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The proof is in the pudding.

Or the reading, in this case.

I’ve always heard others saying that there is no better feeling than holding a solid, physical copy of your own book, and I can now say I agree wholeheartedly. It’s almost enough to make you feel like a proper author!

The paperback proof of Traitors of Sol arrived yesterday, in a pretty hefty package. The sound it made as it hit the floor after falling through the letterbox was slightly concerning, but after a quick check of the structural stability of my house I turned my attention back to the book. As I’m sure you can imagine, it did not take me two minutes to tear it open.

Although it’s wise to never judge a book by its cover, it’s also the first thing that prospective readers will see. It’s got to be bold, and it’s got to tell the reader exactly what they are getting. I was very pleased with the quality of the cover print, and I feel it did my artist justice. The colours seem to pop out, and images and blurb are crisp and distinctive. Take a look, hopefully you’ll agree. (Apologies for the image quality, the camera I used isn’t exactly top of the range).

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Of course, no book would be complete without readable font and quality paper. I’ve looked through the pages, and scoured it for printing mistakes and other errors but I must say I am very pleased with the result. The lettering is clear on every page, and the printer has handled it very well.

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Overall, I’m very pleased with the results of using Createspace. This is the first time I’ve used them, and not only is the process intuitive and easy to grasp, the book feels substantial, it reads easily, and the formatting has come out exactly how it was uploaded. If there is any other writer thinking of taking the plunge, hopefully this help with your decision – feel free to drop me a message if you want to go a bit more detailed too!

Traitors of Sol is released worldwide in paperback and ebook format on 31st July 2017. For a chance of winning one of ten signed copied, follow the link below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Traitors of Sol by J.  Porteous

Traitors of Sol

by J. Porteous

Giveaway ends July 31, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Traitors of Sol – Cover Reveal

It’s been a long time coming (my, such a long time…) but I can finally reveal the cover art for Traitors of Sol! It’s been a little while since I’ve actually posted a blog, and this is why! There have been plenty of last minute ‘maybe I should just check xx’, and other such worrying – however it has finally come to fruition, with the new cover to top it off.

Traitors of Sol is the first half of a two part saga, following the (mis)fortunes of the Space Bastards, a mercenary crew low on their luck and their money. Both parts will span to the edges of own universe and beyond, as the crew fight not only for their own lives, but for the fabric of existence itself.

As my first published full length novel, this is not only incredibly exciting but slightly relieving as well. The amount of work that goes into a full length novel compared to a short story is incredible. From the first draft and through the subsequent edits, it is impossible not to form a bond with the characters. To see them come to life at the end of such a journey seems like a revelation, and it’s nice to finally see light at the end of the tunnel. 

Why not join me at the end of the tunnel? The ebook will be enrolled into KDP select, plus available in other formats as well. I promise it will be one hell of a trip.

‘Traitors of Sol’ will be released on 31st July 2017, and will be available in ebook and print format. Review copies will be sent at request.

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Finding time to write (or other leisure activities)

This is a timely one for myself, especially considering I missed a blog post last week due to time (in fairness, that was partially illness related).

Finding the time to write is always a problem for any writer. Part-time jobs (or even full-time jobs), family, and other commitments, can cause issues of time constraint. There are only twenty four hours in the day, you’ve got to work at using them at top efficiency. Here are the ways I’ve tried to create time (with varying success, your mileage may vary), perhaps it could help you claw back some of your own time? Of course, this doesn’t just apply for writing, it could be used for whatever your hobby is.

The Early Bird special

This one is for those of the mindset that sleep is for the week. Set your alarm an hour or two earlier than you usually would in the mornings, even on workdays. Wham! Suddenly there are extra hours in your day! Of course, this can be draining, both physically and mentally. I tried this myself for a month, and it has its pros and cons. Obviously the con is waking early, but, if you can force yourself to do it, the pro is not just extra time, but extra focus too.

I found myself concentrating very well on my task (once I had woken up). My mind was sharp and I found I wrote stronger sentences which required less editing. There is a calm serene to the early hours of the morning, perhaps that was what helped so much – I wasn’t frazzled out from my day job.

Strength in numbers can help with this one. If you are a Twitter person, then #5amwritersclub could be your heroes.

