Saturday, 21 October 2017

Come a long, long way....

So I didn't win the BFS Award for Best Newcomer but, you know what, I'm not doing too bad. Now being up for the award got me reflecting on where I was a few years back.

I remember one particular night in bits and pieces, a whole host of people who I barely knew chatting away in a downstairs bar near Tottenham Court Road called The Phoenix. The gathering was a British Fantasy Society Open Night at some point in 2013 and I was attending my first one with little more than one short story and some flash fiction smatterings behind me combined with a willingness to chat to most folks. This was me testing the waters, seeing if I could work out how to progress in this writing game.

Now that evening was a bit of a first and last throw of the dice for me. I was in a slump, sending out short stories to different places and seeing what stuck (which was not a lot back then). During the evening I met Allen Ashley who is a regular feature at these events and a very nice person too. We got chatting about writing and open submissions and he mentioned 'Potatoes' an anthology being compiled by Theresa Derwin of Knightwatch Press. The premise was to use a potato as a plot device in your story. I'd seen the call but had not thought too much about subbing anything. That chat with Allen made the anthology stick in my head and the rest, as they say, is history. I crafted a story called The Banshee's Egg and Theresa accepted it as the opening piece to the anthology and I am extremely grateful for that.

That same night I was grabbed at one point by Tim Dry who had seen me post in the Facebook group for the evening to say I would come along. "Are you Phil?" he asked in his warm tones and then led me over to sit down with a small group of folks who were all lovely. Among them was Dean M Drinkel: freelance writer and editor. Dean, who was wearing this amazing pair of pointy, red shoes, had published Tim in some of his anthologies and I was encouraged to get Dean's details and see if he'd fancy seeing some of my writing. I dropped Dean some of my stuff via email and a few weeks later he invited me to submit a story for his latest anthology Phobophobias. I duly did so and came up with There Was An Old Man Who Swallowed a Fly.

Now why am I taking this little trip down memory lane? Well it's a bit of a reminder for me of how far I feel I have come with my writing. Three years ago, and a couple of times since, I have thought about just giving up on writing. It would certainly free up a lot of valuable time to spend with my family or do other things like sleep! But I am glad I didn't. I've made a load of great friends through the different anthologies I've been involved with since and from going along to varying conventions. And I'm now being approached to write pieces for people rather than chasing down the latest submissions myself. Plus that award nomination.

Have I a long way to go still with my writing? Of course - a million miles and more but I'm growing as a writer every day. I'm not sure what lies ahead for me but hopefully it will be fun finding out.

Thanks to all my friends who've said encouraging things along the way. You may not have realised how much those small interactions can change a person's life.

And if you want to check out some incredible writers who will all have had their own journey and are still travelling along it then here is the list of the BFS Award winners. Go seek out their writing.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

So I only went and got shortlisted for a BFS Best Newcomer award!

Okay, so I was a little bit blown away a few days ago - so much so that I forgot to put anything here on the blog (note to self - get better at this blogging malarkey). I went out for an afternoon visit to the cinema with my wife on Friday. Had a great time watching War for the Planet of the Apes. Got back home and checked into Facebook. A load of PMs and notifications. Turns out Becoming David had been shortlisted in the British Fantasy Society's awards for Best Newcomer. Holy crap. A book which I wrote up for such an amazing award.

Huge thanks to everyone who voted for me and for all the kind words since. You've made a still vaguely youngish bloke really happy.

And do go check out the talent listed for the awards across all the categories. Such a great time to be a reader:

Monday, 3 July 2017

Anatomy of Monsters launch - Saturday 8 July

Excited to have my short story The Darkness of our Dreams appearing in Anatomy of Monsters which is edited by Robert Teun and published by Stitched Smile Publications. Each story gives us a take on the birth, or coming into being, of famous monsters like the Phantom of the Opera, the Wolfman and so on. I took a bit of a liberty and decided to go with the birth of nightmares as I figured that is the boogieman which affects us all.

Really proud to be appearing alongside some of the heavy hitters of the horror genre. Full list of contributors here:

Ramsey Campbell, Josh Malerman, Gary McMahon, Nicholas Burman-Vince, Brian Hodge, Daniel I Russell, Laura Mauro, Simon Bestwick, Alex Laybourne, Jess Landry, Alisha Jordan, Phil Sloman, Greg Chapman, Carl Jennings, Stephen Chapman

And a quick note to say Greg Chapman also provides the cover and internal art as well as a story of his own.

The online launch party is Saturday 8 July and can be found by clicking here.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Never ever settle

The other night I was out at the British Fantasy Society Christmas Social (and a great night it was too). I got chatting with a number of top folks and we got on to the subject of writing as is inevitable at these things.

I made the following statement (or words to that effect):"I cannot see myself making enough from my writing for it to be anything other than a hobby."

