The Unlucky Man by HTG Hedges – 4/5 Stars

The Unlucky Man by HTG HedgesI don’t know what my expectations were for The Unlucky Man – I was looking for something dystopian, dark, and that I hadn’t read before – and believe it or not that’s what I got! I’d classify it as an urban dystopian fantasy with supernatural and thriller elements. Ultimately, it’s about ordinary man John Hesker who is talking with best friend Corg when a body smashes on top of their car. They’re questioned by an investigator called Whimsy, who is a man only half-interested in what they are saying and seems to ask his questions ‘on a whim’, so he was well-named. However, it’s not long before the dark elusive organisation called Control will send its most accomplished assassin Wychelo (like a witch with dark unnerving pools for eyes) to kill Jon and therefore hide its secrets. When a disturbing supernatural force is injected into Jon, he goes on the run, over Old Links bridge where there is no law and only savagery awaits.

Well, HTG Hedges has an eye for atmosphere and setting, which places the reader into a three-dimensional world that brought clarity and richness to every description of setting, and was applied consistently throughout. I’d say this was the best feature of his writing, and made me feel as if I was reading something new or rare. The writing from 76% captured me fully, immersing me into complete disorientation, which was the intention, into a graphic hell that was also somewhat pleasant on the senses to witness.

Criticism: it took me a while to remember who the villains were, especially their names and what distinguished them, because they had small parts and mainly from the point-of-view of Jon. Closer to the end there was a touch too much background information on the villains, which though missing before to add mystery, was inserted a little late in this relatively short novel. Third-person omniscient was used to re-shine a light on the villains at 67%, which though I worried the plot was crumbling at this point it did actually put things back into perspective where they had been missing in the car-chases and well-directed action scenes. Third-person and first-person point-of-view was mingled, which lent the story inconsistency and did become more noticeable as it progressed. On that same note, the author was adept at using first-person to add depth, colour, and contrast that I haven’t seen before when reading from first-person POV, but his use of third-person omniscient from 76% was a display of incredible writing. It seems the author needs to decide on where his strengths lie and how to use point-of-view with consistency to deliver maximum impact. I would have enjoyed this more if it was better balanced as well: two-thirds action and one-third background/conclusion didn’t move events forward in a way that I had hoped.

Overall, I don’t think HTG Hedges’ readers will be disappointed by his writing. The atmospheric descriptions, combined with metaphor, worked consistently well throughout. I was often curious where the plot was going, and when things turned chaotic I was utterly absorbed, with mouth agape. Piecing together the sub-elements of the plot didn’t come immediately to me, but when parts did they made sense and piqued my interest. There’s some terrific writing in this.

HTG Hedges’ Website

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Is there a tyrant in you? How would you deal with your tyrant?

Kroll Magnificence Image1 (2)

(Please feel free to comment below.)

Kroll’s personality is a powerful influence in my own life, which defines me in relation to how I feel compared to others. I won’t go as far as to say he completely embodies all traits of Asperger Syndrome, but I’m sure there are similarities to be made such as with inflexibility of thought, obsessive routines, and singular determination and focus.  

Why have I written an epic fantasy about a tyrant who rules the planet? Am I a tyrant? I don’t have any similar experience that can relate to Kroll’s infamy. I haven’t yet subjugated any populations, as far as I’m aware, or conquered all dominions of even our planet – not to be confused with Kroll’s planet. As writers are wont to do, I have put myself in his shoes a little, but it’s just as important to remember that Kroll: Magnificence is a story told from the point-of-view of a few characters – not just Kroll. Therefore, it’s not just about an evil tyrant’s struggle to extend his sorcery and further his control over the realm; it’s also about the fight against Kroll!

To get some perspective and insight, I need to attempt to critically examine my own personality and motives against Kroll’s. Kroll’s struggle to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t understand everything about his realm is extremely difficult for him to even consider, never mind accept. Our ruler, as his creator does, has an inflexible mind. He was once an alchemist, but when he invents sorcery, he sees an opportunity to empower and liberate himself from the teachers he detests. As he develops sorcery, to combat alchemy, he latches onto its principles and importance in determining the fate of the realm. Indeed, he becomes so engrossed in extending his knowledge in sorcery that his concept of the realm and the state of his sorcery are synonymous. And so, for two thousand years, it has determined how he thinks, lives, and all courses of action he takes are measured against it. Any contradictions to his drive or will to succeed using sorcery are seen as deliberate attempts to undermine or thwart him.

