Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Advertising

Having done okay sales-wise so far I've decided to do a but of a publicity push on Sunliner. This is going to go in 2 phases:
Phase 1 is to get some posters up in the office I work in - this feels like a quick win, I can produce and print the posters easily enough myself and  for people who know me and see my name on the poster there's an extra hook that might make them want to give the book a try.
Phase 2 is get some post cards and business cards professionally printed and distribute these in coffee shops, books shops, etc. Using offers from VistaPrint I should be able to get this done very cheaply.

Here's poster version 1 - I'm going to do a more colourful version when the new cover is ready.



Saturday, 24 March 2012

New cover (update)

As I mentioned in my previous post about the cover of Sunliner (here), a professional graphic designer has very kindly offered to do a new one for me. I've seen the first version (not sure what the right word is, I want to say draft, but that doesn't sound right) and it's wonderful, with the lovely hand-painted feel of a 50s pulp paperback. I've come up with a new tag line as well, which I rather like. "He thought he wanted to know the truth...he was dead wrong."

:-)

Reviews

One of the things I've really enjoyed since Sunliner was published has been getting feedback from readers and seeing reviews go up on Amazon and Smashwords. Because I'm slightly vain and proud of the book I thought I'd take the time to collect those reviews together here. So here they are with a big thank you from me for everyone who has taken the time to review the book :-)


Amazon

5.0 out of 5 stars Sci-fi with a soul, 23 Feb 2012
By Pandora Nico
Can only be described as "Page-turningly good" - keeps you guessing throughout eagerly anticipating the next chapter - Use of language and descriptions create beautiful images and emotions through the whole of the book, which stay with you after finishing a chapter, making it all feel very very real.
Would totally recommend this book to anyone who has read either Phillip K Dick or similar as a MUST read for this day.
Am looking forward to reading lots more by the same author.

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4.0 out of 5 stars 50s noir cruises along nicely, 23 Mar 2012
By David (NE Scotland)
This review is from: Sunliner (Kindle Edition)
Sunliner has it all - mystery, romance, murder, action and comedy - and the plot twists and turns almost as often as the genre changes. Starts off by setting the scene, mid-1950s USA, giving it a very film noir feel. But hey, once things get rolling the story changes gears, and certainly does not go where one might expect it! To say more would spoil it, but it climaxes well and comes full circle nicely.
In summary, a real "page turner" and a rewarding yet light read over four or five hours. Written by a first time novellist too, if this is the standard of his future works then I look forward to them.
Recommended!

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5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book, 23 Mar 2012
By Brandersnatch
This review is from: Sunliner (Kindle Edition)
This is a very good read, particularly the way the story takes a sharp left turn half way through. I would definitely recommend this book, it rattles along at a good pace and the use of language is impressive.

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5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read, March 19, 2012
By Kim
This review is from: Sunliner (Kindle Edition)
I purchased this book at the encouragement of a friend and I am very glad I did. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter and it only continued to get more gripping as the story went on. The storyline was well thought out, the characters were believable, and it was a very entertaining read. Highly recommended and I am eagerly awaiting the authors' next work.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced noir thriller with an unexpected twist, 25 Mar 2012
By D. K. P. Watson "dkpw"
This review is from: Sunliner (Kindle Edition)
This is a really good first novel from Oliver Clarke, written with a strong film noir resonance; set in 50s Los Angeles and featuring a plot which revolves around Curtis Merryweather's business dealings and moral struggles with local gangster, the ruthless JJ.
I found the start of the book a little slow and I was concerned that the plot might have been too generic and the language too clich├ęd. However after a false start and continuing beyond the initial chapters my persistence was rewarded, as the author extended the characterisations of the main players, maintained an excellent plot pace, provided vivid (and sometimes gruesome) descriptions which kept me pressing the Kindle button to find out what would happen next.
About three quarters of the way in, the plot makes a sharp diversion which results in a radically different outcome from that which could have been imagined from ones reading to that point. Such a tangential plot (and in some ways) genre change could have been grating and over-contrived but it was handled well, leading into action based on the strong characterisations, which maintained continuity within the adjusted context.
I removed one star from my rating, as I noticed throughout small typographical errors. I also felt that sometimes the phraseology and narration could have been condensed; both points indicating that an additional round of proof-reading and editing would have proved useful.
However as an enthralling, fast paced, page-turning enjoyable read, Sunliner is a success!


