Penny Dreadful

I’ve just returned from a family reunion in Belfast and Dublin and everywhere I went there were reminders of how many great authors and poets have come from the green isles. You could be walking down a street and find a quote from work by Yeats or Oscar Wilde, to name but two, and I found it extremely inspirational.

Some of the places I visited gave me loads of ideas for my next series of books and it goes to show that you can get inspiration from almost anywhere, if only you take the time to look.

Dublin Castle was one such place. I didn’t go inside, it was the events unfolding in the courtyard that caught my attention. There were roped-off areas with old fashioned market stalls; some were the type that were on wheeled carts and others were static. As I looked around at the ‘wares’ it felt like I’d stepped back in time and it was a strange sensation. Suddenly I was in Victorian London and all around me were people dressed from that era. As I stared, drinking in the sights, I could picture certain scenes for my Seven Doors series and I couldn’t wait to write it down.

But what was happening there? Was it an exhibition the castle had staged? No. The reason certain areas were roped off was because an episode of the TV series, Penny Dreadful, was being filmed (although I didn’t realise that until I saw actress Billie Piper dressed in Victorian finery and boom mikes and camera equipment being wheeled or carried into the courtyard).

Rehearsal before filming

Rehearsal before filming

Actresses on the Swing Boats

Actresses on the Swing Boats

Billie Piper waiting for rehearsals to start

Billie Piper waiting for rehearsals to start

Part of the market scenery which sparked my imagination

Part of the market scenery which sparked my imagination

One of the cars used to ferry people to the set had this on their dashboard. This might seem like a stupid photo to take but it's all part of the memory.

One of the cars used to ferry people to the set had this on their dashboard.
This might seem like a stupid photo to take but it’s all part of the memory.

I took a few photos (as you do) and on the bus back to the hotel I took out my little pad and scribbled notes about the objects and scenes which had most inspired me. I know at least some of it will appear in one of the books in my upcoming Seven Doors series, but it certainly won’t be in the first one.

It certainly proves the point about inspiration. You never know what’s around to ignite that spark which sends your imagination into overdrive. So open your eyes, take the time to look around you, and make sure you have a pad and pen handy!

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Book Review: War of the Flowers by Tad Williams / The Power of Reviews

As an author, I love seeing reviews written about my books. When a reader takes the time to write what they thought of my work, it’s very gratifying (especially if the review is good) to know my words have touched someone and made an impression on them. However, I did wonder how much of a part reviews played in promoting books and whether they actually had an impact on people other than the author.

I’ve come to the conclusion that reviews are very powerful. Some positive words written about a book CAN influence readers to buy and is one of an author’s most powerful marketing streams. Let me explain how I came to this conclusion:

I follow the Best in Fantasy blog written by Connie J Jasperson. She only reviews books she loves and will never allow herself to be coerced into writing anything but the truth. In April this year, she wrote a review about War of the Flowers by Tad Williams (click here to read her review). By the time I reached the end, I knew I had to buy it. There have been others by Connie that have influenced parting with my hard-earned cash as have some reviews written by Laura Thomas. Friends have also been persuaded to buy books based on reviews they’ve read.

So if it’s having this effect on me and my friends, it would be fairly safe to assume it’s doing the same to other book lovers. Something to think about the next time you read a good book (you don’t have to be an author to write one and it doesn’t have to be long either)!

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Like I said above, I bought War of the Flowers, and here is what I thought of it:

WOTF2

Click on cover to go to Amazon

The Blurb (from Amazon)

In the great city, in the dimly lit office of an impossibly tall building, two creatures meet. Gold changes hands, and the master of the House of Hellebore gives an order: ‘War is coming. The child must die.’

 In our own world, a young man discovers a manuscript written by his great uncle. It seems to be a novel – a strange fairytale of fantastic creatures and magical realms. But it is written as a diary … as if the events were real … as if his uncle had journeyed to another world. For the young man, the fantasy is about to become reality.

