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It’s Supposed to be Fun

The whole reason I started writing stories is because it is fun. Little five year old James laying on the floor with his Ghostbuster’s notebook and pencil wasn’t making up stories because he wanted to make money, run a business, post about it on social media and all the other stuff that comes along with being an independent author. The only reason that little guy did anything was because he thought it was fun.

It’s easy to lose sight of that, and I’m certainly guilty of doing so, from time to time. I get so focused on the metrics, on fine tuning my processes, on being as productive as possible that I forget the simple pleasure of sitting down and making up a story out of thin air.

When that happens, you inevitably get bogged down, the whole thing starts to feel like a slog, like hard work. Which I think comes through in the story. If I’m not enjoying writing it, is anyone going to enjoy reading it? I can’t see how they would.

I started writing because it was fun, and most days it still is fun, but I need to get better at recognising when I’m sliding into not fun and do what I can to pull myself out of it. There’s no point writing if you don’t enjoy it.

I’m sure there are other things that we started off doing because they were fun, but turned them into hard work. I don’t know why. Part of me wants to blame it on the culture of side hustles and the nature of capitalism, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it. Maybe people are just wired this way?

I’m back

It’s been a while since I last posted here and a lot has changed. Well, maybe not that much, but it feels like a lot. Enough that it’s going to change the way I’m approaching blogging, and writing in general (but more on that another time).

I finished working at Verizon in June last year, after 14 years with the same company. Since then I’ve been writing and doing a few other things. As of tomorrow I am once again employed and that’s going to take some adjustment. It’s a part-time role which suits me because I can carry on taking Oscar to and from school, and still have time to write and publish.

Even working part time, I’m going to have less time to spend on writing and publishing though, so why am I back to blogging, you might ask. Well, the simple answer is that I like writing here, and that’s a good enough reason. But it’s also because, while not having traditional employment, my time became sprawling. Things that I used to be able to do in a couple of hours took whole days. Returning to blogging feels like a way of fighting against that tendency.

While I’ve been away from blogging I have also been thinking about my upcoming writing projects and there are going to be some changes there. All for the better, I think.

Anyway, just wanted to check in and let you know what’s going on. I’ll be posting more regularly going forward so you shouldn’t have to wait so long for my next post.

Setting the Tone

Setting the Tone

I have always enjoyed super hero stories. One of the first films I remember seeing at the cinema was Tim Burton’s Batman, and as you can probably tell if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I am a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Although super heroes originated in comic books, I have never been a big reader of them. I have tried a few times in the past, but it has never really clicked. I’m not sure why. For me, the best place to enjoy these stories is at the cinema or on television.

Last night, Tamzin and I watched the first few episodes of Extraordinary. It’s a comedy series, but not in the way I have seen comedy heroes done in the past. Most of the time, the superpowers aren’t played for laughs, but are taken seriously. The comedy comes from the characters.

The closest thing I can think to compare it to is Discworld, a fantasy comedy that still takes the world it has created seriously. Being in such rarified company suggests this isn’t a straightforward thing to do, and it got me thinking about my writing and whether I could manage something like that.

It also got me thinking about another super hero film we watched recently: The Marvels.

The Marvels got a lot of hate online, but we both really enjoyed it. Same with Thor Love and Thunder, which I would put as one of my favorite films in the MCU. But many people didn’t like them and it makes me think some people take these films too seriously. They are, after all, about people wearing costumes fighting crime. There has to be an element of fun in that.

But I think a lot of it is down to setting people’s expectations. And I think that’s an important lesson to take away from them for my writing. A show like Extraordinary is no less silly than Captain Marvel visiting a planet where they communicate by singing, but it was established in the very first scene that Extraordinary was a comedy, whereas The Marvels and Thor have dozens of films set in the same continuity establishing a very serious tone.

That’s what I’m taking away from this: set the tone quickly and make sure it is maintained.

Night Hunter

Night Hunter

In the shadows of our world, an unseen battle rages.

Night Hunter is a new series where the ordinary meets the extraordinary. Follow Thomas Shaw, agent of Dawnfire, as he delves into the unknown along with his brilliant field techs, Owen and Kimberly.

Together, they stand on the frontline, a barrier against the encroaching darkness. From the bustling streets of London, to the whispering echoes of the Otherhalf, they confront what others dare not even dream. Night Hunter weaves a tale of courage, mystery, and the unbreakable mission to protect at any cost.

Stay tuned. The veil is about to be lifted, revealing a worlds where magic pulses in the heart of the mundane.

Night Hunter, where every shadow tells a story, and every light casts a legend.

Coming Soon.

Release Plans

Release Plans

At the start of the year, I gave a little tease about the upcoming releases and in the weeks since then I have been thinking and planning and have a better idea of what is coming up over the next few months.

