Monday, 24 December 2012

Evolution of a Writer - Michael K. Rose


Merry Christmas! (Almost) 

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Indie Speculative author, Michael K. Rose, who has just published his second novel, 

Chrysopteron
 
Captain John Hayden, haunted by memories of war and still grieving the death of his wife, is about to embark on the most important mission of his career: to discover the fate of the Chrysopteron, one of five generation ships which left the Earth centuries earlier. The descendants of the Chrysopteron’s original crew had successfully colonised their planet, but less than a hundred years later, all contact was lost. Hayden knows that a mysterious new religion which was formed aboard the ship may have played a role in determining the fate of the colonists, but there is no way to know what he and his crew will find when they finally arrive.

In a story that touches on issues of faith and self-determination, Chrysopteron explores the fundamental elements that define our species. Even though we may leave the Earth, we cannot leave behind that which makes us human.

GDT: The big question - what do you get out of it, what made you want to be a writer? 

MKR: Well, I suppose I get the satisfaction of knowing that I am doing something I truly love—and getting paid for it. I’ve always been interested in writing, and I remember writing detective stories in the sixth grade in which all the characters were vegetables—this was before VeggieTales. But I suppose it initially came from my love of reading. I saw the power that fiction could have, I saw what it did to me emotionally and intellectually. The opportunity to do that for another person was one I could not pass up. 

GDT: What writers inspire you? 
 
MKR: In science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke is my guy. I also enjoy Asimov, some of the classics (HG Wells) and, when it comes to current writers, I find lots of great work coming from Indie and small-press authors. I’m also a fan of the classics, particularly Henry James and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

GDT: How long have you been writing?

MKR: I’ve only been writing seriously for about two and a half years. My first published work came out in November of 2011.

GDT: How do you feel your writing skills have developed and changed since your started writing? What do you believe you've learned from the ongoing experience?

MKR: More than I can summarize here. The very process of writing is a learning process. Every scene or character one writes helps one to improve one’s craft. I think the biggest transition for me, and the one in which I learned the most, was the move from writing short stories to writing novel-length works. They are two very different beasts and until this year I hadn’t written a full novel.

GDT: When it comes to writing, what do you think writing allows you to say? What do you want to say?

MKR: First and foremost, I want to tell a good story. If I can do that, I have succeeded. But I also realize that the stories which resonate beyond the life of the writer are those that tap into the thoughts and desires of humanity as a whole. I hope Chrysopteron is a novel which will do that. I’ve put quite a lot of my soul into it and I’m very proud of how it’s turned out.

GDT: What can you tell us about your new novel, Chrysopteron?

MKR: The story follows several generations of characters, but the main story, the one that takes place in the novel’s “present day,” follows a character named John Hayden. He is to lead a mission to discover what happened to the descendants of a generation ship called the Chrysopteron. There’s a lot in it about religion, self-determination, right and wrong—all the popular topics.

GDT: What does the future hold for Michael K. Rose?

MKR: I’m currently engaged in the #12NovelsIn12Months Project. As the title suggests, I’m writing 12 novels in 12 months’ time. I’m currently on the third month and, despite some setbacks due to illness, it’s going extremely well. I look forward to continuing to challenge myself as a writer and this project is certainly doing that!

GDT: Thank you very much, Michael, for your time. Merry Christmas!

Chrysopteron is available via the following links: 

Amazon UK
Amazon US 
Barnes @ Noble 
 
About Michael K. Rose
 
Michael K. Rose is primarily an author of science fiction who also dabbles in horror, fantasy and paranormal fiction.

His novel Sullivan’s War has been called "...a sci-fi thriller that definitely delivers!" and his collection Short Stories has been praised as "...the purest form of literature, as rich as a bottle of Montrachet 1978 and as tasty as a generous cut of Wagyu beef."

His newest novel, Chrysopteron, is already being hailed as a "...gem of a novel..." and "a masterpiece."
 
To find out more about author Michael K. Rose visit his: 
 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Kindle Select, That is the Question...

