Tag Archives: publish

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Rachel Amphlett

Welcome to the first Don’t Quit the Day Job of 2018! It seems like a long time since Paul Gitsham’s post, doesn’t it? 

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Kicking us off for 2018 we have Rachel Amphlett, the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers. Rachel’s novels have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton.

You can follow Rachel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as her website.

Vic x

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, I spent many a year working as a project and contracts administrator supporting engineers in delivering major projects in the gas, infrastructure, and railway industries.

It doesn’t sound as sexy as crime thriller author by a long way, but those years behind the scenes have served me well in my current career as a writer.

For example, I was surrounded by people who had held different roles prior to turning to project management, and often within the armed forces. As an author of espionage fiction for a number of years, it meant that if I kept my ears open while ferreting around making sure sub-contractors were paid on time and monthly reports were delivered to management without a hitch, I could bribe someone with a coffee in return for hearing about their military experiences.

From an ex-Lynx helicopter pilot to a weapons guidance systems engineer who helped me blow up a submarine in Under Fire, I had all sorts of combat and non-combat experience at my fingertips – and I made full use of it.

On top of that, chatting with colleagues in the break-out area, I soon had an offer of being taken pistol shooting so I could find out what it was really like to fire a weapon.

When my writing took off in 2016, I’d already been implementing a lot of project management techniques within my writing business and these enabled me to really focus on what was important.

The best tool in my business is that of a project schedule – I use a simple Excel spreadsheet format for this, which gives me a 12-month look-ahead for the books I want to write and publish (typically a minimum of three), broken down into the steps that need to be taken to publish each book.  These include finishing the first draft, getting the final draft to beta readers, drafting again before handing over to an editor, working with my cover designer, and setting up everything else that is needed to publish a book successfully (and on time).

I can then highlight the really important milestones that I need to hit for those books – this is known as being on the “critical path” in project-speak. That is, if I don’t hit those milestones, there is no book!

Having this project schedule keeps me focused – and, if something changes during the year that means I have to switch a project with another to take advantage of an opportunity, I can. All I have to do is adjust the dates, and off I go again.

Now that I’m a full-time writer, I can use this scheduling tool to make the most of my time – it’s likely going into 2018 that I’ll double my output, but at least using my project background, I’ll be able to keep track of where I am and mitigate any hiccups along the way.

Could I be this productive without a project management background?

I doubt it very much.

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Review of 2017: Mike Craven

Today our guest is Mike Craven. I honestly can’t remember the first time I met Mike but he is a great laugh and is so supportive of other writers. I’m really pleased to hear of his successes this year – but I’ll let him tell you about them.

My thanks to Mike for taking part in the 2017 Reviews.

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Without a doubt my favourite moment was a signing a two-book contract with the Little, Brown imprint, Constable. Little, Brown currently publish most of my favourite crime writers (including Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Val McDermid, Michael Connolly and Robert Galbraith) and Constable have a sterling pedigree with crime fiction.

Other highlights were when my second Avison Fluke novel, Body Breakers first print run was sold out before publication date, when I met with a major TV production company and they optioned the Washington Poe series and when my agent secured me some cool foreign rights deals.

But there were other highlights that weren’t necessarily about me. My friend Graham Smith’s first Jake Boulder novel became an international bestseller – that made me happy. My friend and former colleague Noelle Holton finally bit the bullet and left probation for her dream job (she’s also bitten another bullet and finished a first draft of her first novel as well). And last, and definitively least (he keeps having me as drunk in his books) Michael Malone wrote a simply superb book called House of Spines which I was lucky to beta read for him. Another mate, Les Morris, got a publishing deal for a great action-thriller book. Think it’s going to do well.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Seeing the first heatbound pre-publication proof of The Puppet Show. It’s going to look beautiful when it comes out in hardback next June. That was pretty special. Oh, and I also managed to (finally) see Iron Maiden.

Favourite book in 2017? 
Spook Street by Mick Herron.

Favourite film in 2017?
Thor Ragnarok.

