Nov 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm taking the day off from blogging. Not that we typically celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland (though I have done so, and it's awesome), but I'm completely worn out this week and need to recharge.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Nov 26, 2013


I've picked up a lot of new followers over the last week or so. Welcome to all of you, and I hope you can tolerate my inane ramblings long enough to pick up a copy of one of my books ;-)

Those of you who've been following for a while will know that I set myself hard goals and do my best to stick to them. Despite my best efforts, my goals for 2014 have had to change. I simply don't believe I'll manage to get three books released next year, as planned.

I've had to re-think my goals, taking into consideration various demands on my time.

In 2014, we will be seeing the end of the Locked Within Trilogy, as the third novel in the series, Final Hope, hits the shelves late next year. This is really going to be the highlight of my year, from a writing point of view. It's the end of years of hard work, and I hope as many of you as possible will join me to see Nathan's story end in style.

I will also be self-publishing the first book in a new series. Lady Raven is a steampunk fantasy novel for teens, featuring my first female protagonist, Cora Ravenell, who decides to oppose an oppressive Empire in order to save her mother. There'll be swashbuckling, sword fights, magic, and flying pirate ships! Much of my writing time at the moment is being spent working on this book, and I'll be hiring a professional editor to help me get the story ready for publication.

But I will still be working with a traditional publisher. With the goal of having it queried in time for a 2015 release, I will be starting a new series of urban fantasy mystery novels about Eddie Carver, an ex-SWAT officer assigned to Boston's paranormal crimes unit, SPIRIT (Special Paranormal Investigation, Research and Intervention Taskforce), and his partner Lorna McCain, a paranormal who has to live with daily prejudice and lifestyle restrictions due to her supernatural nature. Unlike the Locked Within Trilogy, the Carver and McCain books will be more open-ended, with each book being fairly standalone. 

In addition to that, I have a couple of ideas that could work either as e-serials, or as a novel series. One is a futuristic thriller set in a world with a pulp 1920s aesthetic, sort of a Count of Monte Cristo sort of story. The other is going to be quite a dark series about a travelling group of monster hunters, with which I hope to experiment with the boundaries of the kinds of content and stories I usually tell.

I've never been one for resting on my laurels. Seeing my first series come to an end just makes me want to write even more. I'm looking forward to what's to come.

Nov 21, 2013

Christmas Offer

With the Christmas season coming up, it's a great time to buy books as gifts. And I happen to have some copies of Silent Oath left.

So if people would like to order a copy of Silent Oath from me, let me know and I'll sign it to whomever you want. Copies will go for €12, with free shipping within Ireland, and an extra €5 for shipping outside of Ireland.

As a bonus, if someone you know hasn't read any of the series yet, I can take orders for both books together at €20, again with free delivery in Ireland and €5 outside of Ireland.

In order to ensure that books arrive in time for Christmas, I'll need to ship anything going within Ireland by December 20th, within the UK by December 19th, the rest of Europe by December 13th, and the rest of the world by December 6th.

To factor in delivery times needed for orders that include copies of Locked Within, I would need to have the order in 7 days earlier to account for shipping times for stock.

But obviously, this is all at the mercy of the Irish postal service, and there may be delays, so get your orders in early!

Nov 19, 2013

Tomb Raider

This past weekend, I finished the single player campaign of Tomb Raider.

I'll be honest, I first jumped on the bandwagon of people who got riled up at the initial trailer which seemed to focus on sexual assault as a defining moment for Lara's story. This is a case where the marketing department in charge of the trailer clearly missed the point. Lara runs a crucible of horrendous trials, responding to pain and pitfall after pitfall by forcing herself to become stronger with every fresh wound.

I loved the game. The challenges and character-defining moments change and evolve with the story. More than just being a way to justify higher difficulty or new enemies, the challenges feel natural and cinematic. The story and Lara's development take precedent, and I think the game really benefits from that.

My favourite sequence has to be Lara'a run through the burning Solarii tower. The music gets your heart racing, while everything around Lara turns to chaos, forcing her to survive with the only thing she can rely on - herself. It's a thrilling scene which forces the player to instinctively call on all the skills they've learned through the game to that point.

Suffice to say, I was thrilled to hear there's a sequel in the works.

Nov 14, 2013


I miss mine.

