Twelve Mad Men – Ryan Bracha interviewed

When the outrageously talented self-published author Ryan Bracha (Paul Carter Is A Dead Man, Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet) contacted me about being part of a wild anthology idea that he had regarding twelve mad men in an institution I jumped at the idea. It was an exciting project involving a lot of seriously talented writers (Paul Brazill, Keith Nixon, Gerrard Brennan, Les Edgerton, just a few of those participating) – how could I not get involved? The concept involved 12 tales featuring fictionalised versions of each author around which Bracha would construct a bridging tale before tying the strands together at the very end. Kind of like one of those anthology horror movies from the 70s, but much better. I’d be bloody mad if I shirked this opportunity (especially as I’d never submitted a story to a collection before).

And now Twelve Mad Men is finally finished and out there – adding some serious craaaaazy to Amazon’s website. I interviewed Ryan about the project and what brought it about etc. Have a gander at how it went.

How did you come up with the concept for Twelve Mad Men?
It came to me one night when I was a bit tipsy and spouting off at fellow writer and friend Mark Wilson about how, as indie writers, we’ve got a better opportunity than ever before to experiment with our work. It was all about how there are so many writers out there trying to rip off what’s worked on a massive scale in the past (Harry Potter, Fifty Shades, Lord of the Rings, Terry Pratchett etc.) and trying to grab a quick buck rather than use the creativity and imagination they were gifted with to do something awesome. Mark tends to feel the brunt of the ideas factory that is my brain. I come up with several ideas every week to try to do something original, most will be completely ridiculous and fall by the wayside, but some of them grow legs and I can run with them. This one was one of the latter. I wanted to put a bunch of wildly different, but equally talented writers in one place, and see what they did when given the exact same brief. I wanted to challenge myself to think on my feet, so the improvisation aspect jumped into the picture. The narrative theme just gave each writer the scope to be as ridiculous, violent, intense or comedic as they wanted to be.

How do you feel about the finished product?
I’m extremely happy with it. All eleven of the men I invited to contribute surpassed my wildest expectations, and gave me some phenomenal material to work with. The finished product is a seriously good signifier of the talent currently writing and publishing today.
Did the fact that you were improvising the tale that linked the stories cause any problems?
Not as many as I thought it might. Getting the stories submitted in the staggered manner that I did gave me the opportunity to really think about how I was going to introduce a character, and how I might leave that character be, taking what I needed to push the main plot on. Sometimes I did get carried away and went off on a tangent, but rather than delete and rewrite, I’d just go further back and drop some clues in about what was to come. I enjoyed the process immensely, truth be told. The challenge excited me.
Do you prefer anthologies with an overall unifying theme?
Yes and no. If it’s an individual writer’s collection then I like it to be a broad spectrum of what they can do with words, a whole range of themes, characters and styles. If it’s a multi-author piece of work, then yes. I like to see different takes on the same theme. I always loved those projects at school where everybody got one word, and had to write a piece of fiction with that word as the title. It shows how diverse we are as thinkers.
Do you hope to start a trend with this collection?
Definitely. I devised and implemented the idea according to a set of rules that I’ve termed The Rule of Twelve Manifesto 2014. It’s a series of guidelines for getting it written and published. I stole the general basis of rules from the Lars Von Trier spearheaded cinematic movement, Dogme 95, where the story would be the driving force, with no effects, or music to drive emotion. I wanted the writers involved to come up with something reasonably quick and without retrospective editing to get the essence of them as creative types. I would hope that somebody else might take the ball and run with it, and come up with their own Twelve project but if they don’t then that’s fine. The process isn’t for everyone. I’ll just continue to do them myself.
What are your future writing plans?
Before the writing I intend to kick off my new imprint Abrachadabra Books which will embody my approach to the writing game, and submissions will open once I get the first book out. I’m in talks with one of the Mad Men about putting his new one out. That’s a secret, though!
As far as my own work I have the second novel in The Dead Man Trilogy (The first of which is Paul Carter is a Dead Man) to finish hopefully for a January release, then I’m going to do another Twelve project, which will have some of the same names involved as this one, with some fresh blood in there too. On top of that I’m going to work on some shorts to go into a new collection. But the best laid plans and all that. Ask me next week and I might be planning a novel written entirely on cash that’s currently in circulation. Until Wilson talks me out of it!

Twelve Mad Men is out now. All proceeds go to Teenage Cancer Trust, so there’s really no excuse for you not to buy it here.

