So I have a best seller on my hands?

24 Jan
01/24/2012

There’s a tool over at BestSellerCode.com writers can use to analyze their writing style against established, best-selling authors within their novel’s genre. It scores from 1 to 20, and the higher the number the better the chances you have of having a best seller on your hands (according to the site’s owners anyway). I ran the first 7,000 characters of my new novel Extinction Point through it and scored … drum roll, please … twenty out of twenty.

For those of you who are interested in the release date of Extinction Point; I’d hoped to have it ready and released by the end of last December, the revised date is now the end of February. I just have to run the final draft past a couple of discerning eyes (yes, Gertie and Steve K. I mean you).

Sorry I can’t stay and talk more I have to go and order my new Lamborghini before they run out of British Racing Green.

 

Toward Yesterday FREE at Amazon all day Friday (12/23/11) Merry Christmas Everyone

23 Dec
12/23/2011

You heard right! Toward Yesterday is free all day Friday, so load up your Kindle with the book Sift Book Reviews gave five out of five stars and said was ” the best time travel story that I can remember coming across in any medium — book, movie, TV show, or video game.”

You may even notice it has a brand spanking new cover too.

Just click here to be taken to my Amazon page.

And don’t forget to sign-up to be notified of the release of my next book, Extinction Point, which looks set to be released in January of 2012. You can find the sign-up form on the right-hand side of this page.

Thanks again for all your support.

 

PAUL

 

Fanning the flames of creativity: What the Kindle Fire could mean for indie authors

23 Oct
10/23/2011

For a device that hasn’t seen a single hands-on review, Amazon’s latest addition to the Kindle family, the Kindle Fire, is already setting records. It’s currently the number-one most gifted item in Amazon’s electronics rankings, closely followed in the number 2 and 3 spots by Amazon’s other new-kids on the block, the redesigned Kindle and the Kindle Touch.

The loss-leading $199 price-tag for the Kindle Fire is probably one of the primary reasons behind the massive pre-order rush reported by Amazon. Tech-magazines across the net (thanks to leaked sales figures) are estimating a staggering 2,000 pre-orders for the $199 Fire every hour. That figure is worth repeating: 2,000 pre-orders EVERY hour! Amazon will have sold more than 2.5 million of the 7-inch tablets before its November 15th release.

While the Kindle Fire has certainly received a lot of coverage, the press in general has spent most of their time comparing it to Apple’s iPad, a comparison which, in my opinion, is misplaced. There’s a very simple but fundamental difference between the two gadgets: the Kindle Fire is designed solely for the consumption of media. It’s essentially a very clever marketing gambit by Amazon, and one which will help assure them of a captive audience for years to come.

And that’s fantastic news for us authors. Why? Because we have a massive company effectively working for us; creating an expanding marketplace of customers who will continually do what they do best … consume.

If those earlier pre-release figures don’t impress you, think about this for a moment: eMarketer (a website that tracks digital commerce and marketing) estimated that “more than 20 million ereaders will be in consumer hands by the end of this year, reaching 8.7% of the US adult population. By 2012, 12% of adults will have a Kindle, Sony Reader, NOOK or similar device.” Those figures are only for the US, by the way.  They don’t take into account the current, growing, markets in Europe, Australia, and eventually China and India.

Amazon’s announcement of the Fire’s release seems to have galvanized other manufacturers, too. Kobo and Samsung have all announced they are in the process of releasing or developing new 7-inch tablets. Barnes & Noble is also expected to announce a follow-up to the Nook Color and there are even rumors of an iPad Mini hitting the market sometime next year, despite the late Steve Jobs insistence that 7-inch tablets would be “dead on arrival”.

While a 7-inch tablet isn’t much use for anything more complicated than watching movies, playing the occasional game or surfing the net, it is the next best thing to a dedicated e-reader, and the more low-cost devices available to readers, the greater the market for our books will be.

So how does all of this help us scribblers?

Amazon is creating a stage where we, as indie authors, will have an almost equal billing with the big publishing houses. Conventional publishers are still geared to churning out what they know best, paper books. That’s going to leave a vacuum we can fill.  It’s up to us to take advantage of the ever decreasing boundaries between us and our target audiences to deliver a steady stream of interesting, well developed, professional content. It’s an opportunity that many of us will be unlikely to see again in our lifetime; an industry reborn. A literary gold-rush, if you like. We just need to be prepared for it.

As Bob Dylan has been saying for many years now “The times they are a-changin’”. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Towards Yesterday get’s a fantastic review from KillerKindle.com

21 Oct
10/21/2011

Another great review of Towards Yesterday, this time from KillerKindle.com, a website dedicated to reviewing the best indie books available.

