nightjar by Paul Jameson is truly unique for it’s writing style that reads much like a classic. It’s no easy feat to achieve that and keep it going for the entirety of a book which sits somewhere between fantasy and folklore. Set in a ‘Feudal Future’ two boys stray from the confines of home and embark on a unique journey and come face to face with Nightjar – just who or what that is, read the book and find out…

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American Blasphemer by John Gillen is unique literary fiction like you’ve never seen before and I say fiction but from this book you’ll get biographical vibes from the very beginning. You can probably guess what unfolds by the title and yes to some it might appear Blasphemic or even the anti bible, but to me it serves as a companion to life in the United states while everyone can relate to it. From sex and drugs to family and religion or even Bob Dylan this one is incredibly unique.

LJ and Rom

How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal by S.D. McKinley is the reason I put this list together and it’s not only unique but fun, sometimes random but always enjoyable. To quote my very recent review  ‘Main characters LJ and Rom decide that they are done with rally car racing and decide to make a pilgrimage of sorts across country along the open road to save their close friend. The action picks up quickly and doesn’t let off the gas near enough all the way through page turning chapters where our heroes come across a multitude of ‘out there’ experiences from trashing motel rooms rock and roll style, fixing their vehicle, high speed racing to even the supernatural and everything else in between...’

Is there a unique tale you want to share with the world? 

 

Is genre variable in storytelling?

We all know that stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. They are a constant much like all of us have a brain, a heart and an imagination, mostly. It is my belief that a story teller can turn their hand to any genre, the work itself doesn’t change physically, just the subject. 

Many will argue that genre is more of a constant in their story telling efforts and I applaud that. They’ve found a home, a comfort and place to hone their ability, while others like to move around more, they prefer to drift from place to place. People find stability and home in different places, and stability is probably the most underrated thing artists need to work – some level of calm in all this chaos.

To paraphrase Stanley Kubrick, he said that all movies need two or three ‘big moments’ that make the jaws of the audience drop. I’m talking twists, turns, revelations; all of the good stuff that makes moments in cinema and story.

I tend to aim for these moments when linking my story together although you can only really have a few of these per story. The shock factor is only good for a couple of times max. The audience are human after all. It’s much like yelling an expletive at someone over and over again, eventually the recipient is numbed to it and you’re better off complimenting them. When this type of moment unfolds in a story, things are never normally the same from then on. Examples come from my own work ‘Darke Blood’ which has a sequence of big reveals later on. It’s a make or break situation sometimes and the audience do not like their intelligence insulted but more their ego slightly massaged.

Writers can factor these moments in whatever genre your story is. Again we go back to the beginning, the middle and the end. From Aliens invading to the YA love triangle, as long as you have the constants and the ‘moments’ it is my belief any story teller can grasp any type of genre. 

Can you turn your hand to any genre? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Breaking the Darke Crusader’s Code’: The making of a book that almost wasn’t to be…

Some of the best moments come from the most difficult of circumstances in this funny old thing we call life. In early 2017 when I began to embrace the idea of drafting a ‘second book’ I never expected that journey, laced with internal creative difficulty and even physical health obstacles, to end up producing a book which is now my most critically and statistically acclaimed.

Of course I am talking about ‘Darke Blood’ which on the surface appears to be a vampire story, but in truth there is a hell of a lot more going on underneath the surface of just blood sucking creatures of the night. This post is a deep dive into the making of that story, and yes there will be some element of light spoilering with the intent more to advertise and spotlight the qualities of a book’s success that still fills me still with baffling but swelling pride. I’ve never really spoken about the process that goes into writing a book and they sort of get forgotten after being released. But what I went through to write ‘DB’ should be remembered, because it did not come easy and hence the swelling pride… 

Rule one in all writing: always embrace the good things that comes from it, especially the one’s you don’t expect…

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Before the books that now make up my back list (I have a back list? even that baffles me sometimes…) there was a time where I exclusively wrote science fiction with a hope to query agents, get a book deal, get a movie deal and thank the academy for giving me  this here best original screenplay award. Let’s just say the experience of getting nothing more than a few good people’s attention, none of them rhymed with Spielberg was humbling and as a writer and person, I grew up and started again mostly from scratch.

