Sunday, August 31, 2014

Do You Plan Ahead With Success in Mind?

I discovered an interesting article the other day about overcoming hurdles before you allow them to become a problem. That’s important, especially for a writer. If you wish to pursue a successful career, you have to approach your work with a very specific focus.
Look how this is highlighted in the information below:
The First Stumbling Block: Direction
In order to actually make this pursuit successful, you need to have remarkable clarity in two areas:
  1. You need to know your No End Path. This involves your passion, your unique gifts to the world and who you wish to serve.
  2. You need to know your message. Without a clear, concise message you’ll struggle to set yourself apart from the masses.
  3. You need to know with absolute certainty that the path you’re on is the right one for you.
Without a focused direction for your work, you’ll end up spinning your wheels. You need to know with absolute certainty that the path your on is the right one for you.
Your message is the fuel behind what you do; it’s a rallying cry for your tribe. It gets you excited, it’s magnetic and it attracts the right type of person.
These two things are critical to your success. When they work together, a beautiful symphony of passion and focus is composed.
If you don’t have this part nailed down, it’s easy to run in circles, stuck on a road to nowhere, never making any real progress with your business. Trailblazer solves that problem by giving you complete certainty in your idea before you start with a comprehensive idea-testing scorecard.
The Second Roadblock: The Roadmap
Direction without a well-illustrated map for how to get there is useless. When you’re clear about your world-changing idea, you need a structured plan to help you implement it.
You need to put a foundation under your castle in the sky. You need a practical strategy to accomplish your vision.
Mission One
Find your passion and your winning idea
  • You’ll find the match between what you love to do and how you can serve the world.
  • Craft a rocket-fueled message that propels you forward and attracts your ideal customer.
  • Identify your unique genius that gives you incredible leverage.
  • Test your idea with a proven scorecard that gives you confirmation on whether your passion is a deep-rooted interest and whether or not it can actually make money.
Mission Two
You’ll identify a clear outcome with your offer that makes people feel safe to invest.
  • Find the hidden desires that make your offer hard to refuse.
  • Create a comprehensive profile of the people that are actively seeking your “medicine” so they’re already receptive to your offer.
  • How to be confident in self-promotion without feeling like you’re selling out.
Mission Three
Build your tribe
  • Learn the #1 strategy for building your audience rapidly.
  • How to warm people up and get them to become loyal fans of your content.
  • Creating authority so you cultivate a high level of trust with your audience.
  • How to position yourself as a leader in your niche.
  • Follow along with a case study about how one Trailblazer built an email list of 1,000 people in just a week.
Mission Four
Verify the need
  • How to know exactly what your customer needs before you create something.
  • Setting up a feedback loop so you have an eerily accurate connection with what your people want.
  • Seeing the patterns in what people say and identifying their hidden desires that they’ll never admit but are critical for your positioning.
  • Identify an outcome that gets them to see a bigger vision than they thought was possible.
Mission Five
Crafting your product vision
  • A proven blueprint for creating a compelling product that gets people to buy (you can use this with every product or service you create).
  • A simple and painless method for outlining your product/service and creating it quickly with high quality.
  • How to easily create a sales page that isn’t cheesy and that your customer actually wants to read.
  • Productivity methods for staying on track while you build your empire.
Mission Six
The invisible launch
  • Learn to create marketing that’s so effective people never even feel like they’ve been sold to.
  • How to seed your audience so that they’re primed to invest with you long before you ever direct them to your landing page.
  • Drawing in your customers to your product narrative so that they’re anticipating your release (and refreshing the sales page waiting for it to become available to buy).
  • The one thing you can do to ensure that every product or service you create is successful.
  • Releasing your offer in a way that automatically sets you up for success with your next launch.
So, there you go - some interesting pointers that will help you focus on specific aspects to make your writing more successful.

