Hegemony Concept Art

Ancient rebuilt and evolved

Concept artwork for the “modern” Kalshodar of the upcoming Hegemony Trilogy. More specifically, this helmet belongs to one of The Hundred, survivors of a horrible tragedy who painted their normally black and silver armour white as a sign of mourning.


This concept aims to capture both the ancient origins of the Kalshodar and their evolution into modern times. Dwarves are a practical race and, I think, the idea of improving the old when there’s no need to throw it out, would appeal to their nature.


The menacing air of the Kalshodar faceplate took work and I didn’t want to overdo it because these are, afterall, the good guys.


More to come soon, I promise, because The Hegemony series has been seriously ignored of late.
#alanjfisher #writerscommunity #writerscommunity #writingcommunity #bookseries #bookart #booksecrets #hegemony

Art of the Storyteller – Lockdown Day 15

 

In these trying times, a little doubt and anxiety of only natural, as is fear. Your greatest asset, though, is your passion and your belief in the fact that you are writing the greatest story ever told….You will get through this, you are enough, you are going to do this; I believe in you.

Researching On Such a Scale

The Chronicles of Enoch is going to be a true Epic. It will have a cast of at least fifty (if not more) and will cover a period of approximately eight thousand years. That, in itself, is quite the challenging proposition. When you add a conspiracy or several, complex plots involving the military, the police forces, several religions, experimental science, and secret government projects….well, we are not even sure if there is a Kansas to be in any more, although we are sort of familiar with Kansas as a concept…
 
Let me give you a list of some of the topics we have covered so far;
 
  1. The Hebrew Talmud
  2. Kabbalah
  3. Sumerian tablets and carvings
  4. Doggerland and other antedeluvian lands
  5. Every conspiracy theory on Atlantis and lost continents
  6. Fluid dynamics, thermal dynamics, and high pressure fluid dynamics inversions
  7. Astronomy, especially regarding the Moon and Mars
  8. Terraforming and how it could happen
  9. Micro-electronics and experimental electronic theory
  10. Every religion which has ever existed
  11. The titular Books of Enoch and other Apocrypha
  12. Jewish exorcism rites
  13. Aviation history, space flight, experimental space technology, and theoretical physics
  14. The Atlanta and Georgia State Police Force and SWAT Division
  15. Child psychology and criminal psychology
  16. ASD and Aspergers syndrome
  17. Eurasian and North American mythology
  18. Ballistics, sniper theory and practises, bullet manufacture
  19. Chemistry and materials science
  20. Esoteric lore from several sources
  21. Misha of Jewish scripture and questionable sources
  22. Almost every conspiracy theory I could find (except flat Earth because even the ancients weren’t stupid)
 
I actually stopped because I don’t want to overwhelm you. There is a lot more and I am only on the first book of a five-volume series.
 
On Appearing the Expert
 
If there is one person who does this well, it was Michael Crichton, he truly did an amazing job of appearing to be an overnight expert on his subject matter. Whether it was genetics and dinosaurs, aviation and accident investigation, law enforcement, or ancient arabian literature and viking migration and culture, Michael’s books communicated a confident knowledge on the subject. One could read his books and not only enjoy the story but actually learn something. That is a rare talent and he remains sorely missed.
 
He was a remarkably intelligent man but he did not become an actual expert on every topic he wrote so convincingly about, he researched and made use of actual experts instead, which proves just how intelligent he was.
 
I think it is important, when setting your writing in real places, referencing real groups of people, places, and lore, it is important to give a sense of authenticity, a flavour of truth to your work. This, I feel, is vital in drawing your reader into to your story. There is that famous saying about ‘the best lies/legends contain a grain of truth’ and your story needs, I feel, to contain at least enough grains to quarter fill a small salf shaker or enough rice to set a fried egg on.
 
What about science fiction, you may ask? Good question.
 
I refer you to the Illium/Olympus series by Dan Simmons. He had a curious idea; combine the Trojan War with the science fiction of a terraformed Mars, involve actual Greek gods who were in fact posthuman superbeings, genetically enhanced humans, killer robots, advanced benevolent robots, Shakespearean monsters, and Lovecraftian gods. He added real theoretical science as well as decent historical research into the books and made them rather interesting indeed, while still keeping the fantasy and sci-fi elements alive.
 
My point is, research is king (or queen, or elected official) of writing; you need to add elements of reality into your unreality in order to draw people in. Even if they are not experts in the field, it is going to draw them in if done well.
 
Doing It Well..
 
In today’s world, research is no longer as challenging as it once was. I remember the good old days of researching my now-abandoned first novel in my teens. You had to go to a library and first find the section of the library your book might be in, then you had to find one which suited your need, take it back because it was no good, come back overloaded with others, then spend hours leafing through them for the information you wanted before getting distracted by something interesting you found along the way. Do not get me started on microfiche archives either!
 
Today, you have Google. With the few strokes of the keys, you have access to everything, even Wikipedia…
 
There are a few problems with that. The old addage of “if it wasn’t true they wouldn’t let them put it on there” is not, necessarily, true. For some sites yet but Wikipedia is publically editable. of course, they curate it now, but we have seem a few worrying and a number of hilarious results of such editing. They catch it eventually, I should know, my backlinks lasted a week…
 
So; you have to be careful in what information you use, myou need trusted sources such as academic ones or verifiable sources of information when it comes to scientific or academic stuff, as well as historical events. Accuracy is key because trust me, you will encounter that one person who will pull you up on a fact and you can be sure that they will leave a review about it.
 
Spend the time, is my advice, check your facts and, check them again. You’ll be amazed by the results. I know it’s hard but, until we are famous, we can’t court experts to interview or hire researchers to do it for us. I keep telling you that this job is no even remotely easy, do I not…
 
Of The Dumping of Information
 
Don’t do it. That’s the best advice I can give for you to follow. Dumping information is never good and dropping a pile of facts and figures on the reader’s lap is going to make them feel like they are reading a text book. I know you spent a long time researching it, built some impressive knowledge and thorough notes on the subject and, if you follow my upcoming advice, may use a tiny fraction of it directly but it will matter when you retain rather than lose readers.
 
  1. Use natural-sounding dialogue. Think Star Trek without the eleven syllable words and pseudo-science speak. Two colleagues just chatting about things such colleagues would naturally discuss under the circumtances. Look it how it sounds, how it flows and if it feels natural. Practise it with a friend and see how it falls off the tongue.
  2. Short bits of internal dialogue. Again, watch the flow, fragment it with thoughts, feelings, or actions to break up what we call a WOT (wall of text). Think how you think and, if it’s nothing close to that, then change it. You might be surprised to discover that most people don’t think in paragraphs, some do but most think in short sentences. A whole page of thoughts is a definite no-no.
  3. Exposition in easy to digest pieces. Ideally mix with the above, by way of short and concise explanation. Think of PBS or BB2 (or your local equivalent channel) science programs. They keep their facts short and to the point and intersperse music and action pieces. I recommend you do the same. Attention spans these days really are not what they used to be. I had to figure out a similar balance when dealing with Dr. Webb’s pieces in the ACARI facility in New Mexico and Asmodeus’ musings on the ICARUS program in Darkness Within as well as Kalshodar phsysiology in the Hegemony drafts.
 
It is all about practise, I’m afraid. It doesn’t come completely naturally and we have all suffered the consequences. Use the comparison to science and nature programs, it really does work if you visualise David Attenborough, Neil Degrasse Tyson, or Morgan Freeman speaking out your chunks of dialogue among the whistful nature shots and fancy special effects. If it sounds boring in Mr. Freeman’s voice, then you must fix it because next to nothing sounds boring with that voice; he could (British reference) read the Saturday football (not soccer) results and you’d actually enjoy it (American readers, enjoy the video below, I give you two minutes before you scream and run out of the room….)
 
 
 
So, Why Research so Much?
 
I’ve used this one before and I use it again.
 
WETA Workshop, the special effects company behind such blockbusters as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Bladerunner 2049, and District 9 are on record saying that there is a massive chunk of the props, details, and details they created in those movies that 90% of viewers will not even notice, consciously at least. Subconsciously though, it helps draw them into a fully realised world and immerse themselves in it because every item on every elf is a little different, because no orc’s armour is the same, or because Deckard sees adverts in the right kind of Japanese or Chinese everywhere.
 
