Saturday, 23 February 2013

Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey and THE INDIE AUTHOR save the bookstore.

Everybody buys their books at Amazon. Borders has gone. Everybody else has gone. Barnes and Noble is fading away.

Are we looking at a world where there's no such thing - beyond college campuses, airports, and places like the wonderful STRAND BOOKSTORE - as a bookshop? I hope not. But at the same time, I owe such a lot to Amazon. They allowed me to publish my stories, find readers, and make more money doing it than if I'd ever gone through a traditional publisher.

As marvellous as it is, though, Amazon is missing something. There will never be a movie scene, like this, shot in an Amazon warehouse.

This is one half of my marvellous, bookstore-saving hypothesis. The other is me.

Or rather, those like me. The Indy Author, publishing on Amazon. A phenomenon that can take pride in being scorned less and less (we're not very full of ourselves). I don't know what the latest stats are, but we sell more and more books every year, and there are more of us, and whatever we do sell, we keep far more of the income than our traditionally published colleagues.

The one thing that we don't have is books on shelves. We don't have book signings, or chances to meet readers (and many of us have tens of thousands) in the flesh. But bookstores can give us that, and in exchange, I think some Indie Authors might be very nice to the traditional bookstores that also sell eBooks. Especially, of course, if the bookstores were run by Hugh Grant, or Kate Winslet.

If they can offer Indie Authors shelf space, or meet-the-reader evenings, book signings, or physical publicity, who knows what Indie authors might give up in exchange. It's the hint of a beginning of an idea. What do you think?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Reason to be Shy, Salisbury Plain, Real Life Spookiness...

I'm from the south-west of England, from an area crammed with amazing places (though I'm sure everywhere else is also crammed with amazing places, it's just that I know these).
Wells, Glastonbury, the Somerset Levels, Bath, Bristol, Dorset, the South Coast. I've written about some of them in my stories, and I'll keep on referencing them, and today it's the turn of Salisbury Plain.
For my latest story, I needed somewhere weird and wild, yet near the Somerset levels where my stories are set. Salisbury Plain fit the bill.

It even has villages that stand, undamaged,but empty for 50 years, since the army began using the area for practice. Where better to set an spooky story? I couldn't think of anywhere that made a more eerie setting.
Obviously I'm not the first to think of this. Thomas Hardy set some of the greatest novels in the English language in the area, notably Tess of the Durbervilles, which even has a Stonehenge Scene.
If you're interested in how I dealt with it, check out Reason to be Shy, available now on Amazon for 99cents, a short, paranormal mystery. Click on the image below, artwork courtesy of the eternally talented Olly Prentice.

If not, enjoy this clip, day-to-day life on Salisbury Plain. Not your usual kind of place...

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Wool, Hugh Howey, 99cent stories, and a New Story with a Twist

Hugh Howie and his story WOOL are another of the romantic, Indie Author rags-to-riches stories, like Amanda Hocking and 50 Shades of Grey.

Hugh Howey worked in a bookstore and wrote in his free time. He published series of books, with moderate success, and then he produced a 60-page dystopian short on Amazon, for Kindle, and slowly, but steadily, it became incredibly successful.  WOOL is set in an underground bunker, where thousands of people hide from the dangerous, post apocalyptic atmosphere. The little society is believable  and intriguing, as are the characters, and the slowly revealed lies that underpin it all

The story is imaginative  and beautifully written, and the fans cried out for more. Which Howie provided, a series of novellas, set in the same world, and introducing a series of enticing characters and fascinating storylines.

And so, in classic style, he quit his job, made a million, got a book deal, and now, astonishingly, has a film deal with Ridley Scott!

You can find out more about Hugh and his success, in this fascinating interview here:

I liked the idea of these short, quick to read, cheap stories, and the idea for the plot of one of them bubbled up in my mind. It's set in the world of Levels, my paranormal series. Though not directly interacting with the plot of the first three books it's set at the same time as the third, Lullaby of Lies.

The exciting thing about this story, which is 12,000 words long, and which I wrote in a week, is that it's put a completely new spin on Levels 4, and given me an exciting new character, Oh Sanden, who will take centre stage in the new - as yet unnamed - book.

It was also really fun to construct a short story which was essentially all about the twist. I only had space to focus on one character, a couple of locations, creepiness building, and then the twist. That kind of discipline is a lot of fun to work with.

I'll release it on Sunday February 17th for 99 cents, and thanks to the super-talented Olly Prentice it will look like this. Put it in your diaries...

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Ukraine, Travel Writing, and Secret identities

At the begining of the millenium I lived in Ukraine for four years. It's been a while, but I remember it perfectly.

 I remember very well the low-ceiling hall beneath Tolstova roundabout in Kyiv, accessed by subways from three main roads, that led to the metro station. Here, in the iron grip of winter, hundreds of people would gather to buy snacks and beers from stalls, smoke, listen to buskers, and even dance. When the thaw comes the crusts of filthy snow that line every road are ploughed into the middle of the street for cars to bump over and smash up.

In the summer, every beautiful, wrought iron bench in every park is full. The horse chestnuts on the main street in Kyiv flower, making it look as if the road is lined with beautiful candelabra. On Sundays the road is closed and people stroll along, dressed in their best. they drink beer, have their pictures taken with monkeys, and pay 10 cents to weigh themselves.

Hundreds of islands in the river, lined with beaches, become pleasure parks. Stalls and open air restaurants sell shashlik, delicious marinated pork kebabs.

When I got the job that took me to Ukraine, I didn't know where it was. Somewhere - roughly - between Japan and Germany. It turns out that Ukraine - as well as being the biggest country that is entirely within Europe, also holds the centre of Europe. It is a big, boisterous, beautiful, kind of backwards place, and I loved it.

I was always going to write about Ukraine, and now I finally have it makes sense that the hero is larger than life. Ukraine is also a very mysterious place, and sometimes adventurous, and so that's how I wrote the story.

These are both firsts for me, so I've started out with a short, 20,000 words, which has the lead, Ox Purcell, as a kind of metaphor for the country. Hopefully it's also quite funny.

As well as everything else, Ukraine is raw, unsanitised, and so the story is as well. For that reason I've used a pseudonym, and I've doubled down on the name of my main character, Ox Purcell.

This post is a tiny snapshot of the lifeof an observer  in Ukraine, if you want more, as well as mystery, comedy, and adventure, bad-language, and very bad behaviour, check out Weirdo Beach:  99cents only...