I know what I need to work on. Do you?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fallen Angels

Prize Pack Giveaway

Entries are now open for you to take part in the Giveaway Contest for the latest book in the Guardian Series - Fallen Angels.
Fallen Angels concludes the first trilogy, and contains a number of revelations, as well as a great deal of heartbreak.
If you would like an opportunity of receiving a free signed copy of Fallen Angels - together with all of the items shown in the picture above - just enter the competition.
To enter:
1. Message me on Facebook
2. Use the Rafflecopter option below
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck to everyone, and, click away :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Point of Interest

Recently, George R.R. Martin appeared with fellow fantasy author Robin Hobb at an event in London’s Freemasons’ Hall. With over 50 books between them, each has a distinctive approach to writing. I thought it would be a great idea to share some of the highlights from a question & answer session with you, as their answers provide some great pointers for new and aspiring writers.


On their first stories.

“I never finished any of my early stories. They were all beginnings, an endless number of beginnings.” – George R.R. Martin
“I was dressed up as a witch for Halloween, and wanted to write a story about my black cat before I went out trick-or-treating. I think it went out with the trash the next day.” – Robin Hobb
“The best writing advice I had was in ‘Heinlein’s Rules for Writers’ by (American science fiction author) Robert A. Heinlein. His first rule is that you must write, and I was already doing that, but his second rule is, ‘You must finish what you write,’ and that had a big impact on me.” – George R.R. Martin
“I had these cheap alien toys and I made up stories for them. They were space pirates. They didn’t have names so I made up names. These were the first stories I wrote. Even as a little kid I was thinking about torture.” – George R.R. Martin

On childhood.

“We never went anywhere because we had no money and we had no car, but I would look out the living room window and see the lights of Staten Island. It was incredibly romantic to me, like Middle Earth. Of course, the danger is you eventually get to Staten Island.” – George R.R. Martin
“I began reading everything in the family library. Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe. And of course, if you’re running out of books to read you can always read Shakespeare.” – Robin Hobb
“Reading. That was the sport I was good at.” – George R.R. Martin

On their first professional work.

“It was a story called ‘The Hero’ which I sold to Galaxy magazine in 1970, for $94.” – George R.R. Martin
“I began attempting to write for children under the mistaken assumption that writing for children was easy.” – Robin Hobb
“I was a journalism major, and I would take creative writing classes as part of that, but I would also look for opportunities to write stories for some of my other classes. So for my course in Scandinavian history, I asked if I could write historical fiction instead of term papers. Sometimes they’d say yes.” – George R.R. Martin

On writing.

“It’s different for every writer. It’s not a career for anyone who needs security. It’s a career for gamblers. It’s a career of ups and downs.” – George R.R. Martin
“Very little about being a writer is signing an autograph. It’s sitting in a room and writing. Getting it out.” – Robin Hobb
“I agree. The main thing is the stories. Ultimately you want to get back to that room, back to your people.” – George R.R. Martin
“I’ve been very lucky. There were times when I was afraid I would never sell another book, but I never doubted I’d write another book.” – George R.R. Martin
“It’s being ready to accept rejection. You can work on a book for two years and get it published, and it’s like you may as well have thrown it down a well. It’s not all champagne and doing interviews with The New York Times.” – George R.R. Martin
“It’s like chasing butterflies and trying not to crush them.” – Robin Hobb
“There’s part of me that loves words. But sometimes it feels like you’re trying to drive nails with your shoe.” – George R.R. Martin

On editing.

“The biggest doubts come in the five minutes after I hit send.” – Robin Hobb
“I enjoy rewriting much more than I do first drafts. Rewriting, at least you have something to work with. I find writing first drafts extremely difficult.” – George R.R. Martin
“When both my editors say ‘This is really bad, you need to change this,’ I ignore that at my peril.” – Robin Hobb

On killing characters and torturing readers.

