Footsteps in the Dark: anthology update

Covid-19 delayed the release of many books, including an anthology of Gothic fantasy short stories called Footsteps in the Dark, which I’m pleased to say contains one of my short stories.

The book also includes work by Ramsey Campbell and many more authors. You can read about the inspiration behind each story on the publisher’s website here.

The book is now available in the USA and Canada, as well as the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

New Science Fiction Anthology Release

I’m pleased to have one of my science fiction stories in the latest speculative fiction anthology in the Visions series edited by Carrol Fix. It is now available from Lillicat PublishersAmazon and other retailers.

Visions V: Milky Way is an anthology of science fiction.
Visions V: Milky Way is an anthology of science fiction.

From the publishers:

Visions V stories take place somewhere…anywhere…in the Milky Way Galaxy. Planets, stars, and aliens, with no limitations, form the subject and action taking place outside our Solar System and within the Milky Way.

Humankind has forded the immense stream of space between stars and reached our nearest solar neighbors. What will we discover on hospitable planets circling those new stars? Will we find almost familiar moons, asteroids, planetary rings? Or, could there be never before seen astronomical formations? The sky is no longer the limit for our soaring imaginations, because somewhere out there is a potential haven for the remnants of our beleaguered civilization.

The fifth anthology of the Visions Series features: Steve Bates, Sam Bellotto Jr., Tara Campbell, D. A. Couturier, Bruce C. Davis, W. A. Fix, Teresa Howard, Margaret Karmazin, Leigh Kimmel, S. M. Kraftchak, Marie Michaels, John Moralee, Fredrick Obermeyer, Thomas Olbert, Timothy Paul, Jonathan Shipley, E. J. Shumak, Doug C. Souza, Jay Werkheiser, and Richard Zwicker.

My review:

Visions V: Milky Way is the fifth SF anthology from Lillicat Publishers on the subject of space exploration. It contains 400 pages and 20 short stories, including one by me. (I’m a little biased – so I won’t review my own story.)

There’s a wide variety of stories in this collection, covering many aspects of space exploration and adventure. Some are hard SF (like the first story by Jay Werkheiser, a story first published in Analog magazine). Other stories focus more on social issues and satire. Timothy Paul’s Black Hearts and Blue Skins is a heartfelt tale about xenophobia, for example. There’s an unusual story called Dropworld by Fredrick Obermeyer set almost entirely in the sky, a clever tale of clones and copies in Mirror Dialogues by Richard Zwicker, and a very long-distance relationship story called Pan Ad Aster by Bruce C Davis.

These stories reminded me of the kind of fiction you’d read in Asimov and Analog magazines. I think Visions V is worth checking out if you like the SF stories in those magazines, like I do.

 

 

 

Book Release: Visions III

kuiper belt cover

There were only two jobs I wanted to have as a kid. The first one was a writer. The second was an astronaut.

I gave up that second ambition when I realised the investment necessary for space travel wasn’t going to happen any time soon, making it very unlikely I’d ever get to go into space.

I’d still love to travel up there – but until it becomes as routine as train travel, I will have to satisfy my ambition by writing science fiction.

I’m pleased to announce one of my SF stories is in a new anthology published in December called Visions III: Inside the Kuiper Belt. It’s edited by Carrol Fix and includes stories by seventeen international writers.

Visions III is available from: Lillicat Publishing,  Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Writing a Web Novel – Pros and Cons

Writing a Web Novel – Pros and Cons

Last year I decided as an experiment to write a web novel called Journal of the Living. That meant I had to publish the story in a series of blog posts as I was writing it. To make the challenge more interesting, I decided I would not plan ahead very far because I wanted the story to develop organically. Instead I would have polls at certain points so readers could vote on what happened next. I was hoping the outcome of the votes would send the story off in interesting directions like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. I’ve just finished the novel, which took over a year to write. After completing it, I learnt a few valuable lessons about writing a web novel.

Writing a Web Novel is not the same as writing a normal novel. A normal novel is a complete entity before anyone reads it – neat and polished and as good as you can make it through editing – but a web novel is a work-in-progress, which means it will probably have flaws in it that you’ll want to fix later. Each blog post needs to be edited thoroughly before publishing – but there is less temptation to go back to the previous parts if they are already published. For an over-editor like me, that prevented me rewriting the whole story a hundred times, forcing me to get on with the next blog post.

A web novel requires a commitment to produce new material on a regular basis. This can be just a few paragraphs or an entire chapter or more. This makes it important to keep writing even when you feel tired or lose enthusiasm, which can happen in the middle of any long project.