October did a number of me, really. It kicked my ass like I never thought possible. Before it, I was pumped and full of energy, ready to tackle all the promotion, writing and edits I could think of. I was going to self-publish two books, launch the final book of the Locked Within Trilogy, and be so very awesome.

Now I'm struggling to write even 600 words a day, and I've missed my target for finishing Lady Raven by such an extent that I've resigned myself to only releasing the first book in the series next year. Maybe it's because I'm trying a new genre, or the challenges in writing a teenage girl as my protagonist. Maybe it's fear about self-publishing, and having so much on my head should the book flop. Maybe it's worry about the financial requirements. Whatever it is, I'm finding all I want is to get it over with so I can move on to some nice, familiar urban fantasy.

I'm going to keep going, because I promised myself I would write and release this book. I just hope that I can reclaim my enthusiasm and drive.

It's not a matter of relaxing. I've done plenty of relaxing. It's that there's a certain fulfillment I only get from being productive with my writing. If I don't get that, I feel the absence. I know there's something wrong and the only way to fix it is to get work done on a book.

I'd like to say things will get better once work settles down, but despite coming towards the end of a particularly busy period in my day-job, after that comes Christmas, and after that comes Baby No. 3. The fact is, there is no time when things settle down for you to get your bearings. You have to muddle through as best you can, making do with the time you have.

I just hope I can get that spark back.

Nov 12, 2013

The Ugly Truth of Privilege

Privilege is an ugly word. And it should be. It's the uncomfortable truth that the western world is controlled, by and large, by straight white men. Men like me (but typically with more money) influence every aspect of our lives. Should they? No. But they do, and this is the mess we're left with.

Recently the most volatile articles I've read and shared online have pushed the ugly truth of privilege to the forefront. And they've received some pretty passionate reactions. That's to be expected. If you tell a bunch of straight white guys that they have it easy in life, and that the world is built to service them, no matter how enlightened they like to think themselves, some of those men are going to react badly.

I shy away from many controversial subjects on this blog, but the subject of privilege is not one of them. I do believe that straight white men have an incredible, unfair, advantage, and I agree with assessments that being a straight white man is essentially playing life "on easy mode."

With that, I feel, comes a responsibility to effect change. But that responsibility doesn't have to be exercised in the typical "male" way. I believe the most powerful thing a straight white man can do is shut the hell up and let other people talk. We have all of our society geared towards our desires. We can more than afford a platform for others to get their feelings and desires out, and do so without putting people down for disagreeing with us.

I'm trying to tackle privilege in some of my new books. Lady Raven will deal with sexism and patriarchy, as well as challenging some presumptions about sex and relationships in YA fiction.

My new Carver & McCain novels, a police procedural with monsters, will tackle racism in a supernatural context, and examine people having to live with difficult lifestyle restrictions because of who and what they are.

I don't know if I'll succeed in exposing these issues to the light, but I'm willing to try, and open to hearing from people who think I've missed my mark.

In any case, I have a lot of work to do, and a whole lot more to learn.

Nov 7, 2013

Lessons Learned From Launching My Second Book

Yesterday was the anniversary of Locked Within's release. Happy birthday, Locked Within!

So it's fitting that today's post is about the things I learned from the release of my second book, Silent Oath.

2013 has, without a doubt, been the busiest year of my life. I took on so many new responsibilities and challenges, dealt with so many issues, and (much to my wife's annoyance) took little time for myself to relax and recharge.

So what have I learned?

Your second book will be harder to write and edit than your first. 
When you started out, no-one had any expectations and you were still learning everything from scratch. Second time around, people have expectations - your editor, your readers, yourself. You realise just how many mistakes you made on your first book and you're terrified of making them again. Your second book makes you very judgemental of yourself and your writing ability.

You will do even more promotion work.
Because your first book will probably not have sold as well as you'd hoped. We all dream of making it big, but the reality for most authors is that the first book is just the beginning of a long journey. You will want to take advantage of every opportunity to spread the word about the new one, and draw more readers to you. You'll contact the people who reviewed your first book, and maybe look into hiring marketing companies to help. Be careful, do your homework before agreeing to pay any money, and expect that some of the people who agree to spread the word or write a review may let you down.

You will be TIRED!
Every day. No matter how much sleep you get, it won't be enough. You've graduated from "I got a book published!" to "I'm a published author." It's evolved from being a dream come true to a career, and you have to treat it that way. But you have to give yourself time to rest and step away from the work every so often. If you burn out, you're no good to anyone.