“I could have written a story about a well-adjusted family. Ned Stark comes down to King’s Landing and takes over and solves all their problems. Would that have been as exciting?” – George R.R. Martin
“George handles this huge cast of characters so well. When I get beyond four or five characters, I think, well, there’s one way to simplify this story.” – Robin Hobb
“The way my books are structured, everyone was together, then they all went their separate ways and the story deltas out like that, and now it’s getting to the point where the story is beginning to delta back in, and the viewpoint characters are occasionally meeting up with each other now and being in the same point at the same time, which gives me a lot more flexibility for killing people.” – George R.R. Martin

On overcoming blocks.

“I will sit there and say, don’t do that, don’t do that, you’re going to make this story three chapters longer, and of course he doesn’t listen.” – Robin Hobb on her main character, Fitz.
“Thankfully, I have a lot of characters. So if I run into a Tyrion problem, I can write with Arya for a while. Then one day there’s a solution for the Tyrion problem, out of nowhere.” – George R.R. Martin

On what they’d tell their younger selves.

“Start writing sooner. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t hesitate.” – Robin Hobb
“I’d be anonymous. That’s what I’d do differently.” – George R.R. Martin

On A Song of Ice and Fire.

“I thought it could be a trilogy. It was initially proposed to be A Game of Thrones, A Dance of Dragons, and The Winds of Winter. There was a period when I thought I’d never get to A Dance With Dragons, because the second book became the third book, and then it became the fourth book, and then it became the fifth book. The tale grew in the telling. It’s all very well to discuss some of these things in the outline, but when you sit down to write it, other plots occur to you, secondary characters come in, you think of an interesting subplot. Suddenly the stew is much richer, but it also takes more bowls to fill it up.” – George R.R. Martin
On dreams.
“My dreams are the usual incoherent nonsense. Like most writers, at some point in my career I thought, well, I have these great dreams but I always forget them in the morning so I’ll leave a pad on my bedside table so I can write it down, and then you have some incredible dream and you write it down and the next morning you wake up and you’ve written ‘purple socks’.” – George R.R. Martin
On underdogs.
“Everybody has felt at one time or another that everyone else in the world had a better shot than they did, so when you engage that, you engage the reader, and I think you create a character that brings the reader more fully into the story.” – Robin Hobb
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the outsider, for the underdog. ‘Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things’, as the title of one of the (TV series) episodes goes. The angst that they have in life makes for more conflict, makes for more drama, and there’s something very attractive about that. My Game of Thrones is told by outsiders of both types. None of them fit comfortably into the society into which they’ve been born, and they’re all struggling to find a place for themselves in which they’re valued and loved and respected, despite what their society considers their deficiencies. And out of that, I think, comes good stories.” – George R.R. Martin
On names.
“Names are hard. I have a library of What to Name Your Baby books, and I’m always picking up new books, and books of baby names from other countries. I like cool-sounding names.” – George R.R. Martin
“I do know what’s been useless to me is the online fantasy name generators. I’ve tried those a few times, and they say, ‘Just hit this button and we’ll generate 50 fantasy names,’ and they all turn out to be ‘Grisknuckle’.” – George R.R. Martin
“A lot of fantasy names are too much. They’re too difficult to pronounce. I wanted the flavor of medieval England. I took actual names we still use today, like ‘Robert’, and in some case I tweaked them a little bit. I made ‘Edward’ into ‘Eddard’. If you look back at medieval times, no one knew how to spell their own names. There are a lot of variations that we’ve lost.” – George R.R. Martin
“There’s an old writing rule that says ‘Don’t have two character names start with the same letter’, but I knew at the beginning that I was going to have more than 26 characters, so I was in trouble there. Ultimately it comes down to what sounds right. And I struggle with that, finding the right name for a character. If I can’t find the right name I don’t know who the character is and I can’t proceed.” – George R.R. Martin
Courtesy of Buzzfeed.
There you go...some nice little tips and insights in there. I found some of the answers fascinating, especially regarding what they’d tell their younger selves. Me? I’d definitely start writing sooner...
What about you?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Things I've Learned Since Becoming An Author

(And tongue-in-cheek bits about myself too)