When I published my novel 'Threshold Shift' and short story collection 'Five Byte Stories', I hummed and harred about enrolling them in Kindle Select for about three weeks. For those of you who don't know, Kindle Select is an Amazon service where for 90 days at a time the digital rights of a book can be registered exclusively to Amazon. During this time it can be loaned out for free to Amazon Prime members, like loaning out a book from a library. For every loan the author gets a share of a pot of money set aside that month by Amazon. This doesn't affect sales of your book, (although recently Amazon have announced that to get 70% of profits for sales in India you must be enrolled in Kindle Select otherwise you only get 35% of profits for that region). Also as part of Kindle Select, Amazon offer a five day free book promotional period. The idea being that an author can make their book free for anything up to a five day limited period during the 90 days. (Amazon doesn't allow you to publish free books, but it will price match if you are offering your book for free somewhere else.)

Being new to the world of self-publishing my initial thought was to offer 'Five Byte Stories' for free perpetually and put in a sample chapter from 'Threshold Shift' in the hope of enticing readers in. I also wanted to put Threshold Shift into Kindle Select and go for the five day promo. There was my dilemma, by putting a sample chapter in Five Byte Stories I would be breaking the terms and conditions of Kindle select exclusivity if I enrolled Threshold Shift, so in the end I decided to hold fire on publishing Five Byte Stories elsewhere and just enrolled them both in Kindle Select.

Without really doing any research I released Five Byte Stories for three of the five days just to see what would happen. In that time I was surprised how with no advertising at all Five Bytes was downloaded 400 times across all Amazon published countries, with the main concentration being in the US. Admittedly this peaked the second day and then levelled off on the third. Being quite pleased by this a month later I released it for the final two days. During this time I put into action a promotional plan of advertising it on twitter, websites and facebook groups like Pimping Indie.  My facebook account was duly locked for 30 days for spamming, (which made me very unhappy, especially as I couldn't figure out what alarm had been tripped and why other people seemed to be doing the same thing quite happily. ) Anyway to cut a long story short in those two days five bytes was downloaded just 25 times. I came to the conclusion that my advertising was basically ineffective and all the downloaders from the first three days were the majority of the downloaders I was going to get.

30 Days later, with facebook unlocked, I tried again, this time with Threshold Shift. I was locked into Kindle Select anyway so figured I had nothing to lose. My sales of Threshold Shift were just about this side of abysmal anyway. Feeling a little blasé I didn't advertise the book on any websites prior to release. I did advertise heavily on twitter as I did previously during the second Five Byte campaign and when advertising on facebook I left out web addresses, which stopped me being locked out again. Thing unfurled very differently and over the five days, a Tuesday to Saturday, my book was downloaded a total of 1553 times, again mainly in the US but only just, the UK was very close behind

I had decided after the awful second campaign that this time I would run the five days consecutively rather than splitting them up. I had the biggest push of downloads in Day 2, and overall during the entire period I peaked in the free charts with the following:

Day 3 of the Campaign:

US : 742
US Sci Fi: 19
US Sci-FI Act Adv : 11
US Act-Adv : 17

Day 4 of the Campaign:

UK: 136
UK Sc-Fi: 2
UK Sci-Fi Act Adv: 1
UK Act-Adv: 4

Overall Downloads for the entire five day campaign were the following:

US: 796
UK: 722
DE: 33
FR: 1
IT: 1

Without knowing how Amazon works I have no idea why I managed to get more success in the UK than in the US. The download quantities were very similar, but I obviously picked up a higher percentage of total free downloads in the UK than in the US by a considerable margin. I have no idea why, even though I am from the UK, my book isn't advertised as a UK book. During the campaign I noticed free sci-fi books that were below my ranking in the UK were well above me in the US.

