Here’s a new update. I’ve been writing a lot this past couple of weeks, so have not had much time to attend to the blogs I also write for. Every day seems to be about typing, which is no bad thing, but there is some news to impart.
‘The Saddling’, my latest mystery/thriller set in the wilds of the Romney Marshes in Kent, has picked up three five-star reviews on Amazon already and has been going reasonably well in the sales department. Not enough to retire on yet, not enough even for a decent dinner, but well enough. Me, being me, have already plotted out a follow-on story and am now thinking of having a series of four (earth, wind, air and fire themed, vaguely). The Saddling, with its climactic storms and floods, would cover the water element, now I just have to create the following three stories.
The film that I co-wrote, ‘The 13th’, had its world premiere at the London Greek Film Festival last week and picked up three awards at the awards ceremony at the end of the film festival. Best Actress, Best Music and its own Special Award. Great news there!
I made a list of what I am working on right now, and it goes to show how the mind works. It’s in one of its creative phases at the moment which means, for me, lots of ideas and not many actual chapters. I keep flitting from one idea to the other and need to tie myself down to work on just one. At the moment I have, on my list of things in the planning and plotting stage, with some chapters drafted for some, we have: An adaptation of a musical I wrote years ago, telling the story as a novel. A follow-on for The Saddling, called ‘The Witchling’ (fire theme). A short YA romance novel, or novella. A full-length comedy/farce as a kind of follow-on to ‘Remotely’, again featuring the mysterious Miss P. A story about old school friends meeting up after several years for a camping trip that has a few twists and turns in it (thriller). And an idea where the narrator talks to people from his past in letters, called ‘Letters To The Past’; that one is along the lines of, ‘What would you say to people from your teenage years if you could go back and speak to them now as they were then? So many ideas, not enough time.
It was quite appropriate that I took a morning walk yesterday (when I was finally able to release my latest book for publication) and saw the sun coming up. Perhaps this will herald the start of a ‘best-seller’, though, without a massive publicity machine and the finances to distribute the book to shops myself, I rely totally on my friends and blog readers to share the news and sell the books.
Finally, it’s out there. My new novel, ‘The Saddling’ is now available to buy. For a change, we were able to get the Kindle version ready and published before the print version, you should be able to get hold of that today or tomorrow from Amazon. It will start to show up in other outlets in a few weeks. Click here for the Kindle copy of ‘The Saddling’ by James Collins.
I just searched for it on Amazon and was amused to be asked, by their search engine, ‘Did you mean The Paddling?’ No, actually, I didn’t. The Saddling came up first in the list, closely followed by the alarmingly tempting ‘Saddling Her Stallion’ by Olivia Myers, then a record called ‘Saddling Up’ by Darcy Slade, and ‘From Haltering to Saddling’ which looked like it had something to do with horses. I am in good company. Well, I am in the company of a heroin who ‘finds her heart fluttering for the dangerous bandit with stunning eyes’, a guitarist, and the English translation of a German book the cover of which shows a woman kissing a horse. None of which has anything to do with my mystery thriller set on the Romney Marshes in Kent, I am pleased to say.
As I have mentioned here before, having reviews of books put up on Amazon does a great service to the writers. The more reviews, the more likely Amazon is to promote the book. Also, sharing posts like this on Facebook or Twitter, or anywhere else, is an excellent way to help the authors along, so please feel free…
As usual, there will be a drink for the first person I see reading a copy on Symi – a print version, I should add. Something you can buy and bring with you and then, when you have read it, leave it at an airport, or a hotel, or somewhere where someone else can read it and, hopefully, be interested enough to buy a couple of my other titles.
Here are the back blurb and the book cover, so you know what you are looking for the next time you go book shopping.
“Their faith was stronger than his reason.”
To inherit his aunt’s fortune, Tom Carey must unlock a one-hundred-year-old family mystery. The solution lies on the Romney Marshes where the village of Saddling lives by an ancient Lore. Unknown to Tom, the villagers set in motion a chain of calculated events that will ensure that the winter solstice will witness their last ever ‘Saddling’ festival.
Unaware that his life is in danger, Tom befriends two village youths. Through the mists of fear and confusion, their friendship forces Tom to confront a secret of his own.
Tom finds himself the unwitting hero in a struggle between superstition and sense, denial and love, with no escape from either.
“Meticulously imagined in the eerie mists of Romney Marsh. A wonderfully evocative landscape of mystery.” Ann Butler Rowlands (Author of ‘Heaven’)
Praise for James Collins:
“Comparable with the best of Stephen King.” Charles Allenden
“Very gripping, imaginative read.” Amazon
“He has mastered that technique of forcing you to start the next chapter as you really care what happens to these people.” Derek Stephen
“A real page turner and kept me guessing right to the end.” David Hendry
This is a quick update post, April 26th, 2017, to mention that my short script, ‘Red Handed’, has been accepted into the London Greek Film Festival. Not only that but a film that I co-wrote, ‘The 13th‘ has also been selected for a screening. This means I will have two entries in the festival which is being held in May. Both are stories set on a Greek island, one a comedy (Red Handed) and the other a supernatural thriller (The 13th). ‘The 13th‘ is the film version of ‘The Judas Inheritance’, my novel that was based on my solo first draft of the script.
