Thursday, 29 September 2011

Finding Markets For Your Speculative Fiction

I'd like to welcome, Colin F. Barnes who very kindly agreed to do a guest post for me on the subject of markets for the speculative fiction writer. First a little about my guest.

Colin F. Barnes is a dark fiction writer from the UK  specializing in Science Fiction, Horror and Thrillers. He likes to take the gritty edginess from his surroundings and personal experiences and translate them into his stories. He is currently working on an anthology of horror stories in his 'City of Hell Chronicles' setting after recently debuting with a crime anthology titled 'Killing my Boss' that he co-authored with best selling author Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff.

Dark fiction and speculative fiction in general tends to go in cycles. Certain genres, or subgenres become popular, rise to the top and stay there for a period of time while others languish not doing so well. Trying to time this and write for the market is difficult unless you are either especially good at spotting trends ahead of time, or get some inside information from agents/publishers who are looking for specific types of stories.

Speculative fiction, and especially that of the darker edge is going through somewhat of a transformation. During the 80s horror was the biggest genre, selling millions of copies by authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Herbert et al. But during the 90s and the 2000s horror and the darker genres slipped down. Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance has seemingly taken its place in the charts and the consciousness of readers. This is mainly due to the successes of the Twilight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries types of books/shows.

So, as a writer of dark fiction, how does one go about marketing their work? And what markets are left open?

The bad news is that all out horror and some of the darker sub genres still aren’t selling all that well in the mainstream publications. Most of the magazines that serve horror no longer exist, or if they do, they are relegated to a small audience as e-zines. Even traditional publishing houses aren’t putting a lot of stock in horror. Sci-Fi and Fantasy are seemingly grabbing the lion’s share of publishing capital within dark genre.

However, bad news aside, there is still a lot of hope and a lot of opportunity for the dark fiction writers.

There are two main ways of publishing your work. The first being the small independent presses. There are a numbers of these (list of a few below) that actively seek out the darker work. Being a smaller press has both its advantages and disadvantages for the author.

-          Easier to approach.
-          They are usually quicker to react to changes within the industry
-          They have closer relationships with their authors
-          They often make limited runs of exclusive editions

-          Don’t pay as well as the big houses
-          Often can’t cope as well with slush piles
-          Lack resources to really push an author

However, disadvantages aside, it can be a great experience working with a small press, and for first time published authors it makes sense to approach these first. You’ll learn about publishing and you’ll get that all important publishing credit on your CV. Some of these small presses have a big name and carry a lot of weight, so definitely don’t discount these out of hand.

The second way of getting your work out there is to self-publish. Now, I’m not necessarily saying paying thousands of pounds to have printed copies made and you sell them door-to-door. No, in this day and age, ePublishing has become a great leveler. With a little time and effort you can have you book on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.  As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to this too.

-          Freedom to write what you want
-          Freedom to solicit your own editor, designer, formatter
-          You keep all the profit
-          You keep the rights to your work
-          Sense of achievement

-          You have to do everything and are responsible for everything.
-          Your sales might not be what you expect
-          The promotion takes up a lot of time, and requires diligence
-          Some authors rush in too quickly with material not ready

The best way to mitigate the disadvantages is to seek out a good freelance editor to work on your book/story. Also, if you belong to a writing group (and you really should), have them critique or beta your work to iron out any main issues. You only want to publish your best work. Don’t be cheap and stick up anything, it will reflect on you and damage your sales/reputation.

In terms of promoting your work, that’s a huge subject and you can find lots of useful information by researching marketing, but a few easy(ish) ways to promote your work are:

-          Use twitter to connect with other writers and readers. Get to know them, but don’t push your work too much, the sales and interest will come naturally.
-          Post sample chapters on your website. You absolutely have to have a website, there is no getting around that.
-          Blog regularly. Talk often about your book’s characters, any interesting information you’ve found during research and personal anecdotes.
-          Setup a Facebook page and posts snippets of the artwork, and sample chapters. Again, add people, talk to them, and get to know them.
-          Join the various Kindle forums. They are full of great people looking to help you and promote your work (in return for your help – collaboration is what the internet social networks are all about.)
-          Send ‘advances reader copies’ ARCs to book bloggers. You have to research these to make sure the blogger reads the kind of book you have written and like any submission, include a covering email introducing yourself and your book. Be professional and be polite.

If you love your work, and are prepared to put some effort in, there’s no reason why you can’t see your dark fiction in print or ebooks. Good luck.

