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Human Resources monthly update

The Blight changed everything. Eighty years later, humanity is almost extinct. They survive only by the grace of the Melior, only so long as they are viable food.

Last month I mentioned the focus of the developmental edit had been on expanding the world-building and firming up some of the science behind the novel. I’m pleased to report that is now complete, I have new beat sheets and scene outlines, and am officially writing pages again!

Speaking of science, the MIT Technology Review just published a very interesting article on CRISPR being used to edit the DNA of human embryos. Why is this interesting? Because this application of CRISPR is a key trigger for the creation of the world in my novel. I’ve uploaded a special new excerpt to the Inkshares site telling the history of the world, from today to when my novel starts. You can read it here.

In other news, I took advantage of receipt trip to Sydney (the setting for the book), to further explore some of the relevant locations for scenes. I use the apple maps 3D city render, along with google street view extensively, but there’s nothing better than standing on-site. A couple highlights below.

That’s all for now — I need to get back to the manuscript and finish writing it so you can all read it.

If you want to know more about the novel, check out the page here on my site, or its page on my publisher’s site.

 

What I Read: A God in the Shed

IMG_0518Before I drop into my review, I should note I don’t normally read horror.

“If that’s true, why did you read A God in the Shed?

Because the idea of accidentally trapping a god in your backyard shed is awesome, and because I loved JF Dubeau’s previous book, the sci-fi The Life Engineered.

The good news, despite straying from my usual genre, is I enjoyed AGITS and plan to read its sequel when it comes out. This is a dark supernatural thriller with a high (and gruesome) death count, but that’s what happens when dealing with a god of death and hate. Dubeau has hit on a brilliant concept in this book and he executes the premise well. The story moves smoothly from revelation to revelation and the complex web of interrelated characters and plot points converge.

PS: If you do plan to pick up this book, I recommend getting yourself a physical copy. Inkshares have done an amazing job with the design and production of this — the cover looks great, and the pages are rough-cut, giving the book a glorious on-theme feel.

PPS: I won’t be booking a ticket to Saint-Ferdinand any time soon.

You can buy AGITS from:

What I Read: The Innkeeper Chronicles

IMG_0378
Clean Sweep is Book 1 in the series.

I became hooked on Ilona Andrews through the Kate Daniels series, then discovered the Innkeeper Chronicles, and my addiction grew. This series has a very different vibe to Kate Daniels, but it still packs the Ilona Andrews punch. There are (at the time I’m writing this) three novels out in the series: Clean Sweep, Sweep in Peace, and One Fell Sweep.

The novels are science-fiction with a dose of urban fantasy. They tell the story of Dina, an Innkeeper who caters to non-human clients. In this universe, the Earth exists on an interstellar crossroads, and humans are the smallest fish in a big ocean. To prevent humanity’s inevitable enslavement or extermination by another race, a great treaty was formed to establish the planet as a neutral zone and safe haven. Innkeepers provide accommodation and protection to those who come calling and ensure the great secret is never revealed.

The best way to describe this series is FUN. The blend of science and magic is perfect for the tone of the books, which are action packed, humorous, and touching. The Inns themselves are incredible, and the eclectic cast of characters are delightful (and yet another reason real-life social interactions can feel so tedious).

If you enjoy a fantastical sci-fi adventure, or are an urban fantasy fan looking for a new take on things which go bump, I highly recommend these books. They aren’t hard sci-fi, so readers looking for an explanation of how the Inn’s technomagic works are going to be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean the world-building is lacking, just that the explanation of how magic and technology mix isn’t relevant to the incredible stories packed into each instalment.

You can find more information on goodreads here, or buy the books at:

What I Read: Bones of the Past

Munro - Bones of the Past - CoverThe Night Guard walk the streets of the old kingdom of Bialta seeking out threats that are beyond the abilities of the common soldier. Nial is one such threat a girl changed into something other and on the hunt for human souls. Salt, a sailor recently rescued by the Night Guard, has been inducted into their ranks. He s a quick study, but as new threats multiply all around them, will he have what it takes to survive?