It’s about the atmosphere it creates, how the nuggests you drop show that you know a lot more than that but chose, chose mark you, to keep them for another time. I work in Customer Service in a rather manic industry (online gambling) and have learned tone of voice and implied confidence go an aweful long way in inspiring confidence in the person on the other end of the phone. I am not a sports fan, I hate horses, and am blaise about football but I can make it sound like I know what I’m talking about because I’ve researched and trained myself to recognise key phrases in conversation. My customers think I’m just like them (I don’t gamble) and therefore trust my judgement and what I tell tell them. Remember popular business maxim?
 
“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”
 
To continue from my previous point, people will trust somebody who sounds like they know what they’re talking about before they will trust someone who sounds uncertain. You could be giving them completely accurate information but it you do not sound confident, they’ll listen to the tone not the words. They ask for a manager and you put them on, the manager says exactly what you did but because they said it confidently and identified as a manager, the customer accepts it, humans eh?
 
If you mention a few juicy facts, handle their delivery well, make your characters sound natural as they speak, think, or experience them, then your reader feels confident that you know your setting and your job. They enter your world willingly and relax into the story. Anything that jars against the expectations you gave them will shatter their confidence and ruin their experience.
 
If you research well, have digested it, and somewhat understood it, this will be obvious in your writing because you will drop the right fact or comment right where it belongs. I had a scientist character of mine deliver a brief keynote speech on a certain topic to see how it flowed. It didn’t appear in any of the books and it won’t. The speech is mentioned in passing here and there, and a brief excerpt or two show up but the entire 20-minute speech itself (together with a Q&A session at the end) is buried in the texture of the story.
 
Conclusion
 
If you do not know it, learn. If you find the facts, look again. if your facts clash, keep looking. You are building a world so contrary opinions are going to exist however, make your facts solid before you use them.
 
Do not infodump or include overy-lengthy expositions that stop the story dead and advance it not at all. Think of Morgan Freeman narrating and do not, just do not make Morgan say something boring. He fought hard for that reputation, try not to ruin it for him.
 
Use what you have learned, digest it, and (using a popular revision techmnique) rewrite it in your own words to show that you understood it. Do not paste directly from your source or repeat verbatim unless what you’re adding is an actual quote or there is a very valid reason to do so.
 
Use what you have learned and your ability to paraphrase it to sound confident and reassure your customer that not only have they chosen well and selected an author who did their research but one who knows their trade and can be trusted to deliver. Don’t be lazy, we readers can spot it in an instant.
 
Remember when we were readers before we were authors. Remember what you love and hate in books you have read and try not to repeat any of the things you, yourself, hate. Respect the reader enough to ensure that they will not part with their cash for anything less than your very best work.
 
Respect them and they will see it and they, in turn, will respect you.

Documenters of Insanity

“A writer is simply the documenter of his own insanity” Unknown
 
A fiction writer is many things, it would seem but what really?
 
I was reading this article today and I wondered….well now, maybe that explains a lot;
 
 
I have spent a significant portion of my life with several of my imaginary friends and, not only have I done this but I have documented it. Not only have I documented it but I am trying to present it in appealing fashion so that people will pay me for the pleasure of gawking at my insanity. I enjoy this activity and call myself writer, author, among other things.
 
“What do you do in your spare time?” People ask me
“I invent people and have conversations with them in my head and then I write it down” they usually start making excuses and backing away right about this time. This may be a not altogether conventional description of a writer’s trade but it is not inaccurate really.Think about it. At this moment in time I have…around 9 people in my head about whom I think regularly, whom I place in situations and generate dialogue for, with whom I, in fact, have conversations effectively. A lot  of the time we keep these conversations between ourselves and they never make it to the page; either because I forget about them, am distracted or, when I sit down at my keyboard with the complete intention of writing down that cracker of a dialogue from earlier down something strange happens…I start to write and it turns into something completely and utterly different. My neat little scene, my snappy chatty, my situationette turn into something completely different! I sit down wanting to write how x met z and talked about y but then w comes in and murders x and falls in love with z and y did this every happen????!!
 
I think Poe put it best “I am a writer therefore I am not sane.”
 
Therefore I ask you this question and, honest answers only please, on a stamped and self addressed postcard. Do we create our characters or were they always there, inside our heads? Do we create stories or are we the medium by which the story writes itself? Are we really crazy or are scientists just jealous b*st*ards because they don’t do anything original?
 
I open the floor to comments and questions!
 

Legends Made Truth

“At the heart of every legend there is a grain of truth”
– Michael Scott
 
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, the gifted hero of the tale used his military skills, natural leadership, and participated in the legends seeded by the order of manipulators to whom his mother belonged. He won and ousted the current Emperor of the Galaxy, marrying his daughter and ending all conflict…or so he thought. We later discover that the religiously inclined people he had helped achieve freedom decided to found a church upon his deeds, make him the living Messiah and launch a jihad throughout the galaxy in his name. In dispair, he walks out into the desert, apparently never to return.
 
Paul Atreides was fighting for revenge and recruited the Freman to his cause by listening to his mother’s advice to play along with the legend. As it happens, he exceeds the expectation but that is anothe matter. What is important is that the truth is soon overshadowed by the Legend and, once those directly involved in real events are gone, nobody is left to say “that did not happen” so people are free to believe the more exciting version.
 
This is a manifestation of the phenomena we like to call “Storyteller Syndrome” or, in simple terms, storyteller’s exaggerating or, more accurately outright lying in order to draw their audience in better.
 
Let’s compare the following two versions as an example;
 
 
  1. A large and violent man, while engaging in his normal activities of reaving and raiding, kidnaps a woman who was held prisoner by his latest ‘clients’. I turns out that she is the princess or somewhere or other and had, in fact been kidnapped by a rival of the king’s. The king is an old man and the princess his only heir so marrying her would grant her father’s rival the kingdom. Our hero realised that she is going to be worth a great deal of money so does not do anything that could reduce the reward as he normally would under such circumstances. Of course, our villian learns of this and makes numerous attempts to recapture his bride and murder our hero but, being a man of action and quite well versed in the art of murder, our hero prevails every time. Arriving at the king’s castle, our hero confronts the villain, who snuck in and tried to murder the king, but is stopped by the hero because that’d mean he could kiss his money goodbye. The king, though grateful, is quite old and rather crazy. The kindgom is also rather poor so he marries his daughter off to our hero and has the villain executed; killing two birds with one stone. Having heard that the king’s advisors are planning to do away with him after the wedding, our hero murders the king, seizes the throne and traumatises the princess. He goes on to lead a brutal campaign against the holdings of the rival. The princess dies less than a year later of a broken heart during childbirth.
  2. Son of the Gods of the mountains, a noble barbarian exile is sent by his father, the God Muklebuckle to save the princess from a terrible wizard who infiltrated the kingdom and enchanted Lord Flafflefarst of Overhereia. The noble hero defeats a band of evil monsters guarding the princess and rescues her, carrying her off into the forest for her safety. The wizard hears of this and sends beasts, monsters, and demons after the hero but he defeats them all, with a little bit of help from the gods, of course. During the journey, the princess falls in love with the hero’s noble spirit and rather rugged good looks. Upon arriving at the castle, the hero engages in terrible battle with the wizard who is actually O’Deer’Jhez’Uz the dragon demon whom he barely defeats and almost dies, but love saves him at the last minute as the princess swears to marry him if he lives. Her father, unfortunately, perishes in the melee. Our hero marries the princess and, in honour of his departed father, leads the army to cleanse the land of Overheria and Rhihttheretu of demons and magicians. Lots of people die but the end of the world is avoided and the gods are happy…probably…
 
Of course, history does either tend to be written by the victors or to flatter them and ensure the writer retains the ability to continue writing…and breathing, of course.
 
History and Myth
 
We are pretty much certain these days that a great many of the old stories are not accurate representations of events. We are less credulous as a society than people once were, blame it on knowledge. Back when many of the older stories were written, great swathes of the world were unexplored, unknown, and undocumented. Monsters could live there because nobody could say for sure that they did not.
 
People had few other forms of entertainment so liked to tell and be told stories on dark winter nights. Their lives were also quite short and brutal in earlier times; ordinary people had rather unfulfilling lives or constant work and few prospects. Hearing tales of a common man going on adventures and eventually becoming king was bound to go down well, give them something to dream about.
 
That’s the purpose of stories, really, isn’t it? To give people something to believe in outside of the humdrum of normal existence. That the good people will triumph over the evil, that common people can do uncommon things, that there is a sense of justice to the world. Each era has it’s fashions in stories; in medieval times, the common man getting one over on the aristocracy or the church was popular. In today’s time, the unregarded individual, who is often persecuted for being different is found to be different because of a previously undiscovered heritage which makes them uniquely suited to save the world and gain romantic affirmation.
 