This time around, I thought I'd share a few simple truths I've come to appreciate about being an author. Some of them, you'll be able to relate to instantly. Others? Well, they're just personal to me.
1. Find out what kind of schedule fits your temperament - and then stick to it.
I often see other authors talking about mammoth writing sessions they've enjoyed. You know, the ones where they've drained reservoir quantities of coffee from the national reserves and gone on to create a masterpiece. I've only ever tried that once, and didn't like it. But if that works for you, by all means do it. The important thing, is to find your thing...then stick to it. Regularity is the key.
2. I get twitchy if I don't keep to schedule.
Are you like that? Because of my lifestyle, I have to work to schedule. If something interrupts my creative time, I get all emotional. It consumes me. And while I don't go all "Bruce Banner" on people, I do get a bit...testy.
So, if you get disturbed - do what I do - make notes, jot down ideas, and gnash your teeth until you can get back to it!

3. Take Regular Breaks.
Me? I actually do something physical in between sessions. Jog, swim, exercise, a spot of housework. Whatever it is, it allows me to run things through in my head, so I stay eager to write.
4. Get used to indifference.
The glamor of securing that first contract soon wears off. When acquaintances see your not jetting off all over the world on incredibly important business trips, the novelty of your success drains away like water down a plughole. So don't go on about it. Let your work, family, friends, do the speaking for you, and you'll find the buzz about what you do never ceases to stop circulating.

5. Vodka fuels my imagination
It really does? Strange that, eh?.
However, I have to strike a balance. Too much vodka only ever fuels frequent trips to the bathroom and a tendency to sleep.

6. Be honest with your publisher.
And work closely with your editor. You really will reap the benefits in the long-run. I've found it creates a much more productive and flexible working environment. Everyone is willing to help each other, and feel free to express ideas and opinions. (Remember, its your work that benefits).

7. I'm a hammer - not a tip-tapper.
How long does your keyboard last? I get through mine every 4 or 5 months. In fact, I beat my keyboards so hard, you can hear them screaming our safe-words as I'm writing my stories.
...Yeah, say my name!

8. Don't forget advertising and promotions.
This is an area I really need to concentrate on. If - like me - you write with smaller, independent publishers, make sure you devote some of your time to raising the profile of your work. You already know how I feel about my schedule. If I'm not typing away, I feel like I'm being lazy. But, what's the point of doing all that work if people aren't aware your fantastic tales of the imagination are actually available to read? So, don't become too focused on spending your 'author time' writing. Make space for advertising and promotions too. You won't regret it.
9. It's Official. Manufactures DO incorporate Catnip in keyboards.
This is a phenomenon every author with cats will experience. You clear your head. You grab your tankard of coffee - or in my case, vodka. You flex those fingers...(The keyboard whimpers)...and as you take your seat, poof! Tiddles appears from nowhere to assist you in creating your masterpiece.
A cunning conspiracy? Are there, in fact, millions of authors out there plagiarizing the work of their fluffy, furry-purry friends? No. Quite simply, manufacturers have devised a cunning way to incorporate the essence of Catnip into the resin on your keyboard...just to annoy authors.
10. I can eat a whole cheesecake in one sitting.
What has that got to do with writing? Absolutely nothing, but I just thought I'd throw it in there as its my secret superhero ability, and I wanted you to know in case you're ever left with any delicious, sweet, moist and crumbly offerings you can't handle.
So now you know.
That's it for now - next time, I'll be posting a video of what happens when I say the word's, "No! Definitely not...I forbid it." To my wife.
***Warning - Will definitely contain scenes of extreme violence***

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sharing My Process


I've been asked to share a few ideas about my current works, and how my creative process impacts upon my schedule. You won't find anything sage here, but I do hope you discover something useful.
Here it goes:

What am I working on?

I'm very focused and like to concentrate on one main project at a time. So, at this moment, I'm entering the final stages of the first draft to Phoenix Rising, the fourth tale of the Guardian series. It's an important step, because this book links the previous trilogy into the new one, and I have to ensure the two blend together smoothly, whilst setting the scene for the concluding chapters to their story.

