Thursday, 23 November 2017

Guest post by Oliver Tooley, owner of Blue Poppy Publishing.

Oliver Tooley is the sole proprietor of Blue Poppy Publishing, a very small name in publishing, boasting a loose collective of self-publishing authors, and offering as much or as little help as an author wants or needs to produce a professional product. www.bluepoppypublishing.co.uk 

Blue Poppy began in 2016 when I was all ready to publish my first novel “Children of the Wise Oak”.

I was inspired by Liz Shakespeare’s “Letterbox Books” imprint and logo.

I liked the idea of having a name that would give my book an air of credibility, as if it was a proper publisher, and not just some amateur bloke printing up a few copies to sell to mates.

So, I asked around for ideas for a name, and my son, who is a mine of brilliant ideas, suggested Blue Poppy in reference to my grandfather Frank Kingdon-Ward who famously brought back the first viable seed of Meconopsis betonicifolia, the Himalayan blue poppy.

I spent money I didn’t have getting a logo designed, and subsequently also registered the name and logo as trademarks.

Having paid out for 100 ISBNs and experienced the insane hoop jumping required to make my books available in “all good bookshops” it occurred to me that other authors might enjoy having some of those tasks done for them.

I offered the Blue Poppy logo and ISBNs to anyone who was planning on self-publishing anyway but wanted to come under the umbrella of an established, albeit very tiny, imprint.

Soon I was approached by Ben Blake who wanted exactly that. With six self-published books already in print he didn’t need any help with production, but he is not a natural publicity hound, and hoped that having the Blue Poppy brand might add a certain degree of extra promotion.

His book “Black Lord of Eagles” was the second Blue Poppy title, published in April 2017.

The next author to join was Joni Dee.   Although I originally planned to take on only local authors, I couldn’t resist London based Joni’s offering. Having sold 750 advance orders for “And the Wolf Shall Dwell” and then finding himself let down by another publisher he came to Blue Poppy.

I introduced him to Dorset based Helen Baggott for editing, and she and Joni hit it off straight away.

Joni had to restart his advance orders campaign but when we published this summer he had recovered the majority of those orders. Joni came over to sign copies, and I spent two days  packing, addressing, and posting books all over the world.

Meanwhile, a little closer to home, author number four came on board. KY Eden had already published books 1 and 2 of The Redcroft Journals on Amazon Kindle, but needed a little help producing a polished professional print edition.  Blue Poppy did the formatting and found a new printer who were able to produce very short runs at a really competitive price. Redcroft Journals 1 “The Missing Journals” and 2 “The Raven Stones” are now in print, with book 3 coming soon.

Author number five approached me during the summer, and her book “Teeny Tiny Witch” has had the most Blue Poppy involvement of all. Edited by Sarah Dawes who edits all of my own books, the cover design and formatting was done in house, and I organised a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds needed to cover production costs.

The book is due out early in December just in time to make a beautiful Christmas gift for any young reader.

Not forgetting myself of course. 

Since “Children of the Wise Oak” I have published the sequel, “Women of the Wise Oak” as well as a new children’s spoof animal spy story “For Cats’ Eyes Only” featuring cat detective Felix Whiter. Three hundred copies were handed out to children for the “Summer Reading Challenge” and the sequel “Dr Gnaw” is about to be launched early in December.

Looking to the future. In 2018 we have already confirmed at least one new author and half a dozen new titles, and with some production lead times as short as a few months, who knows how many books and how many new authors we will have published by this time next year?

Olli


Oliver hated writing in school. He finds using a pen for any length of time painful, and he makes sloppy mistakes. If it wasn’t for computers, he would never have considered being a writer. He has never been diagnosed as autistic, being high functioning, and not especially gifted; although undoubtedly, he is on the spectrum. 

At school he was diagnosed as “Brilliant but lazy” and “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on”.. He knew that wasn’t true after attempting to unscrew his head (really!). The only thing he agreed with was, “It’s never you is it? It’s always somebody else’s fault.”


Monday, 13 November 2017

Guest: Richard Dee: Steampunk is closer than you think.

Hello everyone, I’m Richard Dee and I’m a Steampunk author. My world of Norlandia features in two novels, The Rocks of Aserol and A New Life in Ventis,


a short story collection, Tales from Norlandia,


and various other projects. As I’ve created a Steampunk world, I feel able to comment on how the technology has been developed from what we have, or had, in our world.

Only one thing really separates the world of today and the world of Steampunk. And I don’t mean the costumes, although they are pretty cool.

That thing is electricity, whether you like it or not, the thing that catapulted the Victorian world into the modern world was cheap electricity.