Ring-fenced time

This one requires discipline. Set an hour (or however much you can dedicate) to your writing time. Whatever limits you set, stick to it. No matter what. Does that TV show have another fourteen minutes? Stop it. Does your Facebook or Twitter desperately need to be checked again? Stop it.

Everything needs to be instantly thrown out as soon as your ring-fenced time hits, otherwise you can find your own bad habits eroding your precious time. You need to be able to police yourself efficiently. Perhaps you could set an alarm at the start of your time, a signal to drop whatever you are doing at the time? Whatever it takes, you need to be strict with yourself. Unless you can rope a friend in to hit you with a stick if you try to do anything else.

Do it whenever you get the chance

This one kind of links of from my last blog about always carrying a notepad. Beware, this is a messy one that can end up with all kinds of loose ends and editing woes – or at least that is how I found it at times. If you have a good mind to tie your elements together, this could let you get some serious headway.

You’ll need to carry something to write with at all times. It can be a notepad, a laptop, even your phone. Once you have that, it’s simple! Whenever a spare few minutes comes into your day, get writing. Scribble things down, type letters into that keyboard – just do something, even if it just an idea for a scene that you will write up when you get more time.

Of course, things are a little more haphazard with the writing this way. I found I had to edit more heavily during following runs through the manuscript, as loose threads had wormed their way in and needed to be either resolved or cut out entirely. As I said before, if you have a more ordered brain than myself, this might not be an issue.

So, there are three ways to find time to do what you want. Is there anything you do to create your own time? Feel free to share it below!

Essential Survival Kit for the Writer

I’ll be straight up with you, this blog post is going to come relatively short and sweet. The blame lies solely on Mass Effect: Andromeda, and I accept no responsibility with regards to my own lack of willpower to say no to an extra hour (or seven) of it. I’m sure I’ll make this relevant somewhere.

Anyway, there’s certain things you can’t force, and inspiration is one of them. Inspiration is the fuel for any creative, and, as with any fuel, you dont want to needlessly waste it. Want to get more mileage from your brain? Then read on!

There’s always a moment when you sing a great tune in the shower, or think of a great idea in the dead of night. Your heart jumps, a smile flickers on your face. These moments are great; your mind has just revealed to you the next charts topping single, the next Picasso, and there’s no way in hell you’ll forget it.

Wait five minutes from this moment.

You’ve forgotten it haven’t you? I know I have. It’s criminal, really. I can only imagine the amount of top-grade ideas which have been drained from the collective minds of humanity. We’d probably all be flying around the galaxy shooting lasers by now.

There’s only one way around it (alright, probably a few), and that is to carry a notepad. Yes, I know, it’s a bit ‘old school’ these days, what with phones and tablets, but these things run out of battery – and that means you’ll be left stranded with an idea which will melt to nothing like an ice sculpture left in the summer sun.

Now, you could think that you could just think that sitting in front of a computer with the idea to write should do the trick. Some people can, and I truly envy them. But for myself, and most of the other writers I know, inspiration seeks you in your weakest moments.

It could be a scene you witness while you rush to work, or a passing conversation you overhear. These kind of moments, while striking at the time, will quickly be written from your brain by the time you sit down to write. You need to note it then and there. You can’t publish a forgotten thought.

It doesn’t have to be a full paragraph or even a sentence, it could simply be a couple of key words. Even you read it back at the next opportunity, those key words should cause your brain to find a shortcut to that time and place.

So, the moral of this post is to always keep something to hand that you can jot a note on. It will save you frustration in the long run. If you’re going for a run, commuting to work, or playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, keep something handy!

See? I told you I would make it relevant in the end.

The Horror of Writing Horror

Genre writing is something to think of as a safe bet. Reading fantasy? You’re going to find either magic, swords, and most usually both. How about sci-fi? It’s almost definite that you’ll get at least one spaceship.

Of course, this isn’t always the case, but these well-worn tropes give you an idea of what to expect. Now, tell me what defines horror?

An unstoppable murderer in a mask? A gruesome creature attacking in the dead of night? Or perhaps zombies slowly marching towards an outpost of humans? All great answers, and all great examples of what could be called ‘gore horror’.

