Work in progress

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This is a quick post to share an update on my current work in progress. Since the start of 2019 I’ve been working on establishing writing as a regular habit in my daily life. I had to unlearn a lot of bad habits and change my paradigm (yeah, I know how that sounds). Looking back over the year as it comes to towards its close, I’m really pleased with what I’ve achieved.

My current work in progress is the relaunch of StoryMechs, my fiction writing project where readers vote on how the story should continue. My aim is to run the project via Patreon with a variety of subscription levels and related perks. The focus is on enjoying the writing and sharing the stories, but I’d like to earn a few dollars too!

I’m currently running a playtest with a group of previous Tweet RPG / StoryMechs players, and hope to gain some useful insights from their feedback. I’m considering launching the Patreon page in earnest in Jan 2019, but I’m yet to set that in stone in my plan.

I’m really happy to be writing again, and I’m finding real joy in it. Click here if you’d like to find out more about StoryMechs

Guess who’s back…

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It’s been over TWO YEARS since I’ve posted on here. In fact, it’s been two years since I’ve done any proper writing. Lots has happened over that time. I’ve moved into a new career, become a father to a beautiful little daughter, lost more hair and gained a beard! 

It has been a busy time, with work and parenthood taking up a considerable amount of my focus. However, I’ve been making excuses for long enough. I intend carve out some time on a regular basis to write, even if it’s just a couple of times a week.

To ease myself back in, I plan to run an interactive narrative via my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/sjrauthor). It’s a story I had prepared for my StoryMechs project. It needs some tightening up and dusting off – a two-year hiatus will inevitably provide a good editing insight!

I’ll post the story prologue on here soon, and also a schedule for when and how you can get involved. Thanks for reading!

CrowdKill – short story

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/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/36e/69654906/files/2015/01/img_1765.jpgSerge blinked as the rough hessian blindfold was tugged away from his eyes. His heart hammered in his chest, plummeling away against his ribcage. His eyes darted around the jagged rocky cavern. Mining gear lay strewn around, large claw-like plasma cutters, disintigration bins, and thick rolls of cable. Lighting blocks punched into the rocks above shone harshly, giving the kind of illumination that cultivates an ache behind the eyes.

A hand shoved him forward. Serge stumbled, almost falling. Gruff laughter issued around him. Serge recognised a couple of faces. A man wearing a black cap and dark glasses; he was the pilot. The squat-looking woman in a faded red shirt; Serge was sure she was the one who thrust the blindfold onto his head. They, and all their companions, bristled with weaponry; hand guns, pulsers, assault rifles. They looked like they knew how to use them.

Serge stood motionless as a tripod was set up opposite him, a camera attached to it, the lens peering greedily at him.

The crowd stepped apart as a tall bearded man entered the cavern. He walked up to Serge, eying him with contempt. He uttered something in a language Serge didn’t understand, drawing out a few dry chuckles from the observers.

Serge cleared his throat.

“I… I don’t understand…”

The man burst into hearty laughter, clapping Serge on the shoulder, causing him to flinch away.

“Just play, just fun,” the bearded man said in broken English. “My name Beerik. You?”

“Serge. Serge Lillian.”

Beerik gestured with a flick of his head. Two of the militants moved into the darkness at the edge of the room, picking up a dark bundle between them.

“Big money,” said Beerik. “Big money for this.”

“Yes, lots of money,” said Serge.

The militants dragged the bundle closer. As they entered the light, Serge could see that it was a man, a skeletal figure clad in a stained orange smock.

Serge let himself be positioned beside the man in the smock. He felt giddy; could he do this? He glanced at the man beside him. His face was gaunt, eyes sunken into hollows. Serge pressed down the faint shred of pity he felt for him, rolling a deep wave over anger over it. Anger for his father. Anger for East Tarra. Anger for the fires and the death.

Beerik reached inside his jacket and removed a crumpled sheet of paper and a black balaclava.

“You ready, Serge Lillian?”

