Friday, 25 September 2015

The morning after the promo before.

So did it work?

After running my first paid promo of my writing career, the results are bittersweet (well, mostly sweet but I'm a natural pessimist).

I made my cash back after the first day, and had my highest day of paid sales. The downside? Sales dropped off significantly in the second day (showing that Amazon rankings do a lot less for sales than they used to). I also remember the Binary Man getting a lot higher in the bestseller lists three years ago with significantly less sales. This tells me that it's getting a lot harder to stand out in the over-saturated Kindle market. I'm at least hoping to get a few more reviews from my sales (freebie book readers don't tend to review from my experience). 

Would I do it again? Yes, maybe with another book to see the results in a different genre.

On the writing side (far more interesting to me than promotion) I am very close to completing my first draft of The Devil Has Dry Feet, and have finally reached the stage where the characters are fleshed out enough in my mind to drive the story on by themselves, which is the best part of the writing process. Every session at the keyboard throws up scenes that I hadn't planned and creates a much richer narrative. After it's done I'm going to try and let it sit for a couple of weeks so I can draft it with less familiar eyes, whilst working on a couple of other things

And finally, if you've read one of my stories, please review it on Amazon (my selling platform of choice). I can't stress enough how helpful each and every bit of criticism and praise is, not just for sales but also for nudging me in the right direction.

Have a nice day!

Monday, 17 August 2015

The End


- Imagine a typewriter with changeable font size! -

The End

Ok, the title is a little misleading. I'm not really ending anything (least of all writing... actually least of all overeating, but that's another story) I'm actually beginning something.

When I first self published The Binary Man in 2012 I gave myself the task of having a writing career without any cost to myself, be it on production or promotion. So far I have succeeded, but at a cost (ironically) to my visibility. Due to time constraints, I can't spend as much time on spreading myself through social media as I'd want, and consequently I've not really had much of an impact on the fantabulous world of books.

Blogger is telling me that fantabulous isn't a word, but I'm ignoring it. 

I haven't garnered many bad reviews, which is nice, but my books are hard to find, which isn't. So it's time to bite the bullet and put some of my royalties back into my writing. I'll (hopefully) be running a paid for promotion in the near future to test the waters, starting small (due to innate caution) with The Binary Man. Let's see if we can't crank this writing game up a notch.

In other news, The Devil Has Dry Feet continues to barrel onwards towards first draft completion, after which I'll spread it around some beta readers. While I'm waiting for that to be read and commented on, I'm going to either knock out a short story (I love those little fellas) or get right on with one of the two books that have been gnawing away at the back of my mind like brain rats, forcing me to flesh out their outlines when I should have been working on my current WIP - With My Eyes On The Far Sun (hard sci fi), The Alchemist & The Idiot King (quirky fantasy, more Gaiman than R.R. Martin).


- My inspiration/procrastination working covers -

We're through the looking glass now. It's time to get real. No pain no gain. No socks no shoes. Wish me luck!

PS - Check out the links to the right of my blog (or in the BOOKS section of my main site) for the three US freebies: Just One Day, The Real Thing, and Shred. Currently only Just One Day is free in the UK, apologies. Also check out (and like/follow) facebook.com/jakeprytherch for more tasty updates.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Progress


- Long overdue blog post - 

After a period of partial blackout, I'm finally able to give a couple of nuggets of news (some of which you may have already seen if you follow my facebook page - facebook.com/jakeprytherch). 

My current WIP thriller "The Devil Has Dry Feet" is on a partial second draft stage. I wrote 80% of the first draft before deciding to add elements which add to the strength of the plot but needed including from the outset. After this second draft is done I'll move on to writing the finale, before beginning another round of drafting. I can't give a time frame on completion yet as I've found that life has a way of pulling the rug out from under you, but it's on its way!

In other news, my long/short story A Fresh Start is done and will be released in some form or other in a few weeks (I'm exploring different avenues for release).

Lastly, I'm also working on writing an illustrating a couple of books for my daughters, which is proving to be a light hearted treat!

Ok, that's your lot. Enjoy your summer!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Making things that shouldn't matter not matter.


I was reading a post on an indie author facebook page today in which the author stated that sci-fi was inherently racist and sexist, and while it's a bold statement (and one that has been posed before many times) it may have some truth in it. Or it may not. Allow me to expand on my muddled and ill-thought-out point.

