Guest Post: Anthony Morgan Clark

Hello lovely followers, it’s time for another guest post! This month please let me introduce you to British indie horror and sci-fi writer Anthony Morgan Clark. Anthony  has just recently released a spine chilling short story collection The Soul Bazaar, (cover designed, incidentally by the wonderful Justine at Jakeart1 who has also designed some of mine!) and he is also the author of the epic The Complete Tor. Here he talks about why he chose the indie path and why it’s what works best for him at the moment…

 

“So when are you getting a book deal, then?”

Many people to whom I’ve spoken about my writing assume that writers fall into two categories: the ‘serious’ writer who spends months or years slaving over the perfect manuscript to use as a tool to pursue a publishing contract; or the hobbyist who writes occasionally, is more interested in self-expression than success, who publishes their work on their website or Facebook page and throws out a Kindle book every so often because, well, what else do you do with all that writing – and who knows, it might even make a few quid. The digital equivalent of vanity press authors.

Of course, the advent of the e-reader and print-on-demand services has thrown this reality (if not the perception) into disarray. Self-publishers now exist in a mixed-up spectrum rather a single category, ranging from the aforementioned hobbyists to the top-level pros who essentially constitute small presses themselves through their outsourcing of editors, proofers, cover designers, formatters and advertisers.

Me, I sit somewhere in the middle of that. I’ve learned to proof and edit my own work, though am happy to take feedback from beta readers. I possess none of the artistic skill needed to create the visuals on my book covers, but do assemble them myself using paint.net (a free Photoshop equivalent) or Canva. I have a very limited marketing budget at present, but use my writing and copywriting knowledge to draw attention to my books. I am far from being a hobbyist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but my goal is for my writing to be my main source of income. But does that mean I would welcome a publishing contract? After all, I have four titles already published. All of my published work has received strong reviews. I’ve two further horror novels outlined and am working on a third. As a horror author, I have an existing market a well-funded and well-connected marketing department could tap into.

So, given that my existing releases have not garnered the sales I’d like, it would make sense chase a contract with my upcoming manuscript, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Aside from the hurdles involved, from finding an agent to the insistence of some agents and publishers that a script is ‘professionally’ edited (whatever the hell that means), to the unbearable turnaround times, there’s also the amount of control I’d need to give up.

More often than not I’m a horror author. Any publisher would market me as such. Given the content of The Tor and The Soul Bazaar, that would be sensible. Even more so, if they asked to see my unpublished outlines for Swarm or my current untitled WIP, a supernatural horror. The problem is, I’m not just a horror author. Reformed may have horror elements, but it is mostly a sci-fi. The same is true of The Graveyard, another plotted WIP (that will be having its title changed!). I also have enough short stories for another collection, covering a range of styles from sci-fi to comedy to social commentary to literary/speculative fiction. The entire publication will be a tangential sequel-of-sorts to the final short story in The Soul Bazaar.

How many publishers would be comfortable marketing a collection of shorts, none of which crossover but are still collectively a sequel to a short story which is itself an offshoot of a trilogy of novellas? Or would be happy to spend time and money promoting non-genre (or different genre) works by someone they’ve pegged as a horror author? Even those that would are likely to insist on a pen name. Which I won’t do. Because all my works are interlinked. For example, several characters from The Tor appear in other short stories in The Soul Bazaar, including Symeon. Symeon is an archivist and a collector of stories, and it is this idea which binds together all the stories in my as-yet-unpublished collection. The Krahe family from The Tor appear in Tremere, a novel existing only in a notebook on my shelf. The Rutenger Corporation own the technology driving the majority of Reformed, but also run the vivisection clinic from Swarm, the deep-space tech of Graveyard, and the AI tech in some of the stories from that future collection. In addition, there’s ‘5304’, a code that crops up more than once in Reformed, The Soul Bazaar, The Tor, Swarm, and a number of other short stories. I can’t even begin to tell you what that’s about… Then there’s the length of the product.

I enjoy working quickly, and after the four hundred pages or so of The Tor I’m looking forward to working through all those ideas and outlines I constructed whilst editing The Tor. A few of them (Swarm, Graveyard) I expect will run to the length of shorter novels such as Herbert’s The Dark, or King’s Salem’s Lot. Other ideas, such as my story about a female serial killer, or the sequel to Reformed, I’d expect to become novellas. How many publishing houses market books of that length anymore?

As an author, I want to push and test my writing abilities. I want to experiment with different genres, styles, and techniques. If I fall on my face doing so, then so be it. I want to choose what I write, how much I write, when I release it. I want to choose how long I spend promoting my release before moving on to the next project. I want to choose who does the art for my covers. I don’t want to be a manufacturer, penned in to my own little niche, making product after product for the marketing department. So I choose to self-publish. Ultimately publishers are gatekeepers. And who needs gatekeepers now there are no gates? I may have started out as an indie by default, but I think I’ll choose to remain one for a long while yet.