Saying that, I'm also laying the foundations to what will be an entirely new venture. World building is a very important aspect to my process, and I take my time with it. As to what the new project relates to? Watch this space...more exciting news later this year, perhaps next year.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I usually stick to two main genres. Science-Fiction and Paranormal/Fantasy. However, I approach both with a similar attitude. I like to make what I write believable. To do that, I do what I touched on above. World build. I'm an advocate of the axiom...if you do your homework, & base your characters and the story's setting on a thoroughly researched foundation, then it shines through. You give your heroes and villains a history that makes a huge difference, and this allows you to add all sorts of twists and turns as the tale develops. I truly believe the reader will notice that and appreciate it.

I also like to send a message through the pages of my work. What that message is, differs with each story, but will often touch on issues such as, morality, equality, diversity, etc. and the consequences of pushing things too far.

Why do I write what I do?

Conditioning. It is often said, you should write what you know. While I do this within the context of my work, (especially in relation to the science involved, or combat principles in fight scenes), I also apply that focus in the actual genres themselves.
I grew up in the 1960's. Think of what took place at that time. The space race. Endless Gerry Anderson sci-fi shows. (Supercar, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Stingray, captain name a few.) Think of the other shows on primetime TV: Dr Who, The Champions, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, Time Tunnel, The Invaders.
Those shows only got more sophisticated as the decades passed...(Gosh, I feel old) :(
Is it any wonder such things strongly influenced the corridors of my imagination?

How does my writing process work?

I'll simplify this, as its quirky.
When I come up with an idea for a novel, I allow it to bounce around inside my head for quite a while. I actually allow it to develop there, and sometimes play things through to a conclusion before I put anything but the vital points down in writing. I even shuffle things about mentally, try it again, and only when I come up with something that really begins to flow, do I start to make notes.
By that stage, I can lay the foundations for the world building aspect.
Then I come up with a written outline. How I want the story to start. Where I'd like it to go before we arrive at the conclusion. Then I refine the points that need polishing...and off we go.
But, I allow enough fluidity to let the story flow where it needs. I've seen the value of this a number of times, now, as each story takes on its own momentum, and leads me where it needs to go.
I do semi-edit as I go through, as it allows me to ensure I've kept important plot points/twists where I need them, and then I apply another, more thorough edit once the 1st draft is completed, prior to sending it to beta-readers.
When it comes back, I edit again - and then I send it off.

There you go. As I mentioned, it's nothing magical, but its a method that works for me. I hope you find something useful within it to help you with your own development.

Perhaps you might also like to check out my friend's blog:
Where they describe their own process.

Until the next time...
Have a most excellent day.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Expo Tips

I know a great many of you like to attend Expos and book fairs, not just to enjoy the event itself, but also to promote your own work. It's something I'd certainly love to get the opportunity to do if they had that kind of thing, way over here in Greece, it is...all I can do is stare across the ocean in envy, stick my bottom lip out, and sulk.