I'm speculating it was down to factors like my blurb and cover which I thought were good but maybe just didn't appeal to US tastes and did to UK ones. I'm also speculating that UK tastes for Science Fiction books are also a little different. Threshold Shift has always been a strange mix of sci-fi and western. In the US I was seeing mainly Young Adult books, Zombie apocalyptic books or Space Opera books dominating the charts. The story wasn't quite the same in the UK, at least from my perspective. It's also interesting to note that the sales I have had since the campaign have been mostly in the UK.

So what happens now? Well it was interesting, and I note that both Five Byte Stories and Threshold Shift are now thoroughly embedded in Amazon 'Customers who bought this item also bought' science fiction lists which can only help sales.I also have a better, if still a confused idea, of how Amazon sales work.  As of this week I am not in Kindle Select anymore and am going through the stages of publishing on Smashwords,which will eventually expose my books to a wider audience. I definitely think Kindle Select wasn't a wasted opportunity and it did get my books downloaded around 2000 times between them. That's 2000 potential readers who may like the books and tell their friends. How can that hurt?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

An honourable mention: Michael K. Rose

SpecFicPick is a speculative fiction webzine hosted by Michael K. Rose which recently ran an interview with me and a feature on 'Threshold Shift'.

I had been e-mailing book bloggers ever since I released 'Threshold Shift' and 'Five Byte Stories' into the real world in an attempt to drum up some interest and sales. I wasn't having any success until Michael sat up and listened. Since the release of those two items on his site I have actually enjoyed sales in the United States to people I definitely didn't already know. A sign that Michael's publicity machine does work. He has also very kindly given me a lot of sound advice regarding the use of facebook and twitter as a means for further publicity and introduced me to an Indie Author's network I never knew existed.

As far as I can see Michael gains nothing from this himself and has helped me purely because he wants to. A successful Indie Author in his own right, he doesn't need to offer a helping hand to beginners like myself but does it anyway

A little bit of publicity for Michael in return:

His Amazon.com page and Amazon.uk page

I've read his short story collection, and stories like 'Sleep' and 'Main & Church' really stand out as examples of a writer with ability, confidence and range.

Check out his personal blog

Thanks Michael.

Meanwhile for me, it's back to the keyboard for some fiction writing...

  




Friday, 10 August 2012

'Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula' book review


*****/***** Effortless
Amazon Verified Purchase
I was lucky enough to get this during a free giveaway but will definitely be shelling out on the sequel. Despite it being a children's book I found this incredibly easy to read, and when considering the word count to other books, it is a more than respectable length which I chewed through in 2 days, which for me is an event in itself. (I am not a fast reader)

Cassidy's struggle with her newfound abilities and emotions do a lot to ground this book in reality. There are real consequences to her actions, and all the relationships, with their complicated 'doomed' teenage nature have the ring of truth. I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed the action sequences, which managed to sing in my imagination without being over described. The villain was a little comic book, but I like to think of that as a nice splash of colour which made everything else fit. Looking forward to reading the sequel.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Threshold Shift Page

Threshold Shift  
by G.D. TINNAMS

Available in Paperback and on Kindle from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk


In the 34th century on the frontier planet of Threshold, Marshal Jacob Klein is desperately trying to maintain a fragile peace on a world where the racial tension between humanity and the indigenous species has been stretched to breaking point.
Ten years before Klein was instrumental in ending an attempted uprising by the Threshians, but in the process he lost his wife, and became estranged from his son. Old and weary, he finds himself increasingly marginalised and addicted to a performance enhancing drug. When his supply is abruptly cut off, a chain of events is set in motion that causes the murder of an old friend, the imprisonment of a Threshian leader, and the arrival of a disfigured man.
Jacob must not only face up to his recent choices, but also to a past he has been running from for over two decades. For you see Jacob Klein has a secret he can no longer ignore, a secret that will change the planet of Threshold forever.

Some Reviews of Threshold Shift:
 

5.0 out of 5 stars A sci-fi Western with a difference, July 12, 2012
This review is from: Threshold Shift (Kindle Edition)
It's John Wayne meets John Wyndham in this debut novel of frontier colonists, aboriginal lizard-men and psychic experiments gone awry. Author G. D. Tinnams has created a remote world that attracts men with pasts, populated it with not-so-noble savages and tamed it with enigmatically archaic technology; the result is classic sci-fi Western genre fiction...until the true nature of the Marshall and his son is explored.

