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.

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?

A Place for Science Fiction Lovers

I has to be said, I LOVE science fiction. I watch it, I read it, I write it. With CRYO: A Changed World in final edits, it got me thinking about places that people can find good SF reads. A group that offers a constant stream of new releases, deals, freebies and awesome books that take us to new realms and foreign worlds. After doing a search for likely pages on Facebook I found nothing, nada, zip.

So, as if I haven’t got enough on my plate, I decided to start Science Fiction Books. For those who might be familiar with pages, such as Ebook Corner or What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey, the concept is the same. I’m simply posting new books by trad and indie pubbed authors every day. Some Hard SF, some Space Opera. Some Colonisation, some Post-Apocalyptic. Basically,  a little of everything. There’s a few freebies, some new releases, some discount deals and some regular priced stuff too.

So, if you’re looking for a new read and want a place where you can be assured of ONLY Science Fiction, then head over to Science Fiction Books. I started it just five days ago and already have over 100 likes, and you’re more than welcome to the crowd. :)

2013 in review and 2014 Schedule

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s posts, but I’m trying to jot up what’s happened this past year in my head and I need somewhere to put it down. Looking back, I suppose 2013 really was the year I got into publishing properly. Whilst I debuted on the indie author scene during 2012, with Inside Evil released in March 2012 and The Tower of Souls later on that summer, I really was still getting to grips with the industry and how it worked. It took until January of 2013 when CRYO and Pacifier 6 were published in quick succession, before Spirits of the Middlelands and New Alliances later on in they year. So, all in all, I published three full novels this year and a novella. Not actually very productive seeing as the majority of CRYO was actually rewritten and proofed in 2012. Still, a number of good things have happened this year:

  • Sales surpassed 500 books sold. I’m an indie prawn and don’t sell a huge amount. Getting to 500 is pretty amazing, and making over £1,000 in royalties is even more incredible.
  • Inside Evil was heavily edited and went perma-free. When I started I was a rookie and still finding my feet. I didn’t really understand how the world worked. When IE first went free, it was littered with problems. I picked myself up and dusted myself off from some unfortunate reviews, found a new editor and reworked the book.
  • I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. I’m great procrastinator and will find any reason NOT to write. This year, NaNo fitted perfectly with my writing schedule so I used it to start CRYO; A Changed World. I ‘won’ NaNo and completed CRYO yesterday.
  • I branched onto new platforms. I’ve never been in Select; I’m a believer of not putting your eggs in one basket. This year, as well as going direct to Kobo when UK authors were allowed into the fold, I’ve also started getting my books onto GooglePlay. Sales have started to dribble in from B&N, Sony and iBooks too, which is always a good thing.

So, in about six-and-a-half hours, 2013 will be gone and 2014 will be here. I have a lot planned, and most of it hasn’t to do with writing. I’m going on holiday, getting married, going on a honeymoon, sorting out a visa for my other half to continue living in Britain and all manner of other exciting things. BUT, I mustn’t forget my writing. Whilst I thought I wrote a lot in 2013, the figures say otherwise and I want to increase my output this year.

  • Inside Evil. 2014 will bring the Inside Evil series to a close with ‘To Kill a Curse’. It’s bittersweet as this story has been with me the longest out of anything. I can’t wait to finally finish, but I’m sad to say goodbye too.
  • CRYO. As I’ve mentioned, CRYO; A Changed World now has a 1st draft. After a read through and then editing, I expect it to come out in February. I would anticipate getting the third CRYO book out in 2014 too, and a rough story is already formulating in my mind. I’m also intending on writing a few prequels which focus on main characters. John and Beth’s story will be free, and I have plans for short stories on Evie, Viktor, Anne and Franz too. I might even give horrid Agnes a little tale.
  • Pacifier 6. Despite loving this story, it really hasn’t sold; only a mere handful. I would love to write another novella at some point and I already have the story. However, it may not be worth my time if I’m not shifting copies, so any sequel is on the back-burner for now.
  • SOMETHING NEW. I do have another science fiction tale in the back of my head involving solar ships, disappearing planets and a small group of explorers. However, that’s about it (though I know as soon as I start writing, something will happen). I’m not yet sure whether this will be a project for 2014 or not.

So, for the coming year I have three novels planned and several short stories in the works. I’d like to get at least one further novel out (possibly two). For now, though, I’m going to go and enjoy New Year’s Eve cake!!

NaNoWriMo; When inspiration finally comes to fruition

I haven’t updated the blog in a while and that’s been because every available word at my disposal has been thrust into this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you who don’t know). And, for the first time it looks like I’m going to complete the challenge; 50,000 words in a month. I reached 40,000 yesterday so thought I’d take a brief gulp of air and push my head up to see what’s happening.

Many years ago as I was walking passed a building site, inspiration struck me. The first year accommodation for my university were four concrete and skyline-domineering tower blocks. They really were an eyesore, but I had many good memories. When the site was sold to developers, I assumed they’d simply blow the towers up; you know, Vegas style. As I walked by on this particular day, an extremely long crane with a unyielding set of metal jaws rose into the air instead, and it began to dismantle the towers from the top downwards. The image immediately sparked something in my head; it was like a great creature reaching into the air and causing destruction with ironic grace. At that time I was writing Inside Evil, and there was no way I could fit in these beasts. And so, CRYO took its first footsteps of life.

Like all things, the CRYO tale took on a life of it’s own; so much so that these beasts almost didn’t appear at all. John and Kath, my main characters in the first novel, took over my head and led the story where they wanted it to go. But finally, as I hit 30,000 words in the sequel, years of thinking finally came into alignment and the huge crane de-constructing my former home finally wormed its way into the pages of my book.

This year, NaNoWriMo has been a complete God send. It’s fitted in seamlessly with my writing schedule, and I intend to have about 60,000 words written by the end of the month; that’s two-thirds of CRYO – A Changed World complete. It’s been extremely interesting writing this sequel and taking John, Anne, Amity and co into the great world beyond the CRYO station. They’ve discovered – actually, they still are discovering – a lot of new things and are leading me in great circles around my story milestones.  There’s also the battle of a language barrier between my CRYO survivors and a new race to contend with ….it’s a difficult line to write a new language without it becoming absurd, whilst trying to put enough in to show the difficulties my characters face.

Whilst I was aiming to get this sequel out towards the end of February, it’s looking like it might come early…and that’s something I’m extremely pleased to hear!

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.*