Anyway, for those of you who are able to enjoy the luxury of an Expo or two, I came across an excellent little article on the Writers Network, that you might find useful. It was written by a guy called, Ron Knight, who made some excellent suggestions as to what we could all do to make our work stand out that little bit more, and especially if you actually get to attend these events.
Here it is...see what you think.
I just attended a book fair in Venice, Florida that had 56 authors selling their books. Here are some things I noticed:
1~ About 20% of the authors were sitting. The problem with that is it makes the author look like they aren’t passionate about sharing their story. Of those 20%, only half stood up when I spoke to them. This is a big mistake if you want to sell books.
TIP: It can be exhausting, but you must stand and greet each potential reader. You only have a few seconds to make an impression.
2~ Only 2 authors stood in front of their table, rather than behind the table. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that I spent a few extra minutes listening to those 2 authors pitch their books.
TIP: Standing to the front/left or front/right of the table shows confidence in what you’re doing and you will engage in more conversations.
3~ Only 50% of the authors had either a bookmark, or business card with their contact information. Of those, 20% had cheap looking bookmarks or business cards that they obviously copied off their printer and cut out.
TIP: Most people will collect bookmarks and decide later on which books to purchase. This is essential for every author to have. Of those that had bookmarks or business cards, only 20% provided an email address. For some reason authors aren’t including their email addresses, but I’m not sure why.
TIP: You never know who will be stopping at your table. It’s important to have all of your contact information provided on a professional bookmark, or business card, which includes all of your links AND your email address.
4~ Only 2 authors provided an extra activity to do at their table.
TIP: If you provide some sort of simple game where you can win a free prize, this will build a crowd around your table and keep people near you longer.
5~ Only 1 author gave away a free pencil. (On that pencil was their book title and website.)
TIP: If you give away a pencil, or some sort of small prize, it will be a promotion that lasts even longer than a bookmark.
6~ Only 10% of authors pitched me on their books in less than 25 words.
TIP: The most difficult thing for authors to do is pitch their novel in one sentence, but it’s critical to have that pitch ready. Perhaps you can pitch your book the same as the film industry pitches a new movie. “My book is like Die Hard on a bus!” Or, “My book is Blade Runner meets Field of Dreams.”
7~ ZERO authors gave away an excerpt of their book.
TIP: Even if you sat down behind your table, didn’t give away bookmarks or business cards, didn’t provide an extra activity or handout free items, or didn’t pitch your book, there is one slam dunk way to get anyone excited about your story…give them an example.
Professional Excerpt Tips:
8~ On the top left corner provide a black and white photo of your book cover, or some sort of image that relates to your book.
9~ Provide the first chapter of your book, or whatever fits on a 9×11 sheet. On the back, (Or if you have room on the bottom front page) provide your links and email address.
Your story is amazing, so people will purchase your book before leaving the event, or purchase your book using one of your links. There’s no better pitch than your writing.
Bonus: Spend a little extra money and printout another sheet that provides 10 tips that benefit your target readers. Staple that tip-sheet to your excerpt.
For example, if you write teen books, provide 10 tips on how to survive high school. If you write inspirational books, provide 10 tips on starting off the day with a positive attitude.
10~ Zero authors sold something other than their book.
TIP: The book fair was outside in Venice, Florida. If an author sold waters for a dollar, they would have made a killing. Also, authors should sell wristbands for a buck that have the title of their book, or a catchy phrase based on their story.
Your book is the gateway to all kinds of success, but it starts with YOU…
Ron Knight
I don't know about you, but I found some of Ron's advice intriguing. I've done small publicity events here in Greece...and I don't know if it was the informality of the affair that helped...but thankfully, I naturally did some of what he suggested. I stood round on the other side of the desk. I socialized. Had a little competition, had cards and flyers made, etc.
But other aspects?
Having a one sentence blurb prepared? Fantastic!
Having excerpts of your book - or even a print out of your 1st chapter? Canny idea!
Other little gimmicks with the title or the emblem of your book?
Look at this.
My regular readers will know what these two symbols represent. Imagine if I had then transposed - as he suggested - onto wristbands, magnets, pens etc. Simple and effective.
I think I'm going to start doing this...and tell you how it goes. :)
That's all for now. I hope YOU found something within this item that might prove useful.
Until the next time, have a great day...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Poetry Acceptance

Hello again,
I'm proud to announce the latest release from Shoe Music Press,
Penny Ante Feud 14 - The Fires of the Earth / The Dying Word.
Penny Ante Feud is a quality press who only accept one - just one - submission from each of the applicants who strive to encapsulate their thoughts and emotions in a way that describes this most desperate and perfect act.
I am delighted to say, my submission, Virtual Reality, will be part of this thought provoking collection.
If you've never read poetry before...try this.
You won't look back :)