But what about psychological horror too? Less of the bloodletting but more shadows lurking in doorways? And what about…

This is the crux of what I’m getting to. People find different things scary – which can make scary writing difficult in itself.

For example, when it comes to what I find scary, it’s the great unknown – the Lovecraft style indescribable horror. On the other hand, my other half is terrified of clowns. There even people out there who are terrified of buttons. I could go on, but I think you get it. People are as varied in their fears as they are their personalities.

With some stories I’ve put out I’m the past, I’ve had some people tell me they were genuinely terrified and wished they had not read it (Hooray, job accomplished!), and I’ve had others simply say ‘That’s not scary at all.’ – that one always sucks. But then you have to think, maybe it is scary, just not for them.

I tell myself this when I write the next story. The best way to write horror, in my eyes, is to write what you find scary; really wrench and pry out your own fears, and there’s guaranteed to be someone reading it who feels just as terrified of it as you. Sure, you could Google (other search engines are available) ‘Top Ten Phobias’ and write a story for each, but if you’re not scared of something, how can you make others scared of it too?

Technique and writing prowess obviously come into the mix (bad writing is a terror in itself), but with emotions, as with any writing, you can really hook the reader. Using your own genuine emotion from your own fears will come across as much more authentic than simply writing ‘He was really, really scared of the bad thing.’

Of course, as with anything, some lucky people can get away with anything (I’m looking at you, Stephen King, with your ability to somehow make horror out of everything).

Now, I must get round to writing that great button-horror I’ve been thinking of.

The Inspiration Behind Bleak Horizons

Bleak Horizons

Bleak Horizons was a collection of short stories published in January 2017. The idea behind the collection was to paint an image of some of the futures that mankind might face in its quest to survive and prosper in the chaotic universe we inhabit.

All of the stories have their own inspirations, mostly coming from news around the scientific community. The seeds of imagination can sprout from anywhere, and I wanted this blog to give a view into the science behind the fiction. Read on and see where the stories came from.

Dogs and Men

Dogs and Men was written after thinking about the aftermath of a suddenly started and quickly finished nuclear war. The immediate concern would, of course, be food and water, but I tried to think of other important things; medicine and electricity. Whereas most post-apocalyptic writings deal with the former issues, I felt compelled to write regarding the latter. I soon came to realise that even the most easily treated health issue would soon become a lot deadlier without basic medication. Because of this, I created one of my characters to be a diabetic. By focusing on an easily controlled medical issue, I felt it would really bring to life how much we would all struggle when torn from everything we take for granted.

Void Walker

The Big Bang is always an interesting theory to think about; an explosion of pure energy seemingly from nowhere. If it happened before, then can it happen again? In the face of power of this magnitude, would there be anything we, or anyone else, could do?

Void Walker follows an advanced race and their attempts to preserve life from such an energy blast, if such a thing would even be possible.

E.A.R.T.H

This story revolves around the premise of living in a computer simulation. I’ve read a lot of articles about this, and even Elon Musk has said he believes we are inside of one. There is certainly a lot of debate both ways on the subject, and I doubt we will ever find a definitive answer. What I found most interesting is the idea that we may not even know we are in a simulation. We could be being studied right now, with natural disasters such as hurricanes, meteor strikes, and famines being coordinated to see how an intelligent population would react.

E.A.R.T.H features a man facing possible interference from these invisible witnesses, and the view of events from outside of the simulation.

PopLim

Housing, food, water, and utilities are the essentials of modern society, but what if you only had a finite amount to serve a population? PopLim explores this vision, in which parts of Europe have amalgamated to pool their resources, but can only serve a certain amount of population. The hard questions start to come in when you have to think about how you can restrict the population, and how do you punish those that disobey?

The Last Astronaut

The Last Astronaut deals with the idea of mega-structures, and the possible idea that we are living in a ‘galactic backwater’. The idea of the mega-structure came from an interesting story which has done the round in the press several times over the last few months. A far away star was witnessed, and it appeared that something was blotting out the light around it.

Naturally, the idea of an alien mega-structure is an intriguing one. What if there are great civilizations out there, building structures far surpassing anything we could imagine? And what if these structures break down? Surely nothing is infallible? This is what I explored in The Last Astronaut, wondering what we could do in an encounter with such a colossal object, if anything…

So there it is, the science behind the fiction. Perhaps you’ve been inspired by a particular story? Why not share it below and possibly inspire others.