His strong interest in understanding and unravelling its intricacies lead to obsession, and he soon forgets about the world outside, his realm, for so long that he loses any empathy and understanding of the life of mortals. In the ancient past, he had deliberately set himself against the men and women of society, and his obsession can be seen as a protective or comforting retreat from frustration, lack of understanding, and mistreatment. But even now in the present he has, unwittingly, severed all ties with mortals and reinforced his isolation from them.

You will have noticed I use the word mortals, partly because Kroll sees himself as superior to them because of the value he ascribes to the achievements that made him ruler. It’s also because he has successfully lived for two thousand years, where they haven’t. (Or has he?). When things start to go wrong in the realm, as they do, Kroll starts to doubt himself and his understanding of sorcery. What he doesn’t see and grasp is that life is not all about sorcery. There is a part of him that deeply fears this fact and the thought itself haunts him at intervals, because he is afraid if he lets go of sorcery then all of his power and achievements will fade to nothing, and his empire will crumble. (Empire crumble: how tasty!).

There is also a hidden part of him that knows that the most problematic thing that can happen after his tyranny with sorcery would be for him to latch onto another system of power that he would believe to contain more truth or importance than the last. For Kroll, the torment is an everlasting cycle of incomprehension and nail-biting frustration. Why Kroll needs to learn about the way the world works is both a fascination and a huge error in the way he thinks. Let’s face it: in any world you can’t apply your knowledge of a single subject to everything that exists, without oppression, but in the story Kroll is both unable and reluctant to change to suit mortals he doesn’t care about.

Did Kroll take the right path?

Estranged from other people, he has only had to rely on himself, and as a result he has crafted a system for self-provision that he believes is successful. His interactions with others are mostly to do with imposing his will, or setting them inside the framework of the concept of sorcery. It makes sense to Kroll to see others in the context of his latest and most successful system of sorcery. I suppose what he lacks is empathy or a basic understanding of the needs of the mortals in the realm, whose struggle against him in many ways resembles the struggle he had against evil in the ancient past. As is implied at some stages in the story, Kroll sees glimpses of the lives people who look similar to him have and often wonders if or how he could have lived them. Would it have been possible for him to (as he sees it) settle for less? People think he had the chance to become like them, but that because of how he was treated in his youth, he took a path of no-return.

The mortal struggle against Kroll

In a sense, I must have wanted to also write about a tyrant because there was a part of me who wanted to know how to defeat him – to defeat the inflexible, obsessive, uncompromising mind-set. His control over the realm is not pleasant for the other characters, whose fates are known by and determined by Kroll’s sorcery creation: the Orthodoxy. The other characters, though in essence mortal, were gifted by sorcery attributes given to them by Kroll to help him control and maintain his realm effectively. These other characters are referred to as Classes by Kroll, but they themselves aren’t aware of their powerful potential. When things go wrong with the Orthodoxy, the Classes’ sorcery attributes are unintentionally bolstered. Naturally, Kroll is terrified of being challenged by mortals that have grown in knowledge and power, especially his doppelganger Dacron, because this was how Kroll lived as a youth a long time ago.

Is there any hope for Kroll?

The problem with Kroll’s mind in focusing on single encompassing subjects like sorcery is that he easily gets overwhelmed when more than one big problem afflicts him, and like a coward he retreats because he doesn’t know how to effectively respond. He can send his armies and mages out, but because of his absolute control over the realm, it’s only really Kroll who can make a significant difference. And when Kroll does fight back, it is typically with such ruthlessness and ignorance that it backfires and distances him further from his kind. But at least, he tells himself, he has solved the problem!

There is a time during the story when Kroll has a discussion with a prominent alchemist – the faction of magicians that opposes Kroll’s establishment. The alchemist is trying to help Kroll’s inflexibility by suggesting Kroll be more open-minded to other viewpoints about their planet. As you can imagine, this does backfire because Kroll doesn’t want to be contradicted or challenged in how he sees, rules, and lives his life. It does, however, plant a seed of doubt in Kroll that may rise to dismantle his preconceptions. My question is, is this a good thing or a bad?

