Category Archives: Previews
Previews for forthcoming books
Time for me to vanish for a while.
For many months I’ve been wrestling with good and bad spirits, and now it’s time for me to put some dedicated effort into ensnaring them; in black and white.
I’m hopeful that a stretch of golden sand, some warm weather, blue skies and crashing surf will provide a suitably undisturbed backdrop for my notepads and meditations.
So wish me luck and see you soon… :) AB
Well my trip to Finland was, once again, extremely restful. Except for the journey home where, somehow, I managed to damage my lower back on the way to the airport. Eight hours of transit and tight connections later; I couldn’t even stand upright unassisted! Ouch …
My doctor says, “Things like this happen, as you get older…”
Thanks, Doc. That makes me feel much better…
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that I’ve made a start on the new novel and the opening pages – assuming I don’t shuffle things as I go – have been drafted. Openings are vital for any piece of writing, particularly novels. They need to drag readers in by the eyeballs and may, in the end, determine the entire success or otherwise of a story. As a result, I try not to be too precious about the opening pages. If I get a better idea later, I’ll swap stuff out. Looking back, Firebird hasn’t got a ‘bad’ start but I think Thunder’s is better. For me, I’m looking to stir up shock, confusion and to create intrigue from the get-go – although I don’t deliberately sit down and try to force this to happen – and recently I’ve been to paying more attention to missing things out, rather than putting them in… In other words, I’ve noticed that a little deft cutting sometimes adds more value than a hundred extra words…
On another subject entirely, I noticed yesterday that Amazon have adjusted their pricing regimes again. As a result, I’ve been able to reset Thunder’s pricing so that it’s a little bit lower than it’s been since publication. Other authors might also want to check out the pricing policies in detail. Certain country price points are lower than the US which, thanks to Amazon’s global price-matching rules, means that there’s a little bit of headroom to offer better deals for your readers (and for us to still get a few cents to contribute toward our next computer upgrades!).
Right, it’s time for me to go and enjoy the, highly unusual and probably short-lived, British sunshine…!
Apologies for a distinct lack of posts recently. I’ve been kept rather busy by the boring and mundane necessities of living a normal life and only being a part-time writer!
Nonetheless, I am cracking on in the background on the storyboard, character biographies and research for my next novel. Things are progressing nicely although, for the first time, I’ve realised that the scope of the tale is now definitely far beyond a single work. This is kind of tricky, and new ground for me. Whilst Firebird and Thunder are both written with open hooks for pre or sequels, the storyline I sat down with for each of them had a contained beginning, middle, and end. It was clear how much ground they’d cover. This is not the case with the new one. In fact, I’m scoping and storyboarding across what will likely be several manuscripts.
There is the option to write one, massive, blockbuster – but I’m not sure that the few fans I’ve got – or even I – have got enough patience to wait till I’ve finished it! So, as it is, I’m just marking up thoughts and ideas for later works and concentrating on honing the important components for at least a “Book One”.
It’ll be another sci-fi/fantasy/action and adventure mashup with possibly a tiny dash of UF just for the hell of it… Crazy? Maybe, but my objectives have and always will be to try to create stories that are a little bit off the beaten track!
Anyway, I also promised an update on how my pricing programme was progressing. Well at the moment, my jury is still out. Firebird does seem to be ticking over slightly more regularly at its price of 99c and Thunder is also selling the odd copy at my old base price. Recent weeks have seen a very slight upturn, but that might just be a seasonal effect. I’ll keep you posted as the months roll by.
To be honest, I’m way past thinking my books will ever earn me more than the odd pound or two and I’m genuinely excited and honoured whenever I see that someone has taken a punt to give one of them a go. And at least with slow sales I’m not under any pressure to pump out the next one!