Bialta is not alone in its woes. Sacral, a city that vanished in the distant past, has reappeared where it once stood at the heart of the Wastes. Like many of Sacral s people, Maura is content living a quiet life, ignoring the outside world. But she finds herself desperately fighting to save her home as war comes to the city returned.

Meanwhile, across the Great Desert, creatures are stirring. Carver, the last living master of the magic known as fleshcarving, has won the support of the tyrant of Tolrahk Esal. Together they will unleash his twisted creations to sweep across the land and forever disrupt the balance of power.

In this epic tale, there is no good and evil. Armies march, demons feed, and deities unleash their powers on a world that will never be the same.

Bones of the Past is the first installment in a new epic fantasy series by Craig Munro. It tells a sprawling tale weaving together stories from dozens of characters across an entire continent in a high-fantasy setting. The novel strongly reminded me of the Book of the Malazan Fallen series by Stephen Erikson, and is a powerful debut novel from Munro.

I enjoyed this novel and devouring its pages felt effortless. The characters are all well-realised, and the world-building is impressive. Munro has created an enormous world with a deep history. He has invested the time to provide us a fresh fantasy landscape, without relying on the cliches some fantasy series fall back on. This is a world that lives and breathes, unencumbered by stereotyped races coughpointyearedelvescough.

Munro does a good job of weaving between his various plot threads and POVs, setting the stage for his different pieces to coalesce into a cohesive whole. However, he’s playing the long game, and many of these threads remain separate at the end of the book. He doesn’t completely abandon us here, with the stage primed for those pieces to come together in the next book, but it is something to be aware of going in — when you finish Bones of the Past, you’ll be left wanting the second book (not yet out) in order to find satisfaction for some of those stories you’ve become invested in (for me, it is mostly to experience the rest of the Zuly / Nial arc).

Bones of the Past is a great novel for those who enjoy gritty, sprawling high fantasy such as that produced by Stephen Erikson.

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Character Impact Matrix

I’m working through the developmental editing process and have recently been introduced to the character impact matrix. For those of you with a background in studying creative writing, and in particular novel-writing, this may be old hat. For me, whose background is in IT, it was a new approach to pulling the various character pieces together and I found it to be a great help.

What is a character impact matrix? It’s a table of your characters capturing how each one impacts the others in a simplified summary form. This is not a detailed character sheet, but a quick reference to a) help you better understand the relationships, and b) put those front-and-centre when writing scenes. It’s incredibly simple:

Plot your important characters across and down. It isn’t a requirement, but it’s neater if you put them in the same order. In the example above, the names down the page are the characters being impacted by another, the names working across the top are the characters who are impacting them. The cells where the two meet in the table are where you capture the impacts. The grey boxes (where both names are the same) are where you can capture internal conflict / how the character influences themselves.

Note: in the example not every cell has an entry — this is perfectly fine, as not all characters will impact every other character.

Convention Lessons Part 3: Rick Heinz

This post is the third in my series on promoting books at conventions. In Part One I related my personal experience at AI Con earlier in the year. In Part Two I chatted to Rochelle Campbell about her experiences promoting her book at conventions. In this post, I talk to Rick Heinz. At the end of the series, I’ll produce a consolidated tip sheet incorporating suggestions from all the participating authors.

Rick Heinz

Rick Heinz Con profile picRichard Heinz is as an electrician with a deep interest in politics, symbology, and― not to mention — countless caffeine-driven hours spent playing Diablo. The Seventh Age: Dawn is Rick’s first book, as well as book one in the sprawling urban fantasy epic, The Seventh Age Series. When he isn’t navigating the labyrinthine corridors of his own imagination, Rick works as a project manager in Chicago.

What conventions have you attended? Why did you pick those conventions? In hindsight, were those reasons valid?