Serge pulled the balaclava over his head.

“I’m ready.”

The man in the smock was made to kneel. The light began to blink on the camera. Showtime.

“Greetings to the faithful brothers and sisters of the Dyon Nation,” Serge began, reading from the crumpled script. “Though we are scattered by oppression, our strength remains.

“Today, the Dyon Liberation Army brings its enemies a sign of our resolve. Today, we bring you a judgement. For crimes against the Dyon Nation, a price of recompense must be paid.”

The man in the smock shivers and shakes uncontrollably, fear etched on his face.

“It is my honour as a proud benefactor to carry out this act of righteous justice.” Serge’s voice swells with determination. “I, like many others, have chosen to share my wealth with the cause of my people. Together, we will build the means of our liberation.”

One of the militants, also disguised by a balaclava, steps into shot and hands Serge a blade.

“It is my honour to be chosen in recognition of my patronage.”

Steadying his hand, Serge positions the blade at the man’s neck.

“It is my honour to fulfil this reward.”

Banker who financed 9/11 mastermind now funding terrorists in Syria and Iraq – The Telegraph

Who’s Funding ISIS? Wealthy Gulf ‘Angel Investors,’ Officials Say – NBC News

Get a FREE copy of Resolutions!

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Resolutions cover - Final - 02082014As it’s the festive season, and my birthday on Dec 14th, I thought I’d offer you all a special Christmas gift. My science fiction short story collection, Resolutions, is available for free from Smashwords until Dec 15th.

Here’s what readers have said about Resolutions:

“Some great thought provoking reads that showcase a great writer… really nicely written and formatted with believable characters and tight descriptive writing.”

“Some excellent twists and great use of language… highly recommended read.”

How do you claim your free copy?

  1.  Visit the Resolutions page on Smashwords
  2.  Use the code ‘FH86F’ at the checkout to a 100% discount.

Offer ends on Dec 15th – don’t miss out!

Five Questions for Authors – Jonathon Fletcher

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Author JPEGHow did you begin writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote?

I guess I’ve always dabbled with writing. I started to take it more seriously when working on film scripts while completing my Media Production degree in the North East. That was where I began to learn about structure, pacing and the nuts and bolts of how to write a story. I continued to learn when I worked in the animation industry. You can’t work with scripts and story-boards on a daily basis without picking up a thing or two.

The first thing that I wrote with the intention of publishing was the novelisation of my degree film “Unity” which will become the second book in the Unity series. That was where I really learned how to write a novel rather than a film script. It’s quite a different process and took me some time. When it came to publishing I realised that book was too weighty to be my first foray into self publishing. That’s how the Josiah Trenchard novellas came about. They have done pretty well and I’ve only recently published Unity book one, so the first thing that I wrote is actually the most recently published.

What have you written which makes you most proud?

Out of all my books so far I think I’m most proud of Josiah Trenchard part five: Belatu-Cadros. It’s a prequel and fills in the blanks about Captain Trenchard’s history. Out of all the books it’s the most well developed. It starts from when Trenchard is a child and follows his life right up to the events of the “Might of Fortitude”. It’s a “right of passage” novel and has a certain hero creation element to it. It’s probably the most stand alone book that I’ve written. I generally write episodes that fit into a longer story arc. Belatu-Cadros has a definitive beginning and end.

Do you have a particular process or approach to writing?

I have the storyline mapped out for the whole Space Navy series on the wall at home. I know where it’s heading and what happened in the past. Each book is a snapshot of a tiny section of that story arc. I know well beforehand what I want to do with each book. I start with the basic storyline and then expand that onto coloured post-it notes which I stick to the wall and rearranged as the story develops. Each colour represents a different character or thread to the story. When I’m happy with the whole thing the post-its become typed up into a Word document and each two or three will become a chapter of the book. I try to keep each chapter short, around three to four thousand words. It’s then just a case of filling in the blanks. I like to do my editing before I write as much as possible. That way none of my effort is wasted.

