Thursday, 20 December 2012

Gray Redemption is HERE!!

That’s right!  It’s been a long time coming but Gray Redemption will finally hit the Amazon shelves on Sunday 23rd December 2012.  All three books will also be available on Smashwords from the 27th and the iBookstore, B & N, Kobo, etc from early January 2013.

I’m sorry it has taken so long to write, but when you’re the bread winner of the house and you come home from work to a demanding young family, there’s little time to get any writing done.  Getting up at 4AM to write before going to work soon takes its toll, too.  Perhaps one day my books will have built up enough of a following that I am able to quit the day job and churn them out a lot quicker, but until then I ask for your patience while I take a two week break before starting work on the next book.

Happy Holidays to one and all.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Blake is back!

Back in January 2012 I was just an unknown author who had the audacity to invite the legendary Russell Blake onto my blog for an interview.  Ten months on and… well, I’m still an unknown author, but Blake has gone from strength to strength, as demonstrated by his latest series JET.

I love his new hero and wanted to find out just how Russell comes up with these stunning plots, so I invited him back for another Q & A and I’m delighted that he accepted.

Can you give us the elevator pitch for JET?  You’ve got thirty seconds to make people want to buy it.

So no pressure, right? Shortest possible pitch? Kill Bill meets Bourne. Longer? JET features a new kind of female protagonist – smart, sexy, kick-ass, over-the-top, take-no-prisoners, and is a non-stop action roller-coaster with more twists and turns than a silly straw, intelligently written for jaded connoisseurs of action/adventure thrillers. If you loved Lizbeth Salander in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Bourne trilogy, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, or even the TV show 24, JET is a must-read.

Jet is an extraordinary character.  What made you choose a non-US background for her?
Well, the whole ex-CIA thing has been done into the ground, as far as I’m concerned, and frankly, knowing what I do about the CIA’s competence, I wanted better than that. These are the guys who didn’t see the Berlin wall coming down a week before it happened, and told the world that Iraq had WMDs capable of destroying the region within 45 minutes. Ooops. So I looked at some of the hyper-competent clandestine agencies, and the Mossad was an obvious one. One thing led to another, and pretty soon she was Israeli, of mixed ethnicity, but burned out and ready for something new. And I wanted her to be international in flavor, equally at home in the Middle East, South America, Asia or the U.S. Most Americans tend to look, well, very American, for the most part, so I wanted something more exotic, even if that’s totally stereotypical and judgmental of Americans, which I suppose it is. I’m really happy with the part Asian, part Dominican Israeli female protag. Can’t imagine much more exotic and unusual than that...

There are a lot of exotic settings for the JET series.  Are the descriptions all based on your personal visits?
Yes, most of them. I’ve had a colorful life, and had the opportunity to travel extensively for this reason or that. It’s given me a good perspective for writing fiction, that’s for sure.

You’ve used females in the lead role in a few books now.  Is that something you see continuing in the future?
Right now, I’d say probably not. Between JET, Silver Cassidy in Silver Justice, and Tess Gideon in Fatal Exchange, I’d say I’ve exhausted my possibilities for compelling female heroines. They’re all so different, I can go back to the well and develop Tess and Silver more, and have enough material to last ten years. But I’ll say that Jet is probably my most developed to date – she’s more than just a killing machine, and is pretty three dimensional. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Bronte this isn’t, but compared to most of the protags I’ve read in this genre, Jet is a living, breathing person to me, and hopefully, to readers. So far so good.

How much research went into the JET series?  Is there anything about the storylines that you found challenging?
I set out with JET to accomplish several things. The first was to write the fastest-paced thrillers anyone has ever read. The second was to structure plots that were as intricate as anything I’ve seen. And the third was to create as intriguing a set of characters as possible. Truthfully, the concept of JET came to me when I was writing Silver Justice. I was out for a hike, and this book cover just jumped into my consciousness, with one word: JET. Ironically, the cover I wound up with was better, although different. I originally saw a black cover with red metallic lines, like etching, very asian, with an asian symbol, and the word, JET. From there, I sort of had bits and pieces come to me before I started it. But I didn’t really know where the story was going to go – I sort of figured out about half the book, and then was so excited to start writing it, I did the first few chapters, just to see how I could make it turn out. And then I cheated and did the next few. Before I knew it, I was about sixty percent through, and had an entire series in mind. So the challenge was really to piece it together so that a highly-complex storyline was coherent, with just enough foreshadowing to keep the reader interested, but without any deus-ex-machina trickery. As to research, I did virtually none. Everything is based on personal experience, and my imagination. Any detail, I research as I go along, or I save for second draft and just put in placeholders. Like detail on weapons, or specifics about geography or whatnot. “She gripped the XXX with trembling hands as she sighted on her assailant’s head.” And so on.

According to your Amazon author page, you’ve released 19 books in the last couple of years.  That’s a phenomenal output.  How did you manage it?
I have no life outside of writing. Really. For the last 18 months or so, all I’ve done is write. About one novel every 5 weeks or so. Including three drafts, editing, and proofing. It’s an insane pace, and one that will stop at the end of the year. Next year I’ll release 4, maybe 5 books. That’s it. I’ve sort of proved what I wanted to, at least to myself, and it’s time to slow the pace down to something resembling sane. The irony is that 4 or 5 novels in a year would be considered a watershed for most authors, whereas for me, it’s going to seem like I’m on vacation most of the year. I’m looking forward to that, BTW, and maybe travel some more. Being chained to the computer 12 hours a day, seven days a week isn’t a ton of fun, after a while. I don’t recommend it, even if it’s great for one’s literary career, such as it is.

When you’re not writing, who are you reading?
I recently finished Blood Land, by RS Guthrie, and it is a remarkable example of just how good indie authors can be. I’m reading Nelson DeMille right now, and have Faulkner scheduled next. One of the things I miss about this full-immersion writing approach I’ve taken is that I have no time to read – only at the gym, and then only if not editing (I edit on my kindle, so can do it anywhere). Oh, and I recently finished up a collection of short stories by James Lee Burke, who is a masterful author and probably one of the best living American talents, bar none, now that David Foster Wallace is no longer with us.

