Indie Scene – a new magazine for short stories, indie fiction and readers of independently published books

cover_issue_1_smallIt’s hard enough getting your name out as an author, let alone if you choose to go down the route of becoming an indie author. There’s A LOT of us out there, and whilst we compete for shelf space, we rarely spare a thought for readers. As much as we’re trying to promote our books, readers are desperately trying to sift through the self-published masses and find great reads that really grab their attention. This is why Indie Scene has launched; a new place for readers to find free short stories, interesting articles and some of the best indie books around.

You might think this magazine is just another chance for us indie authors to be seen, and, in many ways, it is. But the real emphasis here has been put on readers, and giving our fans something back. There are articles on writers and the craft of telling a story, but there are also six free short stories in the debut edition. In addition, there’s an article on the many ways to read Kindle ebooks even if you don’t have a Kindle yourself, a selection of new releases and all manner of other goodies for people to enjoy.

Indie Scene is completely free to download as a PDF (or read in your browser if you choose), so feel free to take a look. If you love the magazine, then let us know, give us your feedback. We’d love to keep creating a publication that has a reader focus and offers something new to the community, so download, have a read and if you like it, tell us!

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Without Research – Write What You Know

Writing. It’s a passion that can’t be controlled and when the words are flowing, there’s nothing that feels quite like it. But with writing, comes responsibility; the responsibility to give readers true and accurate details. And this doesn’t only apply to factual books, but fiction too, for as much as you might like to make up every detail within the pages of your book, if you do something wrong, a reader will be sure to spot it. And, not only will they spot it, but it’ll affect your professionalism in their eyes.

Of course, you won’t get everything right – even traditionally published writers with a team of experts on hand get things wrong. But, if you want to write without vast amounts of research, then you need to write what you know.

What do I mean?

It’s easy to get things wrong without realising it. You might describe a location, or talk about a character’s hobby in great depth, ad-libbing as  you go without having the true facts. You might have seen someone bake a cake on a television show, but if you haven’t baked it yourself, how do you know if what you saw was correct?

For example, in Spirits of the Middlelands, I was going to have Roberta take a quick trip to Iceland. Have I been there? No. Was I worried that I wouldn’t be able to capture the ambiance of the location? Yes. Could I afford a trip to Iceland on the grounds of ‘research?’ No.

Instead, Roberta ended up traipsing around London, a place that I know extremely well. It allowed me to put in a lot of extra little details to bring the story to life without having to do time consuming research about a location.

Researching for fantasy

Unless you’re writing a book which has every single tiny detail created from your own mind and it bears no resemblance to any life we know, there will be research involved. If you’re creating a magic system, then it’s a good idea to look at other authors ideas. If you’re creating a brand new world with rainforests and creatures, you’ll need to understand how such ecosystems work, how it feels to be immersed in such an environment. You can watch shows, read books, look at pictures, but nothing will quite conjure actually having stood in that  rainforest yourself.

How can  you write on experience rather than research?

I would never condone writing without any form of researching, but you can limit the hours of toil by using your own experiences throughout your work. Writing my recent zombie novella, Pacifier 6, was a joy because it’s set amongst the streets that I live in. I didn’t need to do any research on location as I see it every day. My protagonist’s mother keeps a budgie, so do I. One of the enslaved zombies is baking bread. Hey, I bake bread too, I know how that works!

It’s a zombie novel, so it’s completely fantasy – I’ve never met a zombie, I’ve never lived in an apocalypse, I’ve never run from a rabid horde of flesh craving monsters. But I can draw on my own life experiences to make characters, settings and minor story details come to life.

If you’re writing a character outline, for example, don’t make your lead an expert rock climber if you’ve never done it yourself. It’s the perfect excuse to get down to the local climbing wall and try it out yourself, of course. But if you’re scared of heights, or just don’t fancy pulling yourself up a rock face, don’t make your lead do it. Instead, think of other possibilities. Have you ever been running? Fishing? Camping? Make your lead into an adventurer or semi-professional runner instead. You know these things, you can remember how you felt whilst pelting along the racetrack or hunkering down as the evening breeze caught on your tent. It’ll make your story more believable, more alive, and more importantly, it’ll draw your reader in.

Whatever you may be writing about, there are ways to incorporate parts of yourself and your own experiences that will may words lift off the page. Readers will be able to relate to your protagonists if they have shared experiences, characters traits or hobbies. Locations that you’ve visited will come so much more alive in your work than places that you’ve not taken the time to research properly, ultimately creating a better story. So, if you want to write, write, write without hours in the library, delve into your own memories and experiences and watch your words come alive.

