Fantasy map making – The most detailed map of Delfinnia

One of the most fun parts of creating fantasy stories is the worldbuilding. Maps in particular are always a lot of fun and allow the imagination to run free and are a huge assistance to an author. I use maps to know the locations of places, the distances characters will have to traverse and the terrain that will be used for battle and action scenes.

The map below was made with Wonderdraft and is the most detailed map of Delfinnia, the main landmass in the Sundered Crown Saga.

Now, the map below is something special as it finally puts into one image my plans for my fantasy series. If you look closely you may notice that there quite a few lands that have yet to be mentioned and one that is the setting for the Empowered Ones series. Yep, all my stories are set on the same magical planet of Esperia, or the Esperverse as I’ve come to call it.

The world map. Not to scale as the oceans are far larger than depicted here. (I ran out of space!)

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An Interview with Damien Larkin – Author of Big Red

Big Red

 

Q1. Tell us about your upcoming new book Big Red, what’s it about and who will enjoy it?

In a sentence, it’s about an Irish soldier in the British Army on Mars!

Big Red is a military sci-fi told from the perspective of Mars Occupation Force soldier Darren Loughlin. After waking in a highly traumatised state following a year-long tour of duty on Mars, it becomes a race against time for the authorities to piece together what happened to his shattered battalion and what caused the sudden loss of communication with all of Earth’s off-world colonies.

With time running out, Darren is forced to recall his year in the Nazi-founded New Berlin colony and his part in the vicious, genocidal war against hostile alien natives. But as his memories return, he begins to suspect he is at the centre of a plot spanning over forty years.

Big Red is an ideal read for fans of Robert A. Heinlein, Joe Haldeman and David Drake.

 

Q2. How long did the book take you to write?

It took three and a half months to write the first draft and a further six weeks of editing, proofreading and re-writes. I’ve since done at least six rounds of edits over the last few months to get it just right. It’s amazing that even with all that effort, you can still miss things from previous rounds, so I’m trying to be as thorough as possible.

 

Q3. How much research did you do for the book?

Loads! I wanted the Mars Occupation Force to be a British-led organisation, so I delved into everything I could find about the British Army’s organisational structure and operational methods. I also researched everything I could find about Mars and current colonisation plans, to get a better idea of what would work and what wouldn’t. I looked into a lot of conspiracy theories too. Over the last few years, there’s been several claims from ex-service personnel about secret off-world colonies, which really helped me with developing the back story and the universe of Big Red.

 

Q4. What inspired you to write Big Red?

A really vivid dream! I’ve always had an overactive imagination and because of that, I tend to have vivid dreams (or nightmares…) The first two chapters are based loosely on that dream. After waking up, I remember trying to work out why these soldiers were so traumatised and that became the seed that grew into Big Red.

 

Q5. What genre do you prefer to write in, Sci-fi or fantasy?

As long as there’s a military element, I enjoy both. My first project was a Military Fantasy called “Children of the Dying” and allowed me to explore sword and shield style battles, as opposed to the modern warfare shown in Big Red.

 

Q6. Where can people buy Big Red?

Big Red will be available on Amazon and all good bookshops from 14th May. You can also check out the link on my website which links to several different online stores:

https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/preorder-big-red

 

Q7. How can people follow you online?

FB: https://www.facebook.com/DamienLarkinAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/damo_dangerman

IG: https://www.instagram.com/damo_danger_larkin/

Website: https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/

Thanks Damien!

Author Bio

Damien Larkin is a part-time Planning Analyst and a full-time stay-at-home father of two young children. He enjoys turning terrifying nightmares into novels and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland

Tips for Indy Authors 3: Writer’s Block

There are no two words more dreaded and feared by all authors than ‘Writer’s Block’. What is it and how do you get through it? Well, let me try and help you.

I’ve been writing books for over ten years now and I have been struck by Writer’s Block more times than I can count. Pretty much every writer out there will succumb to it at one point or another and to those who claim to have never experienced it- well, good for you I guess (I don’t believe you at all by the way.)

Writing is a strange thing. One day your fingers are whizzing over the keyboard and the words just pour out of your brain and onto the page. Then inexplicably and without warning, you freeze. The words stop coming like a once raging river now baked dry in a drought. How you handle these first moments of horror is crucial to salvaging your workflow.

I’m experiencing a bit of writer’s block myself at the moment and from experience, I know what has to be done to break that wall and press on. It’s just getting the right thought process in place to enact it. There are a few tactics you can try but the most important thing to not do is begin to wallow in despair. Putting pressure on yourself is guaranteed to make the situation worse and prevent the words from coming.