As Alex James, writer and founder of Kroll: Magnificence, I honestly don’t know whether I am happy if Kroll succeeds or fails. When I first started writing the story, I focused on Kroll’s background and his drive to make further inroads with his conquest – even to dream of capturing the stars. It was intended as a way to understand and justify Kroll’s outlook and behaviour, so I must have seen a reason to do so for my own sake.

Kroll needed to be properly challenged and contradicted. Is he really a necessary part of the realm?

Then it became important to think about how others would live in Kroll’s current realm, even when he tightens his grip on it. At this time, I saw how detrimental it was to the mortal characters, and I sympathised with their plight. Dacron fears he will become somebody like Kroll because of his fate and how other alchemists perceive him. Lacos, a privileged country soldier, has his family captured by Kroll’s soldiers, and he is betrayed by Kroll simply because Kroll decides country soldiers are no longer needed and represent a part of his realm he has less control over. Jade is captured and seduced by Kroll against her will because she is the most formidable alchemist, and Kroll is no longer content to keep her as a check in the system. You can see the harmful effects of Kroll’s whim in many scenes. By working together, the mortals are much more effective at navigating multiple problems.

My later writing explored how the mortals would work together to defeat Kroll in a realistic way. What powers would they use, and how would they plan to defeat him and save their partners or families? I looked at how I could move the story forward – what would life be like in a world without Kroll for my mortal characters? I also added a pinch of doubt regarding if Kroll really knew what was best for himself, and that maybe if he surrendered a bit of his power he could return trust and earn forgiveness. Of course, the overarching principle here is whether Kroll would ever really break free from the everlasting cycle, which both strengthens him as a ruler and yet inhibits him socially and morally. I don’t yet have the answer to that, but maybe I will in a possible second book…

Read Kroll: Magnificence for the first time, over a year before estimated publishing. Available for only 100 readers on Inkitt.


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Read Kroll: Magnificence for the first time on Inkitt – for only 100 readers!

Kroll Magnificence Image1 (2)

It’s the first time I’ve uploaded the complete manuscript of my sword-and-planet fantasy novel Kroll: Magnificence, and I’m looking for your input! I’m determined to make sure it’s the highest quality before I publish and that means I need your valuable thoughts.

You can read it on Inkitt, a community  of some of the best up-and-coming writers. You can find Kroll: Magnificence in the Story Peak Contest, where there are only 100 copies available on request, so you really will be the first readers to experience my creation.

I need you to request to read the novel and write some short feedback on what you have read before August 21st 2016. If all 100 copies of my novel are requested then I advance to the next stage of the contest, where I may be offered a publishing agreement by Inkitt if the feedback is positive.

Read Kroll: Magnificence on Inkitt


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Outcast Journeys – Fantasy Box Set – Preorder and Release

Outcast Journeys - Fantasy Box Set

That’s right folks, I’m one of the contributing authors to Outcast Journeys, a fantasy box set with an epic twist. You can find my heroic epic fantasy Roc Isle: The Descent in the collection alongside such titles as Leros of the Underworld:The Tournament by Nathan Anton and Rys Rising by Tracy Falbe.

If you’re an avid fan of fantasy reads that take you into the conflict zone, battling against huge armies,  searching for the person you know you are, battling good vs.evil, immersed in hellish caverns in dark realms, going on quests with fairies and magical monsters; then look no further than Outcast Journeys.

Outcast Journeys was brought together with authors whose works share the same theme – outcasts going on journeys – and reflects a diverse range of writing talent from the newest and boldest independent voices in fantasy fiction, many of whom have extraordinary fan-bases.

Are you an outcast? Have you ever felt like an outcast in the world, eking out an existence but not necessarily living as you want to. Go on an incredible fantasy journey into the realms of warriors, fantasy beings, and adventurers. Join the struggle to become who you are and to find your place in an ever-changing landscape.

ONLY $0.99!

Preorder before August 2nd  at your favourite retailer and receive Outcast Journeys before everyone else!


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The Time Machine by HG Wells – 5/5 Stars

The Time Machine by HG Wells

HG Well’s The Time Machine is Victorian science-fiction that combines time-travel with speculation on the fate of humanity’s future and modern civilisation. It’s an elegantly written novel, somewhat like an essay examining the strengths and weaknesses of the major political ideologies of the nineteenth century: Marx and Engels particularly.