Inside Evil’s available – FREE

After reading a gargantuan number of blogs about marketing, advertising and general other book selling ideas, I’d realised a few months ago that it was probably best to make Inside Evil free at some point. I’m not in Amazon’s KDP Select so I have no way of taking advantage of free days. However, taking point from the lovely Lindsay Buroker, I thought that I’d make Inside Evil free when Spirits of the Middlelands was published at the end of March…thereby encouraging people to try out the series without having to make a financial commitment.

Cover - smallSo, a few weeks ago I ran a tester, reducing my Kobo price to zero. Any sales? Fat chance. Kobo really is a non-starter for me, but the fact that I had a free book there and got not downloads demoralised me – A LOT. I decided that if I was going to give this a proper crack, then I’d have to take a stab at price-matching on Amazon. There’s no clear deadline for this to occur…it’s down to the Amazon gods.

Yesterday morning I logged into Amazon and found, to my absolute shock, there were 89 price-matched downloads. 89 people saw my book and wanted to try it out. WOW. Then figures started to climb, and climb, and climb. As of this minute, I’m #1 in free horror/occult and #330 in the overall Amazon free store. I’ve had 900 downloads (I’ve just checked – exactly 900) and I’ve sold 4 of my other books. Wow. WOW. This is on NO promotion as I didn’t have a clue when Amazon would price-match…it’s just spiralled.

I’m keeping track of my statistics and will write a more in-depth piece after a few days have run their course and things have settled down a bit. Unfortunately, at this juncture, only Amazon.com has the free listing as I didn’t know that I had to price-match across channels. I’m also not sure whether this will be a perma-free or a month’s promotion before the release of book three. But, for someone who has been selling only tens of books per month, and was seriously wondering whether people were even interested in trying out my work, this has been a huge motivator. I KNOW that there are a lot of freebie grabbers out there, and that lots of people won’t even read it, but the fact that over 900 people (I just checked again) have downloaded it, AND book two, The Tower of Souls, has started selling is a GOOD boost.

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Anyway, if you want to try Inside Evil out for FREE, head to Amazon. I’ll report back soon with more results.

The Hopping Dead Blog Hop

I’ve been enjoying a few blog hops in recent months, and have been finding it a great way to get involved with a community of readers and writers. Over at PublishMyself.net they’ve started a new ‘The Hopping Dead Blog Hop‘, so instead of a #SampleSunday post, I’m going to answer the couple of questions asked by this latest Blog Hop.

What makes your own zombie book stand out from others in the genre? In a crowded field, why should a reader give your book a chance?

Pacifier 6, The Shadows Within is a completely new take on the zombie genre. Rather than seeing an outbreak of monsters, we join humankind after the apocalypse has past. People are trying to get on with their lives, and a new drug – Pacifier 6 – has enabled zombies to be pacified and used as a workforce. However, not all of the undead have entirely lost their former consciousness, and some are seeking a way to break out and create a new race.

Why would anybody write a zombie book in the first place?

Any readers of this blog know that I had never intended on writing a zombie novel. I LOVE ‘The Walking Dead’ but I’d never imagined writing in this genre myself. But a story came to me, and I wanted to try something new. So, why did I write this book? Because I wanted to create a fresh take on the zombie genre and explore some formerly passed over aspects.

Add the first paragraph or two from your story as a teaser. If you really don’t want to use the first paragraph, use another one.

It’s not the first paragraph, but one from Chapter 2;

What really plagued Carl was the look on Sheila’s face just before she’d died. He’d never seen the slightest flicker of emotion on her face before, not the hint that she was a shadow. But, in that instant, when she lay on the rubble filled road, covered in seeping bodily fluid, her face sliced with glass, her outstretched arm upon his knee, he hadn’t imagined the plea for help in her eyes, had he? She’d formed the word on her lips, attempted language, a skill that frothers were not capable of. He was so sure. But then she was gone, any consciousness that she may have had splattered in fleshy lumps across his face and chest. He daren’t tell his mother, for those who showed the slightest regard for the undead were ridiculed by society. His mother, standing forthrightly in the street, swathed in her dressing gown with a gun in her hand, would have probably put a bullet through his head too. She still would, Carl thought, if infection took hold. There had been no time to close his eyes or shut his mouth as Sheila’s brains had flown towards his face. But he tried to comfort himself with the fact that Pacifier 6 halted transmission. And, if his mother bore down on him with a hammer to bludgeon his skull in three or four days, then he would know.