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Smashwords

4.0 out of 5 stars 
Review by: Eddie Platts on March 23, 2012 :
After the slow start, the story fairly raced along and I was disappointed it wasn't longer. A few strong characters and I look forward to seeing more in this style from this author.
Definitely my type of book.

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4.0 out of 5 stars
Review by: v m on Feb. 28, 2012 :
Loved this book. Not something I'd usually read but glad I gave it a go. I was gripped from start to finish. Believable characters in a good plot with a twist! Would recommend. Looking forward to more from this author.


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4.0 out of 5 stars
Review by: ack z06 on Apr. 04, 2012 :
A fun and fast read. So realistic the antagonist gave me the willies.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A new cover



The original cover for Sunliner was, to be honest, pretty poor. It lacked any real hint of what the book was about or anything that might draw prospective readers to it. I kind of thought at the time that it was quite subtle and classy looking, but Sunliner is a book that is neither subtle not classy (deliberately so). 

So, I had another bash today and have come up with v2 which is still not perfect but does at least have a car on it and therefore some sort of tie back to the story.

I'm also thrilled to be able to say that someone with far more talent than I has offered to design a cover for me so with any luck I'll have something much better to slap on it before too long. :-)



Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Fantasy in children's books - Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs

A long time ago (too many years to bear thinking about) I studied a literary theorist called Tzvetan Todorov and in particular his definition of the fantastic in literature. As I recall it (and a quick bit of Googling suggests I'm recalling it pretty much correctly) his theories on this were based around the notion that  truly fantastic stories left the reader unsure whether or not the protagonist had really experienced fantastic events or just imagined them. His Wikipedia entry puts it like this "Todorov defines the fantastic as being any event that happens in our world that seems to be supernatural. Upon the occurrence of the event, we must decide if the event was an illusion or whether it is real and has actually taken place...Upon choosing whether the event was real or imaginary, Todorov says that we enter into the genres of uncanny and marvelous. In the fantastic uncanny, the event that occurs is actually an illusion of some sort. The "laws of reality" remain intact and also provide a rational explanation for the fantastic event. Todorov gives examples of dreams, drugs, illusions of the senses, madness, etc. as things that could explain a fantastic/supernatural event. In the fantastic marvelous, the supernatural event that occurs has actually taken place and therefore the "laws of reality" have to be changed to explain the event. Only if the implied reader cannot opt for one or the other possibility, the text is purely fantastic." link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzvetan_Todorov
Probably the two best known examples of this in popular culture are 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Alice in Wonderland'

Now the mention of those two monoliths of children's fiction is enough reason for this post to pop up on a blog devoted to childhood and parenthood but my real reason for writing this is a more recent and utterly delightful example of the genre my son and I discovered recently. The book is 'Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs' by Ian Whybrow (Author) and Adrian Reynolds (Illustrator).
Amazon UK

Now this book has everything I look for in a children's book:
1) My son loves it
2) It's well written
3) It has beautiful illustrations
4) It reminds me what it was like to be a child

The story is simple - Harry (a young boy who lives in an apparently fatherless house with his sister, mum and grandmother) finds a box of miniature dinosaurs in the attic. He cleans them up, learns all their names and looks after them, but then loses them on the train. In a page that nearly makes me cry for reasons I can't quite put my finger on he convinces the lost property man at the station that they are his by calling all their names. The Todorovian element (and the book may be a perfect example of his definition of the fantastic) is that we never really know if the dinosaurs are real or not. They're certainly not the right size to be real, and it appears that the adults in the story don't see them, but to Harry they are most definitely living breathing creatures. They react to him calling them, we see them playing with him and licking his face and as Harry whispers at the end "they definitely like me". Reading this book and then watching my son as he settles down with his favourite teddy (a dog actually) and talks to it as they both fall asleep reminds me of what an amazing place childhood is. And makes me miss it.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Eat Chapter 1 revisited

Following some discussion with a very wise friend about the second chapter of Eat (which mostly focused on how boring it was). I decided to make some changes to it. I've ended up dumping a lot of what I'd written but there was a section I wanted to keep and it made sense for those paragraphs to be included in chapter 1.
Here then is the revised first chapter which I think is stronger and provides a better hook into the story to come.
I'll leave the original version up for reference.