Readers might not start your story at the beginning. This is a problem with the way blog posts are listed. I’d never start reading a book in the middle – but a web novel doesn’t appear in a chronological order unless the reader finds the start first. Make sure you redirect new readers to the start with a link at the top of each new post. (I didn’t do this with mine until I realised some readers were starting near the end.)

Don’t do a reader poll unless you have plenty of regular readers. I wanted the direction of my story to be decided by readers voting in regular polls. That meant I could not plan beyond the next poll. I hoped enough people would vote to make it worth doing. Unfortunately, the results of my early polls did not produce a good result. About three people voted in my first poll. For a vote to be a valuable tool, I needed at least a hundred voters. The second poll was even worse. Nobody voted. The one after that had a few voters – but the vote was split equally. I soon realised that writing a novel with polls was not working how I imagined. The deadlines for voting had to be short – a week or two – but new readers could not catch up on the story in time to vote if they started reading it near the deadline. There was also another unforeseen problem. After each poll, I had to wait at least a week for the result before continuing the story. That destroyed my momentum, making it hard to resume where I had left off. Eventually I scrapped the polls and just decided to finish the story without any more votes. I was disappointed the experiment had failed – but it was a valuable lesson.

Is it fun writing a web novel? Yes – but it is also challenging. I enjoyed writing my first web novel – but I would think again about doing it with polls. That was not a good idea for my story. It might have been better to ask readers to give me their opinions on what they would have wanted to happen next, instead of just providing a few options.

How much will I earn? In my case I’ve earned nothing. My website does not have a donation button and it does not receive money from advertising. The only way I will earn anything from my web novel is if readers buy my other books after visiting the website. Or if they buy the revised version I have now released as a trade paperback and ebook.

You can read my web novel if you visit my other website: http://www.journaloftheliving.wordpress.com

The trade paperback version is available on Amazon US/Amazon UK and Kindle Version Amazon US/Amazon UK

Ten Deadly Tales – charity anthology

Ten Deadly Tales

Ten Deadly Tales is a charity anthology of horror stories just released.  It includes one of my stories called The Cursed.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ten-Deadly-Tales-Darkling-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00P4CBRF6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414935690&sr=8-1&keywords=ten+deadly+tales

‘Ten Deadly Tales’ is a collection of short stories and flash fictions from the darker side of life. Contributed by up-and-coming independent authors, this is an anthology for anyone who likes ghosts and gore, mutants and monsters, demons, death and everything in between!

All proceeds from this anthology will go to Derian House Children’s Hospice.

List of contributors: M.K. Feese , Glo Gray , John Hoggard , Sherrie Lee James , John Moralee , Jason Purdy , M. Sinclair , Bart Van Goethem , JC Mitchinson

US Amazon link for Ten Deadly Tales.

Inside the writer’s mind: Halloween

Halloween comic strip.

Related post: Using Kindle Comic Creator.

My horror collection The Bone Yard and Other Stories is now available as a paperback and ebook.

It is a collection of fifteen dark stories, ranging from a traditional ghost story to splatterpunk, totalling over 70, 000 words. Some of these stories have appeared before in print in horror anthologies and magazines, but many others are new and original to this gruesome collection.

http://www.amazon.com/Bone-Yard-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B005WK4UCM

This collection includes:

The Bone Yard – a group of boys discover something terrible in a graveyard.
Nematode – the reason why eating too much meat is bad for you.
Open Wounds – torture and pain are the least of one man’s worries when he’s arrested.
The Challenge – a woman finds herself trapped in a strange tower with no memory of how she got there.
The Shadow of Death – what would you do if the world was overrun with zombies and you were one of them?
Monsters – The Nazis perform horrific experiments on humans with the aid of Dr Frankenstein’s reanimation technology, making one scientist question his beliefs.
Sickness Country – a racist community face retribution.
The Midnight Murderer – a writer suspects a psycho-killer is stalking him.
The Faintest Echo – a man’s son dies, but he sees him again …
Sleeping in the Earth – a killer makes a deal to get out of prison one more time.
The Gift – a woman receives a disturbing present.
The Deepest, Darkest Fear – a sheriff investigates the disappearance of his own child.
The Big Favour – would you help your friend dispose of a body?
Starlight – a ghost-writer encounters a famous actress with a secret.
Disconnected – two girls become trapped in a telephone box with terrifying results.