You can read the review here http://www.killerkindle.com/2011/10/kindle-ebook-review-towards-yesterday.html

 

There are more things in Heaven and Earth …

02 Oct
10/02/2011

I’m not a religious man. I guess, if you pushed me to categorize myself, it would be as an “optimistic agnostic”. I’ve just never been able to get on-board with the whole religion thing.  When I was a kid my mother would force me to go to Sunday school. To try and get out of it I’d hide at the top of the garden behind my dad’s crumbling toolshed, trying to avoid the mass of brambles that grew back there but always managing to get stung by them. I can still remember the smell of the creosote soaked wood and the aroma of the earth and weeds that grew undisturbed in the gap between the shed and our neighbor’s fence. My mum would inevitably find me, of course, and after a hurried clean-up, she would hustle my little sister and I out the door and we’d walk the couple of miles to the church hall together.

Do you remember the scene in The Omen where Gregory Peck’s character tries to drag Damien into a church but the kid is kicking and screaming and refusing to enter? That was pretty much me; at least in my head it was. If I’d actually tried to pull a stunt like that I would have gotten a clip-across-the-ear and still have had to spend the next three hours listening to the Sunday school teacher drone on. So my tantrums were always thrown wholly in my head. I had a pretty good imagination, even back then.

Looking back on that time through adult eyes, I realize that this was probably the only quality time my mother and father would get with us kids out of the house. But that’s not the point of this story. I just wanted to set the stage for you; let you get to know me a little better.

This is the point: For about six or seven years my dad’s sister, Gwendolyn, lived with us. She took over the front room of my parents’ modest three bedroom council house on the outskirts of my hometown of Cardiff, Wales. She was just one of several of our family who lived in that little 12 by 8 room. Over the years a couple of my brothers and their families would live there too, and my father would eventually pass away in that same room. But my Aunty Gwen would be the first to take up residence. I would often find myself sitting at the kitchen table listening to her tell me stories of her life while she sipped from a cup of tea, a couple of Rich-Tea biscuits perched precariously on the cup’s saucer. My aunty was in her late 60’s at that time, and I, still a young lad of nine or ten, would listen completely enraptured by her tales of a different lifetime.

There are many stories I could tell you about my Aunty Gwen. I could tell you about the time she had to carry me up the stairs to my bedroom because I was so sick I could not stand; or the time a stray cat I had adopted and kept in the back garden managed to get into the house and corner her in the living room (she was terrified of cats); maybe the story of her slapping the local bully across the back of the head until he cried after she witnessed him punch me, or even the last time I saw her, confined to a hospital bed as she listened to me talk about my holiday in Greece, only to die the following day from terminal lung cancer, the result of a lifetime of smoking.

The story I am going to share with you is about the first time she died. She was just a teenager, so this would have taken place in the early 1930’s, not a good time to be sick. A nasty infection had turned into pneumonia and she had been transported by ambulance to the local Infirmary. Despite the doctor’s best efforts to control it, the pneumonia grew steadily worse until my aunt’s heart stopped and she died.

Gwen told me that she remembered standing in a tunnel with a bright light at its end; a light that she felt inexorably drawn towards. As she moved through it she found herself on a grass covered plain. Nearby, a brook bubbled and flowed, cutting a meandering path towards distant hills. High above her, brilliant white clouds floated across a perfect blue sky and Gwen knew instinctively that these were the souls of her friends and family who had died before her. She wasn’t afraid, in fact she felt quite the opposite; a “perfect sense of peace and tranquility” is how she described it to me. Gwen wandered over to the brook and knelt down, she scooped up a handful of the water and drank deeply, but she was surprised when the water tasted salty, more like sea water than the pure water she had expected.

At that same moment, Gwen found herself pulled from this beautiful dreamlike heaven, travelling back down the tunnel and away from the comfort of the light until she found herself lying in the hospital bed as her doctor worked frantically to return her to life. Beside her bed my Grandmother stood sobbing for the little girl she thought was surely lost, but who now, miraculously, had been returned to her.

“My mother’s tears were falling on my cheek and trickling into my mouth. They tasted very salty,” Gwen said to me, smiling as she recalled that distant memory.

Of course, I realize that my aunt’s near-death experience could be explained by any number of scientific or biological rationale, but still, her story stuck with me and, as I grew older, it’s helped me to recognize the incredible mystery of this universe we exist in. While science and religion have done their best to define our place within it, the unexplained and unknown still outweighs all that we as humans believe we know. If you’ve read my novel, Towards Yesterday, you might even recognize this as a major theme of the story. In fact, you might even remember Gwen’s story from the book’s closing chapter.