I must admit that I haven't read enough sci-fi to make a firm judgement on that statement, although I will agree that the majority of protagonists in the books that I have read are white males. Is this a reflection on the writers, the society they inhabit (or inhabited as the majority of sci-fi I read seems to be from before the 70's) or the publishers? I have no idea, and it's too damn complicated to go into here.

Well, I'll go into it a bit, and I'll start by looking at my own work.

Of the sci-fi novels I have written (The Binary Man, The Real Thing and Just One Day), all have had white male protagonists, although The Binary Man does effectively have three main characters, with the other two being a woman (Alice Howe) and Japanese by birth (Toshihiro Sato). Looking back on the story I can't recall race ever coming up as anything other than a brief initial description to add a bit of narrative juice (I chose Japan for his birthplace as I have visited the country a few times so can describe it with more confidence than most places, USA included), and Alice's gender only really came to the fore during a couple of minor plot points with Yannick and Mickey, before becoming irrelevant again. It was certainly never a hindrance, although she did require the clich├ęd "saving" by Yannick (but then again everyone did!). I must admit that my default protagonist always seems to be me before branching out (partly because so many of my ideas come from dreams, where I'm me, natch).

I have never considered race to be worth mentioning as a point of difference with regards to characters, and if any of my sci-fi had taken place further into the future then skin colour and birthplace would have been irrelevant anyway. If someone is born on Ganymede would they really have an issue with someone from a certain region of Earth? What if there were generational changes to bodies based on the location of human colonies, such as squat, hairy bodies from high gravity/low temperature worlds, or long gangly hairless bodies from the opposite conditions? Would that cause issues over and above other less drastic racial differences?
Are all races going to mix in the future to create a single skin colour? Maybe, or maybe not, but I would hope that in the face of a six legged insectoid silicon-based millipede, they would consider the human next to them as kin. My children are mixed race and trying to pigeonhole them is pointless (they’re just wonderful people). They play with kids of every culture and race with equal joy, and hopefully they will never learn the idiocy of prejudice.

I hope I’m expressing the point I’m trying to make well enough. Let me use an example: Red Dwarf had two black main characters in Lister and Cat, and it was never mentioned, either positively or negatively. Class was, and economic standing, and these are the things that will most likely endure (as great a shame as that is, and despite Star Trek’s moneyless wishing). Rimmer was born on Titan, which was mentioned, and Lister was born in Liverpool, which was mentioned, but skin colour wasn’t. Craig Charles (Lister) mentions this on the documentary accompanying the episode Dimension Jump.

“It’s a top rated BBC sitcom where two of its leading participants are of colour, and the colour of their skin is never mentioned, race is never an issue. It kind of says that in the future, where once we came from Africa one day we’ll come from everywhere. It’s all just a melting pot, and race won’t be an issue in the future.”

I tend to write dystopia, but having no racial issues is a utopian ideal that I happily put into my books.

With that in mind, I’d like to approach the idea of a protagonist’s gender in the same way, which is why the protagonist in my next sci-fi story is a woman. She is a woman, and this fact is irrelevant. Let me explain, or try to.

The premise of the story is a human one (I won’t go into more details as the plot is still in flux), not a gender specific one, so it makes no difference to make the protagonist a woman. Why do it then? It is most certainly not due to any notion of tokenism, but rather to make me less lazy in my writing. The character was initially a male early forties bodyguard with a beer gut, a colourful vocabulary and cybernetic eyes. None of this needs to change if the protagonist is a woman, but it adds something extra. It’s more interesting, and it’s less stereotypical from both perspectives. I’ve always hated stick-thin big-boobed sex fantasy heroines as much as square jawed ‘complicated’ heroes. How many heroines have you read with a saggy belly? Why would a woman who had been trained for as long as a man be any less capable of being a bodyguard? Ripley from Alien – come on now, she’s mighty, and not a ‘weak-at-the-knees’ romantic sub plot in sight (apart from a few glances between her and Hicks). Proof that going outside of the mould can produce some great results.

So yeah, after all of that rambling I’m no closer to knowing whether there truly is an issue or whether it is a trend, or coincidence, but I’m going to mix it up for its own joy anyway.

Introducing Verna Walden, bodyguard and badass, and heroine of (one of my) WIP. Enjoy!


