Where Do Stories Come From?

Inspiration can strike at the most inconvenient of times. For anyone who’s ever sat down and thought ‘I want to write a story’, they’ll know that finding that first spark can be hard. Often, a lot of time is needed for that glistening of a story to emerge, yet more time for it to heat to an ember and once you start writing, and only then, are the story threads brought to life. Luckily, I’ve never been a situation where I’m sat at a blank screen with no idea what to write. I may not know how to start or, indeed, where’ll I’ll finish, but there’s normally a thread of an idea somewhere that’s been jotted down on a scrap piece of paper or stowed away in my iPhone’s ‘Notes’ app.

Having finished To Kill A Curse, I’m starting to think about what’s next. Actually, I know what’s next; a couple of freebie short prequel stories about the CRYO podmates and then the next CRYO – title TBC. But, if my mind wasn’t already filled with too many thoughts, I had another idea the other day.

I was reading THIS article and listening to the music below. The article talked about Boeing and SpaceX had teamed with NASA so that America can once again send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from the US instead of having to rely on other nations.

It got me thinking, once again, about going into space. You know; Virgin Galactic is only around the corner. I got excited and enthused, before painfully realising that it was going to be vastly expensive and I’ll have to save like crazy if I ever want to experience a low Earth orbit. Then I began to think about what would happen if a married couple were faced with a decision; they have to leave Earth for some reason, but they only have enough money for ONE ticket. Who would go? What if it was someone like me, who’s always craved going to space but is desperately in love with their partner? What if they decided that one of them had to go; that they couldn’t both die in peril…how would the guilt of the survivor play out?

With all these questions spinning around in my head, I’ve now got another science fiction novel webbing its way together; just what I didn’t want! I’ve finally concluded Inside Evil so I can work on one series, and now it seems I might have two again.

Still, it’s interesting how the slightest thing can create that flicker of inspiration and set off a line of thought that, ultimately, creates the stories we now and love so well.

Talking Creatures – How Far Do You Take it?

I grew up with fabulous stories like The Animals of Farthing Wood, Redwall and The Deptford Mice. Seriously, these stories stirred my imagination and, I’m sure, put me on my own writing path. The thought that beneath our feet, all these little animals were chatting away and forming their own societies just

McGonagall might be an animagus, but her cat never talks.

McGonagall might be an animagus, but her cat never talks.

resonated with me so much. But, alas, we have to grow up (at least physically, if not mentally), and having started writing my own series, I’ve realised I’m not really a fan of the talking creature.

There are many books where language skills come seamlessly to the creatures living in our world. The protagonist happily chats to a cat or passing squirrel. I never think it too awful if it’s animals of the same species – it’s not too far reaching to presume they could have their own language. Alternatively, If my human character’s dreaming, or just glugged a pot of ‘special‘ mushroom soup down, then it’s quite allowable in their hallucinogenic state. But even in a magical world such as Harry Potter, the animals don’t actually talk – crookshanks never hopped on Hermione’s lap and gave away Scabber’s secret. Even those skilled in transfiguration to the point where they’re an animagus aren’t able to speak when in animal form.

There's plenty of creatures in Inside Evil...but they won't utter a word

There’s plenty of creatures in Inside Evil…but they won’t utter a word

Don’t get me wrong; my stories are FILLED with creatures; I can’t help it, I’m an animal lover. There are cats, spiders, wolves and all sorts in my books. They never talk though; they’re just cute – well, most of them depending on your feelings towards bugs. The only exception is in To Kill A Curse, but you’ll discover exactly how and why it’s able to happen.

I suppose, looking at it logically, I’m a hypocrite. If I don’t like humans and cats talking, then I shouldn’t like fox and badgers fleeing Farthing Wood together, or the mice and squirrels of Deptford drawing up battle plans. As it goes, I shouldn’t think I’ll be writing talking animals any time soon. The unrealistic factor is too much: despite that I’m writing fantasy fiction!

But when it comes to fictional animals, do you prefer realism, or are you not bothered when the family hamster starts singing Happy Birthday? Is it okay for animals to talk to one another, as long as they don’t start conversing with humans too?

To Kill A Curse – Cover Reveal

TKAC (2)It’s here, finally. After months of writing, more weeks editing and a lot of back and forth between the cover artist and I, the artwork for To Kill A Curse can be revealed. It’s blood red for obvious reasons; it’s the end of the series! And don’t you think Luguolo looks quite sweet and harmless there? We all know that’s a completely falsity!

In terms of it’s release; that’s still in question. It’s had one edit and is awaiting a second. Meanwhile, if you’d like the chance to read it first, before it hits the shelves, then please sign up for ARC copies. This is a new group I have solely for those who want to take part in my writing process. To Kill A Curse will be the first release to this group, after which you’ll get a chance to see all my work as it’s written; so that’s more CRYO stories and whatever else lays in the future.

If you simply want to know when it hits the shelves, just sign up for my newsletter. I’ll send you mail on release day so you can head to Amazon, Smashwords or another preferred store and grab the book.

With the editing process now out of my hands, I’m onto CRYO. First, there’ll be a couple of short stories about podmates before they entered the program. And then it’ll be onto CRYO 3. Oh, AND, there’ll be a short story set in the CRYO universe within an anthology to be released at the end of the year so I’ll be sure to let you all know when that’s available too! :)

How do you navigate the translations of alien language?