Thank you Colin, if anyone has any questions, or any market news they would like to add, please leave a comment.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Second Campaigner Challenge

Rachel has set our second campaigner challenge.

The Challenge is:
Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem etc. The blog post should:
  • include the word "imago" in the title
  • include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate" "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make a reference to a mirror in your post. For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!

I have managed to do all of the above, amazingly! Please do have a read.
Project Imago
    The cocoon had been buried deep in the earth for centuries. Undisturbed, not a soul had known of its location, I do not count the undead blood suckers who clawed the soil away to bring it to the surface. They have always known this time would come.
    Miasma hung in the putrid green tinged air, making breathing impossible. I wore an oxygen mask, and heavy gauge rubber gauntlets, I could barely turn the pages of the ancient book they had forced me to work from, the lacuna, which they hoped I could work out, was the reason for my presence. Synchronicity was vital. I knew they would kill me afterwards.
    The pod cracked and tore, the blood-suckers writhed and worshiped on the ground. I saw nothing, so when the creature stepped out of the trench, I knew to oscitate now would be fatal - I couldn’t help it.
     ‘Pass me a mirror,’ she barked. I did as she asked, knew she was checking for a reflection. Heard her sigh, ‘it hasn’t worked’, she screeched, lashing out fiercely with her tail, I ducked as two of the undead flew over my head, crashing onto the ground behind me.

    The metamorphosis was incomplete.
imago— n

Insect in its sexually mature adult stage after metamorphosis


a dangerous, foreboding, or deathlike influence or 

lacuna — n

a gap or missing part

oscitate— v

to gape; to yawn

synchronicity — n 

an apparently meaningful coincindence in time of two or more or similar or identical events that are causally unrelated

I welcome your comments, and if you like my entry, then please go here and vote for #97, thank you, for taking the time to read.

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Walk in Calke Park

I love walking, and on Sunday decided to make the effort to get out and enjoy some fresh air. There are many benefits to walking. Health wise its good for weight loss, lowering cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of stroke, and in particular for me, easing the backache that plagues me from time to time. Its the easiest form of aerobic exercise and just about anyone can do it. I walk the streets close to home. Which is a town,  it has its good and bad areas like everywhere else. There is no doubt these walks are beneficial, however there is nothing quite like getting out into the countryside.

Being out in big open spaces, surrounded by nature is the best tonic for body and mind. So on Sunday I took such a walk over at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire. You can read more about the property here. On this occasion I didn't go into the house, preferring to walk in the 240 hectare Calke Park, of which 80 acres is a National Nature Park.

I took my camera to record the things I saw, its been a while since I've had both the time, and the energy to walk, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

There are many red and fallow deer in the park, and on Sunday I was lucky enough to get up close to them and take some pictures.

A lot of the trees are over 400 years old and two are around 1000 years old, and are amongst the oldest in the country, they were once part of the ancient wild wood of the area. Many insects live on
them, especially those associated with decaying wood as is found all over the park.

There are also several types of fungi to be found amongst the oak, lime and beech trees, I spotted a few  varieties on my walk as you can see here. The weather  remained good all morning, and I missed the showers that happened later in the afternoon.

After four and a half miles of steady walking I was ready for a drink, I really should have remembered my water container, as after a couple of hours I found myself in need of something to quench my thirst.  Fortunately, there is a good restaurant at Calke Abbey, serving a variety of delicious hot and cold meals made with  ingredients that are sourced locally. I settled for a pot of tea, and a home baked scone with jam and butter which I fell upon like someone who hadn't seen food for a month!

Walking has enabled me to get out and about and discover a variety of surroundings in different seasons. It clears the mind, and allows you head space, which comes in handy when you're a writer, living in both the real world, and the fictional one you visit regularly.

I have learnt things about nature I thought I would never be interested in, like the fungi that grows in abundance in Calke Park or the trees and plants I have seen in their natural habitat.

I felt tired afterwards, I've recently had a virus that refused to relent, and haven't felt able to go out and about much, so the walk was all the more welcome.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Fifteen Minute Writing Exercise

Following on from the last post, this is the result of the 'on the spot' exercise I did yesterday at my writing group. As promised, I've only used spell checker, and therefore typed it up as I wrote it down in my notebook.

I can see where it can be improved, expanded, and played around with, but the point I want to make, is that its amazing what you'll come up with when faced with a challenge. I now have something I can work upon to improve should I wish to do it. 

A reminder of the four randomly generated words used to create this piece.

Character - Fortune Teller
Setting - Supermarket
Object - Torch
Emotion - Hope

               ON THE CARDS

     There had to be hope. Nancy wheeled the trolley up and down the aisles, stopping to gaze at the shelves laden with packets and tins, declaring 2 for 1, buy one get one free, or some such offer.