Favourite song of the year? 
Powerslave by Iron Maiden. They sung this at the Newcastle gig and it was a pretty special eight minutes.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
In February I fell coming back from a punk gig and shattered my ankle. I was in hospital for a week and now have more metal in my left leg than Robocop. It put me out of action for over three months and it’s still not healed.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
To stop writing behemoth first drafts. Washington Poe 2 finished at 139K. I trimmed it down to 92K . . .

What are you hoping for from 2018?
That I repay all the money and effort that has gone into the first Poe book and that it’s as successful as my editor hopes it will be.

Review of 2017: Owen Mullen

Today I’m joined by Owen Mullen. I really want to tell you all about Owen’s achievements this year but I think I’d better let him do that, hadn’t I?!

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
This one is easy… 2017 has been a standout year for me with a publishing deal,  television appearance and a coveted Sunday Times Crime Club Star Pick for my latest novel And So It Began.  But the highlight by far was having Games People Play long-listed for the McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year… Here I am surrounded by the other long-listers at the award ceremony in Stirling Castle during the Bloody Scotland festival. Look closely – you will definitely recognise most of them.

Photo courtesy of Bloody Scotland

 

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Again, easy: my eldest grandson (9 years old), unknown to his parents, took one of my books to school to tell his class about his granddad. The teacher was so impressed with his presentation that she had him repeat it in front of the whole school at the Friday assembly. He was so proud of me and no matter what the future holds for my writing career – this will always be my most cherished memory.

Favourite book in 2017?
Every Dead Thing
by John Connolly… It was the first book he had published but it showed all the promise of what was to come.

Favourite film in 2017?
Spotlight
. Michael Keaton is fabulous in this biographical crime drama. The film follows the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team,  as it  investigates cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. Disturbing and wonderful.

Favourite song of the year?
Marc Broussard – Cry To Me.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
The chaos that seems to have overtaken the political scene around the globe.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Absolutely… I’m a true Scot. I will also make a serious stab at keeping them.  Top of the list will be to stay positive – because nothing else is worthwhile…

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same” – Rudyard Kipling

What are you hoping for from 2018?
To write my best book yet and to have the first book I wrote published.

Review of 2015: Aidan Thorn

Aidan Thorn is reviewing his 2015 today. Aidan is getting a lot of kudos in the writing community at the moment so it’s great that he has taken the time to review his year.

Thanks for being involved, Aidan! 

Vic x

Aidan Thorn

2015 was a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

2015 really was a great year for me. It was a breakthrough year that saw me have two books published by two small press publishers that I really admire. In June my second short story collection, Urban Decay, was published by the boys behind Near to the Knuckle. I was delighted to be approached by them about publishing my collection. I always send my work to Darren Sant at NTTK before I submit it anywhere or publish it. Darren’s a safe pair of eyes, a writer I really respect. He went quiet for a while when I sent him the collection and then after a while I got an email asking what I thought about the NTTK boys publishing it… I thought great! At the time NTTK had published one book, the Gloves Off anthology and were about to publish their second anthology, Rogue, I was going to be the first author with his name on the cover that they published – what an honour. NTTK is really important to me, I’ve had loads of stories published on their webzine and I’ve been in both of their anthologies, so being the first author off the blocks with them was fantastic. The collection has been really well received, picking up a bunch of great reviews.

The second book I saw published this year was my novella, When the Music’s Over, by Number 13 Press. I started reading Number 13 Press books almost as soon as they came out and really loved what they were producing. I’ve found I have less and less time to read these days what with the pressures of work and my own writing. What Number 13 Press are producing are great novella length books of real quality. I was inspired, so I dusted off a novel I wrote a few years ago, chopped a load out of it, sharpened it up and now it’s out there and getting a great reaction. It’s been a real spur for me to kick on with my writing, because when I first touted that book around (at novel length) it got roundly rejected. Number 13 Press gave me a reason to revisit it and get it sharp and now it’s sat on Amazon and on people’s bookshelves with a bunch of five star reviews attached. It’s proven to me that I can do this writing thing and to never give up on the dream.

UD_Cover

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?

