Wednesday, 20 September 2017

(vol 4) PART FIVE: "Creating Brisk Worlds - part 2"



Last Monday something amazing happened. 

I released my first ever self published book.

Check me out.



THE CLIMB

It's been a tough journey and, if I'm totally honest, it's been mostly my own fault that it's taken this long.

I've wanted to be a writer for many, many years. I wrote stories as a kid. I wrote screenplays while in college. And finally, in February 2014 I put it all out there and started a blog that would follow my process from zero to getting a book self published.

So many projects have been labelled 'the one' over the last forty three months. So many projects were talked about, promoted, started, restarted, all before finally being binned.

And then, as I mentioned in the last post, I realised that three years of Flash Fiction had given me a lot of material to work with without worrying about plot and characters across a 100k word count.



THE FIRST TIME ACROSS THE LINE

The release of BRISK WORLDS ended up satisfying two goals. The first was having a finished book out the in the wild with my name on, all a solo project. The second was to learn the process of self publishing.

Putting an e-book up on Amazon is equal parts simple and horrifically daunting. When I was growing up, I always knew that it was a tough door to get through and thus very few people did.

And then e-books appeared, and Amazon called to all of us wannabes and showed us that there would be no gate keepers. The readers would be the ones that decided. 

The only difference was that now a writers journey didn't stop at handing in that final draft word doc and signing off on the cover a few months later. Now, the author was on the train all the way until the final station.



NEW SKILLS

I spent a good couple of weeks going over my draft with a fine toothed comb (though I still missed a few spelling errors). 

I was starting to get sick of the words on the page. 

I was hating all of my stupid stories. 

The deadline I'd given myself was unrealistic. 

The cover was rubbish. 

I was going to fail. 

It was all a little . . . 

And then one Saturday afternoon, things unexpectedly snowballed. In a good way.

Frustrated with the project, I had popped over to Amazon just to have a look. To get away from the cover and the manuscript I thought I'd just see what the next step in the process was, get a little heads up, maybe see how bad the next part was going to be.

Suddenly I found myself creating a KDP profile. It was all very exciting. I was just window shopping. I thought that I'd just go as far as I could without putting the book up.

But before I knew it I had uploaded the manuscript and was checking it in the Kindle viewer (it's exciting seeing it on a mock up Kindle device). I clicked next page, and next page, and next page, all the way to the end. This thing I had created actually looked pretty damned good. And complete.

Later that afternoon I jumped ahead further. I'd given KDP my bank details and Tax info. I'd set a price and entered a PreOrder date. Before I could put on the brakes I was waiting for confirmation from Amazon to say my book was available.

I was buzzing (while the wife was getting sick of words like 'book', 'kindle', and 'I did it!'). It was early evening by then and time for my son to have a bath and go to bed. I left the laptop alone and headed upstairs.



SO MUCH TO DO

A little over an hour later my phone alert went off; fellow author Liz Hedgecock (who I had been bothering all afternoon with KDP chat) had sent me a link; my book was available to PreOrder on Amazon! 

I may have let out a little scream.

I was over the moon. It was such a good feeling that something I had created was available for people to read. I'd finally done it.

I should have closed down the laptop and stuck a movie on. I mean, I'd worked my butt off all afternoon. I'd earned a break, right?

Instead, I spent the next couple of hours doing more to prepare my books launch by setting up a couple of other things.

My Amazon Author's Page - here.

The books Goodreads page - here.

And I may even have popped over to CreateSpace. Because, let's be honest, a paperback version would be nice too.

Sure, the work of writing and editing and cover design are time intensive if you want to get it right. But once you have a product, I was so impressed at how simple it was to release it into the wild.

Now we have to see if people read it and, more importantly if they like it. 

And of course, my next book is snarling in it's cage, wanting to be released too.



FIRST JOURNEY COMPLETE

Thank you to anyone who has picked up a copy (hello mum). If you haven't had a chance yet, the links are below. And if you could leave a review, that would be equally appreciated.

And let me know what you think of BRISK WORLDS in the comments or on twitter @BrianSCreek (or use #BriskWorlds).

