Be More Childish

How our perceptions in childhood feed into our imaginations as adults.

“Oh, do grow up!”

“Don’t be so childish!”

“Act your age!”

 

We’ve all been told one or more of the above at some point in our lives. Some more than others, and some deservedly so, but ultimately it cannot be denied that we are encouraged to ‘grow up’ as swiftly as possible.

 

Of course there are bills to pay, commutes to be travelled and that never-diminishing mountain of ironing to be done. All things adults have to contend with, but today I’m going to put forward the case for reminding childish, or perhaps more accurately, child-like, in one aspect that to me is essential to the creative process.

We must never forget our childish perceptions, for therein lies the key to a vivid imagination.

As children, we are always asking questions of the adults around us. This, however, can get very jarring for the adults so there are some questions we keep to ourselves. More importantly, we come up with the answers ourselves and keep them closely guarded. Such a question and answer came back to me recently. The question was “What’s that?” The answer was “It’s a whale.”oznor

Now, clearly that isn’t a whale. That’s an island. It is, in fact, Steep Holm, a small island in the Bristol Channel. To the four-year-old version of me, however, it was clearly a whale. A ruddy big one.

 

My family would make almost yearly visits to Weston Super Mare, where the island is most clearly visible from the beach. I distinctly recall seeing it for the first time, looming on the horizon and being convinced it was an enormous whale. I never said anything to anyone about it, merely deciding to keep an eye on it as we walked along the beach in case it decided to move.

 

A few years later, of course, I realised it was an island. However, the fact that I have never forgot that I used to think it was a whale is the key factor here. To some degree, I believe I have managed to hold on to some slither of those child-like perceptions. That, I believe, is vital when engaging in imaginative and creative activities. By never truly letting go of the wondrous haze of childish thoughts, we are able to look at something and see not just what it is, but what it could be.

 

That is what fantasy writers must set out to do. Take the ordinary and make it extraordinary, and what better way than to tap in to a time when everything seemed extraordinary to you. Most never forget the first time they saw the sea. I’ll never forget the first time I saw an island …and thought it was a whale.

Summer’s Here!

A quick look back and a view of what’s to come!

Summer is genuinely my favourite time of year, despite anyone who’s actually met me knowing that I clearly burn just by glancing at the sun. The summer solstice is upon us, so I’d like to take this opportunity to not only reflect on some of the highlights of the year so far, but also to let you all know of some of the exciting things planned for the summer and beyond!

 

This year marked my first time delivering my writing workshops to a school on World Book Day, and it was a truly rewarding experience! Inspiring pupils to get creative and giving them the confidence to explore their ideas is something I’m very passionate about. Of course, in my opinion, every day is a Book Day, and I am available for workshops throughout the year!
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My second book, ‘The Figment Wars: Search for the Caretaker’ has been out and about for over half a year, while the fourth anniversary of the publication of ‘Through the Portals’ is fast approaching. Feedback on ‘Search for the Caretaker’ has been very positive, with many asking when the next will be ready. Rest assured, a third novel is currently underway.

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Collectormania 26 was a fantastic weekend, selling and signing copies of both my books in Artist Alley. Ever since attending my first Collectormania back in 2006, I’ve missed a grand total of one. Through attending conventions I’ve not only met some of my heroes from the world of acting, I’ve also made some wonderful friends. Being on the other side of the table at an event that’s meant so much to me over the years made for a truly special weekend!

 

Now for the future! After the summer I’m currently lined up to do three more conventions. These are;

  • Em Con Worcester, 14th September
  • Em Con Derby, 6th October
  • Bristol Comic Con & Gaming Festival, 19-20th October

Worcester in particular represents a welcome return to my old stomping grounds, and of course new events and bookings will be announced on social media. I thoroughly enjoy meeting people at these events, engaging with readers about a mutual love of fantasy and I hope to see lots of you there!

 

After the success of the first live action trailer for ‘Through the Portals’, plans are currently being made to film a trailer for ‘Search for the Caretaker’. The last trailer was an utter joy to work on, bringing together many of my indecently talented friends to create an eye catching introduction to my first book. The aim is to have it ready for Em Con Worcester, so watch this space!

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Work continues apace on the third Figment Wars book, which is currently untitled. Overall, lots of exciting things are happening, and I look forward to sharing it all with the Figment Fans!

 

Don’t Take the Mickey

A blog regarding the importance of generating your own promotional content.

