Finally, a progress report!

Oct 6, 2020

I have, without any shadow of an excuse, rather neglected my blog. Oops. There’s a list of things every writer is supposed to have; websites, blogs, youtube channels, social media presence, bookmarks, free giveaways, posters, signage… trouble is, if you spend all your time doing this you’ll never actually sit down and write a book. Anyway. I do intend to get back to the blog a bit more often.

As per the previous post, I’ve spent some time rejuvenating the website, delving into the murky world of html and css, in order to modernise it a bit and put in place the foundations for some future e-commerce activity. More of that in time.

I have been working hard – honest! 🙂

So, 2020 then. Didn’t really go according to plan it has to be said. I’m sure many of you are in comparable if not similar situations. Within weeks of Covid-19’s lockdown becoming apparent almost all of the conventions I was planning to attend were cancelled (some were a bit tardy in doing so in my view, but got there in the end) which meant a complete lack of book distribution opportunities. My plan for 2020 had been to spend a lot of time ‘investing’ in this to put my name out there a bit more and aim to promote my books more strongly. Scuppered is the correct word here.

As a result of that, quite a lot of upheaval at home and a significant income drop to be factored into the equation (and, alas, writers still have bills and mortgages to pay… plus it is pleasant to eat upon occasion) I was forced to alter my work patterns and seek alternatives, which has kept the bill collectors away, but rather thrown a spanner in the works in terms of book creation. I planned on writing 2-3 books this year, I’ve managed 1.5 thus far. It remains to be seen how I will fare in 2021.

Doomdark’s Revenge has been significantly delayed as a result. It was supposed to be out this year during the summer and it now won’t be out before 2021 unfortunately – however progress is still being made and I’m pushing it forward as quickly as I can. As per usual, I do want to ensure it’s “right” rather than “on time”. As I’ve already missed “on time”, I’m going to have to deliver on “right” ! Quality is one of my hallmarks and, particularly when working on someone else’s IP, I want to ensure it’s the best it can be.

The Lords of Midnight

The Lords of Midnight has gone down well, exceeding the popularity of my second Elite book, which was something of a pleasant surprise to me. There’s a lot of love out there for Mike Singleton’s work and, if the majority of the reviews of LoM are to be believed, I managed to extend on his narrative without compromising it. It was good for me to be able to show that I didn’t need Elite to be successful. Both LoM and Shadeward are selling well alongside my Elite books. I will be working on Doomdark’s Revenge exclusively until it’s complete – just to reassure you!

I’ve been watching the slow but steady progress of Elite Dangerous over the last year or so, adding my voice to those lamenting the lack of lore and story-telling in the game. The good news is that (finally!) Frontier have decided to do something about this and GalNet has returned. I’m not involved any more, but I have enjoyed producing the Lore Tour and the current Astro Tour, but I’m unlikely to provide much more content for that universe.

The most popular Elite Dangerous novel – Reclamation

Odyssey (a.k.a SpaceLegs) really doesn’t interest me all that much. I’m sure I’ll still play occasionally, but “I think my work here is done”. I’ve had a uniquely privileged position in the community as the result of my Elite Dangerous books – you fans have ensured that both of my books are by the far the most popular of all the official novels – and I am very grateful for both the opportunity and the reception to those stories. It’s been nice to give back a little here with my short stories for Michael and Evelyn. The Salomé incident remains controversial, but, at the very least, it was memorable and I think that’s a good thing for a writer! I even got to speak to CMDR Beseiger (a.k.a. Harry Potter) on one of my streams and reminisce, in a civilised manner, on what was a very interesting day in the game back in 2017.

Overall, I’ve been very privileged to meet a lot of people through the shared experience of this video game and, with only one notably egregious exception, all have been amazing, remarkable and dedicated fans with whom it’s been my honour to spend some time with. Right on, Commanders! o7!

My completed Shadeward Saga

Shadeward, my genre-straightjacket-busting SF and fantasy saga, was also completed this year and has gone on to a great response. The last book in particular has had many people and reviewers coming back to me with the accusation that they have been brought to tears throughout, such was the emotional strength of the story and the outcome for the three main protagonists; Kiri, Meru and Zoella. No spoilers of course if you haven’t yet read it, but that emotional resonance was by design.