Olly

:-)


"Come on, it'll be a laugh..."
Looking back later Simon wished he'd followed his gut and pushed back. Told her that no it wouldn't be a laugh. That breaking into an abandoned tower block that was probably full of rats and the stench of tramp piss wasn't his idea of a laugh at all. That he'd rather just spend Saturday in bed with her watching rubbish on the telly and drinking tea and eating cheese on toast and screwing. Saying no then would have saved a lot of pain.
But Eve smiled that smile of hers that always turned him to jelly and he knew all hope was lost. The problem he had of course was not just the smile, or even the idea of this urban adventure she was proposing to him, it was Jack. Handsome, muscled Jack with the tattoos and the winning smile and the ability to make everyone in the room look at him. Jack who Simon suspected Eve (his bloody girlfriend Eve) had a bit of a crush on. She certainly liked his company and laughed at all his jokes (a bit too much in Simon's opinion) and seemed very keen for them to go out with him today.
This whole stupid fucking expedition was Jack's idea and that was what annoyed him about it. The idea of exploring an abandoned building was bad enough but the idea of doing it with the man who annoyed him more than any other man in the known universe (i.e. Jack) made it even worse. Of course if Eve was going he had to go too, because the idea of her and Jack being together without him there to keep an eye on things filled him with a dread that was even more powerful than the irritation Jack awoke in him.
Simon supposed that the exploring bit might not be too bad. Might even be kind of interesting. Maybe. But Jack's presence would no doubt suck any pleasure out of the experience for him. Still, Eve was clearly set on going so he didn't have much option but to go along and make the best of it, rats and tramp piss and all.
"Okay," he said and this elicited squeal of delight from Eve.
"Thank you lover," she said and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Lying in bed with her, the morning sunshine creeping round the blinds and illuminating his room with a warm glow, Simon couldn't help but feel blessed to have her. She might be a bit of a pain in the arse at times, and prone to getting into fads and trends but she really was truly gorgeous. Truly gorgeous and therefore way out of his league.
He knew they made a bit of an odd couple. She was graceful and pretty; he was awkward and still fighting a war of attrition against his adolescent acne. She was tiny, 4 foot 10 even with her shoes on (flats mind, she pushed 5 foot in heels); he was 6 foot 2 in his socks. Eve comfortably fit under his arm if he held it outstretched and this was exactly the pose they were adopting in the picture he has as the wallpaper on his phone.
That shot had been taken by a friend of his a month or so ago, not long after Simon and Eve got together. They'd met at one of the bars on the University campus in Fresher's week; the two of them had been standing next to each other at the bar purely by chance. Both were queuing to buy drinks for the groups of friends they were with, flush with start of term finds and eager to get out and have fun and meet people. Kings of Leon was playing loudly from the speakers that dotted the walls and Simon found his fingers drumming along on the stained wood of the bar. Looking down at them he saw another pair of hands to his right doing the same thing, much smaller and more feminine hands with long nails painted elaborately. The click of the nails on the bar like a high hat accompanying the deeper drumming of his digits. His eyes ran up the wrists and arms and he saw that the hands belonged to an angel. A tiny blonde haired angel with big brown eyes who was staring back at him and smiling.
"You like them too?" the angel shouted, leaning into him to make herself heard over the music.
Simon found he couldn't speak so just grinned like an idiot and nodded. At that point the batman finished pouring the last of the three pints of cider he'd ordered and Simon nodded again at the angel, still struck dumb, and walked back to his mates who were sitting at a small table on the other side of the room. As he walked he mentally kicked himself for not staying and talking to her longer, asking her name even. Jesus, he was hopeless.
The fates smiled on him though and when he went outside for a cigarette 20 minutes later the angel was standing there too. She smiled at him again as he walked out into the chilly October evening and spoke. He could hear her voice properly this time, light and pretty with a hint if North London in the accent.
"Hello again," she said. "Bit quieter out here. I'm enjoying the peace almost as much as the fag." She gestured with the roll up she was smoking.
"Hi," said Simon, speaking to her for the first time and thinking he probably needed to say more than just that. "Simon," he added after a pause.
"No, Eve," the angel replied and laughed, not cruelly but in a way that made him feel a little more at ease. "You don't talk much do you, Simon? Strong silent type? Like Clint Eastwood or some other old guy?"
Somehow that broke the spell on Simon and he was able to respond with more than a single word. He realised this was probably a great opportunity to throw in a line about how he was struck dumb by her beauty (which would have been the truth); wasn't that what Bogart or Clint or, for god's sake, Robert Pattinson would have said?
He wasn't any of them though; and didn't have the guts or the swagger for a move like that so he played it safe.
"Sorry," he said, "I guess I'm still a bit overwhelmed by all of this." He waved his arm loosely over his head, indicting the university campus as a whole. He'd only been there a few days and guessed the same was true of Eve. Exciting as it all was it was a big change from the safety and comfort of home.
"God yes," she replied with a smile. "What do you miss most?"
"About home?"
She nodded.
"Mum bringing me tea in bed at the weekend probably." He said, hoping that didn't make him sound too much of a wimp. It obviously didn't because she smiled even more and the next thing he knew it was half an hour and a few more cigarettes later and he was suggesting they get a bottle of wine from the campus supermarket and go back to his halls to talk somewhere warmer.
"Like your bed?" she asked.
He blushed at that and said no although of course he meant yes.
"Shame," she replied, "I wouldn't mind a cuddle at least."
She had stayed the night and they had cuddled, her tiny frame snuggled up against his giant one. Both of them demurely still clothed in their underwear but his doing little to hide the painful erection he had. With what he came to recognise as her typical blunt honesty Eve commented on it. "You're not putting that near me," she said, "not on the first night."
At that he prayed there would be a second night and there was. And a third. And now a month on they were still dating and everything that went with it.
They might not be the most obvious couple, he thought as he lay there with her that Saturday morning, but when they were together he felt happier than he could ever remember feeling and when they were apart he felt sick. Was that love? Probably. He wondered if he should tell her? Not yet, he decided, she already had him wrapped round her little finger as it was. Which is why he was now going to be spending his Saturday traipsing round a derelict building for kicks. Bloody brilliant.
The building in question was called heights and stood about eight miles from where Simon and Eve lay. It might be condemned but it wasn't empty. A motley assortment of creatures occupied the once luxurious apartments. Simon was right about the rats, they ran freely in the hallways and through the once plush accomodation. They squirmed in grand, empty bath tubs and nesting in rotting bedding left behind by the previous human tenants. The rats were joined by their cousins the mice, hiding in the walls to avoid their larger more agressive relatives. Hunting both sets of rodents were stray cats and dogs, pets abandoned by owners who'd either lost interest or couldn't afford them anymore. When they weren't hungry the dogs would go after the cats for sport, chasing them in small packs, trapping them in dead end rooms and ripping them apart for the thrill of it. Other less bold animals joined this happy menagerie. Urban foxes kept their distance from the vicious dogs and lived off the scraps they left behind. Squirrels lived up high in the spaces the others couldn't reach, venturing out to neighbouring parks to hunt for food, and then returning to the Heights to sleep.
Of course there were a range of bugs and creepy crawlies as well: worms and beetles, spiders and ants, silverfish and flies. They lived for the most part off the leavings of their larger neighbours, the carcasses of kills and the piles of faeces that littered the halls. All this life teemed within the building that had been given up on by its owners. Running and killing and shitting and eating and fucking and spawning and living and dying.
So unbeknownst to the thousands of people who walked and drove past it every day the building had its own mini eco system, a circle of life revolving in the darkness; and that food chain went all the way to the top - there were humans in Sunline Heights too.