The Curious Case of The Missing Moolah

CuriousCaseCoverFor those of you who have been missing the Stanton brothers (and there are a handful of you out there), the next instalment of their thrilling adventures is now available on Kindle.

This one goes back in time a bit. Chronologically speaking, this is the first of their tales – where it all kicks off for the brothers, and they decide to do what they do so well (hurt criminals and take their cash).

Here’s the Amazon blurb for those of you who are into that sort of thing:

Eric Stanton has a big problem. Three armed robbers have stolen ten grand of his boss’ money from him. So far, so bad.

However, his boss isn’t the kind of man who will take that kind of loss lying down. If Eric can’t get the money back, then it becomes his debt. And his boss isn’t the kind of man he wants to owe money to, especially when he can’t afford to pay. So Stanton has one option: get the money back before anybody notices it’s gone!

But when he realises that he’s been set up, and that this is part of a bigger picture, he does the one thing he can think of to even up the score – he brings in his brother, Derek. Now, Derek might not be the smartest man on the planet, or the most reliable, but he’s six-feet four, strong as an ox and handy with his fists.

So the brothers decide to play detective, and take a trip around the seamier parts of Teesside in search of the money – upsetting the locals, breaking bones and trading quips, right up until the brutal finale.

Foul-mouthed, fast-moving and bone-crunchingly violent – this is one Case that’s bound to make you Curious!

You can buy it on Kindle for £1.99/£2.99 here

Bone Breakers is free from 12th December to 16th December

BoneBreakers2013If you haven’t picked up Bone Breakers yet – hold off. I’m making it available for free for five days from 12th – 16th December (my early Christmas present to you).

Besides, sales of my work have ground to a halt since the latter half of November, so now seems as good a time as any to generate interest again, particularly in picking up new readers and reviews, because there won’t be any new Stanton brothers’ thrillers until the first quarter of 2014 (judging by current progress that is most likely to be The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah).

I’m hoping that I shift a good number of free copies over this period. Part of me would like to break into the Kindle Top 100 free books this time around and gain a whole new set of readers going into the new year. I think it’s possible if I get enough retweets and Facebook posts, and if the numerous free ebook sites I have informed in advance about my book decide to pass this information on to their readers.

Anyway, fingers crossed. And if you give me a retweet or Facebook post I would like to take this opportunity to thank you in advance.

 

Review: Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet by Ryan Bracha

I like ambition in a novel. It suggests that the writer gives a damn about their work and, more importantly, suggests that the writer wants to create something that will one day match their ambition. Most of us writers write within ourselves. We work to structures that have been in place for a long time, deal with character tropes that are audience-friendly, narrative experiments are verboten, narrative and plotting are easy to decipher, and language is as reader friendly as possible. Very few of us make our audience work for it. In truth, even though many of us writers say we write to please ourselves and not our audience, the opposite is often true. We want the audience to love us.

So congratulations must go to Ryan Bracha for attempting something ambitious with his first novel Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet (now referred to for brevity’s sake as SAJFYHKY). It’s a multi-multi-character novel that weaves first person, third person, and other forms of narrative into a story that I’ll do my best not to give away too much of.

The story involves people putting themselves forward to potentially receive ten grand for doing something that is initially a mystery to them. When these people start turning up murdered with their throats cut and their clothes removed, it is immediately obvious that something beyond plain old murder is afoot. But, not being in possession of the full facts, the newspapers, the media, and the bloggers tag the murders as the work of the Sheffield Ripper. But as things progress, and the full game is revealed, the killings start to mount up and things start to get really crazy and the story encompasses strange gambling syndicates, millions of pounds worth of money, shady media manipulators, insanity, and a couple of people drawn into all this madness by a French sex addict who follows his dick just once too often.

SAJFYHKY tells its story through numerous narrative devices in numerous narrative voices. As the story progresses, voices chime in for a chapter or so and disappear as death or relevance to the story takes them out of the narrative. Of course, this makes it difficult at times to remember who is who occasionally, especially if you are quite a slow reader, but the whole thing is well written and tries to impale a considerable portion of modern society with its satire. It doesn’t always succeed in its ambition; some chapters feel like they could be shortened, some characters don’t always work; but when it does succeed, and everything is firing, it is incredibly funny and bitter and in places sad. Bracha is a genuinely talented writer. I hope he doesn’t curtail his ambition and continues to stretch himself with broad narratives and experiments with character and voice.