Shadeward, whilst being an adventure, fantasy and SF story, is about the people primarily. The interplay between the three was deliberately designed to be complex and not a tawdry love triangle or superficial romance. There are themes of hatred, vengeance, with bittersweet reunions and acts of forgiveness, altruism and sacrificial love. That’s the heart of Shadeward. This was also another opportunity to show that my writing could stand alone away from Elite (and even LoM). I take my writing very seriously and plan to continue for quite some time – the response to the stories was everything I hoped for and it’s wonderful to know I’ve built a core “fan base” who look forward to my next output!

In terms of that actual process, i am reviewing my approach for the future. I’ve published my own works directly and used the wonderful team at FBP for many of my novels. Frontier also published one of my Elite books. As a result I’ve now got quite a lot of experience of both the pros and cons of various approaches.

I’ve not bothered with the “traditional” approach thus far – i.e. finding yourself an agent and then having them pitch your book to a big publisher. I may give this a whirl, but the problem I see here is that every new “middle man” you introduce into the process reduces your cut of any profits to be made – and they aren’t particularly big anyway, especially not with Amazon taking a major chunk of the takings. You also loose a lot of executive decision making power and may have to write within the genre straight-jacket, something I really abhor. Some writers will say that you haven’t been properly published until you have an agent and a publishing deal with a publisher that your gran has heard of – that’s a conceit, of course, but quite a popular one. I don’t subscribe to it at all however.

My aim is, and has always been, to write the stories I want to write, without let or hindrance. I am not very tolerant of being told what I can and can’t do, particularly by those who seek to enforce diversity, ethnic, religious or political agendas in their story-telling. I’m not a big fan of allegory or lecturing my audience as some academics would have us do.

I’m also seeking authentic reviews and feedback on my books. It’s tempting to send out free copies of your book in exchange for reviews – I don’t do this because there’s a huge danger of feeding a self-serving cottage industry – many such blog sites only give positive reviews – rather sycophantic to my way of thinking – and perhaps a bit unethical.

Not all reviews are created equal. 😉

My advice is that if you see reviews stating that the reviewer posted their thoughts in receipt of a free copy (ARC is the acronym of choice today – advanced reader copies) then take that review with a hefty dose of salt. The reviews of my books – good, bad and indifferent – are from people who have actually bought them on the basis of my previous work. Quality is more important to me. An inflated number of optimistically gushing reviews is the writing equivalent of the insecurity you see on social media, the constant reinforcement required by the needy for validation by receiving as many “likes” as possible for attention-seeking posts.

Fortunately, on Amazon at least, you can check the “Verified Purchase” tag next to the reviews to sort the wheat from the chaff – this isn’t perfect (and some reviews without the tag will be genuine as the reviewer may have got the book from a non-Amazon, but authentic purchase) – but worth keeping in mind.

So… what’s up next?

The focus is on Doomdark’s Revenge next. I have promised myself (and you!) that I will not work on any other projects until that is complete. In practice that means 100% on the first draft (which is about 85k words right now). Once that it done and the editing train begins I will start to move the other stuff forward.

Due in 2021 – fingers crossed!

Next up is the Hegira Hegemony. This is another series of 4 linked books, set in the Shadeward Universe and concurrent with the events you’ve already seen on Esurio. This will be a no holds barred Space Opera in the grandest sense and will exceed the scope I managed with Elite Reclamation and Premonition. For those of you of an Elite disposition you’ll find much to love and enjoy here, there will be space combat, trading and system spanning political intrigue, along with the more provincial action focused on the antics of a ship and crew. As you’d expect from me, characters will be the big focus, with a new cast of memorable people for you to love, hate and love to hate. There will be dramatic revelations and exciting set pieces aplenty. The four books have the current set of interrelated working titles at present – Contravention, Condemnation, Confrontation and Conflagration. I’m looking forward to cracking on with this.

Alongside this, the audible work will continue. I now have 3 audiobooks out there, one is currently in QA (Shadeward 3). Shadeward 4 will follow and then I’ll produce both Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge. With that lot complete, hopefully I’ll be deep into the writing of Hegira by this point!

So – I’d better get back to the grindstone! There’s much to do. Thank you ever so much for all of your support, via the (much missed) conventions, emails, twitch and youtube videos and social media and discord. I try to respond to all the communications I get, but they are sometimes delayed by the sheer volume I receive.

I will always… write on! 🙂

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