If you love zombies, then check out these other blogs in the hop:

Waking the Zed

Z Plan: Blood on the Sand

And, if you have a zombie novel, get involved! Write the post, link back to me and I’ll add you to the list! :)

A Bloody Kind of Lust

Everyone loves a bad boy, right? Or has indulged in unrequited love, or perhaps fallen a little too far for someone completely inappropriate. It’s Valentines Day, and we all know that this day of the year is about sharing time with your partner (or getting drunk if you’re single). But what if you’re love isn’t the average? What you’re in love with a monster? A zombie?

Love between a mortal and a zombie

Love between a mortal and a zombie

Whilst I’m no fan, Twilight has certainly pushed away the boundaries over loving monsters. Tales have been spun throughout the decades of mere mortals falling for deadly and vicious monsters, but Stephanie Meyer really managed to bring monster love back into the spotlight….though Edward Cullen wasn’t quite the vicious vampire that we’re all used to. Perhaps, for that, it’s best to look towards the realm of True Blod and Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels. More recently, Warm Bodies has found a spotlight, with the film adaptation of Isaac Marion’s book showing that love can really cure all. But can it? And, more importantly, should it?

I’ve been grappling with this idea in my latest novella, Pacifier 6, The Shadows Within. Set after a zombie apocalypse, the human race is trying to rebuild society. Zombies decimated our population, but there were those that survived, and with the emergence of a new drug – Pacifier 6 – the remaining zombies have been drugged and farmed into a new workforce. But whilst decomposing, mute and all together nasty looking, is there still a place for love?

I’m not sure that love is the correct word, and it’s more like bloody lust. A zombie is a zombie, even when pacified, and despite that there’s a new creature lurking within, I was torn between all out love and showing just the flickering of an emotional connection. If you read the tale, you’ll discover that it isn’t really a love story, but more of a discovery of feelings. Is Carl attracted to his zombie worker because he likes a bad boy? Because there’s a consciousness deep within? Or is it simply that there aren’t many people left to choose from?

At any length, I’m not sure that love between monsters and mortals should be an easy ride. After all, love between two humans is normally less than smooth. And, if I’m honest, monsters are still monsters whatever the show they put on…they’re supposed to be scary, to creep us out, to put the fear of god into our souls. Love tends to be enduring. Lust, however, it an instant overtaking emotion that gets us into all manner of problems, especially when we’re ogling a monster.

*THIS IS PART OF A VALENTINE’S BLOG HOP – Click here for the other members of this Blog Hop.*

CRYO; Rise of the Immortals at Barnes & Noble

cryofor kindle-revMorning all, just a little book update today to let you know that CRYO: Rise of the Immortals has finally landed at B&N. It can be a little frustrating waiting for B&N to pick up Smashwords distributions, especially when other places, such as iBooks, pick new works up so quickly. However, it’s finally available – HERE.

CRYO is one of my real book loves, and John Carlody is very like me in many ways. He dreams of going to the future and finding his place in the world, but when given that golden opportunity, he finds himself second guessing and wondering if he’s making the right choice.

John’s life is ordinary. Whilst skyscrapers soar towards the heavens, leaving a dying Earth far below, John has little to enthuse him about the modern world. He’s the black sheep of the family, the recluse, the one who never did anything worthwhile. That is, until John wins an elusive ticket to the CRYO program. Within seconds, his life explodes in a flash of cameras, notoriety and intrigue.

The chance to sleep for a few decades and wake in a new world, a place where life might be better, is all that John can hope for. But, is CRYO everything it says it is? Is the promise of a prosperous future unfounded? Only time will tell, as John becomes one of 50 new immortal souls to ride out the journey of time….

If you’ve had your appetite wetted, then you can download the sample at B&N. CRYO, is also available at Amazon, Kobo and iBooks, and there’s a couple of reviews over at Amazon.co.uk.

Happy Hump Day! :)

Thinking on a galactic level – world building with Raphyel Jordan

As a writer, I get the awesome job of creating brand new worlds. Creatures of any type, characters with whatever personality I choose to give them, vast universes full of teeming life. Today I’m VERY excited to host Raphyel Jordan in a piece about world building.