Of all your protagonists, which is your favourite?
Al Ross from The Geronimo Breach, with Jet a close second. Al is one in a million, and unfortunately, he’s a one novel character. But he is so flawed and broken and downright funny, you can’t help but like him. And of course, El Rey from the Assassin series. There’s something about him – he’s just so frigging cold and bad, but so damned interesting. What does it say about my character that my favorite characters are a drunk misanthrope, a broken female spy, and a stone cold killer? Now you know why my dating life leaves something to be desired. Hard to put that up on – “Malingering misanthrope with shady past and assassination fixation seeks companion to party with.”

Are there any characters from your previous series’ that you would like to bring back?
I think I’ll do one more Dr. Steven Cross novel over the next few years. I like him rather a lot. And Tess Gideon from Fatal Exchange will get another crack at it, this time in Fatal Deception. Maybe next year. I already have it mostly plotted, so it’s a definite. And I think it’s safe to say Silver Cassidy will get another book next year, as will El Rety and Captain Romero Cruz from the Assassin series. So next year is looking like one more Assassin volume, two more JET, one more Silver, and possibly Fatal Deception. You can see why I write so much – Michael Derrigan from The Delphi Chronicle gets regular fan mail demanding a sequel, but where’s the time to pack it all in, much less keep it all fresh and original? I’d say that the world has enough Russell Blake books at the moment, so maybe the following year we’ll see a Delphi sequel, a Cross sequel, and a Jet and Assassin sequel. But then doesn’t it seem like maybe Silver should get another? And so begins the problem of not enough hours in the day, and far too many plots and story ideas...

Do you plan the whole series out beforehand, or one book at a time, or just write by the seat of your pants?
I generally try to plot out one book at a time. That gets me into trouble sometimes, as JET III will show, because sometimes I get to the 90K word mark and discover that to finish the idea, I need another book of at least that many words to carry it through and finish the threads. But generally, I do one book at a time, and often that turns into seat of the pants. Zero Sum I wrote pantsing it, as well as King of Swords and Night of the Assassin. Geronimo Breach had just the barest outline before I plunged in. The rest I’ve plotted to one extent or another, but I’m impatient and lazy, so I will usually get tired of plotting about halfway through and start writing, and figure it out as I go along.

When can we expect Jet 4 to hit the shelves?
Early-to-mid December, 2012. It will all be in the hands of my editor and proofreader soon. But I’m hopeful.

Have you ever thought about going the traditional publishing route, or are you indie forever? 
You know, the trad pub route has so many pitfalls, as does the indie road. Unless you get a deal with a house that really thinks you’re the next Lee Child, you won’t get much push, and will wind up wallowing, making little money, and waiting 18 months to see a book released. On the plus side, you get broad distribution, a real marketing push, and a shot at movies and the like – but that’s only if they have a considerable investment in you, and are committed to giving it the full court press. At which point you’ll be digging into your pocket to do book tours and appearances, in the hopes that you’ll make your advance back and maybe get enough traction to break big. On the negative side, you have to get your books written by committee, where marketing, editors, and your agent all have their take on how it should read, which could be good, or bad, depending upon how the stars align. As an indie, I’ve been extremely fortunate so far. In 2012, I’ll have sold around 100K books, so my income vastly exceeds most trad pub authors – all but maybe the top top tier. I get to release as many books as I like, written the way I want to write them. I don’t have to censor my work, or include a rape scene in the first five pages because marketing wants a shocker to push, or spend six months in editing while a lesser talent goes over every sentence trying to dumb it down to sixth grade level so it will have broader appeal. My personal philosophy is that there are all kinds of readers, from the dim and simple to the highly intelligent and complex, and there are books for all of them. I tend to write what I like to read, which is at the higher end of the smarts curve – harkening back to the days of Ludlum and Forsyth more than the current Patterson et al bunch.  I think I would put my work somewhere between Silva and Baldacci – certainly the right neighborhood to be in, if not the absolutely most popular, although I’d probably argue that JET is more Ian Fleming than anything else I’ve written.

Alan, thanks for having me on again. It’s always a pleasure. Now I’ve got to get back to work and finish JET 4 and figure out what the hell Assassin 5 is going to be about so I can write it and have it out by Xmas...

Russell, the pleasure is all mine.

I can’t recommend the JET series enough, and you can get your first taste of his alluring assassin for just 99 cents.

Russell’s blog (more must-read material):


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The thing about fiction is...

...It isn’t real.

Yeah, I know that’s kinda obvious, but some of the people who have read Gray Justice don’t seem to realise this.

Let’s start at the beginning. 

In July 2010 I had the seed of an idea and an empty Word document, and the first thing I needed was a main character. 

Male or female?  Hmm, good question.  I thought about it for a while and decided that as the protagonist would have an SAS background, I would go with male.

Next, a name.  How about Clint Power?  Max Thrust?  Trenton Steele?  Actually, why not go with a normal name?  Okay, Dave…Sid…Tom… yeah, Tom.  Tom what?  Tom Savage!!  No, something run of the mill that doesn’t build the guy up as a super hero.  Something bland, something…Gray! 

Tom Gray!

Okay, so I have the seed of an idea, which is that someone loses a loved one to a repeat offender and sees the punishment handed down by the court as derisory.  What should he do?

I know!  He starts a petition to demand tougher sentencing guidelines.  He goes on Facebook and Twitter and amasses a million followers and they all sign the petition and it goes before parliament and he’s standing outside Number Ten waving a placard and…

No.  Where’s the story?  Where’s the action, the intrigue?  He could trip over a couple of times because he made the placard too big, or…

Stop!  That isn’t going to work.  He has to do something unique.  This is supposed to be a story that grabs readers and takes them somewhere they’ve never been.  It shouldn’t read like a few column inches in The Guardian.  He could mow down the killer, or kidnap and torture him, or…

Right, that’s enough, Alan!  Here’s a hundred bucks, go buy yourself a proper imagination!

