April 14, 2017

I'm outsourcing this post ...

You probably won't know it - yet - but the title of this blog is a clever pun based on one of the books by my guest blogger today, Eric Gates. He's the author of several thrillers which I guess deserve the prefix techno-, dealing as they do with aspects of contemporary technological life.

Eric has had an interesting and varied career (as you'll see from his bio at the end) and here he provides an equally interesting insight into how he produces his fast-paced and exciting thrillers. His blog is also very well worth a read if you're interested in thriller writing as he brings together other writers to talk about a subject of their choosing.

So, let's move on!

How do you go about beginning your novel – do you plot, or do you begin and then see where it takes you? Why do you do it that way?

My method in my madness is to start at the end. Yes, it does sound like something out of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, right? Where’s the King of Hearts when you need him? Seriously, having ‘defined’ how a story will end gives me a clear goal to work toward. Obviously, the definition of my initial ending idea is subject to change, sometimes considerably, as I write the tale, but it does allow me to create the theme and message of the novel and stay on track throughout.

Once I have an ending, the next part to be defined is the start. How is the tale going to open? Who will feature in the opening? What questions (hooks) will I pose for the reader? I confess on spending considerably more time on this (say the first three to four chapters, sometimes as many as ten given the chapters tend to be short) than on defining the ending. Not only do I seek to establish the story at the beginning of the novel, but also create a high degree of tension and emotional response (engagement) in the reader, as well as imbue these chapters with a rhythm that will draw the reader into the tale.

The rest is relatively easy (he quipped, smiling) …just propel the narrative from that bombshell opening in the direction of the ending I have in mind. Who said this writing thing was hard?

I don’t outline the novel beforehand as such, but do use Mind Mapping tools to develop ‘scenes’ which could become several chapters, as I go along. This way both the characters and the tale itself can breathe and remain fresh.

What are your thoughts on ‘style’? Is it something you’re aware of while writing? Do you focus more on the story, or on how it’s told?

I write thrillers so keep in mind the generic style constraints for this genre (tension, pace, complex characters, cliffhanger chapters, and a solid storyline) as I write. These characteristics in turn have helped me develop a very personal writing style over the course of my novels. For instance, I have lots of tricks that I will use to keep the pace moving fast throughout, though sometimes deliberately slowing this to ensure my readers don’t end up having any coronary issues and preparing the tale for another gallop (the RollerCoaster effect). This results in the words ‘page-turner’ and ‘fast-paced’ often being used in reviewing my novels. Nowadays I tend to use these tools subconsciously and focus more on the tale itself.

How and when do you do research for the book? Before you start, or as and when you need?

Neither one nor the other. When I have, or generate, an idea for a book, I do broad research into the subject areas it touches upon. I then fuse several of the concepts encountered, looking for an original approach. Once this emerges, detailed investigation follows (lots of reading and note-taking, and not just the Internet, I might add). Next, given my personal history, I will apply anything I have experienced or know about to the story to add believability and authority to the tale. Yes, as I’m writing, I will continue to sniper-research subjects though these are usually highly focused searches for specific details, such as the fuel range of a specific private jet, for example.

How do you deal with Point of View? Do you always use First Person, or Third Person, or do you move between them? What problems are you aware of because of the choices you make?

Generally I pick a character and write the chapter in the Third Person from their point of view. As my chapters are usually short, this allows me to use a different character’s viewpoint in the next chapter without falling into the ‘head-hopping’ trap. So far, this method has not created any issues in telling the tale I want to in the way I wish it to unfold.

How do you go about editing or revising the drafts of your book? What governs the choices you make?

With massive amounts of Patience, and constant use of a piece of software (Stylewriter) I picked up for helping with self-edits. Why is the software so important? Well, to be brief, the answer is in an article on my website: http://www.ericjgates.com/TipsTricksSelfie.html

Are you conscious of being influenced by any particular authors or genre-specific elements when writing? How do those influences affect your writing?

Yes. I have three very strong influencers: Charles Dickens (he was a thriller writer too, did you know?), British author John Gardner, and Ian Fleming. All three have provided me with lessons (only John in the flesh, I might add. I’m not that old!) which I maintain alive in both the tales I tell and the way I do this.

Tell us about your latest book, especially any challenges it set you.

My latest, ‘Primed’ is the sequel to ‘Outsourced’ and is, to a great degree, a reaction to demands from readers for more of the protagonists. The challenge I faced with this book is the unique storyline I developed for ‘Outsourced’. I didn’t want this to be an episodic story reminiscent of a TV series, rather an opportunity to learn more about the protagonists and the personal challenges they faced because of the way their lives had been changed by what happened in the first book. To achieve this, it became clear early on that I needed what was almost a standalone story as the engine for the events, and I think that worked well in the end.