My favourite moment of 2015 has to be holding that paperback copy of When the Music’s Over in my hand. I’m man enough to admit I shed a tear or two when that happened. I’ve put that book on my shelves right next to my writing hero George Pelecanos, one day I hope to meet him in the real world, but until then at least our books have met, and that’s a great feeling.

When the Music's Over

Favourite book in 2015? 

I’ve read a lot of good books this year, mostly novella’s and short story collections. I know I’m biased because I’m in it but the second NTTK anthology Rogue is a belter. Gareth Spark’s short story collection, Snake Farm is incredible (I was lucky enough to be asked to read an advance copy and give a quote for the inside cover – it’s kind of intimidating as a writer reading something by Gareth, the man is unparalleled in his talent). Novellas: A Killing Kiss by B R Stateham, White Knight by Bracken MacLeod, Knuckleball by Tom Pitts and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Nick Quantrill… Sorry I know that’s more than one book – but they’re all short!

Favourite film of 2015?

Legend – Tom Hardy is incredible as both Kray brothers.

Favourite song of the year?

Just one, um… Summertime Boy by Seasick Steve, I think… I’ll probably change my mind if I think about it too much.

Any downsides in 2015?

I’d have liked to write more, but wouldn’t we all? I can’t complain really. I had two books published and a bunch of shorts published at some of my favourite eZines and anthologies… Downsides? It rained more than I’d have liked.

Are you making resolutions for 2016?

I don’t make resolutions based on years. I don’t like to think of time passing based on years. If I want something to happen I’ll get started, I’m not someone that says, I’ll do this next year or this year. Crack on with what you want now is the way I approach things.

What are you hoping for from 2016?

2016 will be another big year for me. I’m putting together a charity anthology in support of Henrietta Furchtenicht. A lot of the writing community that I write in, the so called ‘gritty’ scene will know Henri, she’s top writer Craig Furchtenicht’s wife and she’s battling Myeloma. I’ve got to know her through Facebook over the past year and she’s an incredible woman, inspirational, funny and interesting. I’ve wanted to put together a collection of stories from some of my favourite writers for a while and so I thought why not make it a charity thing in support of Henri. Originally I’d intended to make it 8 to 10 writers but such is the love for Henri that nearly everyone I approached said yes, and those that didn’t only said no because they have huge commitments elsewhere. So, we’ve now got a book with over 20 writers onboard – great writers too… There’s a lot of work to do, but I can’t wait for the world to see this book, it should be out in the first quarter of 2016.

Other projects for 2016… I’m currently 13,000 words into a new novel (I’ve taken a break to write this blog piece) called, Killing in the Name of (I like my song titles as book titles). I’m also collaborating with a friend on a couple of children’s book ideas that we’re aiming to get out as soon as possible, but you’re unlikely to know that they’re from me as I’m not putting my name on the cover.

Why I’m worried about ‘Go Set a Watchman’.

Did you re-read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to prepare? Did you read the first chapter in ‘The Guardian’ at the weekend? Did you go to a launch party? Did you buy it at one minute past midnight? Have you read it yet?

My answer to all of the above questions is: no. I have bought a copy but I must admit, I feel guilty and uncomfortable about it. Why? A number of reasons to be honest.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was the first book that made me realise the power literature has. It didn’t shy away from the pertinent issues of the day and it held a mirror up to an unequal, prejudiced society. Atticus Finch remains one of my heroes to this day and, following the revelations of the first chapter, I am worried that my view of him will be forever tainted. It’s kind of like finding something terrible out about the father you idolise.

So, not only could ‘Go Set a Watchman’ obliterate a hero in Atticus Finch, it could also damage my high regard for Harper Lee. What if ‘Watchman’ isn’t as well written as ‘Mockingbird’? How will the writer in me feel? That said, will it make me remove Lee from the pedestal I’ve had her on since I was sixteen years of age and bring about that she, too, is human and all writers must hone their craft? I could look at it like that but somehow I suspect I won’t be able to be that pragmatic.