My Review

When I first started reading this book, I had to wonder where it was taking me and what the significance of it was. There was nothing ‘fantasy’ related to it and it made me wonder. Then, as the author wove in the first threads of fantasy and the story progressed, I began to see the relevance.

The story is about a (sometimes naïve)  30-year-old man (Theo), a musician who never reached stardom but still dreams of getting his big break, who finds a manuscript written by his great-uncle. Theo reads it, believing it to be an unfinished fiction novel . . . until he finds himself thrust into the world his uncle described.

As the story unfolds, you see Theo struggle to accept this new world and its culture. He’s surrounded by fairies, goblins and other creatures and he’s really not sure who to trust – and with good reason. There’s a war brewing; Theo finds himself slap bang in the middle of it and certain parties want him dead – he just doesn’t know why.

Williams has created an interesting lead character with Theo. He’s not without his faults, and although at times you might want to give him a shake and tell him to grow up, I found he grew on me. As the story progressed I began rooting for him, wanting him to prevail against all the odds. Theo was given real depth, and his emotions and dialogue were realistic and relatable.

Other key characters were also superbly crafted. I loved Applecore – the tiny fairy who befriends Theo. She’s sassy, sarcastic and forthright to the nth degree yet you also see a softer side emerge. She’s also fiercely loyal and courageous. Cumber, a Ferisher, was also interesting to learn about, especially when he began to shake off his subservient mentality. Poppy, the spoilt ‘rich kid’ from one of the leading Flower families, became less of a brat and more humane as the book progressed, and Lord Hellebore was deliciously evil and tyrannical.

The plot was brilliantly conceived; forget about fantasy fiction you’ve read before – this is something unique and totally different. Whilst having some of the classic elements – like fairies, goblins etc, – the ‘alternative world’ of Faerie was far removed from the norm. The hierarchy of flower ‘houses’, who ruled the land since the death of the king and queen, was well thought out, as was the technology employed in Faerie. I particularly liked how Williams likened it to our world, with shops, houses, skyscraper-type buildings and even cars of sorts. If you think Faerie is going to be a sweet place, think again. It’s urban, dirty, shady, and sometimes corrupt.

This is a thick book, but very worth the time investment. The story had me gripped (once the fantasy portion really began) and I found myself losing hours when I thought it was mere minutes. This was the first book I’d read by Tad Williams and it definitely won’t be my last. A great fantasy tale – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it! 5/5 STARS

FANTASTIC GIVEAWAY

How many books could you get with a $100 Amazon Gift Card? Huh? Enough to make a serious dent in most wish lists, I’d bet! Wanna know more? Read on . . .

There’s only a couple of days left to enter this amazing giveaway run by my publishers, Myrddin Publishing Group and it’s so easy to do. Just click on the picture below which will take you to Rafflecopter. A couple of easy clicks and you’re in the draw!

If you want to know more about Myrddin Publishing, just click on the logo in my sidebar and it’ll take you straight to the website.

Good luck in the draw and remember, you have to be in it to win it!

Myrddin Giveaway

#AprilPrompts Day 13 – Throne

Hmmm, another tricky one. Well, it would have been if I hadn’t had an LOTR-fest last week. It was just the inspiration I needed.

Throne

Day 13 - Throne

Day 13 – Throne

When you visit royal palaces around the world, or see photographs of them, the thrones are almost always elaborate, heavily padded and look to be reasonably comfortable. Yet, in fantasy books, TV series and films, they appear about as uncomfortable as it is possible to make them.

 

The throne of Gondor from LOTR

The throne of Gondor from LOTR

Gondor’s throne is carved from stone or marble and ne’er a cushion in sight.

The throne of Rohan - also from LOTR

The throne of Rohan – also from LOTR

Although the wood is elaborately carved, it still looks very basic.

Finally, the one from Game of Thrones.

Finally, the one from Game of Thrones.

Despite the unusual design, this looks about as uncomfortable as you can get, and I certainly wouldn’t want to sit on it for any length of time!