Please tell us a little about yourself and how you’d like to be contacted via social media, and also where to buy your books. 


Biography:

Eric J. Gates is an ex-International Consultant who has travelled extensively worldwide, speak several languages, and has had articles and papers published in technical magazines in six different countries as well as radio and TV spots.

His specialty, Information Technology Security and Cyberwarfare, has brought him into contact with the Intelligence community on several occasions.

He is also an expert martial-artist, having been trained in over 25 different fighting arts. He has taught his skills to members of various Police, Military and Special Forces units, as well as Private Security firms, Bodyguards and the public.

He is the author of several thriller novels, details of which can be found on his web, http://www.ericjgates.com which explore the confidential and secret worlds that surround us.

Amazon Author page links:



Global links for the some of the novels:

the CULL book 1 – Bloodline (FREE)  http://authl.it/B00AGZ27FA?d

the CULL – Bloodline Universal non-Kindle link (FREE):  http://books2read.com/u/bwB5e4


Leaving Shadows   http://authl.it/B00DJANLQS?d
Full Disclosure  
http://authl.it/B007XIR5Z0?d

April 07, 2017

An alternative blog about alternative history!



This blog is intended to throw a light on how crime and thriller writers put together their work. This week, in a change to my usual analyses, I've passed the baton and asked Alison Morton to talk to us about her processes when writing her highly successful alternative histories.

So far Alison has written 5 books in her Roma Nova series, with the sixth, Retalio shortly to be released.

For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, alt-history posits the idea that some actual historical fact didn't take place, or that it did, but in a different way or with a different outcome. So, for example, the recent television series made from Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle considered what might have happened had Germany and Japan won World War II.

So now let's get on with the questions ...

How do you go about beginning your novel – do you plot, or do you begin and then see where it takes you? Why do you do it that way?

As I write a series within one setting – an imaginary country called Roma Nova – I already have some idea of the environment and the characters within it. For the first three thrillers, I was burning to get the heroine’s story out, so just attacked the keyboard. The second three books centred round a prominent secondary character from the first three; I just wanted to know the secrets from her younger life and so I had to write the books to find out! 


I plot about 15% and write 85% ‘by the seat of my pants’. I know where the story starts and where it has to end. After sketching out a few essential story points, off I go.

What are your thoughts on ‘style’? Is it something you’re aware of while writing? Do you focus more on the story, or on how it’s told?
The story is the essential thing. Readers need enough detail to get the smells, sounds and sights of the setting but no more than absolutely necessary to the story. My aim is to write as tightly as possible and let the reader infer things.

How and when do you do research for the book? Before you start, or as and when you need?
Luckily, being a complete ‘Roman nut’ from the age of eleven, I have a reasonable background of Roman culture and life not to have to dive into a reference book or online site all the time. My six years in the military takes care of that side, although I do have to check up on precise details such as honeycombing on rifles and types of Glock. In the second trilogy set late 1960s-early 1980s I had to research forensic knowledge available at that time. You can’t use DNA profiling in 1968! Even though my books are set in an alternative timeline, I like to keep as near as possibly to contemporary technology.

How do you deal with Point of View? Do you always use First Person, or Third Person, or do you move between them? What problems are you aware of because of the choices you make?
I write almost exclusively in the first person. I like to know what’s going on in my protagonist’s head, her motivation and reactions and her emotions. Many writers consider it’s limiting to only have one view on events in the story, but I see this as a delicious way to set up conflict and misunderstanding. The narrator only truly knows what she sees, or senses herself; everything else is (her) speculation. 

How do you go about editing or revising the drafts of your book? What governs the choices you make?
I print out what I think is the final version of my draft, then carry out a harsh self-edit, red pen in hand, looking for overwriting, adverbs, wobbly dialogue, over-use of qualifiers like ‘very’, ‘rather’ and ‘quite’. I check the timeline for the main story, then for each character. Then it goes to my critique partner of many years who has the eye of an eagle and the instincts of a velociraptor. After any revisions, the manuscript goes to a (paid) structural editor who checks for story cohesiveness, plot holes, pace and voice. After the inevitable, but these days thankfully few, revisions it goes to the (paid) copy editor to be shuffled into a print-ready version. I explain more fully here.

Quality is essential for me and I owe it to the reader to make the finished book the best it can be.

