Jan 31, 2013


Today is the 12th anniversary of the day my wife and I first started dating. For some reason, 12 feels like a milestone worth noting. We've been together almost all our adult lives, and can hardly remember what it was like to not be together.

It's kind of appropriate, then, that we have Amy and Erica with us this year. Another big change in our lives. I remember we were 6 months together when we first started talking about our plans for the future. Marriage and children. We were always on the same page in that regard. We both wanted to have a family; it was just a question of when.

Love at first sight. Yeah, I'd call it that. We met in college on a Monday morning, January 29th. We spent six and a half hours talking and having coffee. We skipped all of our lectures and classes that day. Terribly irresponsible of us. Two days later we were kissing for the first time. Don't tell me you can't know you've found your soul mate right there and then like they do in the movies. From that day on, I've never wanted to be with anyone else.

We don't do anything for Valentine's Day and we're happy to let New Year's pass us by quietly enough. But our anniversary has always been an important date. Rather than exchange gifts, we try to just spend a lot of quality time together, just the two of us. So I think we're going to be horribly grown-up and get our first proper babysitter this weekend, then go out for a nice dinner and maybe see a movie.

Jan 29, 2013

Challenges of a Sequel

It is roughly two years now since I sent my submission for Locked Within to WiDo. At the time I was beginning to doubt whether the story would even see the light of day, to say nothing of getting to write a sequel!

In many ways, writing a follow-up was much harder than writing that first novel. It might have been less pressure just to write a completely unrelated book as my second novel. But Nathan Shepherd was, and still is, firmly in my head and my heart. I couldn't let him go.

Even though the manuscript I wrote a year and a half ago ended up being re-written into a new version, I faced several challenges when I started to approach it.

  1. New story. One of the worst kinds of sequel is one where the same plot from the previous story is essentially re-told either in a different location or some different set dressing. This might sound obvious, but a lot of series have suffered in this regard. The Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, for example, went through a phase where every book/new trilogy centered around yet another superweapon standing in for the Death Star.
  2. Which characters to use? Obviously Nathan would have to return, as well as Roland and Dorian. But what about Cynthia? What happened to her after Locked Within? How would she fit into a new story? Would I have Dorian take a primary role as an antagonist, or risk weakening the threat he poses in favour of expanding on the world I had created?
  3. Reader expectations. I started writing the first draft of the sequel well before Locked Within had even been released. The few people who had already read the first book had only seen early versions which featured whole characters and events that no longer existed. Everything I wrote was based on guessing what elements would be the most popular, and what would provide the strongest continuation of story. At least now I have a wide range of comments from readers who've offered fantastic insights into the things they'd like to see in the rest of the series.
  4. True to my vision? I hate that word. Vision. When I hear an artist talk about their vision it sets of warning bells and I immediately suspect that the artist cares more about being congratulated for how amazing they are than making sure to provide something that their audience truly loves. But of course, I had a vision for my story. I was learning so much from editing Locked Within that I was certain I'd nailed the right format for the sequel. I had to learn, very quickly, that the original manuscript just wasn't going to cut it.
  5. Time. My biggest fear was how soon I'd be able to get the book published. The last thing I wanted was a two-year gap between my first book and my second. The thought of having to work almost from scratch to get publicity and enthusiasm going for not only the new book, but also the first to remind people of the series as a whole, was daunting. Granted, I still have work to do promoting the first book and increasing my readership, but my goal was to get the second book out in 2013. When I get my edits, I'll be putting all other writing projects aside on hold. I'll delay blog posts, put off work on drafting new books, and work myself to the bone to get my edits done on time. I believe strongly that a one-year gap between installments in a series is the ideal amount of time and I have a lot of people already asking me about the second book. I promise to do all in my power not to let you guys down, because without you buying and reading this stuff, I wouldn't even be getting the change to continue the story.
Can you guys think of other challenges faced when dealing with sequels? Have any sequels particularly impressed or disappointed you?

Jan 24, 2013

Forgetting Lessons

I have to apologise for missing my Tuesday post this week. I was battling a particularly harsh head cold.

It recently occurred to me that we are taught a lot of things when we're younger or just starting out in a particular craft that is not useful in later stages. These are lessons which must be set aside if we're ever to properly grow as individuals. Like training wheels on a bike, we risk depending on the ssafe, reliable methods, and never developing to our full potential.

What's even worse is when these lessons aren't just holding us back, but are actively detrimental to our goals.

Here's something that I'm sure any writer will agree on, but not many realised for a long time:

The things we learn in school are not going to help us get published.

In English class, when you cover creative writing, you're told to use lots of different words; the more complicated and obscure the better. You're given homework assignments to create sentences and stories specifically to use a particular set of words, instead of choosing the right words that properly express what you want to say.