Some might say it was oil, or war. I disagree, oil only made things easier, war is a spur to invention but at a terrible cost.

So when we consider a Steampunk world, we have to look at the way the clever fellows at my Ministry of Invention in Norlandia took what they had and created the mighty machines, intricate clockworks and all the modern things that the inhabitants of that place take for granted.

The Victorian age, on which the genre rests, gave us some amazing stuff, the question for writers is how can we build on these foundations to make a modern society, what sort of a twist can I put on those times to give my stories an edge?

When I created the world, every time I needed a piece of technology I worked backwards, starting from a thing that we have and reverse engineering it, designing a way that we could achieve the same effect without using anything modern. And once you start to do that, you find that a lot of the things you need to make your world function actually existed in another form, they were only overtaken by the cost or simplicity that electrical and oil powered versions provided. In the same way that the steam locomotive was overtaken by the electric train.

So for example, as there is no electricity, my cities have steam pumped into the houses along steel pipes buried underground. Because of the limitations and difficulties of keeping high pressure steam, well; steamy, we need a lot of local power stations. These require coal so out of necessity I developed a steam vehicle to transport it from the rail yards to the furnaces. Of course steam vehicles existed, I just made them a bit more advanced, in effect bringing the technology up to where it would be without the internal combustion engine. I was doing the R&D in my head that was never done in reality.

As I was devising a way to mine all this coal, I wondered if steam could not be used to power a robot. Well I’m sure it can, using pistons and valves, steam pressure could move articulated arms and legs just as well as any other system. And from that idea, the Exo-Man was born.

Now, steam cannot be transported over long distances, even in my imagination. I have to keep things realistic to carry the reader. Sure the ground will insulate the pipes but in the country this would be impractical. But steam power can be used to wind a spring. The Victorians had clockwork motors, after all a watch is merely a spring powered motor.

What I did in Norlandia was develop the idea to produce springs of all sizes, like batteries, that could be attached to any device and power it. Exhausted springs could be recharged at any power station, for a price. And for those that have no access to a recharging system, or cannot afford it, water power can drive a wheel in any stream to wind your springs for you. The applications are endless when you have to invent or starve.

As I hope you’re starting to see, there is little that can’t be done, so let’s move on to what else might have been developed out of necessity.

As you know, jet engines in aircraft are fuelled by gas, in effect vaporised hydrocarbon. And the Victorians lit their streets with gas produced by cooking coal with steam. Do you see where I’m going with this? All we need in our population is an understanding of the reason aircraft fly and we can build a Steampunk aeroplane!

This gas can do a lot of the things that drive our civilisation. It can be stored, like gunpowder, in cartridges and used to propel bullets; it’s an advance which may have occurred in our society if we had taken another path, I’ve only borrowed it and made it better.

And with the freedom to invent, discoveries that were unintended have also been made in Norlandia.
In my books, as well as the things I have already mentioned, I describe clockwork limbs, controlled by the body’s nerve impulses, a type of speech recorder based on a vibrating diaphragm and a telephone system, powered by sound itself!

And that’s before you get to the characters and their adventures.