Once the first draft is finished I read it to my wife, who is a teacher. At that point she makes general comments on the story and characters. She won’t let anything past that is out of character or doesn’t make sense. She’s very good at spotting something that doesn’t work. Then I edit the book as per her comments. Finally, she will read the whole book back to me so that I can listen to it as if it were an audio-book. That allows me to submerge myself in the characters and dialogue while she performs a fantastic job as proof reader and editor.

Do you have a current project you’re working on or promoting?

I’m working on a print version of the first four Josiah Trenchard novellas using Createspace. It’s the first time I’ve done that, so it’s taking some learning on my part. I’m also writing Josiah Trenchard part six “Arkhangelsk”. This will see the Might of Fortitude take place in a convoy as an escort to merchant vessels taking supplies into a war zone. There will be a hell of a space battle and the return of some old friends and some old foes.

What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

At a very simple level I want to entertain people. I want the reader to have as much fun reading these books as I did writing them. In essence, I write these books to make myself happy. They’re not to everyone’s taste. There’s lots of violence and swearing, but then again there are comedic moments, action, adventure, love… I’m trying to get as close to a television series in book form as I can manage. Each book is like an episode with its own story but elements that link into the whole. I hope my readers put the book down and think “Well that answered those questions, but I didn’t see THAT coming! I wonder where he’s going to next?” I have the whole of space to play with. That’s why I love sci-fi. You can pretty much go anywhere and do anything. I don’t know any other genre in which you can do the same. Lock and load, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJon Fletcher was born and brought up near Stockport, England. After studying Art & Design at school, he went on to complete a Foundation course in Art at Stockport College and then completed three years as a film student in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. He graduated after making a short science fiction film entitled “Unity”. After leaving the North-East he became a prop maker, set builder and art director working at Cosgrove Hall Films in Chorlton-Cum-Hardy and then Hot Animation in Altrincham. He worked on several shows that included “Brambly Hedge”, “Lavender Castle”, “Rocky and the Dodos” and the first fourteen series of “Bob the Builder”. He finally opted for the good life, became a professional gardener and married Louise, who was the only one that would put up with his nonsense. He is now working as a gardener in the beautiful Northumberland countryside. The one thing that has remained constant throughout is his love for science fiction and for writing. This has reached its conclusion in the writing of the “Josiah Trenchard” and “Unity” book series, based on the idea for his short film.

https://sites.google.com/site/unitynovels/

Sam’s Movie Marathon 2014!

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IMG_1688.JPGIt’s become an annual tradition that around the time of my birthday my friends and I complete another movie marathon. So far, we have watched: all six Star Wars movies, the extended Lord of the Rings movies, and the Christopher Nolan Batman movies.

This year, we will be viewing the Matt Damon ‘Bourne’ movies in one sitting. Not the most extensive session, as they all clock in at around two hours running time (six hours total), but they’re great movies so who cares?

The plan is to watch the movies on Saturday 13th December. You can join the marathon virtually if you like, and keep in touch with some live tweeting. Here’s the intended viewing schedule (UK time):

2.30pm – The Bourne Identity
5.00pm – The Bourne Supremacy
7.30pm – The Bourne Ultimatum

I’ll need suggestions for next years marathon – post your ideas in the comments below!

Five Questions for Authors – Rayne Hall

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RayneHall - Fantasy Horror Author - reduced size Portrait  by FawnheartHow did you begin writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote?

I’m not sure if this was the first piece I wrote, but it’s the first I remember writing. This came about when I was about six. I had learnt to read and write when I was four, so the stories in the school book post no challenge. I read them all in one day, and was bored when we had to read them in class and as homework.

I told the teacher that the stories in the school book were stupid and I could write better ones. She challenged me to write a story, and gave me the topic: a letter’s adventures from writing to delivery. When I handed it in, she was startled that a six-year-old could write so well. Of course, she didn’t know I’d had the help of my older sister.