Do something else

Now, this technique might sound counterproductive but bear with me. If you’re like me you no doubt have many other ideas and works in progress on the go or in the planning stages. The key to breaking Writers Block is to trick your brain into unfreezing and releasing all those juicy words once more.

If you’re writing fantasy try your hand at another genre or enter some writing challenges. I personally switch between projects as I find that I’ll often have writer’s block on a certain project but am fine with another. Alternate between your works to keep your mind fresh and your interest high.

Force it

This technique had worked for me a few times. I write a lot in my day job so I have to literally force myself to write in order to get paid! Think of Writers Block as a barrier, apply enough pressure onto it and the dam will eventually break. This strategy can fall under the finding the time to write a problem that many writers have as well. Get your ass in that seat and don’t leave until you’ve put down a certain amount of words. They don’t have to be great, just get them on the page.

Take a break and come back fresh

Alternatively, you can simply walk away from the problem project for a few days or weeks. Don’t do any writing, go outside, go on holiday or simply do anything else. Your brain will recharge its words count and when you get that itch to write again, you’ll know that the Writers Block is over.

I’ve learnt that many writers put themselves under a lot of pressure when it comes to Writers Block. I do it myself and so I’ll be following my own advice. Don’t let fans get you down about deadlines or whatever. A book will be finished when its good and ready, you can’t rush these things.

 

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Tips for Indy Authors part 2: Finding the time

Unless you’ve got all the time in the world to dedicate to your writing you may feel pressured and distressed that you just can’t find the time to get those words down.

You work all day, might have to look after the kids etc, writing is sometimes the last thing you want to do with your precious free time. Sometimes you just want to relax and do nothing which is fair enough. However, I’ve come up with some ways to ensure that you can get at least a few words down per day.

In my day job, for example, I work as a content creator which often sees me writing creative pieces and newsy type articles throughout much of the day. Sometimes I wish that the words I was putting down for work were going into my books and other days I simply wish I could be as creative for my own stuff as I am in my daily job. Sometimes the last thing I want to do after a 9-hour day is getting home and whipping out the computer and write.

Writing a novel is a time-consuming business. A 50,000-word novel is at least 50 hours’ worth of work just to hammer out the first draft not to mention all the planning and thinking that it entails. With rewrites, design and marketing efforts included, an Indy author could spend 100’s if not 1000’s of hours on their projects.

It’s a battle of will

I know I need to get those words down if I’m ever going to finish the blasted book, so it becomes a battle of will with yourself. All I can say is that it doesn’t help to work yourself up about it. Taking a break is no bad thing when it comes to writing. Putting pressure on yourself and forcing those words out has often in my experience directly caused the dreaded writer’s block.

Writing should be a fun experience, by turning it into a chore or job can take that fun out of the experience which in turn will make you even more frustrated if you can’t find some time to do it. You need to ask yourself why you’re writing in the first place. Is it just a hobby? Do you want this to be your career? You need to ask this fundamental question before deciding on how much of your precious time you should devote to it.

Try what’s best for you

Early bird?

Some people get up and go the gym stupidly early in the mornings if you’re a writer and an early bird than why not do something similar? Get some words in before the kids’ wakeup or before you must go to work.

Make the most of lunch hours

Doctors will probably frown at this suggestion but what about writing throughout your break times at work? It’s no different than colleagues who choose to watch some TV during the lunch hour. I would suggest, however, that you get out for some fresh air and eat something too. Don’t squander that precious hour. With smartphones, you can easily download a writing app and get some words down.

Can you write on the commute?

Do you have a long commute in the mornings or evenings? When I used to work in Bristol, I’d have to take an hour-long bus journey in the mornings and evenings to get to and from work. During those often-dull times stuck in traffic, I’d whip out my Kindle and use a word processing app to write. It was doing this that allowed me to write much of The First Fear.

Have an end goal in sight

This is something I myself need to work on more and that is setting yourself a strict deadline and sticking to it. One of the pros of being an Indy author is that there is no time limit put on you by a publisher – but it can also be a negative. It’s also easy to say, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow or next week’. There’s no rush or pressure on when you get that book finished except the pressure you put on yourself.

Don’t be selfish

I know this is one is easier than it sounds. Most of us have other commitments and people we love in our lives. Do not neglect them and try to make a compromise. You don’t have to spend every moment with each other but ensure that your writing time is understood by a partner or family members and be sure to limit that time. Locking yourself away for days on end may work for some folks but just think about the other people in your life.