RMJordan PhotoRaphyel Montez Jordan grew up in a household sensitive to the creative arts. As a child, his hobbies were drawing favourite cartoon and video game characters while making illustrated stories. This passion for art never left and followed him all the way up to his high school and college years. When he was 19, he started writing a novel for fun, taking inspiration from the constant exposure of different ideas and cultures that college showed him. He eventually made it a goal to have the story published after he graduated, and dubbed the goal “Operation Prosia,” the very same project that would develop into his first published book, “Prossia.”

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You know what? The real world’s boring. I mean, seriously. Look outside. Did you just see a dragon or UFO fly by? No? Then I rest my case. And if you said yes. . . maybe it’s time to talk to a professional.

One of the reasons why we’re seeing sci-fi and fantasy films strike it big in the box office is because people love being able to get lost in a world beyond imagination. It’s our natural human nature. Classical stories like Homer’s epic poem, “Iliad,” centuries beyond centuries old, is a strong evident to that statement.

Human beings love to imagine the what-if scenario. What if there was magic? What if I had superpowers? What if aliens actually did exist? With those small sentences, with those few words, galactic governments have been put on the brink of peril, wars between elves and goblins have been raged, adventures that have challenged the test of time have been born, and that was exactly how “Prossia” was created.

After having a basis for the story in mind, I asked myself, “What if I wrote a story about aliens?” Sure, that’s simple enough, but that thought would branch off into more avenues and streams.

* What if they lived on a single planet?

* What if it was an entire solar system?

* What if the aliens were spread across an entire galaxy?

* What if there weren’t any even humans around, like so many other stories?

Did you see what happened? Did you see that snowball-turned-avalanche coming down the mountain? When I asked myself if my story was going to be about aliens, I was already challenging myself to explain why these people’s world was the way it was, without even realizing it.

Aly-Portrait-or-312And granted, universes aren’t made over night, so creating the Prossia Universe has been a very long process. The other challenge of the universe comes from the fact that this is indeed a science fiction story. Meaning, I can’t just say something is the way it is by magic. This genre requires a little fact, as much as feasible. So, when I made my main character, Aly, come from people who had infrared vision, had super reflexes and agility, and could form energy out of their hands, I actually had to explain that Aly has infrared vision because it helps her see approaching threats. I have a separate file listing the anatomy of my aliens, from what type of cartilage and muscle tissue would be possible for Goolians to move the way they do, to the extrasensory perceptions they have when it comes to their ability of using fusion to create a ball of plasma.

And that only covers one of the current nine races! What about the other aliens and their designs? I wanted them to look a certain way, but there had to be a reason why. Humans and other animals look the way they look due to Earth’s size, its closeness to the sun, the ecosystems it has, and tons, I MEAN TONS, of other factors. So, it’s only natural other life-forms would evolve to fit their environments as well. That is, after all, one of the key functions of life. Seriously, look at how diverse the biology on our very own little rock is.

So, more questions:

If we must adapt to our surroundings, what if I make aliens that can adapt to their surroundings through an advanced acclimation process? If that were the case, wouldn’t that mean what took us millions of years to do capable of being done much sooner? And how much sooner am I talking? Am I still talking millions of years, or just a few thousand?

And still, the questions continue, and guess what else, so does the world I find myself lost in. Maybe some people would think such world building is just wayyyy too much trouble. I, on the other hand, think it’s totally awesome. Being an artist and a writer, I like being able to create, so what’s cooler than creating an entire galaxy!?

To think that I studied Civilization, Psychology, Ethics and Values, Biology and Ecology just so I could have some ideas for Prossia’s Universe. Now, I’m not saying that’s what all writers should do in order to build their worlds. I was just fortunate enough to be in my college years while I was writing “Prossia,” and I needed to fill in some class electives. :P To me, researching is good, and the deeper I go into a universe, the better. Still, in the end, none of this could’ve happened if I asked the one thing that humans love to ask. “What if–” . Why don’t you ask the same question? Who knows what wonders you’ll bring.

I have to say a massive thank you to Raphyel for sharing his post and fantastic artwork us. If you want to find out more, then here’s a few links:

Prossia on Amazon
Prossia on Barnes and Noble
Goodreads
Raphyel’s Website, Facebook Page and Twitter

FINALLY, if that wasn’t enough there are also some goodies to win with a Rafflecopter giveaway. There’s FORTY (yes, 4 – 0) paperbacks up for grabs, as well as some Prossia merchandise AND a $25 Amazon gift card so it’s WELL worth entering.