I’d like to recount a small online debacle I recently found myself in. Well, less a debacle, more an oddity. I’m a member of several groups on Facebook, most of them geared towards book promotion. A few weeks ago, I came across a post that caught my eye for all the wrong reasons.

An author, who shall remain nameless, had photoshopped an image of Queen Elsa from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ so that it appeared she was holding up his latest book. I was not alone in pointing out the folly in this. When I looked at some of his other promotional material, I found several other uses of copyrighted images. He was also using classical quotes in several clumsy attempts to somehow link them to his book.

I pointed out that this was not a good marketing strategy and urged him to take down the copyrighted images. He chose to respond, despite having ignored almost anyone else that had commented. At first I was asked if he had upset me somehow. I assured him he had not, and again urged him to take down the copyrighted images. I was then treated to his life story, and got his assurances that a “lawyer friend” of his had told him he could use the images for the purposes of satire.

Now, this just doesn’t stand. Satire does indeed cover the fair use of many images, but not when it comes to promoting a product. I pointed this out and was told that he would take them down, and that ultimately he wouldn’t miss them because he’d just received an award and that was far more important to him. So important, that as of typing this, many of these images are still on his Instagram and Twitter accounts. It became clear that I was dealing with someone who did not understand the fundamental principle of copyright law, nor its penalties. I therefore left him to it.

While it certainly didn’t “upset” me, as he put it, the whole thing did irk me somewhat. As writers, we work hard to create our own worlds and our own material. Certainly we take inspiration from work that has come before us, but to out and out use someone else’s material to promote your book is just plain lazy and idiotic. The same goes for using classical quotes, from Shakespeare no less, and claiming they apply to your work. Writing blurbs and condensing your work into promotional sound bytes is hard, but you’ve got to be prepared to put the effort in.

Since the publication of my first book, I’ve always strived to generate my own promotional content. I consider it a source of pride and a continuing creative challenge. Have I done it alone? Certainly not. My publishers, Austin Macauley, have always been extremely accommodating when it comes to providing me with promotional resources. I’ve also had the great pleasure to work with Ello Dave Media, who have helped me generate great promotional videos. Even when I have knocked up the occasional poster for a one-off event, I made sure that I had the right to use all the images it contained.

That was why I felt so compelled to attempt to reach out to this individual, even though my words fell on deaf ears. All legal issues aside, when you take someone else’s work and use it to promote your own product for your own gain, you are taking advantage of their hard work and putting your own laziness on display. More than that, most potential readers see through such gimmicks straight away. You might get noticed, but it’s not going to get you many sales.

There, rant over. The moral of the story is simple. Don’t steal other people’s stuff.

What Did You Get For Your Birthday?

It is now less than ten days until the release of ‘The Figment Wars: Search for the Caretaker’, my second young adult fantasy novel! I’m involved with a couple of fantastic upcoming acting projects and today happens to be my birthday!

 

If I could just shift this persistent cold, I’d be over the moon! Seriously, I’m *this* close to declaring it ‘man flu’.

 

In all sincerity though, this is a nice little birthday blog where I divest myself of a few musings. If you’re still reading at this point, well, the more fool you.

 

I’ve never been one for making a huge fuss of my birthday. I’ve not thrown a major ‘party’ for my birthday since my 18th (and that I barely remember for reasons you can no doubt fathom for yourself). We usually reserve the big celebrations for those birthdays of apparent numerical value. 18,21, 30 etc. Few will hire an entire hall, a DJ and get specially shaped balloons for somebody’s 32nd birthday.

 

It is something of a double edged sword at times. On the one hand, I might have thrown a huge bash for my 30th because it’s a socially accepted milestone. On the other hand, there’s the “Oh damn, I’m turning 30 and what have I done?” epiphany. I’ve had that feeling, we all have, where we stop to take stock of our lives and that little voice tells us we haven’t done enough. The milestone has come around and we haven’t achieved what we wanted to, and before you know it the next milestone will be upon us and we won’t have finished what we were supposed to have achieved at the previous milestone! Aaaarrgghhh!

 

When I turned 21, I wrote a letter to my 30 year-old self. I put it away safely, never really forgetting the existence of the letter but over time managing to forget the contents. Obviously I opened it two years ago. I’ve never shared the exact contents of the letter with anyone, nor am I about to now so don’t get your hopes up. It was generally full of my hopes and aspirations at the age of 21. A few had been met, a few forgotten about and a few had changed to one degree or another. That’s what life is. Change. What meant the world to you ten years ago might barely register with you today. In short, I am not the same person I was back then.