Are you conscious of being influenced by any particular authors or genre-specific elements when writing? How do those influences affect your writing?
One of my first influences was Robert Harris’s Fatherland; it introduced me to alternative history. But more than that, to writing a pacey crime mystery within such an alternative timeline. There is no great exposition of their world; the characters live (to them) normal and natural lives within it. Alternative history has rules – a point of divergence from the standard timeline with no return, a properly built world, and writing the consequences of the divergence. These rules must be firmly planted in your head, but like the iceberg, not show in your writing. The thriller, crime or mystery is the most important thing, but the alternative world forms the framework.

Tell us about your latest trilogy, especially any challenges it set you. 
AURELIA is a crime thriller and sets up the rivalry between Aurelia Mitela, an ex-Praetorian Guard and Caius Tellus, an amoral but intelligent predator. I had to do massive research on 1960s technology and German courts, prisons and legal procedures! INSURRECTIO is more of a political thriller where a charismatic leader of a nationalist movement makes a grab for power. Of course, Aurelia tries to stop him. The last book in the trilogy, RETALIO, which is out on 27 April, is a story of resilience and resistance with plenty of doings by ‘the ungodly’ (as Simon Templar would describe them).

 Is there anything else you’d like to add? Please tell us how you’d like to be contacted via social media, and also where to buy your books. Please add a short biography, too.



Bio

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilisation. Armed with a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good crime thriller, she explores via her award winning Roma Nova novels the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women. 

The sixth book, RETALIO, will be published on 27 April. In the meantime, Alison lives in France with her husband, tends her Roman herb garden and drinks wine.
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison-morton

Buying link for all formats (paperback, ebook, audio) of all books:
http://alison-morton.com/books-2/buying-links/


*******
Thanks, Alison! Very interesting stuff! I hope Retalio does as well as the other books have so far.

Finally, I'd like to point out that the new Paul Storey thriller, One Punch, is now available for pre-order. It'll be on sale on May 8th at a starting price of 99 cents or 99 pence. You can click on the link here, or the cover image at the top left of the blog, to be taken to your nearest Amazon site in order to pre-order it. Thanks!  One Punch Pre-Order


December 11, 2016

"Trouble comes not in single spies ... "

That's Shakespeare, that is.

But in this case I've taken a liberty, because it's not trouble but good fortune that's coming my way.

So I'm sitting at my desk waiting for a Skype call to come in so I can record a podcast for Dave Core at thrillsandmystery.com. And then the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) publishes on their website a brief article I wrote on 'The Secret of My Success'.

Success Stories

Moments after that's published, and while I'm still waiting at my desk, I get another email from a man saying he's just read this article and would I like to record a podcast on my Self-Publishing Journey?

Self-Publishing Journeys

I guess this is what they call a virtuous circle ...

November 16, 2016

I told you I was bad at marketing ...

So bad that within a week of posting a blog trumpeting my latest book, I changed the cover. I do it just to confuse you.


Anyway, here's the latest iteration. I decided to go for something cooler, having spent a lot of time browsing books in my genre to see which covers I liked. I thought I liked the multi-coloured, action-packed whiz-bang ones ... but when it came to it, the covers that appealed to me most were ones that created an atmosphere with a strong graphic and tasteful typography.


So that's what I've moved towards.

The photograph is actually of Aleppo in Syria, and while the city itself isn't featured in the book, the country and its devastation plays a large part in how the story unfolds.

November 10, 2016

Redirecting ... redirecting ...

It's strange to be using a rare blog post just to direct you somewhere else, but that's how I roll ... So, that wonderful supporter of other writers, my friend Eric Gates, has hosted an article by me on how I created the villains for my latest novel, Storey.

It got me thinking about how I arrived at the characters and personalities of the bad guys and gals, and made me realise, especially, that once they begin to establish themselves in the books, their personalities not only affect how I write them, but how they even begin to 'see' themselves in the books. And that in turn changes how I write them ... a virtuous circle sorta thing.

Anyway, the post is called Criminal Behaviour, and can be found on Eric's excellent site, here:  Thriller-Writer

Cover of Storey
To buy the book, you can click here to be taken to the nearest Amazon store to your location.

If that doesn't grab you it's also available on Apple's iBook store, on Kobo and the old stalwart Barnes and Noble's Nook.








In other news ...


My fourth Sam Dyke novel, The Bleak, is one of 8 crime novels featured in a new anthology called Britain Turns to Crime. A great honour to have been asked. It's available for only 99p or 99cents, from this Amazon link: Britain Turns to Crime. Here's the ad I've been running on Twitter.


October 15, 2016

I'm so bad ...

... at Marketing!