Contains 70, 000 words/277 real pages.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bone-Yard-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B005WK4UCM

 

Killing Sound by Paul Southern Review

Killing Sound by Paul Southern Review

I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

Cover of Killing Sound
Killing Sound by Paul Southern

Killing Sound by Paul Southern

Paperback: 317 pages

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

ISBN-10: 1909489085

ISBN-13: 978-1909489080

Review by John Moralee

Killing Sound is Paul Southern’s third novel, his first for YA horror readers after writing two gritty books for adults. It mixes fringe science with the supernatural, delivering a creepy, disturbing story about a teenage girl called Jodie, whose parents died in a mysterious, gruesome science experiment when she was only five-years-old.

Twelve years later, Jodie remembers little about what happened to her parents, believing they died in a car accident, but when she finds some of her father’s scientific notes hidden in the attic of her family home, Jodie learns about her father’s experiments with infrasound, the sound hidden below the frequency of normal human hearing. Infrasound can’t be heard – but its ominous presence can be felt by sensitive people, like Jodie.

Soon Jodie starts having frightening dreams and disturbing hallucinations, forcing her to investigate her family history, slowly uncovering the truth about how her parents died.

Jodie’s helped by her boyfriend Luca and her friend Kamran – but her task is complicated by a nasty girl called Laura and her sinister gang of goths. They want to harm Jodie and Luca – putting their lives in danger.

Killing Sound begins with vivid horror and delivers a good, chilling atmosphere throughout, making the grim streets of London and the cold dark tunnels of the Underground come alive in the imagination. The details about infrasound and the London Underground are interesting and well-researched. I had read articles on the effects of infrasound before in The Fortean Times, but I had never read anything about tigers using infrasound as a weapon to stun their prey. Very interesting.

I would have liked to know more about the characters for greater empathy, but Paul Southern writes well and knows how to build suspense. The story reminded me of the classic 1957 horror film The Night of the Demon (US title: Curse of the Demon/The Haunted), as it built up the suspense. You know some bad things will happen – but when they do it is still a shock.

Killing Sound is a supernatural horror story worth reading if you like YA horror with a dark theme and a bleak urban setting.

Self-publishing Using Create Space

Self-publishing Using CreateSpace

When I was twelve, I self-published my first book. It was a fantasy story I wrote on an old typewriter with a fading ribbon. To make my story look like a real paperback, I cut some sheets of A4 down to the right size with a pair of fairly blunt scissors that resulted in every sheet being a little ragged and not quite straight because I didn’t have a proper paper slicer. I sellotaped about two hundred pages together into my book, which didn’t look exactly professional, though I was pleased with the result at the time. My book didn’t even have a cover picture – but it felt like an achievement making it. I had made a book from scratch.

For many years I resisted the idea of self-publishing another book because I didn’t want the resulting product looking like my first attempt. Just a few years ago, it cost an absolute fortune to self-publish a book, even if you did all of the hard work yourself like designing a cover and proof-reading. The kind of publishers interested in printing self-published titles were mostly vanity publishers only interested in making money from writers – often producing books that looked not much better than my own first effort at a price so high you’d think they were printed on gold.

It is only recently that the printing technology has developed for POD (print on demand) books to become a viable way of publishing.

Last month I decided to try publishing my crime novel Acting Dead as a paperback using CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD company.

After signing up, I found it simple to set up what I wanted to do by following their step-by-step guide for building a book. That starts with providing the name of the book and other information like the author’s name. Amazon provides an ISBN for free – so you can sell your book through Amazon and other online book sellers and libraries. (You can choose your own ISBN if you have one.)

Next you choose the size of the book (a standard trade paperback is 9 x 6 inches), the cover type (glossy or matt) and the paper colour (white or cream).

Then you upload your book as a PDF (Public Document File). A PDF can be created in Word or LibreOffice or whatever software you use – just make sure the pages of the book are set as the size of the paper – with generous margins (half an inch at least) on left and right, as well as top and bottom. To make your pages the right size you might want to add “bleed” – a small amount to the size of each page, requiring a technical understanding of book publishing – but if your margins are generous you won’t need to worry about that as CreateSpace can fix it.

The beauty of producing a book from a PDF is that your book’s contents will print out without any formatting problems. Your book will look exactly like the PDF – so make sure the PDF looks good before uploading it.

Things To Improve Your Book’s Appearance

Use a font that is readable in a book – not one designed for reading on a computer screen like Times New Roman. Garamond is the one I used for Acting Dead as it an attractive font.

