Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Holiday Camps as Prison Camps - after the Apocalypse

Is it realistic to imagine that a holiday camp might be converted into a prison came? If you've read volume 2 of The Exodus Plague (the novel "Imprisoned") you'll know that this is something that happens in that book. If you thought this was pure fantasy, think again. In this video I tell you about occasions when this has happened in real life!

Friday, 15 October 2021

Gender Bending in the 1980s

Gender Bending in the 1980s! If you've read my 80s Murder Mystery novels, you may wonder why Brigitte's pronouns keep changing. Here's an insight!

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction – which books should you read?

If you are new to post-apocalyptic fiction or if you’ve already read a few novels but want some idea on what to read next, watch my video. I explain a bit about what post-apocalyptic fiction is and recommend a few of the real classics of the genre. Enjoy! 

Sunday, 12 September 2021

How To Be a 1980s Pop Music Journalist

Ah, the glamour! The celebrities! The music! The nightclubs!

So what was it really like to be a pop music journalist in the days of the New Romantics? I've just started a new YouTube channel that will explain everything. If you've read any of my '80s Murder Mysteries' novels, these videos will explain some of the real-life background. Be sure to subscribe so that you will receive notification whenever I post some new videos. Here are the first three...

Monday, 22 February 2021

What is post-apocalyptic fiction? And why do we enjoy it…?

Several of the authors who’ve been interviewed for this blog write post-apocalyptic fiction. I too have written a post-apocalyptic series, The Exodus Plague. So what is the attraction of writing, and reading, about the worst things we can imagine?

Post-apocalyptic fiction takes us into a world that has gone out of control. This sort of fiction tries to imagine the worst-case scenario – and then it takes one step further into the abyss. What if a disease were so deadly and so infectious that it killed most of the earth’s population? What if the crops failed? What would happen if cultivated but deadly plants went on the rampage just as almost everyone in the world became blind?

Speculative fiction has, at various times, imagined all these possibilities. George R. Stewart described a world depopulated by disease in ‘Earth Abides’ way back in 1949. A global crop failure formed the basis of John Christopher’s 1956 novel, ‘The Death Of Grass’. And the deadly plants in a blind world are, of course, central to John Wyndham’s classic 1951 novel, ‘The Day Of The Triffids’.

It might seem odd that so many of us would choose to read, for pleasure, stories about global catastrophes. And yet, horrific fiction has an almost universal appeal. Probably one of the pleasures of reading this sort of fiction derives from the fact that, just like a nightmare, we can emerge from it unscathed. We wake from the nightmare or put down the book and realise that the world in which we actually live isn’t quite as bad as the imagined world we’ve left behind.

If vampires and werewolves were real we would probably not be at all pleased to find ourselves locked inside a castle with one of them. But in fiction, we can enjoy the pleasure of watching other people dealing with horrific situations while we are quite safe, sitting next to a warm fire with the cat on our lap and a glass of wine ready to hand. 

Another feature of most post-apocalyptic fiction is that the stories concentrate not on the global catastrophe itself (which might depress the reader rather than entertain) but on the experiences of individuals trying to get on with daily life in exceptionally difficult circumstances. 

The classic post-apocalyptic books I mentioned earlier – ‘Earth Abides’, ‘The Death Of Grass’ and ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ – were all written in the 1940s and 1950s. It is easy to imagine why the apocalypse might have been on people’s minds at that time. After the Second World War, most readers would have had personal experience of a real-life global catastrophe. When that war ended, a number of others sprung up in Malaya, French Indochina (leading to the Vietnam War), Korea and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Cold War was getting ever frostier as people wondered whether nuclear Armageddon might be about to be unleashed upon the world. 

That may explain the attraction of this genre in the middle of the 20th Century. But why is post-apocalyptic fiction still popular now, in the 21st century?

The trivial answer would be something along the lines of – oh, but we have new fears now: global warming, ocean acidification, tensions between Korea or Russia and the UK or USA, pollution, genetic modification, fake news, cross-species diseases and so on…

But maybe there is more to it than that. One of our greatest fears is, I think, is our reliance on technology. On the one hand, we fear that technology may be used against us: our mobile phones can be used to track us, our Internet profiles make it easy for criminals to find out who we are, where we are, what jobs we do, the names of our pets, and even more intimate information if we aren’t very careful! On the other hand, our lives are so dependent on technology – computers, phone networks, electricity, powered vehicles – that we would feel helpless without it. Without our phones, how would we contact people? Without the Internet, how would we find up-to-date information or download eBooks or place orders with online retailers? Without ready access to our doctors and hospitals, how we would stay healthy? Without biologically engineered vaccines, how would we combat emerging diseases?