Thanks Anthony! You can find out more about Anthony and his books by following him on Twitter  and Facebook

Over to you! Writers, have you chosen the indie or the traditional path, and what has led you to this decision? Perhaps you have tried both? What do you think are the pro’s and cons of each publishing path?

Don’t forget I am always looking out for new guest posts on my blog! If you have something to say that is related to writing or your writing journey, then please get in touch. Alternatively, if you have something to say which relates to my theme of glorious outsiders, then let me know! I am happy to consider blog posts, poems, short stories, novel extracts and more!

 

Guest Post; ‘The Alt-Right and Their Irrationality’ by Toby Martin

This month’s guest post comes in the form of a poem written by a brilliant 19 year old, who comes to my writing group. Toby Martin is studying Screenwriting at Bournemouth University, but he also writes short stories and poems and is working on his first novel. Toby read this poem out one evening at writing group, post Brexit. As we are generally of similar opinions, we were all laughing and nodding as he read it out. We look forward to Toby’s poems and short stories at group, as they are always full of dark humour and never fail to make us laugh. Thanks for this Toby!

Is it really true that sanity has died?

That people didn’t know Farage had lied?

And now Brexit’s happening, but not so swiftly.

The government is unwilling to trigger Article 50.

And why should they? It’ll be suicide economic,

And May’s too busy preparing for apocalypse atomic.

I know I should be grateful we’ve finally got a cabinet sorted,

And that Michael Gove’s gone – perhaps hopefully to be deported.

But at the slightest criticism, May will rebuke us,

Just like she did to Caroline Lucas,

When the latter suggested just the slightest doubt,

That nuclear proliferation could ever work out.

To me, the problem lies with misinformation,

Twisting the truth coupled with outright fabrications.

The Daily Mail is the most popular paper,

Which is depressing considering the many capers

The rag has performed over its many years of circulation,

Baiting minorities, and deceiving the nation.

It’ll get away with lies, slander and exaggeration,

Claiming things to be fact without proper citation.

Consider when they attacked Ralph Miliband, father of Ed,

He hated Britain! The tabloid read,

Despite his dedication for the country’s armed forces,

While the paper’s creator, Lord Northcliffe endorses

Hitler’s Germany, fascists and Italian blackshirts,

At least until we went to war, and then he averts,

Any association he had – he puts it to bed,

Then goes on to attack other groups instead.

Even worse than the Mail (excuse me will I gag)

Is The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s favourite rag,

That used to be the most popular, and probably still would be,

If they hadn’t done away with the topless women on page 3.

Because that’s what we need in a modern liberal nation,

Public pornography and blatant objectification,

(No doubt subjected to excessive masturbation,

And if they get caught, they’ll blame immigration.)

Despite having half the world’s media under his control,

Murdoch will still claim his views are unheard, on the whole.

And whilst UKIP are laughing about their victory,

An exit from the EU will be rather contradictory,

As nothing they care about will likely change,

They’ll still be foreigners in their visual range,

And in anger at being deceived by their leaders,

They’ll go the same route as tabloid readers

And blame any minority group that they see fit,

And it’ll be blameless victims that get the worst of it.

Not all Brexiters are racist – just short on facts,

But now it’s being used an excuse to commit senseless acts

Of mindless xenophobic violence and hate,

While government opposition are declared enemies of the state.

Over in America, things might get steadily worse too,

After Donald Trump’s support unexpectedly grew,

A madman is now in a position to take control,

(Although even he might get fed up of Boris Johnson being a troll.)

And his supporters are too making a spectacle as they see fit,

Like Milo Yiannopoulos, the internet’s favourite hypocrite.

Finally banned from Twitter after racist abuse,

On top of his record of misogyny and homophobia that he would excuse.

And his first claim following his suspension,

Was that he was being oppressed by hate-crime prevention,

Forgetting conveniently enough that he claimed before,

That Twitter didn’t have the stomach to tell him what for.

Why then, do these liars get away with their lies?

Well, in many respects, it’s a curse in disguise.

Personal opinions are important, there’s no doubt about that,

But the danger comes with conflating opinions with fact.

Suddenly there are multiple truths, not just one,

And you get to choose which, to you, is the most fun!

So you can believe in a hollow Earth, or an expanding Earth or an Earth made of sponge cake,

You can believe in Phantom Time or that the Apollo landings were fake.

But some conspiracies are much more harmful with a lot more danger,

That play upon our instinctive fear of the stranger.

I’m talking about those who claim that vaccination,

Is an attempt at government world domination.

That jabs will make your child autistic,

Despite going against the accepted statistics.

But internet culture has a habit of demonizing reason,

Thinking that they’re out to get them for committing high treason.

As a result, we had thousands of children who weren’t immunized,

And as a result had their overall health compromised.