Stories are a way of escaping our everyday lives; they always have been and they always will be; they are about finding sense and meaning in a world where such things are in short supply. We like to believe that these things can happen because if they can’t, then what’s the point?
 
The Persistence of Belief
 
Heroes of the Ancient Greek, Roman and similar eras were the action movie stars of their day. The gods were both the stars and vilains, depending on who the hero was. It was like a great series where you never know what’s going to happen next, who’ll form an alliance with whom, who’d get jealous of which other god, who’d father or mother a demi-god to commit heroic or villainous acts next. It was like that rather popular fictional series involving dragons everyone liked.
 
The grand an heroic heroes of the scrolls were the embodiments of justice, fairness, and nobility that everyone could aspire to and admire. The villains were everything the people disliked at the time or those on charge disapproved of. Often subtle stabs at those in power found their way into them. They had to be subtle in those days because the reaction from an those in charge rarely would be. Critics? Oh dear, I’d rather get figuratively stabbed in the heart than actually…
 
These days we look for more depth because ideals and paragons are no longer our thing. We still like the justice and reason behind everything parts. Our world, in spite of the vast increase in knowledge and education, still hasn’t found where Truth and Justice live. Governments are still filled with egotistical liars, the poor still suffer more than they should, life is much unfairer than it needs to be, the status quo see-saw tends to be much heavier at one end than it is on the other.
 
It is no coincidence that the majority of villains we see suffering a variety of dramatic deaths in movies are mega-rich people of highly questionable morals and an enjoyment for taking over the world by killing all the poor folks. The hero is usually a working – middleclass nobody who gets an unexpected chance to restore the balance and take out the rich guy that makes their life unfair and miserable.
 
Yet, as much as our fiction appears to be making the rich pay for their crimes and suchlike, we desperately want to join them also. Billionaires coming down from their high eeries to notice a much-ignored nobody and make them rich too is quite a common theme also. It seems like quite a lot of people are not happy with their position is society and are seeking all kinds of ways to get out.
 
Conclusion
 
The truth is not as important as the dream. Nobody feeling in need of a cheering up picks up a history book or looks for a documentary on famous dynasties, well some people might but fewer in number than those that won’t.
 
We all like to believe that the world can be fair, that a reward awaits those who live well and are good, that there are heroes out there somewhere, opposing the evil we see in everything. We like to think that people will get what they deserve, especially if it isn’t good. We like to believe that fairytale love exisits and will come to sweep us off of our feet. We like to believe we could be attractive, powerful, in control, and decisive.
 
We read about it because we can escape for a while from reality and dip our toes into the fantastical and truly believe that if it can happen to them, then maybe it can happen to us one day too.

You May well be Good Enough

‘Can it be possible for a thing to be too perfect?’ asked Fulgrim. ‘Surely everything that is beautiful and noble is the product of reason and calculation.’  ‘Great art isn’t about reason, it’s about what comes from the heart’ said Ostian. ‘You can work with all the technical perfection in the galaxy, but if there is no passion, then it is a wasted effort.’ ‘There is such a thing as perfection’, snapped Fulgrim, ‘and our purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth. Everything that limits us we have to put aside.’ Fulgrim, Graham NcNeill
There is a phrase I am seeing more and more often on social media today. It seems like a somewhat good phrase, it seems useful as perhaps a measure but a measure against whom?
“I am not good enough”, “I want to be good enough”, “you are good enough”; many variations thereof. It means you are either striving to, can easily arrive at, or have achieved some degree of minimum measure. Who is it though, that decides the measure? What is good enough?
I don’t want to be good enough, to me that sounds like admitting defeat…
The Pursuit of Perfection
It has often been said that the goal is everything is to achieve perfection, that one can do it. Our friend Fulgrim, in Graham’s excellent fall from grace biopic (or ‘Fulgrim goes down to Georgia’ as I’ve jokingly called it), devotes his life to achieving perfection in all things, he cannot accept the idea that he, with his mental, physical, and genetic advantages cannot achieve perfection.
We will stop there so that we don’t ruin a good story for one and because we have other points to make. We will come back to this one later, though.
Let us explore what ‘Good Enough’ means, shall we? The Oxford English Dictionary tells us;
ADJECTIVE
Satisfactory, adequate.
Adequate. Satisfactory. It feels like we have just passed a test and been awarded a gold star by some unseen authority. It feels like we received a participation trophy. It sounds like ‘Just OK’, think about that, do you want to produce an adequate, OK, mediocre piece of art or do you want to produce a great piece of art?
Now, the pursuit of perfection is all well and good but completely impossible to attain in a mortal lifetime. One can chase it, one can seek and fight for it but one must hold firm in one’s mind that to think one could ever actually be perfect in any way is inviting madness to settle themselves into the spare room and start going through the fridge.
Perfection is a moving target, the closer you get to it, the further away it moves. To think that you can catch it would be an exhausting and frustrating affair. It would also mean asking our friend insanity to sign a lease and start moving their stuff in permanently. Fulgrim fell because of this one of those famous – ah – fatal failures; pride.
In the Name of Love
What’s an obscure musical reference in the name of love? Our Irish friends had a rather valid point, though, in that excellent song. If you now have the guitar solo stuck in your head, you are very much welcome.
Pride is not, necessarily, a bad thing as long as you know when to let it go. This is either a skill you learn, or a quality you have; I haven’t decided what I think yet.
Pride, as regulars of my comments and blog know, is something I place great store in when it comes to our work. I have discussed with many of the ‘let the editors fix the bad grammar and spelling’ or the ‘language is constantly evolving so those old rules of grammar and spelling don’t necessarily apply because they’re changing’ brigade or similar groupings.
One must have pride in one’s work, pride to produce the very best that one is capable of. Equally, one would be, therefore, ashamed if people were to see my work as anything close to inferior. I pulled 9 books from Amazon and other outlets because they needed to be polished and they truly weren’t.
Let me use an example, for those of you who have children or intend to. Would you take your children outside in dirty clothes, dirty faces, and uncombed hair? Why not? You love your children unconditionally and, to you, they are beautiful even when covered with spew at 5am. Other people will just accept them as they are and anyone that judges you is a nasty individual who doesn’t understand.
There is a reason that we have whole websites dedicated to people who have a very ‘come as you are’ attitude to late night shopping at stores such as Walmart. I would at least make a half-hearted effort to look mid-way presentable under those circumstances even if I didn’t feel like it.
Some people might call that caving to social pressure but I call it pride. You see, those that know me are very much aware that I really have no interest in what other people think about me; I don’t follow the latest fashions, I wear clothes I’m comfortable in or that were thoughtful gifts. I style my hair as I like it, I go to work and do my job then go home. I owe nothing to nobody except my wife, family, and close friends.
My work does not follow trend or fashion either. I write what I want to write, in a style I’m good at writing in. I’m also going to make damn sure that my writing goes out into the world as well-presented – with its face washed and hair nicely combed – as I can make it.
The Quest For Excellence
It is said that, if you aim for perfection, you will at least reach excellence. Just because perfection is unachievable, there is no reason not to try, right? Now, many are confused by the dichotomy; why put all that effort into trying to achieve something you know you cannot ever hope to reach? While, you hasten to add, tempering your pride whilst also taking it in your work?
Well, nobody ever said that this was going to easy, did they? Let me try and explain how I see it;
  1. Take pride in the quality of your work. It’s your work and therefore your responsibility. You cannot count on other people to do your job for you.
  2. At the same time, do not let pride blind you; you might think your work is perfect or reaching perfection when it is actually a mess of clashing chaos Slaanesh would be proud of. Accept and listen to feedback because you’re too close to see flaws. Accept constructive criticism.
  3. It is a careful balancing act to be a writer; you do have to practise, we have to develop, and you have to make mistakes. You are learning not what is right in general but right for you as you develop your own style.
  4. Have the pride to know when your work is good and be able to tell the difference between constructive criticism and simple sabotage on your confidence. If you have sufficient pride in your work, you have the ability to recognise when it can be improved.
  5. If you aim for perfection, you will at least approach excellence. Know, however, when to stop; you can ruin a good scene or piece of art by over-improving or over-editing. I’ve ruined many portraits of Sable by trying to refine this feature or that. He ended up looking like an angry old man!
So; what does that mean? It means that this is a far from easy job that you learn as you go along. That is where ‘good enough’ comes from. If you focus on achieving perfection as your only goal, you will never finish because everything will have a flaw or two. I have re-read scenes I have written and gone on to self-publish the book they are in. I see flaws, better ways to say things, another way to take a thread, ways to make the jokes funnier but I have to leave them alone.
Remember every lesson you learn and apply it to your next book or piece of art. What I would call my first generation character portraits were, to me, quite good when I produced them. They were good enough for the purpose I had given them. They filled empty spaces on The Chronicles of Enoch generation one website. They gave people ideas of concepts.
But, I later decided, they could be better, they didn’t quite fulfil my vision. I could do better, and that’s the secret I’m leading you towards here.
You can be as Good as you Allow Yourself to Be.
Here it is, why “good enough” should never be; first or maybe second drafts might be good enough but you can do better.
Generation One of The Chronicles of Enoch Character Portraits were good enough but the current generation are much better. In some cases, the alterations were minor and nobody but me would notice them but they made the end result better. On other occasions, the old portrait was scrapped and a new one produced. The Stranger, oddly enough, had the most redesigns. The posture, attitude, background, and appearance of ‘him’ now perfectly represents ‘his’ character. The new Lucifer pleases me immensely, that expression and posture of barely suppressed rage and veiled threat sums him up rather well.
The hard part is learning when you can improve and when you need to start again as well as when you need to leave well alone. That is why most successful or famous writers recommend at least three full self-edits on a manuscript after first draft. I had a series of chats with Ian Irvine, a very successful sci-fi fantasy author and he does four or five quite often. His reasoning is this; yes, the publisher’s editors will fix things but he is obliged – by his own internal code – to send them the very best version of his work that he is capable of.
Editors are for fixing basic grammar and the odd spelling mistake or few that you missed. They are not for continuity errors, character flaws, plot holes, or for fixing a badly put together story. Your job as to give the editor as little work to do as possible. Might sound counter-productive if you’re paying them yourself and they charge by the page or by the word, right?
Wrong. If there is a lot to fix, then they might miss stuff because it gets lost in the mess. If you have fewer errors, they can pay those better attention and be more adequately focussed on how to fix them well. Also, said editor will like you and maybe start to offer you discounts as time goes by. Do not forget, many editors are readers, some of them are writers, and all of them have contacts they can put a good word to about you.
Also, be aware, there are agents on twitter and they watch…don’t you Jo?
Conclusion
Simply put, you need a combination of pride, humility, integrity, and grit to be a successful writer. You need to make sure that the world at large sees the very best version of everything you produce and you need to make sure you do everything in your power to make that so.
You might think that the “grammar police” on Facebook and Twitter are a pain but they are actually good practise. If you try to get out of the habit of allowing spelling and grammar mistakes unnecessary place in your ‘professional’ social media posts, you might allow them to wander innocently into your work.
You see, achieving excellence in anything is about discipline and, ask any former soldier, that discipline will, once you’ve got it, leak into every single aspect of your life. It won’t be something you can turn on and off on demand, it will become a part of your character.
Oddly enough, agents are not looking for the number of followers you have, the number of books you have self-published or the number of fans your work may have. They are looking for discipline. You see, when an agent offers you a contract, they are making an investment. An investment of money, of time, and of their reputation and they are making it in you.
They want to see that discipline I mentioned because, if they are to get long-term return on their investment, they need that, to be sure you’ll keep producing. The publishing houses, too, are looking for the same and want to hear the agent tell them about you in those terms. They are going to be giving you money based on future sales of your book, they would like to know they will recoup at least that much, that they can rely on you when necessary.
Take Neil Gaiman, for example, the man is rarely at home. He is always on the go, touring by himself or with Amanda and the kids, promoting, selling, show-running, getting involved. I can guarantee you that there are days that he doesn’t want to do it (and I think occasionally having a problem committing to my 1 blog post a day goal) but he has that pride and that disciple and he does it. Look how he almost died of flu in Australia but kept going. He is not alone.
Being a successful author of the kind you want to be does not mean having all the time in the world to relax and write, not always. Some successful writers are busier than you can imagine but, it will pay off. Look at Stephen King, he’s done all of that and now he’s relaxing, watching Netflix, and making snarky yet entertaining comments on Twitter (I love you really, Steve).
If you want to be Steve, you have to work like Neil and observe his work ethic. There’s a reason my emails to people like Anne Rice got the ‘too busy to answer you’ reply (though Miss Anne did it in such a lovely way and you can tell she wrote it herself which counts for something) when you send them an excerpt or hello request; they really are too busy! Their schedules would make a great many of you cry, believe me.
So; Integrity (be honest with yourself and as critical of your output as you need to be in order to assure your best possible work), Discipline (to make and stick to goals, to push yourself when you don’t feel like it or feel ‘writer’s block’ exculpating itself into either your mind or vocabulary), Focus (on what is important and on what to improve and when to stop), Honesty (with yourself and everyone you deal with), Excellence (never stop chasing it, not ever).
That is, indeed, it, although it is a process and that is why your will never achieve perfection. You can keeping improving and maybe catch a sight of it through the bushes and try to sneak up on it before it sees you but that time is much hard work away.