Next post I'm hoping to have an interview with an awesome Indie author.

Until then, go write.





Wednesday, 6 September 2017

(vol 4) PART FOUR: "Creating Brisk Worlds - part 1"


Well, it's a day I've been working toward for some time and it's nearly here.

This coming Monday (September 11th) will see the release of my first solo project; a Flash Fiction collection titled BRISK WORLDS.


IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG

The last couple of years have seen me struggle to complete a solo project and release it into the wilds. Despite heavy denial, I've come to realise that I was irking over what my first release was to be, thinking it had to be 'super special' and 'absolutely amazing'. But that was holding me back.

I was constantly struggling to meet my own high standards every time I held a different first draft in front of me. That's the hurdle I've been stuck at for so long; the first f***ing draft. It's one of the toughest stages, but it's also still quite far from the finish line. 

So I would constantly give up on a project which held even the smallest of flaws, seeing the whole book as 'broken' and not worth the effort. Then I'd come up with a better project which would have a reason why it should be easier to complete or be received by more readers.


COMPLETE WHAT IS ALREADY COMPLETED

And then one day, not that long ago, while another project started to scare me off, when dark thoughts of complete failure were looming and I thought that this would be my last attempt, I looked up on my FlashDogs bookshelf. On that shelf are several impressive novels and novellas.

And in among these self-published works sat two small books that showed me another way.



These fellow authors had put together little collections of their Flash Fiction writing. When I read these collections, I recognised several stories from the various Flash Fiction contests I'd taken part in . These stories I was reading in a paperback book held by my very hands, hadn't I competed with these stories weeks, months, and years ago in the online contests. And here they were. In real life.

Why couldn't I do that?

And so I stopped everything else and got to work.




THE BACK-CATALOGUE

Over the last four years I have accrued many, many stories, but I knew immediately that I wouldn't be able to use them all; some of them are real stinkers.

I proceeded to upload everything I had written since THE LADY IN THE WOODS into a single Scrivener file. And then . . . then I began culling. I read the stories over and over, day after day. 

I then printed the book out (400+ pages) and carried on, trimming, pruning, destroying. Smaller and smaller the project got, with a  little editing here and there (some of it was typos, other bits were improvements). 

When I had my final contenders I began working on a cover (a process covered here). It was all coming together.




THE LITTLE BOOK THAT COULD

And that's all there is. BRISK WORLDS, a collection of my Flash Fiction written over the last three years. Some of those sites are gone now (Flash Friday!, Angry Hourglass, Micro Bookends), others are still going (Microcosms, Paragraph Planet). But without any of them, these little gems would not exist.

This project is a way to get my writing out there, but more importantly, it's a way to get over those first hurdles, and to learn what I can about the process of self publishing by doing it and not just reading about it. Its been educational, and everything I've picked up, all the tips and tricks, will go into the next project, and the next, and so on.

So, below are the links. I will appreciate every purchase and every review (the good and the bad - it's all part of the job). Thank you for taking the time to read this, and if you pick up a copy of BRISK WORLDS, thank you even more so.

Next week I go into more detail about the actual process from finished Scrivener file to seeing the book up on Amazon.

Until then, get writing.




We live in one world . . . 

. . . but inside all our minds are thousands more.






Wednesday, 23 August 2017

(vol 4) PART THREE: "Collection Needs A Cover"



Hello readers. I need your help.



HOME MADE COVERS ARE EVIL?

While I'm not ready to shout about this yet, I'm planning to release a collection of Flash Fiction soon. It's coming along nicely and I'm learning all kinds of stuff regarding formatting. Seriously; I have watched a lot of YouTube videos recently just for learning purposes.

But that's not my problem. You see, along side said project, I've been working on its cover. I know a lot of people say you shouldn't attempt your own covers unless you've got the skills (I do not), but at this early stage in my 'career' I am aware of two important factors.

1) I really can't afford to pay someone to do a much better job than me. 

2) It's a learning process first and a product second. I need to do this so that my skills can grow. My next book will have a homemade cover, and the one after that. But I plan to get to a point where I can afford covers to be redone.



