Category Archives: Newsletter

Monthly newsletter from James Hockley – keeping you up to date with what he’s been doing.

Author Newsletter: June 2017

So, it’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these. January in fact. What’s new? Well, it’s been a pretty busy first six months of the year, and here are the highlights:

  • My little family grew by one: a little girl!
  • A complete re-write of ‘Fear’s Union’. In fact, it’s so different, it won’t even be called Fear’s Union. A new series is born (and sadly, the old series is being retired before it gets going);
  • A complete second edit of a ‘romantic comedy’ tentatively titled ‘Destination Happiness’.
  • A personal ‘re-brand’. My deep-POV analysis is complete, and I like it! I am now officially a deep-POV writer.
  • And loads of research for my fantasy series.

So, without further ado, this is what’s in the newsletter:

  1. What’s all this deep-POV nonsense?
  2. Where’s this romantic comedy come from?
  3. What’s happened to Fear’s Union?
  4. What happened to Dark Side of the Stone?
  5. And what can I expect to see in the future?

Continue reading Author Newsletter: June 2017

Author Newsletter: 2016 Review

It’s the end of my first year as an actual author. A time for celebration perhaps, but certainly a time for reflection. So, how is this self-publishing gig working out?

  • Was it everything I dreamed of? Of course not.
  • Was it everything I expected? Err, no. Not by a long shot.
  • Was it successful? Perhaps on a moderate level, but not really.
  • But did I learn a shit load? Yes.
  • So was it a success? Definitely.
  • And did I enjoy myself? Absolutely.

But let’s look at this a bit closer. What did I really love and hate in 2016? Well, here’s how I’ll break it up:

  1. Top five reads of 2016
  2. Blogging experience in 2016 & plan for 2017
  3. What I’ve achieved as a very amateur author

Top 5 Reads of 2016

Reading is good for the soul. Reading fantasy is good for the imagination. And reading great fantasy is better than … many other things. I’ve read quite a lot this year, ranging from indie newbies to stellar megastars, and I’ve really loved the experience. But some books stick in your head more than others. That is their nature. This is my top five reads for 2016.

# 5: The Destroyer by Michael-Scott Earle

This is a great novel from an up and coming indie author. Mixing a fantasy world, elves, magic, sex, violence, and an interesting story-line, there is much in here to enjoy. It certainly felt accomplished and with a depth which is very enticing – I congratulate the author. I look forward to reading the second book soon.

# 4: Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

It’s fair to say that Mr Abercrombie is a bit of a hero of mine. I bloody love his work. The First Law trilogy is simply stunning, and I feel inclined to revisit it soon. Half the World is a YA (or cross-genre) novel, and while some of the blatant grit is removed for the younger target audience, it still retains a stunning “essence de Abercrombie”. This is book two, so make sure to pick up book one first!

# 3: The Thief Who… by Michal McClung

This book won the “Self-published fantasy blog-off” which is “hosted” / “championed” by Mark Lawrence. Having read this, it’s easy to see why it won. It’s brilliant. Fast-paced and energetic, and wonderfully inventive too. This feels professional on every level, and after just one book, the series feels sure to deliver. A must read.

# 2: The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

My first foray into the world of Mr Weeks. And what a pleasure it was. Some of the detailing in this is exquisite, but in such a fast-paced novel with a heavy spoonful of action, it’s almost possible to lose sight of this finery. Almost. Rumour has it that the Lightbringer series is even better, so I look forward to treading that path when I get to it.

# 1: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb

On the basis of pure scope, depth, and execution, this has to win my vote this year. It’s brilliant. Is it vast? Yes. Is it full of action in every corner? No. Is it therefore my natural choice for a book? No. But the characters are achingly lovely, and it is such a pleasure to read that it only felt half its length (which is still long). A masterpiece.


Blogging Experience

One of my major achievements of 2016 was getting the website setup. It doesn’t get much traffic, but it has become a personal hub for recording my writing experiences, which is actually really nice. It’s something to be proud of (I think it looks quite cool) and it offers an ongoing incentive for me personally. Hopefully others find it interesting too!

And one of the big parts of the website is the blog. I decided to start blogging about four things:

  1. Author Newsletter (what I’m up to)
  2. Writing Experience (experiences as a self-published writer)
  3. Book Reviews (why not?)
  4. Beagle’s Blot (a meandering adventure around my fantasy world)

Writing the blog has been an interesting experience. It’s a completely different type of writing, so definitely good to get some practise. And I think I’ve got better. Then again, I’ve got more to write about now, so things should get easier!