Entitlement vs Resentment

“When they discover the centre of the universe, a lot of people will be very disappointed that they are not in it”
 
Well here’s a polemic one but one I think is important. I have actually been thinking of this one for a while but two factors brought out in the urge to write about it today;
 
Having recently re-read the pretty darn decent “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson (if you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so).
Watching mediocre writers get all hissy whenever someone tells them their work is not perfect.
 
So, Alan, is this a bad mood you are in today? No Sir/Ma’am/Other it is not, simply a realistic assessment of what I see around me but thank you for asking.
 
We live a world where everything comes easily; news, information, entertainment, fantasy, desire, products, movies, love, even groceries; they all come right to our device in the blink of an eye and the click of a mouse. Everything is easy and comes when we want it to, pretty much. I want a movie to watch? I go to website Z and stream it, watch it, my need is satisfied, one bunny is now happy! Is it a good thing, though, that everything is easy? Well…
 
I watch my Facebook feed, my Instagram feed (if it’s actually also called that, I don’t know) and I see it all the time..
 
  1. Oh! My x, y and z is doing this and I feel so, like oh about it, please pity me!
  2. Life is awful and we all need to commit suicide and write sad poems about it so people will like our pages and make us cool.
  3. My random musings about the nature of how important my suffering is are going to be the Unholy Grail of vampiric, suicidal,S&M, magical creatures with gender uncertainty issues!
 
The list goes on and on. There is a ready and immediate place for people to express themselves immediately and, to a degree, anonymously, and express themselves they do. The lonely and rejected can (and this is where it starts to get really ironic) meet lots of other lonely and rejected people so they can share their feelings of loneliness and rejection together. It’s becoming dangerous though, look at that whole “Blue Whale” game and “13 Reasons Whu-Ay-Uh-Aaaaay Did they make it??”.Ooooh let’s commit suicide and self harm the enthusiastic teenagers cry! What the sweet and holy f is going on??
 
Entitlement, that’s what. The world owes me something. I am important. My feelings are important. You must listen to me. You must allow me to express myself. You must accept me for what I am. You cannot judge me. You cannot criticise me.
 
Excuse me but why? If I must accept you in all your grey non-confOrmist conformity, then you had better accept me in mine and, in the words of the great Denis Leary;
 
I’m asshole and proud of it!
 
When it comes to being forced, pushed and obligated to accept someone because they feel that I should. No Sir/Ma’am/Other I am not obliged in any way.shape or form to do what you want me to. If your entitled right to do such things is to be accepted by me, my right to disagree with you in an asshole-like fashion is equally acceptable, correct?
 
Ok then, I am glad we agree, thank you.
 
Another field of entitlement has clearly affected us all and is right out there. I bet you most of us have used it. I know I have, our little dirty secret called “Self Publishing”…ooooh I said a dirty word! It used to be called, a long time ago, “Vanity publishing” but they realised that didn’t sell too well as people really do not like having the negative sides of themselves revealed do they? Unless they’re of that group of folks who talk about those kinds of feelings a lot, that is! It is what it is though, we are appealing to our own vanity are we not, somewhat? Think about it and drop me some ideas in the comments, ok? I’ll skip over that and press on.
 
We are certain, we are definite that we have produced a masterpiece and it should be made known to the world entire lest they wither and die in it’s absence. As many of you know, pre self publishing, getting your Magnum Opus into print was a Herculean effort very few achieved. We could spend our entire lives trying; canvassing agents, entering contests, submitting to circulars and journals or magazines. We could spent 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more getting rejection slip after rejection slip and that was if we were lucky! Most of the time we got nada, nothing, zipperoo! I’ve been there, many of us have. it was rough but, you know what? We kept at it and here we are today.
 