Many parallels can be made between Marx’s vision of a communist utopia, and HG Well’s almost satirized version, which he witnesses in the future in 800, 000 years’ time. I message I comprehended was that a socially stratified society divided into a work-force and a privileged class would come back to haunt us in the future: that the measures and securities we enforce to create a strong distinction between the have’s and have-not’s will lead to a polarisation of intelligence, and indeed may invert it in a way we would least expect. Besides the obvious connections to make between the Time Machine and the time HG Wells lived in, there was little recognisable in the future for the modern reader.

The author has a peculiar, signature writing style that is eloquent, well thought-out, and not unlike Dickens. His ability to use the foundations of profound political thinkers and scientific knowledge to foresee a future that is so revolting, ugly, and well … unacceptable to most who live in the present; proves that he is willing to go where others don’t dare, and this is quite beside his unusual range of ideas.

Overall, I would not just simply recommend The Time Machine; after having read the War of the Worlds; it would be foolish at this stage not to recommend the author himself.

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The Messenger by Paul Coey – 5/5 Stars

The Messenger by Paul Coey“Your letter is paramount, Falnir Aasberg”. “Elsillore will remember our ancient ties”. “And do not falter”.

The Messenger is a dark epic fantasy adventure that centres on Falnir Aasberg’s duty as messenger to deliver a message to secure support. The Nameless have breached the wall at Thune, spreading horror and evil wherever they go, revelling in the torture and suffering of innocent human families. They have spilled across the southern reaches, escaping past the guards of Rangers to kill indiscriminately across the plains. Atrocity, distrust, and violence will greet Falnir as he, often accompanied by Rangers, must make his way past the habits of his enemies for the survival of the Seven Kingdoms.

Falnir’s deep regret and guilt at having devastated his marriage with infidelity comes back to haunt him when his wilful wife Annas is adamant that she will accompany him to deliver his message, as an act of retribution. Concerned for his wife’s welfare across the Nehme Plains, Falnir will need more than Rangers to see him through to Elsillore: seeing death, bandits, and encountering the Nameless’ feline monsters (fios). It soon becomes clear Falnir is not a paragon of virtue, indeed he despises those (Rangers or Maidens) who see themselves as such. As a result, he does not appear to be a reliable choice for the survival of the kingdoms, but one thing I did notice was his instinct for survival, considering immoral choices and running away when he knew the odds were not in his favour.

The second part of the adventure was probably the most vivid and exhilarating, and that is when we are introduced to charismatic axe-wielding ranger leader Rado, who is of impressive width and strength. Falnir saw something of a role model in Rado and his fellow rangers, and for a time it allowed him to protect people, love a woman, forget tormenting thoughts, and fight against evil in its purest form. You won’t be disappointed with the action in this part of the story, I assure you! There is another chase at the end, which made me read far more than I thought I could of this epic. I should probably, ahem, mention that The Messenger is not for the faint-hearted, having its share of the grim, gruesome, horrible, and quite disturbing.

I liked the grim medieval atmosphere, which was rich in detail, and this led me to conclude that the genre and setting were well-researched. I did sometimes enjoy the banter and interplay between Falnir and other such undesirables, which was foulmouthed, dirty, grim, and utterly filthy. I would say more than a few passages were very elegantly written, which combined with what I suspect was superb editing or proofreading, really gave The Messenger a literary quality. Third person point-of-view and tenses were used confidently and the ebook was remarkably clear to read.

Criticism: There were some scenes that had too many place names or were otherwise riddled with overly descriptive passages of hills, woods, horses, and mountainsides. The detail was rich, but I suppose I can’t have it both ways. Some themes repeated a bit too often and noticeably, such as Falnir made to feel guilty for acts others could not prove, being sent with new groups of rangers, and waking up in a healing hut.

Falnir’s tribulations; combined as they were with heroism, suffering, monsters, friendship, and unconscionable deeds; made for a startlingly disturbing and revelatory read that really hit Falnir hard. The reader saw the full roster of good and evil, and in many guises. The Messenger is a terrific read, put simply. Every time it slowed down or dipped into description, it would rise yet again with confrontation, intriguing scenarios, and terrifying hunts. Were you impressed with the beginning of this read, and with all the blood, gore, and action? The setting changes, but at its core is Falnir and a journey that makes Bilbo Baggins’ seem quite trivial. The author has worked a grand piece of fiction here, and anybody looking to dip into some real dark fantasy that tests the body and mind of its character should look no further.