PS – I know this is a contentious topic, and comments are welcome. Please note that any flippancy is not malicious, and I just love you all.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Small stories and progress


As I mentioned in my last blog post, after around a year of difficult writing and lack of direction I've finally found myself getting things finished, and enjoying the process a lot more.
Here's a list of recent events, including details of freebies.

Two of my books (The Real Thing, Shred) are now permafree on amazon.com as well as on B&N, Itunes etc. Here are the links:

At the moment they still aren't free in the UK, but my fellow Brits can pick them up through Smashwords.


I've also released a short story titled The Pattern Ends. It's loosely horror/metaphysical, a 5,000 word treat for a long lunch break. It's free on Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/536138), and should soon be free on B&N and Itunes. I will work on amazon soon.

I am not releasing these stories for free because I don't value my own work. I recently read through The Real Thing again and really enjoyed looking at it with the fresh eyes of forgetfulness. I'm doing it as a way to draw people into giving my writing a shot who might not have done so otherwise. I know I barely register on the scale of writing, but still hope to one day, so I'm trying to show you lovely people what my writing is about before you decide to part with your money.

My long short story/short novella A Fresh Start will also be released in the not-too-distant future, and I will be releasing it as "pay what you want" through Smashwords as an experiment. Maybe people will pay, maybe they won't. Maybe no one will read it, but I hope they do.

If you like my stories, please consider reviewing them, on whichever site you prefer. A few words of your own in exchange for mine is more than fine by me, as every positive review gets more people interested, and every negative review gives me pointers on how to improve.

I'm currently deep into writing a story that I started last year and drifted away from, but have recently re-discovered (along with an almost complete story plan, always nice). I hope to get it finished within the next three months, and am hopeful that it will be one of the better stories that I have written. It's quite different to my usual genres, so we'll have to wait and see.

As this post is (loosely) about trying new things, I thought I'd leave you with Neil Gaiman's brilliant speech to The London Book Fair in 2013. I think I've shared it before on facebook, but another go won't hurt. The guy is a great human being.


I'm off to be a dandelion.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Art Of Writing Without Writing


First off, I don't have any reason to look as sassy/smug about my writing as Bruce Lee is about his Jeet Kun Do, I just liked the way I could mulch up his quote.

Now that's out of the way, what exactly do I mean by "writing without writing"?

Well, this will all come as little surprise to seasoned writers out there, but I'm still cutting my teeth after only three years of wrestling with books, so it was something of an epiphany for me when I realised that to truly improve in style, and to craft a decent narrative, I had to spend more time not writing.

Whoa, that's cray-cray, you might say!

Nope.

Writing has gotta be 33% thinking, 33% reading, and only 33% getting stuff down. And 1% coffee. 

I used to be a voracious reader (oh yes) before I started writing seriously, but once I'd started I got 'the nerves', and found that no time was enough time. Writing makes me restless, and now that I've taken the plunge I find it hard not to measure anything I do against time-I-could-have-spent-writing. So books went out of the window (not literally, I'm not a monster), as did relaxing. I've lived on my tiptoes for three years, bouncing off walls until I could get down to a screen, and after a while I found that I began to freeze. Where once words were easy (even if they weren't polished) now I couldn't even get a few sentences down without getting 'conga face'.


Whole mornings devoted to writing would produce less than 500 words. I felt like I was flushing my life down the toilet.

So this month I've finally decided to try something different. I've started reading again, sometimes even between 3 and 7 am (the golden hours when the kids are asleep and silence is possible). When I write in isolation, I lose sight of right and wrong. I second guess everything, revising and cutting until there is nothing left but ashes and dust. ASHES AND DUST. By reading the sentence structures of other authors, and analysing plots, I found that I could judge my own work far more easily, and objectively. I also lost the 'first draft fear', and let myself get some stuff down with the view to honing it later, which is a whole lot easier than trying for perfection straight away. It's like crafting a marble statue - you get the vague shape first, you don't go straight for the ball sack. (Disclaimer - I have no idea how to carve a marble statue. And not all of them need ball sacks.)

