Berley’s Top 10 World Building Tips for Sci Fi or Fantasy

A great write-up on world-building.

Curse Breaker Series

Like I have mentioned in past blog posts, it took me ten years of writing and collecting rejection letters to get to level I am today. And even so I’m still working and still climbing. Always working and always writing to improve my craft. The bad part about going through those ten years is obvious, even the annoyingly cliche parts. The form letters, the future uncertainty, people not interested in looking at your work, people telling you you’re wasting your life and you should do something else. But believe it or not, some good things came out of those ten years. I learned to be a better writer, I developed thick skin, and I learned more or less how to market myself and my work and on top of that I learned how to world build. Like I said before my techniques might not work for everyone. But before you…

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Listening to Music While Writing

I read once that any distraction, whether it be cell phones, Facebook, your significant other, that poodle next door with a bark that sounds like its choking on a squirrel, or even your favorite music, can be detrimental to the writing process. I don’t agree with this. Well the music part anyway.

Some people prefer pure and absolute silence, but I’m not entirely sure how that’s possible. Do these people write at midnight in their local graveyard, or have they found themselves a room with four padded walls and a single locked door? The latter would probably mean they’re insane, which is hardly surprising since we’re talking about writers, but when does life actually provide an author with the perfect setting to write?

My thoughts on those silence-lovers is that they spend more time worrying about distractions than actually writing, just like I used to. When I first started getting serious about writing my novel that was my biggest worry – finding the right room, the right noise levels, the right head space and the right kind of wife to give me the time, silence and escape I needed to delve into my imagination and get inside the minds of my characters. That was also why I managed to write a grand total of 10,000 words over the course of three months. Gross.

One day I was procrastinating, looking for advice on writing and watching YouTube videos when I stumbled upon Adrian von Ziegler. The title of the first video I clicked was “2 Hours of Fantasy Music” and, thinking this very intriguing, I sat down, closed my eyes and gave the first few songs a listen.

Fast-forward two weeks and I had 30,000 words down and the first substantial chunk of my novel completed. It was the absolute PERFECT playlist for my writing. Before Adrian von Ziegler, I tried the whole silence thing and got absolutely no where with it. Now, with his music  I’m transported directly into the right head space, and the writing flows along with the tempo. I found the ying to my writing yang, and his name is Adrian von Ziegler.

Give the first few tracks a listen, it could be just what you need to break that writer’s block:

If you have any favorite tunes you listen to, I invite you to share them in the comments section. =)

The Writer Automaton: A 240 Year Old Computer

This video is just simply stunning.

I haven’t sat around like this with my mouth open since I accidently stumbled upon a Playboy when I was 11 or 12.

There are and were truly brilliant minds out there, I don’t think anyone questions that. But the quality and craftsmanship of this “doll” is astonishing. For something like this to have lasted 240 years is almost inconceivable. Someone must have loved it very much. What a treasure.

 

(Initial credit for the video find goes to http://www.chonday.com)

The Importance of Hard Copy Books at Launch (Indie or otherwise)

 

This past holiday season I released my first novel, Tournament of Hearts, and if you’ve been reading along on my blog, you might remember that I saw some pretty decent success in my first few weeks. There has been an expected drop-off in sales as of late, seeing my book fluctuate up and down in both the Canadian and American charts, but I’ve been thrilled with the response thus far from family, friends and new fans. I’ve landed a few interviews with local media, have had my first few reviews pop up on Amazon and have felt reinvigorated as of late, writing some of the best material I’ve ever produced for Book Two of The Librarian Gladiator series.

Things are definitely looking up, but then that asshole inner pessimist pops out my happy head, sits down, holds his chin in his right hand, lightly taps his cheek and says:

“What kind of success would you have seen if you’d had hard copies for sale on Amazon at launch?”

You son of a bitch pessimist…but he’s right, even if he is a dick.

I can’t tell you how many people have asked for hard copies, mainly because I’m terrible at counting, and partly because it was a lot. Here I was, thinking the physical book market wasn’t as prevalent as it once was, but that’s been found to be total and absolute bullshit. While more and more people are converting to e-readers, there are still a ton of people out there buying bookshelves and loading up their personal libraries with hard-covers. Not having my novel out in hard copy at release was an absolute mistake.

Here are three reasons why:

1) Having hard copies available will increase your sales in all markets, including the e-reader happy market.

For example: Someone is perusing your book, reads the synopsis, thinks it might be worth a look and checks out the price.

“Who does this prick think he is?” they say. “What kind of no-name nobody is trying to sell his first book for $12.99 when…oh look at that, his e-book is on sale for $2.99 on Kindle. Ok well, what the hell.”

Unbeknownst to anyone, until now, I can read the minds of people looking for books on Amazon. Or at least I think I can. *takes another hit of LSD*

Yup, definitely can.