Of course the one thing that all this steam and clockwork powered technology cannot do is give us a moving picture that can be transmitted over distance, or provide a box in our hand to talk to the world. But at the Ministry of Invention, they’re sure to be working on it.

~~~~

My Steampunk journey is described in more detail on my website, which also features my other Sci-fi work. Find my main site at https://www.richarddeescifi.co.uk, or on Facebook @RichardDeeAuthor

Just go to this page, https://richarddeescifi.co.uk/rocks for everything Steampunk.

Tales from Norlandia features stories about the inventions and technology of Norlandia, Exo-men, power stations, bio-mechanical arms, even the Ministry themselves. And much more. You can get a copy from my shop at https://www.richarddeescifi.co.uk/shop.

My Steampunk novels are available at all eBook retail sites, including Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Apple, the universal links are,

The Rocks of Aserol, https://www.books2read.com/u/4DoRPP

A New Life in Ventis, https://www.books2read.com/u/bpWwRE

To read one of Richard's short stories "This Could Change The World" follow this link.



Biography:

I’m Richard Dee, I write Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures. I come from Brixham in Devon, where I returned to live in 2010. I’m a retired Master Mariner and Thames Pilot, married with three daughters and several grandchildren. I walk on the cliffs and beaches of South Devon for inspiration. 

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Self Publishing: Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them – Part 1 (Guest Post by Celia Moore).

Please welcome Celia Moore to this blog. Celia has kindly offered to share with us some of the potential pitfalls that self-published authors may encounter. Worth reading by anyone considering this route to publication. Here are the first two. 

Over to you Celia.

Having self-published my debut novel Fox Halt Farm today, I thought I’d share a few mistakes I made. Perhaps I can save other indie authors some time, money and worry.

1. My cover was unprofessional – it shouted self-published book!

The cover of my romantic novel has caused me the most angst. I read posts in author forums all the time about the design of their book cover, so I know it’s an issue.

I have an A grade in A’ level art, I love oil painting and I like to think I have an artistic bent so I felt fairly well qualified when I sent a detailed brief to my graphic designer – after all, I knew the story of Fox Halt Farm inside out, I read books and I am in the age group and gender of my target audience. I recognise what attracts me to pick a book off the piled high shelves. I know which tiny icons on the Amazon screen I click on because the image is intriguing or beautiful. But my graphic designer quite understandably, took his lead from the books he saw in the best-seller romance list of Amazon.com and believed bare chested men exposing their sculptured chests was the way forward. Weeks passed, each time I received a long-awaited email of the revised design, I was frustrated to see I had waited in vain –I couldn’t steer him in my direction at all. I cut my losses and walked away frustrated. I think this was the first time that I wished I had tried to secure a publisher, I imagined how wonderful it would be to have my book cover provided and I wouldn’t have to worry – someone who knew all about these things, who would commission the cover I needed.

I am still unsure of my final cover, I love it and the feedback I have had from people is wholly positive but I have definitely gone out on a limb by literally painting the scene I wanted – I saw tears in the eyes of two of my beta readers when I showed it to them so I know I am on the right track but it is wholly different to the norm and I will have to wait and see if its quirkiness is eye-catching or still screams ‘self published.’

I think the lesson learned here is don’t just find a ‘graphic designer,’ identify the book covers you love and find out who designed it – graphics people are not all the same and choose one whose work you admire.

2. My blurb on the back of my book was too long and not intriguing

The blurb is usually the next thing a potential buyer of your book will inspect and it has to stop them putting it down to move onto the next. These words must instantly capture curiosity. There are professionals out there, who will construct stimulating and alluring text for you but I confess that didn’t consider this option.

I sweated over the blurb and even when I thought I had cracked it, another author read it and shook his head. He said it had to change, it set up the scenario and provided unanswered questions but this man’s marketing viewpoint was different – he wanted the back to tell him what he would get from reading my story - Would he be gripped? Have his heart torn out? Would it provide character and situation insights? Could he expect to be inspired? Will he fall in love with some of the characters? Was there a villain he could hate at every turn?

This was an interesting and time-consuming part of my journey because I changed my blurb to accommodate the respected author’s viewpoint - but then I was met with questions about why I had moved away from my original one? So I conducted a survey of about a hundred women in my target age range – 77% said the original one provided more of stimulus for them to choose my book. Some told me the reasons behind their decision and because of this I did make a small adjustment to try and attract the 33% who liked version 2.

I recommend Rayne Hall’s ‘Writing Book Blurbs and Synopses: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors,’ I thought this provided some useful advice. The wonderful people in the online writing forum I belong to comprises authors, bloggers and people involved in publishing and I received helpful advice from them to all my anxious questions about my blurb.

The lesson I have learnt is that the right blurb is crucial and writing it is a craft, which will take time to master. Recognise straightway that the blurb is going to take a while and seek feedback 





Celia Moore (1967-now) grew up on a small farm in Devon and had a successful career as a Chartered Surveyor working in the City of London before working her way back to Devon.

In 2000, she left the office life behind to start a new adventure as an outdoor instructor, teaching rock climbing and mountaineering amongst other things and managed an outdoor residential centre until she met her husband. Today she gardens for a few lovely customers, runs and writes accompanied at all times by their border terrier cross jack russell puppy Tizzy 

Her debut novel FOX HALT FARM is a change-of-life set over two decades inspired by some of the experiences her life.

Celia’s blog/website  - Celiascosmos.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/celiamoore.books/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CeliaMooreBooks

Monday, 4 September 2017

Navigating the Slush pile: Ten Tips for Agent Hunting.