I’ve attended everything from Anime Conventions, Gaming Conventions, General Sci-Fi Fantasy Cons, Comic-Book Cons, and a small local con. I picked these conventions for a variety of reasons: Target Audience, the LACK of other authors at them, location, and most important — I won the artist alley lottery. What is often left off a selection of why to attend a con, is that you usually must register a year in advance and it’s a lottery system. You can apply for 15 cons and end up getting into zero.

What were your objectives for the conventions you attended? Do you feel you achieved those objectives?

Direct Book Sales. I once went to a con for the intention of pre-orders, and it had some success. But I’ve been peddling the actual book since it was released. My average con sales over a 3 day event is around 50-60 books on average, so to that end, its been a moderate success.

What was your strategy for engagement at the conventions?

Well, first off, I’m a giant geek whose been at conventions my entire adult life. So the strategy for engagement is pretty easy: Find something you are passionate about and engage in that. Standing behind a table, talking about games or other things with people, and then having a polished book pitch is my thing. I’ve got a pretty solid book pitch I can deliver in less than 15 seconds that hooks most people in. As for my display, I’ve invested a solid amount of money commissioning artwork, banners, floor stands, and even scenes from the novel. Paying for top-talent art was an investment, and well worth the pay off. Most people come up because of the pictures.

As for physical books, I’ve always had them on hand and sold out a few times now. But, it’s clear that if you are going to work the convention circuit, having a quill book or being self-published is the better avenue.

What did you feel worked well?

Making connections with other artists and industry contacts. I’ve often found other artists to work with, or even other people looking for writers. Working behind the table has opened up more than a few doors. So on an industry level, it’s worked out very well. As for moving physical books, I’ve had a lot of success with it so far. We will never be on the level of art dealers with prints, but an author can move plenty of books if you are comfortable talking.

What didn’t work, or not as well as you had hoped?

Being published and selling the book at cons. It’s a little rough on the math to sell your book at a con if you have to go through a publisher. Look around any convention, and you’ll find that the only people in artist alley that are authors are self-published. It’s almost impossible to recover the costs of a convention between travel, hotel, and table cost as an author. So, don’t go if that’s what you are looking for. Most of the published authors are part of the publishers exhibitor booth doing book signings, and perhaps someday, that can be a realistic dream. For now, it’s not, and so you’ll have to swallow some convention costs for a while.

If you are self-published however, you can be successful at a convention and cover yourself for the weekend.

What other lessons have you learnt?

Stay positive and put in the hard work. The weekend is going to be draining. Go to bed early, resist the urge to drink till 2 am, and plan ahead to show up on time. This is a job you will work for 12 hours a day on the weekend. Plan ahead, and get your cons booked a year out. This isn’t a gig for people who just want to do stuff on the fly.

Do you plan to attend more conventions to promote your book?

I’ve got an entire year booked! Next year, I’ll even have GM’s running the Seventh Age world as rpg tabletop events in addition to the booth. At this point, it’s not really book promotion. I’m just going because I already attend a lot of cons, and so why not double up and do some book promotion while I’m there!

The Seventh Age: Dawn

Rick Heinz - TSA Dawn Cover

I’m enormously grateful to Rick for sharing his experiences. Anyone who enjoys urban fantasy should definitely check out his first novel, The Seventh Age: Dawn.

“Before the age of reason and science, magic ruled the world. Now, it’s coming back and if most of humanity gets wiped out in the process….well, sometimes you have to break a few eggs.”

You can order a copy from Amazon, Book Depository, or directly from the publisher (or ask your local bookstore). You can follow the development of his second novel (the sequel to The Seventh Age: Dawn) here. Finally, you can find Rick online at the following places:

Con Lessons Part 2

This post is the second in my series on promoting books at conventions. In Part One I related my personal experience at AI Con earlier in the year. Starting with this instalment, I’ll be interviewing other authors who have attended at least one convention about their experience and tips. At the end of the series, I’ll produce a consolidated tip sheet incorporating suggestions from all the participating authors.