IT STARTED WITH A BANG

So, like I said, I've been working on this cover for a while. The basic original design has remained the same, but a title change and a lot of tweaking has got me close to being done.

Because this is a collection, a mix of fantasy, thriller, horror, sci-fi and more, I knew I didn't want anything specific on the cover like a location or a character; nothing to shout a specific genre. I pictured an explosion, a flash if you will, and set about building my idea using very primitive tools (also known as Microsoft Office).

Step one was opening up Powerpoint (the best program I currently own for manipulating and layering text and images). I set the slide to portrait and, because I'm planning to eventually print this collection too and I'm a fan of the 5x8 sized books as opposed to the 6x9, I set the slide size to this these dimensions.

Next was to 'build' the flash. I used the shapes function in Powerpoint and pulled out two; 'Explosion 1' and 'Explosion 2'. Alternating them, rotating them, and reducing the size per layer, I then added the colours before putting a banner along the bottom that would later hold my name.


While the image goes over the edge of the slide, 
the thumbnail on the left only shows the contents of the 5x8 

Next I added my name along the bottom and the working title, FLASHTASTIC FICTION using font OCR A Extended. You can see that I made the 'tastic' lower case and the 'Flash' a different color to help the mostly made up word stand out and read better. The wife talked me out of this.


The next stage was the important one. Using the thumbnail, I copied the 5x8 image into Word and then utilised the Artistic Effects option. Below is the effect called 'Glass'. I liked it immediately because it destroyed the perfect edges and gave the explosion a more chaotic and natural look.

And that's where I left it for a few weeks. At the time I thought it was the best my skills could accomplish.




30 VERSIONS LATER

While working on the book itself one day, I took another look at the cover and felt a lot more unhappy with it. While I knew going in that I was only going to get a basic looking design, I thought I could do better. And instead of tweaking, I decided to start again.


Losing the blue background worked straight away. I also made the explosion a little better, took out a yellow level, and added white and red outlines to the shapes.

And then I changed the title. 

FLASHTASTIC FICTION was originally called FLASHTASTIC 500, but having that many stories I was happy with turned out to be more than optimistic. Then, the more I looked at the cover, the more I realised I didn't even want the words FLASH or FICTION in the title. I don't know why. 

It wasn't until I looked on my FlashDogs book shelf and spotted Liz Hedgecocks 'Bitesize' and Tamara Rogers' 'Double Vision', that I figured out what direction I wanted to go for the title instead.

So I sat and stared into space, mulling it over, for about 40 minutes (I'm not joking), trying to think of words that would make a good title until . . .




THE TITLE SAYS IT ALL

BRISK WORLDS does exactly what is says on the tin. Each story is its own new world and the stories are super quick reads. Read one, read many. Doesn't matter. But it will be a roller-coaster ride through universe after universe, each one stranger than the last.

So I entered the new title and played around with layout, fonts, and colours. 

I tried ERAS Bold ITC. I tried TW CEN IT. I went back to OCR A Extended. Finally settled on Gungsuh. This I can't tell you why. I scrolled up and down that list, trying every font Microsoft Office had to offer and Gungsuh just felt right.


I carried on tweaking; little things here and there. The title font went black then blue then white and then, finally, clear.

I added a border, raised the title bar, enlarged the explosion once more. I went back to Artistic Effects and saw what else I could do.

It turned out that I liked a lot of the effects as a finished piece. From the twenty-three effects on offer, I found nine that worked. A couple of friends narrowed this down to four.




WHEN TO STOP

That's where it should have stopped. The final four looked good. They each make a fine cover.

But, as I sat down last Saturday, my wife out for the evening and my son heading off to dreamy dream land, I went through the covers again and again. Something still wasn't right.

It would have been a waste of an evening if the idea hadn't eventually reared it's ugly head. It was the title font itself that looked so out of place. The effects were beautiful, but the title looked false, stale, just laid over the top like it was.

And the lines of the explosion were still too clean.

So I went at it again. This time I did two things different. 

First I changed the template version to 'glass' effect and THEN I changed it to another effect. This made the explosion look wild and natural, more so that any other version I'd done so far. 