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Tips for Indy Authors part 1: Planning

Hi everyone, I was working on my latest book and being distracted by social media (Damn you Facebook!) when I realised that there are so many writers out there that don’t have a clue how about getting their work out there. In this new series of blog posts, I’ll be covering some of the basics.

Now you may be thinking that it might be a bad idea to help other writers. After all the competition out there is fierce and I myself would be classed as a struggling author. In reality, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the years is that helping one another is really important.

One of the most common questions I see on social media is about how authors go about getting started and planning their books.

It all starts with an idea

A muse, creativity, imagination call it what you like but there has to be something that creates that initial spark. Not everyone possesses such a thing whereas others can be consumed by it. In my case, I get inspiration from the world around me. The news, hobbies such as gaming, people watching (not in a creepy way) and history are great sources of inspiration. It’s hard to describe the feeling when an idea takes root but you know it’s a good one when your mind constantly goes back to it. This where the idea of a muse comes in, a little voice in your head that nags you to look into it more. Sometimes an idea can be tenacious, other times it can hit like a lightning bolt or a Eureka moment.

In fantasy especially, I often start out by creating the world the story will be set in. I’ve written about world building before so check those posts out here. At this phase, you can get lost in creating a history or lore of the world and its during this phase that planning rises to the fore. I have notebooks and word documents filled with timelines, character and place names. I find it helps to write them down by hand first and then compile them onto a computer later.

Once this initial burst of creativity has occurred the actual story is the next step. Now, this is where being an author gets a little weird. In effect, you become something like a god. You create characters that in your mind might be as real as you or I and then you plop these ‘people’ into the world you created. I myself have experienced and been told by other writers that once they do this their characters often do unexpected things that shift a story into an entirely unexpected direction.

I’ve been experiencing this in my current project and while interesting such detours can put a spanner in the works of the story you’re trying to tell. This is why planning is so important.

Pantsing vs Plotting

I am what would be considered a pantser writer which means aside from having a broad outline of how I want a story to go I just let my mind run free and make it up as I go along. Others really struggle with this method and instead intricately plan out every page of a story. No method is better than other as a pantser can often write themselves into a corner thanks to troublesome characters not behaving and a strict planner can become stifled and trapped by their plan to the point of feeling trapped. The perfect method would be to incorporate the two, which is something that I myself am trying more and more.

raybradburyplot

In my current project, I still have a beginning and an endpoint that the story has to reach but whereas before I would wing it and see what happens to reach that end, I am now creating strict plot points that each chapter has to hit. How they are hit however is left to my imagination and it can be tricky reigning in a plot that is trying to go off on a different tangent.

There is software that provides plenty of planning functions and options but for me, a good old-fashioned notepad works best.

Writing is a learning experience and we all develop our own ways of planning out our projects. I’d love to hear what techniques you use. Are you a pantser or a strict planner? Let me know in the comments.

In part 2 I’ll be covering the common question of ‘How do you find the time to write?’.

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End of Year Review: 2018

2018 is coming to an end and I have to say its been a bit of an odd one. It’s been far, far better than 2017 for me personally but the wider world seems to have become weirder and stranger than ever before.

So, in January of 2018 I started a new job and I’ve loved every minute of it! I am a content manager at a cyber security company and have been able to produce a lot of fun content ranging from infographics, articles and videos. Even better is that the company won two big awards over the course of the year, something incredible for a business that only took their product to market in February of this year!

Me and the wife also moved away from Bristol to the city of Worcester in order for me to be closer to work and I have to say it’s a big improvement on where we used to live. The city itself is beautiful and full of history (You can read more here) and our new home is a lot more spacious and generally nice to live in than our old one which was essentially a one bedroom shed.

Book wise I hit my target of releasing one book a year. In June I published The First Fear via Amazon KDP and whilst sales have not been that great the book itself has been getting some excellent feedback and reviews. I also entered it into this years SPFBO competition and it achieved my goal of it achieving at least a 3-star review from the judge. (Skip to the 14 minute mark for my review). I’ll be doing a blog on my thoughts of the SPFBO soon.

Aside from publishing The First Fear I also revealed the new cover art for Book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga. Titled: Voyage for the Sundered Crown the book will see Luxon following in the footsteps of the legendary hero Zahnia the Great and his attempts to unite the peoples of Esperia and free Delfinnia from the forces of Danon. The book is probably the most ambitious one I’ve ever attempted so please bear with me as it will take time. I’ve penned it in for a late 2019 release but don’t be too surprised if it gets pushed back to 2020.