Oh, and let’s not forget the rumours surrounding the publication of the book. Harper Lee has been a recluse for decades, shielded by her sister Alice Lee who died aged 103 in November 2014. By February 2015, it was announced the ‘Go Set a Watchman’ would be published later in the year. Is it coincidence that less than three months after her sister’s death, Harper Lee – who had vowed never to publish another book – decided to publish ‘Go Set a Watchman’, the failed first draft of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’? Did the death of her gatekeeper open Harper Lee up to manipulation and coercion? This is the part I find most concerning. Has an elderly lady with failing sight and hearing been taken advantage of by Harper Collins (a subsidiary of News Corp)? However, an independent investigation has found Harper Lee coherent and happy to go ahead with publication. I genuinely hope that is the case.

In the 36 hours since the release of the book, The Guardian are reporting sales of over 100,000 copies in the UK alone and I have – rightly or wrongly – contributed to that figure.

But I still feel guilt about reading it.

Vic x

Kevin Bufton reviews his 2013.

By the power of the mighty Facebook, I’ve been introduced to lots more lovely people this year. Kevin Bufton is one of those people. I’ve invited him to review his 2013. So, sit back, eat some leftover turkey and sweets (not together, obviously) and see how 2013 has been for Kevin.

Vic x

Kevin Bufton

2013 has been a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

Without question, seeing the first reviews roll in for my debut novella ‘Cake‘, and my first short story collection, ‘Six of the Best: A Hellish Half-Dozen‘. It was great to have the books released, but to find out that people read them, and actually enjoyed them, well – it makes the long and lonely nights in front of the laptop worth it.

Cake

And how about a favourite moment from 2013 generally? 

I think it’s safe to say that the Royal baby was barely a blip on my personal radar. That meteor exploding over Chelyabinsk in Russia was certainly an impressive spectacle, mostly because it looked like something out of a science fiction movie. I feel bad calling it a favourite moment when so many people were injured as a result, but it was a remarkable thing to see.

Favourite book in 2013?

This may seem like nepotism, as I’ve been pimping this one a lot on my blog, and on Facebook, but ‘Spirit Houses‘ by my good buddy Die Booth is easily my favourite read of 2013. It’s so unlike anything I’ve read before – it’s part Gothic, part fantasy, part weird fiction and part something else. It’s almost like a novel of a bygone age, and I mean that in the best possible sense. There’s something refreshing, yet wonderfully familiar in Die’s telling of the tale and, while I may have read books that were technically better written, none of them excited me the way ‘Spirit Houses’ did.

Favourite film of 2013?

You’re kidding, right? I’ve got two small kids – I don’t get to see films anymore. That said, I did pick up ‘Mama’ on DVD, and that was 2013. It was really good. I like films that try to creep me out, rather than just go for the jump scare. Last year’s ‘The Woman in Black’ was another fine example of that.

Favourite song of the year?

‘Bang Bang’ by will.i.am – not my usual cup of tea, I must admit, but I just haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I love the video too.

Any downsides for you in 2013?

Reluctantly, I had to make the decision to close down my publishing house, Cruentus Libri Press, through whom I had released thirteen themed anthologies over the last eighteen months or so. The place will properly close its doors in February 2014, but the decision was made this year. Let anybody who thinks that publishing is an easy business to get into, in these days of ebooks and Print on Demand services take note, it’s not. It is hard. It takes over your whole life, and for very little financial return. There are perks, of course – I’ve made so many very good friends through the imprint that it more than makes up for the general drain of the work itself. In the end, I wasn’t put on this earth to be a publisher or an editor. I’m here to write – and the sacrifice had to be made.

Six of the best

Are you making resolutions for 2014?

No – I never do. Sure, I could stand to lose some weight, pack in smoking and get more reading done, but I know that if I make a resolution to do any of those things from January 1st, then I’d only end up giving them up again by two weeks into the New Year.

What are you hoping for from 2014?

That my writing career is a bit further along than it is at the end of 2013, just like this year I’m a bit further along than I was in 2012. My plan for the New Year is breathtaking in its simplicity. I am going to finish my first novel ‘Mr Twist’, I’m going to get it professionally proofread and edited, and then I’m going to submit it to an agent and, from there, to a publisher. No strings, no half measures and no fannying about – old school, baby.

