Category Archives: writing

The Dog Days of Daniel Wu

Okay, so here’s a thing I did. You can read it now. It’s just your average tale of werewolves, Oxycontin and a pitbull named Pablo.

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Buy it, buy it, you know you want it.

The Wolf Witch – FREE E-BOOK

HEY, IT’S SOME FREE STUFF. YOU LIKE FREE STUFF, RIGHT?

Course you do.

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 Amazon.com

You save $4.99 on the first book of this brand new horror trilogy, all three books of which are now available for sale in the Kindle Store. It’s an unflinching look at what lycanthropy does for your resume (bad things, as it happens) and why you should never annoy the person who is preparing your dinner.

The whole thing was initially inspired by the stunning photography in the Netflix series Bloodline. As soon as I saw those aerial shots of the Florida Keys I knew I had to write something set against such a beautiful backdrop, and it certainly didn’t hurt that there was the grand old tradition of Southern Gothic to draw upon, with those drifts of Spanish moss and people going Tennessee Williams style crazy from the heat and the bugs and the oppression of their own ugly secrets. I had no exact idea where I was going with it but I knew I wanted the main player to be an old lady named Gloria – I had the Hendrix version of that song thundering through my head all last spring. And I knew the heroine – Blue – was from New Orleans and had been a teenager when Katrina devastated the city.

Then that kind of set me aboard a different train of thought, to a girl who had spent her whole life adrift in some way or another, scurrying ahead of social services who wanted to separate her from her bipolar mother, always wanting to be left alone to fend for herself, right up until those few days in the Superdome when she understood what it really meant to be absolutely, totally abandoned. She was a very solitary, self-reliant young woman and the more I got to know her the more I realised she was a little like Shakespeare’s Miranda, cast adrift and left for dead in the wake of the tempest.

That was when I remembered the production I’d seen at the Barbican some twenty years ago, with Simon Russell-Beale’s stiff, snarling Ariel, chafing at the bit of captivity. And there it all was – a girl cast adrift, who comes to an island of monsters, where there’s a once powerful witch now sliding into her dotage and the spirit she once marshaled to her aid is now figuring out a way to destroy her.

Now take that and set it against a background of skunkroaches, gators, werewolves, fundamentalists and other weird Florida wildlife, and you’ve got yourself a trilogy.

Continue reading

Isle of Spirits – now available in the Kindle store

It’s a strange feeling, being done with something as huge as a trilogy. On one hand you’re going to miss it and the other you kind of want to punt it out of the door so that it can piss off and start earning its own living. Sort of like having teenage kids, I imagine.

And this thing is a monster baby. This afternoon I put the final touches to the final book, looked at the word count and whistled. The Wolf Witch comes in at a slightly portly 95k, the sequel – which you can buy at the end of this post, hint hint – is a tubby 97k. The final volume – Full Fathom Five – is a beast of almost 118,000 words, which is a monster for me, having cut my teeth on 75k genre fiction. It’s also one of the darkest, wrongest things I think I’ve ever written; there were moments where the story took me to places that were frankly so disturbing that I wondered if I should even go there.

Still, I suppose horror is pretty much the place for disquieting things that make your skin crawl. If I wanted to write about sunshine and puppies (and I actually kind of do) I’d write a children’s book.

Anyway, this is the sequel. You can get it on Amazon and if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber you can get it for absolutely NOTHING. So you should probably do that. After you’ve read the first one, obviously. Otherwise this isn’t going to make a great deal of sense.

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S-T-O-R-M-S-C-O-M-I-N-G

That was the message on the Ouija board, but Blue is a long way from understanding, and as July’s brutal blue moon looms she is forced to face the reality of the weird new world in which she now lives. Gloria, being more wolf than witch these days, is not much help, and Gabe keeps pushing Blue away in a desperate attempt to protect her from the horrors of the full moon.

But Blue’s stared horror in the face too many times already, and keeps right on walking into the realm of the spirit workers, the all-but-extinct wolf witches who once derived their power from pack spirits like the murderous Yael, who’s been a little too quiet for comfort lately.