 

That’s why ultimately I’m glad I’ve never really made too much of a fuss about my birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no recluse. I love getting together with the people who are close to me, but that’s the sort of thing we should be doing multiple times a year, surely? As often as possible. Sometimes the only thing we need to celebrate is the fact that we are here and we are together.

 

So, what did I get for my birthday? A year older. I don’t wish to say “and a little wiser”, because ultimately I’m still figuring it all out. Same as everyone else.

 

Besides, it’s a horrible, horrible cliché.

 

 

 

The Beauty of Anticipation

The second ‘Figment Wars’ book is out soon!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have it at last. A release date for the second book in the ‘Figment Wars’ series!

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Lots of lovely people have been asking about the sequel for years and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for their patience. The next instalment in the adventures of Thomas, Isaac and Emily has been a long time in the making. Lots of time and hard work has gone into it, which ultimately brings me to the actual subject of this blog. Anticipation.

 

Life is a series of events. This much has always been true. Some good, some bad, some entirely dependent on your own point of view. Usually the good and the bad tend to come in reasonably sparse intervals. When a flurry of good things all happen at once we call it a winning streak, when we’re struck by a cavalcade of misfortune it just feels like the universe is conspiring against us. Generally though, life consists of tip-toeing from one event to the other with a balance of expectations on each.

 

We can’t get all the bad things out of the way and have done with them. We can’t just attend one long string of dentist appointments then expect our teeth to be sorted for the rest of our lives. Many people, if given the choice, would love to only have good things happen to them, one after the other. An endless string of good fortune. How very dull. Some of the greatest works of art known have come from heartbreak, despair and at times, downright terror.

 

Having something to look forward to, be it a concert, a party or just a catch up with an old friend, is what gets us through the moments of misfortune. They are made all the more enjoyable because of those times when nothing seems to be going right, rather than in spite of them. Even when these plans are months in advance, thinking about them, looking forward to them, gets us through the heartaches.

 

This has all been my own, roundabout way of saying why despite my overwhelming urge to divulge everything about the upcoming book right now, I won’t. I’ll be striving to give myself and my loyal readers something to look forward to. We have a date for release in the not too distant future, but over the coming weeks you can all expect to discover the title of this book and an eventual cover reveal. Work has also begun on a book launch event and there will be a few giveaway competitions too!

 

The countdown has begun! Let’s all share this wonderful feeling of anticipation together, as we get ready to start the search …

 

 

 

Top Tips for Proof Reading

My little set of tips for helping you get through the proof reading stage.

So, you’ve had an idea for a story. You’ve scribbled down notes. You’ve drafted a basic story outline. You’ve tapped your keyboard into oblivion writing the entire thing, crafting your story with painstaking attention to detail. You think the hard work is over. It’s only just begun.

 

The truth is, be it a story, an article or indeed anything, nobody really likes having to read it all over again. Once you’ve transferred this big, galumphing thing from your brain to the page you’re not always in the mood to revisit it. After all, it’s all good, right? You’d have seen any mistakes as you went along, right? Wrong.

 

Proof reading is a vital step in the writing process that must not be overlooked. I speak from personal experience when I say there is no worse feeling than putting your work out there to discover mistakes in the text. Mistakes, however, are our greatest teachers. Here are some little tips that have helped me personally when it comes to proof reading.

  1. Read aloud. Yes, this may annoy your neighbours, flatmates, significant others but I have found that reading the text out loud allows for greater analysis. When you read silently, a sentence can often read in your head the way you originally intended it to, but in reality it does not. Reading aloud stops you from skipping or skimming over potential mistakes.
  2. Take breaks. If you’re proof reading a large body of work, little and often is the best way to go. Reading for too long in one go increases the chances of you missing something due to fatigue. Go grab a drink, a snack, take a walk. Your work will be waiting for you.
  3. Keep track. With my last novel I began keeping track of how many times I had proof read each chapter. This makes it easier to return to proof reading after a break with a quick glance at your chart or list.
  4. Do it again. You will eventually get to the stage where you think it’s ready. That little voice in your head will tell you all’s well. Agree with that little voice, but give the text one more proof read for safety.
  5. Get help. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful. Find someone who is willing to have a look at your work. Give them a physical copy wherever possible. Be patient and don’t rush them. They are doing you a favour in agreeing to have a look at your work.
  6. Be kind. Sometimes when you look back at your work and find multiple mistakes it can leave you feeling a little down hearted. Don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, just make sure you’re the kind of person that takes the time to fix them.