Spirits of the Middlelands (Inside Evil 3) Cover, News and Teasers

Spirits of the Middlelands (1)As many of you know I’m extremely busy getting involved with the Ridgewood gang again. I seem to have left this bunch behind for far too long, and I’ve loved getting back into the thick of it with Roberta, Susan and the other cast members. Today I hit 40,000 words for Book 3 of this five book saga, so I’m just over halfway through and there’s some interesting developments occurring. You may all be wondering about the child at the end of The Tower of Souls….well, she’s a very important piece of the puzzle! There’s also some old faces appearing (Galdur and Vronny), as well as the story of the Ammokra and Gathin progressing nicely.

I’m aiming at an end of March launch for this Spirits of the Middlelands, so if you want to be the first to know when it’s released, then feel free to sign up to the newsletter.

Here’s a couple of dialogue teasers:

“Don’t bring them through here, Barry! Down the hall!”

“Like I would,” Barry replied with a grin, though he cast his hand towards the pristine carpet and watched as Martha’s eyes bulged when the wet trout tails dripped perilously close to her furnishings. 

“I need to know about the Middlelands.”

“It’s 4.30 in the morning,” Galdur groaned, his face still scrunched up, his hands tiredly wiping his eyes.

“I know, I’m sorry, I couldn’t sleep and I just thought you might be up,” Susan apologised as realistically as possible. She’d known quite well that she could be waking him, but Susan was becoming tired of waiting for answers to magically appear out of the air.

“I’m up now,” Galdur groaned again, reaching out of view and pulling a vest over his head. “Are you still guarding the portal?”

“I was a lot of fun in college, I’ll have you know,” Roberta replied as she allowed her guard to slide slightly and enjoyed a sip of wine. “It wasn’t until my little sister ran off with a sailor that I found responsibility.”

“He was incredibly handsome. I just couldn’t say no.”

“Not saying no is the story of your life,” Roberta smiled as she rolled her eyes in Sam’s direction.

I think those few quotes have a few interesting titbits to mull over for you! In more book news, I’m also in the process of making Inside Evil FREE in the lead up to the launch. It’s already listed for FREE on Kobo and I’m waiting for the price match to trickle across to Amazon.

Now, I better go and continue writing!

Writing circles are important for goal achieving and encouragement

There’s nothing like setting a deadline to get your work done, right? Writing is hard, and once the initial few chapters have been completed, finding the stamina to keep going can often become a nightmare. There are chores to do, work to go to, real lives to lead.  So, we set ourselves goals and targets to work towards. There’s NaNoWriMo, forum threads to add to every day to say ‘hey guys, I got 1K done today‘, and it does help. There’s nothing quite like a public announcement to put the pressure on. But, if you really want to keep going, you need perseverance and the help of friends.

Once you’ve published a book or two, the pressure starts to mount even more. With two books of my Inside Evil series out, there’s a rising need to write the third. I want Spirit of the Middlelands out in March. It’ll mean I’ve published five books in a year, and it’ll ensure that fans of the series actually get a new read fairly quickly.  But I’m a procrastinator, it takes a while for me to sit down and open that .doc file. Not anymore, however, because I’ve found New Year, New Book.

nynbThis fantastic little community of writers, some of whom I know already and some who are becoming new friends, encourage each other along with tweets, emails and a visual little stats counter. As I said, there’s nothing like a public challenge to throw down the gauntlet, but all too often NaNoWriMo and those forum threads can become just as impersonal as if you were simply looking at a goal Post-it above your laptop. With New Year, New Book, each time we write, we check in with Twitter hashtags and our little stats bar zips towards our goal. I’m three days into February and I’ve already written 6.5K. It’s going great guns!

Writing can be an extremely lonely experience, and though I’m quite happy being a hermit for most of the time, a few encouraging tweets and the joy of applauding for others is quite welcome in my day. If you want to find out more about New Year, New Book head over to the page and see if you want to get involved. I’m writing more now than I ever have done.

Pacifier 6 is released!

Pacifier final art 600 pixelsIt’s February 1st, and I met my goal; Pacifier 6 has been published! There was a slight glitch on Amazon, so I spent the night worrying, but when I awoke, there it was, shining out at my from the browser!

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Pacifier 6, it’s just $2.99 and available at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Smashwords (soon to come to iBooks, B&N and Kobo). I had a blast writing the story, so I hope you enjoy it!

If you’d like to read the first chapter to get a taster, then pop over to my website page which has the cover, blurb and entire first chapter excerpt – Sheila’s Escape – to enjoy.

Now it’s back to work for me, I have Inside Evil book three to write! :)