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Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn – 4/5 Stars

Darth Bane Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn

The sequel to Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Rule of Two continues with Darth Bane and his apprentice Zannah as they make connections and exploit political tensions in order to fortify the Republic against any rival groups that threaten it. Bane does this because he knows that the Republic, one target, can be more easily manipulated than many. With his abundant patience and secrecy, his plans will eventually lead to the destruction of the entire Jedi.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Ruusan, where the thought bomb weapon wiped out nearly all Sith and many Jedi, new political developments are occurring. The Jedi, confident that their enemies are now extinct, are making the fatal decision to retire as warriors and hand over political power to the politicians of the Republic. Young Jedi Johun Othone thinks that the battles and sacrifices made by the Jedi in the war against the Sith are in vain now that the Jedi are relinquishing their political power, and he can’t rid himself of the suspicion that a formidable Dark Lord of the Sith may still survive to rise again.

I really enjoyed the exploration of themes relating to the aftermath on Ruusan, and how the war affected the planet’s atmosphere and inhabitants. This element of back-story, along with the back-story throughout with regard to other planets and civilisations, made Rule of Two rich in detail and well thought-out. There were some nice ideas in there too, such as parasites that can grant unlimited strength, but possession of which can lead to some problems. I thoroughly liked reading through the entirety of this well-polished novel, which had some jaw-opening events close to the end. Apprentice Zannah was just the sort of character I wanted to learn more from, being ruthless, creative, and yet not completely swayed by the dark side. Such things as love, care, and doubt were still small uncertainties for her. Even though the source of her strength in the dark side is not as obvious or concentrated as her master’s, I did respect her intelligence in supporting the Sith Order.

Criticism: I didn’t find Rule of Two to be as exciting and compelling as Path of Destruction, which impeccably described Bane’s struggle and had many twists and turns. But then, POD did set a very high standard. Some of the passages were too descriptive, and maybe it could have been balanced better by focusing more on apprentice Zannah’s development as a character.

SPOILER: The orbalisks’ weakness was electricity, which surprised me because I rather thought or hoped that it was their own power fuelled by Bane that led to their destruction.

If you liked Path of Destruction, or even if you haven’t read it, I recommend Rule of Two. The battles were well-described and critically believable. The author has done his research on this, borrowing ideas, technologies, and scenes from the films and using them to great effect to bring the Old Republic to life.

Drew Karpyshyn’s Website

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**”How to Get Published” at Bradford Literature Festival 2016**

On Saturday 21st May, I went to the Bradford Literature Festival to attend a panel about How to Get Published. I got the impression that the idea of the festival was to reach out and encourage new voices in under-represented groups. Indeed, there appeared to be a diverse mix of people in the audience, and I gathered from the questions asked that many seemed to be unpublished writers. Overall the event was 1h15 minutes long and went smoothly.

On the panel were two authors: Nikesh Shukla and Michael Stewart, who was also moderating. There were two publishers: Lisa Milton, executive of HarperCollins Harlequin Division, and Kevin Duffy, founder of independent publisher Bluemoose Books.

Upon the commencement of the panel’s talk, it was difficult to hear some of the speakers at first, but after somebody complained this was no longer a noticeable issue. As can be expected there was a lot of advice about dealing with rejection. If I recall correctly, Michael Stewart said something on the lines of rejection being a good thing because it can strengthen your submission. I agree with this to an extent, but let’s face it most literary agents do not provide feedback on your submission. You’re left in the dark wondering why you were rejected; indeed there might not have been anything particularly wrong or unappealing about your submission; perhaps your idea was not right for the literary agent’s subjective tastes or they were looking for something else. It would have been interesting to hear scheduled speaker Nelle Andrew’s (literary agent from PetersFraserDunlop) opinion on this, but she was missing from the panel for some reason.