I've had a new book out for a week and don't appear to have mentioned it on this blog. Well, the original purpose of the blog was to write about other crime writers, not myself, so I suppose I can be excused.

So anyway, here's the cover:


And it's available now and for a short period for only 99p, 99 cents or 99 centimes, depending on your mileage. If you click this link it will take you to the book on your nearest Amazon store so you can buy it for the Kindle or - if your store supports it - in paperback. Storey on Amazon. It's also available for Apple, Kobo, Nook and others from here: Storey worldwide.

HOWEVER, I do have a Marketing push going at the moment, whereby you can get a free copy of the book. You have to be on Facebook, and you have to join my Launch Team group (click Join). Then you can download the book for free ... and even get the Sam Dyke Investigations books for free, too. Read the first post in the group CLOSELY to see how to do that. Here's the link: Storey Launch Team.

In other news, you may have noticed that I've had a revision of my covers for the Sam Dyke Investigations series, as seen on the right of the page, and I've also got several translations in the works. Altered Life is being published in Spanish and has already been published in Portuguese. The Private Lie has been published in Portuguese and Italian, with Spanish to come; The Hard Swim is in the process of being translated into Portuguese and Actress is available in Italian and Portuguese. Phew - I can't keep track of them all!

Finally, if you like listening to audiobooks, then Altered Life, The Private Lie, The Hard Swim and Actress are all available via Audible and iTunes, with The Bleak to follow shortly. Here's a link to the page showing these books (plus one by a chap with the same name ... ). Keith Dixon books on Audible.

Okay, enough marketing from me ... thanks for reading!

June 14, 2016

Guest Blog - Thriller writer Eric J. Gates

Today it's my great pleasure to introduce a blog by fellow crime and thriller writer Eric J. Gates. He is a writer with a background more interesting than most who writes contemporary thrillers and is highly successful at it, too. He is also a great friend to writers, promoting them on his own blog and through a tweeting regime second to none!

As the theme of this blog is What crime writers do, and how they've done it, I asked him to write something about the process of writing. And I hope you'll agree he's come up with a fascinating approach.


Write what you know? – the Menu Method

Jumping between the roofs of two skyscrapers, decoding a cryptographic text using just paper and pen, rappelling down a cliff face. These are just a few of the things I’ve done in real life that haven’t appeared in my thriller novels… yet. Then, on the other hand, I’ve never shot a Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missile (one of my bad guys did in ‘Full Disclosure’), had a wound cured by genetically modified blood (yep, that happened in ‘the CULL’ series) or used an ancient artefact to modify Destiny (the ‘Outsourced’ series, though I used mine to have Keith invite me to this blog. Shh – don’t tell him) so I guess things have balanced out nicely.

On Amazon
They say (the grey They) “Write what you know”. I’m sure you’ve heard this. Supposedly it’s a piece of advice from Mark Twain. However, is it practical to expect writers just to include stuff they master in their books? I think not. That’s what in-depth research is for. (In-depth means not just relying on the Internet).
Not everyone has had the crazy life I’ve had. My incessant travelling and peculiar profession has allowed me to accumulate a wealth of thriller-esque experiences (and a particular set of skills) I can draw upon for my novels, yet I’m sure I am not an example of the ‘typical’ author in this respect. Many scribes, especially when facing their first books, look at their mundane jobs and life experiences, and despair. ‘Where is the material to populate the pages of a bestseller?’ they ask themselves. Well there’s a little trick I use which might help here, and would probably surprise them in the process. I call it the Menu Method.
Take a blank sheet of paper. Draw a line vertically down the middle. Now on the left hand portion, list out the things you know how to do, not the usual stuff shared by most (making a good cup of tea doesn’t count), but things that you’ve learnt because of what you do and who you are. Can you drive an articulated truck? Do you know how to fly fish? Are you a painter? Do you read ancient manuscripts as a hobby? Think hard, there are bound to be items to include in your list.
Now move over to the right hand side. Here you should list things you would like to do. Sorry, travelling on a one-way trip to Mars as a colonising astronaut may not fit the bill. Keep the items here reasonably practical. Once you have listed a few, go back over them and note down why you’ve not done this already; why is it on the right side of the page not the left?
Fun, right?
On Amazon
But what you have just created is a menu for your writing. Take something, anything, from the left-hand column and contrast it with anything from the right. What would you (or a character) need to do to go from the you of today to the one that is reflected on the right? Whatever you come up with, that’s an idea for a novel right there!
To make the right-hand column entries sound convincing when you include them in your novels, you should mix them with some of the stuff from the left-hand side (even superheroes need to iron their capes, right?). Then to flesh out the items on the right you have two options: learn how to do it (skydiving, ocean swimming, motocross racing etc) or research it in-depth. If the former is not possible, you should start the latter by finding an expert you can contact. Over the years I’ve been constantly surprised just how many people are willing to give of their time and knowledge to help out us poor scribblers. I’ve had University experts in ancient tongues (‘the CULL’ series), even the Dalai Lama’s Head of the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives in Dharamsala, India, provide me with information in response to my emails. Just offer to acknowledge their contributions in your books and many will provide you with far more data based on their own knowledge and experience than you could ever use in a story.
You see, you have missed out one important item on the left-hand side of the page.
You know HOW to have people help you when you come up against a problem. That’s something all successful writers do and nothing is stopping you from doing the same.
“Write what you know” may have worked for Samuel Clemens on the Mississippi back in the day, but remember he also said “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”.

