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!

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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.

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

The end is nigh: my launch plan for Resolutions

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800px-BookshelfThe time has almost arrived for Resolutions, my science fiction short story collection, to hit digital bookshelves. I don’t want to be too specific at this point, as a spanner could easily enter the works, but I am hoping to have the collection available to purchase and download by the end of next week (Friday 26th Sept). I’ve never electronically published a book before, so there could be some unknown hurdles still in my pathway, but I’ll keep you posted if there is a delay.

I’ve tried to be methodical with the preparations for publishing, and thought you might find it interesting and useful to see my plan for how I have gone about this.

Phase one – create content

Draft text meta-data – anything that the retail site(s) need to create a profile for your texts, generally a short description, an optional long description, and content tags. Follow guidelines precisely (character limits, etc) and take advantage of the opportunity to sell the product.

Draft launch blog post – this will be the foundation of the promotion, as it’s the place where the most data can be shared about the text. Make sure to include (and make prominent) links to the retailer(s) where the text can be purchased, a clear description of the text (can be reworked from meta-data), and a call for readers to feedback on their experience of the text in a variety of ways.

Draft press release – this will be useful to send out to any mailing lists you have for supporters or other contacts (work, church, hobbies, etc), and for any relevant media contacts who might be willing to promote your text. For a guide to creating an effective press release, see the free Smashwords Marketing Guide.

Draft social media content – don’t assume you’ll know exactly what to say on the day. You’ll have various links that you’ll be wanting to drive traffic towards (retail sites, your blog, launch reviews, etc) and you need a plan for how to manage these links. You’ll also have a variety of networks to utilise (Facebook, Twitter, email, message boards, etc) which all demand a specific method of engagement. One size doesn’t fit all so work on the style, timing, and frequency of messages.

Phase two – publish!

Upload your text – even if this isn’t your first time publishing online, block out some time to get your text uploaded. Who knows what kinds of technical gremlins will pop up at this point, so it’s good to have some time to deal with them. If possible, ‘soft launch’ your text prior to full promotion, so that you can test that everything works as it should.

Phase three – promote!

Change your online profiles – add the appropriate links to your text, upload any promotional images you may have. Don’t forget the simple updates like your email signature!

Send promotional/supporter emails.

Put your social media plan into action.

Phase four – PROMOTE!!!

Once you are certain that the process of purchasing your text is working smoothly and buzz from your initial launch has died down (even if it is a small buzz with just a few sales and reviews), work on innovative ways to promote your text. Here are some ideas:

  • Write a blog post detailing all the ways you can obtain and read the text – some supporters may not have the technical understanding how to use the retailer sites you’ve chosen, so guide them on how to do this.
  • Organise ‘interview swaps’ with other authors
  • Arrange a competition to drive sales – source a tasty prize, write an engaging press release, draft the rules of your competition
  • Plan a discount promotion – or give your text away for free for a limited time

I hope these tips are helpful – I’m currently at the end of phase one, not long to go now! If you have any suggestions of your own, questions about my plan, or if you downright disagree with my ideas (you’re allowed to!), please comment below.

Reposted: My interview with David J Pedersen

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20140811-144005-52805597.jpgThis interview was first published in February 2012, on my old blog.

Tell us a little bit about yourself e.g. where you live, family, occupation, favourite type of breakfast cereal etc!

I was born in Racine, Wisconsin and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve worked in sales, management and IT – which means I’m not good at anything but I can make a mess in lots of different places. My lovely wife and editor, Angie Pedersen, is a published author of three books about Scrapbooking. I have a 14 year old daughter and an 18 year old son. Right now I’m trying the paleo diet, so all cereal sounds really good!

How long have you been writing and what first inspired you to pick up the pen?

I’ve been writing stories since I was in grade school, and got the bug to write a novel in High School – but was never patient enough to do it. I’m not sure what finally made me turn the corner, if it was too much time in corporate America, or that I was finally mature enough to wait for the microwave to count all the way down to zero. Either way I’m glad I finally did start because I can’t seem to stop and I’ve got a lot of story to tell.

I see you’ve written a novel called ‘Angst’ – let’s hear the sales pitch for it!