Today, I present…

Rochelle Campbell

Me_from_Twitter_profile_picRochelle Campbell has a BA in Written Communications with an emphasis on Digital Media and began her career as a journalist and PR specialist. Her writing career spans over 20 years, and straddles both nonfiction and fiction. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, yet has had two stories published in literary magazines.

As an indie author, she has published “The Magic Seeds,” an illustrated urban fairy tale for middle grade readers (co-authored with her son), “Leaping Out on Faith,” a book of contemporary women’s fiction short stories which was followed by the completion of a full-length paranormal horror novel “Fury From Hell” in 2015. With nonfiction as the marrow of her writing life, in March 2015, she published a personal finance title for teens and young adults called, “Making Dollars & Sense Work.”

Rochelle’s novel Fury From Hell is currently funding on Inkshares. See the end of those post for more details.

[Update 21/06/2017: Fury From Hell is now in draft mode as it is now a competitor in the LaunchPad/Inkshares contest. The Top 75 books will be selected on Sat. 29/07/2017.]

What conventions have you attended? Why did you pick those conventions? In hindsight, were those reasons valid?

I have attended the MDC3 Con last October. And, more recently, I-CON32 last weekend.

I chose MDC3 Con because it is a writer’s conference focused on genre fiction (Creatures, Crimes & Creativity). It is also a smaller con so you are able to mingle, meet and form relationships with other conference goers.

The thinking behind attending I-CON32, as a vendor, was to share my books with a targeted audience of sci fi enthusiasts. I also wanted to share news of my new book, Fury From Hell, being crowdfunded on Inkshares to see if I could get a few pre-orders.
In hindsight, yes, my thinking/reasons were valid. I sold sci fi books at the sci fi convention. And, I did have an opportunity offered to me to participate in a radio show to talk about Fury From Hell.

The MDC3 Con lent itself to the development of friendships with other writers. I appreciate the relationships that are growing from my attendance of this Con.

What were your objectives for the conventions you attended? Do you feel you achieved those objectives?

In the previous question, I touched on this topic.The MDC3 Con was more for cultivating writer relationships and being around my peers of like-mind. (A sort of assurance against me being positively insane. Mission accomplished!)

Attending I-CON32 as a vendor was all about exposure and direct sales of my book, The SciFi End of the Supernatural.

What was your strategy for engagement at the conventions?

I set up my booth with the thought to what might catch my eye if I am competing for people at a busy, fun Cosplay convention. So, I had walking wind-up Emoji on the table. A mini library of books my family, and children liked. Freebies to give to passerby. As well as a small vessel filled with chocolate and mints. These were done in hopes of getting people to linger while passing so I could engage them in conversation and try to turn the topic to my books. Yes, I had physical copies on display of my scifi book.

What did you feel worked well?

The walking Emoji was definitely a conversation starter especially for those con goers with small children. The best eye-catcher was the book itself. The cover attracted a lot of attention. Many felt the cover art was very appealing, and said so.

What didn’t work, or not as well as you had hoped?

The candy. It only attracted pre-teen boys! They kept coming back and taking handfuls of candy each pass!

What other lessons have you learnt?

Do not try to engage every one that passes by. You cannot seem desperate for someone to buy your books/wares. You must have a genuine interest when you do stop a passerby with a question.

Do you plan to attend more conventions to promote your book?

I do! I had a great time. Made a few new friends and have awesome memories (and pictures!) to show for my weekend at I-CON32.

Fury From Hell

FFHI’d like to thank Rochelle for sharing some of her convention experiences. If you enjoy supernatural or horror novels, you should check out Fury From Hell which is currently funding on Inkshares. Click the link to read free excerpts and follow the story. You can also engage with Rochelle online:

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like or a share. I have several more interviews in the works as part of this series. Make sure you don’t miss any:

 

Other segments in the series