Eric J. Gates - Biography

Eric J. Gates has had a curious life filled with the stuff of thriller novels. Writing Operating Systems for Supercomputers and teaching cyber warfare to spies are just a few of the moments he’s willing to recall. He is an ex-International Consultant who has travelled extensively worldwide, speaks several languages, and has had articles and papers published in technical magazines in six different countries, as well as radio and TV spots. His specialty, Information Technology Security, has brought him into contact with the Military and Intelligence communities on numerous occasions.
He is also an expert martial artist, holding 14 black belt degrees in distinct disciplines. He has taught his skills to Police and Military personnel, as well as to the public.
He is the author of ten thriller novels, drawing on his experiences with the confidential and secret worlds that surround us.

Where you can find him: 

April 21, 2016

The Indie Author Fringe Event - London Book Fair

Indie Author Fringe London Book Fair

For any writers who are interested in a little fun, last weekend I participated in a recorded video for the Indie Author Fringe Event at the London Book Fair. The subject was 'The better way to write a book: Plotter or Pantser' ... this refers to writers who plot out their books in advance as against those who fly by the seat of their pants. The link to the video is here, and if you're a writer you should definitely look out some of the other events at the fringe - they're a great resource of information and advice:



April 15, 2016

The Indie Author Fringe Event - Friday 15th April



At the London Book Fair this week, the Alliance of Independent Authors, ALLi, is hosting the Indie Author Fringe Event. It runs 24 hours and consists of a number of articles, videos and podcasts from a wide variety of respected voices in the world of self- and independent publishing. If you're an author making your way in this new world you're bound to find something that will be useful or relevant to you.

As it happens, I recorded a video with three colleagues last weekend on Plotters vs Pantsers - that is, what is the difference between authors who plot their works closely and those who fly by the seat of their pants. Is one more effective than the other? Does it matter which route you take? And so on ...

The Event is hosted at this page:

http://selfpublishingadvice.org

And you can see the agenda for the whole event here:

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/indie-author-fringe-april-2016-agenda/

If you see this post in time you can find my humble contribution at these times:

15 April • 7:30 pm • LONDON
15 April • 2:30 pm • NEW YORK
15 April • 11:30 am • LOS ANGELES
15 April • 5:30 pm • SYDNEY

The good news is that even after the event, these articles, videos and podcasts will still be available on the ALLi blog.

March 31, 2016

A new Sam Dyke short story

... well, not that new actually. It's been available for a couple of months on Amazon Kindle only, but is available through the Kindle Unlimited borrowing scheme if you don't have the pockets to buy it!

Sam Dyke looks for a missing woman but has doubts about the motives of his client ...


Available now on an Amazon near you! The Second Guess

January 03, 2016

Catching up on important news

It seems I forgot to update this blog with info about my new book The Innocent Dead. How stupid is that? So much time spent on the website and FB and Twitter ... some things just fall off the back.

I should also mention that in the interim, The Bleak has won its category in the Chanticleer Reviews CLUE competition - noir/private eye. I win all sorts of prizes for that - a free review (which otherwise costs a fortune), a free run on Bublish, which is a Twitter advertising campaign; and various buntings and badges. Also, it's quite prestigious. So that's nice.

I'll shortly be starting work on the next book, a non-Sam Dyke crime thriller based very loosely on a true story. Why make things up when you can copy real life? ;)







July 28, 2015

A Nice Thing


I was surprised and pleased to receive an email from a site called BookWorks.com saying that my novel The Hard Swim had been made their 'Book of the Week.'

BookWorks bill themselves as 'The Self-Publishers Association' and I happen to know they're associated with Publishers Weekly, the bible of bookselling. So it's no small accolade, and I'm appropriately grateful and humbled.