Bleak Horizons is now available on Amazon, for £1.99/$1.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited.

The Many Faces of Success

Success.

The very word conjures up images of big houses, fancy cars, and glitzy awards. If you’re successful then people know your name, they take photos of you doing mundane tasks (you’ll never be able to stand in the garden in your underwear again)- but you will be loaded enough to probably not care. Life is good when you’re successful, life is great.

For writers, it is something a little different, but still something that only a sliver of our breed obtain. We slave away for months, even years, over our precious manuscripts, hoping that an agent will see the genius shining through. The book goes on to become a best-seller, you do signings to adoring fans – you even get a movie deal (of course you’ll make a cameo in it, even if it’s just Generic Bad Guy #3 as he gets popped under the wheels of a space tractor).

This is what I like to think of as commercial success. You make a nice amount of money (although that seems to be dwindling these recent years), become a household name in your genre, and you might even pick up an award or two. In their deepest of desires, I think most writers hope and aim for this, but the road is long and rocky. I console myself with other thoughts.

I think of the following points as personal successes. Yes, I know commercial success will no doubt be a personal success as well, but these ones are truly centered around the writer.

Have you got low sales, with only a handful of people picking your new release up? Think of it differently. Time. Time is a precious and fleeting thing. People complain constantly about there never being enough hours in the day: not having time to do what they love, not having enough time to see the people they care about. When you see the sales your works have achieved, don’t think of it as ‘oh, only  a couple of dozen people have bought it’, think about the fact that those couple of dozen people believed your work deserved their time. They have sacrificed their time because they believe your book is worth it.

In their precious relaxation time, they have decided to read your work – they use your words to unwind and escape the world of reality. You’ve given another person a refuge from the outside world, somewhere safe to unwind and drift away. If that’s not something to be proud of, I don’t know what is.

Next up are the reviews. Reviews are the holy grail for writers. We crave feedback, to be told what people liked, and potentially didn’t like, about our work. When someone reaches out to you with a review, relish it. The majority of readers don’t tend to give reviews, simply reading a book and ploughing into the next one. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that, it’s not owed to the author at all, and this makes reviews successes in themselves.

When you receive a review it means you’ve connected with someone else, somewhere on this planet, and made enough of an effect that they need to comment on your work. They could have simply thought ‘Hey, that was good’, and moved on with their lives – but they didn’t.

Sure, not all reviews will be glowing with five stars, but that person still felt the need to speak about your work. You’ve affected someone’s life enough that they have not only read your work, but they felt the need to comment on it too. That’s a big connection for two people who are likely to never meet. Its like you’ve been granted a superpower to dive across the world and enter your thoughts into another mind. Words on a page are powerful things when wielded well.

So, how do you measure success as a creative? In my mind it boils down to either large sales or connecting with readers (with the aim of both, of course). Sure, nice thoughts won’t put food on the table, but it should provide some nourishment to the soul in the least.

If you are feeling a little down about low sales or minimal reviews, think about those individual people you’ve already affected; people that you’ve connected with through your written word. I hope it brings you pride in your work, if you don’t have it already.

In summary – Yes, the big successes are great – but don’t forget that the smaller ones gleam just as bright.

Do you have any thoughts you fall back on? Your own personal successes? Why not share any nuggets of wisdom you have below – your words may strengthen another.

Editing and Stockholm syndrome

Editing. The word strikes fear in some and joy in others (masochists, for want of a better term).

My own experience of it can only be explained by Stockholm syndrome. I love that moment of finishing the first draft, I really do. That beautiful moment when you place that last full stop and think back over the wonderful thing you have just created. Remember that scene where the Minotaur finally overcame his shyness? When the main character talked himself into believing that writing was a choice of the sane? Such wonderful, wonderful moments.