It’s never too late to start again, or even start. Starting is the first step to anything worthwhile…just start okay! 

The feeling of dropping a project that saw zero success was liberating to say the least and even though I left those sci fi books behind they stand as a testament to how I learned to write. Post writing liberation came my first foray into the world of indie publishing with a book known as ‘Open Evening’ which had some ‘success’ but before even sending that manuscript to my editor, like always I was looking to what would come next.

With 6 months until ‘Open Evening’ would see the pen of an editor I decided to get into another story which eventually became ‘Darke Blood’. My divine wisdom told me after writing a creature feature chase story with heaps of action I needed to do vampires next along with a slower more mysterious and fleshed out pace. Like everything I write, it needed to have some differential concept to the last project and the whole vampire thing would also be a tribute to probably my all time favourite character driven show – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

What’s in a name?

Okay, so I’m doing vampires, that means the setting would need to be dark and shadowy, perhaps almost black like the night. This would tie in with the title and be both catchy and unique, something only someone searching for your work would find; and that’s a pro tip when coming to deciding title’s, make it stand out

There would be some kind of forest, one with trees where the leaves don’t fall and a town that’s small enough to realistically host vampires. In 2017 I was spending a lot of time in a place known as Iver Heath which is a neighbourhood surrounded by mostly trees and farmers fields. They have two country parks nearby one of them called ‘Black Park’ so in the beginning I just merged ‘Black’ and ‘Heath’ but it turns out Black Heath is an actual place – back to the drawing board but I was set on using ‘the Heath’ I just needed a word to put before it. Next came Dark, but as the history of the town began to spiderweb in my head, perhaps when it was established back in colonial times it would be spelled oldy worldy style and so ‘Darke Heath’ was born. Put the concept of vampires, blood and all that along side Darke, you have ‘Darke Blood’. Trust me this process sounded prettier in my head…

Black Park

Black Park in Buckinghamshire near Iver Heath in the UK

So we have a forest, it’s going to be shadowy and there’s a colonial history to the place. By the time I had reached this point, the Prologue had already been drafted. A page turning chase in the shadows where some not so happy campers are split up, they first find an old cemetery and then a house – the haunted house trope always, always has a place in my heart, it just does. At the very end of that sequence we are introduced to the perhaps slightly condescending main narrator. Open Evening had more of a pessimistic trope busting narration style, this one, straight up insulting, trust me those differences are important…

What’s in their names?

That narrator just happens to be named Blake Malone. The Blake I can’t recall settling on,  it came after I decided to use Malone which is tribute to the narrator ‘Edward Malone’ from Conan Doyle’s Lost World – a book I first read when I was 12 and then proceeded to get bitten by the literature bug. Blake Malone also shares a light Irish heritage like Edward as they both have a pale complexion and they both are recalling their account of an experience in going into the unknown.

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The second billed character and creature of the night/ bad ass ‘Caitlyn Turner’ came next. Her inspiration came from the world of video games. One of Fallout 4’s popular and bad ass companion’s is an Irish lady known as ‘Cait’. I gave her a full name and a backstory of depth and history which spans back to those colonial days and is inspired by the many episodes of ‘Angel’ that see’s a younger version of the title character in the past. She has a history of love, deception and fighting along with links to witchcraft. Her story serves as the second part of the first act and by that point should hook most readers in.

caitlyn quote

Another popular face in the lore of ‘Darke’ is the older gentleman known as ‘Angus Greene’ who is a pick up truck driving, helpful and kind country fella who’s family have been taken by the vampire threat in the Heath. His inspiration and name is tributed loosely to ‘Hershel’ from when it was popular TV show The Walking Dead. Although Angus is more of a fighter and perhaps a little more cynical. He becomes more and more of a leader in later books.

