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Andrew's horror novella, 'The Bathtub', is now available.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Any Idiot Can Write a Novel…

“Having a novel published doesn’t mean you can write,” so I’ve been told.  That may or may not be true – in fact, it is probably both true and untrue at the same time.

Anyone with a keyboard, a few days, and a modest amount of literacy can turf out a novel.  It may not be any good, but it will be a novel.  I’ve read plenty of novels that weren’t any good (including one or two of my early efforts), but at least they were novels.  I agree - it doesn’t mean you can write.

But, can anyone write a publishable novel?  By that, I mean one good enough to be accepted by a publisher.

Yes, I think most people who can read and write will be capable of turning out a decent enough manuscript. 

I don’t class myself as a natural, or gifted, but I’ve managed to persuade three Acquisitions Editors to publish my novels (not mentioning the novellas, novelettes, and shorts).  So, what does anyone who wants to write a credible novel need?  Well, three things, in my opinion…

1.  Time.  Yes, it takes time to write a novel.  A lot of time.  I work on a novel most days, and from start to finish takes about eighteen months.  That includes the planning and self-editing as well as the actual writing.

2.  Willingness to learn.  Unless you’re gifted or lucky, there are a lot of things to discover.  Head hopping?  Passive voice?  Telling?  If you don’t know what these mean and why they’re among the writer’s cardinal sins, you will by the time you’ve finished.  Not to mention plotting, characterisation, theme, and of course grammar, etc, etc.  None of these is difficult, but putting them all together well takes a top professional writer.  One day, maybe, that’ll be me.

3.  Thick skin.  I think all writers should belong to a critique group.  I do, and I’m also very lucky with my writing friends who offer invaluable advice and opinions and have the confidence to tell me when I’m going wrong.  But, among critique groups – particularly online where anonymity is possible – I’ve seen some newbie writers given a very rough ride.  Heck, even after three novels I’ve been told I can’t write, and I stand no chance of ever being published.  I can take it, but a newer writer might be put off which is a great pity. 

So, it doesn’t take genius to right a book.  It does take hard work and guts, but is so rewarding I’d encourage anyone who wants to, to try it.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Dark Realm Press

A while ago I reported that Dark Press have taken up their option to cancel the publishing contract for ‘Andraste’s Blade’. 

The publisher’s web site has now disappeared, so I assume Dark Realm Press is no longer with us.  As no electronic version of ‘Andraste’s Blade’ seems to be freely available I also assume the book is now out of print – although I do have a pdf and several hardcopies.  Maybe one day they’ll be so rare they’ll be worth a fortune.

Blade SmallI want to say another big thanks to Ann at Dark Realm Press for taking a chance on a first time novelist.

A long term plan is to tidy the novel, get it re-edited, and try a self-publishing experiment with it.  It’ll be a lot of work and I’ve got more exciting projects in the pipeline, so it’ll be low priority and isn’t going to happen soon.

‘Andraste’s Blade’ was the first novel I wrote.  I was pleased with the plot, but I think the writing suffered from my lack of experience.  One of my readers, though, has told me the storyline makes it his favourite ‘Richardson’.  I hope tightening and re-editing the book will make it a better read.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Rock and Writing

I think it’s about time for a non-serious post.  Most writers I know listen to background music when they’re producing, and some blog about playlists.  I don’t have anything specific I listen to; I generally tend to just get the PC to play some generic medium rock or metal.  Iron Maiden, AC/DC and especially Queen are long-term favourites, while Alice Cooper is a more recent discovery.

Some tracks mean something to me as a writer.  Maybe the lyrics, tone or video are in tune with what I produce.  Other songs have influenced me.  So, with my tongue firmly in my cheek, here are my ‘Top Ten Richardson-Relevant Writing’ songs.

10.  The March of the Black Queen (Queen).  An epic from the exceptional ‘Queen II’, my all time favourite album.  This track is from Queen’s progressive/fantasy early years.  The lyrics are tongue in cheek, but point to a dark side of the Black Queen.  I think of the Black Queen as a caricature of The Morrigan (who I equate with Andraste) who appears in my first novel, ‘Andraste’s Blade’.  The Morrigan was a feared Irish goddess of war and death.

9.  Wild West Hero (Electric Light Orchestra).  I’m fortunate that I often get to see Phil’s work before it’s released.  Phil is best known for his westerns and I’ve always thought this song is the closest I’ve heard to the spirit of the Old West.

8.  I Would do Anything for Love (But I Won’t do That) (Meat Loaf).  A typically massive-scale song from a performer who specialises in epics.  Despite being a wonderful song this makes it into the list due to the video, which is based on the dark fantasies ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (according to Wikipedia).  The video contains fantasy and mild horror elements I like to combine to tell a story – and Dana Patrick looks gorgeous!

7.  Highway to Hell (AC/DC).  Perhaps less serious than most of my work, but still a great romp describing how to reach the infernal regions.  I like to let my characters of the leash for a bit of fun, and this track is in that spirit.  Probably the group’s trademark song, even after all these years.