And in one fell swoop I had settled. It was as easy as that. I had dismissed my dream of being a professional writer as being too hard, the likelihood of me achieving it too astronomically small when you call the maths in to play. This right at the moment when folks are saying some amazing things about the stuff I am putting out there.

So this is a message for current me and future me (and anyone else who might be in a similar position). NEVER EVER SETTLE.

I may not make more than my current salary each year through my writing. But then again I might and then some.

One thing is for certain - the minute you accept that you cannot achieve something then you've created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Let's review that

Getting your work noticed in this age of the internet is tough. There's lots of people shouting to be heard so how do you get your work noticed by reviewers and up on their sites. I don't have a magic bullet but as an author who used to be a reviewer I can offer some words which I hope are useful.

First up, find out who the reviewers in your genre are. I write mainly horror so tend to go to places like Ginger Nuts of Horror, DLS Reviews, British Fantasy Society and so forth (there are loads out there so don't be offended if I haven't mentioned your favourite site - in fact, let me know of your favourite site as I love to discover great reviewers and hear what they are reading).

Next, have a read of what they review. Does your book fit their preferred genres? If your book is splatterpunk but the site tends towards quieter, more psychological tales then they might not be interested.

Read the site's review policy! This is really, really important which is why I've put this in bold. Most sites will have them. In fact, here are a few:

These sites get hundreds of requests every month (if not every day). Make the reviewer's life easier by giving them your book in their preferred format and providing the information they are after up front.

Okay, you've chosen the sites and read their review policies. Next up - sending that all important email to ask if they would be interested in reading your book. Before doing anything now, check you are happy with the book you are sending. Have all the typos been picked up? Has the cover art been sorted? Do you have a link for Amazon or wherever it is being sold from? Do you have a release date? Do you have a succinct blurb to pitch your book? Yes. Excellent! Have one last double check though as you only get one shot at the next piece. Let's crack on.

Sending the email!

The email to the reviewer should be short, polite and contain all the information they need which will be detailed in their review policy. Something along the lines of:
Dear (name - and do use their name, it's only polite)

I hope (reviewer website name) would consider reviewing my book (title) by (name) which is being released (date) by (publisher/being self-published).

(Book title) tells the tale of (insert that succinct blurb).

Please find attached (whatever format of book they prefer from their review policy - mobi, epub, etc). I have also attached a cover image for you (saves the reviewer trying to hunt one down) and a link to (insert link to where book can be purchased by those reading the review - by the way, NEVER ASK THE REVIEWER TO BUY YOUR BOOK TO REVIEW IT!!! EVER!).

Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoy the book.

Author name

That's it. If you know the reviewer via social media or in person then personalise it a bit more but other than that you've got all the detail there the reviewer needs.

Right, so when do you follow up because your review has not gone up yet? Personally, I suggest never or, at the most, once a couple of months later. Keeping nagging the reviewer and you will get noticed for the wrong reasons with the likelihood of your book being reviewed diminishing with each subsequent email.

And if you get a review. Thank the reviewer (whether negative or positive). They've just provided you with free advertising. Advertising. For free. Pretty good, eh? And sharing their review of your book promotes their site which gets more people reading about your book and all the other books the reviewer has been promoting. That's kind of cool - lots of love of books spreading out all over the place like that. You could even share their reviews of other people's books too to keep spreading all that book related love.

So, the review itself. One thing not to do if the review is negative is get angry with the reviewer. They've given an opinion. That's all. Which is what you've asked them to do. Reviews will pretty much go one of five ways (there will be exceptions to these five - that's life!):
1) Loved it, oh my god, this was amazing
2) Really enjoyed this, go check it out
3) It was fine but had problems
4) Didn't enjoy this but there were some bits which were okay
5) Really disliked this (my experience is this is the rarest review to get as reviewers, in the main, are not there to trample over people's work and will tend to not review the book especially if it is a new author finding their feet).

If you get a review which falls into the first three categories then that's great. If you get one which falls into the latter two then read the review a few times and see if there's something there which is useful to improve your writing. Equally, if you find all other reviews are positive except that one then maybe it wasn't to that reviewer's taste this time; a bit like the way some people love coffee creams and others despise them.

After all that, get back to writing your next book, short story, whatever. And more power to you for doing so.

Final thing to take away is that most reviewers, unless writing for a national newspaper, are doing this without payment purely because they love reading books and sharing their love of books. They have personal lives which come with all the usual joys and hassles - they are not reading and reviewing books 24/7. Equally, remember that reviewers want to have books to read and if you send them something they enjoy you might have a fan for life.

All the above is just my thoughts on the whole review process as someone who has been on both sides of the fence as a reviewer and as an author. If you find something here you think rings true then please pinch and copy. If you think I've missed the mark somewhere along the lines then that's all good too. I certainly don't have all the answers and am still learning in this whole writing adventure but the above feels about right for me.

Love and hugs