New short story – ‘Time Away’

Some years ago, I spent a few months working at a holiday centre on the Isle of Wight (a small island by the south coast of England, for those of you unfamiliar with it). I enjoyed my time there, but the place was very dated. I could easily picture pre-war holiday-makers resting in deckchairs, or taking part in organised activities. In fact, much of the island felt like that, as if the ferry across took passengers not only a couple of miles in distance but also back thirty years as well.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Yes, it provided its own source of amusement, but there was also something relaxing about it. The pace of life felt slower. Yes, the island has many beaches, and is in the warmer part of England, but I think it’s a popular holiday destination in part because of the feel of the place.

I was thinking of that time of my life recently (no idea why), and I started getting ideas for a story. I worked on this, and Time Away developed.

You can read Time Away here. If you’ve got a moment, I’d love to hear what you thought of it‌—‌simply comment under the story, or on this post.

‘Shell’ – new short story

Another short story for you. Can’t recall where the initial idea came from, but I think it was another of those free-writing ones. I started with the image of an attack on a house, but seen through cameras from a distance, and I wrote whatever came to mind. Of course, it needed a lot of editing, but I hope the final version works.

You can read the story, called Shell, here. And if you want more coffee-break fiction, the full list of my free shorts can be found here.

New short story – ‘Fascination’

My 63rd short story is now up, and you can read it here.

Fascination was another of those stories that started with the notion that we can never know everything about those around us – the many shoppers we pass in the streets, the occupants of all those cars that flash by, all those people struggling away on equipment at the gym. And, as in the case of this story, other passengers on a plane. We can’t know what’s going on in their heads, what they’ve just been doing, or what they’re going to do. And maybe they’re not even human.

I hope you enjoy Fascination, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it (feel free to leave a comment).

New short story – ‘Boxed In’

My first short story of 2019 is Boxed In. I’m not going to say too much about it, except to say that you can read it here.

Millenary3_low-resolution2And, as this is story number sixty one, I have another collection available. Millenary 3 contains the previous twenty shorts, all under a thousand words, bundled into a handy e-book (mobi, epub and pdf). You can download Millenary 3 for free here (and if you’ve missed the others, you can still get Millenary and Millenary 2 from this page).

How was 2018 for me?

 

Another year over, another opportunity to look back at what I’ve achieved (or otherwise). Like any year, things haven’t always gone to plan.

Shadows

My aim for 2018: to release the third book in the trilogy in the first quarter of the year.

Shadowstrike_smallShadows was originally supposed to be a short series of ‘easy’ books as a palate-cleanser between writing Dominions stories, but each book required far more work than I’d envisaged. The third book, Shadowstrike, was no exception, and the editing stages involved a great deal of cutting and rewriting to reduce the overblown 160,000 word first draft to something just under 100,000. This took a lot of time, especially as I then had to do another couple of editing passes to improve the language, and I only managed to release the finished book a few months ago.

But I don’t see this as a failure. The book is far stronger for all that work‌—‌in fact, I feel that the Shadows series contains some of my best writing to date. And readers seem to enjoy the books‌—‌I received a cery positive review for Shadowfall, and my Kindle Unlimited page reads suggest that readers who start Book One generally continue on to finish the whole trilogy.

I was going to leave this series as a trilogy, but I’m rethinking this now. I might have more to report on that at a later date.

Dominions

My aim for 2018: to release Dominions IV and V along with a couple of supporting stories, and to start work on Dominions VI.

Well, that never happened.

Riled Dogs (Dominions IV)I already had an almost-finished version of Riled Dogs (Dominions IV), although I wasn’t ready to complete it because I planed to release IV and V close together. But with Shadowstrike taking far longer than expected, I knew I wasn’t going to get round to Dominions V before the second half of the year. And Deep Water (Dominions III) came out at the end of 2016‌—‌could I really leave over 2 years between that and the rest of the series?

So between edits on Shadowstrike I worked on Riled Dogs. This didn’t require too much‌—‌a quick polish, an external edit, and then all the formatting and finalising stuff (I already had a cover, and I’d been throwing around ideas for the product description for some time). I published the finished version back in March.

I also had a short that I’d originally written when I started work on Riled Dogs. This took a few more edits to complete, but being a short story, this didn’t take as long, and I was able to release Animus (A Dominions Story) as another free gift to my mailing list (although this will probably go on general release fairly soon).