And once again this was a confirmation of the worst fears –

And the first death from measles in Britain in 14 years.

This is just one example of such a foreboding act,

That occurs when we value personal feeling over objective fact,

Be sure to spread this lesson amongst our impressionable youth,

Or we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would obscure the truth.

You can follow Toby on TwitterWattpad and his excellent blog tobythewastrel

 Look out for next month’s guest post, a detailed piece on why going indie was the right decision for him, by horror writer Anthony Morgan Clark

Do you have something you would like to submit to this blog? It can be a poem, short story, novel extract, or a blog style post about writing, reading, or an experience of being an outsider (and not caring!) As long as it is glorious then sent it my way! Guest posts are once a month.

Guest Post: Shalaena Medford on why your blog is not about YOU!

Last Friday I introduced you to my new look blog and explained why I had renamed it and focused it on a theme that connects my writing and reading habits. I promised you a guest post from the indie author Shalaena Medford who inspired and helped me with these changes, so here it is! Over to you, Shalaena…

Hello readers and fans of Chantelle Atkins! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read my guest post to this very lovely author’s blog.

You read in her previous blog post about changes she has been making to her website. I also have been making changes to mine according to the things I’ve learned in my New Media course at Southern New Hampshire University. (Yep, you read that right, I’m a darned Yank from the States! Don’t worry, I will not be tossing any tea. I love tea.)

Right off the bat we learned one major thing, which is that this is not about us. Yes, our selfish little scribbler’s hearts, with its ego-centric blinders focused on arguing “But it’s MY book, and MY website about ME!!” Yes, this is true. But when we treat it that way it’s like sitting down with that one friend we all have that somehow makes everything about them.

“Oh, I just bought this lovely book and—”

“Well I saw the movie twice and I don’t think the book is worth picking up.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to hit speaker number two for three reasons. One: don’t interrupt, you egocentric prat! Two: Who cares that you’ve seen it twice? No one asked for your opinion, anyway. Now sit down and let the other person finish telling you about this book! Three: You’re not going to read the book because you saw the movie? That’s the point where I (in the words of Ryan Reynolds) “have trouble listening to the rest of our relationship.” Seriously, you’re going to judge the book by what you saw in the movie? Excuse me. I have to go do…something else.

So reading that MY website isn’t about me was jarring. Then I realized, it’s not that it isn’t about the author, it’s that it isn’t FOR the author. My website isn’t for me. It’s for my fans. It’s for you guys! You fabulous readers who pick up bound sheaves of tree skin with tattoos on them (most wonderfully colorful description of a book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading) and get lost in the worlds that we, the authors, have created for you. So why wouldn’t our sites be for you? A place where you can sit down and explore all the nooks and crannies and feel right at home.

So then I had to stop and think about not just my steampunk series, but all of my works. What they’re about, who the main characters are and who they speak to. Who are my readers? Chantelle writes about outsiders. I realized my main characters, and my readers, are misfits, or what I call the “socially abstract.” But my characters are at that point where they’re looking for the place where they fit in, or at least still trying to accept that they will always be on the outskirts of most social circles. My characters, like my readers, are still growing and learning to become comfortable in their own skin.

Once the reader type had been established, it was only a matter of finding out what they would like to see and what would engage them. I’ve set up a “share your story” page for those who have triumphed in their own small way (i.e. coming out, standing up to a bully, etc.), and I share their stories in my blog. In their own words. Because we all deserve a voice, no matter how insignificant we feel.

When I had a good grasp on what I was doing for my website, I decided to pass along the information to Chantelle. I’d been reading her articles for ages, which led me to follow her on Facebook, and eventually message her (mostly to ask who does her fantastic covers! I’ve since hired the same artist for one of my upcoming novels) and try to connect. It’s only recently we began talking more, and I am so glad we have. Chantelle is a genuinely wonderful person. While I haven’t had the pleasure of reading more than a page of her works, I think her writing is absolutely wonderful. But I’m sure you already know that!

So, here’s to Chantelle, for gracing us with her words.

And here’s to you, the readers of the world, who give authors like us a purpose. Enjoy Chantelle’s page (or mine if you really want to pop in and see what sort of crazy is going on in there). Because it was made for you.

Thank you for reading!

Remember to always stay abstract!

~Shalaena Medford: Author, Editor, Designer, Weirdo~

(Blushing! Thank you so much to Shalaena for writing this guest post for my blog and for helping me so much lately! I know she would love to connect with you also on her blog Socially Abstract. You can also follow her page on Facebook and link up on Twitter. And if you’d like to check out her work, here is her page on Pronoun.

This is the first guest post I’ve published to my blog and thanks to the wonderful writers I have connected with over the years, there will be many more to come! If you would like to submit something to post on my blog then do get in touch. If writing related, then any topic is fine. If it’s fiction or non fiction then something along the outsiders theme would be brilliantly received. See you on Friday!) Please feel free to comment below!