You might also want to consider how big the text is and the line-spacing because they alter the length of your book, changing the cost of production. A book set at 12 points with a line-spacing of 2 would have twice the pages of one with line-spacing of one. The best line-spacing seems to be between 1.2 and 1.5. (Experiment with the PDF to see what you like.) The font can be reduced to 11 points or 10.5 if you want more words per page. The line spacing should be changed for each font size, roughly 1.2 x (font size) looks good.

Also be aware of the different types of fonts – serif and sans serif. Serif fonts are ones that go below the line, like the bottom of the “g” in this sentence. (San serif fonts don’t do that.) With serif fonts, be aware that if the line spacing is not sufficient, the part of the letter below will be cut off. You can use sans serif fonts for avoiding this – though they look weird for text except for headers and footers.

Once you have uploaded your PDF, you can then move on to making your cover. CreateSpace make this easy by using a Cover Creator program. The result will be professional, though it does make every book look very similar.

Alternatively, you can design your own front and back covers, which can then be uploaded into their program. That is the option I chose – but it was not a straight forward process. The cover’s edges will be cut off during printing – so don’t have any text near the sides. I had to adjust my cover several times before it was suitable.

After you have completed the book’s contents and cover, your book is ready – but you can’t publish it immediately. Unfortunately, CreateSpace will only do that after you have ordered a physical proof copy and approve it. That means you have to buy at least one copy, which will not count as a sale, as it is marked with the word ‘proof’ on the final page. Luckily the cost of the proof is reasonable – so I went ahead and ordered it. I learnt the shipping time ranges from over a month to just a few days if you pay for fastest delivery. The fastest delivery speed cost four times the price of the book – so I avoided that. Instead, I chose the second speed of delivery, which had my book arrive in two weeks.

For those two weeks I was dreading what my proof copy would look like because I’d seen so many cheap-looking self-published books. They often have poor spines, glue coming out of the edges and don’t look as good as ones produced by traditional publishers. Therefore, my expectations were pretty low when my book arrived – so when I opened my package I could hardly believe what I had received.

Cover of Acting Dead
Acting Dead – paperback version

The book looked amazing. It was far better quality than many books already on my shelves. I was really impressed and glad I’d gone ahead with buying a copy. The glossy cover made it look highly professional. (I also bought a matt copy that looked good too – though the black on the cover wasn’t quite as dark. Most fiction titles have matt covers because they are cheaper to mass produce.) It was, beyond any doubts, a significant improvement on my first self-published book. It was a real book, as good as any paperback I’ve seen. I would be proud to have it on my book shelves.

I liked the proof copy so much I’ve added another two other books – Edge of Crime and The Bone Yard and Other Stories, now available via CreateSpace.

Interior picture of Acting Dead.
Interior picture of Acting Dead published via CreateSpace.

Each book has its own estore, which is also a free service provided by CreateSpace. Books bought from your own estore will earn a slightly higher royalty than from Amazon, though it will not increase your book’s Amazon rank selling them via it. The advantage of having an estore is you can offer discounts directly to customers.

I’d recommend trying CreateSpace after finding it so easy to use.  It’s much easier than sellotaping pages together!

Update 2015: CreateSpace now allow authors to proof their books digitally for free – so you don’t have to buy a copy before publishing. It is also faster to order a copy through Amazon than CreateSpace – with the added benefit of it not having the words ‘proof copy’ stamped on the last page. While almost every detail of a book (cover, content) can be changed after publication, the colour of the paper is fixed by the ISBN, which means it can’t be altered once you pick either white or cream.

Guest Interview – Nicky Peacock

GUEST INTERVIEW – NICKY PEACOCK

Today I’m doing my first guest interview with the author Nicky Peacock. Nicky writes horror, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and supernatural Young Adult fiction. That’s a wide selection of genres – but it’s just a part of what she’s written. Nicky also writes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal noir, urban fantasy and dystopian fiction. Her stories have been published in over forty anthologies in five countries, the USA, the UK, Australia, Ireland and Canada.

Picture of Nicky Peacock.
Nicky Peacock – author of Bad Blood.

In 2013 her first YA novel Bad Blood was published by Noble Romance’s YA imprint Noble & Young. Bad Blood is a story of a four-hundred-year-old vampire fighting against an uprising of zombies.

Cover of Bad Blood.
Bad Blood by Nicky Peacock.

Nicky also runs a local writers’ group called Creative Minds Writing.

QUESTION 1: Hi, Nicky. Why did you want to become a writer?

NICKY PEACOCK: I think, like most writers, it was to tell stories. I always loved to read, but sometimes found it difficult to find the stories I wanted – so I started writing them myself.