What would Stephen King do in this situation?  I read Misery, and that was a good book.  A woman finds an injured author, her favourite author, and takes him back to her home.  Okay, that’s the first couple of chapters.  What happens next?  Does she call an ambulance and have him taken to hospital?  If she’d done that, it would have been King’s shortest and worst story EVER!  Instead, she breaks his ankles to stop him escaping and makes him write a novel about her favourite character, one that doesn’t see the heroine die. 

Possibility of that happening?  Slim to none is my guess, but it made for great entertainment.  I was reading it and wondering “How is he going to get out of this?”

Okay, another few light years and I’ll still be a million miles from Stephen King, but that’s the kind of thing you need to give an audience.  Put the protagonist in an unheard of situation and have the reader wonder how they could possibly come through the other end.

Okay, got it.  He kidnaps not just the killer, but four other repeat offenders and holds them in a disused warehouse.  He tells the government that he wants tougher sentencing or his hostages die.

Hmm, it’s missing something.  The authorities would soon locate him, if they even gave a shit about the criminals in the first place.  So we need a deterrent.  What could possibly stop the police wanting to rush the place?  Think!  Think!  I know, he’s planted a bomb somewhere, and if they kill him, the bomb will go off!

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Yeah, a standoff.  He’s got the hostages, and the police won’t make a move. So now what?  What has Tom achieved?  Nothing.  The news channels will report about a hostage situation, but Tom’s grievances are falling on deaf ears.  The police and politicians might sympathise after what he’s been through, but it all boils down to him committing a criminal act.

Tom needs to reach the people, but how?  He builds a website and streams video of the hostages, and tells the government that they mustn’t interfere with it, otherwise…What?  And how long is this going to go on for?

Let’s go back to the start.  We need to make Tom a man with nothing left to lose.  Okay, his wife, overcome with grief at the loss of their son, takes her own life.  We still have the problem of a timescale, though.  Is this going to go on forever?  And where’s the government’s incentive to play ball?

Got it!  Tom will reveal the location of the device on Friday, then take his own life!  He now has nothing to lose, so why not?  But what will he have achieved by then?  Think, Alan!

I know!  He wants to change the sentencing guidelines, but he thinks the government won’t listen.  Why not let the people of Britain vote on the changes?  They can ignore one lunatic, but not the entire population!  Let the people speak!

All we need now is a set of changes he wants to make, but we have to bear in mind who is creating them.  This is a simple ex-soldier, not a politician.  Successive governments have had numerous experts working on the perfect judicial system and it still isn’t quite there, so it would be crazy to have Tom come up with the perfect solution.  It wouldn’t be in keeping with the character I’m trying to create.  Instead, I’ll just have to give him a bunch of unworkable ideas and throw in some counter arguments to balance things out. 

Should I mention rehabilitation and crime prevention as possible solutions, or attacking the root of the problem at an early stage through school workshops and the like?  Would anyone in Tom’s situation think like that, or would they just be damn angry and want to see the criminals punished?  I’ll err on the side of the latter.

So, that’s the process.  I think of situations for my characters, I give them the appropriate personalities and opinions, and let them get on with it. 

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post:  Some people seem to think that Tom’s thoughts and ideals are actually a reflection of MY feelings towards the British judicial system (here's a classic example). If you’re among that number, then you must also assume that Stephen King condones the kidnapping and hobbling of injured authors!  Is that what you really think?

So please, when you read this book, just remember it’s a work of FICTION!  Whether you agree or disagree with Tom’s ideals or methods is entirely up to you, but your argument will be with a fictional character. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Season's Readings

The holidays are upon us once again, and I've teamed up with a special team of authors to bring you a fantastic selection of holiday reads.  These bestsellers are offering some stunning books at bargain prices, plus you get the chance to win a bundle of signed paperbacks!

I could go on, but my good friend David Cassidy has created a monumental website that explains everything.  Just click the image below.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Twick or Tweet

Eight amazing authors - an evil, twisted and talented bunch - are giving away great prizes in our Halloween contest - nine best selling ebooks and a spooktacular Grand Prize of five signed paperback editions!

What do you need to do to win?  Just send out a tweet, simple as that!  Click the image below for full details.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Gray Redemption is coming...

...but I don't have an exact date yet.  Since I stopped spending all day on Twitter I have made good progress, but I'm still only 40,000 words in, with plenty of the story still to write.  The good news is that my word count has shot up from around 100 a day to over 500, so I expect to have it ready for the first edit sooner rather than later.

I'll post updates here from time to time, but if you just want to be informed of the launch date, simply email alanmac at ntlworld dotcom with Gray Redemption in the subject line and I'll contact you a couple of days before Gray Redemption goes live on Amazon.

Right, off to get some more writing done...

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Something had to give…

…and unfortunately it’ll be Twitter.

Ever since I was half-way through writing Gray Justice I have been getting up at dark o’clock to get a few hundred words in before heading off to the day job.  When I get in from work I am immediately pounced upon by my beautiful twin girls as they demand some Daddy time, and once they’re in bed I get a little time to myself. 

Sadly, my recent participation on Twitter has seen me spending my mornings thanking people for their tweets the previous evening, and when I get in from work I am back on the laptop to thank them for the tweets while I was at the office.  This is time I should be spending with my family, and I realise now that I have been neglecting them. It’s also time I had put aside to do my writing, and I just cannot continue to maintain all three.

That is why I will be cutting down my Twitter time to the bone.

I have auto-tweets scheduled in for the next 100 or so days, both for me and some of my friends, and they will continue to go out. I also have the Twitter app on my mobile and will retweet when I’m out and about, but with such a small screen and my clumsy, chipolata fingers, that’s all I can manage.  Replies to tweets and DMs are out of the question.

I’m going to miss my Twitter evenings a hell of a lot, but I hope you realise the need to spend more time with my family, and I’m sure those of you waiting for Gray Redemption will be glad that I’ll be devoting more time to it.

I’m going to allow myself a couple of hours one evening a week to catch up with my Twitter friends, and I will get emails when a DM is sent, so if you need anything that can’t wait, let me know with a private message. 

 Thanks for understanding.


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

777 Challenge

I was recently nominated to take up the 777 challenge by my good friend Scott Bury, and it seems all I have to do is give you seven sentences from page 7 or 77 of my work in progress.  Okay, challenge accepted!