As well as Voyage I announced the sequel to The First Fear. Titled: The Temple of Arrival the book picks up where The First Fear ended and delves more into the world of the Supreme Imperium and the Empowered Ones. Once again, the fantastic Rezar has done the cover work and the book is around 50% complete. I’m aiming for a summer 2019 release for it.

For all of you audiobook fans out there, the audiobook version of The First Fear is nearing completion and will be released late January 2019. More news as I get it!

2018 has been a busy, hectic year for me but now that I’m settled in my new job and home, I hope 2019 will be a stable one and one where I get to do a lot more writing and be more creative. Of course, with the wider world becoming increasingly mental in terms of politics and culture this might be easier said than done.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and keep on reading!

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https://dl.bookfunnel.com/qoy167m3px

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What to do for NanoWriMo 2018?

So, it’s nearly that time of year again when writers both professional and amateur start to think about what they’re going to write for National Novel Writing Month.

What is NanoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30.

It sounds impossible right? And it certainly is a huge challenge. I’ve entered it a few times now and have only hit that magic 50k mark twice. Last year I wrote some tips on how to succeed which you can read here.

So, what do you write for it? In my case I think I’m going to use it to help me put down as many words as possible for both The Empowered Ones book two and Book four in the Sundered Crown Saga. The problem is which do I choose?

Have your say

Which title should I work on? Which is the series you want me to crack on with the most?

In other news, if you’re a mailing list subscriber keep an eye out for my next email which will give you access to a little gift for Halloween. If you’re not a subscriber please sign up to it here

There’s also some news on the promotional front so keep an eye out on my social media pages for the announcement of special book offers next month. There’s a big SPFBO promotion coming up which will be a great opportunity for you to get some excellent fantasy books.

Are you taking part in NanoWriMo this year? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments or via social media.

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I’ve moved to Worcester

Hi folks, apologise for the lack of communication over the past month but me and the wife have been undergoing the very stressful experience of moving to a new house.

At the start of this year I began a new job role at a company based in Tewksbury which was over an hour drive away from where we previously lived in Bristol. That the daily commute was not only tiring but also worked out as very costly in terms of petrol costs. So, we started looking about for somewhere that was closer to my work and had a store that my wife could transfer too.

Worcester fit the bill (not to mention the cost of renting is a lot cheaper than the now massively overpriced Bristol). We now live in a nice 2-bedroom townhouse which is a huge improvement over the tiny place we’d been in before and what’s better is that for all that extra space the rent is only £40 per month extra than our old place!

We’ve had a bit of an exploration of our new home and it’s a lovely city. Plenty of history combined with all the modern amenities we could need. The surrounding countryside is also beautiful with the Malvern hills just on our doorstep. We’ve not had a chance to explore them yet but will do very soon!
Naturally the upheaval of moving to a new city has put m writing on hold for a bit and with work picking up the time I have spare is restricted. Nonetheless I have been making slow but steady progress on the Empowered Ones Book Two and am still optimistically hoping to get the first draft finished before the end of the year.

In other news, I’ve begun the search for a narrator for the audiobook version of The First Fear. I’m hoping to get that done sometime in the new year and I hope many of you will pick up a copy. Sales wise things have slowed right down after the usually good summer period so if you or anyone you know enjoys fantasy and hasn’t picked up a copy of one of my books I would appreciate it massively. You can view all my available titles below.

SPFBO contest wise it’s a bit quiet as the judge tasked with reviewing The First Fear is slowly working her way through the list. Once I know the outcome I’ll share it with you all, (hopefully she’ll enjoy it!).
If you want to discover some of the SPFBO entries click on the banner pic at the bottom of this email.

Happy reading,
Matt

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What I’ve Learnt About Self-Publishing – Is getting a traditional publishing deal better than going Indy?

Is getting a traditional publishing deal better than going Indy?

As a member of many writing groups online I’ve seen more than a few authors brag about landing traditional publishing deals. I have debated and in some cases outright argued with some who claim that landing such deals means that they are superior to us Indy authors.

Sure, landing a deal with an internationally recognised or genre leading publisher is fantastic! Well done you, but in this post, I’m not going to be talking about the big players but rather the small presses of which there are hundreds. Now, some of these are fantastic at what they do and genuinely support their authors with marketing etc., but far too many don’t provide those they ‘sign’ with any support at all.