Years later, after my aunt died for the second and final time, I found myself remembering her story.  I still smile at the thought of her having returned, this time for good, to that beautiful valley and that even now she is with her friends and family, endlessly floating through a tranquil blue sky; happy, content, and finally at peace.

 

The unnoticed benefits of the ePublishing revolution

31 Aug
08/31/2011

It’s not hard to convince modern readers of the benefits of ePublishing. The popularity of the Kindle and Nook has given book lovers an unparalleled level of freedom akin to the invention of digital music players. The first iPod was released way back in late 2001 — ten years later and how many people do you know who don’t own an MP3 player?

But it’s not just bibliophiles who will benefit from new reading technology; savvy authors are in line to take advantage of the changing publishing landscape too. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we are actually benefiting more from this reading revolution than readers themselves.Think about this for a moment: all that has really changed for readers is how they purchase, store and read their books, but the act of reading hasn’t changed one bit,it has just become far more convenient.

The digital age has unleashed a new publishing paradigm on the world, but the true revolution isn’t happening for the reader, its happening for us, the authors. The equivalent of a tsunami is slowly sweeping its way across every aspect of publishing, and when the waters of change finally subside, the landscape will be unrecognizable, with few of the old establishments left intact.

The benefits for authors extend far beyond being able to publish one’s novel without the help of an agent or publishing house. It even exceeds the unprecedented commission payments and our ability to retain complete control over our work. This new business model forces indie authors to become socially active to succeed. We now have to reach out from wherever we write and actually talk to our readers, and our peers. As an author, I have an opportunity few writers in history have had: I can interact directly with my target market (fans of the post-apocalyptic genre and Science Fiction buffs) and ask them what they enjoy or dislike about the genre.

You’ve probably heard of Goodreads, it’s a site that brings readers and authors of every imaginable genre together, and that’s where I decided to put my theory to the test. I already had an outline for my new novel; I know how it starts and ends and the majority of what happens in-between, but I wanted to speak to lovers of post-apocalyptic stories and see exactly what it was they would like included.

I joined Apocalypse Whenever, a Goodreads group with over 1600 members from around the world interested in reading post-apocalyptic fiction. The group’s moderator, Gertie, was kind enough to allow me to post a request asking for their opinion on what makes a good end-of-the-world novel. The response I got from the members was absolutely phenomenal.  I had well over 100 replies; each gave me invaluable insight into what readers look for from a post-apocalyptic storyline.

I now know they want believable but flawed protagonists; they don’t want the clichéd macho-soldier type who can overcome any obstacle or situation thrown at him, or the professor who’ll save the day with a miracle solution from out of thin air. They want intelligent characters they can care about who are involved in situations situations that require ingenuity to overcome. They want normal people, just like you and me; ordinary people who are forced to overcome extraordinary situations that none of us, as readers, hope we will ever have to encounter other than between the pages of a good book.

There was also a consensus that post-apocalyptic novels lacked strong female leads: so my new book’s protagonist will be female. She wont be an unbelievable characterture of what seems to pass for a strong woman in today’s TV and movies, instead I hope to create a true heroine, someone just like my female  readers who (fingers crossed) they’ll associate with, but one with character traits my male readers will also recognize in women in their lives.

You may be asking whether this is a wise decision, letting go of some of the creative process involved in the development of my novel. Will this stifle creativity? Could this kind of writing-by-committee cause authors to abandon traditional development in favor of a narrowly targeted development process aimed directly at a particular stratum of readers? Could it kill organic story development and creativity?

Maybe. But it’s doubtful.

John Locke, in his recently released book “How I sold 1 Million e-books in 6 Months”, basically admitted that this process is the secret-sauce for his phenomenal success. Locke has found a niche readership that he caters to. He listens to them and writes exclusively for that audience, everyone else can go pound salt as far as he is concerned. He expects to get negative reviews from people outside of the narrow band of readers he has identified as being fans of his stories, but that doesn’t matter to Locke. He’s gone out of his way to cultivate a relationship with his readers and gives them exactly what they want. It’s hard to argue with the kind of success he has had, no matter what you think of his ability as a writer.

Am I advocating authors give up creative control of their next novel? No, of course not, but as writers we are lucky enough to be at the forefront of a revolutionary period that gives us greater access to the people we write for than at any other time in history. It would be a crying shame if we missed this opportunity to reach out and connect with our readers, because, in the end, that is who we are really writing for.