I'm going for page 7 because I haven't hit 77 pages in Gray Redemption yet. Tom Gray is trying to get back to the UK, and his friend is negotiating with a Chinese people-smuggler:

Just a few moments earlier he had planned to have the four passengers thrown overboard once the money had been transferred, but now he would have to guarantee their safe passage lest this laowai insult him further by going to a competitor.

He took a few deep breaths to disperse the adrenalin coursing through his body before replying.

“Once they reach the UK they will call you to confirm their arrival. You will then transfer the money.”

“Deal,” Hughes smiled, offering his hand to shake on it, but Tang ignored the gesture.

“If the money isn’t in my account an hour after that phone call, you’d better pray that you’re already dead.”

That's the easy bit done: I now have to nominate 7 authors I admire to carry on the challenge.  The hard part was narrowing it down to just 7, but here goes (in no particular order):

Seb Kirby

Cinta Garcia

Dawn Torrens

Gae-Lynn Woods

David Leadbeater

Andy Lucas

MG Wells

It's all yours, guys!!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

KDP Select: How was it for you?

Well, for me it wasn’t too bad. I had reservations when it first started because I wasn’t sure if taking my books off Smashwords and its distributors was such a good idea. However, as time went on and I read more and more success stories I looked at my sales figures and saw that a year on all the other sites had brought me around 30 sales, compared to hundreds on Amazon.

So, I took the plunge and enrolled on April 1st 2012. I then checked the borrows every 4 seconds but those zeros never changed. Sales didn’t pick up either, so I decided to use up some of my free days. Having read some other blog posts I thought it best to go for 2 days to start with, and found a few sites on the internet that would let me spread the word. I loaded up Tweetdeck for the weekend, let my friends on Facebook and Goodreads know about the promo, then sat back hoping to get Gray Justice into the hands of at least 2000 readers. I figured that might generate a few reviews and possibly some sales of Gray Resurrection.

Day 1 started slowly – so slowly that the promo started an hour late! Not to worry, it soon became free and the figures started to climb. By midday I had nearly 400! I was wearing out my finger, switching from the UK to US reports so thought it best to get away from the laptop and get some fresh air.

A couple of hours later the sales were climbing but not that quickly, but I went to bed having reached 3300 downloads for the day. I also had a few sales of Gray Resurrection, which was a bonus. The next morning the downloads had reached 3700 and I went to work hoping to reach my revised target of 5000 by the end of the promo.

I did. Plus another 4800 on top. That’s right, over 9800 downloads in two days. Once the promo ended, the figures kept ticking over, but this time it was paid sales. I went from a couple of books a day to over 100 and that took me straight into the number one slot in the Amazon UK Drama category, plus number two in thrillers, which is where I currently sit. I’m also number 12 in fiction and approaching the top 100 overall. Oh, and I was number 1 Mover & Shaker for a day!

Was it worth me taking the books off the other sites, even for just 90 days? Definitely. Would I re-enroll in KDP? Again, yes.

Would I do anything differently next time? Oh, yes! I will be booking a holiday for a start. It is nigh impossible to promote the freebie while at work, so I will be booking a few days off to plug the free downloads and deal with the aftermath.

I must stress that this success wasn’t all down to me. I had some wonderful help from my friends on Twitter and Goodreads and without them I would have been lucky to reach 2000 downloads. I won’t name names in case I inadvertently offend someone by missing them off the list, but you know who you are, and you will always have my gratitude.

Update: My second promo didn't exactly get me the same results. I gave away a similar number of copies of Gray Justice, but instead of leaping into the charts at number 325 as I did last time, I came back in at number 20,877. I have managed to drop a few thousand places instead of climbing them, despite giving away close to 13,000 books. However, over the next 24 hours I climbed up to the top 500 and on the 4th Gray Justice reached the top 100. The effect might not be as immediate as in previous months but I am still on course for some big numbers.

While you guys enjoy my books, I'll carry on writing GJ3...

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Authors Helping Authors Update

Last week I came up with the idea of authors collaborating (please read it before continuing - opens in a new window) to get as wide a reach as possible on Twitter by creating the @AuthorTeam account and inviting fellow writers to follow, which gave them automatic inclusion in the AHA list. People could then search for that list and find tweets to retweets.

However, it isn’t working out a planned. First of all, I open the list every day and I get the tweets for the latest follower going back a whole week, which means I have to keep the list open for some time while the timeline fills up with new tweets. As anyone who has been on Twitter for a while knows, leaving it open soon cripples the browser by sucking the system memory dry (or maybe that’s just my laptop). It has also been brought to my attention that the #AHA hashtag has been adopted by others not involved with the group (even though a search for #AHA brought back no results last week!)

Besides this, the list is being filled with tweets that are not book-related, and it can take some time to find anything worth retweeting to the author’s benefit. That’s the case now with just 100 followers, but imagine how it will be when there are 1000 followers, or even 10,000!

Therefore, I plan to implement something new, but I need your help. It has to be something that remains free but doesn’t take a lot of maintenance (otherwise I won’t get to finish Gray Redemption, the third in the Tom Gray trilogy). I will give you my idea, but it would be wonderful if others could chip in and suggest something that would make sharing relevant tweets an easy and rewarding experience. In the meantime I will continue to run the AHA list.

My suggestion is simply to have a new hashtag: #HYFA2, which stands for Help Your Fellow Author Too. If you have a book-related tweet which you want others to share, just add the #HYFA2 tag. I have done a search and found no matches, so it will be ours for the next few days at least! All you have to do is click one of these #HYFA2 tags in a tweet (and preferably click the wheel next to the search button and select Save Search - that way every time you click into the Search box this tag will appear) and then pop back every day to find similar authors willing to share.

I really want this to work for everyone’s benefit, so please, add your ideas below or send a DM to my @Jambalian account.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Authors Helping Authors...