The thing I think that needs to be made clear is whether going the traditional publishing route will indeed prove more effective than self-publishing. I’ve seen many authors delighted to land a deal, but then their book disappears into oblivion as the publisher does not promote the book at all. I’ve been in arguments with some authors who look down on Indy publishing and believe that because they’ve landed a deal with some obscure publishing house, they are better than those going alone. A simple look at their books ranking on Amazon however soon proves that in reality, their book is doing terribly and that for example, my Indy book sells better than theirs. I get that there are some kudos for landing a deal but at the end of the day if we truly want to be true authors our writing has to make us some form of income.

There are countless scammers out there posing as publishers. (Read my blog about vanity publishers here.) Unlike vanity publishers who demand an author pay them to publish there are some that offer contracts and even pay the author for the rights to their work as well as promising to market the book. I’ve seen many authors fall for these small presses who often turn out to be one man shows or run by people who don’t really seem to know what they’re up to. The number of books ‘signed up’ to these publishers that then go onto to vanish without a trace is quite frankly shocking.

Publishing is a gamble either way

A good friend of mine in the USA wrote a fantastic Sci-fi novel that exploded in popularity on a writing forum. He was then approached by a ‘publisher’ who paid him an advance and promised him to support the book. This was over 8 years ago, and his book has still never seen the light of day, and he is now embroiled in a legal battle with the publisher to get the rights back from them. I know for a fact that if he’d taken the Indy route and published it himself, then that book would have done well, and no doubt would have made him more cash then he’d earn via the small press. In short, he took a gamble and lost.

With Indy publishing, everything is down to you. You control the rights, you control production, and you control your marketing. In my view, its better for your book to be out there then locked away gathering dust. By going Indy, there is always a chance that your book could take off, whereas if a small press is mismanaging it or refusing to publish it, then there is no chance at all and you could end up in a legal battle to get back control of your story.

What do you think? Have you had a bad experience with a small press? Have you achieved success going Indy? Let me know in the comments or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter

 

What I’ve Learnt About Self-Publishing – Writing is not for the faint-hearted

Being a writer is a profession that leaves you wide open to critics from all walks of life and backgrounds. You may think you’ve written the best thing ever but be assured that someone somewhere will think its terrible and will most likely relish the chance of putting the boot in.

Now I’ve received this treatment in both my working career as a copywriter and as an Indy Author. Sometimes there is just no pleasing people. A lot of the time the criticism is constructive (no-one is perfect especially me!) but sometimes, just sometimes you encounter people that simply defy all logic and reason. I’ve had people complain about a piece of content I’ve written, but not give any reason whatsoever as to why they disliked it and then I’ve had it where an article I’ve drafted is literally waved in front of my face and been told its crap. Writing is not for the faint-hearted, and it’s a bloody tough profession to succeed in.

So many Indy authors experience the annoyance of obtuse or downright nasty negative reviews on the likes of Amazon. I’ve had some that have said I’m the worst writer ever, others that they simply hated the book and that’s that.

When I was still fresh to self-publishing, each of those reviews stung, and I was personally offended by them (so much so that I even replied to a few). Now though I simply shrug my shoulders and say to myself ‘Each to their own, you cannot please everyone’. As tempting as it is, as upset as you may become, do not respond to negative reviews.

Now don’t get me wrong, don’t just ignore the comments of bad reviews, if they’re genuinely critical then take on board what they have to say. For example, I’ve had a 2-star review that outlined things that I could improve upon, and I am genuinely grateful to that person for writing it as they were correct to highlight things that could and were improved in later titles.

Some reviews, however, are just nasty for the sake of it, and it seems some people simply get a kick out of abusing indy authors. My favourite one has to be a 1-star review from a guy or gal who named themselves The Hater. This sad act of a human being trawls through Indy books on Amazon and just 1-stars them all for no good reason.

There’s a great thread on Goodreads about 1-star reviews that you can check out here

Which brings me to the fact that as an Indy writer you WILL encounter plenty of crazy individuals. I guess as writing falls into the same category of the arts this is to be expected. It draws out all manner of eccentric personalities, (hell, just check out some of the writer’s groups on Facebook for proof of that!)

At the end of the day if we want to succeed at this we all need to develop a thick skin (easier said then done). Learn from every piece of genuine criticism and ignore the bullshit (there’s a lot of that out there). We suffer through the bad times and the negativity because we are writers and it’s what we love to do. Never let the bastards grind you down, keep going, and one day you might just succeed. I’m trying to do just that.

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