Adjectives and adverbs, metaphors and similes. As part of learning what these are, you're instructed to use them as often as possible. Points are given for creative and imaginitive use.

But the harsh, cold reality is that these school lessons will not prepare you for professional writing. Starting a sentence with "suddenly" or saying that a character "quickly ran like the wind" mark you as someone who lacks maturity as a writer. Agents and publishers don't want to see how many words you know for the colour blue, or how well you can compare one sound to another. They want to see your own unique style. Your own voice. Find that, and you'll never need to worry about another adverb again.

It can be hard to let go of these lessons. My teachers were some of my first and most steadfast supporters. Creative writing and professional writing, however, are two different worlds. So to any students out there who dream of one day being an author, don't sweat it if you can't come up with three alternative words for "ran", or have trouble using the word "torrent" in a sentence that doesn't involve internet downloads. There's so much more to being a writer than that.

Are there any other lessons any of you have had to un-learn in life?

Jan 17, 2013

2013 Blogging Plans

On Tuesday I talked about how this year will be for me in terms of my writing. Today I wanted to share my plans for the blog and the kinds of things I'll be talking about.

Naturally, I'll continue to promote Locked Within. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, it's been getting great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I'll be looking for competitions to enter, giveaways to organise, and other ways to spread awareness.

Following on from that, I'll be talking about Forgotten Cause, and the very different journey that book led me on compared to my first.

Of course, I'll also be sharing tidbits I learn from researching the third book in the trilogy, and my other projects, as well as particular storytelling decisions which would lead to me choosing one book to write over another.

But it won't all be talk about my writing. I've been getting back into video games and looking at them as more than just an easy way to pass the time. As such, I've decided to start a series of posts looking into video games as an art form, a genre of storytelling in their own right. There is as much work going into the production of some video games now as there is into major Hollywood motion pictures, with an amount of writing that is absolutely staggering compared to what went into them even ten years ago. With their ever-growing popularity, video games are a form of entertainment which deserve attention and analysis to match novels and movies, and I think both authors and readers can learn a lot from them.

I'll also be bringing focus back into music and movie discussion.

The blog schedule will stay as it is, Tuesdays and Thursdays, possibly with the occassional extra post here and there. Later in the year I'd like to host a series of guest bloggers so I'll be looking for volunteers for that, too.

I'm really looking forward to this year. It's going to be something special.

Jan 16, 2013

Interview with Jeffrey Beesler

Hey everyone. I'm being interviewed by fellow author Jeffrey Beesler over at World of the Scribe. I talk about my work, my hobbies, and what's in store for my new release later this year.

Jan 15, 2013

2013 Writing Plans

It's high time I got back in the saddle. I've had a nice long break from writing, and I'm not ashamed to say I've enjoyed it.

But I've been feeling the itch. This year will see the release of my second novel, the sequel to Locked Within. Nathan Shepherd's story continues as we see him battle an enemy who knows him better than he could imagine. It's going to be fun getting stuck into the edits on that one and I can't wait to start. It is tentatively titled Forgotten Cause, but that may well change during edits.

Almost as exciting, I've started plans for the third book in the series. The end of this trilogy is going to be an epic battle as Nathan fights to save not just New York, but the entire world. The working title for this book is Memory War, and I promise it'll be a finish worthy of the amazing enthusiasm I've seen in those who've read Locked Within. Seriously, the way people who've read Locked Within have been outright demanding the next one is utterly humbling. You guys rock.

But that's not all. As I've mentioned, the Memory Chronicles, Nathan's story, has been shortened from a 6-book series to a trilogy. So unless Memory War ends up being so long that we could get two successful books out of it instead of one, after that one is written I'll need to decide on a new project. I have several ideas in mind, all of which I'm excited about. These are all working titles only, of course:

  • Nightfall - About a teenage boy who is cursed to turn into a monster whenever the sun goes down.
  • A Different Cloth - An Irish Catholic priest who drinks too much, swears too much, and has broken his vow of celibacy at least once, hunts demons and sinister cults in his spare time.
  • The Lady - A steampunk fantasy about a noblewoman who, after the death of her husband, falls from society's grace and is captured to be used as a ritual sacrifice. She escapes, but her daughter is murdered and so she embarks on a mission of vengeance.
  • Apprentice - An urban fantasy in a world where magic is a part of everyday life and a modern day order of knights protect people from monsters. A juvenile criminal is sentenced to community service as the apprentice to the longest-serving of these knights.
As well as that, I'm also working on a story called The Secret Santa Club, about a group of teenagers who secretly arrange to have gifts delivered to families in need at Christmas time. The tricky part in all this is deciding what I should write next!