    She ignored everything; there was nothing in her trolley other than the torch. He’d asked her for it, said he wanted to read. The only pleasure he had left nowadays. She had hoped he wouldn’t linger, had read it would all be over quickly, but somehow it hadn’t worked out like that at all. Angus languished, growing weaker yes, but not at the rate she’d been told. Matter of days the information had said.

    Aisle five - tinned fish, salmon, tuna, sardines, pilchards – he liked pilchards, used to eat them on toast with grated cheese melted over the top. She remembered those days.
Nancy placed a tin of tuna into her trolley. She liked it mixed with chopped onions and mayo on wholemeal bread; she’d get a loaf now.

    Time had passed quickly between them, Angus had become distanced over the years, she’d been lonely for a long time, and now at the end, she realised she would miss him. The fortune teller had been right, you never knew what cards life was going to deal you, but when she’d turned over that last card, all the others paled into insignificance. All the years of pain and loneliness didn’t matter anymore.

    She found the bread on aisle seven, she wanted thick cut. Angus would have insisted on thin sliced, but he couldn’t eat it now. She placed the loaf into her trolley.

    All done, she pushed it towards the till, she’d let him have the torch.  After all, it would come in handy later – when she buried him in the garden.

Phoenix Writers' Group

Yesterday was a fun morning of writing, and critiquing, spent with my buddies at the Phoenix Writers Group. Its hard to believe we meet up for two hours, the time whizzes by, as we read and critique each others manuscripts.

The format was slightly different this session, we still read out our 100 word challenge, which was set last week, and we celebrated successes and commiserated over rejections.  We shared news of forthcoming competitions and additionally we tried out a fun writing exercise.

The rules were simple enough, our leader had prepared four envelopes. Each marked with Character, Setting, Object and Emotion. We randomly selected a card from each one, then we had fifteen minutes to create a story including all four of them. I picked,

Fortune Teller

I wasn't too alarmed, although there was much giggling about some of the combinations. Afterwards, we read them aloud to the group, warts and all - yet there were very few warts.The pieces of flash fiction that had been created were amazing. Quite unbelievable, given the short amount of time we had to perfect a micro tale.

Later, I'll type mine out, as I wrote it straight into my notebook, and I'll add it here for you to judge for yourselves. I won't cheat, I'll not change anything, other than running the spell checker over it.

Happy Writing

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Wow! How lucky can a girl get? I've been awarded the Liebster Blog Award from both Cherie Colyer and Lesann Berry Thank you ladies. Readers do go check out their blogs.

 “The basic idea of the Liebster Blog Award is to showcase bloggers with less than 200 followers.” When you get the award, you keep the love going by giving it to 5 other bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

This was difficult because there are so many great blogs out there, many of which I've recently found because I’m a part of Rachael Harrie’s Platform-Building Campaign. Others I've been following and enjoying for a while.
To share the love and pay it forward, my list of awesome blogs are:

 Writing: A Conversation Without Interruptions  - This is the blog of Ileandra Young, her writing career is only just beginning and she wants you to be part of it. She has gleefully been penning smut, vamp - fiction, fantasy and comedy since 1997.

A. E. Martin - A writer of both Adult and YA Fantasy, she penned her first novel at fourteen, also an artist in many mediums.

My Road to Freedom - Janina is a woman who loves words, a Chicago freelance writer, who sometimes designs jewellery too.

Fabulosity Nouveau - Wendy is from Johannesburg, South Africa, and in her words, "I am a Blogaholic, Bibiophile, Avid Reader, Reveiwer and Lover of all things Quaint and Eclectic."

The Nut Press - Kathryn Eastman resides here. Reviewing books, tasting chocolate, drinking tea and telling us tales about squirrels when she's not scribbling short stories, articles, and poems that is...

All very interesting people, be sure to visit them soon.

 Awardees, this is what you need to do after you've chosen who you're going to give the award to:

  • Show your thanks by linking back to the blogger that gave you the award
  • Notify the folks you pick to receive the award by twitter, email, etc
  • Post the award graphic on your blog
  • Check out the winners, their blogs and websites, and most of all enjoy!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Do You Know Enough About Your Characters?

To make our stories believable, we need good character development, and apart from knowing what motivates them, we should know more about them than we ever tell our readers, we need to be aware of every little thing they do.

A physical description helps us to see how they move through the world, and allows the reader to believe in them. Even their name provides a lot of information, indicating age, background and social class.