Also there are power struggles looming when exiled alpha Charlie returns to the Keys in the wake of the cannibal swamp-wolf murders near St. Augustine. And things aren’t going so well for the Okefenokee packs either, at least according to swamp-wolf Ruby, who’s come down south trailing a captive spirit tamer and softer than Yael, but no less potentially dangerous.

When July’s first full moon brings disaster for Joe Lutesinger, Blue finds herself thrown headlong into the role of wolf witch. There’s trouble at home and abroad, no instruction manual beyond an elderly cook book and Gloria’s increasingly in no position to offer help. Gabe can push as hard as he likes, but the more Blue learns the more she realises that even if she wanted to walk away, she’s in this thing far deeper than anyone – least of all herself – ever knew.

Isle of Spirits is the second book in the Keys Trilogy.

 Amazon.com

Lycanthropy and Other Things To Do In The Great State of Florida

So, last summer I had this odd little bet with myself that I could bang out a werewolf trilogy in under six months.

I failed. It took me about thirteen months instead, thirteen months of hairy, bone-crunching, howling-at-the-moon craziness that has left me all but straining at the leash to piss off and write a nice flossy pink bubblegum romance, just to have a break from trying to think up the best ways to describe exposed rib cages and the noises that parts of people’s skulls make when they go bouncing off the kitchen fittings.

If you’re looking for paranormal romance, you might want to give these puppies a pass. Unless you really like knowing what kind of noises that parts of people’s skulls make when they bounce off the kitchen fittings, in which case welcome aboard, fellow weirdos.

So, here it is. Book one in the Keys Trilogy, a happy little bedtime story of Florida lycanthropes, man-eating rednecks and why you should never mess with the kind of crazy old ladies who keep leaving their dentures on the draining board.

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Unfinished family business and a promise of paradise bring Katrina survivor Blue Beaufort to the Florida Keys, but what she finds there is beyond anything she could have imagined. At first glance her new home is nothing more than a small town in a tourist trap, unremarkable save for some unruly neighborhood dogs and a strangely high incidence of red-green colorblindness.

But then there’s the way the local boys tilt their heads when the wind a certain way, like they can smell trouble on the breeze, and while practical-minded diving instructor Gabe doesn’t seem the type to cling to superstition, he still won’t take the boat out when the moon is full.

And then there’s Gloria, a wilful seventysomething eccentric who for years has been den mother to packs of lost boys like Gabe, Joe and black sheep Charlie, but now presents them with the delicate problem of what to do with your elders when they start showing signs of dementia. Doubly difficult when Gloria – who even when healthy used to talk to people who weren’t there – shows signs of a miraculous recovery and drives all the way to Miami in her bedroom slippers.

When Blue steps in to help out, she thinks she’s going to be cleaning house and serving Jell-O and pills to an old lady, but Gloria’s house is not like other houses. The light fitting keeps swinging, and old records keep skipping, and Gloria’s miracle cure seems to have woken something in the house, a whispering entity that seeps into Blue’s dreams and starts showing her things she’d rather not see.

Like that cage in the basement.

As Blue wades deeper into the strange world of the wolf witch and her boys, she soon comes to realise that what happens at the full moon is actually the least of everyone’s worries.

The Wolf Witch is the first book in the Keys Trilogy.

Amazon.com

(This book is FREE to KindleUnlimited Subscribers)

What The KU Changes Mean For You (And Your Porn)

Kindle Unlimited will be undergoing a big change next month, overhauling the way that authors get paid and forcing many of us to get in touch with our inner starving-1940s-pulp writer.

Under the old system, KU paid out of the collective pot whenever a book was read up to 20% of the way through. This counted as a ‘borrow’ and meant Amazon would have to reach into their moth infested pockets to the tune of round about $1.30 or whatever that month’s KU rate was.

It didn’t matter if the book in question was a full length novel or a 4000 word long short story about some girls who mysteriously grew dicks after eating gas station hot dogs or drinking weird punch. If the reader got up to 20%, it counted as a borrow.