There was a bit of good-natured back and forth between independent publisher Kevin Duffy and traditional publisher Lisa Milton. It was not unexpected, and some of the exchanges did remind me a bit of Labour and Conservative at Question Time, but thankfully it wasn’t that annoying. Kevin Duffy asked Lisa Milton about whether money influenced which books she selected for publication, but she cleared this up quite well by insisting that publishers always have to make a case for every book they choose before approaching sales/marketing teams.

A female writer demanded to know why she had been rejected by Kevin Duffy, to which he supposedly replied, “It wasn’t my cup of tea”. There was good advice given to her about the importance of getting people you trust to give you honest and constructive criticism/feedback. It must have been tough to hear this from the panel, and the panel maybe jumped to conclusions about the type of writer the lady was because she had written her manuscript in such a short time, which might have been unfair (even if what they said were things a lot of writers need to hear). However, in the defence of new writers, what the panel didn’t state was how difficult it is because not every writer has a network of trusted friends who are prepared to read through an entire novel for them and give them honest feedback. Finding “trusted, reliable, and honest” people who are willing to go out of their way to spend time to help isn’t easy. Perhaps some more profound advice on this could have been given, other than directing us to the latest Writers and Artists Yearbook. Furthermore, once new writers have written a story, they are told repeatedly to look back through it, but to know how to do this you need to understand or research about writing craft. Just telling new writers to look at it again with fresh eyes might not be enough. They might need to read about revision, take courses, or begin similar professions.

This sparked a debate on making sure your writing is ready for submission. Nikesh Shukla was very vocal here, and much of what he said made a lot of sense and chimed well with my experience of writing: you’ve got to develop your idea and message, and understand your work to make sure that you know what you’ve written. I agreed with his points. It’s no good having nearly one-hundred thousand words on a page if you don’t understand the significance of what you have written, why it’s unique, or if your planning and research might not be expressed the way you intend it to be. At this point, Lisa Milton concurred with, “You’ve got to know your whole story, even before you write it”.

Part of the point of the event was intended to encourage new writers, and break the cycle of mainstream publishing where ethnic minorities and women are often excluded. One lady spoke up about whether an agent or publisher needs to know the gender of the writer, which just goes to show the fear that if you are a female writer then you might have less chance of being represented by an agent or published. I don’t think you need to explicitly state your gender in submissions, and if you have a name that is neutral it might help, even though sometimes literary agents and publishers insist on you using your real name. However, I believe you have more chance of securing an agent if you are able to convince them that you know your subject well, and for this you might have to include who you are, background expertise, or achievements. Understandably this means you don’t have to mention your gender, but the recipient of your submission will likely have enough information to know who you are. Yet this doesn’t mean I think you should go out of your way to hide your gender if the need arises! I’m not knowledgeable about the submission process for Bluemoose Books, but all of this is contrary to what Kevin Duffy said about his only having the information about the book upon which to judge submissions. Regarding ethnic minority under-representation, somebody in the audience complained that successful books from African, Asian, or Indian writers typically have to have a strong current of magic, mysticism, or an overly strong protagonist to be taken on board by publishers rather than if they would submit a story being from the point-of-view of an ordinary person.

Nikesh Shukla was strong on these arguments as well, insisting that unless people from the aforementioned groups submit to agents and become a part of the industry, rather than distancing themselves from it by seeing the books currently on shelves as unrepresentative of their writing and perspectives, then the cycle will continue with similar authors being published. Lisa Milton said she encourages writers from different backgrounds, which is nice to hear, but unless Lisa Milton is starting initiatives to help encourage unrepresented groups or unless HarperCollins has open submission periods, then I’m afraid little will change. That being said, it was still nice of her and the panel to make time to come to Bradford and for an appearance, which does enable transparency between what could be seen as the bottom and top of writing and publishing.

At the end of the event, most stragglers wanted to speak to Lisa Milton, which I wasn’t surprised at, being the executive of a traditional publisher. I didn’t have any pressing questions to ask the panel, but a few ladies approached me and handed out leaflets about a new publishing company (Dandylion Publishing) they have launched, for which they are looking for new writers. What I liked about them was the motivation and drive they had, competing for the writers, some of whom only had eyes for the panel.