I've also allowed myself to think of time with my family as a positive for my writing rather than a negative, which is a small thing but it makes a big difference. I love my family dearly, and whenever I was with them and wished I was writing, I would feel guilty for even thinking it. Whenever I was writing and could have been with them, I felt guilty. Whenever I spent an enjoyable day with them and neglected writing, I felt guilty. I basically felt guilty whatever I was doing. Now I use the few seconds when my kids are off on the swings or scooting around the park as a chance to think about my plot, mulling over details and logic until my plot humps iron themselves out. By doing this I have managed to finish a short story that has been on my hard drive for a year. It's vastly different in tone to my original idea, but I like it, and more importantly, it's finished (well, almost. Always room for more drafting). I've also made sure that my mind goes over plots while I'm in the shower or cooking, rather than slipping into stressing about work, or money. Plots I can figure out, life is more of an issue, so lets get some small victories!

By doing all this, I have managed to get above 2000 words a day on a regular basis, which I haven't done since I finished Cuts Of Flesh.

In conclusion, I've devoted less time to writing, and got more done. Win-win.





Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Purge

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and admit you've wasted your time.
It's time for a fresh start!
No, I'm not giving up writing in favour of a career as an ice-cream van man, although I would totally own that role. Instead, I have decided to get some research done on what makes a good kindle book cover, as opposed to just trusting my brain. I sometimes feel as if I'm cheating when I read tips, as if my own imagination should come up with everything by itself, but this time I have bowed to common wisdom, and found it to be good.
In the past (very recent past) I have created my own covers using a host of photoshop trickery and computer magic, but it was all for nought. All I needed was to find some really good pictures, keep them as they were (isolating part of it that fit the story's concept) and add some bold, clear titles in well designed fonts. And that is pretty much it. Below are the results. I'm still keeping my cover for Shy (I do like that mouth), Heal The Sick Raise The Dead (my mate Jody did a great job, better than I could ever do), and The Alchemist and the Idiot King (which is still stewing in first draft land, but will be done one day, and the cover fits the fantastical nature of the narrative). The rest have gone and been replaced by leaner, meaner models. Enjoy!









Wednesday, 11 March 2015

An exercise


After finding it hard to get into a flow with writing last week, I decided to spend half an hour working on a simple premise with no worries about plot or character, simply atmosphere. Below is the result.

Glass shatters somewhere in the house. The covers are a tangle around me but I’m out within seconds. The streetlights are out too – there must be a power cut. The night outside is starless, but I can see the moon. It bleeds a little light onto the landing through the skylight above. I walk past my study and head downwards.
Each step is slower than the last as I move into the darkness below. The blinds are drawn in the living room, and the door is open, as is the door to the kitchen. I look in and see black shapes, one long across the floor, another high against the wall, with smaller ones dotted about. They are the night images of the daytime sundries. It was I who put them in their places. I know all but one. I hear a gasp. That one is raising a hand. I turn and run, my feet slamming on the staircase, though the sound does not quite drown out the scream, or the sigh.

The lights go out. Glass shatters somewhere in the house. I wait for a moment, hoping that the lights will come back on. The night outside is starless. The streetlights are out too. It’s too dark to read anymore, so I close the book and go to push myself up out of my chair, when from across the landing I see a shadow leave the bedroom. I freeze in place, my hands on the arms. It’s gone in a moment. I go to the doorway and stare downwards to the foot of the staircase, but what little light the moon gives me is drowned in the deep. I hear a gasp. A piece of the black detaches itself and begins to move towards me, so I back away and slip behind the chair, burying my face in my hands.

Glass shatters somewhere in the house close by. I wake up and slip from the sofa onto the floor. The walls are distant memories in the dark, and all I can see is a sliver of white by the door leading to the stairs – I must have left the blinds closed. The table digs into my knee, but I know that there is a torch there, so I run my hands across the surface until I find it. Someone gasps, so I get to my feet and when I look up again I see a shape in the doorway. I raise my torch but it is gone before I turn it on. I know my way, even in the dark, and scramble over the sofa towards the kitchen. Perhaps I will get a knife.
My breath is stolen but I don’t know why, and I all I can do is sigh.

The lights go out. I fumble and drop the jar, which shatters on the tiles beneath my feet. I reach down without thinking, and my hand closes on glass. It bites into my skin and I let out a gasp. My flesh holds it in place and I cannot see enough to pull it out without risking permanent damage. I turn towards the living room, hoping to get my torch, when a shape lunges towards me. I raise my hands and feel the glass between us, cutting hand and neck, my hand and their neck. I scream, and the other gives a sigh.