The author keeps a tight pace and concentrates on character. There's a refreshing absence of technobabble and an admirable economy of style. As with any story 'with a twist', the timing of the switch is crucial - and here it is finely judged. The Western tropes peak just as the reader engages with the 'twist', which works to broaden the story's scope, raise the stakes and throw new light on the key characters.

By no means a 'heavy' novel, the story nonetheless touches on existential and metaphysical topics.

A strong debut novel from a writer to watch.

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast Paced SciFi - A Must read, 14 July 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Threshold Shift (Kindle Edition)
Read this book over several days whilst commuting to work. Engrossing sci-fi with great pacing and depth. A great combination of sci-fi with a western frontier feel, developed characters and a interesting background. Well worth the price.

5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Paced Action Packed Sci-fi Thriller!, 24 Jun 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Threshold Shift (Kindle Edition)
A gripping read from start to finish, I really enjoyed this novel. The author has done a great job creating a world of intriguing characters and concepts. His vision unfolds as the story progresses keeping you wanting to read more.

The story begins with Jon an 11 year old boy whom after escaping a fire of their family home is taken by the Threshians , an alien race which inhabits Threshold that Jon has only previosuly encountered via an online battlefield. Not initially aware of his mother's fate Jon manages to escape and the story begins to unfold!

10 years later both Jon and his father, the Threshold Marshal, end up on an adventure which will change everything both for Threshold and themselves.


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Spider-man (2002) Versus The Amazing Spider-man (2012)


I saw The Amazing Spider-man last night, so here are my conclusions based on it going head to head with the original 2002 film.

Key:
SM (Spider-man 2002)
ASM (Amazing Spider-man 2012)


1) ASM spends more time on the origin story than SM but the school halls, his house, all seem very similar to SM. For those of us just wanting the movie to get on with it, the original was best. (SM wins)

2) In ASM Andrew Garfield is more believable and less creepy than SM Tobey Maguire. For me Tobey is a little bit off the mark, not firing on all cylinders. Andrew was a bit more angry teenager with super powers. (ASM wins)

3) Never understood why in SM, Spider-man was so good at fighting ordinary criminals, but rubbish at fighting the Green Goblin who was basically a strong guy with gadgets. In ASM the Lizard is believable stronger and more ferocious than Spider-man. This reflects the comics where Spider-man is often the underdog in his battles. (ASM wins)

4) I never could believe the relationship between Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in SM. In ASM the easy chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone is fresh and believable. This is just enough so that I can overlook that for a first date he has dinner with her and her parents. Who does that? (ASM wins.)
5) Jonah Jameson is a staple of the comics, hating Spider-man with a vengeance and was portrayed to great effect in SM by J.K. Simmons. In ASM Jonah Jameson is nowhere to be seen. In fact there are no Daily Bugle stalwarts at all like Robbie Robertson or Betty Brant. (SM wins)

 6) As villains go Willem Dafoe chewed the scenery with aplomb as the Green Goblin in SM. Rhys Ifans is much more understated, and often replaced by CGI. He seems more real as a character, but Willem Dafoe was just insane. (SM wins)

7) In ASM the disappearance of Peter's parents is woven into the story, giving Peter some anger over the disappearance of his parents. It's very Batman Begins. In SM this never really came up, and Peter never really seemed to have the anger of energy that he had in ASM. (ASM wins)

8) Mask removal. In ASM Peter removes his mask at every opportunity and often swings around the city maskless. In SM Peter rarely removes his mask (he frequently did in other films). SM was more true to the comics in this regard. Spider-man wants to keep a secret identity. (SM wins)