Then again, at times it has rather felt like I’ve been spending more time on blogging than writing. So I thought: how much effort has actually gone into these blogs? Well, being a statistician and accountant by trade, here’s the lowdown:

 

First thoughts: that’s a lot of blogging. To put it in context, a good length novel is 70,000 words, and Fear’s Union (which is “long”) is 120,000. So 100,000 blogging words looks like quite a lot. No wonder it felt like I was spending as much time blogging as not!

And you may not think that 100k words on blogs may not equate to 100k words in a carefully constructed novel, but you’d be wrong. Well maybe not wrong, but blogging takes more time than you might think. Even a 60 word picture-based newsletter takes about an hour or so just because of the formatting, review, setup, and inevitable IT hitches. There’s always something to sort out with the IT…

But let’s leave the effort aside and think about the output. By any mechanistic measure, if I look at the engagement on these blogs, it has been an … absolute fail. But that’s not really the point. I could have done a lot more to promote the blog, not least by looking at SEO-type stuff, but I’m not really inclined at the moment. As much as anything, this has been good experience and a documentation of my experiences over 2016. So that’s okay. It was worthwhile.

Then again, I would rather spend my time practising my craft and writing books. That is after all why I’m doing this, and I don’t exactly have a large doting audience to disappoint if I trim back my blogging. So, with that in mind, this is what I’m planning to do in 2017:

  • Author Newsletter: Two half yearly newsletter blogs (I will continue to do more frequent email newsletters).
  • Writing Experience: This was never quite monthly, although it was intended to be. However, I do actually have quite a lot to write about at the moment. I think I’ll alternate between Writing Experience and Beagle’s Blot – so one every two months.
  • Beagle’s Blot: I really like writing this one, mainly because it is a chance for me to get to know the world I write in. However, I’m actually planning some more heavy duty ‘world-crafting’ next year, and the extra time would be invaluable. So I will alternate with Writing Experience – so once every two months.
  • Book Reviews: These are probably less effort anyway, so I will continue as is. However, I did do a lot of review exchanges last year and ended up reading c. 30 books. No bad thing, but quite a lot of time if you consider that each review takes about an hour to craft. Next year, I’ll read as I read, but will target c. 12 books.
  • Book in a Blog: This was a bit of an experiment, and I’m not convinced it worked. There are better forums in which to post one’s book (e.g. Inkitt and Wattpad). I will probably stick to those in the future.

Experiences as an Author

Right, so this is where I was at the beginning of the year:

I have a really strong proposition in Fear’s Union. Now I just need to reach out and get people to find it and read it. I’m sure people will like it.

So, I built the website, decided to write a prequel novella (Mandestroy) which I would make available for free, and even entered Fear’s Union into a “self-published fantasy blog-off”. I had high expectation, but why wouldn’t you? Then again, I’m also a realist, which was a good thing, not least because expectations were well off the mark.

Here’s where I am with my current and past projects:

Fear’s Union

I spent quite a lot if time in the middle part of the year getting reviews of FU. Though there were certainly many positive points, there was also quite a lot of negative. Suffice to say that I quickly realised it wasn’t quite as polished as I thought it was… And just to confirm this, I re-read the first 10% on my way back from holiday, and didn’t like it. Hmm.

Aside from this, I’ve been thinking more about the wider fantasy world, taking influence from all the great books I’ve read this year, and had some really interesting ideas from people who reviewed it. Suffice to say that I think the entire shape of the novel needs to change and that a full re-write is on the cards.

Will this be in 2017? I don’t think so. I have other areas I’m going to focus on in the meantime, not least more comprehensive world building. What I am planning to do is rewrite the first 10% which I think is the weakest part, just so that anyone picking it up is given a fair product, but when it does get re-vamped, it will probably be only loosely recognisable. The title is likely to change too!

Mandestroy

I really enjoyed writing this. And having re-read it recently, I still like it. It’s fair to say that my Deep POV investigations have highlighted substantial prose edits, but the bones are thoroughly recognisable. And it is being picked up in a steady stream, which is nice, with positive feedback so far. So, what to do with Mandestroy?

You might think the answer is “leave it alone”, but you’d be wrong. This is my plan:

  • Release a v2 when the edited version is finished and checked over. I might also enter it into the blog-off this year.
  • Release the “full version” more widely by the end of the year. At the moment the extended version is a reward for subscribing to the newsletter, but when I have other gifts available, then I may decide to release the full version through all the usual channels.
  • I may also release a “first person” version too – as part of the deep POV experiment. I’ll have to think about the best way to do this, though.