Now do you know what the opposite of entitled is? I believe it is this; knowing what you are, what your limitations are and just accepting them, being at home in your own skin. You need no validation from anyone and so do what you like because it’s pleasant. You expect nothing from anyone and so, when you fail to receive it, you’re not disappointed, you’re actually sort of relieved because that’s less hard work isn’t it?
 
In my opinion these entitled writers are never going to be successful, not in the long term. No more than these recycled pop groups, TV, books and movies will, they will rise, they will vanish, they will be forgotten. Why? There is so much information overload out there that lastest best thing will soon be replaced by next best thing before the former can even blink.
 
How can we be successful then? We have to learn how to grow, to not be entitled, to not be arrogant and think that we can do no wrong. We must be prepared to be a failure, to be discovered and exposed as failures and then have the wherewithal to stand up, dust off our pants and ask the most important question in the universe;
 
“What did we learn from that then?”
 
 

A Sublime Supremacy of Being

Religion is as necessary to reason as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason, in attempting to account for the phenomena of Nature, had he not a supreme being to refer to; and well has it been said, thatt if there had been no god, mankind would have been obliged to invent one.” George Washington.
 
Since the dawn of recorded Time, or at least the parts that we know about, Man has encountered things they did not understand. Gifted with curiousity but not, unlike Mr. Stark, either blessed or curséd with knowledge.
 
A Natural Urge toward Following
 
As children expect their parents to have the answers for everything, so too do the led expect their leaders to have access to something similar. Afterall, why have a leader who is, when you get down to it, exactly like the rest of us?
 
See, it is human nature to follow around the biggest one or, at least, the person that has the most big ones in his employ, rather than decide things for themselves. Humans like to delegate responsibility for the big stuff and then complain about how they are doing it. It was eventually called politics.
 
The crops fail. The leader needs to fix that.
Terrible storms unexpectedly wash away Mister Uga’s House. Leader’s fault, right?
People from across the river stealing our sheep? Leader needs to do something about that.
 
Now, with the simple things such as executions and imprisonment, taxes, border security, etc. the Leader has it relatively easy. He collects taxes, he pays soldiers, job pretty much done. The more metaphysical stuff like weather and geographical phenomena though…no amount of soldiers can help there…
 
So, one day, the Leader of UgUgBurk sits down with a wizened old man who everyone has always considered so crazy he came through the other side and is actually considered stark, raving sane; there’s a certain wisdom can be obtained from someone like that. They don’t think in straight lines like other people; they get creative.
 
The leader needs creative because his tribe has been going through a lot and, of course, he’s to blame. He would like his future to continue containing him for as long as possible. The old man sucks his gums and wrinkles his face in concentration. He hums and mutters, rocks and moans. He holds up a finger.
 
“Ever’thin’ had to come from somewhere, right?” He finally states rather than asks, nodding to himself wisely; his face so wrinkled that, from this angle, it is impossible to know whether his eyes are open or not. “Man comes from mother, foal from mare, kid from nanny, always been that way.”
The leader pulls at his straggly beard in thought and, taking a slug of his fermented goat’s milk. He nods slowly.
“So ever’thin had to come from somethin’, right?” the old man continued, eying the drink jealously, he hadn’t even been offered any, shortages they said. “Yer don’ jus’ get eggs pop outta nowhere with chickens in ’em, right?”
This was indeed correct and realisation was starting to dawn on the leader’s face.
“So, there’s this big fella in the sky who makes ever’thin and makes sure it keeps happening. Made the first people coz we don’ fall in raindrops or nuffin, right?”
The hand grasping the horn beaker of fermented milk was shaking, knuckles whitening.
“So, like we’s responsible fer our own kiddos, and ye’s responsible fer all a’ them lot,” he jerked a ragged-nailed hand to the flap of the tent. “Him or her in’t sky be responsible fer us, right?”
“So it is his fault.” the leader finally spoke, his word coming out like two bolders grinding together.
The old man beamed, something the leader never wanted to see him do again. He drained his drink and slammed the cup down on the little table beside his chair. “You are the high priest, get started.”
 
And so it began…
 
The Supreme Being
 
Now, this is not to say that there is not some supreme being or beings out there. There is about as much evidence for the existence of God, or a god/goddess, as there is for their non-existence; something people call an impasse. I am agnostic in my opinions, more of a spiritual type, much to the suprise of many.
 
I think people can believe in whoever they like as long as it does no harm to others. Now, of course, those associated with certain religions have, indeed, been using their religion as an excuse to commit or cover for acts decent people consider reprehensible. They rely on the fact that most people like to be led and told what to do rather than think for themselves, and lead the most impressionable of these to their cults which, if one were to be honest, bear no more resemblence to the original message of their supposed prophet than a strawberry does to a banana.
 
Common sense and logic tells you this; the movement started by a humble Israelite who espoused selling one’s possessions to aid the poor, being nice to everyone, and free healthcare would not approve of gigantic churches, presided over by obnoxious bombasts who collect millions of dollars from their followers. He had simpler tastes and would probably do something drastic to such a church were he to personally enter one.
 
A reasoning being, one would think, would be able to work this out with no trouble but, here’s the clincher, it seems that reasoning beings are in rather short supply on this planet. People will believe anything a grinning rich person tells them to believe.
 
You see, human beings are essentially programmed to believe in something superior to themselves that is without mortal fault and of unimpeachable reputation. Be this being the King, the Queen, The Emperor/Empress, President, Grand Dictator/Benevolent People’s Happy Man, god, goddess, or combination of the previous. Be it the rich TV or movie star, the music sensation, the businessperson with more money than people can invent a real number for, it does not matter. What matters is that they’re better than you.
 
Here’s a test; British people, can you imagine Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, sitting on watching TV with ol’ Phil, leaning to one side of her armchair and unleashing a titanic fart? If you can, well done, for you have passed the test.
 
The point is, in these supposedly enlightened days, it is still the predominant belief in human societies across the world that there is a ‘Ruling Class’ of people that have the automatic Right to Rule and are, by dint of this, better and superior to everyone else.
 
Since the first big bloke with a the biggest stick belted the next biggest one into unconsiousness and looked over at the rest of the group to see if any of them wanted to be the next to develop a headache, this behaviour has been built into us. Since the first social ladder was built, there have always been people prepared to stab others in the feet to get a little higher up it.
 
When it will occur to people that nobody who cheats, lies, steals, brown-noses, or smarms their way to the top, they are not going to be a nice person. They are going to be a selfish and egocentrical individual, that is the only way they can achieve such heights as it were, in the certain knowledge that they deserve it and others do not.#
 
The New Gods
 
As Neil Gaiman so accurated represented in his book and TV series, American Gods, the human desire to create gods to believe in is unending. In today’s modern world, many have moved from worshipping what we might call the ‘Traditional’ or ancestral gods to adoring the new gods; the famous, the wealthy, the internet, the things they wish to possess and those that represent them, the glitzy versions of the old gods.
 
Even apparent atheists or wavering agnostics firmly and passionately believe in something even if that something is that this person in that television series is the sexiest being alive, that this TV show is the best in the existence of television, that this performing artist outperforms all others, that this vehicle is superior to all others, that this sports team embodies the sport like no other, or that this politician is the perfect person to fulfil this political role. They believe, they have faith, they reject dissenting opinion, they have a creed of sorts, they have multiple scripture relating to the subject of their adoration; that equals religion does it not? It fulfils all the criteria.
 
Create or Created
 
Of course there are many theories about belief. The previous section touched on an important one which I think Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have explained much better than I ever will.
 
The competing ideas are these;
 
Faith in something, belief in it causes it to come into being if there is enough and disappear if there is not.
 
The existence of something creates belief once it is revealed and any belief in it helps to sustain it.
 
To simplify that, our belief in concepts either creates personifications of it that we direct our worship towards or our worship of concepts sustains the real force behind everything.
 
That is why I am careful to avoid assigning a specific name to The Creator in The Chronicles of Enoch. I use this as an example because it is, as it turns out, a good one.
 
In the Chronicles we have;
 
  • Angels and demons as well as nephilim who know The Creator exists and have often met Him (the male pronoun is only used because ‘It’ is considered disrespectful and because of the force of habit. Also the reality is rather too complicated to translate well into English).
  • Various Christians, lapsed or otherwise, who worship various versions of God and Jesus.
  • Various Jewish denominations who worship and call Him ‘Hashem’.
  • Nature-worshippers who adore and serve The Mother or various representations of Her.
  • Cultists that worship Lucifer but acknowledge the existence of the Judeochristian God.
  • Muslims who worship Allah.
  • Hindus who worship their gods.
  • Buddhists and Taoists who worship a formless force.
  • Athiests who worship (though they don’t often realise that is what they are doing), many of the newer forces.
 