The festival of from 14th to 20th May, when winners of any awards will also be announced.
I recently joined a Facebook group for writers. I soon realised it was not for me but what I learned from it was that there are many people out there who want to write a novel and don’t know where to start. So, I thought, like so many other blogs and websites, I should put down my thoughts on how to write a novel in the hope that it may help others. Today we start the process.
What’s interesting is that yesterday, I started on a new novel of my own. Perhaps these posts will reflect the process I go through as I write it. That could take years, so I expect these posts will overtake the actual writing of the new novel. Hopefully what will follow over the coming months will be useful to anyone who wants to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys.
It starts with an idea
Actually, it begins with the internal need to tell a story but let’s assume you have that need, that want, that something inside you that tells you, ‘You must write a story.’
Ask yourself: Do I want to tell a story? If the answer is yes, then read on.
How to find inspiration
You want to write a novel, but you don’t know what the story is. If you really have no idea, or if you only want to practice writing, then check out my post on Finding Inspiration On Your Bookshelf. It’s one way to find ideas, not the only way, but it’s a start.
I also suggest reading any of the millions of books available on ‘how to write a novel.’ I’ve been writing books now for 17 years. The early ones are, in my opinion, pretty rough to say the least but they are out there and have been enjoyed. I still read books on ‘how to’, and writing advice and the one I have read most recently is On Writing, by Stephen King. It’s part biography and part advice giving and all worth reading. There are many others.
You’ve already got an idea, now what?
Let’s say you already have a story you want to tell. What now?
Well, some writers simply start writing and see what comes out, that’s fine. Others like to plot and plan the structure of the action that will drive the story, that’s fine too. Some like to build a character and then set them in a situation to see what they do, others have the ending imagined and then work out how to get there… All techniques are valid, and I can only tell you what I have done in the past. Here is how I started with a couple of my own novels.
The ‘What If?’ approach
I wanted to write a novel (I have since I was young) but I had no idea what it was to be about. Then, one day, I was alone on holiday on a Greek island, in the summer, and I saw a small yacht a little way off the coast. It was one of those sailing boats that people hire out for a week at a time, white, with a mast and probably a ‘Sunsail’. On it was a group of young men and, from what I could see, they were all naked, larking around and having fun.
Then I thought, what if…? What if they had been hired by someone to crew their boat for the summer on a deal that they couldn’t refuse? Nice. But what if that person was after something more than just a crew? What if…? What finally came out is a mildly erotic gay thriller called Other People’s Dreams. Not my best work, I have to say, but I was passionate about the idea and immediately started writing it. I had no idea of structure or even plot at that point, but I spent the second week of my holiday living out the story (not literally but in my head) and drew on the scenery and settings as I did so. Once home, I eventually knocked it into some kind of shape.
The point is, I was inspired by something I saw and thought, ‘What if…?’ which is, I am sure, how most novelists think.
The structured approach
On the other hand, what I am starting now has been in my head for many years. I have no idea where it grew from except that I have always wanted to write a farce. Don’t ask me why. If anything needs plotting and planning it’s a farce. This one started out as an idea for a play called ‘Vile Bags’, and now I have the working title of the novel as ‘Unforgivable’, as that was a line in the first draft of the first act of the play. I never wrote any more than that.
In this case, I have plotted the action first. I have a rough idea of characters, and they will develop as I go through the preparation process but, for a farce, or a mystery, or a thriller, or anything where the sequence of events is necessary, then I suggest you write those events out in chronological older first. If you don’t, you will have an awful lot to keep in your head as you go through the writing process.
I have no idea how to write a farce, and so I will probably buy a book or two to find some advice. But I do know that structure is vital. As are mix-ups, timing, a growing sense of panic, a calamitous climax, foreshadowing things to come, laying traps, comedy, and strong, conflicting characters. The first thing I have done (all I have done so far, as I only started on it seriously two days ago) is set out the essential action in a timeline. I did this by hand at the kitchen table. The next day I transferred those notes to the PC and typed them up – it’s easier to cut and paste and change things around. So, already I am on draft two of the plot outline.
As I do this, so the characters grow, and I can already see that I have one character I want, but the story doesn’t. By which I mean: I want a mad old mother living in the house of the wealthy composer where the story is set, but I have no need for her. It’s a comedy though, so perhaps she can stay for no reason other than to add colour, but she doesn’t fit into the plot. Yet.
Two ideas for places to start
So, there you have two or three ways to start your novel. Next time, I’ll address another of the questions the social networking group asked, and we’ll go from there. But for now, as I start work on ‘Unforgivable’, you might like to start on your own novel using one or more of the techniques mentioned below and write along with me.
Find inspiration at random
Just start writing the story
Plot and plan and draw up a timeline of events on which to hang the story
Start with characters you want to explore
Start with handwritten notes, or type on the PC (always save and backup)
I’m still working up this (unoriginal) idea, but it would be good to get some feedback so I can see if it’s worth pursuing. If you have the time to read to the end of this post, there might be some free publicity in it for you.