The Darke Crusader’s code

Blake Malone has arrived in Darke Heath for a ‘new start’ or so he says but after confiding in the reader only, he is actually in the Heath to investigate the findings of someone known only as the ‘Darke Crusader’ which is in fact an anonymous internet handle who has reported some weird things going on in the Heath before disappearing. This is the central motive as to why Blake has come to town but worryingly his recollection of anything before arriving is blank, and this works as the conflict our MC would overcome later on in the narrative. It also adds a unique psychological edge to the whole deal – so we’re already better than Twilight…

Much of the time during my writing process I will just throw open ended ideas into the mix, and originally what brought Blake to town was most likely going to be dealt with much later on. The Darke Crusader was originally in fact someone external from outside the character loop who would arrive and lift the dramatic lid later on, sort of like a murder mystery reveal. Unfortunately this concept didn’t really line up or work. Bearing in mind I was already 40,00 words into the book at this point and in April/May of 2017 I was suffering badly with sciatica – to the point where sitting, laying and standing hurt. Writing is still painful by the way… always.

The concept of this mysterious internet persona held everything together. After all it’s why Blake is in the town and why the story is happening. The magic word there is motive, which all stories must have, the why.

I just couldn’t find a way to link it all together to reveal this external character and break the Darke Crusader’s code and it started to piss me off.

The recycling bin beckoned…

Frustration loomed, and anger, lots of it. This was my second foray into writing an original story from scratch and I’m stuck. After an angry gym session (is that sweat or tears?) I seriously considered putting that many words into the recycling bin but then, inspiration hit me. Like always while in the car on the open road a solution appeared.

Never underestimate a good drive to clear the mind and find thoughts… sorry environment I need to think!

What if this Darke Crusader was actually already an existing character? What if Blake had no recollection of the past because it was removed in some way? Maybe he was already from Darke Heath in some capacity and then sent out by the evil forces to shut down this crusader. The whole plot began to turn back on itself and unfold into the series of twists and revelations that followed. I’ll admit I put Blake Malone through a Shutter Island level of mind melt hell. But it worked; just about… I was already going down the psychological route anyway so it lined up. There is also just a slice of the Shining in there too.

Big reveals turned into twisting revelations as the Darke Crusader’s code had been cracked in front of my own eyes and imagination. The characters figure out themselves as the story unfolds. Placing this character into an already introduced persona made for a justified twist that the vampiric powers were willing to go to in order to find out who this crusader was because after all they had control of Blake. He also found out where he had come from and it was much closer than he thought. Doing this aligned him with the forces to fight back and so the final act emerged out of such struggle.

Keeping it in the Heath…

Deciding to keep the Darke Crusader inside the confines of just the town made for the feeling of no escape. The world was just limited to that town between the trees. There is an alternative ending to ‘Back to the Future’ where instead of harnessing lightning from the clock tower in Hill Valley, they go to a nuclear power plant instead, out of town and away from where the story takes place. Comparing my stuff to that masterpiece is a little indulgent but keeping everything in the Hill Valley/ the Heath rounded the story perfectly.

Back To The Future Review | Movie - Empire

Overcoming it all to tell one heck of a tale…

The struggle I went through in both back pain related and story related issues may have made for the reason why Darke Blood stands out as probably my better books. The whole tying together in the penultimate act either turns people away or grips them more. It’s decisive and carries weight. And this is before the awesome editing and cover art work that tops off the whole deal. It didn’t come easy, and much like those difficult second albums, it felt like an uphill fight to tell a story that I desperately wanted to be different from Open Evening and so it was, but they are connected…

The Open Evening Connection…

Open Evening banner with DB and ch

In order for the past elements in Darke Blood to work (Cait’s story and the main antagonist), it made sense for the creatures seen in Open Evening to exist in the same universe. And so after all of that struggle and part of it was making the whole deal fit, I managed to tie it into a wider universe which is still growing today.

the order symbol (weathered with title)

Final witchy thoughts…

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This deep dive is in fact just more of a shallow swim into the complex but satisfying tale that is Darke Blood: You’ve never known true darkness. There is a whole segment of the book that is probably best described as ‘Light Witchcraft’ which I haven’t really mentioned here but later on becomes ever so important. This is also galvanised by the Sisterhood theme that runs beside the second billed character of Caitlyn Turner who turned out to be way popular than I thought. Her journey continues in the next Darke coming this September.