If a Creator Exists
 
This is, I feel, important to explore, for the sake of completeness and enquiry. Let us extend, at least, the theoretical possibility that a Creator does exist and is a living, eternal being; what would that being be like?
 
Let us be clear, were this being to exist, it would be responsible for the Big Bang and everything in existence. It did not just create life on Earth but everywhere else too (unless it has help now that it did the main part of creation and made the universe. Maybe each galaxy or solar system has its own Creator but for now let us assume there is only one for our Universe.
 
Such a being would, let us be honest, so far beyond our ability to comprehend as we are to the bacteria that living within and upon us do. We are their entire world, their life and their death. They have no idea that we are a living creature so vast from their perspective. Maybe they have theories or even a religion or two; intelligent ideas based on observation. Our opinions on intelligence are very much skewed by ours being the superior and only kind, afterall.
 
If this being exists, then our universe did not when it decided to create it. There was, so various beliefs claim, a formless void. We could never, being from a material universe and made of that universe, the idea of absolutely nothing in our terms, is impossible to imagine. Even a vacuum can have light in it or something. This would be the absence of Light, possibly of Time, and of any material or physical laws we are familiar with. That is where this being came from.
 
He, if such a limited idea of gender could be applied, is so alien that even aliens – all of them throughout the universe – would consider Him alien. It would be a being that created our natural laws but would not be, by definintion, subject to them (just like those that create religions appear exempt to the laws they give their followers).
 
If such a being is aware of us as individuals, it is unlikely that it would be concerned about our behaviour in anything approaching minute detail, I would think but, again, how could I know? We’re talking about an intelligence, here, that is beyond my ability to even start to define, from a ‘universe’ or multiverse I could not even begin to adequately make up in my writing.
 
Perhaps we have the over all Supreme Being and lesser, locally Transcendant beings that take care of the smaller details and paperwork?
 
Conclusion
In the Chronicles of Enoch, we have the existence of The Creator together with the main Judeochristian pantheon. We also have the gods of various faiths appear (though most of them were nephilim) as well as beings we cannot explain the existence of; beings which appear to predate the angels or were, at least, there on Earth before the angels arrived to Watch.
 
Religion does not answer all of humanity’s questions because religion was hijacked by Lucifer in his first major operation in undermining the human race, he went a long way to ensure that message was as fragmented and confusing as possible; to give humans a least a nugget of doubt, deep down in their souls, that they truly were all alone in the universe and that their faith would be, ultimately, all for nothing. That is where our friend, The Stranger comes in.
 
We, instead, float a spiritual idea or several and let people decide for themselves what they want to take from it all. The angels are real, there is a Creator, there is a devil, there are demons of all descriptions. Those stories are all real. We have the Apocalypse and the Horsemen thereof, so that story is also real but not completely, our version is missing quite a lot of important information. For example, this is not the first Apocalypse, something went wrong with the last one.
 
The Creator plays no active part in the series at all. He is present, He is mentioned (in a variety of guises), and is said to be behind it all but He never takes the stage as it were. I made no effort to explain something I could not possibly describe aside from other’s impressions of Him and their experiences.
 
I made a very deliberate point to keep most of the characters originating from the Biblical accounts to be familiar in many ways but have a few jarring or unusual details in order to communicate that the story had been corrupted.
 
Whether there is a Creator or not, or even a multitude of them, I cannot say, though it is my personal opinion that it is likely. I am just of the opinion that nobody really knows very much about them because, perhaps, thngs have been carefully arranged that way.
 
Perhaps if we took all the good belief in such a being brings out in people and forgot all of the very confused dogma humans with an agenda – humans who were after exercising power over others and taking the blame away from themselves – added on later, the world would be a better place.
 
Maybe, in it’s own small way, that is what The Chronicles hope to achieve.

Self Publishing 101

To self-publish or not to self-publish, that is the question,
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer,

The stress and chaos and outrageous fortune,

That can be involved in such an endeavour,

Or take to searching thee for a fine agent,
And with a contract, end them?

So, you have decided to get your book finished or in progress and you are feeling great and very, very writerly indeed. You stop, perhaps, and ask yourself, now what? Now we have, of course the joyfully soul destroying traditional method; query letter after query letter, paying for edits, putting together your marketing portfolio; followed by the rejection slips, the nicely worded emails, the more than likely whole lot of nothing before you maybe get one good lead and an offer. You also have the insane world of self-publishing.

What is self-publishing? Well, there are websites where you can upload your manuscript for free and put together an eBook and, sometimes, even a paperback for sale online. Yes, I said FREE, no cost to yourself but your time. There must be drawbacks, though, I hear you cry, and there must be a catch or more than one, surely. There are of course and here they are;

1). You have to format, edit and proofread your book yourself, or have someone do it for you professionally, which costs money.

2). You have to design your own cover too and, if you want to be seen and compete, it needs to be a good one, so you either use the cover designer some of said sites have or make your own. For that you need a good image to use and some design skills. Or, again, pay someone who does.

3). All of the promotion and marketing is completely, 100% on you. They will host your book and provide a place to sell it but that is about it, unless you pay them for it.

4). It might not sell altogether that very well and what are you going to do about that?

Simply put, it is going to cost you a lot of time and effort; sweat, blood and tears; it may even take over your life for a time and upset some of your family and friends maybe but so too will the tradition route and that might cost you more. So how do we do it then? Here is my guide and also resource for getting up and started, I will recommend some of the stuff I have done but, in the end, just like getting that book written and written well, it is up to you.

I have, so far, done all of it myself. I have some half-decent graphic design skills I’ve picked up over the years and a love of digital artwork. I managed to come up with some great covers (and some awful ones, we live and learn) as well as character artwork (again, middling to decent but improvement has occured) so I made my website, set up the look of my books and designed some covers and book marketing material myself.

Word of warning though; I had to pull NINE books from Amazon because I noticed that they were full of spelling and grammar errors AFTER I had published them which is that the best time for that to happen. That can put a dent on one’s reputation. In fact, even when posting on social media be careful, bad spelling or grammar can turn people off and you have all surely seen how some members of the writer’s groups can be….I really don’t miss Facebook at all now that I think about it.

Here is what I have refined down to the essential Six-Step Programme;

Step One; Have your manuscript or at least be seriously working on it!

This may sound self evident to some but, believe me, I belong to a lot of different Facebook writer’s groups, I see an awful lot of people floating concepts, and talking badly about other people’s work but seeming to produce none of their own. Talking about your Magnum Opus is not going to get it written. Sit down. Get a pen and paper (or laptop/desktop/etc.), brew some coffee and get started!

Step 2; Proofreading and Editing.

You will have your own method, you may choose to have beta readers (family and friends may work as long as they can be completely objective. My sister is a fine example, she was very honest, often brutally so.), you may decide to do it yourself. If you choose the latter settle in for a task, which may last longer than the actual act of writing itself did. It is an onerous task, granted, but would you try to sell your car when it’s full of trash and dirty? Well! Good luck with that, then.

Here is the boiled down version. You are expecting people to hand over their hard earned money for a book from someone they have probably not even heard of, based on what you present to them. For example Amazon offers it’s “Look Inside” feature and people use that. If they spot a spelling mistake or bad choice words, they probably won’t buy it.

Here is a secret for you; I am a father of five, I work a full time job with crappy hours. Two of my children are three years old; twins, girls…oh yes! Free time is not something I get a whole lot of. My wife helps but then my wife takes care of them all day long doesn’t she, while I’m at work. So I was less than diligent at first when I entered this game, due to my reduced free time and regular distractions. I learned the hard way how quickly a typo or error, bad phrasing or bad book blurb can turn someone off. Take my advice, the word of experience, do it right. Take the time, make the time, sweat that blood, it’s good for you. Sweat ink, you’re a writer!

Step Three; Choose your Launch Platform

There are many options out there, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I chose Amazon myself and I stand by that decision but am moving onto other platforms too. My advice? Focus on one as your initial launch platform and then migrate to others. Why? You are married to this venture now, if you want it to succeed, you have to keep pushing and pushing until it does. Remember Sisyphus? That’s right, you’re going to need a thick skin but I’ll get to that later.
Here is a great rundown of those online publishing platforms (I have no shame to direct to other people’s work, this is a guide not an essay);

There are several new ones around now too;

Kobo.com ; Offer their own bookstore, just like Amazon and a few others but are tidy and claim to be one of the best out there, they focus on eBooks only but this is a very much growing market and is proving to be quite larger than traditional paperback. I think that is a shame, eBooks don’t smell the same but that’s me.