When I’d completed Shadowstrike, I set to work on Dominions V. But I’d been enveloped in the world of Shadows for too long, and I needed to reacquaint myself with Dominions. I decided to re-read all the older books, and started (where else?) with Dark Glass (Dominions I).

And I wasn’t impressed.

This book came out in the summer of 2016, but was finished back in 2015. Three years further on, any my writing’s improved‌—‌and the state of Dark Glass made this obvious. The main character was passively carried along by the plot for most of the time, the story moved slowly, and the writing was overblown. And this was the first book in what I intend to be a nine-book series. How did I expect readers to pick up the second book if the first wasn’t a good read?

I couldn’t let this stand. I needed to re-write Dark Glass.

This had been my project for the last few months of 2018, and I’m far happier with the new version. It’s almost finished, and should be out early next year.

Marketing

I’m constantly learning in this area, and had some success with KU free days and a Kobo promotion. But paid advertising is becoming more necessary, with Amazon especially leaning towards a ‘pay to play’ environment. Over early December I ran a few Amazon Ads for Shadowfall, but without success. I had quite a few impressions (meaning that the cover showed up when potential readers were searching for what I considered to be similar books), but hardly anyone clicked (under 1%). I believe this is down to the cover, and after a lot of consideration I’ve decided that all the Shadows covers need to change.

Other projects

PowerOfWordsCoverBack in 2017, MLS Weech sent out a call for stories inspired by the First Amendment, to be included in an anthology he was putting together. He accepted my story (Ghost Stream), and then started an intense editing process that stretched into 2018. It was a lot of work, but it’s definitely made the story stronger (and I learnt a great deal from the whole process).

The release of The Power Of Words was at the start of October, and we had a Facebook party‌—‌the first time I’ve been involved with one of them. We’ve garnered a few decent reviews, and I’m proud to be a part of this anthology. There’s also an audio version‌—‌and listening to someone else narrate my own story was an eye-opening (ear-opening?) experience. It was like discovering a new story, and it’s pushed me further down the road to getting audio versions of my other stuff.

It's Behind YouBack in March, I had a short story (The Reason We Run) included in Samie Sands’ horror collection It’s Behind You.

I’ve continued to post a new story under 1000 words on my website every couple of weeks. I did have a break in the summer (putting out posts connecting the stories by themes instead), but I finished the year with my 60th of these shorts, and have just compiled the last twenty into another collection (Millenary 3). I’ve also continued to post various thoughts/musings on reading and writing, keeping up my schedule of putting something new on the website every week.


So that’s been my year in writing/publishing. Two novels released, a couple of shorts (including a very long one) in anthologies, and more shorts and posts on the website. Not the year I’d envisaged, but I’ve learnt and I’ve developed. I’m a stronger writer now, and I’ve increased my understanding of marketing and the business side of independent publishing. Re-writing Dark Glass, while appearing to be a backward step, will put the series on firmer foundations. It’s also given me the courage to accept that the Shadows covers weren’t helping sales of those books.

And I have plans for 2019, some more formed than others (and some little more than sparks of ideas at the moment). But I’ll tell you about them next time.

A free collection of short tales to see you through the holiday slump

Too much food, and there’s that bloated feeling. Add drink, and concentrating for any length of time simply isn’t going to happen. Then there’s the strange limbo of work between Christmas and New Year. You don’t want to start anything too big, because why not wait until the beginning of the year?

So you want something small to keep you occupied, even at home. A long novel’s going to be a struggle, and you know you’re not going to get round to all those books you promised you’d read, way back at the start of the year. You need something easily digestible, something to take in bite-sized chunks.

I’ve got just the thing for you.

On Monday, I posted my sixtieth 1000-word short story, and as I’m collating each twenty stories into ebooks, that means the third of these collections is now ready.


 

Millenary3_low-resolution2Millenary 3

Twenty more dark coffee-break reads.

A man must choose between family and what he knows is right. A beast does what she must to keep her offspring alive. An agent struggles to prevent aliens taking the world. A tourist gets more than he bargains for in a virtual holiday. A sociopath runs with her violent impulses. An un-named character is stuck in a never-ending maze of rooms.

And then the world ends‌—‌but not in a way anyone expects.


These stories aren’t necessarily happy, and some of the characters in them are downright nasty. But if you’re looking for some short reads to see you through to the end of the year, you can download Millenary 3 for free here.