 A quick plug: My new novel is called Extinction Point. It’s due out this December. You can sign up to be notified when I release it by using the form in the top-right hand side of this page

 

Another 5-star review for Towards Yesterday. This time from Sift Books Review

19 Aug
08/19/2011

Kevin Glowacz just posted a great 5-star review of Towards Yesterday. You can find it by visiting the Sift Book Reviews site here

Dogs, life and other great mysteries

15 Aug
08/15/2011

It was obvious someone loved the stray mutt because when I found her in the front yard of my Los Angeles home, back in 1997, she still had a collar with a leash attached. It took me a good three hours to coax her to me; she’d get to within 5 feet, her tail nervously sweeping the air before fear got the better of her and she’d scoot off to hide behind a parked car.

It took several treats and a whole lot of cooing and sweet-talking before she finally trusted me to edge close enough to sniff my offered hand. The second I picked up her leash it was as though I was dealing with a different dog. She trotted alongside me like we had been best buddies for years, playfully leaping at my hand, her tail wagging back and forth fifteen to the dozen.

I decided to name her Floella.

Flo (as I inevitably wound up calling her) was a yellow Labrador. She was around nine or ten years old at the time she wandered into my life and, despite our best efforts to find her owner, no one ever claimed her. So with us she stayed.

If you’ve read my earlier blog (available here), you’ll know that in 2003 my family’s fortunes took a turn for the worst. We lost everything and faced abandoning our animals (we had another dog and four cats at the time) so we could stay in LA or taking a chance and moving to Nevada where we could at least rent a place that would let us keep our pets. We chose Nevada.

In 2005 Flo suddenly stopped eating. She had a thing for potato chips and I’d occasionally reward her with one. When she refused even that treat, my wife and I knew something was wrong. The next day, a veterinarian friend of ours took her into Las Vegas for a check-up. The news wasn’t good; Flo had colon cancer and we should come in to the clinic and pick her up.

It’s about 60 miles from where I live to Las Vegas. The trip involves traveling over the Mount Charleston mountain range, the peak at Mountain Springs is approximately halfway to Vegas and it was here that completely out of the blue I sensed Flo’s presence in the car with me. Since the first day I found her, she had a habit of expressing her love by gently head-butting me in the chest like a cat, encouraging me to scratch up and down her back. As we reached Mountain Springs, with Las Vegas laid out in the distance, I felt Flo’s familiar gentle bump against my chest, sensed her head leaning against me. I saw her looking up at me with her beautiful sad eyes … and then she was gone.

An intense sense of loss immediately reduced me to tears (yeah, I know, I’m a big softy). I turned to my wife and said, “Flo’s gone.”

“What do you mean she’s gone?”

I repeated that I knew Flo had died because she had just paid me a visit… in a Dodge Durango … at the top of a mountain range … doing 70 MPH. Trust me, I know how ridiculous it sounds but I realized that I had just witnessed  something totally outside the normal realms of experience: my dog had just said goodbye to me.

I have a wonderful wife who puts up with my many quirks and eccentricities. Humoring me, she called our vet friend who confirmed the worst; Flo had just died peacefully and without pain, her systems had simply shut down and she was gone.

This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced an event this strange and emotionally moving. A few years earlier my wife and I had helped our same vet friend with a particularly sad case involving a sick puppy. This young St. Bernard (who must have weighed 80 pounds) was so sick that he couldn’t even stand and needed to be carried everywhere, far too heavy for our vet friend to be able to move on her own. His illness was terminal and it was time for my veterinarian friend to ease his passing. He was a beautiful dog and as the vet, her husband, my wife and I carried him on a blanket and placed him on the floor, I looked into his pained eyes and immediately felt a connection. For the next few minutes, his eyes never left my own. He gently licked my hand as the vet prepared and administered the shot that would end his suffering and put him gently to sleep.

As the life left the pup’s eyes and he exhaled his final breath, I experienced something so incredibly moving that I still have a problem categorizing it within my own world view today. I felt a sudden electric rush of energy pass through me; a swell of ecstatic vitality so fantastic and powerful it rocked me off my haunches as though I had been physically struck. Imagine the joy of a dog that had spent its entire life chained up in a back yard suddenly let loose in an open meadow, that’s as close as I can come to describing the incredible sense of freedom that passed through me.

I was stunned. I’m not a religious man or prone to over sentimentality, but I can only describe this event as a spiritual experience. I was left with a definite feeling that this dog had just passed onto somewhere very different from our own little world and that he was thankful for the release.