Nookpress.com ; The Barnes & Noble eBook flagship but also offering paperbacks too, they have stores after all. Their own store and brand but very easy to use and navigate. Quality is key here as their standard s are high.

Smashwords.com can be quite the complicated fellow, not as hard as Nook but a close second! I do like them though because, once you get your formatting exactly right, they share your eBook everywhere and have a lot of promotions you can participate in to increase your exposure. The also post your eBook to Google Books and iBooks which are huge markets.

Those mentioned in the link and above are the only ones I would consider, personally. If you know of any others, which are worthy additions, let me know and we can do that.

Step 4; Marketing and Promotion

Telling your friends and family, while a good start, won’t be quite enough here, it’s going to need some of that hard work we have been talking about. Here is the my favoured 7-step approach;

1). Author profile on your chosen platform. You are selling your book and your work yes but, as with selling anything else as an individual, you are ultimately selling yourself. Make your author profile interesting, talk about yourself, your motivations to write, express your personality. Add a decent photo, if your photo is bad, people may well pass it by. Sad reality is that, when it comes to selling, appearance is everything.

2). Your book blurb. Just like your cover is what draws people to your book, your blurb is what is what makes people pay attention and decide on whether to actually purchase or not. If your blurb is not interesting, if it not engaging, if does not draw them in, they’ll probably not buy it.

3). A website and a blog. You are marketing yourself so you need an online presence. You need to make yourself interesting and you need to attract an audience. You need to create a persona, fulfil a need and engage people. Start a blog and post some interesting things. Think about it this way. A well-written and interesting blog post on your webpage means your book may be well written and interesting too. Also a blog is a good way to build yourself an audience and a following. In doing this, you are going to learn about something called SEO, your site’s ranking on the internet. This matters because the higher it ranks in search results, the more searches will find it. Ergo, the more people will visit your site as “walk by traffic”. We will touch on improving your SEO another time, because that it a topic all in itself.

You will also need to find a hosting site here;

is the page I used to choose mine. Do your research and decide which features matter to you most. A lot of these are free so it’s all about features and which model you think will fit your image and potential audience best.

4). A Facebook Author Page; Your personal Facebook page – with those embarrassing pictures and that video you don’t want everyone to see? Your shoe-gazing musings about the last episode of “People Upset about Their Lives Talking about How Upset They Are”, your favourite sources of humour – are these are things, which your audience should be associating with you, as a product? Do the buyer of a brand of toothpaste need to see how the toothpaste is made and how the workers who did it felt about the process? They probably do but it won’t sell much of that toothpaste! Same here; you need a professional looking ‘store front’ for your professional image in the social media world. Your Facebook Author Page is it. Add your website and other links here and make your profile engaging here too. Make your photo a good and attractive one again. Think about the design, think about how it represents YOU. Now you can post all your book and author related stuff from there, not your personal account.

I had an author profile Page and also series specific ones but those are no longer mine to update.

5). Facebook Groups; Join as many as you can. Another good way to get known and noticed is through networking. You can plug yourself and your work on groups by all means (some don’t like you to or only allow that on certain days, which the admins will usually advertise or will pin a post regarding these rules) but the key is to participate, participate, participate! Network, make contacts, get yourself respected and known. Of course if you’re going to participate remember, some of these people, being writers too, could end up helping or hindering your career. Think before posting or picking fights I always say. If you do need to post things, which may prove offensive or upset certain sections of society, especially your potential readership, use your personal account for groups and do not touch any of them with your Author account.

6). YouTube Account; again, making a new one for your Author persona might be advisable if you ever uploaded something from your personal Gmail account. Again, if it fits with the audience you are aiming for then cool but maybe clean slates are better eh? Video Blogging or Vlogging is a very popular media now too and you the saying “a picture can tell a thousand words”? Well a video can make your message one thousand times more effective, literally, if done well. My regular posts can get between 2-500 hits on average, my videos get between 2-5,000 on average. Maybe that has more to do with me being an incredibly handsome and charming man (ha-ha!) with a nice British accent and that I tend to post in the nude? To be serious, though, that is a true and genuine thousand-fold increase in traffic. A good 2-5 minute video posted on YouTube, then the link embedded on your website and blog and shared to some of those groups from your Author Facebook page.
7). Other Social Media; Twitter is essential because it is very popular and pretty much everyone famous has an account they tweet from regularly. I suggest you do the same. Share blog posts, book information and news, maybe tips and advice for other writers. We’re networking again here and you need to get noticed and seen. Follow famous writers and people, you might get a very lucky break if a post attracts their attention. I would also recommend Tumblr, Instagram, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. Again, new profile if you already have one (some of the web hosting sites I linked for your webpage building will give you free emails addresses or create a new one yourself using your provider of choice) is best, I feel to limit your material to writing based things only. Each one will serve a different purpose. Here is my model;
  1. Twitter; news, updates, releases, teasers, previews and networking. There is Live Video too but I’ll let you know about that once I get my new phone.

  2. Instagram; Blog posts (another tip, give your blog posts a good and relevant ‘cover’ image too), updates, teasers, trailers, and videos.

  3. Tumblr; Same as Facebook, find common interest type people, network and post your interesting things. It has a reputation for porn and other such stuff but it is great for increasing your presence. I copy every blog post to my account.

  4. Reddit; more of an agregator than an interctive space in my experience but perhaps I’m doing it wrong. Helpful way to get your tags, keywords, and links seen. I always share my blog posts here.

  5. Pinterest; Mainly images and collections here so more challenging but book covers, motivational type writing memes, graphical writer self help stuff; all of that can be helpful.
  6. Mastodon; quite new and unknown to many but a great Facebook/Twitter alternative without the restrictions and advertising. Very popular in Asia so great for #manga and #chibi artists and writers. Has a number of ‘spaces’ which are dedicated to different interests so you can find a specialised crowd there.
  7. MeWe; relatively new kid on the block but starting to gain some traction. Popular among ‘Facebook Exiles’ like myself. Very much community and chat-driven and popular with a younger audience. You will need to very proactively engage and network here.

Now, you might have noticed that this is starting to involve quite a bit of leg-work. You need to engage with your audience – or engage with people in order to create an audience at least – at least once a day. With as many different accounts and platforms as I am suggesting, that’s quite the handful. Indeed I am hearing cries of

“We DO need some time to actually write something, sort of, like, BOOK related, you know?”
You are, of course, completely right and there is a solution. It is called the Social Media Manager or Social Media Calendar. These lovely apps (some free, others with a free and limited version, others subscription only) allow you to register all of your social media accounts (or the mainstream ones in some cases) in the same place and through their interface, compose, set up, and ever schedule posts for what are considered the best times based on your audience activity (some of the smarter ones do that). They are, I will admit, a bloody lifesaver. Below are a couple I am familiar with;

Tweetdeck; predominantly Twitter oriented but very useful if Twitter is one of your dominant platforms. Completely free and unlimited as it is made by Twitter.

Buffer; quite useful as it provides real-time analytics and allows you to integrate your popular social media accounts. Limited free plan and three paid plans.
Hootsuite; More of a team or brand based platform. Very useful but has a lot of features a one person limited enterprise might not need. Does allow integration of some of the less well-known social media apps such as Mailchimp, Slack, and Trello. Free and paid plans.
Zoho Social; I got into trying this one because I use their free domain to email service (which I recommend, 5 email addresses for free, associated with your domain and quite easy to set up). It’s quite a decent and robust platform but only allows you to add on the Big Four of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, strangley Google My Business, which I do have but wasn’t expecting to use here). So, as a result of that, I also use…

Crowdfire; I discovered this one by accident and it is not that well known. It allows integration of pretty much all of the common social media channels and some of the less common ones. As with the other ones mentioned here, you’re limited on the free plan; to four social media accounts in the case of Crowdfire. One feature I like is that scrape stories from the internet based on your preferences and present them for you to share. They have an article section and a picture/meme section. I actually learned what I consider a clever trick here; I started to share those motivational memes that are popular and noticed the number of retweets and Instagram likes and mentions that they got. I had a quite literal “Aha!” moment and startled one of my daughters…it was hilarious but you had to be there. Here is a secret; all of those posts from Crowdfire include hashtags so, when you post it, the hashtags follow but you can edit before sending. Remove any you don’t like and add your own hashtags (your author name and book title without spaces is ideal) in. You get possibly hundreds of shares and your hashtags go up the charts. Instant SEO strengthening if you built those same keywords into your webpage. CoE went from page 3-4 of the Google results to page 1 because of that.
Now search for ‘Chronicles of Enoch’ and see that we pretty much dominate the results. That took a lot of hard work and some very creative thinking, I can tell you. I will not harp on about Seo here though, there is a seperate article all about that.