QUESTION 2: Yeah – I did that too. Every writer is deeply influenced by the work of others they enjoy reading. Which writer has had the most influence on you?

NICKY PEACOCK: I have a wide variety of fav authors, growing up I was fascinated by horror and was drawn to the works of Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite. I think you have to be careful though, as a writer (especially starting out) that you don’t just become a poor echo of your favourite writers’ work – you then end lost in the realms of fan fiction.

QUESTION 3: That is a danger – but copying the work of writers you admire does help you learn – as long as you don’t do it for too long! Here’s my next question. If your house was burning down and you could only take one book with you, which book would you save?

NICKY PEACOCK: I know I’ll get hated for this – but I’d take my Kindle.  It has more books on it than are on my shelf and it’s backed up – so if there’s smoke damage, I’m still good! I’d also grab my beloved memory stick, as it’s got on all my music and writing – back up people, you know it’s right!

QUESTION 4: Being a writer can be hard work, especially when you are starting out. What advice would you give new writers?

NICKY PEACOCK: Unfortunately there are no short cuts, you can only really learn writing by doing it, like most things in life. You have to put pen to paper, finger to keyboard and get on with it. I’ve met a lot of ‘writers’ in my time who don’t actually write anything at all! The best advice I can give is ‘knuckle down and get it done’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work and you have to sacrifice parts of your life to include it in – but anything that’s worth having is hard work.

QUESTION 5: Often finding somewhere to sell a story is harder than the writing of it. What resources do you use to find good paying markets?

NICKY PEACOCK: I use Horror Tree and Dark Markets. There’s a great database called Duotrope (although you have to pay for that now). However, if you are just organised and keep a spread sheet of all the publishers you want to work with and keep an eye their submission pages for call-outs, then at least you are giving those publishers what they are looking for at the right time – which is half the battle.

Also, a bit of an odd tip is to join Netgalley, it’s a review site for publishers. Not only do you get to read and review free books, but you also get valuable publisher contacts and can see the genres they are interested in before their books are released to general market.

QUESTION 6: Horror Tree is a useful site. I’ve found new markets for my writing there. You have an impressive publishing history. Would you like to tell me about that?

NICKY PEACOCK: To be honest, I still don’t see my published history as impressive, I just submitted a lot of short stories (I actually became quite obsessed with it for a time.) Short stories are a great way to cut your teeth as a new writer, not only do you get to learn the craft of writing by actually writing, you get to work with publishers and editors and also build up a CV ready for when you sell that novel.

 QUESTION 7: What horror films and TV shows do you enjoy?

NICKY PEACOCK: Oh, sooo many at the moment. I really like ‘The Strain’ and ‘Walking Dead’. I’m a big fan of ‘American Horror’ and am looking forward to ‘Freak Show’. I also just watched the whole box set of the first season of ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ from Netflix – really addictive! I love ‘Game of Thrones’ (although who doesn’t?) and am curious about the new series of ‘Gotham’ – as I’m a DC rather than a Marvel girl.

QUESTION 8: In your horror fiction you have to scare readers. What scares you?

NICKY PEACOCK: Oddly, quite a few things. When you have an over active imagination, you can manage to scare yourself more often than other people! One thing that really gets me is being lost. I think it stems from when I was little, but the thought of driving or even walking around somewhere I don’t know on my own scares me. When I go some place new I have to do a dry run with a friend or family member – it’s odd, but as long as I’ve been somewhere at least once, I’m good.

QUESTION 9: What made you want to write your novel Bad Blood?

NICKY PEACOCK: I love vampires and zombies in literature, but rarely found them together. So I decided to see what would happen if I pitted them against one another – a monster of magic against a monster of science with humans caught in the middle. Once my characters were fleshed out, it almost wrote itself!

QUESTION 10: What are you working on right now?

NICKY PEACOCK: At the moment I am working on an urban fantasy retelling of a Hans Christian Anderson tale for an adult market. I’m also beavering away on the second book in the Bad Blood series, Bad Timing.

FINAL QUESTION: Where can readers find you online?

NICKY PEACOCK: I’m everywhere!

You can check out Nicky Peacock’s novel in the UK here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nicky-Peacock/e/B007UH2ACW/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_4
Nicky Peacock is also at these web addresses:

Blog: http://nickypeacockauthor.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nickyp_author

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NickyPeacockYaBooks

Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Nicky-Peacock/e/B007UH2ACW/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_4

Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/list/4958833.Nicky_Peacock

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/nickypauthor/

Tumblr: http://nickypeacock.tumblr.com/