You can see how the novelists were getting the shaft from this system. Even more than the boyfriends of the girls who ate the gas station hotdogs, although almost certainly a lot less pleasurable.

Now, don’t start thinking that Amazon’s overhaul of the system has anything to do with their love of the long form novel. This is Amazon we’re talking about. They love only money and were getting pretty pissed off at having to pay out the standard borrow rate every time someone waded through the bloated front matter of a ropey porn book only to find that it was illiterate garbage.

Under the new system the author will be paid per page read. Nobody knows precisely what the rate per page will be yet, but there will also be new software in place to catch out authors who attempt to stuff their frontmatter (copyright pages, acknowledgements, etc) and also compute a standard number of words per page. So if you have one of those pages that spill a sentence into the next, no matter how you format the thing, you probably won’t be getting paid for that.

Admittedly I have more than one horse in this race. I mostly write novels, although I have been known to amuse myself with 7000 words of tentacle porn or werestrippers from time to time. On one hand I’m pleased that I might see some more money from KU on account of my longer works, but on the other hand I’m kind of sad that I can no longer make fast, dirty money from alien dickgirl threeways.

Does longer mean better?

Good lord, no. For reference, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged weighs in a whopping 645,000 words, while The Great Gatsby is as svelte as a bright young thing of the Roaring Twenties, clocking in at roughly 47,000 words. A book should be as long as it takes to tell the story and no more.

This is not to say that you can’t spin the story of two uninteresting people having boring sex with each other out for the length of the equivalent length of Lord of the Rings and more. EL James managed it, and is now at work on her Silmarillion, if the Silmarillion was a tacky money grab composed mostly of copypasted dialogue and e-mails and constant thoughts about the main character’s penis.

Several options spring to mind for the Kindleporn writer.

1) Move into erotic romance. This will mean writing longer works, because romance readers will tar and feather you if you attempt to make them pay $2.99 for 5000 words of fucking.
2) Bundling – putting stories into collections in order to garner a bigger page count for $$$.
3) Pull out of KU altogether. Amazon will be giving authors a chance to withdraw their books from KU immediately in July, regardless of the dates of your current 90 day enrollment period.
4) Start writing filthy novels. Yes, it takes longer, but in my experience dirty novels have a far better shelf life than short smut. None of the nine or so stories I wrote last winter have made me any money this month, but I still occasionally get royalty cheques for erotica I wrote back in 2001.

It’s definitely going to be an interesting time in the next month or so; nobody is really going to know the full story of how this affects them until the 15th of August, when July’s royalty statements roll around. To all of those authors who are panicking because they think the Kindleporn goldrush is over, it probably is, in a way . I think the series format and short form erotica are pretty much dead in the water, but remember – self publishers have a huge advantage in this respect. We can respond faster to changes in the market than publishing firms.

Change can be a good thing. It’s all about how you react to it, how you work with it. You’ve got to turn and face the strange.

And then maybe offer it a gas station hotdog. Just to see what happens.

Anna Roberts’ latest novel, A Box Full of Ashes is now available on Amazon.com and through Kindle Unlimited. It doesn’t contain gas station hotdogs though. Sorry about that.

A Box Full Of Ashes – The Trouble With Vampires

A lot of writers talk about process, and mine goes like this – SHUT UP AND WRITE. I seldom talk about what I’m working on as I find it kills my desire to get the thing finished; it’s like I’ve already got my storytelling jollies by telling it and then there’s no more satisfaction to be had in writing it out.

This also explains why I am not really very good at blogging.

I only feel really safe talking about things when they are very, very nearly done, and even then I feel slightly guilty about it, like when someone tells you that you can open your present before Christmas or your birthday and you do it, but it doesn’t feel right. Not really.

Anyway, remember a few years ago when absolutely everything was vampires and there were vampires on TV and vampires in the bookshops and some of them sparkled and others just had abs and were Alexander Skarsgard and Lindsay Lohan took selfies wearing fangs and everyone got really, really sick of vampires?

Well, shortly after that my brain decided it might be a good time to write a vampire novel.