If you write sci-fi, then at some time or another, you’re sure to come across the issue of language. It’s a problem area for realists like myself- and a universal translator simply doesn’t cut it. I understand the notion of such a device in well established series (Star Trek, for example) where common races from the same region of space regularly communicate with one another. It’s not inconceivable to think that one day, a computer program will automatically translate the words from those around you into a language you can recognise. But what about when you come into contact with a brand new species?

voyager

Voyager’s universal translator seemed rather handy, if unrealistic

I’ve recently been watching back-to-back ST: Voyager on SyFy (yes, I think Janeway rocks)! However, here they are, stranded in the Delta Quadrant and as soon as they come across another race never before seen by humandkind – wham, instant English translation. There’s not even a few hours or day delay whilst the software analyses the phonetics. There was one episode of ST:DS9 that highlighted the issue and I, for one, was glad to see a little realism. Meanwhile, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy used the ‘Babel fish'; a small organism that’s placed in the auditory canal, and whilst universal translation was largely used in Star Wars, I’m always glad to see some use of interpretors; with Jabba, for example.

But here we’re talking about film. What about books?

babelfish

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had a fun idea; the Babel fish, which is inserted into the ear.

It’s not easy, but having an actor developing a few lines of gibberish for an alternate language on film is a lot easier than having pages of utter undecipherable words in a novel. And there’s the vision of it too; I mean, who wants to flip the page and work their way through entire paragraphs of nonsense? That would almost certainly see me giving up on the book entirely. Still, I’m not keen on automatic translation – especially if characters are a) dealing with a brand new alien race or b) nowhere near a spaceship or other technology that could be automatically translating. So, we back to translators.

For those who’ve read the CRYO series, you’ll know that when John first stumbles across Earth’s new residents, he cannot understand a word they say. Nor, apparently, do they have any idea to what these strange humans are talking about either. I managed to get by the lengthy language issues by having a small group of scientists and archaeologists having learned English to help them with their own research – having no idea that they’d actually encounter humans one day. There are a very few bio-translators that are programmed with set language skills, but these are rudimentary compared with the universal translators often seen. And, as the series progresses, I expect to continue the use of translators, not only for realism but also because it gives a sense of diversity. And, of course, it allows the odd alien word to be thrown in – useful when you need to use obscene language without being too obvious.

Thoughts? When you’re reading, do you care about the intricacies of language, or are you just happy everyone can understand one another? And, when writing, do you plump for a translation software, or have fun with some alien language?

A New CRYO Cover

CRYOI find the whole book marketing thing pretty hard. I’m creative when it comes to writing; not so much when it comes to trying to strategise advertising. I’ve never been one to toot my own horn. Time and time again, we hear there’s three magic ingredients to selling a book; Contents, Cover, Blurb. Well, there’s not a huge amount I can do about the CRYO contents because it’s written. And, from the feedback and reviews I’ve gathered, people like it. I’ve swapped the blurb around a few times, but I’m trying out a new cover, once again. I’ve had a few comments that the cover’s scary and implies horror. Also, that it’s too cartoony. I’ve looked down the current top lists for science fiction and dystopian and yes, there’s nothing like my cover out there. But perhaps this is where uniqueness is a flaw; perhaps I need to gel with the crowd more and give people something they’re used to.

With that in mind, I’ve created a new and VERY simple cover. Literally, it’s a slightly altered photostock image with clear text added utilising canva. It’s not yet appeared on Amazon, but if you use the ‘Look Inside‘ feature, you’ll see it’s now inside the book.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, if something isn’t working, change it. It can be hard to let go of covers, text etc you’ve worked hard on, but if it’s not actually bringing in sales, you just can’t hold on it. For now, this is a test run – I’ve only applied it to Amazon to see if it’ll have any effect. What do you think? More sci-fi than the previous cover? More eye-catching? Or, perhaps you don’t like it as much?

Inside Evil is now on GooglePlay

GooglePlay1Well, it’s taken me some time, but I’ve finally got the Inside Evil series on GooglePlay. One of the reasons many authors have stayed away is because Google automatically discounts books. So, if I upload The Tower of Souls for $2.99, then they slash it even further. Whilst this isn’t great for the platform itself, Amazon then price matches and there’s a whole circle of nightmare going on. BUT, fellow writer, T. K. Kenyon, found a way around this little issue!

Now, as if my books weren’t available on all manner of platforms already, you can now also grab them on GooglePlay. Just follow this link to see the series. Meanwhile, I’m ALMOST finished with finale. I want to get it right, hence why it’s taking a little longer than previously expected.

Inside Evil is going ON TOUR

IEBlog

So, I’m working hard at the moment to complete the first draft of To Kill A Curse –  I know it’s late, but I’m getting there. In fact, I’m hoping to finish it THIS weekend. With the finale almost done, I’m starting to prepare for a few plugs here and there in the future. As a result, in September, Inside Evil and the rest of the series is going on tour! If you’d like to participate by posting on your blog or reviewing (yes, that’s right – there’s FREE books up for grabs) then please sign up using the form below. :)

Inside Evil Tour Sign-Up

If you’ve read the books already, then feel free to join. Alternatively, if you want to be involved but don’t have time to actually read the series, that’s no problem either – just opt out of reviewing.

Have a great weekend – I better get back to work!