Create a book hamper as a Christmas gift

We all like getting books, right? When we’re not accidently bankrupting ourselves with Amazon’s ‘One Click’, we’re craving new books for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and just about any other special occasion we can think of. But, whenever I’m asked to buy a book for someone, no matter how much they want it, I always feel like it’s a bit boring, a bit of a dull gift. Plus, with eBooks the rising star on the block, although Amazon have that lovely gifting option, having nothing under the Christmas tree is rather depressing!

Give a book hamper as a Christmas giftSo, if you’re giving books as Christmas gifts, why not create a themed hamper? I’ve used my Inside Evil series as an example. It’s a spooky paranormal murder mystery set in the depths of winter in a remote and isolated town. The ideal cozy read when you’re wrapped up warm and well away from the scene that the books are setting out. I could just give my friends copies of the books for Christmas (OK, not all of them, but some have actually asked), but isn’t it nicer to create a themed parcel for everyone? So, what about giving your loved one’s favourite chocolate, a cappuccino or hot chocolate mix and a mug, along with the books?

You don’t only have to give food, of course, and if the books your gifting are really spine-tinglers, what about a throw, shawl or rug to curl up in. Go a little Valentines Day mad two months early if you’re giving romance books, and fill your hamper with heart shaped chocolates, smelly bath salts and a miniature bottle of Prosecco or champagne. Christmas theme it up with brandy snaps, a tree decoration or two and some fingerless mittens so those books can be read even when your loved one’s out and about. What about cheese, a miniature bottle of wine or port and some roasted chestnuts along with a good detective novel?

Gifting books is a really great way to provide a present that will keep on giving. But this year, why not do something different, a little more special? Give a book, but create a personalised and themed hamper for a present to will really be remembered.

Inside Evil paperbacks are here!

As you’ll know from my ‘Making paperbacks with Createspace‘ blog, I’ve delved into realms that I never thought I would as an author. The digital age has really opened up the world of publishing, and I thought I would be happy having my books online as ebooks. That was, until I held the beautiful crisp paper and stunning covers in my hands and put my own works on the study shelves.

It’s taken a while to get the proofing correct and for CreateSpace to accurately link the Kindle versions with the paperback copies. This is largely due to an author name discrepancy that I talked about here. BUT, the good news is that you can now buy both Inside Evil and The Tower of Souls as books that you can actually hold in your hands!

Of course, paperbacks are more expensive than ebooks, and both my novels aren’t any different, making buying a digital version far cheaper. Also, I’m fairly sure there are large shipping fees and delivery periods for those buying in the UK. So, if anyone in the UK does want a version, I’ll be selling Inside Evil and The Tower of Souls at £6.74 and £8.99 respectively from my own batch. Just holla if you want one.

It is a glorious thing to hold an actual paperback in my hands though, and even though its probably very self serving, I’m glad that I decided to delve beyond the simple ebook niche.

Writing inspiration and utilising Pinterest

Inspiration is a great thing, and it often comes when you’re least expecting it. Try to sit down and pull a story out of the air and, chances are, your .doc will remain blank. However, delve into the thousands of ideas, images and characters that are roaming around in your head, and you’ll more than likely find something to get those fingers tapping away.

For me, inspiration arrives in two main forms; either a huge crashing explosion of a new story idea or the subtle and gentle flow of consciousness that occurs when I write. My latest WIP, the yet un-named science fiction novel, was inspired by a enormous crane pulling down the old block of flats that I used to live in. It looked like a dinosaur, a giant beast of some sort, tearing away at the fabric of man’s creation. ‘How can I include that in Inside Evil?‘ I thought. I realised that I couldn’t fit it in, not really, and so a new work was born. A work that has grown into something quite different from that first image which was conjured into my mind all those years ago.