Who else is in your characters life? Who do they interact with? How do they interact? Personality is often determined by background. What sort of parents they had can play a big part in how they shape up in life.

I'm always asking myself what my character wants from the situation, or the scene they're in, its important to know how your characters will behave. Creating a well rounded character takes time. Not only what they look like, and where they live, but how they  will react to the situations they find themselves in.

How do you create your characters? Do you start with a picture? Or an object, and think who might have owned it, worn it, played with it? Perhaps you make a character study?  Or do you develop them as you go along, without doing any planning in advance? How do you create an intriguing and credible character?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

First Campaigner Challenge

As you already know if you're following my blog, I'm taking part in Rachael Harries Writers' Platform - Building Campaign. Here is the first challenge Rachael has set for us.

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, "The door swung open" These four words will  be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end words: "the door swung shut" (also included in the word count) 

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

Here is my response.


     The door swung open.

‘I can’t believe you didn’t fill up last night?’ he said, drumming his fingers on the dashboard.

     ‘I can’t believe you didn’t check your fuel gauge this morning. And for your information I did fill up last night - only it was my car, the one I usually drive.’

     ‘Oh so it’s my fault is it,’ he shouted.

     ‘What’s done is done; let’s just wait for the AA.’ Karen folded her arms; she couldn’t be bothered to argue with him.

     ‘I never wanted to make this journey in the first place. We saw your Mother at Christmas.  You’re always on the phone gossiping to each other, I should make you pay the bill, then maybe you’d have less to say.’

     ‘Let’s have it disconnected then…get rid of the internet connection too. Perhaps I’ll see more of you.  But I’m not sure I want to do that anymore.’

     ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ he snarled.

     ‘Here’s the break down truck,’ she said fumbling with her door handle.

     ‘KAREN!’ Where are you going?’

     ‘Home, to pig!

    The AA man looked on, somewhat bemused as he watched the brunette step out of the car. The door swung shut. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ten Random Things About Me

I've been tagged by the lovely Erica and Christy, and have to reveal ten random things about myself. Here we go then folks.

1. I’ve seen ‘The Lake House’ so many times I’ve lost count. There’s just something about that film that stays with me.

2. My first car was a navy blue, 1966, Mk 1 Ford Cortina, it cost me £60. Yes, really!

3.While waiting to begin training in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, I met a   boy, and that was the end of that.

4. I love books more than cake. (I think!)

5. I’m a fully qualified massage therapist, although this is not what I do nowadays for a job.

6. I didn’t learn to swim until I was an adult.

7. I try to make people smile every day. 

8. Did I mention I love cake?

9. When I was fifteen, I got a Saturday job at the local Wimpy bar, earning 75p an hour!

10. I don’t have a dog, but if I did it would be an Irish Red Setter, or a Labrador.

    Now it’s your turn, you've been tagged! 

You’re it Rosalind @

If you've already been tagged ladies, apologies, I can hardly expect you to do it again.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Rambling in the Roaches

The Roaches is the name given to a dramatic, rocky outcrop that rises above Tittesworth Reservoir in the north of the Staffordshire Peak District. I arrived yesterday with full intentions of getting some great walking under my belt. Unfortunately I’ll have to hold that thought for another weekend, having come down with a nasty cold virus. Sadly, it’s taken a firm hold, and I’ve had to look for lighter pursuits to occupy my time.

Instead, I spent the morning in the market town of Leek, which surprised me with its unusual architecture, unique speciality shops, antiques centres, and a busy market.

I called into the local Costa, and sat a while, sipping my cappuccino, people watching.  Hard as I try, I can’t help it. Sometimes, I’ll see or hear something, be it the way someone has their hair, how they hold a cup, their accent, or an unusual tattoo maybe. Whatever, it's stuff which I could pass onto a character. Out came the notebook, and who knows, there could be something there for later. It's recorded now.

Afterwards, I popped along to the chemist and stocked up on various drugs to ease my cold symptoms, and headed for the Roaches in the car. It wasn’t the same, but I did get out and have a very short walk. The views were fabulous, even if the weather was a little grey today.

Afterwards, it was into The Roaches Tea Rooms for a very nice cream tea.  So although the day hasn’t gone as I expected, I’ve spent the time relaxing and taking it easy. I’m calling it head space. It’s important to step back from the writing and do something else now and again. Don’t you agree?

Planning Your Time - How Hard Can it Be?

Blue Skies Over Tenby - Maria A Smith  Planning your time is often much harder than you ever dreamt or expected it to be, and if you do...