From then on, when she told the rest of the class to read one of the school book stories as homework, she often assigned me to write stories. Soon I learnt to do it without my sister’s help, and enjoyed it very much.

What have you written which makes you the most proud?

There are many pieces of which I’m proud. If I have to name just one, then I’ll say Storm Dancer. I’ve recently re-read this dark epic fantasy novel, and it held me enthralled, even though I’d written it myself and knew what would happen.

Do you have a particular process or approach when writing?

I enjoy writing early drafts by hand with coloured gel pens in lined hardback notebooks, but I do the bulk of the work on my computer. I alternate between letting my creativity flow with freewriting sessions and structured approaches such as checklists and worksheets. I rewrite and revise a lot, and I seek critiques from other writers.

Do you have a current project you’re working on or promoting?

I always have several projects under way, a major one – usually a non-fiction book or a novel – and several smaller ones, such as articles and short stories. This way, if I feel blocked with one project, I can switch to another one for a while.

My current main project is another book in the Writer’s Craft series, titled Writing Vivid Settings.

Other works in progress include a sequel to Storm Dancer and several horror stories.

With around sixty published books, there’s always something to promote. Right now, the focus of my promotions is the Writer’s Craft series: Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Magic, Writing About Villains, The Word-Loss Diet, Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels, Twitter for Writers, Writing Dark Stories, Why Does My Book Not Sell? Twenty Simple Fixes.

Among the fiction books, I’m mostly promoting Thirty Scary Tales which is available as a paperback and ebook.

What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

With my fiction, I like to entertain readers and make them think at the same time, inviting them to see new perspectives and reconsider their values. Many of my stories explore the boundaries between good and evil which are not always clear, especially when prejudice and hypocrisy come into play. I also want to show how we are not responsible for what fate deals us – but we are responsible for how we deal with our fate.

My aim with the Writer’s Craft series is to help writers become the best authors they can possibly be.

There are a lot of books and courses available at for novices, but once a writer has progressed beyond the basics, instruction is hard to find. At advanced level, there’s little guidance available for aspiring professional authors who seek to improve their mastery of the craft. I aim to fill that gap with practical books teaching professional techniques.


STORM DANCER Rayne Hall cover  11Jan13 reducedRayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. She is the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series and editor of the Ten Tales anthologies.

She is a trained publishing manager, holds a masters degree in Creative Writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for over thirty years.

Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat shelter. Sulu likes to lie on the desk and snuggle into Rayne’s arms when she’s writing.

You can follow here on Twitter http://twitter.com/RayneHall where she posts advice for writers, funny cartoons and cute pictures of her cat.

Review – Interstellar

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IMG_1658.JPGI had heard predominantly positive feedback about Interstellar, but I wouldn’t have needed any encouragement to see it as Christopher Nolan is one of my favourite directors and storytellers.

Minor criticisms first: the plot could be seen as quite farfetched, especially towards the latter parts of the movie, but it’s easy to forget that this is a science ‘fiction’ story, dealing with theoretical subjects. Aspects of it may be grounded in science ‘fact’, but I think each individuals’ ability to suspend disbelief plays a large role in being immersed in the story.

My other criticism is more of a difference of belief. Interstellar champions the view that the redemption of the human race is within the grasp of humanity themselves. I disagree with this and believe that redemption lies solely within the power of an almighty God, who is outside of the constraints of time and space.

Those things said, Interstellar is a fantastic movie. It is a majestic and colossal visual experience, with a score that swells climatically but also communicates dread and tension as well. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t see it in IMAX, but I may have melted in awe!

The main strength of the movie is the relationships portrayed between the central characters. This is the kind of ‘relationships and spaceships’ story I aspire to tell, where people are what drives the plot. The father/daughter bond ties the movie together and could be its strongest facet due to the performances from Matthew McConaughey, Mackenzie Foy, and Jessica Chastain. There’s a vein of regret and loss that runs throughout the story, and I think it’s hard not to be moved by it.