Step 5; Rinse & Repeat.

You are probably going to want to publish more than one book. Maybe you are happy with one, the achievement of having done it. Don’t get me wrong, please be proud, burst with pride, glow with it, you deserve it. Writing and completing a book is no mean feat. Bask in that feeling, by all means, if that is your goal. If it is not, get that smile off your face and get back to work!

You need to continue marketing and promoting yourself pretty much forever. The market for books, especially self-published ones, is huge and there is a ridiculous quantity of competition out there. At lot of it, in my opinion, shouldn’t be there, but this a free world and people are entitled to express themselves but there are avenues for that; blogs, Facebook groups, other social media and websites; not books. Too much of that type muddies the waters for those who are serious about their craft but are also too poor or occupied with living the day to day to follow the traditional route (or like me, too old to have the patience for it). I will not harp on about that topic because that is going to upset a lot of people, especially younger people but I am middle-aged and a parent so that is actually my other full time job. I am supposed to upset young people, at least certain young people who also happen to call me “Dad” at least!
Anyway, back to topic. You have a lot of competition out there. On average, 50,000 new self-published books are out there each and every year, and that number is increasing exponentially. Also, on average, only 40 of those books will actually be commercially successful. That is quite a statistic isn’t it? Let’s do the maths here that is actually 0.08%…not even one in a thousand, close but no cigar. That leads me to my sixth and final step.

Step 6; Grow a Pair and Thicken That Skin

You will be new to writing perhaps. You might be learning the craft or maybe you’re an old campaigner like me who’s just out of practise (a lot out of practise) and in need of retraining. It’s going to be a rough ride, I can tell you, make no mistake. You’re going to learn a few things, I hope. If you don’t learn them then your career as a self-published writer is probably going to be a short one. Let’s break this down;
1). You are likely to get criticism, perhaps a lot of it. Maybe your writing really does suck, I don’t know. Maybe mine does. We all think we have written THE book/short story/poem to end them all. We writers are not precisely a modest lot exactly, at least not when it comes to our word babies! Other people may not share your opinion nor enthusiasm. This being the internet they may be quite direct in expressing this opinion. My advice; smart little fishie do not bite, go the other way and out of sight. Sometimes it’s even possible they are jealous and putting you down makes them feel better.

2). Following from above, it’s a fine line between ignoring criticism because your work is beyond world changingly amazing and letting one jealous troll or helpful guide destroy your confidence entirely. Here is the actual very, very hardest part of them all. You have to be, must be 100% and completely and utterly honest with yourself. This is not important, it is essential. Grow a pair, step back and give a good and truthful opinion. Look at what was said, what criticism was given and read your work again to see if you can see what they mean. If you can, take it on the chin, learn the lesson and make sure that’s the only time you make that one. You’ll make others, you’re human. You should be used to it by now.

3). You probably won’t receive a jubilant call from your bank manager any time soon. Self- publishing gives instant gratification, it is true but it is really no different from the traditional publishing in many ways, one of them is that you cannot led people to bookstores at gunpoint and make them buy your book. Best Sellers take a lot of hard work, advertising and often the author (or supposed author a lot of the time) is famous already. Also, traditional Publishing Houses have their own marketing and that is all they do ; promote and advertise books. You’re doing it all, by yourself! Do not allow slow sales, blip sales (one, two or several then nothing) or no sales stop you or make you lose hope. Think of the phrase “Dance like nobody is watching” – OK I’ve done that but someone may have thought I was having a seizure and…well, it was embarrassing – you want to write like nobody is reading or better put; writing as if the whole world is reading.

4). You write for you, or you wouldn’t be here. If you do not write for you and your passion for the craft, you’d have stopped reading this already so never have gotten here. Well done, you passed the test! But remember, you need to write for you, for your passion and love of writing not for commercial success. You writing will have no art, no elegance, and no soul if you do that. It won’t be you. So do not let some bad opinions stop you! You write because you love it, you write because it is a release, it is therapy, whatever. It is yours and it owns you. You know this. So, those other people, well to badly misquote the Bard intentionally “my they enthusiastically fornicate with their own selves!”
5). Learn your lessons. We are none of us perfect, none of us knows everything. Not even me, you might be surprised to hear! I learn new things, refine my craft and change my writing a little bit every day. I have my style, this is true and I will keep my style. Not everyone is going to like my style but that’s alright, not everyone is going to read my book either. I don’t expect them to but those royalties would be unbelievable if they did! I will keep my style yes, because I am writing my work, not someone else’s, so I will not write as other people might. I am not them. However, if people tell me my word is over-wordy, indecipherable walls of words, which is very had and not enjoyable to read? Well, I need to take a look at that because I can guarantee they are not the only one who thinks that, just the only one to speak. Take feedback, learn from it. If someone says “your writing sucks, you sucks, it’s too hard to read and all one block of words I can’t understand! Oh and your mom is ugly!” You may well take offense but filter those words and look for anything, which may have merit in them. Not the part about your sainted mother, of course, she has the countenance of an angel! But take a look at your writing and ask yourself, is it easy to read or is it, actually, painful? Maybe break up those walls of words, split those paragraph long sentences into smaller ones and split those walls into paragraphs too.

6). Do Not, Not Ever, Give Up! You can do this, this is your passion, you dream! You will not, you cannot give up. I, for one, will not let you! I don’t care if you write about vampires who fall in love with Cthulu and make blood-sucking giant octopus babies together. I don’t care if everyone in your book is always lonely and sad and all commit suicide in overly dramatic ways. I don’t care if your book is about magical puppies that solve crimes in parallel universes. I don’t care if you write erotic Ewok fan fiction. I care that your passion is to write. We do not all like the same things; I tried to read some of my Mum’s favourite books and wanted to beat someone to death with it before I got halfway through, I have taken a look at what my teenager reads and it made me want to take it outside to be beaten into sense. I hate some genres and some styles of writing but those styles and genres are very popular with other people, got made into movies and inspired some of your, perhaps, to write fan-fic about them. Good on you! You go, you keep doing that, you march on forward and anyone who tells you that you should stop; shame on them and I again badly misquote the Bard! I might not read your work and, if I do, I may well not like it but I will NEVER tell you not to write or insult you personally. I am Old School, I have manners and was brought up as a human being. I may well give you suggestions and things I think might need improvement and I will do my best to be polite about it (though people have suggested I ask Denis Leary if I can license his theme song) and not hurt feelings. If I am right, I hope you take it on board and get better. If you do better than me; good on you! I applaud your success and wish you the very best and I hope it continues!
At the end of the day, that’s why I do this, I want your success. I am asking for a lot from God and the Universe for my own self so giving something back is important, plus I enjoy it!
I hope you find this useful and, as ever, if you have anything to add, message me, right?

New Horizons for The Chronicles

As you all may know (we have been rather vocal about it), The Chronicles of Enoch’s days on Facebook are over. Some might be discouraged by this but we refused to lie down and expanded our horizons. We are now developing our presence on alternative Social Media Networks that are less restrictive and more geared towards the artist.
 
Below you will find the links for our new profiles, please feel free to visit them;
 
 
As you are probably aware, we do not lie down and take what we consider to be discrimatory/targeted behaviour from Facebook but where will we, a small concern at the moment, get with fighting them? Nowhere fast is the probable answer to that one so we do not lament, we adapt.
 
We have also re-activated our old alternative blogs so that those of you that use WordPress or Medium can also follow us there should you wish to.
 
We would like to use our experiences as a two-pronged message for our readers; be careful how and what you post with Zuckerberg and do not let anything get you down.
 
When we lost the site that generated over 70% of our traffic and audience; visits and feedback going from 60+ a day to less than 10 overnight, it was quite a blow and we admit to feeling rather hard-done-by and dispirited by it all but we pulled ourselves back together and looked at alternatives.
 
Our readership has been steadily rising and, though progress remains slow, we are not dispondant, why would we be? Different options and changes equal new opportunity.
 
One place tried to gag us so we found places where that is not going to happen. We actually find it rather amusing because it wasn’t like we were posting anything which was offensive; it wasn’t racist, sexist, or descriminatory in any way. The only people it would have offended were those who have no actual reason to take offense because the truth should never offend, it should enlighten.
 
As we have mentioned previously; it is rather odd that The Chronicles of Enoch Facebook page is still alive and well. It just has not been updated for almost a month. We still get the occasional visit from that source which is indeed amusing.
 
I say this is simply a time when we all get to show our true colours and they certainly did show theirs.
 
Let us continue to show ours every day, right?