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Buy Sunliner for Kindle (UK)
Buy Sunliner for Kindle (US)

Friday, 2 March 2012

Is all good fiction autobiographical?

One of the things that used to worry me about writing was that I would give too much away. That I would somehow reveal things about myself that I didn't want others to know. I got over that when I was writing Sunliner and that might be why I was able to finish it and why it works as a book. For the record I think it does, although your views may differ.
Obviously I was many years from being born at the time when the book is set and I've never sold used cars; but elements of Curtis's story and his quest for redemption are very personal. I'm not going to go into detail here but people who know me very well could probably pick out a few things.
So, for me Sunliner was a success because I cared about the characters. I put Curtis through some real shit on his journey but hopefully the emotional pain he feels is more real to the reader than the physical. I cared about JJ too - I hated him but also had sympathy for the abused child that had grown into the monster in the book.
As a teenager I was a big fan of Stephen King and a lot of his early work still resonates with me. Probably my two favourites are 'Carrie' and 'The Shining' and I think those two books work as well as they do (and achieved the massive success that they did) because the lead characters are so deeply personal to King. In Jack Torrance especially King reveals things that lesser writers might not have had the guts too and it's that emotional turmoil that makes 'The Shining' such a great book.
I've been struggling a bit of late with my next project and have realised today that the problem (and indeed the problem I'd had in the past) was that I had stories I liked but not characters I loved.
I'm going to try and remedy that.

Olly

:-)

With thanks to Mamma Tortoise for helpful insight.

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Buy Sunliner for Kindle (UK)
Buy Sunliner for Kindle (US)