Then you let it rest. It’s then that the rot rises to the surface. Your beautiful prose and well-written characters come back to haunt you, not as you remember them, but as twisted versions of their former selves. It’s like an ever more terrifying version of A Christmas Carol, but this one happens all year round. The ghosts of your story come to find you in your most defenseless moments; attempting to fall asleep, sitting on the toilet, or writing something else. You freeze for a moment, then furiously think of how you could change that line, or perhaps cut a scene entirely. You shake your head at the scene where the pirates join forces to fight the cow invasion. Eventually you believe the entire thing is lost and you may as well free up that extra space on your hard drive.

I always feel like a butcher on the first edit. Yes, some stuff does go in, but mostly things get cut out and consigned to my writing dustbin. Sometimes I look in there to laugh, other times to cry. It makes me want to never write again, as what is the point? It’s rubbish, isn’t it?

But then something odd happens. I finish that first edit and look back. I see some elements gleaming, others tarnished. I let it rest again. I go back, and edit it again. Repeat ad nauseum. Eventually I love the editing. Everything is gleaming and shiny and as wonderful as it can be. I look back on scenes with genuine glee, occasionally picking out things I had forgotten I had written – the occasional line or piece of dialogue pops out as better than I remember it. Everything is good with the world once more.

Then you finish the next first draft, and the sickness sets in again.

The Road to Publishing – Beta Readers

Beta readers. I know, everyone talks about them, but it’s always going to be important to any writer, so it’s always going to be worth talking about.

I’ve always liked the idea of beta readers, a way to unleash my (what I consider) finished beast on unsuspecting readers and wait for the glorious praise to come rolling in. I’ve written a masterpiece after all, haven’t I? I posted on several forums I am active on: Goodreads, Reddit, and others. I tried to dangle a bit of a carrot for would be readers, a mention in the acknowledgements in the finished item along with a free copy of said book, plus my eternal thanks. I sat back with a smile on my face and waited for the offers to come in.

After two weeks, nothing. Not a single bite on any of my comments, not one person offering their much wanted services. It was then that I realised a major issue. My post was one of hundreds, with hundreds more rolling in on a daily basis. I scrolled through to find my post, only to find it shunted to the deepest depths of the forum. I kept watch of new posts as they arrived; they asked for the same as me, and offered very similar, and I watched as they were swiftly swept to their deaths with nary a post between them. Upon seeing this I decided to take action.

I used a paid beta. Yes, you read that right, a paid beta. I can hear the cries of outrage and horror from behind my monitor as I type this. You’d be correct in thinking that you can get people out there who will do it without being paid, and if you can then that is great. For those of us who struggle to get a bite, I can only say how impressed I was for a reasonable price.

I chose my beta from the fact that they were actually an editor as well. I received regular updates on the progress of the read, with their thoughts as they piled through my manuscript. Come the end of the two/three week process I received at five page document covering both story and technical elements, with their true thoughts on what worked and what didn’t. It was swift and concise, and the beta was friendly and was happy to answer any extra questions as well. I don’t want this to act as a sales post, so if anyone is genuinely interested in using the same service, drop me an email and I will pass the details on.

I understand this won’t work for everyone, and that is understandable. I’ve been on both sides of the beta fence, and I know the frustrations of each. I’ve given in-depth feedback on technique, characters, plot, and received not even a thanks back. It’s all too easy to get burnt when it comes to an honour system. It’s always best to keep in mind that you are asking for a person’s most valuable commodity – time.

So, if you are searching for beta readers and have no luck getting a bite, it’s not the end of the road. There are other options out there to get feedback, they just might not be deemed as conventional as the status quo. But then again, when was it any fun following the status quo?

Commencing transmission

Welcome to my brand new website and blog!

It’s been a long time coming, and I never thought this day would roll around, but with my upcoming releases exiting the final editing stages I finally found the time to try and create a little corner of the internet I can call my own.

Here I will update with talk of publishing, muse about the trials and tribulations of writing, and countless other forms of procrastination. There may even be a few pictures too (everyone loves a good visual).

If anyone has any questions about anything to do with writing, publishing, or just want to have a bloody good rant/chat/moan (delete as applicable), then feel free to drop me an message – you can contact me on Twitter or via the Contacts page. If it’s particularly thought provoking, I may even feature a blog on it too.

If you’re a fellow author, feel free to get in contact too! I’m happy to guest other authors on here, so drop me a line and we can discuss it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m sure there is something productive I should be doing…