…is a hashtag I came across on Twitter a few weeks ago when I thanked a fellow writer for spreading the word about my novel, Gray Justice. His response was “My pleasure #AuthorsHelpingAuthors”. I didn’t really think much more about it until I decided to check out a book promotion website recently. I had been to the site before but had baulked at having to pay a fee, especially as I didn’t know if my book was ever going to sell. Now that I have some excellent reviews and a growing fan base (not to mention regular royalties) I looked again in more detail, and it struck me that something similar could be done quite easily (and most importantly, FREE) through Twitter.

Now some might think "Why should I tweet for other authors? I'll be pushing sales their way!" I had the very same worries when I first joined Twitter but the reader that buys their book isn't going to give up reading once they've finished it. They will simply go and find another book, and this time it might be one of yours. I regularly tweet for three authors, and all write in much the same genre as I do. That doesn't scare me at all, because I know that once the reader has finished their book they might go looking for recommendations from that author, and that leads them to me. Since I started taking part in the tweet exchange my sales have increased around 300%, and I hope theirs have gone up, too.

My idea is extremely simple. I have created a new Twitter account (@AuthorTeam -!/authorteam) and in that account I have started a new list called AHA (Authors Helping Authors). You can find it here:!/AuthorTeam/aha.

The plan is for as many of you authors as possible to follow this new account on Twitter (don’t worry, I will follow back and won’t tweet). I will then automatically add you to the AHA list. This might take up to 12 hours, so please be patient.

Once you have been added, here's what you have to do:

  • Go to!/AuthorTeam/aha and add it to your Favorites in your browser.

  • Visit that page as often as you can (try to get there once a day if possible).

  • Look through the list of tweets and retweet a few of them (and also check out what they are offering)

  • If you get a retweet, please reciprocate

  • If you have a tweet that you would particularly like to have retweeted, add the #AHA hashtag to it

In order to make this work we need all participating authors to try and go to the list once a day and retweets some of the posts. If we can get 100 authors to join in, the chances are your tweets could be retweeted to thousands of new readers, getting you more exposure. Even if you can only manage to visit the list a couple of times a week you will still be contributing to the author community. You might even want to schedule a few tweets a day to let others know about this venture.

I must have a thousand authors following me at the moment, and if they all joined in that would be an awesome network. So please, click the first link above and follow @AuthorTeam.

And don't forget to tell your fellow authors about it!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Gray Resurrection

This is a two-part post to answer questions raised during the launch of Gray Resurrection. I will first of all explain how the launch went, and then tell you about the cover image.

It is now 4 days since I released the sequel to Gray Justice and it’s time to reflect on how successful (or not) the promotion actually was. I set the price of Gray Resurrection to just 99 cents while at the same time offering a coupon to get Gray Justice free from Smashwords. It turned out that the promotion wasn’t that popular. Only 2 people took advantage of the free copy, yet actual cash sales increased, with daily sales up by 800%! That might sound a lot, but I think the figures have peaked and I expect them to fall back over the rest of the month.

It was fun while it lasted, but it does show you the value of a second book. I’m hoping to get another leap in sales when I release the last in the series – Gray Redemption – towards the end of the year. I’ll be back with details nearer the time.

As for the cover image, I wanted something really eye-catching for my second book. I recently interviewed Russell Blake on this blog and one of the things I asked was where he got his book covers from. While Russell couldn’t give me his/her name, he did offer to pass their email address along. I contacted the person and was given a great price for what I consider an outstanding image. I gave them the basics of the story and pointed out which elements where most relevant: the bolo (knife used for cutting your way through the jungle - or someones neck!); the protagonist in his battle to escape; and the attack on a military base. I was given a suggestion which I liked and asked for an example, which I got a week later. Unfortunately, the image of Tom Gray was all wrong. He had a normal nose, whereas Tom's was flat against his face. I pointed this out and three hours later I had the revised image you see here. That is one service provider who has found a customer for life! If you want a similarly stunning cover for your next book, take a look at Russell’s interview for details.

Ok, time to do some more writing…

Monday, 27 February 2012

Gray Resurrection is out on March 1st…

…but there’ll be no sampling.

What? Hang on, you just spent two weeks promoting your post Kids, Ketchup and Books which is all about giving readers a taste of what they’re going to get and now you stop doing it with your new book.


Well, not really. You see, while Gray Resurrection is a good little read in its own right, it is much better if you read Gray Justice first. Thing is, I can’t guarantee that readers will have done that, and I can hardly open the book with “Thanks for buying this book, but you’ll have to stump up even more cash to buy Gray Justice first” can I?

So I’ve amended the opening to say “If you haven’t already read the first book I strongly suggest you to do so by grabbing a free copy from Smashwords. Simply do a Google search for “Gray Justice Smashwords” and you should be able to find the page quite easily. Go through the purchase procedure and at the checkout enter code XXXXX and click Update. The price will be recalculated to $0.00 and the book will be yours to enjoy. You can download it in multiple formats for your Kindle, Nook, iPhone, etc. I promise, you will enjoy this book a lot more if you read Gray Justice first.” Obviously that’s not the real code.

“But wait! I’ve just paid a dollar for Gray Justice and you’re going to be giving it away to new readers! That’s hardly fair!”

And you are quite right, it isn’t fair. That is why, instead of throwing it onto Amazon at $2.99 as I had been planning since last year, I will be launching it at just 99 cents – the lowest price Amazon will let me charge – for the first 4 days, so you have until the evening of Sunday the 4th of March to grab your copy on the cheap. Instead of paying $3.98 for both books you will be getting them for less than $2, which is still cheaper than a Starbucks and my way of saying Thank You!

I hope you enjoy it and look forward to your feedback.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Kids and ketchup...

…go together like kids and sweets or kids and scraped knees. When I was growing up, everything had ketchup on it, to the extent that I couldn’t eat my fish fingers and chips if the ketchup bottle was empty. The thing is, my kids wouldn’t touch the stuff until last week. Whenever I offered them some to go with their burger they just said “EEUUWW!”

It was the same with gravy, ham and a host of other foods: they didn’t like it, even though they hadn’t tried it. Whenever the bottle was placed on the dinner table they would push it away from their plate in disgust, just in case their food became contaminated by its mere proximity. What I had to do was get them to sample a little ketchup on a chip. “Go on, just try a little, see if you like it.” They still refused, until I promised to open the sweet cupboard after dinner (that always works). With fear and trepidation, the youngest opened her mouth and squeezed her eyes shut, as if expecting the chip to explode. It didn’t, and her face instantly lit up. “Mmmmm, that’s delicious!” Her twin immediately dived in and now we’re moving on to the next battle: salad!

