News from my desk

Screenplay and film news

Here we are heading into another weekend and what’s the news from my desk? As readers of my day-to-day blog about my life on the Greek island of Symi (www.symidream.com) may already know, I’ve been a bit involved with the London Greek Film Festival. The recent news there is that our film, ‘The 13th’ won three awards. Best Actress for the wonderful Rebecca Grant, Best Music for the very talented Michael Bishop, and a Special Award for the whole film itself. Basically, as far as I can make out, it came second in the Best Film category. All great news for the film. There is also a distribution deal in the offing which will see it released to the public in time. My novel, The Judas Inheritance, is the original story based on my original script for the film. The film is now being considered for the New York Greek Film Festival; fingers crossed.

My ‘Without a box’ bio; this site is where films are put when they are being submitted to film festivals.

Novel writing

As for the next novel… Where do I start? Since finishing The Saddling, (seven five-star reviews now, the latest one being: “A real page turner. From start to finish a great read. Right up to the last page the ending couldn’t have been predicted”) I have plotted out two new novels, started work on an adaptation, and written a few first draft chapters for two others. As you can see, I am not sure where to go next. The one I started talking about in a recent post has been put aside as another idea crowds in, and I think what’s happening is this: I’ve finished one major work, 100,000 words (The Saddling) and so my mind is free to create more worlds and characters, situations and plots. Trouble is, there are so many to get out. I am aiming for 2,000 to 3,000 words per day on something, but need to focus on one idea at a time. That’s always been my problem, knowing what to leave for now and what to work on next. Maybe next week I will settle down to just one thing.

The Saddling

 Publicity

I have also been trying to get to grips with publicity and have put out a few feelers for someone to do this for me. It’s not because I am lazy, though I can be, it’s more to do with not understanding the process. Every time I look at a site that says it will publicise your books, I start to switch off. It’s not the cost, though I don’t have a budget for publicity, it’s all the fiddly bits and pieces you need to understand. So many sites, all with their own rules, so much advice, and so many ways to do things, I’d rather be writing than worrying about keywords at Amazon, freebies, Insta-something this, and book-blurb that, weekly deals and giveaways and all those other marketing tools. It’s a nightmare without a team and budget behind you, but we press on.

The Judas Inheritance

 Covers

I have also commissioned a new cover for Lonely House, one of my more gory horror stories, and I am again using Red Raven Book Design in Portugal for this. I highly recommend Diogo and his work and am looking forward to seeing what he comes up with over the next week or so. He’s also pretty quick and asks in-depth questions about your book and your vision before giving five mock-ups. He also builds into his price some extra work for edits and changes, and still the cost comes in at under €200.00 (depending on how many changes you want.) Check out his website and see what he can do for you.

Lonely House, James Collins
Original cover – looking forward to seeing the new one soon.

 And onwards

So, it’s the weekend now, and I have 101 things I want to write and so little time to do them in. I’ll leave this post here and go back to my notebooks and maybe roll a die. I have six project ideas, some started, some plotted, and maybe I should number them and then roll the die and settle on that one.

Awards and reviews

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 SaddlingThe 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 toRemotely, 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.

So, it’s back to the typewriter.

The Saddling

The Saddling

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.

Symi Greece Symi Dream
A new day dawns on a new book release

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.

Symi Greece Symi Dream
About 6.30 yesterday

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.

The Saddling full cover - SMALL

“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

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072BGKGKX

 

The London Greek Film Festival

The London Greek Film Festival

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.

The London Greek Film Festival The London Greek Film Festival

How To Write A Novel (1): Where to start

How To Write A Novel (1): Where to start

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?

How to write a novel
First draft notes for a new novel, part of the timeline

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

How to write a novel
First notes for ‘Unforgivable’ a list of twists and complications

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.

How to write a novel
My first draft list of characters including their ages

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.

  1. Find inspiration at random
  2. Just start writing the story
  3. Plot and plan and draw up a timeline of events on which to hang the story
  4. Start with characters you want to explore
  5. Start with handwritten notes, or type on the PC (always save and backup)

The bottom line
Just start writing… something.