 

As a general note on the process of proof reading and my own approach to it, there are many schools of thought regarding proof reading each individual chapter just after you’ve finished it. There are certainly benefits to looking over your work while it is fresh in your mind, but personally I find that a little time away from your work allows you to be more detached from it and see any errors or ways to improve what you’ve done. Ultimately I do the bulk of my proof reading once the whole piece is initially ‘complete’.

 

So there we have it. My own little ways of coping with having to read my own work over and over again. I do hope they’ve been of some use to you, but however you go about your proof reading, just remember that nobody’s prefect.

Just So Busy!

A little attempt to excuse my absence from the blog and an update on what’s been going on!

My deepest apologies, to myself first and foremost, and then to anyone who might be reading. It’s been two months since I last blogged. When I began this I promised myself I would strive to write an entry at least once a month. As June and July came and went there were times when I thought to myself “Must write something before the month is out”, but something else always managed to pop up and demand my attention.

 

The other problem is the agony of choice. Deciding what to blog about has proved to be a task in itself. This entry is a little attempt at breaking the cycle and giving a general update as to what’s been going on and what is to come!

 

Acting wise, rehearsals for Sodbury Players’ production of ‘The Audience’ by Peter Morgan have been going very well indeed, with just over a month until opening night. We believe we may be the first amateur group in the UK to put on this production and it has already been attracting high ticket sales. I strongly urge anyone who’s looking to see this production not to wait too long before securing your tickets! I’ve also been kept busy with rehearsals for our rendition of ‘George and the Dragon’, a piece of street theatre we put on for the Sodbury 800 celebrations. This was an enjoyable piece, a mini-pantomime as it were, with plenty of slapstick and mildly suggestive humour! I’ve also been writing a One Act play, though this is very much in the early stages.

 

Speaking of writing, work on the second installment of ‘The Figment Wars’ continues apace. There was a point where it could be a coin toss that decided which I was going to proof read on a given night, the One Act or the manuscript. I have been greatly touched by all the enquiries as to when this second installment will be published, and rest assured that as soon as I know, you all will!

 

My marketing endeavours have been revamped, with new leaflets advertising my school workshops on the way. I’ve also put in an order for custom made stickers, to be used at various events. If there’s one thing that several years of working with children has taught me, it’s that everyone loves a sticker!

 

Many events are on the horizon, the most recently announced is Em Con Derby, where I’ll be at table 21 selling and signing copies of ‘The Figment Wars: Through the Portals’. This event will represent the furthest afield I’ve been so far to sell and promote my book. Having done an Em Con before, I am greatly looking forward to this one!

 

All in all, I have been very busy striving to bring ‘The Figment Wars’ to new readers. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little blog, this little attempt to make excuses for my absence. Hopefully next time it will be a great deal more focused!

Em Con Worcester 2018

A quick review of my day selling and signing at Em Con Worcester

Slightly belated, I’ll admit, but here’s a nice quick blog reflecting on a brilliant day selling and signing at Em Con Worcester!

 

First of all, it’s always a joy to return to Worcester. It was where I studied to become a teacher and I have many fond memories of the city. I also have some hazy memories of my first year, mostly Fresher’s Week I believe. Truth be told, on returning to Worcester I found it wonderfully eerie to walk those familiar streets and feel as though I’d only been away for a weekend, whereas in reality it has been several years.

 

Now, to the convention itself!

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I arrived with about forty minutes to spare before the doors opened, which was fine given that I only had a certain amount of things to set up. Barring a minor disaster transferring my books from car to stall (I’m never trusting collapsible boxes again), I was rather pleased with how my stall was looking. The roller banner saw its first event, and although it made the table look a bit uneven all there on its own, I’m confident it will soon be joined by another banner.

 

The definite highlight of the set up was John Rhys Davies, coming around to every stall before the event opened with a word of greeting. I’ve not yet done many of these events from this side of the trader table, but I can certainly say that this was a great surprise. John Rhys Davies is a true gentleman, making time for everyone at these events.

 

The doors were flung open and the crowds let in. Over the course of the day I talked to some lovely people, handed out many business cards and, of course, sold a few books. I even had a repeat customer from another event enquiring as to when the sequel will be out! Rest assured, as soon as I know, you will all know! Suffice to say I left the event with considerably fewer copies of ‘The Figment Wars: Through the Portals’ than I came with (which is just as well, considering my storage box broke on the way in).

 

All in all, this was a very good event. A strong start for Em Con in Worcester and I sincerely hope that it will become a regular occurrence.