Friday, 6 March 2015

A change of tactics


I've been writing ever since I was young, but only selling my work for close to three years, so I still have a lot to learn. I've always been more focussed on writing than marketing - this is unlikely to change unless marketing becomes markedly more thrilling - and have used Amazon and its KDP select programs to generate income, but it's time for a change. These programs are giving back smaller and smaller benefits and I'm missing out on a huge base of readers, so after a last small round of freebies/offers I will be distributing everything I've written through not only Amazon but also Smashwords and Bookbaby, and anywhere else I can find.
I'll still be writing though, otherwise my brain will atrophy.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Update on WIP

After a very busy few months (sadly not on the writing front) I've finally been able to catch up with things.

I've given my main website a re-vamp to make it far easier to navigate, and added some reviews to the book pages.

On the short story front, I've had two submissions accepted for anthologies and a third one is still being considered, so it's been a pretty successful period considering I haven't been able to get much done.

I've also decided to give my current WIP The Alchemist and the Idiot King a drastic re-write. I love the setting and characters, but I just wasn't doing enough with them. A small twist will make everything better, although that twist necessitates a purge of the majority of what I've already got down (a third of the book roughly) so the release date will be a lot further off, sadly.

Finally, I've redesigned the cover to Terror Organic and added Carnival into the digital version to make it better value. The paperback still needs updating, so that's my next goal.

Stay frosty!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Finding My Book


Last week was a strange one, but one that is worth sharing, if only because it was so unexpectedly eventful.

Whilst looking through the bookshelves of a charity shop for something new to read, I found one of my own books on the shelf. The sight threw me completely, as various emotions vied for control of my brain.

"Look!" cried Anger. "Someone has thrown your book out like it was nothing!"

"No, that's not it," said Lookonthebrightside, "someone just wanted others to read it."

"But I keep the books I enjoy!" I said.

"Yes, but some other people don't.”

"Or maybe they didn't enjoy it," said Morose from his perch in the corner (he likes to hide in the shadows).

"That's true," said Anger, jabbing a finger towards his constant companion. "They hated it and they didn't tell you! They could have at least told you."

"Look guys..." I started.

"I fancy a packet of crisps," said Hunger.

"Simmer down," I said, pushing him back. "Guys, this is all a bit much for the moment. Let’s just sit down and have a coffee."

"Buy the book," said Anger.

"Eh?"

"Buy it. Buy it now. BUY THE SHAME."

"Ok..."

So I bought it, along with Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick. It was a 3 for 2 offer. My book was the free one.

So I let the experience stew away in my mind for a while. My main cause of confusion was trying to work out just why I felt hurt. Eventually I realised that it was because I still looked at my books as something personal, something just for me, despite the fact that the Binary Man has been out for almost three years. Selling e-books is a very abstract thing. It's just numbers on a screen, which then becomes a trickle of money into my PC games budget. To actually see one of my books in paperback the first time was a childhood dream come true, and it took three years of writing to come to fruition (the first one is always the toughest, so I’ve been told). Physical books mean the world to me.

The reason I was feeling hurt was because they didn’t see my book as a strange dream-reality combo item of mystical power.

Well, of course they bloody didn’t! It’s a book.

“Wait, there’s more,” said Anger. “What about the fact that they didn’t tell you what they didn’t like about the book?”

Well, this I admit is something I really crave. I am desperate to improve with everything I write, with every word if possible. Criticism of my work is of vital importance to me. Surely someone who disliked my book enough to chuck it would be able to give me something to work with?

“Whoa there,” said Guilt. “What they did do was they BOUGHT it. They paid some of their own money to give your book a read. And now you’re listening to Anger! That’s no way to pay them back. And what if they liked it, but are the sort of person who is able to get rid of books, instead of storing them for decades in the loft? And if they didn’t like it, is that a crime? They bought it. It was theirs to do with as they wished. There are far worse things they could have done with it...”

I bit my lip.

“You git,” said Guilt.

“I know…” I said, shaking my balding head.

Whether they read it or not, liked it or not, it didn’t matter. My books aren’t just mine any more. That one belonged to someone else, someone who believed enough in the blurb to give it a shot.

Whoever you are, I salute you.


I’m keeping the book though.