Free publicity on offer
Getting free publicity for our books is tough. You don’t want to overdo your self-publicity on Facebook pages as that just puts people off, but if someone else talks about your book, it’s a different matter.
It strikes me, as writers, we probably have blogs about our writing. I do. Actually, I have two blogs. So, I’m thinking about offering a blog post every now and then for a fellow self- or indie-published author to write something about their work. I’ll put it up on my blog, and it will get the same mentions on FB, and my Twitter pages as my own would do, and the blog post would also link to where it’s for sale on Amazon. A bit of free publicity for you, some content for me, and vice versa. A publicity swap, in effect. But there would have to be a reciprocal understanding and certain conditions.
I wouldn’t just post any old book. It would have to be something of interest to my readers and me. If one of your books matches the genre/niche of one of mine, you can send me a post about your book to go on my blog. I’d send you the same about a ‘matching’ book of mine for your blog. We’d trust each other to reciprocate and share the blog post on FB etc. Kind of, “I’ll show you mine, you show me yours” – but in public. I think you’ve got the idea.
So, if you’re still interested, here are my criteria for acceptance:
The book must be for sale on Amazon.
It must fit with the type of books that I write and like (there is a list below) as that’s what my readers will be interested in.
You write the blog post to go on my blog (in English), and I post it when I can – if I get lots of replies to this it may take a while to get through them all.
You can write what you want but it should be more about the writing of the book, the inspiration, the journey of creating the piece, but it can also have a paragraph of ‘blurb’, suitable quotes from happy readers, a short logline, etc. And it must be honest. This is not an exercise in putting out spam, there has to be some meat to the post. (Note the pun?)
The post must be well written and be between 500 and 1,000 words.
I’ll get the cover image from Amazon, and the link.
I’ll have the right to edit the post (no naughty words etc.), and you can do the same to mine.
One book per person, at least to start with. Don’t send me three and ask me to choose, you decide which of your titles you think would best fit.
Is your book suitable?
To make sure your book fits with what I like to write and blog about, you can check out my titles on my Amazon Author’s page but here’s a quick list of what I’m looking for:
Books about or set in Greece – this is for my island blog, www.symidream.com (voted one of the top 25 island blogs on the net) Previous guests posters there have included Anne Zouroudi (Bloomsbury’s ‘Greek Detective’ series) but I am looking for self- or indie-published authors. ‘Girl Gone Greek‘, by Rebecca A Hall, has featured on this blog in the past, for example.
For this blog, James Collins Author, these kinds of books:
Amusing travel tales – Three of my titles are collections of stories concerned with moving to and living in Greece, but yours can be about anywhere. Think Bill Bryson style books.
Books with gay characters – but not pure erotica! All but one of my novels features positive gay characters, but there’s very little erotica in them (apart from ‘Other People’s Dreams‘ my first one, written a long time ago which also has the advantage of being partly set in Greece). My new mystery/thriller (coming out in May), ‘The Saddling’, has an underscore of ‘coming out’, there are some homoerotic moments, but they are very understated. My horror novel, ‘Lonely House’ has a very ambiguous relationship between the two main characters, I like to leave it to the reader to decide if Pete and Drover’s relationship is a ‘bromance’ or something deeper. So, gay novels would be welcome, but I’m not looking for Mills & Boon style, pure gay romance with a bit of nookie in them.
Satire – well-written comedies. Check out the details of ‘Remotely‘, my gay/straight body-swap satire that came out last year. Or ‘You Wish’ which is a mad comedy with gay characters (and straight) that was written as a bit of fun, and written a long time ago before I worked with a professional editor.
Thrillers & Horror – yes, but as there are so many of these I’m going to narrow it down again to my three main categories. I’ll consider thrillers and horror stories only if there is a positive gay character, or it’s set in Greece, or it’s also a comedy (well, you never know, and I do like to mix genres).
I’m not looking for fantasy, science fiction, children’s books, academic books, straight romance, erotica… If in doubt, take the time to check my Amazon Author’s page and see if what you have will match up with what I’ve written. If you’re still in doubt, send me the link to the book on Amazon, or a decent, short synopsis, and I’ll decide.
If you are interested in doing a blog post swap, send me an email that includes:
‘Blog post swap’ in the title (so I see it in my Mailwasher and make sure it’s not marked as spam).
Give me the title and link to its Amazon page and say which of the above criteria it fits into. (The book must be in English.)
A link to your blog so I can see that you have one.
Obviously, ask any questions you may have about this idea.
I’ll then get back to you as soon as possible to say if I’d like to do a swap with you or not.
Don’t take time writing the post until we’ve made contact with each other, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
Note: there’s no money involved here, but I’ll affiliate link to your book, and you can do the same to mine. You may make a sale or several (I can’t guarantee it) and so might I when you put up my reciprocal blog post, something you promise to do and which I will trust you to do if I select your book.