I’m pleased to report that I’ve had a very encouraging couple of weeks. Out of the blue, several very nice people have sent me messages of support for my writing which, beyond the selfish pleasure I derive from playing with words on my own, makes it all feel worthwhile…
It’s therefore the ideal time to put some concerted effort into my next project…
For me, a story-idea begins as a base premise, usually comprising of one or possibly two central themes. I churn these concepts in the back of my mind, usually over several years, until one or more of them take root and start to blossom into potential story-lines. At this point, characters have usually started to appear though, in these early stages, they are mostly only vague wire-frames of what they might become. As an aside, I’m currently juggling about half-a-dozen, variously well developed, concepts in the dark and dank corners of my mind.
What seems to happen next is that, toward the point when I’m finishing one manuscript, I start to down-select the next most personally interesting theme. I discovered a while back that my levels of personal-motivation are critical to me actually finishing a novel-length story. In other words, I have to be excited by something for it to get done. Let’s face it: there’re enough burdensome tasks in life so writing – at least for me – needs to be fun!
The new theme then becomes subject to more detailed scrutiny and testing; during which I’ll try to imagine important individual scenes in more detail, start to flesh-out the main characters and begin to define any supporting cast. This then leads to two things, which I seem to do in parallel: character biographies and story-boarding.
Character Bio’s were an area of weakness when I wrote Firebird so, for Thunder, I developed a more extensive single-spreadsheet based system to capture and develop the key characteristics for each player. Along the columns I list the characters, along the rows I list key attributes (eye colour, hair colour, physique, attitude, penchant for getting themselves killed, etcetera). I found this tool provided two benefits: it showed up any key gaps where detail was missing and it also made for easy reference when writing and thereby helped to maintain consistency and avoid silly mistakes. Unlike some writers, I don’t bind myself down, nor my characters, by trying to plan out every last nuance of personality for them straight away. Rather, I let myself get to know the characters during the writing and am prepared – cautiously – to fine-tune aspects of their behaviours, or sometimes even role, downstream.
For my storyboards, I use a couple of A1-sized flip-charts which are hanging on the wall of my workroom. I write up ideas – scenes, characters, hook-lines, names, and anything else that pops up into my mind – on post-it notes and then stick them randomly on one of the charts. This is my “idea pool” for the novel and it usually gets added to right through to the end of drafting. Unused ideas are noted at the end of the process and saved for later projects. On the second flip-chart, I use tiny post-its to build up swimming lanes – often by main character – of key scenes and staging points from front to back of the story. Initially, these are usually very high level with only one or two signposts along the way then, as I start to draft, I fill in the gaps, cross-overs and interlinks. The great thing about using post-its is that you can reshuffle as you go – useful if you need to make a change or if you come up with a new and interesting dynamic during the draft. This kind of storyboarding helps me to avoid plot-holes and any huge leaps or disjoints between diverse – or even chronological – sections. It also seems to help develop a more constant pacing and balance throughout a longer manuscript.
These two processes are what I’m in the middle of for my next book and, as per the title of this post, it’s time for me to get cracking with them! But, having read my ramblings, what about you? I’d love to hear if you’ve got any tricks or tips for Character Bio’s or Storyboarding that you would recommend? Now is the perfect time for me to find out about them!
I watch as a strong gust of wind billows amongst the trunks of the watching trees, curving between their crowding trunks, snatching up fine dust from the bone-dry earth and dragging it into wispy translucent ribbons which curl and twist around the clearing.
“A storm is coming,” says Ace, from the midst of these vapourous streamers.
“I’m already here,” I reply. “Time to play.”
Initially I found editing laborious and unpleasant, but on reflection – given how long it takes to craft a draft novel – it’s well worth spending the time and running a fine-toothed comb through anything you write.
For me, the hardest part of this process is leaving it to ‘settle’. By this I mean, putting the work away for long enough that you can come back to it with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’. For Thunder, the settling period has been just over four months. For a shorter work, like this post, it might only be a day or so.
Anyway, to the subject of this post, I set up a playlist whilst I was writing Thunder. Mood music, if you like. I found it helpful. Music is very important to me. It seems to entertain my muse and open up my imagination. I started with a few songs, then added items as the weeks went by and now, of course, I’ve got it playing in the background while I edit.