Could this have been the inspiration for Elrick?Aside from these very visceral images that create new WIP’s, I find that other inspiration takes a more subtle approach and I don’t even know it’s there until it releases itself into my work. As a trained zoologist and professional gardener, I surround myself with nature, creatures, bugs, plants, and this has very gently found its way into my work. I never sat down and thought ‘Right, today I’m going to include a spider in my writing.‘ However, when I was first writing Mrs Peacock’s scenes (Inside Evil) Elrick just kind of appeared. From nowhere. Today I was gardening again at a client’s and what should I find but this very cool yellow crab spider. Perhaps it, in the past, was the subtle inspiration for Elrick and the purple ink spiders that followed in The Tower of Souls.

Pinterest 

I’ve been using Pinterest for a few months now, mainly as a way to collect inspiration for gardening and home decor, but have decided it might be a good idea to share images which have helped, and continue to help, create the Inside Evil worlds, creatures, characters and stories. I’ve created a range of boards, including ‘Inspiration for Inside Evil‘, ‘Inside Evil character inspiration’ and ‘Music I listen too whilst writing‘ to draw together some insights to how I, myself, see the novels. I’m sure I’ll be adding more boards over time too, as further ideas come to me.

As a slight aside, the ‘Inside Evil character inspiration‘ board won’t have actors or actresses that I think look like Roberta, or Sam, or Martha. I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid describing characters too much in the books, as well as avoiding character imagery on the covers because I want people to make up their own minds on how they see people. Of course, I might post Martha’s pearls or Sam’s glasses, but I won’t post my thoughts on character faces. However, you will see images of people that readers have suggested – particularly the first image of Martha, who one reader imagined as looking like Felicity Montagu in Bridget Jones.

If you want to follow me, then just tap the little button below and you can peruse my boards, and even join up yourself. It’s a great way to create mood and inspiration collections whether you’re a reader, writer or dreamer.

Follow Me on Pinterest

The Tower of Souls is here

The Tower of Souls has landed! After six months in the making – less actually, because I didn’t actually start writing it until about May, 2012 – the sequel to Inside Evil is now available at Amazon and Smashwords, and will soon be available at iBooks, Sony, Kobo, B&N etc via the Smashwords distribution network. I’m really happy with this sequel and feel that it’s a great new story for the series, adding to the world that was already created in the first book, and throwing in some new elements which I hope readers will be eager to sink their teeth into. Whilst Inside Evil was very much a mystery paranormal, The Tower of Souls opens up the new fantasy realm of Gathin and is probably best considered a contemporary fantasy novel. OK, so switching genres may not be the best idea, but as I mentioned in my previous post, indie authors can pretty do as we please – we just might not make all our readers happy!

You may have also noticed a new page appearing in the top bar –  “Exclusive Content“. Whilst still in the works, those who have signed up to the newsletter will soon be able to access exclusive character biographies, encyclopaedic entries for Inside Evil lore, objects, creatures and places, in addition to information as to how I developed certain aspects of the books. Newsletter subscribers will be able to access this content with a password and will be updated as new items become available. More coming soon.

In the meantime, pick up your copy of The Tower of Souls now if you want to continue Roberta and her friend’s stories. And, if you haven’t yet read Inside Evil, there’s a nice little price drop and you can now pick up the first in the series for just $2.99

The Tower of Souls Cover Reveal

There’s something about receiving cover art that makes the whole book publishing process seem real. Even when you type that last word of a novel, the excitement quickly fades to the terror of editing. It’s hard to think of your novel as a product whilst it’s just a small word document on your hard drive.

Today I got the artwork for The Tower of Souls, and it suddenly sprang to realisation that, by the end of next month, I’ll have written and self published another book. Two in six months. I’m quite impressed with myself!

Here’s the new cover, which I think has all the lures and attractions of Inside Evil’s artwork whilst distinguishing itself in its own right. What do you think??