And then I made the second artist change WITH the title involved. 

I really couldn't be happier. And I'm glad I didn't give up. I know there has to eventually come a moment when the product is complete. But you also have to be 100% happy with it. If something irks you, even a little, if something is gnawing at the back of your mind, it's probably a good idea to listen to it. You'll only regret it later. 

I'm glad I kept going. I have liked each step better than the last. But the irking has stopped now so I know I'm finished. I've done all I can with the limited tools and skills I own.

I now have four designs that I really like.

And that's where I need you help.



YOUR OPINION COUNTS

Below are the final four designs. I would be happy with any one of them being the final cover for my Flash Fiction collection. And as I stated at the beginning of this artical, it's not professional, but I've done the best I can with limited tools. Down the line it'll get a revamp. But what ever the result, I'm happy for my first ever published work to go out dressed in one of the below outfits.

So, use the comments, tweet me @BrianSCreek, or use #BriskWorlds or #BriskWorldsCover and let me know which one you favour. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and if you comment, thank you for your opinion and assistance.

So, without further ado, the four finalists vying to be the cover of BRISK WORLDS.



A



B



C



D

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

(vol 4) PART TWO: “A Day in the Life of Horror”

So, THE INFERNAL CLOCK has been out a couple of weeks now and it’s been doing pretty damned well.


A collection of 24 horror tales, each fitting snugly into its hour slot on the devils clock, the anthology was the brainchild of twitter regular and 50% Father of Flashdogs, David Shakes. Available now on Amazon in both futuristic e-book and classical paperback.


As an added bonus, you can head on over to ‘The Infernal Blog’ and check out interviews from the collective contributors, and get an insight into the authors that gave their blood, sweat, and tears to this most awesome of projects. And find out which foods we all hate (seriously, these are in depth interviews!).


Aaaand, if that wasn’t enough, below is an added, added bonus as I delve into the making of DELAYED, my entry for the anthology that sits in the shadows of 6am.


WARNING: spoilers for DELAYED follow (duh!)



ORIGINS


When David’s idea exploded on twitter last year, I was extremely happy to be allowed entry among such a revered group of writers. But it didn’t take long for me to realise that I’d taken a bite out of a genre that I wasn’t normally comfortable in.


I’ve never really been drawn to horror. I’m the guy that waits for the scary movies to hit DVD so that I can turn the sound down and have the bright sunshine over for company. I have never read Barker, or Herbert, or Jackson, so reproducing their chills and frights would be difficult.


But I have read (and enjoyed) Stephen King, and more recently his son Joe Hill. And they do horror in a way I can identify with. A horror not of the slasher style (like Myers or Krugger). Their stories are of the human horror and of everyday objects or situations twisted and evil.


I didn’t want to mimic King (sacrilege), but it was a starting point.


I’d avoided the time slots I assumed would be snapped up, and instead settled on 6am without really thinking about it. Looking back now, I’m so glad I did. I can’t think of another idea I could have done in any other time of the day.


Now, to me, 6am is the start of my day. It’s when I get up, before anyone else in my house. It’s discovering on the news which new horrors have beset the world. And it’s when I say goodbye to my wife and son and hop on a train that takes me two stops to my place of work.


Right now we’re heading into summer and the mornings, though still a little chilly, are becoming gorgeous. But Autumn and Winter can produce some very creepy vibes as I stand on the platform, waiting for my train to arrive. The foggy glow of platform lights. The distant sounds of the world waking up. The electric charge as trains, unseen in the darkness except for that blinding light, ride the tracks closer and closer.


It was one such morning when my story began to form.



PETERS STORY


The basic plot came quick. I wanted a character who done something bad in his past, and I wanted that character to get on a train in the cold, dark, early hours, and never reach his expected destination.


Peter appeared almost fully formed. In fact, he literally hit the ground running. It comes a little later in the final piece, but the scene where he’s running for the train was where his journey originally started for the both of us. I saw him as an overweight, lazy, tardy, idiot, and that’s what I got. He’s a friendless screw up.