6.  Newgrange (Clannad).  A typically haunting piece from the Irish group.  You can almost see the druids performing their ceremonies at the ‘magical ring of stones’.  The ballad reflects the gentler, Celtic fantasy element of my writing.  It’s a feel I aimed for in much of ‘The Doe and the Dragon’.

5.  The Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden).  Arguably the group’s most famous track, and often voted one of the greatest metal songs of all time.  The music and lyrics are serious, but, strangely, the video has a very light-hearted style.  The lyrics contain a lot of horror staples such as devil worship, demonic possession, sacrifice and nightmares.  Which horror writer hasn’t touched on these themes?  I know I have, in too many stories to list.

4.  Vengeance (Dream Evil).  Revenge horror is notoriously difficult to write well because it runs the risk of turning into near-pointless ‘torture porn’.  The nearest I’ve come to doing a revenge story is ‘The Well’.  It can be done well, though – some films in the ‘Saw’ franchise are a superb telling of a man getting revenge on society.  Anyway, ‘Vengeance’ gets inside the mind of a man driven to murder by years of unfair treatment.  The lyrics are virtually required listening for anyone wanting to try writing from the bad guy’s viewpoint.

3.  Bite Your Face Off (Alice Cooper).  No list of horror music would be complete without a contribution from the king of shock rock.  Several of his songs fit the bill, but as ‘Andraste’s Blade’ and my current work both feature a head-eating evil goddess, ‘Bite Your Face Off’ will more than do.

2.  Space Oddity (David Bowie).  This one, of course, is about an astronaut who is marooned in space and waiting to die.  I first heard it as a child.  With the character’s certain death and haunting style, I was chilled.  That’s a trademark of genuine horror.  This isn’t a theme I’ve deliberately used in my stories, but the feeling I still get from listening to ‘Space Oddity’ is one every horror writer surely aims to instil in his or her reader.

1.  Fear of the Dark (Iron Maiden).  Well done to Maiden for being the only group to make my top ten twice!  They could have probably had two or three more entries (‘Hallowed by thy Name’ and ‘Bring Your Daughter…’ might have crept in on another day).  In my view ‘Fear of the Dark’ is the ultimate horror song; like ‘Space Oddity’ it has genuinely chilled me.  It brilliantly captures the feeling of being alone at night; always looking over your shoulder for the bogeyman who you know isn’t really there (is he…?).  Sure, the song is helped by Bruce Dickinson’s voice and the haunting music which are tools an author can’t use, but the words are ones I would have been proud to have come up with.  The song’s atmosphere is one I tried to match in ‘The Wood’, particularly the outside, night time chapters.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Torridon and Wester Ross

So, ‘The Torridon Witches’ is due to be published by Damnation BooksTorridon is an area of north-west Scotland. 

Although I didn’t actually set the novella in Torridon – it’s somewhere vaguely along the coast with the stunning Torridon Mountains as a distant backdrop – the name stuck.  This post gives some description of the region which I hope readers will find useful background.

Torridon isn’t a place with defined boundaries.  Different maps include different places as part of Torridon.  However, all agree that it is an area of mountainous wilderness centred around the village that gives the area its name.  It is anything up to thirty kilometres across – from the mouth of Loch Torridon in the west, to the village of Kinlochewe at Glen Torridon’s eastern end.

North to south, Torridon might be up to twenty kilometres across.

The area is dominated by its mountains and upland moors which produce some of the most stunning and difficult scenery in Britain.  The whole region of Wester Ross – where Torridon sits - is remote, with transport being either by boat, or often by narrow, twisting roads with passing places often being the only means vehicles can pass.

I needed to set the story somewhere particularly isolated, so my (fictional) village is only reachable by sea or by a very long, rough walk.  The community needed to be isolated, and Wester Ross is one of the few places in Britain where it is plausible.  Most towns and villages – Torridon, Shieldaig, Lochcarron; Gairloch and the like - are too well populated by tourists and outsiders who have made their homes there for a tale about modern witchcraft to be believable.  Not to mention the always friendly locals.

So, I had to make up somewhere really isolated - a little like Summerisle, the remote fictional Hebridean island in ‘The Wicker Man’, or the New Forest setting for James Herbert’s ‘The Magic Cottage’, or even Dartmoor’s Baskerville Hall in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.  I came up with Dunmorgan, which can only be reached by boat, or via a long, tortuous trek. 

And witches?

Well, there are tales of witchcraft from around Wester Ross.  I’ve found historical references to witchcraft on Skye, Gairloch and Kinlochewe.  The Torridon region sits almost in the middle of these places to provide a ‘plausible’ location for the story.

And, my final reason for choosing the area around Torridon and Wester Ross for a setting?  Well, that’s simple – I wanted to set a story there.  I’m in love with the place.  It’s gorgeous.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

‘The Torridon Witches’– Cover

At last, I can reveal the cover for ‘The Torridon Witches’.  It’s another stunning one by DawnĂ© Dominique, who also did the covers for ‘The Wood’ and ‘The Shoot’.  I think the picture catches ‘Witches’ feel brilliantly.  Thank you DawnĂ©!

‘The Torridon Witches’ will be published by Damnation Books.  The release date is to be confirmed.

Picnic, fire, people