9)  For cheesy moments ASM had cranes being repositioned by kindly construction workers so he could swing to Oscorp in a wounded condition to save the day. This was embarrassing, especially as a news helicopter was following spider-man and he could have snagged it and asked for a lift. In SM the Green Goblin was stoned by the New Yorkers who thought of Spider-man as one of their own. (It's a tie)

10) In SM Flash Thompson didn't have a character, he just bullied Peter , was embarrassed and then disappeared. In ASM Flash bullied someone else, Peter stuck his nose in without Spider powers, got beaten up. Later on he confronted Flash and humiliated him on the basketball court. But Flash showed hidden depths when he comforted Peter on the death of Uncle Ben and later hugged him as a friend at the end of the movie. (ASM wins)

Overall score out of ten:
Spider-man (2002) 4.5/10
Amazing Spider-man (2012) 5.5/10

Amazing Spider-man (2012) wins by just one point.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

What's Not To Like?  4/5

The future is harsh, the world is ruined, life is cheap, the only escape is virtual reality, a more detailed version than ever seen before. When you can do anything, why not do anything? That is what the author imagines. Virtual worlds, virtual spaceships, teleporters, schools. When you can create a world so much better than the real one, why not stay in it? Of course one of the subjects the author touches upon is that no matter how good the virtual world is, it is not a substitute for human contact, rather a way of not dealing with real-life problems or even attempting to sort out a rather messed up world.

For me, the 80s references were great, having grown up through that time I probably only got a quarter of them, but still, it made the novel feel mine in a way most don't. My only dislike of the novel, is the whole one guy can infiltrate a super fascist company and basically beat it from the inside. That bit of the novel felt forced, just a little bit too much of the author deciding the main character can win despite the odds and not putting too much in his way. Other than that, fantastic, and can't wait until the next book by Mr Cline.

Monday, 25 June 2012

What Makes a Character Real?


What Makes a Character Real?

Is it the description of long blonde hair? Pursed lips? Delicate eyes? Smooth glowing skin?

Well actually those are just descriptions, and while they help to create a mental picture of a character, they do not make the character real.

Is it the fact they get angry? Sad? Frustrated? Or they fall in love? Or they hurt themselves?

Those are feelings, reactions to situations. Like descriptions they are important, and they give a certain amount of emotional definition. But again, they do not make a character real.

Actually the most important thing a character can do is make decisions.

Yes, decisions, it's as simple as that, decisions make a character real. When a character makes a decision then he or she will change from being a passive force within the story to an active force. In fact each decision they make becomes pivotal to them, the plot and all the other characters. A passive character reacts to the plot in order to survive and that is all. Basically they are the novel equivalent of a wet blanket. Why would the reader care about them when they don't care enough about themselves to shape their own destiny?

A character that makes decisions basically says, 'No! I will not just do as I am told, I will decide for myself.' With each decision the reader gets more interested because as a rule they will always be on the side of those who fight for themselves. The decision making process creates conflict, creates drama, and makes the reader ask the question: 'What is that character going to do now?" Once the reader asks that question, then the character has become real, and the author has succeeded.

Friday, 22 June 2012

How Do You Go About Writing a Book?


How Do You Go About Writing a Book?


When I started writing Threshold Shift, I had no idea if I would finish or even get past the opening chapters.  I just had the notion that finally I was going to do it. I was going to write a book. Not just any book, but a book I would enjoy reading myself. No hard science, it would be fast, action packed, concentrate on characters that a reader would like, and have plot twists that would be unlikely but credible. From previous failed novel writing attempts I realised that I had various problems I needed to overcome. My first, was that I was very good at planning out the beginning of my story and then abruptly finding out it had nowhere to go. I decided that this time I would plan a storyline from start to finish with a beginning, middle and an end. I would keep it simple, and I would always have plot to to work through if I got stuck with other things.

My second problem was that I had the very bad habit of premature editing. What is premature editing? It's my term, but I'm sure most writers are familiar. It's looking at what you have just written, deciding it's not good enough and then re-editing it and then re-editing it again. By the third try you have come to the conclusion that you can't write, and what's more, you have only written five pages in three weeks. Why, in that time, your novel will be finished sometime in the next decade. At this point I would normally give up and eat some chocolate.