The final list has eighty-four songs on it, so I’m not going to post them all here! Some are quite popular, some more obscure, and here are the YouTube links to five of my current favourites, in case you’re interested in sampling a musical flavour of what’s coming in the book (don’t forget to skip the ads!)…
No One by Maja Keuc (live performance from the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest Finals).
[AB: A Eurovision song… I know…! Nonetheless, it’s a brilliant tune which builds dramatic tension through to an awesome conclusion…]
The Only Hope For Me Is You by My Chemical Romance.
[AB: I especially like the gothic-opening followed by classic MCR, creative, thump-rock, heartbeat-lifting, guitar-pounding energy and – of course – an uplifting, glorious, lyric…]
The Running Free by Coheed & Cambria
[AB: I have to blame a couple of ‘youngsters’ for introducing me to the whacky world of Coheed and Cambria. This is classic rock at its very best… And, what a hook…!]
World’s On Fire by The Prodigy
[AB: Thunder is, at times, an angry book. This track spent quite some time on repeat play…]
And finally, something completely different:
O Mio Babbino Caro by Giacomo Puccini (this version sung by Angela Gheorghiu)
[AB: This is one of my favourite operatic pieces. Simply beautiful… :'( ]
A small but serious post-script: I listen to legitimate copies of these tunes and am sharing these links only in the hope that it supports the promotional interests of the artists involved (Mr.Puccini excepted). Please support fellow artists by avoiding file-shares and other forms of piracy… Thanks. AB.
That’ll be me…
Yes, I’m back from my holidays. Two weeks of unbroken sunshine, twenty-eight degree heat (Celsius, of course), and a nice constant breeze. Perfect for someone like me, who only has two skin colours: red and white.
I went back to the Canary Islands this year – a crazy collection of Atlantic-bound rocks, located just off the western shores of Africa, and dominated by volcanic landscapes and often whacky architecture. We selected it as good weather is almost always guaranteed, all year round, and importantly because for Europeans it’s an affordable destination. As holidays go, it wasn’t the cultural delight of last year, but nonetheless it was good to chill-ax for a while.
It was a bit of an odd couple of weeks from a creative perspective. Compared to last year, not much drafting got done – I guess because I’m still working on the characters and storyboard for book three – but I did (unexpectedly) end up writing a possible first few pages for Thunder’s sequel (where did they come from!), come up with some nice plot-line components for the next novel, and even added some flesh to my outlines for a possible Firebird sequel. So, overall, I’m quite pleased with what I achieved.
So what’s next? Well, it’s time to see if I can get Firebird onto the Apple iBookstore and, after that, I will revisit Thunder and start preparing for publication. Lots to do! I just need to top up my hot-water bottle, and then I’ll get started…
I’m back from Finland and am pleased to report that the small amount of swimming undertaken this year was done by choice, and not by accident. The main event of the week – Tomato Carnival – was… interesting. I’ve included a picture, so you can see that I’m not making it up! To be honest, it seemed like it was a good excuse for a big party, with all of the town invited, much drinking, much dancing and some very long hangovers… So, all in all, it seemed to me like a very good thing to do at least once per year! Thanks to everyone I met while I was there. You always make me feel so very welcome.
Unfortunately, it’s also raining over there – 2012 is providing an equally miserable summer across the Nordic countries – but at least that meant I was able to have a serious crack at the 3D artwork for Thunder’s cover.
I think I might be starting to slowly get the hang of three dimensional rendering. The new book’s icon is built up of a half-dozen separate components, each individually drawn, and then rendered into 3D and assembled into one composite. The overall design follows Firebird’s template for continuity. The icon is designed to draw upon various elements from the storyline.
So, after countless iterations of size, shade, finish, angle and lighting, I think this is the version I’m happiest with.
I’d love to hear what you think about it!