The Tower of Souls Update

The past week has been spent plunged into my fictional realm in a bid to complete the first draft for The Tower of Souls. Though it took me years to finish Inside Evil, it’s taken me a few mere moths to get back into writing. The last few days especially has found me hard at the grind stone, and anyone who is a regular at the Kindleboards ‘Thousand Words a Day’ thread will have seen that I’ve been managing several thousand words per day.

I can happily say that tonight I finished the first draft of The Tower of Souls! I’m so overjoyed that I’ve finished. It came to circa 70k, so after editing, where I normally end up actually adding words, it’ll probably be in the mid 70s. The race is now on for a proof read and first edit, before it goes off to a second pair of eyes for the first read through!

On track for an end of August release, WOOHOO! :)

The Tower of Souls – the first excerpt

I’ve been working on The Tower of Souls, both actively tapping away and passively thinking, perusing and dreaming about it. It’s funny when you start a new novel and it gets under your skin; it’s almost all you can think about it.

Today I’ve been working on a chapter with Susan and Martha and thought I’d do something that I never did with Inside Evil; post a short except. Bear in mind that this is a first draft and only cobbled together today, but I thought I’d share this brief passage that involves one of my favourite double acts.

                                                                                               

The Tower of Souls; Except

Christmas had come and gone in Ridgewood. As Susan stood at the window of Martha’s kitchen, she looked out upon the grey scene. Though snow had brightened up the quiet little town in the weeks preceding December 25th, rain had arrived on Christmas Eve to wash away the crisp white sheet that blanketed her surroundings. Within hours, the beauty of the white landscape had been washed away to slush, and though evening temperatures continued to plummet, there was no new snow to provide fresh beauty to the town.

Susan sighed as she plunged her hands into the hot water and continued to clean dishes. The past few days had been extremely difficult; the first Christmas without Vanessa had been as bad as she thought it might be. Much to her husband Bernard’s displeasure, Martha had been invited for food, drinks and more drinks. They had sat in almost complete and uncomfortable silence around the table, with Martha occasionally attempting to make light conversation with Bernard.

“Why can’t you just leave us in peace?” he said finally, the words spilling from his lips with tired anger.

“Bernard, I’m so sor-“

“You have nothing to be sorry about,” Susan interrupted, before turning her eyes on her husband. “How dare you-”

“How dare I?” Bernard shouted with indignation, “That’s a bloody joke! This woman, this interfering manipulative woman ruined our marriage the day she stepped into OUR bookstore.”

“What marriage?” Susan said, almost rolling her eyes, “We’ve been pretending to love each other for years. We only stayed together for Vanessa’s sake.”

“Well, how lucky for you, dear,” Bernard replied with sarcasm, “She’s dead, you can leave me now.” And, with that he pushed his plate away and stormed out of the room.

Susan had not needed any heeding, and despite Martha offering to leave whilst advising her friend to let matters simmer down, Susan knew that there wasn’t any going back. She’d known for a long time that her marriage was over, and since her daughter’s death she and Bernard had only been growing further apart. With Bernard glowering in the front room, Susan had filled a suitcase with clothes and left with the promise of a bed at Martha’s. Little did she know that as soon as the door to her family home had slammed, Bernard, teary eyed and regretful, had wandered the house looking for his wife, not believing that she’d actually gone. No, Christmas had not been pleasant.

As Susan heard the front door open and the rustle of an umbrella being shaken, she looked up from the foamy suds that filled the washing up bowl. A small movement caught her eye, and she noticed a small purple spider was spindling on a small length of silk attached to the top of the window frame, gently descending to the countertop below. Reaching out with soapy hands, Susan squashed the tiny creature with her index finger, before wiping the oozy innards from the paintwork with a sponge and turning to smile as Martha bustled in.

“I got it,” Martha beamed as she held aloft the large tome that she’d received from Sam Carter. “It’s exactly as she said it would be.”