Now, I have a theory as to why fantasy thrones are depicted this way. In epic and high fantasy, the amount of world-building necessary sometimes precludes attention to detail on smaller items like thrones. Writers strive to make their worlds believable so readers can connect with them, and the choice between describing an enemy fortress and a piece of furniture is a no-brainer. Tolkien, of course, was an exception in this regard, as he tended to portray everything in great detail.

So was Tolkien’s method correct or did he over-describe? I think it’s a matter of taste.

#AprilPrompts Day 9 – Thriller

The ‘thriller’ genre in books and films can cover quite a variety of subject matter: crime, adventure, spies – the list goes on. But most people, when they hear or see the word ‘thriller’, automatically think of one person . . .

Thriller

Day 9 - Thriller

Day 9 – Thriller

I’ve been a huge Michael Jackson fan since I was a kid. I used to bop around the lounge to ‘Rockin’ Robin’, ‘ABC’, and ‘I Want You Back’, and was glued to the TV watching the cartoon show about the Jackson 5.

Growing up with MJ’s music was wonderful. I loved discos and would always dance with gay abandon to any of Michael’s tracks that were played. The tracks from ‘Thriller’ were favourites, as was his ground-breaking music video. To this day, Thriller is still the best-selling album of all time.

thriller1

It was always my dream to see him live and in 1992 I got my chance.

The big day arrived and I travelled to Wembley Stadium full of excitement. Even though I arrived four hours before the doors were due to open, it seemed everyone else had the same idea and the queue was massive. By the time I entered the stadium, the only places available were in the stands. I got as close to the front as I could while maintaining a great view.

When MJ danced onto the stage the atmosphere was super-charged. Everyone danced and sang along and at the end of the most amazing show I’ve ever seen, he strapped on a rocket pack, rose into the sky and disappeared.

It’s tragic he’s gone.

thriller2

 

#BlogFlash2013 Day 4 – Books

Today’s prompt is one of my favourite subjects, ever – books. Enjoy!

Books

 bully1

Ellie, with pearly tears trickling down her cheeks, ran to her bedroom and threw herself on the bed. Another horrendous day at school; the bullies were relentless and she sported the bruises to prove it.

She wanted to rail at the world, lash out and sob yet knew it wouldn’t change how wretched she felt. Only one thing did – her books.

Grabbing a tome, Ellie dived into the wondrous world depicted on the pages. Enveloped in the magical lands of fairies and elves, her imagination soared and she began to find peace. The agony dissolved and wrapped in enchantment, she smiled.

bully2

Self-Marketing My Way

The third post to appear on the Heart Search Blog Tour was hosted by the lovely Maree Ward-Russell in New Zealand, home to the film sets of the fantastic Lord of the Rings films (among others, of course, but this series is probably the most famous one filmed in that lovely part of the world). Maree asked me to write about marketing tips and this is what I came up with.

Being an Indie published author means you have to do all your own marketing, right from day one and it’s a daunting task if you’ve never done anything like it before. Although I’ve done a great deal of marketing in my day jobs, marketing yourself online is a whole different story. However, some of the same general rules apply, which are:

1.         Word of mouth / recommendations are the best form of advertising

2.         All consumers (and books/e-books are no different) consciously or subconsciously have one thing in their minds when they see advertising – “what’s in it for me?”

3.         You need to create demand for your product

I’m going to start off with number three first (just to be different) as it’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last couple of months.

I’ve been talking about Heart Search a great deal on Twitter, Facebook and my blog. I’ve also had some really cheap but good quality postcards printed with the book cover on one side and on the reverse are the book blurb and my contact details. These have been handed to people during conversations – as soon as I find out they like to read they get the card shoved in their hands. Even during a recent trip to the hospital, I got chatting to some of the staff and ended up handing out about six cards and one said they would pin it on the staff notice board.