There were a couple of problems with this. One was that everyone was so tired of vampires that it wasn’t even funny, and the other was that I don’t even like vampires. I enjoyed Anne Rice books when I was a teenager, but I’ve never managed to get through one as an adult. I like Dracula and I think Salem’s Lot is one of the best things Stephen King has ever written, but I have no patience for a bunch of undead mopes whining around the place talking about how hard it is to be beautiful, irresistible, basically immortal and (on more than one infamous occasion) sparkly.

Good fictional characters should change and develop, which is why vampires are at a disadvantage from the start; they’re basically frozen. They never age and never really need to fear death all that much. In fact some of the worst ones just sit about moaning about the fact that they’re never going to die (yes, you at the back with the widescreen forehead) and don’t even have the decency to try and off themselves properly. Seriously, just order some garlic bread and hop on a tanning bed for half an hour. Do the world a favour.

Anne Rice did a groundbreaking thing when she turned the vampire – the monster – into the point of view character. The trouble these days is that it’s been done to death and back, and I thought maybe it was time to take the vampires back to what they used to be; straight up monsters who want to eat you.

The other thing I knew I didn’t want was the kind of urban fantasy where there are vampires wandering around just because.  I wanted something where vampires – impossible, mythical, storybook things – invade the real world. Dracula does this very well, with newspaper clippings and diaries. Salem’s Lot – which uses Dracula as a jumping off point – probably does this even better, with Stephen King effortlessly folding horror into realism as only he can. Another inspiration was Ultraviolet, the sadly short-lived Channel 4 vampire series starring Idris Elba, Jack Davenport and Vampire Beeehl back before his True Blood days. I liked the hard science edge of Ultraviolet and I thought I could do something similar with some characters who have been knocking around in my head in various forms for over twenty years now.

So that’s kind of how I ended up with a mental patient, a slacker magician and an underemployed pathologist up to their eyeballs in a series of extraordinary events that start when a goth spontaneously combusts in a quiet Devon churchyard. Now, I don’t know how far you can be said to be writing ‘urban fantasy’ when part of the action takes place in Sidmouth, but if there’s one thing I’ve always been good at it’s giving myself marketing headaches.

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Read beneath the tag for a first nibble. This takes place when the main characters meet for the first time in the graveyard where a goth named Deborah Messinger goes up in flames. What Francis doesn’t know at this point is that Deborah’s partially cooked corpse is missing, having seemingly walked out of the morgue on her own steam the night before her autopsy. Continue reading

Why I’m (kind of done) with historical fiction

Had a lot of search results lately for people looking for my novel Summerland, which is no longer available on Amazon. Sorry about that, but there were reasons.

The main reason is that when I published Summerland and its companion volume Paris Green, I had absolutely no idea about marketing e-books. Consequently the books bombed. I literally couldn’t even give them away.

The other main reason is that literary/historical fiction just isn’t Kindle’s mainstay.  According to who you talk to, it’s thought that between 65% to 80% of genre fiction sales worldwide were in e-book format, genre being sci-fi, fantasy, romance etc. Overweight historical novels don’t fit into any of those categories, and since I prefer to eat things slightly more expensive than dog food, it made sense to diversify into genre.

As I said, I had no idea of how to market e-books when I published Summerland. I had no idea of how to find my audience, which is usually when the bad reviews start happening. If someone doesn’t get what you’re trying to do, they can get unreasonably angry and confused. Which is exactly what happened. Some readers reacted like I’d set fire to their pets.

Consequently I’ve pulled the books. It makes no sense to have them out there, not selling and being shit on because I haven’t got a clue how to market them. I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do with them as yet; while I’d like to shop them to traditional publishers, it’s a lot of time and effort to get back on the never-ending query hamster wheel while I could be writing more books for Kindle.

The other alternative is a re-release when I have more visibility as Anna Roberts, but that’s going to be some years down the line. My current plans are to continue writing romance as Jessica Pine and plan for a more genre friendly (possibly urban fantasy) series as Anna Roberts.

So to anyone who was looking for my historical novels, sorry. I had to withdraw them for now; it was just bad business sense to leave them out there.