The Mikaetan Chronicles

This is an interesting series. The first volume, the Dark Side of the Stone, is written and will be released this year. But this is actually the third book in the “chronicle”. The other two (Book of Elai and unnamed) are independent of DSotS, and chronologically before it. But having thought about it, I think it’s actually possible to connect them backwards. So it will be a loose series in reverse chronological order. Hence interesting.

Books 2 and 3 (or in fact 1 and 2) are not likely to be out this year, but I will look to make progress with them. I’ll update with the next newsletter in mid-2017.

Destination Happiness

This was a NaNoWriMo project in 2015. It is not fantasy at all, and is actually a bit of a love story, so completely outside my usual sphere. But if I recall, it was quite a nice little story that I think could have some legs. So I will try and edit that and get it released into the big bad world too. Can’t do any harm…


Thanks for Reading

So that’s my 2016. It’s been a huge learning experience, full of frustrations and head scratching, but if I look back, I am now in a much better position. A great place from which to move forward. Here’s to an equally interesting 2017!

Author Newsletter December 2016

Another very busy month, but justifiably so. And why is this? Because I wrote a new book! You can find all about it here. Admittedly it isn’t the finished product, but I think it’s a good first draft. Anyway, on with the news.

Continue reading Author Newsletter December 2016

Author Newsletter November 2016

Things are very busy, what with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, so I’m going to keep this month’s newsletter nice and brief. How am I going to do this? By using the only headings and pictures! Enjoy.

What have I been up to?

brewing201611

 

dsots_header

Book Reviews:

       projperceptionbookcover

Other blogging highlights:

toomanypovheader     thelady_pic

Author Newsletter October 2016

Happy October! And if you’re thinking about Christmas already, then stop! Too early (although, try telling that to the supermarkets).

img_1465So, what’s been going on?  Well, believe it or not, it’s not all about books.  Is it?  In fact, I have many strings to my bow.  I can also cook meat.  And just to prove it, here’s a picture of a brisket I cooked in September.

It took nine hours to smoke, but it was worth every minute! Tasty. And next month I’m going to brew a triple strength IPA. Varied.

So, if you want to learn more about my extra-literary activities, then come and join my newsletter.

Anyway, what’s in this month’s news blog? Here’s what:

  • The adventures of Beagle the … architect
  • The “To-Do” list
  • Blogging highlights (last month & next)

So on with the news!

Continue reading Author Newsletter October 2016

Author Newsletter September 2016

It’s been another busy month, but I feel like I’ve reached some sort of plateau, which is nice.  This is what I’ve been up to:

  • Sorting out free goodies for newsletter subscribers;
  • Getting Fear’s Union published in other retailers;
  • Getting Mandestroy priced for free on Amazon;
  • Reading and reviewing more books in exchange for reviews of Mandestroy;
  • Blogging book reviews and writing experiences; and
  • Thinking about where to go next.

So, where does this all leave us?  Well, I’m quite proud of where I’ve got to – the website has come along nicely, and I’m comfortable with the maintenance and blogging.  I have two books “out there”, including a free one, so I am officially an author and people are reading my work.  Hurrah!  And I’ve had some interesting feedback which really helps with forward momentum.

But now it’s time to stand back and think about that forward momentum.  At the end of the day, this is all about the writing, and so I’m going to get back to it.  Read on to find out what I have up my sleeve…

Continue reading Author Newsletter September 2016

Author Newsletter August 2016

Wow – that was a busy month.  As I mentioned last month, I may have suddenly realised that I had to get my skates on and get the novella sorted out pretty sharpish!  I had been dragging my heels somewhat, and it turns out there was quite a lot to do.  But I got there!  Which is very exciting.  So, in news of all things Mandestroy, this is what’s happened:

  • Mandestroy book in a blog concluded;
  • The final edit of Mandestroy was pulled together (including a sentence by sentence overhaul);
  • It got a beta read from Joshua C. Cook – thanks Josh!;
  • And it was published (hurrah!) on Smashwords for FREE and Amazon for $0.99 (more on that later).

But it’s not all about Mandestroy – oh no.  What else has been going on in James Hockley’s world?

  • Fear’s Union limped out of SPFBO#2 with the “Katana of potential” award – not all bad then!
  • Some more reviews of Fear’s Union have popped up – mixed opinions so far…
  • I’ve been reading lots (as always) with a particular highlight being Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic.  Epic in every sense.

That’s the headlines.  Now, on with the news!