A curious thing had occurred the previous night. Susan, though going to bed early, had been suffering from her usual early morning insomnia, and around 1am had finally given up the attempt to sleep and had instead crept down to the living room for a late night tipple. She thought, for a few seconds, that Martha had beaten her to it when she saw her friend standing at the drinks cabinet, before realising that Martha was actually staring into the large mirror mounted on the wall above. Drawing closer, Susan had seen the animated image of an older woman shimmering away, before the reflection in the glass was replaced with Martha’s familiar face. Martha pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear as if nothing untoward had occurred, saw that Susan had entered the living room and immediately pulled out a bottle of whisky.

Now, standing in the kitchen on the following morning, Martha pulled Susan across to the table as she pushed up the sleeves of her mauve cardigan and dropped the large and old looking book onto a small breakfast bar.

“How was Sam?” Susan asked, realising that she hadn’t actually seen him since the night that Roberta fell from the cliff.

“Dishevelled,” Martha responded as she flipped open the thick leather cover to reveal the first page. “I’m afraid I was too keen on getting my hands on this to spend any time with him.”

Upon the first page of the faded pink paper was a list of names and dates pertaining to the previous owners of the tome.

“Mrs Peacock. She must’ve been the woman in the mirror,” Martha said as she drew her index finger down the list.

Susan peered over her shoulder and saw the inscription below, letting out a small gasp as she did so. “Martha Wittle.”

Martha grinned with excitement. She seemed unfazed by the fact that a woman had appeared in her mirror in the middle of the night with instructions to pick up this book; a book which was obviously predestined to make it into Martha’s hands.

Leaving the table momentarily, Martha disappeared into the living room. Susan flipped the page and found that it was blank, the pale and slightly water marked pink paper feeling fragile under her fingers. Page after page was blank, with the only slight marks being those of age related trauma.

“Martha, it’s empty!” Susan called out.

“What?”

“It’s blank!” Susan shouted again, raising her voice as she did so.

“Bring it here would you?” Martha said, popping her head around the doorframe before once again disappearing. “I think I have a little trick to solve that.”

                                                                                

For those of you who’ve read Inside Evil there may be a few titbits of Martha’s future in this except. For those who haven’t, I hope I haven’t given anything too much away!

Inside Evil; The Tower of Souls

It’s official, the sequel to Inside Evil that I’m currently writing will be called The Tower of Souls. You may think that, as an author, I ought to have known the title before I started writing. However, many authors actually finish entire novels before the title pops into their mind. In a similar way that characters grow into themselves as the pages are written, so too does the overall story arc, and often the title. And now, 20,000 words in, The Tower of Souls has ruminated in my mind for long enough to set down its official anchor.

What can we expect from The Tower of Souls? Well, to be completely honest, I’m not even sure yet. When I was in the throes of writing Inside Evil, a lot happened which I’d never envisaged. I have set milestones that I work towards, but the storytelling in between is left largely to my fingers and the characters themselves. Do I know where Tower of Souls will finish? Yes. Do I know what is going to happen along the way? Not entirely.

I can tell you that our favourite characters, Roberta, Sam, Susan, Martha and Karl will all be back, with Sam moving to the forefront a little and having his own Point of View (POV). As Roberta explores the dangerous world of Gathin, she’s going to discover the true horrors that shadows Ridgewood, and she may come to realise that her part in this story is not a mere accident. Meanwhile, with Roberta presumed dead by her friends who have been left behind, life goes on. However, shaking off the experience that was suffered in the final days before Inside Evil’s conclusion isn’t easy and, Sam in particular, will struggle to adapt.

Several further reviews have come in for Inside Evil, making me know that taking a breath and hitting that ‘publish‘ button was the right thing to do. Now, even I am excited by the story unfolding on the screen before me. Over the coming weeks I’m also going to post a little competition for one reader to have a very specific character placed within Gathin, allowing a creative fan to have their concept immortalised in an eBook form. But for now, and with a tentative release date of September, I need to get back to tap, tap, tapping away.