That episode got me thinking, though. Gray Justice has had 17 reviews on Amazon US and 14 on Amazon UK (at the time of writing) and only four have been 4-star, the rest of the readers giving it 5 stars. Yet it isn’t setting the world on fire. Sure, the reviews tell people how good it is, yet there is still that reluctance to dive in and spend 72 pence on a copy.

I’m sure it’s not just my book, either. Many a reader will have their favourite authors and have an unwillingness to try something new, which means there are so many great reads they could be missing out on.

Can a little tell you a lot?

I guess for me it can, just like it does for my daughters. Like the vast majority of readers, I want a book to grab me from the first page, or even the first chapter. Unfortunately, in recent years I have purchased too many books that have left me bored to tears. That isn’t to say they are bad books, but they are just not for me.

This doesn’t just apply to self-published books, either. I have read bestsellers from my favourite genres, sometimes even my favourite authors, and yet I couldn’t quite get engrossed enough to get past the first couple of chapters, try as I might. Since I bought my kindle late last year I have added and abandoned five works and I knew it was time to take a different – and cheaper – approach to book selection.

As a member of Twitter and Goodreads I get recommendations all the time, and as well as reading the reviews (which go a long way to telling me how good or bad a book might be) I download the sample from Amazon. This can be done easily by clicking the Send Sample Now button, and the first 10% of the story will be delivered to your Kindle. For me, that is more than enough to make a decision.

So the next time you get a book recommendation but you’re not convinced enough by the reviews to make a purchase, try sampling first. In fact, why not try sampling now? US readers can get a sample of Gray Justice here, while those from the UK (where the book is set) can get it here

Like my daughters and their ketchup, I’m confident you’ll be back for more!

Friday, 27 January 2012

KREATIV Blogger award

Over the past couple of days I have been nominated twice for the prestigious KREATIV BLOGGER AWARD. I'd never heard of it, so I looked it up.

Apparently the winner gets about a brazzilion dollars, eternal fame, astounding good looks, endless wit and a few more people visiting their blog. As I already have all but the latter (except for the first 4) I decided to take part and in order to do so I have been told I have to reveal 10 of my darkest secrets and nominate 6 other bloggers in return.

So here goes, the 10 things no-one knows about me:

1. I toss and turn in bed, so I sleep inside out to save wear-and-tear on my skin

2. There's something very wrong with my nipples: the ones on my back are bigger than the ones on my legs

3. After 18 months I've almost finished my second book. Okay, so I'm a slow reader!

4. I am undefeated at Wii Mariokart (except for those times when my daughters beat me, and they don't count)

5. I smoke. Yeah, I know. I once read a leaflet about the dangers of smoking and immediately gave up: I haven't read a leaflet since.

6. At school Mr Taylor, the English teacher, voted me the boy least likely to complete a coherent fish sorbet topped with I showed her wrong

7. I like to think I'm funny, but your reaction to the first six answers will be the acid test.

8. I didn't get into software development until I was 37. I took a course in a Microsoft language and the company teaching me offered me a job as a tutor after 15 months.

9. I am hopeless at DIY

10. I'd much rather write than watch telly. In fact, I can't remember the last time I just sat and watched a film without the laptop in front of me.

Now for the 6 other bloggers I admire (in no particular order):

Dawn Torrens is a lady who has been through so much in her life, yet is such a wonderful friend, not only to me but to many others. She dotes on her daughter and her debut book Amelia's Story is the harrowing tale of her life, from birth to her late teens. @Torrenstp

Mike Wells gave me some great advice when I first joined twitter, and I've regularly poured through his blog for a greater insight into how writing really should be done. He was good enough to exchange a few emails with me when I was a Twitter newbie and for that I am most grateful. @MikeWellsAuthor

Scott Bury has been a friend on twitter for some time now (well, some time considering I've only been on there for 7 months). I got some sound writing advice on his blog, and one of his posts was just in time, preventing me from uploading my debut novel with over 200 typos. I corrected them and uploaded it with just 120 typos, but that's a different story! @ScottTheWriter

Rob Guthrie What can I say about Rob? He is the founder of, a site created to let authors give something back and make a difference to the lives of the less fortunate. Rob himself donates a percentage of the profits of his book sales to help pay for the tuition of a young man called Ben, whose fees at The Joshua School are higher than normal due to his special needs. Never have I met such a selfless man as Rob Guthrie. @rsguthrie

Cinta Garcia was an early follower on Twitter and one of the very first people to read Gray Justice and realise what a fantastic book it is (he says, tongue firmly in cheek). Since then we have become great friends. I even received a Christmas card from her, all the way from Spain! Her blog is fantastic and she is probably the most prolific retweeter I have ever known! @Austenite78

Michael R. Hicks was one of the first blogs I visited when I first joined Twitter as a virgin author. I read blog after blog hoping to learn a few of the inner secrets, but this one stuck with me. As Michael rightly pointed out, there are around 6 Billion people on the planet, and if only a quarter buy English-language books, there is more than enough to go round. That is why I am happy to retweet or mention books written by what some will call rivals. I realise that if my work is good enough, it will get onto enough Kindles and Nooks eventually. Thanks for opening my eyes to that fact, Michael. @KreelanWarrior

Okay, all done. Vote for me because I need the money so that I can quit work and buy a sound-proof, kid-proof study and get some actual writing done!

Friday, 20 January 2012

An interview with Dawn Torrens

It is a real honour to have had the chance to chat with Dawn Torrens, author of the harrowing Amelia’s Story. It tells the true story of a young girl born to a mother who resented her every breath and who made life intolerable for Amelia and her siblings.

Beaten almost daily by her mother and her string of boyfriends, Amelia eventually found her way into the care system in the 1970s. One would hope there was respite from the abuse, but it continued for many years to come.

I found it hard to believe that anyone could be so callous towards a child, let alone a parent to one of their own. Despite all this, Amelia grew up to be a loving, caring mother herself.