On Thursday I'll talk about my blogging and social media plans, with some hints at the kinds of topics I'll be discussing through the year.

Jan 10, 2013

Working Through It

It's safe to say that my time has become less my own lately. When my wife and I decided to start a family, I knew our lives would change, and I'd have to re-arrange how I used my time. What I didn't know was how I would have to do it.

The thing everyone assumes going into parenthood is that there's a massive investment of time in raising kids. That they take up so much of it you'll have less time just for yourself. Some would insist you have no time at all for yourself or the things you used to enjoy.

Well I've certainly seen how they intrude on your time. However, with enough planning and communication between my wife and I, we still manage to find time for ourselves to chill out or watch a movie. We just multi-task a lot more!

That's the key, really, with any major life change. You don't treat it as something external which diverts attention from other interests and responsibilites. You incorporate it into your lifestyle. You welcome it with open arms and allow your life to be changed completely. What you end up with is an amalgamation of your previous lifestyle and your new responsibility. Instead of sitting quietly to read a book, you read with a baby sleeping next to you in a cot. You sit back on the couch with a movie while they lie in your arms. When they need your attention, you pause one thing and turn your attention to them.

That's the approach we've decided to take. Instead of putting everything on hold whenever the girls need something, we keep going. Sometimes we take turns; one of us looking after them while the other does something else. Sometimes we take one baby each, and get it finished all the faster. We pause and rewind tv. We replace a cold mug of tea.

It's not easy, and I know that just when we find our stride with the new routine something new will come along, like teething, or teaching the girls to read. We adapt as each change comes. We didn't have children to leave behind one lifestyle. We had them so they could be a part of our world, the life we've made for ourselves. There's so much we want to share with them, I hardly know where to start.

One thing I do know, is that the things that really matter to us; gaming, seeing friends and family, my writing, are all going to remain a priority. We're adapting well to this new stage in our lives, and while I'm currently on a break from running games, this is going to be a great year for me in terms of writing. I'm looking forward to starting work on the third and final part of Nathan Shepherd's trilogy, and I can't wait to get stuck in to the edits for the second book.

Jan 8, 2013

First Time For Stories

The other night, while taking turns with my wife holding the girls as we watched tv, it struck me that there are so many stories they don't know yet. We all know our favourite stories, whether they be movies, books or tv shows. They're ingrained into our personal and collective consciousness.

But our girls don't have that yet. They're not even 4 weeks old. Literally everything in the world is new to them.

Two things occur to me.

The first is how lucky they are, that they get to discover all these stories for the first time. They get to lean forward and bite their lips as Luke Skywalker switches off his targetting computer. They get to hide behind their hands as Indiana Jones realises how to survive the opening of the Ark of the Covenant. They get to hold their breath as Mary McFly races the DeLorean to meet the channelling lightning bolt. I'm good getting lost in a story, so I can get caught up in these moments easily, but nothing will ever quite match those first times.

The second is, when do Jen and I properly introduce them to these stories? When they're still very small and can grow up with an inherent knowledge of them? Or when they're just a little older and can become properly caught up in the drama and excitement?

What I wouldn't give to see my favourite movies for the first time again. Are there any of you who feel the same?

Edit to add: All this week, Locked Within is available free on Kindle. Currently it's at number 6 in Free Urban Fantasy. Who wants to help get it to number 1?

Jan 3, 2013

New Year, New Plans!

Let's get 2013 started right! I'm back on my reguylar blogging schedule and looking forward to a great year.

Yes, having two new babies at home is going to affect how I can arrange my writing and social life, but I'm nothing if not resourceful when it comes to making time for the things that matter to me. This year I am editing my second novel; I am determined that it will be ready for release later this year and I can't wait to get stuck in with my editor. I really enjoyed the process with Locked Within and I can't believe I get to look forward to sharing the next installment of Nathan Shepherd's adventures!

Following from that, this month I will start writing the third book in the series. The trilogy will end with a bang, and there's a lot of ground to cover so I want to give myself as much time as possible to get this book written, and written well.

I'm also taking more time for myself, to just relax and indulge in some proper "me" time. I'm reading more, playing more video games, and checking out movies and tv shows I've been meaning to for a while. The tricky part is getting past my inherent guilt that I should be doing something else more productive. ;-)

Of course, some things have to be given up. While we're still having our weekly game nights, I'm taking a break from running games for a while, until I'm settled into this new routine, so I get to be a player again. I'm looking forward to that!

What about you guys? Anyone doing anything differently this year?

Currently reading: World War Z

Currently playing: Assassin's Creed 3