Angst is a story about midlife crisis in medieval times. After turning 40 Angst believes that any chance of his dreams coming true are gone. He is an overweight, paper-pushing, magic-wielder. Magic is mostly illegal and because of this he is stuck in a thankless job. His friends have drifted apart, his marriage is on the rocks, and the only person who seems to care is the teenage princess Victoria. They have become the best of friends, which upsets his wife, and makes things worse with his boss, the Queen. Angst believes that if he had just been allowed to become a knight everything would have turned out better.

The world around Angst is tumbling into chaos. Once extinct magical creatures have begun to appear, they are invulnerable and they are hungry. After pulling the proverbial “sword from the stone,” an ancient sword so large people thought it was a statue, Angst discovers he can use it to kill these monsters. To rid herself of Angst, the Queen offers him what he wants the most, a title, possibly even knighthood. All he has to do is find the source of magical creatures. Angst uses this mission as a means to force his friends to accompany him, in hopes that it will pull them close together again. Unfortunately they don’t know how much danger they will be facing. While his friends may be too old and out of shape to be fighting monsters, Angst is driven to succeed so he can become a knight.

One of the great things about this novel is that it isn’t that traditional fantasy story of ‘a young man or woman filled with potential and seeking the path of greatness’. Angst is a guy who never found that path in his youth and has spent his life wondering why he never got the chance. When the chance is finally thrust on him, he finds that the grass isn’t necessarily greener.

Do you consider your work to be in any way autobiographical – i.e. are you facing the same mid-life crisis that plagues your protagonist?

One of my best friends from High School said reading the book was like spending an evening talking to me. While I’m not Angst, and most of the characters aren’t exact duplicates of friends and family, there are certainly more than a few similarities. I have tried to follow Mark Twain’s great advice to “write what you know.” As for a mid-life crisis, I guess it depends on who you ask. I will say that if going on adventures while being surrounded by attractive young women means I’m going through a mid-life crisis – then I’m in!

Why did you choose to self-publish rather than follow the traditional route of publishing?

There are lots of reasons I never submitted anything to a traditional publisher. The most important one was retaining control of the story and characters. I have no doubt that a publisher could make my story more sellable, but I know what I want my story to say and really don’t want anything or anyone cut out. For instance, there are things that happen in book 2 that may not be referenced again until book 6 or book 100. I want the flexibility to leave those plot points and characters in place.

I also enjoy the immediate gratification I’ve gotten from self-publishing. Writing your first book isn’t about money. Instead, my goals have been to entertain, write characters that people care about, and create situations that readers can relate to. And I love to hear that I have made someone laugh. I’ve been told that I’ve met many of those goals, and I feel great about it.

How important is social media in the marketing/promotion of your work?

To this point it has been everything. Most of my marketing and promotion has been done through Twitter and my blog. I never thought I’d say this, but I love Twitter. It’s a great way to find an audience, and network with other writers. I’ve met some amazing people and have gotten some great feedback. The interaction is both fun, and really makes me want to write more.

What’s the most challenging aspect of being a writer?

I want my books to be easy to read, entertaining, and relatable while at the same time being clever enough that you don’t always know what is going to happen. Readers who reviewed Angst enjoyed some of the twists and turns of the story. I’m proud of my first book and am striving to make the sequel, Buried in Angst, as good, or better than the first.

Do have a strict writing regime or is your creative process fairly relaxed?

Not really – my schedule is crazy full so I fit writing time in when I can. I try to schedule writing after work 2-3 days a week and feel pretty good if I get one day in — I usually hide at a bookstore with my netbook and throw up a few pages while listening to various soundtracks. Then I’ll edit and rewrite the mess a couple of days later at home in the evenings before handing it off to my wife for editing.

What genres and authors do you enjoy reading?

It’s unfortunate that my reading time is my writing time (and my family time, and my exercise time, etc). I mostly enjoy fantasy and science fiction, but if I don’t have a lot of time to read I’ll pick up a comic book. I’ve really enjoyed DC Comics’ New 52 soft reboot lately.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write! More than anything you need to write. Write lots, write little, write poorly – it doesn’t matter. Every time you write it is like exercising a muscle; your writing will improve and so will the creative process.

David J Pedersen is the author of “Angst”, available on Kindle and Nook, and other reading devices. He regularly blogs at http://gotangst.blogspot.com/