Her motto is ‘The child first and foremost’

Your name is Dawn, yet your book is called Amelia’s Story. Was there any reason for the name change?

Yes, I made a very conscious decision before I started writing my story to change the names of everyone who would be mentioned in my book. Basically to respect the privacy of each individual. I had spoken at length with my brother about this and he also agreed it would be for the best for all concerned.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My beautiful 3 year old daughter was my inspiration for writing “Amelia’s Story” as it is for her I have written my story. I knew the time would come one day when she would want to know about my past as all children do of their parents, this is a natural curiosity! I often wondered how I would tell her, or where I would begin, would I tell her everything, or hold back some things. That’s when I decided to write my daughter a book (my autobiography) I thought this was the best way for both of us. I can only hope and pray that she will feel the same when she is much older and I hand her my book.

What was the hardest part of writing Amelia’s Story?

Writing Amelia’s Story has taken me on the most incredible journey, I have re-visited places I thought I never would again, the hardest part for me was the research involved in my story, I had to request the help of the Shropshire social services, which took me back to Shrewsbury town. I needed access to all my case review reports and care records for all the years I spent in the state care system. One of the children homes I had spent a lot of time in had been converted into a records department, amongst other things. When I arrived a few years ago to go through all my records it was very emotional for me, as it looked the same. There were a few changes, such as the bedrooms were now offices, and they gave me a tour of the place as I was a former resident. It brought back so many painful memories, as this was the place where my brother and I were separated. Another thing I found very hard was the discovery of new information regarding events from our past. I discovered some very unpleasant incidents that neither my brother or I had any memory of.

It must have been terribly difficult to go from the regimented life in social care to making your own way as a young adult. What was your inspiration, your goal for the future?

What I found most difficult was the sudden realization that I no longer needed permission for just about everything including taking a bath or simply changing my clothes. Strange as it may seem, I suddenly had to make every decision for myself and I found it rather daunting to begin with. However I soon became accustomed to my new found freedom! My inspiration for my future was to never be a statistic. This was so important to me because I wanted and needed to do well in my future life (I guess to show every one that no matter how awful your childhood was, you can still triumph and go on to do well in your life and be a success - this was always paramount to me).

Do you have anything else in the pipeline?

I am currently writing my debut thriller novel “Obsession”, which is due out at the end of April. Following that “Amelia’s Story 11” will be released in the summer.

If you had to name the best book you’ve read, what would it be?

There are so many great books I could mention. However, the one that stands out for me is “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, and I am a massive fan of Dickens.

What book are you reading now?

“The devil of light” by Gaelynn Woods

Dawn, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with us. We wish you the very best of luck with your next venture and hope Amelia’s Story gets the recognition it deserves!

This is a powerful true story of one young girl's struggle to survive the care system during the 70s, and 80s. Amelia has one wish and that’s to make it through to adulthood. However, the obstacles placed before her are proving too hard to bear and she starts to wonder about the peace and finality of her own death. Amelia can see no light at the end of the tunnel; she just wants to hold her own destiny in her own hands, but adulthood was so far way she could not even catch a glimpse of her dream.

Friday, 13 January 2012

An interview with R.S. Guthrie

I am so honoured to have had the opportunity to interview R.S. Guthrie, author of the Robert MacAulay series of books. His first book, Black Beast, has been very well received, with 29 five-star reviews so far. The sequel, LOST (synopsis at the bottom of the page), hit the shelves on January 1st 2012 and the response has been just as enthusiastic.

Rob is also the founder of RABMAD, promoting authors who are giving back from the sales of their books. Writers who give a percentage of their net proceeds to their own chosen cause, non-profit, or charity. The site, launched in late 2011 already has 46 authors signed up, a magnificent acheivement in such a short time.

Rob, when and why did you begin writing?

I used to make comic books as a kid, so if you count that, it’s been most of my life. However, I didn’t start writing fiction until I was in college. I love great stories and I think I have just always had a few inside me that wanted to get out.

How did you come up with the title for LOST?

I got to thinking about children who are abducted and are lost to their families—normal families that can be turned upside down to the point where they are lost themselves. Then, when the monsters are found that would cause harm to a child, I think we want to become lost ourselves—more like those evildoers so that we can somehow punish them.

LOST is the second in the Robert MacAulay series of books. What plans do you have for him in the future?

Well the third book in the series will tie a lot of things together and will likely finish the “Black Beast” or “Clan of MacAulay” series. It won’t be the end of Bobby Mac, though—that much I will let on. I have a lot more planned for him, but I think most of all he wants to get back to doing what he does best: being a detective in Denver, Colorado.

What was the hardest part of writing LOST?

I kept getting frustrated because the story was moving along but the word count was low. I finally had to let myself off the hook and realize the story is what matters, not how many words it takes to tell it. The story wants to be what it wants to be. Even the writer can’t force that. After I let go of the unnecessary pressure, all was well again.

What books have influenced your life most?

I’ve said before that my imagination is due in large part to all the Stephen King books I read as a child. It’s hard to quantify that because those books also taught me to love reading, which in turn taught me to love writing. There was also a trilogy of books by an author names Terry Brooks—the Sword of Shannara series. Wow. I could not put those books down, and they were 800-1000 pages each!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Honestly I don’t think so. Once I finish a story, it’s done for me—literally carved into stone. Up until that point, however, I am apt to change just about anything! I have learned to let go after the book is released, though. Otherwise I would drive myself crazy.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

A great friend of mine named Mike was a huge supporter. He once created a “must read” book list for me. I knew he was extremely well-read and I was ready to move on from King and Grisham—away from mainstream bestseller authors. I knew he could recommend literally thousands—the guy read a book a day. I tried to narrow it down by asking for contemporary authors, mostly fiction—the list he gave me really changed everything for me when it came to the written word. I still look at that list today and still find books on there I haven’t read.

Rob, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share your experiences with everyone, and I hope the Bobby Mac series achieves all the success it deserves.