So, to sum up; go and watch Interstellar. Even though there are some weaker moments, the overall magnificence of the movie far outweighs any negatives.

Let me know what you thought of Interstellar by commenting below!

Time to write!

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IMG_1471.JPG I’ve been taking some time to plan a strategy for my writing, working on setting long-term goals as well as how I’m going to structure my regular writing sessions as part of my weekly routine. One of my main objectives, which crosses over the boundary between long-term and ongoing, is to write my first novel. The big question is, what do I write?

My plan for awhile has been to convert my short story Beyond Thought, part of my Resolutions collection, into a full-length narrative. I’ve started doing some planning, and have a good idea of the characters, plot, and setting. However, with the limited time I have to write at the moment, I’ve rediscovered another story that will work better as my first novel.

Time to Die is the narrative I will be working on in the coming months, drafting a novel based on this idea. Once again, this story began has one of short stories from Resolutions, Only Time Will Tell. I’ve already converted this story once before, running it as an interactive adventure via my StoryMechs project. This adventure was run whilst the project was still known Tweet RPG.

The beauty of using Time to Die as my novel template is that I already have a plot structure developed in the form of my game plan of the interactive adventure. This also contains unused content which was bypassed by the players, offering me options for extending or altering the narrative.

Want to know more about Time to Die? You can review the Tweet RPG adventure here, or purchase the Resolutions collection to read the original story.

Five Questions for Authors – Richard Holliday

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481351_10152410004100398_443573859_n - BW SmallThis post is the first in a series of interviews I’m conducting with authors. The idea is to ask the same five questions to a variety of authors and see what different kinds of responses are given. Hopefully it will offer authors the chance to introduce themselves and their work, and to also share some tips, hints, and experiences related to writing. Starting us off, my pal Richard Holliday!

How did you begin writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote?

I sporadically wrote during high school as a means of passing time, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I finally took it “seriously”. At school, I never really felt I had a proper creative outlet – I’m not sporty, a particularly competent artist nor can I play a musical instrument more complex than a triangle – but getting into creative writing has definitely reassured me that my imagination does have an outlet.

There’s a little bit of backstory between my first actual piece and my first proper piece, though the latter would not exist without the former. In 2001 I was in English class studying the Titanic disaster; being a history buff on this subject for some years prior, I loved this topic and I wrote a piece of historical fiction based loosely around it (The story was ostensibly about the ship more than the people on it; a trait I probably maintain to this day). It was the longest thing I’d ever written (I was 11) at 10 sides of A4. I handed the story to my English teacher, who was a little confused but gave it the once-over – I got it back with an A+. I still have the original marked copy and Word document somewhere but I’m far too self-conscious (about the quality and, to a lesser extent, the niche subject matter) to read it, let alone post it online! But it was certainly a learning experience of unusual stead!

Later on I mulled over writing again and took part in National Novel Writing Month 2009 and churned out a 50,000 word manuscript for an alternate history adventure story that I want to revisit, but feel my skills at the moment won’t do justice to the story I want to tell; more successfully, the 2010 NaNoWriMo event was more successful, and I took a lot of lessons from the previous year and eventually produced my first proper finished novel Colonisation, which I’m redrafting. Definitely it was those two frenetic months of non-stop writing that cemented in my mind that I had an actual talent and should pursue it, though I’ve not done NaNoWriMo since 2011.

What have you written which makes you the most proud?

A few of my projects stand out to me as particularly good but one feels especially worthy at the time of writing, and that’s my post-apocalyptic short story The Cloud. This was my first venture into the genre and I really think I did a great job with it; I really enjoyed building up the ominous atmosphere of the dead city and showing the plight of the protagonist as he attempts to escape. I really love world-building and setting the scene in which a story takes place. My approach is to paint a picture in the reader’s mind as if they’re “watching” the story in a cinema. Plus, going back to The Cloud, I had some really great comments from some influential people who took the time to read my work and give me feedback which buoyed my self-esteem. The Cloud is the first piece of work I’ve deemed worthy of submission and the first short story of mine that I’d consider (and am planning) expanding into a full-blown novel.