  1. Night Hunter Books 1-3: I am currently editing this series. It is set in the present day and follows a man called Thomas Shaw, who works for an organization called Dawnfire, which is charged with protecting people from paranormal threats.
  2. Shadow Walker Books 1-3: A trilogy set in the Victorian era of the same world. It follows detective Graham Kable as he searches for his missing daughter. This was previously published as four books under the name Blood Hound, but it will undergo a massive re-edit to bring it into line with the other books in the series.
  3. Night Watch Books 1 & 2: A new ongoing series that is set in the Victorian era after the events of Shadow Walker. The first book in the series was already published under the title Terror of the Thames, but will undergo a big re-edit. The second book hasn’t previously been released, but I can tell you it’s about zombies.
  4. Jessica Books 1-3: A brand new series, set in the modern era of the world. I am about halfway through the first book in the series. I’m really excited about this one.

That is the next eleven books that I will be publishing. Of those, seven have never been released in any form, and three of them are still being written. They are all set in the same world, at different points in time. It’s a world that I have been thinking about and planning for about twenty-years and I’m really looking forward to getting these all finished so people can start reading them.

In addition to those releases, there are also a few short stories that will come out, which are set in the same continuity.

I don’t want to lean too heavily into the Marvel Studio nature of this, although there are lessons to be learned there on how to market these stories. Having said that, this is what I would consider Phase One of the world. I have plans for where it goes next, but at the moment I am focused on making these the best stories that I can.

Reading Challenge Update

Reading Challenge Update

At the start of the year, I made a plan to read 75 books in 2024. It started off very well, but lately I’ve been struggling a bit and I had to sit down and think about whether this was really something I could do, or, more precisely, whether I should do it.

Here’s the thing: I love to read, but I am starting up a business and that takes a lot of time. When I sat down and worked it out, reading 75 books a year would take about an hour and a half of reading every day. Longer, if I wanted to listen to audiobooks as part of that. That’s around 10% of my total waking time spent reading, more if you take out the essential things that I have to do every day, whether or not I want to. Then it’s more like 70% of the time I have on any given day.

I’m not quite ready to give up on the goal, but it’s looking less doable now, because some of the time I have remaining after doing all the things I need to do each day might be better spent on things that could directly benefit my business, like writing a blog post, and fixing up my website.

75 books in a year was always an ambitious target for me. Currently, I am on track to read more like 52 books, which is still a book a week and much better than I managed in the last few years.

The Long Winter Available Now

The Long Winter Available Now

My latest book, The Long Winter, is available now on Kindle (Unlimited) and as a paperback.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

In the heart of a relentless winter, where the snow never ceases to fall and the cold grips the soul, lies a story of survival, hope, and unexpected guardianship. The Long Winter unveils a world transformed by an apocalyptic freeze, a world where humanity is tested to its limits.

Nick, a solitary figure hardened by the icy wasteland, has learned to navigate this frozen world with resilience and quiet resolve. His life of isolation is upended when fate leads him to Lisa and Mark, two children left orphaned in the merciless wilderness. As their reluctant guardian, Nick finds himself drawn into a role he never sought but now cannot abandon.

Tranquility is short-lived. When the children vanish into the vast, white expanse, Nick is thrust into a harrowing journey across the snowbound wilderness. The search becomes more than a mission; it is a voyage of discovery and redemption, pushing him to confront his own demons and the haunting specters of a world lost to ice.

The Long Winter is a tale of survival, the power of human connection, and the resilience of the heart. In this bleak and beautiful wasteland, each step is a testament to the enduring human spirit, and every breath a defiance of the cold silence that seeks to smother hope.

The Long Winter pre-order

The Long Winter pre-order

My latest post-apocalyptic book The Long Winter is available to pre-order now.

As I mentioned yesterday, this is going to be an Amazon exclusive for at least the first 90 days. If you are on Kindle Unlimited then you can read the book as part of your monthly subscription. It is also available to buy on Kindle and as a paperback.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Testing KDP Select

Testing KDP Select

One of the advantages of having a lot of books for sale is that it’s possible to try out new things and see what works. Although I have had all my books available wide for a long time now, with the launch of The Long Winter, I have decided to test KDP Select.

I am not sure what I am hoping for from the experiment. The book is a standalone post-apocalyptic thriller and I don’t know how well those sell in the marketplace. It’s worth a try though as for the foreseeable future I am going to be releasing Galdorland books. Ideally I would like those to be wide releases, but if there is a significant boost from Kindle Unlimited, I may be tempted to put them up there for the first 90 days before releasing wide.

The Long Winter is going to be available for pre-order soon with the release of 5th February.

We Follow The Rules

We Follow The Rules

We follow the rules because we think they are going to keep us safe. Instead they turn us into good productive cogs in a machine which produces nothing of benefit to us.

There are rules beyond the law of the land. Social conventions put us in a similar position. We are expected to have social media accounts so we do it and our attention is taken away from us and sold to advertisers to the benefit of the companies that made the platform. We drive places because it is convenient and that makes us less fit and produces pollution that is destroying the world. There are many more.

Some things we can’t change, some things are genuinely a benefit that we wouldn’t want to change. But it doesn’t hurt to ask whether we are doing something because it helps, or if we are just following the rules.