Denver Detective Bobby Mac returns in this intense horror/thriller, set in the northern panhandle wilderness of Idaho. After receiving a phone call from his brother, the Chief of Police in Rocky Gap, Idaho, Bobby Mac travels north to assist in the investigation surrounding two gruesome murders and the abduction of an eleven-year-old girl.

These two seasoned cops---estranged brothers reunited---will bring all of their experience to bear in a case that threatens not only the safety of a small town, but also the sacred lineage of a family of heroes.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Interview with Russell Blake

I am delighted to introduce Russell Blake, international bestselling author of hits including Fatal Exchange, the Zero Sum trilogy and King of Swords, to name but a few.

Russell lives on the Pacific coast of Mexico, where he spends his time writing, fishing, collecting & drinking tequila, and playing with his dogs.

He is also a proud member of RABMAD (Read A Book, Make A Difference), a site dedicated to authors sharing their profits with worthy causes.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book was a forgettable non-fiction idiocy I wisely hurled into the garbage, and I think drinking had something to do with the inspiration. But it gave me a taste of sculpting language to create tapestries of images, and that got me interested in trying my hand at fiction. I mainly read thrillers, so when I sat down to write my first fiction book, it was naturally in that genre. Fatal Exchange was driven by a desire to do several things - first, experiment with a writing style that was percussive; short, high-velocity chapters that are the literary equivalent of a season of "24." Second, to weave two completely disparate stories along until they dovetail and resolve. Third, to base the entire thing around a completely plausible conspiracy. And finally, to create scenes, specifically the torture scenes, that would make readers squirm - to get their attention, and to demonstrate that language, used effectively, can evoke powerful emotions and imagery. The result was Fatal Exchange.

What made you choose a female protagonist for Fatal Exchange?

It really never occurred to me not to write her as female. I generally get my story ideas as single sentence bursts. This one was, "Hot NY female bike messenger stalked by serial killer and foreign government." From that, I needed to figure out why the rogue state was hunting her, and who the serial killer was, and why he was targeting bike messengers. It made it much easier for him to target females given that so many of those types of predators do. And I thought it was interesting to create an outwardly strong, yet inwardly conflicted character who is constantly having to make difficult moral choices as her life is in danger. Not to pat myself on the back, but I think it holds together well, and the readers seem to like it, so all's well...

If you had to name the best book you’ve read, what would it be?

In the thriller realm, it would have to be Day of the Jackal. Just a game-changer of a book, given that when it came out thrillers were largely of the Ian Fleming, cartoonish spy sort. Jackal brought reality into the genre, and changed everything, and it also introduced the concept of the protag who is not only fallible, but borderline forgettable and weak, who still prevails over a larger-than-life evil. Silence of the Lambs would have to come close second. Best book ever would have to be David Foster Wallace's masterpiece, Infinite Jest. Just broke every rule I can think of, and fascinates with every sentence.

Have any of your books been based on real-life experiences?

Boy. Don't want to let the cat out of the bag here. Let's just say that there's some real-life experiences in every novel I've written so far, although I have never been a contract killer or a Mexican police officer or a female bike messenger.

In order to become a successful writer you need to get your book into the hands of readers. Which method of marketing has served you best?

I think social media like Twitter has been instrumental in establishing my brand, if you will, as an acerbic, smart, hopefully funny writer with a different take on many things. Doing free books has worked nicely, and gets the work into many hands, so that's something I plan to do more of.

Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?

I'm ashamed to say that I haven't had much time to read over the last six months due to my writing schedule, but I've discovered several I like. David Lender, because I enjoy financial system thrillers, Steve Konkoly, because he creates atmospheric thrillers that appeal to me, and Gae Lynn Woods, whose first novel took me by surprise at how well written it was. But there are doubtless many I should read, and intend to, but I'm still so backed up on workload it may be months before I get down time.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I'm finishing up my first attempt at a Clive Cussler/Dan Brown type treasure hunt novel with my usual conspiracy/action styling, called The Voynich Cipher, which is actually a sequel to the Zero Sum trilogy of Wall St. thrillers, in that it uses Dr. Steven Cross from those books as the protag. The short pitch is "the world's greatest secret is contained in the pages of the most enigmatic document ever written." The Voynich Manuscript is real, and was written in 1440 or so, entirely in an encrypted code that has resisted all attempts to break it. Consensus is that it's not a fraud given the distribution of the glyphs, which are far too complicated for a hoax language, and yet it's confounded cryptologists for eons. It's now housed at Yale, where it is the biggest draw in their rare book library. It's fascinating because nobody knows what it actually says, and yet it's clearly the genuine article - so it's a lasting mystery. I thought it was an interesting basis for a novel - what if Cross was able to decrypt it, and it held a terrible secret that could change the world forever?

Who designed the covers for your books?

I have a wonderful, inexpensive designer who works for a book publisher, but moonlights. I can't say his/her name, but I can send anyone interested the e-mail for contact. I've been totally happy with the over a dozen covers so far, and everyone I've referred has also been happy, so I can do so with complete confidence and sincerity. Anyone interest should give me a shout at Books (at) RussellBlake (dot) com and I'll hook you up. I don't mind helping out fellow indie authors - we need all the help we can get. It's a tough road, and great editing and covers improve one's odds of making it, I think.

I would like to thank Russell so much for taking time from his heavy writing schedule to share his thoughts with us. For those of you not yet familiar with Russell’s work I can highly recommend his critically-acclaimed assassination thriller, King of Swords:

King of Swords is an epic assassination thriller framed against a gritty backdrop of brutal drug cartel violence in modern Mexico.

The G-20 Financial Summit is planned for San Jose Del Cabo. The world's pre-eminent finance ministers will attend, along with the presidents of the U.S. and Mexico.

Captain Romero Cruz of the Mexican Federal Police uncovers an assassination plot against the attendees. In a roller-coaster race against the clock, Cruz must track and stop El Rey, the "King of Swords" – a faceless super-assassin responsible for a string of the world's most spectacular killings, before he turns the G-20 into a slaughterhouse.

King of Swords is an intelligent, rule-breaking rush that shatters convention to create a richly-drawn story that's sure to shock and delight even the most jaded intrigue/adventure thriller fans.

You can find all of Russell’s books on his blog:
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