Secondly, I’ve been leaking teasers in advance of the book launch. About three or four weeks prior I revealed the cover and blurb and publicized it and two weeks before I revealed the book trailer, making sure I created anticipation with teasing blog posts leading up to it. But I haven’t done this alone. I decided, the best way to get a buzz going and get people to know about and talk about my book was to run a Blog Tour. I did this well in advance so the people who signed up could also participate in the pre-launch unveilings too.

Obviously, the more people who sign up, the more the word spreads and the more people get to hear about it. The majority of those who signed up for the tour, have also revealed the cover and trailer on their sites/blogs, and publicised it through social media channels. Now if we stop for a moment and think of reach, just from Twitter, let’s assume for a moment that every person who is on the blog tour has 1,000+ followers and there are twenty people of the tour, straight away you’ve reached twenty thousand people. Now if ten per cent of those twenty thousand retweeted the post(s), that has reached the followers of another two thousand people and so the cobweb or network grows of people who now know my book exists.

During the blog tour which is running from 8-31 October, there will be a minimum of two and a maximum of four different blog posts appearing every single day throughout the tour; reviews (which will be posted to Amazon and Goodreads as well), interviews, excerpts and guest posts like this one, plus a giveaway (and everyone loves to get something for nothing! Yes I’ve had to spend some money to put the giveaway together, but I believe it’s money well spent, especially if it has the desired effect of bringing my book to the attention of more people). Each posted blog item will be publicised and so the cobweb/network grows again.

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Okay, let’s now look at number one – Word of Mouth/Recommendations. This is something I have little control over. If people love my book, they will tweet about it or share it on Facebook/other social media platforms and they will tell their friends. Hopefully, this will result in more sales. What I can do is use social media platforms to publicise good reviews. If someone gives me a five star review, you can bet I’ll be sharing it on all my social media sites and the more I get the more I’m going to share it. I’ll be taking a key phrase from a review which showcases the book at its best and tell everyone what this reviewer said – after all, a five star review is a recommendation and I have to capitalise on it!

If I get messages from people saying how much they enjoyed my book, I’m going to ask them politely if they would recommend it to their friends and maybe even write a review. A review doesn’t have to be 200 words long; it can be one or two sentences just saying something like “I loved this book and would recommend it to everyone” and ask them to give me a star rating. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?

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Right, now let’s look at number two, which in some ways is the hardest. Everyone has different expectations from a book; some like lots of suspense, others like twists and turns, and some like lots of description so they can connect with the characters and scene. I have no way of knowing what people’s expectations are, what drives them toward a particular book so again reviews play a part in this. A well-written review is worth its weight in gold as it will usually say whether they loved the suspense/twists and turns/description, so by taking those phrases and publicising them, I’m going to be meeting the needs of those people who look for that particular characteristic.

The rest of this one is guesswork. I’m going to be picking out key sentences or phrases from the book which will address the main needs of the consumer and publicising them. I’ll be mixing them up so one day I’ll pick something descriptive, another day a little suspense and so on. One of those is going to strike a chord with someone who’ll be interested enough to want to look at the book blurb and then you have a potential sale.

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I think networking plays a large part in getting your name and your book out to a wider audience. I have joined groups who are only interested in Fantasy and Paranormal. I’m making friends within those groups and publicising my book with them. Lo and behold, I begin to create another set of cobwebs within each group, just like with the Blog Tour.

I also think making myself accessible to my readership is very important. I will never turn away or ignore a reader who takes the time to contact me. If they’ve had enough faith in me to spend their hard-earned cash buying my book, the very least I can do is give them some of my time in return. In fact I’m seriously considering setting up a page on my website for that very purpose.

Finally, I will be running a few special offers and doing a little bit of advertising on those sites where I feel I’m going to get maximum exposure without it breaking the bank!

This ‘list’ is not exhaustive and I’m sure I’ll learn more as I progress, but I happen to think it’s a damn good place to start.

What are your thoughts on marketing? Have you got any marketing tips you’d like to share?