It’s hard to really pin down specific works as I’m proud of all of my work, even if in certain circumstances the piece in question doesn’t quite execute the concept I was going for quite right as that puts that piece down as a valuable learning experience. I’d like to think that the work on my website shows a clear progression of my abilities as both a writer and in terms of grasping new concepts and running with them, to varying degrees of success. Certainly I have favourites, but if I can’t be proud of my work, why should people be proud to read it?

Do you have a particular process or approach when writing?

In terms of workflow, I’ve developed an amusingly-anachronistic approach. I work on my drafts in Scrivener, which is a wonderful program designed for writers that I feel helps a great deal in terms of getting out of the way when it comes to writing and supporting me when it comes to important structural stuff. Once I have a draft, I literally print it out and work on annotating a hard copy in red ink pen. It’s amazing how the “disconnect”, as it were, by reading the work on paper helps me to see it from a different angle and scribble all over it. One problem I’ve encountered so far, especially when it comes to my full-length novel Colonisation which I’ve been editing for ages this way, is getting the marked up pages back into a digital realm. I’m a pretty hard-going tech geek so, funnily enough, I find solving these problems part of the fun of writing!

Sometimes the hardest part is getting in the chair and putting one finger in front of the other. I usually try to aim for relatively low word count sessions fairly often, between 300-500 words a day. I’ve recently been trying to adopt the Pomodoro technique of work sessions broken up by very short breaks. Of course, when inspiration strikes at 4AM, this can be a little hard to manage so it’s best to just go with the inspirational flow while it lasts!

Do you have a current project you’re working on or promoting?

I’m keeping myself rather busy at the moment! There’s a couple of projects on the back burner as it were; I’m still editing my novel Colonisation that I released briefly in 2013 on the back of some useful feedback for an eventual re-release on Kindle. I’m working on an expanded release of my short story collection Rememories, which is a compilation of all of my short story work from 2013 in an edited and enhanced form. After seeing your success with releasing Resolutions on Smashwords I’m eager to take some lessons away when Rememories hits Smashwords in early 2015 and really get my work out there as best as possible. I’m also pretty active in writing some new short stories and I’m hoping to have at least a couple new entries to my list before the end of the year!

Interestingly, I’m also writing my first short film! My script is titled Doors and is a science-fiction/psychological horror set in the near future where one man is invited to test a new piece of wearable technology. Unfortunately, some of the side-effects are agonising visions that only he can see… until they transcend into reality itself. I know a couple of independent filmmakers as friends and they’re mentoring me on the script side of things and are also looking to put Doors into production sometime in 2015. I’ve already had some good feedback on the script so far and it’s a really cool way of developing as a really versatile writer.

What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

I’d like to continue developing my skills with my writing; I really do believe it’s a journey of continual improvement. Definitely, part of the journey of being a great writer is being a great reader and if I get to experience some really good work I otherwise wouldn’t have then that’s a success. Generally, I want to give people some good stories to get involved in and care about first and foremost – what’s the point of doing this if no-one is enjoying it? In the medium term I want to work on building a network of fellow writers to get my work out there and get a profile. I’ve had a bit of an underlying goal that’ll tell me that I’m where I want to be: I’d like for one person to honestly say that I am their favourite writer. That may sound egocentric but it would be incredibly awesome if that was the case!

Richard Holliday is a writer from South London. His main areas are epic space operas, gritty cyberpunk and atmospheric post-apocalyptic. A fan of an eclectic mix of 70s prog-rock concept albums, naff 80s Doctor Who and fizzy drinks. He’s currently embarking on an English Literature and Creative Writing degree with the Open University.

Website – http://richardholliday.co.uk/

Facebook – http://facebook.com/richardhollidayauthor

Twitter – http://twitter.com/rjpholliday