Looking toward the wider ‘Darke Series’

In what is hopefully going to define my work as an indie author Darke Blood works as a stand alone but can also be delved deeper into a trilogy which will continue this September but the Open Evening side arc is very important to that. They are tied together and will culminate together.

Have you read Darke Blood? Not many have but those who left reviews, thank you. 

Darke Blood banner with OE and ch

Reverting to Zero

Zero sales, Zero engagement the sun goes down alone…

It’s funny that this whole book publishing stuff for me and most of us started at absolute zero and most of the time things just revert back to it.

Thousands of followers dont mean shit if they are all vying for the same thing and I’ll admit I have delved into the emptiness of shameless self promotion every now and then. Just one fucking sale would make my week but right now, invisibility city.

What’s the damn point in spending 7 years getting 500 Facebook likes if not one person even engages in a post?

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This isn’t even an attempt at fishing for anything other than exploration of my own feeling of going down a seemingly pointless road. I know my writing is worth reading. My books are proper books – I’m not just trying to fling one full length story and live just off that, I have 5 books out there, a damned backlist that feels, invisible. It’s hard to swallow because I have something worth giving to the world but it feels like nobody even knows it’s there all of a sudden.

I’m on the cusp of releasing book 4 of a series maybe 13 people have read. That tells you I’m doing this for the writing, myself and for the journey. The weight it has on ones mental health can be heavy at times but is it supposed to that hard to get people to buy and read your stuff?

I guarantee on release 13 people will buy that book and then in two years time I will be forced to set the price to zero in order to gain any type of interest.

Zero – that damned word again…

 

Weekly Writing Inspiration #2

Did somebody say Friday? We made it folks, even though the meaning of days have kind of faded – I’ve been working 2 shifts every six days which has been fu**ing fantastic but still the weekend is nigh… so let us celebrate with some mostly meme related inspiration…

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Truly wise words…

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Truly wiser words….

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When the crap I’m writing is literally propped up by the crap I’ve written…

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It’s never too late.

Never

Too

Late

FB_IMG_1594277838835shameless promo….

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And finally…

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Have a good weekend folks. See ya in the next one!

How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal By S.D. McKinley – Review

An entirely unique and original page-turning journey of variety on the open road…   

LJ and Rom

Somewhere between unique, random and fun is where you’ll find How LJ and Rom Saved Heavy Metal which is a road trip story with a difference. This unique tale is told with imagination that makes for perfect escapism while also carrying an intelligence with snappy dialogue, fun characters and interesting encounters. 

Main characters LJ and Rom decide that they are done with rally car racing and decide to make a pilgrimage of sorts across country along the open road to save their close friend. The action picks up quickly and doesn’t let off the gas near enough all the way through page turning chapters where our heroes come across a multitude of ‘out there’ experiences from trashing motel rooms rock and roll style, fixing their vehicle, high speed racing to even the supernatural and everything else in between. The unpredictable is at play here, making it feel like the story could go anywhere next and it does. There are even zombies!

In most logical circumstances everything in this story shouldn’t work, but it does and the style of writing just flows and works flawlessly in what is one of the most original books I have ever come across. It’s clear that the imagination of S.D McKinley is one of a gifted story teller with an original voice.

5 Stars – A real interesting and fun read. Thanks to the author for providing a copy in exchange for am honest review. Reviews also left on Amazon and Goodreads. 

Weekly Ramble #76

Those two words. The ones every writer aims for, but many never get to. Truth is, they don’t come along that often for me. Even though the back list will say otherwise, all good things in this world worth having, take time and work. 

It does just start by putting one word in front of the next in succession. All stories are just a series of words put together in an orderly fashion physically but within that order is where you’ll find the story and our vessel is the imagination.

Reaching the summit of a story is both empowering and sombre. It’s a goodbye after all, and living with the characters who have completed their journeys and arcs makes everything seem quiet for a while or even empty when they are done. I guess the same can be said for life also, and relationships or even the times. They end and new ones spring up eventually.