I happily took a leaflet, and looked up the Dandylion Publishing website. It just goes to show that despite new perspectives on the traditional route to publication; Writers and Artists’ Yearbook, submitting to an agent, rejections; there are other ways to publish and get maybe get feedback if we are open-minded to book publishing as a whole. It would have been very interesting if the ladies of Dandylion Publishing had been on the panel, and to hear what they would have to say about improving writing and preparing material “good enough” for publication. I say this as well because, though Nikesh Shukla had experimented with crowdfunding, presumably his non-traditional route, most of the panel seemed to channel the conversation in the traditional submitting to an agent route, as if all writers had been thinking about that exact route.

There can be opportunities at such events for aspiring and existing authors.

(@s are on

Bradford Literary Festival – @BradfordLitFest and

Dandylion Publishing – @DandylionReads –

Kevin Duffy – @Ofmooseandmen

Lisa Milton – @Lmrhjb

Nikesh Shukla – @nikeshshukla

Michael Stewart – @headspam

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***How do you grow as a writer?***

When you’ve been writing for a number of years, you may notice improvements in the quality in your writing and sentence structure. This can also be applied to how you plan a new novel, infuse it with character and plot, and even revise existing material – leading onto the question how do you grow as a writer? Did it happen that night when you wrote 8000 words, or through patience and diligence?

I tend to believe the latter, as I become convinced of the opinion that being a “smart” writer can save time and effort and move your writing forward in ways that excessive writing cannot. For many years, you can write and write and write, but at the end of those years will come the questions: what have I written? What is its significance? Was this what I wanted, thought, or planned to write?

Writing and publishing is extremely competitive, even for the initiated. A lot of writers have unique appealing ideas and writing that can hook readers in effortlessly. Many new writers starts at the bottom rung of this ladder, struggling to get themselves across and connect with their target audience, which can especially be a problem for those who do not have many trusted friends or are too financially strapped to hire a freelance.

For struggling new writers, I recommend online or social networks where you can get feedback on your work, which is value that should not be underestimated or cast aside. Just a few eyes on your work can present you with an outside perspective, bringing to light flaws or interesting ideas on how you have constructed your story and how it may be received.

Have a plan! Don’t jump into writing heedlessly if you intend to publish and share your work. Create a clear distinction between writing for pleasure and writing for pleasure AND other people. This mind-set has helped me decide on what I want to write and how I am going to go about writing it, as well as how to write it in the language of my target audience. It might help you grow as a writer.

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***Numerous pieces of writing? Can’t tie them in together?***

Having many pieces of writing won’t be a problem for all writers. Some plan on single projects at a time, or focus intensely on research and planning before embarking on any form of prose. Then there are those, like myself, who conjure a lot of different writings up, but can struggle to develop these writings into a story or link them together into series, if they are similar. Sometimes different writings are just different writings, and may require a rewrite or significant changes in structure to come together in a logical coherent way.
I’ve stumbled across this problem with my new unpublished Marcellus series, where these new projects don’t quite mesh with already-published novel Marcellus: The Mantle. The Mantle is set in the solar system and is first-contact sci-fi (sound familiar?) while my new series has no relevance to the solar system or humanity. There are completely different characters in The Mantle, and in this even the identity of Marcellus is a mystery. As opposed to my new series that is mostly from Marcellus’ point-of-view. However, the problem is that I’m very attached to some of the ideas in The Mantle, and fitting it into my new series like a jigsaw puzzle doesn’t make obvious sense at this stage. It took an alarmingly long time for me to reach the conclusion that I should be looking to incorporate “specific” ideas from The Mantle into my new Marcellus series. This of course meant not directly linking them together, at least until events transpire where such a link would make sense, so distancing them is my strategy for the time being.
It’s also useful to speak to somebody you know or trust about your world or ideas. They can help bring an outsider’s perspective, and make you see your strengths and shortcomings. It can also help you to describe, and therefore understand your story better. My brother, who knows his sci-fi and fantasy very well, helped me see that Marcellus: The Mantle could be a spin-off to my series that hasn’t been published yet. Through his help, I also came to realise that I focus almost exclusively on Marcellus’ point-of-view and personality in my unpublished Marcellus novels. Where other characters come in, they are mainly used to infuse conspiracy, action, or otherwise move the plot forward. It may also be important, if I am to successfully continue with Marcellus, to bring in an important new and interesting character…
I hope this has helped you come up with strategies to tie in similar writings, and that this particular problem does not worry you to a great extent.

Marcellus: The Mantle

Marcellus (unpublished)

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