The entire infrastructure of our world depends on technology. Sometimes it’s scary when we have it. But it would be even scarier if it were all to disappear. 

There are many possible things that might destroy our technologically-centred lives, and writers have used all of them – EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulses, either manmade or generated by a phenomenon such as a solar flare), catastrophic climate change, nuclear war, mega-earthquakes or meteor strikes, natural or laboratory-created pandemics. Overnight, society as we know it is destroyed. This is such a terrifying possibility that, in our everyday life, it is altogether simpler to avoid even thinking about it. But, just like all our darkest thoughts, sometimes it can be curiously pleasant to experience the nightmare – and then wake up from it. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Post-apocalyptic Novels – The Exodus Plague

It came with the snow. Overnight the world changed. Snowbound, in an isolated cottage, Jonathan Richards wakes from illness to discover that the world he knew has gone.

I began writing this trilogy of novels about two years ago, at a time when the idea of a global pandemic seemed purely within the realms of fiction. Well, just to show that truth can sometimes be as strange (almost!) as fiction, we have now all had to learn to live with a pandemic. However, try to imagine how much worse it could have been – or, one day, still might be! That is the story of The Exodus Plague

Book 1, ‘The Snow’ tells the story of a devastating blizzard that brings Britain to a standstill. But worse is yet to come. Because, with the snow comes something else. Something that will turn Britain into a kill-or-be-killed country where only the ruthless will survive.

Book 2, ‘Imprisoned’ takes you into a post-pandemic world in which some communities struggle to resume normal life. But what is normality? Why are there still students in Cambridge university while in the seaside resort of Stony Cove, a derelict holiday camp is under Army control?

Book 3, ‘Escape’ tells another story that begins in snowbound London before taking the reader into the heart of darkness of the devastated British countryside. The novel starts  as Justin Davenant wakes to hear something clawing at the front door, trying to get in! 

Britain is snowbound. Bodies lie unburied. Gangs of bestial semi-humans roam the streets. 

Welcome to The Exodus Plague!

The Exodus Plague: 

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Monday, 5 October 2020

Michael La Ronn Interview – SF, Fantasy and Freedom!

Michael La Ronn is a writer of science fiction and fantasy novels. He also teaches a course on the art of writing and is an enthusiastic podcaster and YouTuber. Here he tells me how he manages to do all that while holding down a full-time job!

You are an incredibly prolific writer. How many books have you published now?

By the time this post goes live, I'll be at 54 published books. 

You’ve written all those books while you are also holding down a full-time job. In addition to that you also do regular podcasts and teach courses. I’m wondering how you make time for all that? Are you a super disciplined writer? 

I am hyper-disciplined, to the point where I have cut pretty much everything out of my personal life that isn't writing. I rarely watch television or play video games anymore. Writing gets my full attention when I'm not at work or in law school classes. 

I became a writer after a near-death experience in 2012 and I realized that life is too short not to follow your passion. After that, it was pretty easy to make time for my writing.

Do you set yourself specific word counts to achieve daily? 

I don't set word counts on a daily basis except for when I'm writing. There are so many areas of my writing life that need my attention and my resources are so stretched that I don't always get to write every day. However, I know that most years I'll publish between 5-7 books rain or shine. I've had some years when I've done more than that. Because I'm so dedicated, the words always take care of themselves at the end of the year. 

What’s the thing you enjoy most about writing?

The freedom. I can write whatever I want, whenever I want, in whatever style I want, and get paid for it. It's energizing. 

And what’s the thing you dislike most about writing?

I dislike the fear and the self-doubt. It feels like one day I'll wake up and never have to worry about them again, but instead, it's a recurring, lifelong battle that every writer has to fight in their own way. When you understand that, it gets easier.

You’ve written both fantasy and science fiction books but I believe you have now committed to writing in the specific genre of ‘urban fantasy’. Why did you decide to do that? Was it because you found you enjoyed this genre more than the others, because you identified this genre as a profitable market or for some other reason?

I have written in a lot of genres, but I always find myself coming back to urban fantasy. I decided to dedicate my fiction to the genre after having so much fun writing my Magic Trackers series, which is about a dream mage. I love cities mashed with supernatural creatures and magic. 

Ironically, choosing the urban fantasy genre had nothing to do with profit as that series doesn't sell well. But I'm passionate about the stories I can tell in the urban fantasy genre and I know that the money will follow. 

I see you teach courses on Teachable (a platform for hosting and selling online courses). What are the main pros and cons of Teachable? Have you tried any other platforms (e.g. Udemy)?