I’m constantly driven by what’s next on the horizon, what I’ve done in the present isn’t enough, I could tell you the next five projects I plan on trudging to next. This writing deal has never been a sprint, but an endless marathon. I’m too busy for it to reach the end… 

 

Bookbub Ads – an abject failure

Here at the Hall of Information we are always on the look-out for proven techniques that work on the subject of book promotion. Even though this operation is small, we still try our best to pass on all experiences and results, good or bad for the greater good of fellow wordsmiths looking to get their work out into the wider world. Well it was only a matter of time until a bad one came along, or shall we say a ‘not so good’ one. Right now I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed…

This week I took a dive into the complicated, convoluted world of Bookbub advertising. Now first let me determine that this is not the ‘featured deal’ advertising you can apply for which they will probably reject, but in fact another service via their ‘partners’ site. Anyone can pretty much sign up and get advertising straight away or so they say. 

You are asked to fill in boxes with your book’s URL, and the whole thing is pretty standard if you are comparing to other advertisers. But then it gets a little complicated as you are asked to find an audience who will potentially click on what is essentially a thumbnail sized pop up that will appear in their inboxes the next time Bookbub sends them a circular. This is essentially what the advert is, a small pop up of your cover and 60 characters to hook someone into clicking on it. Did I hook someone? Anyone? Just one person? Find out below…

It isn’t really explained whether broad or specific audiences are preferable. Specific would target individuals most likely to buy I suppose? When I reached the green area it suggested I’m on track (unlike the example below) and so after putting a few Darke Blood related author tags and genres into this targeting thing, it seemed to be happy.

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Next you are asked about date ranges, budget and then of course more complicated things known as ‘Bid’ which is an impressions based of clicks budget – again very convoluted for the layman author looking to sling a few ebooks. I selected a continuous option because the ambition in me just imagined the sales rolling in…

So after fudging around with the figures – figures I cannot show you because Bookbub have already deleted the campaigns I put on pause – I was ready to go. My first campaign looked a little like this…

Daily Budget $15 

Bid ‘CPM’ Budget $9ish 

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There are more than shadows lurking in the darkness…

(Imagine a jazzy background)

 

 

Buy now

 

 

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I guran-damn-tee somebody who stumbles upon this here post, even in ten years time will click on that buy now button, but when my ad ran for 24 hours, with over 200 impressions, not one person clicked on it…

Ok, so maybe it was me, not being able to navigate the system probably. So the very next day I tried again, and changed a few things. By lunchtime I was done. No clicks and me left wondering what I did wrong, like everyday… I don’t have time to figure out over complicated advertisement algorithms, and maybe you do, but I’ve got books to write.

My total spend on this abject failure was $17.69 and I know for a fact I can get book sales for less than that. In fact I have, with my Bookbub featured deal last year I spent $86.00 and sold 66 books that day. But the many other promo sites I’ve used have given me a way better return.

My advice would be to go elsewhere. Of course my book promo lists/results can be found in the many posts I have put out there previously. Here are a couple of recents:

Book Promo Results March 2020

Book Promo Results September 2019

Final Thought: 

Straight after I was done failing at Book bub ads, I cobbled together this little mock up via an online photo shop site. Seeing as I just got a fresh review, I quoted it and then put it up on the Tweet machine.

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As you can see the results are 3 times better than bookbub ads, and not a dime was spent…

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The moral of the story, not all advertisers work, and neither do I… Be wise with your money and don’t just dive into something…

Weekly Writing Inspiration…

Because if I can do it, anyone can so how about some motivational propaganda to start the month of right! And let us start with some very wise words…

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Darke Blood got it’s latest review via Goodreads; this has been especially rewarding after new marketing idea!

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It’s a bargain, but I’m not so sure about the story….

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AMIRIGHT….

Shout out to S.D McKinley for this awesome review of Open Evening

OE review

Word of the month…

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And Finally, ‘Every Stephen King Book; even the ones that aren’t macabre or supernatural still finds a way to be depraved…’ 

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Have a good rest of the week, and have a good month! Rock and roll man…