It’s natural for us to see a high price, scoff at it, find the same product at a much lower price and feel inclined to buy it because it’s so bloody “cheap”. It’s the “on sale” strategy those pricks at Walmart and _insert any store in existence_ use, and it will work for you just by having hard copies available at the required higher price right beside your e-copy.

2) People who believe in you want to show that they believe in you.

Family, friends and your imaginary buddy will all buy your hard copy right out of the gate. This is especially the case when you break into their house, root through their purse and drawers, steal their credit card information and buy your own book with it (shame on you if you did…but points for effort!).

Now if we’re being serious for a second, unless you’re a greedy capitalist pig, you’re goal here is not to exploit these people you love, but to get the word out about your book. Of course you can badger them to spread the good news, but that will last only so long. What you really want is your physical book on their shelf, maybe your novel mounted in a gold-encased frame above their fireplace, or perhaps lying in a pile beside their toilet, which is perfect. Everybody poops!

When readers visit another’s home, they can’t help but be a little snoopy. They look at what’s on their shelves and just like a book store, if your cover is snappy it’ll grab their attention. They want to know what their friends are reading, and if that’s your book well then you might just have another sale from someone you’re not related to (for once)!

3) You’ll be more likely to get the reviews that you need, crave and BEG for.

Here’s a question: Would you be more likely to leave a product review for a brand new car OR a Donald Duck-headed pez dispenser?

The car of course, unless your my wife and you’re addicted to sugar.

The same goes for a hard copy book vs. an e-book. People who spend north of $10 on a book want to tell people what they thought about it, because humans have this propensity to speak their mind when they believe they really have some skin in the game. Hopefully your book doesn’t suck and these people come at you with praise instead of pitchforks.

Now I’m sure there are a few more reasons, but these are the one’s that really stick out for me. Having hard copies right off the bat at release is an absolute must in my opinion, and it’s one of the few things I would like to do over if I could.

If you can think of any other strong reasons, feel free to share them in the comments section below. But if you want to nay-say me and say the physical book is dead, go to hell. I don’t listen to reason no matter how well-articulated it is.

Review: “Ruin” by Harry Manners

I’ve been a little absent from my blog this past week for a few reasons. One being the holiday hangover I’ve been nursing for the past forever, and the second reason being Ruin, a fantastic post-apocalyptic thriller by indie author, Harry Manners.

As any good reviewer should do, I will preface this review by saying I was offered Ruin for free in exchange for a review, but instead chose to buy the book. The author’s blurb got me, hook, line and sinker, so I knew I wasn’t wasting my time. It was also cheaper than a beer, and books usually go down a lot better for me anyway. Moreover, I believe a truly honest review can only happen when I have my hardly-earned money on the table. It allows me to piss on an author’s work without feeling too terrible about myself afterwards.

SO, without further adieu, here’s the review:

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Harry Manners’ Ruin is set in the UK, forty years from now, in a world that is only a generation removed from a mysterious and terrible end that no one has been able to comprehend (I won’t spoil it!). After years of terrible hardship and soul-crushing decisions made by bad, good and downright normal people, pockets of survivors merge into small communities and try to regain some of what was lost in the not-so-distant past. Our story picks up during a time in which, after years of growing prosperity, life in the downtrodden United Kingdom takes a serious turn for the worse.

Starvation threatens the town of New Canterbury, which is the primary setting in which Ruin takes place. The crops have withered, the game has begun to disappear and, as the reader soon finds out, their dark past comes back to haunt them.

Our main character, Norman Creek, isn’t old enough to know a world before “The End”, but he is chosen to become the next leader of New Canterbury, their saviour and maker of all important decisions. However, he resists his “destiny”, and feels he is unfit to lead and unfit to fill the shoes of the great Alexander – his older mentor and charismatic town leader. Norman was told from a young age that it was his calling to save the world, to bring back the glorious prosperity that reigned before “The End”, and to keep the people of New Canterbury from harm. Alexander reminds Norman of this every chance he gets, as if hearing it enough times would make it true. Norman doesn’t think so, but everyone else in New Canterbury seems to be drinking the kool-aid.

This is one of the strongest themes throughout the book. Norman struggles with his ordained role and hates how people look to him to lead even though he feels entirely unworthy. Ruin depicts his struggles well, shows that he is much more than just your typical heroic protagonist sliding into his role of destiny unscathed. He’s complex and feels helpless to the whims of fate – something I think all of us can relate to at times.