If Santa was to bring you any one thing you wanted on Xmas morning, what would it be?

World peace… No, wait – a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and ‘Doctor Sleep’ by Stephen King.

Kevin G. Bufton is a father, husband and horror writer, in that approximate order, from Birkenhead on the Wirral. He has been writing short dark fiction since January 2009 and is currently working on his debut novel. He hopes, one day, to be able to scare people for a living. Check out his blog and Amazon Author Page.

Since Christmas is a time for giving, Kevin’s playing the role of Jolly Old St. Nick and giving away his debut novella ‘Cake’ and debut short fiction collection ‘Six of the Best: A Hellish-Half Dozen’ for free on Smashwords. Simply use the links below, copy-and-paste the relevant coupon code when you reach the checkout and BOOM – freebies for all. This offer is only good until New Year’s Day, when Kevin returns to his grumpy, curmudgeonly self (his words, not mine) but, in the meantime – Ho! Ho! Ho! ‘CAKE’ can be downloaded for free, with the following coupon code – ZH74Q https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/328255 ‘SIX OF THE BEST: A HELLISH HALF-DOZEN’ can be downloaded for free, with the following coupon code – TZ97Z https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/3625

Getting to Know You: Ed BykerBooks

Today on my blog, I welcome one of the big guns in North-east publishing, the unfortunately named Ed BykerBooks. Ed’s here to talk about one of the best publishing houses in the UK today.

Ed, Byker Books have just released Volume 6 of Radgepacket, how do you manage to get so many talented writers on board?

A lot of hard work initially when we were setting up and no-one believed we were serious but since then, as the series has grown in credibility and super-coolness we find we’re having to reject an awful lot of stories. We don’t use blackmail or threats of violence to get stories, that’s just a rumour…

Where did the idea of Radgepacket come from initially?

Reading the sadly defunct ‘Bullet’ magazine and stuff like ‘Acid House’ from Irvine Welsh convinced us that there was a need for proper council estate short fiction. The short story has had something of a renaissance in recent years and we hope that we helped with that.

Tell us a little bit about Byker Books’ journey please.

We started as a little group of writers moaning that no-one would publish us despite the fact we were blatantly better than everyone else in the world (like you do). This progressed to ‘fuck it – we’ll just publish our own stuff, how hard can it be…’ (proper hard as it happens!) and now we’re causing other writers to moan that we won’t publish them despite them being blatantly better than everyone else in the world…

If someone would like to submit to you, what do they need to do?

Read the submissions page on our website and follow it to the letter – it’s not difficult – otherwise they get filed in the bin! We once got a submission that started “I don’t read submission procedures…” I don’t know how it ended as I stopped reading at that point and moved onto the next one.

What’s on the horizon next?

A Kindle novella series from some very good novelists that we’ve hand-picked for their ‘radgeness’ and their pedigree. A full length Kindle novel from Eileen Wharton entitled ‘Shit Happens’ that has been described as ‘making Shameless look like a middle-class romp!’ and more of Darren Sant’s ‘Longcroft Tales’ – he’s like a modern-day Charles Dickens you know…honest.

Where can people find you online?

www.bykerbooks.co.uk – Our website may go down for a day or two at the end of April – don’t worry, we’re on the case and it won’t be for long.

Do you have a favourite story that’s been featured in one of the Radgepackets?

They’re all brilliant otherwise they wouldn’t be in a Radgepacket, however, one that always sticks in my mind is ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ by Gareth Mews in Radge4 – it’s about a bloke whose head falls off! Can’t fault that kind of imagination can you?

So, who’s in the Byker Books team?

That’s more secret than who Prince Harry’s dad really is – all we’ll say is this, you wouldn’t want to meet the rest of them on a dark night and if you did you’d have buy the drinks as they’re all proper tight!

Cheers.

I adore straight-talking Ed. So if you’re a radgie writer and you fancy being part of this no-nonsense establishment, you know what to do!

Vic x

Get your paperback copy of Radgepacket 6 here: http://amzn.to/H7e6bR