You will have fans.
Not just readers, or friends and family who support you. Fans. Maybe not a lot of them, not yet. But you'll notice the difference in how one friend talks about your books compared to how another can't get enough and calls you to complain that they have to wait a whole year for the next one.

You will have critics.
Not everyone will enjoy your books. Some will just shrug and move along. Others, however, may actively criticise you. If you're lucky, it'll be people you asked for feedback. Sometimes it'll come unbidden, and it'll hit you hard. But every reader has the right to their opinion of a book. There will be people who flat-out do not like your books, and never will. And that's okay. Don't try to appease them or explain why you wrote the book a certain way. That just makes you a tool. Instead, see if anything they've said might make future books more accessible to a wider audience, and concentrate on getting better at the things your fans love in your writing.

You will be thankful for Amazon.
Because getting a book by a new author onto bookstore shelves can be a nightmare. If you're lucky, you'll find bookstores that will commit to stocking any and all books you release, and sell them at a reasonable price. Other times, you'll have to convince them to order stock at all, and if they do, they may sell your book at a far higher price than even you think it's worth. And the thing is, you have no control over that. Your publisher has no control over that. It's the way the bookselling industry works. It's difficult for a new author to break into bookstore sales, unless they're with a big publisher like Orbit Books or HarperCollins. Amazon is the great equalizer. Any publisher worth their salt will have your books up there, in print and on Kindle. Save yourself the stress. If a bookstore is resistant, or charges more for your book than people will want to pay, move on and direct people to Amazon, or stores that are more willing to give you a chance. Let reader demand get you on other stores' shelves.

At times, you will be disappointed.
You will work hard to make the launch of your second book even more successful than the first. You will look to people for support and enthusiasm. As much as they want to, not everyone will be able to help. It's important not to let moments like these get you down.

The biggest blow I took this year was my book launch. I had supply issues that caused difficulty securing a venue, and on the night most of the confirmed guests didn't show. But I worked past it.

No matter what happens, never, ever give up. Because...

People will have your back.
Some of those who missed the launch apologised, and put in orders for books. But the launch still left me with a lot of stock to sell, and a bill to pay to my publisher that I didn't have the money to cover.

I've spent the better part of my adult life writing scenarios and running games for games conventions such as Gaelcon. I knew I had to find a way to sell my remaining books, and I'd always figured my reputation as a convention GM would be an advantage one day. So I asked the guys at Gaelcon if I could book in, last-minute, as a trader. I've been a gamer most of my life, and always said many of my best friends are gamers. Boy, did they ever come through for me. I got a table, in a great location, and both staff and attendees turned out in their dozens to buy books and spread the word to anyone they could.

Several friends saw how stressed I was, and made sure to check in on me, assure me everything would be okay, tell potential buyers about my books, and generally made me grateful to have such awesome people in my life. Thank you, guys. You all came through when I needed you.

You may find people like this, too. But you have to pay attention, and you have to allow them to help you. And you have to be ready to take a setback for the challenge it is, and turn it into an opportunity to do better.

You'll take your hits, learn you lessons, and move on.

For example, if you're organising your own launch and don't have a bookseller to provide stock, only order pre-paid copies. ;-)

You will feel kind of like a rock star.
Go to events. If there are fan conventions in your area, go along. Volunteer to speak on panels. Make friends with people in the industry, genuinely, and you'll get more out of it, both personally and professionally, than you ever would with pure networking. You'll have the opportunity to meet awesome people, writers, publishers, editors. And you'll find you have so much to talk to them about. You'll feel like you belong.

And the first time a person you've never met walks up and asks you to sign their copy of your book is something you'll want to remember.

You will want more.
All the knocks you take will mean nothing compared to the elation of one person telling you how much they loved your book. That feeling is addictive. As you have more books, you'll find that more people pay attention. And you'll want to have even more books published, no matter how hard the work. This feeling is good. This feeling is what careers are made of. But take your time. Write and publish however and whenever you want, but take time for yourself, and remember that there tend to be two kinds of successful artists: The flash in the pan, and the slow burn. Decide for yourself which you want to be.

And most of all, keep writing.

Nov 5, 2013

Final Hope - Book 3 of the Locked Within Trilogy

You mean after working so hard all year and pushing myself to exhaustion last month, I still have to keep updating my blog? Am I not rich and famous yet? No? Okay, then...