Beyond Norman, all of the other characters bring key elements to the book that wrap into a cohesive, dramatic package that is full of action and the little nuances that makes great fiction great. There is authenticity in his dialogue, nothing cheesy about it, and while at times Manners’ imagery and description can be a bit too flowery for my simple tastes, he really manages to paint a vivid post-apocalyptic world that eats away at you and makes you feel extremely fucking desolate. I felt myself at times praying that a herd of deer would just run through town and a massive feast would present itself and make everyone happy, full and help them just chill the fuck out for once. Instead, they live in fear of an evil that lurks outside their town’s borders, and they scrape by on rotten scraps and stale bread. Just thinking about their situation makes me feel sick to my beer-basted, pizza-laden stomach, and I believe this is the biggest reason why I loved Ruin.

Another fantastic element was the intermittent “Interludes” that explained the first days, months and years after “The End.” I won’t spoil anything, but I believe readers will find these to be some of the best chapters throughout the entire book. Manners ties everything in his two timelines together beautifully, unweaving a tangled web into something that will catch even the most elusive reader. In fact, I kind of hate the guy for doing this so well. A few things caught me by surprise, but I’m kind of a dullard when reading, and I knowingly let the author lull me, so take that for what it’s worth.

Now, while I loved the novel as a whole, I can’t refrain from sharing a few things I disliked. There are several chapters throughout the book that follow a separate story that I believe will be increasingly important in the next instalment of The Ruin Saga. However, this “side story” was not tied together as well as it could have been with the main New Canterbury plot, and I quickly lost interest. I believe the little girl is very important going forward, but Billy and her father were overshadowed entirely by the ongoings of Norman, Alexander and the rest of the messed up gang in New Canterbury. Hopefully this is rectified in the next book!

The score you ask? Well here’s the breakdown. Keep in mind that I value some aspects of literature more than others, so, like any review, take this with a grain of salt:

Writing: 9/10 – Great writer. Stephen King-esque, and I don’t say this lightly because I LOVE King. Bravo.

Characters: 4/5 Solid main characters, a few secondary that I could care less for, but I suppose that’s why they’re secondary.

Plot: 4/5 First three quarters of the book had me completely enthralled. I couldn’t put the damn thing down. Last quarter was less so, but sets the stage for a big upswing in the next novel.

SCORE: 17/20

I highly anticipate the next book in The Ruin Saga, and recommend this one as a highly entertaining, inspired read. Manners has set the bar high for my first review, and I can only hope he doesn’t disappoint with his next instalment.

“Lost Voices” Speculative Fiction Opportunity

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Here’s what I would call a wide-open opportunity for all you authors out there looking to dip your quill into the publishing world of anthologies.

The fine folks over at Parsec Ink are calling for submissions for their annual Triangulation anthology. The theme this year is “Lost Voices” and they’re looking for fantasy, sci-fi and horror short stories up to 6,000 words. Check out the submission guidelines for more information. The due date for submissions is on February 28th, so get writing!

Are you interested? I know I am, very. But between my constant struggles writing the next book in my Librarian Gladiator series and the marketing I’ve felt compelled to do since my release, I’m not sure I’ll find the time in the early stages of 2015. However, a few ideas popped into my head right away – ideas that you’re free to poach, mould and turn into something more coherent and exciting than I could ever make it:

a) A boarding party lands upon an abandoned spacecraft after losing communication with the salvage/research team. Soon after they land, voices crackle over the powerless intercom, ghostly and unfamiliar to all in the party. Screams rattle down the hallways, coming from nowhere and everywhere.

b) A woman in her mid-30’s has been hearing the voices of the dead her whole life. She speaks with them on a regular basis and takes their wisdom/advice. She is thought eccentric by most, a fascination by others, and she does not fear the voices for the dead rarely speak of little else except the cherished memories of their loved ones. That is, until one day, she passes by a home in the suburbs and hears the horrible screams and cries of a poor boy that died there, loving no one and fearing everything. His parents are the source of his pain, and the woman feels compelled to find out what happened as she attempts to talk back to the dead for the first time. (maybe too thick of a plot to make work…this is probably why I have issues with word counts 😀 )

GAH! I have to go write now. Creative juices flowing! Must…turn…this…into…some sort of PROGRESS! Happy trails!

Happy New Years!

Happy New Years everyone!

I’d like to thank everyone that made my 2014 a very special one, including all of you who have supported me in this crazy adventure into the book world. It means everything to me that my friends, family and fans have continued to show their support throughout the busy holidays, and while I know you all have your lives and this is just a little blip on your timeline, I wanted you to know how much it means to me that you’re here even bothering to read these posts.

So here’s to an even better 2015! I know for many of you it probably started out with a hangover, a breakfast of eggs and overcooked bacon on burnt toast, followed by an unceremonious plop onto the couch where you’ll spend the next few hours/days. But the nice part is that 2015 only gets better from this point. That’s as good of a reason as any to get wasted on New Year’s Eve…the following day sets the bar REALLY low for the new year, making it seem like there’s upward progression from that point on. I think I’m onto something here…

Anyway, now I’m just rambling. Happy New Years all you beautiful people!