Continue reading Author Newsletter August 2016

Not the 9 O’clock News?

You may have noticed that I am going through popular television related news titles – don’t worry, they will run out pretty soon.  Sorry.

So – what have I been up to?  Well, I’m happy to say that I think thatMandestroy_Book_Cover the upcoming novella is in a pretty good place, and you may have noticed that I’ve started to blog the whole book.  I intend to do this with the main novel later on too, but just the novella for now.  More on that later.

And the novel has now been out for a month, and the sales have been stellar!  And what I mean by that of course, is that the sales tracker has largely been a void with the occasional blip of space debris (i.e. a sale).  But hey – this is a learning curve.  And I have learnt a great deal in the last month, so let’s look on the bright side.  I’ll give more details later.

And on the light side of the moon (I appear to have adopted a space themed style today for absolutely no reason, and for which I apologise), I was not voted out of the SPFBO#2 at the first hurdle: see here.  Though on the dark side of the moon (oh dear once more), the cover wasn’t a favourite.  So we’ll probably revisit that at some point then.

But to return to the matter at hand – on with the news.

Continue reading Not the 9 O’clock News?

Have I got News for you? May 2016

So, it turns out that the plan that I had has been somewhat thrown out of the window.  The book I was going to release later this year (after another edit and after the novella has been around for a bit) has gone live already.  Whoops!

That’s right – Fear’s Union is now available for sale (though only currently on Kindle).  Other formats will be available later this year.

Very exciting.  And as you’ll see, I’ve also had a proper book coverFear's-Union sorted out, as-well as for Mandestroy.  I used 99Designs, and I am very happy with both results.  I shall blog about my experiences later this month.

So – why have I suddenly decided to publish Fear’s Union?  Well the answer is simple really.  I wanted to enter the fantastic self-published fantasy blog-off hosted by Mark Lawrence, and to enter, I needed to be published by the 1st May.  It’s a great opportunity for some exposure (assuming I get anywhere in the competition that is!) and given that the book was largely ready, it seemed a shame not to dive in.  And so I’m officially self-published.  Very exciting.

But other than getting my book over the line in KDP, I have been mostly writing the novella Mandestroy; a prequel to Fear’s Union.  I’m still on track, and by all accounts, I actually quite like where it’s going.  As a bit of a spoiler, this novella focusses on a character who is a bit of a bad guy in the main series, and it’s been great fun expanding his back-story.  In fact, I may now like him so much that he has written himself a bigger role in the later series.  The second draft is here, and it’s looking good – though there’s still plenty of hacking round to do if you don’t want to spoil it.

And even more than that!  I’ve also been up to this:

  • Some stag dos and other general partying;
  • Early starts with my son and lots of nappies (just to balance out the fun I’ve been having above);
  • Writing about my recent activity reviewing the very first attempts at pen to paper of a friend – a really rewarding activity;
  • A book review of Robert J Crane’s second book in the Sanctuary series – Avenger;
  • Lots of activity sorting out book covers;
  • And Beagle completed the fourth part of his jaunt around the World of Ku.  He may only now be starting to realise what he’s let himself in for!
Now, more on the upcoming novella.

Continue reading Have I got News for you? May 2016

Let’s do the News: April 2016

Another month, and another head scratching moment as I wonder what I’ve been up to.  Fortunately, this here website happens to be a bit of a log of activity, so even I know what’s been going on!  This is excellent news.

And just as last month, this month I have been mostly writing the novella Mandestroy; a prequel to Fear’s Union.  I’m still on track for a summer (cough!) release, and this month, I spent most of my time doing a first review of my work, and nailing the story arc.  A reviewed first draft, as-well as a log of all my activity, is available here, and I’m very excited about the progress.  I’m learning things about my writing process that I never even knew!

But what else have I been up to?  Here’s what:

  • Watching the 6 nations and ultimately coming up short in my fantasy 6 nations mini league (devastated);
  • A busy social calendar including an Easter weekend wedding;
  • Writing about my first attempts at actually putting pen to paper in the regular writing experience blog;
  • A book review of Dangerous Women – a collection of short stories edited by Gardner Dozois and George RR Martin;
  • A book review of Michael McClung’s excellent fantasy debut, The Thief who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids;
  • A book review of C.C. Hogan’s first book in the Dirt Series, called Dirt;
  • Reading a lot (apparently);
  • And Beagle completed the third part of his blot around the World of Ku.
Now, because it is my main focus, here’s the news on the upcoming novella.

Continue reading Let’s do the News: April 2016