This time I decided it would be different, this time I would not edit until the novel was finished, and then no matter how bad it was, I would have the skeleton of the narrative completed. As it happens, the skeleton of the narrative is the most important thing. Once it's in place, you can go back and re-edit, literally put flesh on those bones. The way I was writing before, I would have a very complete fingernail, and nothing else.

The third problem was that I had the habit of 'not writing'. That's the hardest habit to break. You think to yourself, I won't write today, I'll write tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, you sit down, look at the screen, and also don't write. This is very closely related to problem two, where you have convinced yourself you can't write.

I overcame this issue in two ways. The first solution was to set myself a word limit for the day. A word limit that must be completed no matter what, no matter how bad I thought it was, I would hit that word count. My target, after much consideration was 1500 words. 1500 Words, that's easy, I hear you say. Actually it isn't. I found that I could stare at my screen, look at my notebook, surf the internet, and still not get anything done. The TV would go on, and it wouldn't happen. The 1500 word a day solution didn't work.

Actually, it didn't work by itself. The problem was work environment. So I contacted my friend Rick Fiore, who runs a photography studio. Rick sits in his studio all day dealing with customers, taking photos, editing wedding albums. Rick also has two desks and only occupies one. I arranged with Rick, that every working day I would arrive at his studio when it opened, take the free desk, and write my 1500 words. After a few weeks of this, I was very surprised to see that I had reached twenty thousand words. That was the most I had written in years!

Somehow, in between talking to Rick, making copious cups of coffee for both of us, chatting to customers, I got that 1500 words done every day I was there. Obviously it wasn't perfect. Christmas and New Year happened and I moved house, twice, with all the phone calls to movers, and all the packing\unpacking that entailed. Nevertheless, I finished the first draft of 'Threshold Shift' in just over three months at fifty nine thousand words.

I had read somewhere that you shouldn't touch a first draft for at least a month after you finish it. I also followed the advice that it should not be shown to anyone. The month apart allows time for you to regain a more objective view of your baby and do the painful second draft. By going on holiday with my wife I lasted two weeks, and when I came back, I waded in and began editing.

The novel was awful! Rough, missing words, with plot holes you could drive a truck through. After recovering from the initial shock I began to re-edit, and funnily enough, it was easy. In that time away a clear picture of characters and events had evolved in my mind.  I also found that now I could write at home. Because I had the skeleton of the narrative completed, I didn't need to go to Rick's studio. During the re-editing stage hours would go by and I didn't even notice. I missed a lot of lunches.

During this time I was sending these newly improved chapters to an editor friend of mine called Wendy Wizard. Once in a pub in Cambridge, I had mentioned to Wendy that I wanted to write a book. Wendy offered there and then to edit it for me for free. I don't know if she ever thought I would take her up on the offer, but she was true to her word, and edited my newly improved chapters while I was still churning them out.

After three weeks I had finished, and for the next month Wendy was sending me back the chapters with her corrections and suggestions. For me, just having someone else read the novel made it seem real. I had been writing in a bubble for so long, this was the moment of truth. Wendy liked the novel. 

You may ask, 'writing in a bubble'? It means that at no point in writing the first or second draft did I give the novel to friend or family to peruse. I was worried that any criticism would kill it. As it happens, a few people have read it now, and most of them have been very complimentary. I doubt they would have been if I had presented them the skeleton of the first draft.

Anyway, I digress. During this drafting period I had approached an old University friend, Carl Sowerby, who is a successful freelance animator. I asked Carl to create a front cover, and after much discussion, the cover was completed. Threshold really did  look like an alien Planet. I was almost there.

After more re-editing, the third draft was completed and I was ready to release it to Kindle. I felt a certain amount of trepidation at the prospect, but for better or worse I had finished. I had achieved what I set out to do.

 My strange hickledy pickledy method had worked.

The next problem will be seeing if the same tricks work twice.