The pros of Teachable are that it's easy to use, it pays monthly, and the user interface is good. The con of Teachable is the community aspect—it’s not desirable to build a community there around your courses, though they're working on that. I have looked into Udemy and other types of sites, but I prefer complete control over my pricing and content. 

What do you do to promote your courses?

I don't do anything to promote my courses other than feature them prominently on my website and mention them periodically on my YouTube channel and podcasts. My courses are typically quite in-depth and the opposite of what most are doing in the space right now, so I don't worry about promoting them too much. Usually the most driven writers in my audience buy them, and that's enough for me. 

I know you do a lot of research to make sure your books are optimised to target the correct readership. What would you say is the single most important thing an author can do to make sure that a book really leaps out at a potential reader who is browsing on Amazon?

The book cover is by far the most important thing an author can get right. Making sure you have a cover that matches other self-published books in your immediate subgenre can't be understated. It's a lesson that took me a long time to learn. 

How did you find your cover designers? And how do you go about commissioning a cover? Do you tell the designer exactly what you want or do you let the cover artist make those decisions?

I find my designers by looking at other books in the subgenre I want to write. I give the designer general ideas, but most importantly I give them a link to a Pinterest board with book covers that have a similar look to what I'm going for. 

I'm a believer in picking the right designer. If you pick the right person and give them good enough instructions, everything else follows, including a good design.

When promoting books, a self-published author is faced with a huge number of potentially expensive options: Facebook ads, Bookbub deals, Amazon ads – not to mention paying for covers, editors, web hosting, podcasts and so on. Let’s assume I’m a new writer with a total budget of $1000. How should I spend that?

If I were starting out today with a $1000 budget, here's how I'd spend my money:

  • Website Hosting with Bluehost: $150
  • Cover Design: $300
  • Copyeditor (only): $300 (assuming a 50K novel)
  • Scrivener (writing software): $50
  • Amazon Ads: $200

That'll get you going. You can create a respectable website with a free WordPress theme, produce your first book, and have a decent Amazon Ads budget for your first book. Start there, and then keep evolving. 

Do you think podcasting is something that all authors should think of doing? Recording regular podcasts must take up a lot of time. Do they gain you many readers?

Podcasting is not for everyone, nor should every writer consider it. It’s best for “verbal” people—ideally, people who excel at communication. If that’s not you, then don’t do it. If you want to improve your communication skills and are willing to do the work, then definitely do it. 

I have three podcasts at the moment:

The Writer’s Journey, which is an audio blog of me talking about my struggles and successes as a writer every week. It’s a behind the scenes look at a working writer’s life. I turn on the mic and talk about what’s on my mind. 

Writing Tip of the Day, which is a podcast for writers that offers a crisp writing tip in 5 minutes or less.

AskALLi Member Q&A, a podcast with The Alliance of Independent Authors (a nonprofit for self-published writers), where we answer the most common self-publishing questions.

I’ve never seen my podcasts as “reader magnets” though my listens have increased month after month for the past two years. 

Instead, I view my podcasts as a strategy to engage with my audience. It gives them something to consume to get to know me on a deeper level. If you like my books, you’ll like my podcasts. I’ve been fortunate that my podcasts happen to drive sales for me, but that was never the main goal.

Which podcast service do you use? Is it worth paying a company to host podcasts or are free services such as good enough?

I use Libsyn. They’re affordable and I’ve never had a problem with them. 

I like Anchor.FM (I was even a guest on their podcast a few years ago), but I prefer complete control over my content. Anchor.FM comes with some limitations. Freedom is worth paying for.

Finally, for a reader who doesn’t usually read science fiction or fantasy, can you recommend one of your SF books and one fantasy book.

Science fiction readers will love my Android X series, about an android special agent in the year 2300 who hunts down rogue androids with his human engineer. It’s a fast-paced thriller in the future. 

Fantasy readers will love my Last Dragon Lord series, about a blood-thirsty dragon lord who seeks revenge against the conspiracy that overthrew him. It’s a dark revenge tale that is very unpredictable. 

And what about other authors – can you pick one great science fiction book and one great fantasy book?

I’ll default to my favorites. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury for science fiction and American Gods by Neil Gaiman for fantasy. You can’t go wrong with either of those. 

Michael La Ronn
is the author of over 40 science fiction & fantasy books including the Android X series, Modern Necromancy series, and the Galaxy Mavericks series. He writes from the great plains of Iowa and has perfected the art of balancing writing with a full-time job and family, writing 5-7 books per year.