The next thing I worked on, after getting him to the station, was the train ride itself. I tried several things; from and out-and-out spooky ghost train rushing past and ‘grabbing’ his soul, to Peter getting on an ‘earlier’ train (much to other commuters shock) and falling into another realm, to a train over a train, a dimensional slip if you will (that’s still in there, that moment where Peter feels a little sick, while no one else gets on board).


Gareth was there too, in the early drafts. He started as an old best friend, before turning into the bully. In fact, in the second draft, Gareth was a mean sonofabitch from the off. It was only after a few more rewrites that I gave him a softer edge in the present day. He became a man on a mission, and less the bad egg he used to be.


But it wasn’t all plain sailing.





THE ACCIDENT


The thing I had the real trouble with was that train accident. Originally the train aspect was only the setting. But as I went on, I decided to make a better reason why events had to take place on a train, I had to link the accident from the past to the form of punishment Peter was about to receive.


So I hit Google and looked into train accidents. I considered using real life ones at first, and picking something really dramatic. I had Peter as an older guy, and made him a signal man who had neglected his post. I then changed it to put Peter on the train, but that made it tough for him to survive (without turning into Bruce Willis in Unbreakable).


I constantly found myself tangled. So I did what has worked for me in the past; I took a break.


I was several weeks later that I returned and two things happened that solved my issue. Some more research led to the discovery that a mere coin on a rail track is enough to derail a train. I was also perusing my books to find my next read when I stumbled onto Stephen King's DIFFERENT SEASONS (specifically STAND BY ME) and had a spark that solved my accident in the past.  



THE END


And so another rewrite commenced. It was so close to being done I could taste it. But, like several King novels, while I was happy with 80%, the ending irked me a little. I just couldn't tell why. It was short, sharp, and had Peter being thrown from the train into a stereotypical infernal abyss.


My wife agreed that it was rushed and not in the same quality as what had come before. But it was all I had. Was I just going to have to accept it as was?


No.


So I turned to fellow FlashDog and awesome author Liz Hedgecock for a second opinion. She agreed with me that it wasn’t right, but it was the last few words of her comment that seeded a new and improved idea in my mind.


I found this bit quite incongruous with the rest of the story - it feels medieval and Biblical, whereas the rest is contemporary. It seems not quite a fitting or appropriate end for Peter - thinking of ancient hellish punishments like Tantalus and the grapes, where you're tortured by the thing that sent you to hell in the first place. I was expecting something train/crash related. -Liz Hedgecock (27th July 2017)


Liz had hit the nail on the head. While I had linked his ‘crime’ to the mode of transport that would carry him to his punishment, shouldn’t the punishment also reflect this? Of course it should. So all I needed was a suitable threat to end on. Enter another King inspiration; Blaine.


I’m a massive fan of The Dark Tower, and Blaine the Mono is a truly insane creation. The thought of a maniacal engine barreling down a track evolved into a monster of a train and a Peter trapped and forced to run the rails forever and then some.


PRIDE


And that’s that.


I’m proud of all of my published stories to date, both the anthologies and the Flash contests, but this one is my favourite yet. For starters is the biggest piece I have out there, but also, the process was a great journey. And I’m grateful to Liz Hedgecock for helping me over that final hurdle (seriously, go check out her books - at the rate she publishes, there should be a million titles to chose from by the time you finish reading this).


Go and buy INFERNAL CLOCK, and read those interviews.


And then go write some horror yourself. Or what ever genre you normally avoid. It might produce something great.



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

(vol 4) PART ONE: “Indie Author releases”

I’m back.

Not in a proper way. Not formal. Not with my own book out.


But this week is so full of cool news that I just couldn’t hold back.





LITTLE CLOCK OF HORRORS

So I mentioned last year about the birth of an awesome project from the mind of one man and his tweet.

David Shakes came up with the idea for a new anthology, one a little different than we’d all worked on before. This time he wanted Horror, and he wanted stories short, and he wanted 24 of them.

Within an hour of his initial tweet (how fitting), 24 slots were booked up by us eager authors. The plan was to give each author a 1 hour time slot within which to set their haunting tale in. Thus the book would contain a 24 hour period of hell.