I know what you’re thinking: he’s delusional; his memory is faulty; his emotions got in the way of his rationale. If you are thinking any of those things, you’re quite simply wrong. Of course, there could be some sensible explanation for both of these events but those who know me would tell you that I am more prone to err on the side of science than the metaphysical — I have this annoying habit of questioning everything.

So, why am I sharing these two events with you?

If you’ve read any of my work you’ll notice a recurring theme running through every story and book: this universe is a far stranger place than any of us can ever claim to comprehend. Religion and science both tell us they hold the answers and both compete for our attention to the exclusion of the other. In spite of what both schools of thought would have you believe, there is still mystery in this world, and as an author I believe it’s my job to remind you that  “The Truth” is not a wholly owned subsidiary of religion or science.  We are all adventurers on a journey, and all equally likely to witness the strange and inexplicable vastness that surrounds us.

Hamlet pretty much sums up my thoughts when talking with his trusted friend: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

I’m going to do my best to keep reminding you of that.

 

21st Century Man — a short story

09 Aug
08/09/2011

Nevermet Press published one of my short stories earlier this week.

21st Century Man borrows the main characters from both H.G. Wells’ The Time Time Machine and a song by the Electric Light Orchestra entitled, oddly enough, 21st Century Man (thank you Jeff Lynne). I’ve mixed the two themes together to create a short on what really happened to the worlds first chrononaut.

The story will also be published in book form as part of the Nevermet Press’ Stories from the Ether anthology in early  2012, but you can read it for  free on their website by clicking here.

Towards Yesterday got a 1-star review and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s why …

26 Jul
07/26/2011

Every morning I go through the same routine: I grab a cup of joe, let my four dogs out into the backyard and then settle into my writing room to check on sales of my novel, its Amazon bestseller rank and any new reviews. It’s a little like Christmas day every morning; you never know what you’re getting but it’s always exciting.

As a full-time writer I’m used to receiving criticism of my work; it’s a welcome element of my chosen career. I already know that I am no Hemingway or Steven King, so constructive criticism is okay by me. Since releasing my first full-length novel in May, I’ve received plenty of five and four-star reviews but I knew one day the negative reviews would appear and, to be quite honest, I was looking forward to them.

You may ask yourself: Why on earth would you want a negative review? My answer is simple: you cannot learn anything from your successes. You can, however, learn much from the negatives.

Well, today was the day. My 18th review was a 1-star and I could not be happier about it.

Here’s the review in question:

1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable, July 26, 2011

Downloaded the trial chapters and thought the plot was good so I bought the book. Although I tried to keep reading this book, after awhile I was just wasting my time. If the author was trying for the record in just describing gore and destruction, he may have succeeded. I finally gave up when I noticed a new Donovan Creed novel was out.”

So, what did I learn from this review? Of course, the most obvious thing is that it isn’t so much a “review” of my novel than a comment on the reviewer’s personal taste in books. He enjoyed my writing style and liked my initial plot enough to buy the book after reading my sample, but he was put off by the “gore and destruction” later in my story.

That’s great news for me. As the author it tells me that my writing has created images and conveyed the kinds of emotions I intended for the particular scene that disturbed my 1-star reviewer so greatly. The end of civilization, especially when it comes as unexpectedly and brutally as it does in my novel, is not pretty.   In fact, it is downright terrifying and should be written accordingly.

The post-apocalyptic genre explores humanity at its basest, most hopeless level.  It examines how we, the survivors, conduct our lives when everything that is most precious to us, everything that makes our lives worth living and comfortable is stripped away, leaving nothing behind but the horror of extinction and the realization of our own fragile existence.

It is never a pretty story, but it can be wonderful in its revelations.

So, I want to say a big “thank you” to my one-star reviewer.  You’ve reinforced my belief that I’m doing my job correctly for all those readers who are looking for this kind of experience. Readers of post-apocalyptic fiction want a journey that will take them to places they hope they never have to go but are inexplicably drawn to travel that route anyway. They are willing to face the horror and devastation because they know that along the way they will experience humanity at its finest. They don’t want me to pull any punches in my descriptions; they don’t need my protection – this is the end of the world after all. It deserves to be spectacular.

They want to experience the raw horror and terror we all know exists mere moments away from these cozy lives of ours, suspended in place only by the slimmest of technological strings. When I tell my stories I owe it to my readers to be truthful about the experiences of the characters they will be traveling with. We are, after all, fascinated by what will happen should that fragile string fray or be cut.

So let me reassure you; I’ve got a really sharp pair of scissors and, as an author, I have no compunction about using them!