Having recently signed with a new agent, this time by going through the slush pile, I thought I would share are few tips. I hope these might be useful for anyone currently navigating the slush pile and help with some of the etiquette for dealing with agents.

1. Make sure your manuscript is ready
This should really go without saying. The MS should be complete and ideally have been read by a couple of trusted beta readers, who you can really rely on to give honest feedback. (I’m talking about fiction here. Non-fiction is a different matter).

2. Keep your cover letter to the point and business like.
Avoid gimmicks. If you want to be treated like a professional act like one. Make sure you include the title, genre and word count.

3. Don’t sweat the synopsis.
Writing a synopsis is hard, but so long as it provides an adequate summary of what the story is about and how it ends you should be okay. It is your writing that will hook the agent.

4. Send out in batches of ten.
The types of responses you get from each batch will give an indication of whether you should press on with the MS as is (you start to get full requests and personalised responses) or whether maybe you ought to revisit your sample chapters and covering letter (nothing but form rejections).

5. Set a time limit on exclusives.
Sometimes an agent will request an exclusive, either on a full or on a rewrite and resubmit. It is up to you whether you grant this or not but do set a time limit of, maybe, a month. If other agents are already reading the full inform them that you can’t offer an exclusive and offer to update them if anyone else requests or offers. If someone wants to work with you on your MS on an exclusive basis and their feedback makes sense to you then you may want to take them up on that.

6. Inform agents when other agents request a full.
If someone requests a full it is a good idea to let any other agents already considering your full MS know. It is also a good opportunity to nudge any agents who have not responded. Nothing like other agents being interested in something to make it more appealing.

7. Follow up with non-responders and keep submitting.
Unless an agent specifically asks that you don’t in their guidelines it’s a good idea to follow up with non-responders. Sometimes your submission has gone astray. Sometimes they have fallen behind with their slush reading. If you are nudging to inform them about other agents requesting fulls they may suddenly show an interest. The worst that can happen is that they say ‘No’.

8. When an agent offers give the others a chance to read
Inform any agents currently reading the full, and any others you have submitted to who you particularly like, that you have received an offer and give them a deadline to get back to you. They will often be keen to read and you may receive multiple offers. A nice position to be in.

9. Check out the offering agent thoroughly
Presumably you already did this before submitting to them but even so now is the time to delve a bit deeper and to ask questions about the agency agreement they are offering. Read it thoroughly and ask for clarification if there is anything you don’t understand. You may also want to contact their other clients. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

10. When you accept an offer do let anyone who has offered or who is still considering your MS know.
This is a simple courtesy. There’s nothing more frustrating for an agent than to offer and find you’ve signed elsewhere. And you never know. You may be knocking of their doors again further down the line, so always best not to burn your bridges.

Good luck with you agent hunt, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments below.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Review: Destination Mars by Andrew May



Mars fascinates me. I have always loved reading science fiction about the planet and have eagerly followed the various expeditions to explore this world. So I was especially pleased when I received a copy of Destination Mars by Andrew May to review.

Destination Mars is a fascinating history of Mankind’s obsession with the red planet. It describes our attempts to explore Mars and discusses the possibility of colonising this world in an easy and accessible way. Andrew May goes into just enough technical detail to not be overwhelming, but wets the appetite for those who want to know more, as well as providing a useful history of the successes, and failures, in our attempts so far to learn more about this world.

I really liked the way the books kept referring back to the science fiction written about Mars to illustrate how our understanding of this planet has changed over the years. The use of references to The Martian by Andy Weir, to help explain many of the challenges that will be faced if we chose to colonise this planet was particularly effective.

All in all Destination Mars is a very concise and informative introduction to the subject which would appeal particularly to anyone who has read the science fiction and would like to know a bit more about the science fact.

Strongly recommended.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Short Story in Sci Phi Journal

My short story, Desiccation, which originally appeared in Jupiter SF, has just been published over at Sci Phi Journal. It’s a free read so do head over and take a look. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Review: Planet of the Red Dust by N Tolman Rudolph


Planet of the Red Dust is a story of hope and survival on an alien world. The novel opens with Jared, sold survivor of the crashed Wayfarer, burying his dead colleagues on a planet which, by all indications, is devoid of life. So it comes a something of a shock when two humans appear nearby.

We quickly realise we are in the realm of the Lost Civilization genre (a genre I particularly love), but this is a civilisation lost in space. The surprisingly human nature of the denizens of this world is soon explained and their origin is unexpected and original. However, this in itself raised more questions and I eagerly anticipated answers which never came.

This was my one niggle with this tale. We discover the Who and the Where but never the How or the Why, and this left me a tad disappointed. I would also have loved to know more about the ancient technology to which we are introduced and although the people themselves may have forgotten how things work I would have expected Jared, as an astronaut, innovator and adventurer, to have more of an enquiring mind. He felt at times rather too accepting and not sufficiently questioning.

But that aside I enjoyed this tale very much. It is a gentle and ambling story of love and survival. I found the world building fascinating, both the planet and the solar system we are introduced to and the culture of the people who inhabit it. The environmental disaster that threatens this world felt very real and totally plausible. And of course, Jared has a key role to play in their survival. But to say any more would only be a spoiler.

So all in all an enjoyable and leisurely read that should appeal to all ages.

To find out more about the author visit her blog.

Available from:
Amazon US
Amazon UK