And so THE INFERNAL CLOCK was born. David roped in fellow authors Tamara Rogers (fantastic cover), Emily June Street (fantastic formatting), and Steph Ellis (fantastic editing) to help bring his idea to fruition. 

The book is available now in amazon both as e-book (£2.40) and paperback (£9.98).

My story, DELAYED, is included; a piece I’m extremely proud of. I don’t normally write in the horror genre; I don’t read much of it either (outside of Mr King). But I wanted to have a go, and I’m grateful that David let me. I read through the piece a few days ago, and it’s the first time I’ve read a story of mine some time later and not hated it, or wanted to go all George Lucas on it. Either I’ve learned to accept a story as complete now, or I’m getting better as a writer. Or both.

So, if you like horror stories, if you like short stories, or if you just like supporting talent, then head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy today.




OUT OF LUCK

In other publishing news, one of my favourite indie authors, Craig Anderson, has released the third and final book of the Lucky Beggar trilogy.

Regular visitors to this blog will know that Craig was the author who pulled me into the world of Flash Fiction. It’s because of the path that he set me on that there exists actual books’ containing my stories.

His first book, GETTING LUCKY, was the first e-book I downloaded onto my first ever e-reader. It was pretty self-contained and well written. Then out of the blue came the sequel, as well as information that it was part of a trilogy. LUCKY SHOT was a great follow up, but now the problem was that I expected more, I expected the finale.

Well the wait is over folks. Craig has launched LUCKY BREAK, thus completing the tale of the Lucky Beggar, and doing so with the same wit and drama as previous installments.

                    AMAZON     or     KOBO





BACK IN THE HOUR(GLASS)

And finally, I dipped my toes in Flash Fiction again this weekend with my story I AM A GOD. It's been a while. I've had a tough week (a trip to A&E last Friday was part of the inspiration), and I just wanted to write. It was a compulsion on Sunday night that I hadn't expected. But write I did. Scroll down further for my entry (and try not to read it in Chris Hemsworth's voice).



SIGNING OFF

And that is all. Lots of good news, indie author wise.

My own project, UTOPIA FOR PAIRS (working title) is still coming along nicely, despite life really (REALLY) trying to get in my way. I’m still on course to have it out by the end of the year. The sooner, the better, but I won’t rush it out unfinished.

So until I step up to the blog again, get reading, get writing, and get publishing.

Words don't write themselves.






I AM A GOD
(Sunday, 2nd April 2017)

I am surrounded by illness.

For five hours I have sat in his sterile place, suffering in agony while watching the drunk and the drugged cause havoc, drawing the attention from the nurses and doctors.

I should not even be here.

Pain? What is pain? Something that bothers mere mortals. I am a God, and so above such things.

“You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?”

She rubs something on my forearm before sticking a needle into a vein. It hurts.

“You’re talking out loud like a crazy person.”

“And I keep telling you; I am not crazy.”

She attaches a receptacle to the end of the tube and dark red blood starts to fill it. Once she is done, she pulls it apart, screws a lid on the receptacle, and places it in a tray atop the trolley beside her.

“Careful with that. A God’s blood is the most precious thing in the universe. It can cure any illness, fill a dying man with the strength of twenty-”

“It’s not a God’s blood, it’s your blood.”

“I will forgive you for your ignorance, your people are primitive. But you must cure me so that I can return to my realm.”

“Why do you need curing? You know, if you’re a God?”

She pulls the needle out and places something soft and white over it.

“I am as mystified as you. Something has torn me from my home, and dumped me within your plane of existence. Perhaps that is why my powers do not work at the moment.”

“Course. That’ll explain it.”

“So, you do believe me!”

“Take your stuff, go around the corner, sit in chair seven, Someone’ll be with you shortly.”

I want to shout at her, to call down the very thunders of my realm and smite her. She talks to a tall man wearing a yellow vest. He gives me a look, one I have given mortals many times over the centuries.

I will bide my time then. I will wait until they fix me. Then I will find a way-

“Yes, yes. I’m going. Chair number seven.” I sit down. She’ll rue the day.