If you are a reader who is prepared to work for it, and can stomach strong violence, language and some sexual content (and if you can’t, why the bloody hell are you reading my blog?), SAJFYHKY will give you some real moments of pleasure and it comes recommended by this particular reviewer.

Get a new Stanton brothers story for free

The Green-eyed Monster CoverNever say that I don’t give you anything for free, because here’s some proof to the contrary.

Mike Hollis is in trouble. Deep trouble. Having been sucked into a trap by a stunner with emerald eyes, he’s now being taken for a ride by some very smart blackmailers. He’s fresh out of luck and almost out of time. So he does the one thing he can in that situation. He brings in the Stanton brothers to help him. All he wants is the blackmailers off his back, but the brothers have other ideas. They intend to play these scumbags at their own game and make a lot of money into the bargain. They’re going to make them really pay!

If you’ve already read Bone Breakers – and why the hell haven’t you read it yet? It’s the mutt’s nuts – The Green-eyed Monster gives it a bit of context, by adding back story to a couple of characters who play a fairly sizeable role in the events of that book. However, if you haven’t read BB yet, then this 9,000 word short makes a nice lead-up to the main event – an appetiser, as it were.

Click the link on the cover or the title above or this link here here here and then just download the mobi file. It’s totally free (File no longer available). There’s no obligation to buy any of my other books (although if you do I won’t complain). And you won’t be asked to sign anything or join any mailing lists. It’s as simple as clinking the link, downloading the file, and then reading it.

Right now, you can only get this story here. You can’t get it on Amazon, Smashwords or anywhere else. Maybe later I will make it available to buy from the usual sites, but at least until the end of August it is only available here.

Enjoy!

After a couple of months for free, The Green-eyed Monster is no longer available as a free download.

The Green-eyed Monster

For the few folks who’ve either bought or read Bone Breakers (and there aren’t many of you) here’s a bit of a treat. The Green-eyed Monster will be available next week, to be downloaded for FREE via a link from this site as a .mobi file.

It works either as a Bone Breakers prequel or as a story in its own right. But if you read it and find you rather like it, then you’ll probably also enjoy BB.

I should have it up by Wednesday at the latest.

The Gamblers is free on Kindle… but only in the US

Hey, folks.

If you’re visiting this blog from the US, and haven’t picked it up yet, or didn’t read it last time it came out as a freebie, The Gamblers is currently free on Kindle. (It’s also free on Smashwords and Kobo – for those of you with other eReaders.)

My advice: download it, read it, and – d’ya know, what? – you’ll probably like it. Especially if noir and crime thrillers are your thing.

I’m not sure why Brits are being excluded from this freebie, and I’m sure that even if I asked for a reason Amazon probably wouldn’t tell me. So there. Even though it has pissed on my plans a bit. I’ll explain that below.

What I’m hoping to achieve from this freebie is fairly simple: I want more reviews. I want to shift enough units that, over the course of the rest of this year, the odds of people reading it (rather than leaving it untouched in the dark basement of their To-Be-Read pile, or deleting it) increase by sheer weight of numbers. This was one of the reasons why I hoped that Amazon would make the freebie universal rather than regional. I have thirteen reviews in the UK and I was hoping to take that number into the twenties. Reviews don’t increase sales, but large volumes of positive notices can sway wavering browsers into clicking the buy now button.

However, it’s not gonna happen now. Not for a while, anyway.

Still, more reviews in the US (he says, with fingers crossed). I’ll be happy with that.

There’s no reason for you to read my books

The title above is neither a bitter statement nor a request for you to stay away, more a suggestion of a problem that I think affects ninety-nine per cent of writers out there using KDP or some other self-publishing system.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole self-publishing experience recently. I’ve learned a few things during my two-plus years on this merry-go-round; enough to know that my books will never be anything more than a sideline for me, much as I’d like them to be something more, because maybe I’m missing some kind of X-factor, because year-on-year my sales haven’t improved but declined. When fanciful dreams get a bucketful of cold, wet reality thrown in their face they often harden into ice. And although my heart isn’t icy-cold yet, there is a certain cooling of interest in the whole self-publishing rigmarole (from a business perspective, at least). I’m not sure if other writers are feeling it yet, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but I’ve come to realise that the reason Big Publishing has survived as long as it has is because it knows a few things about its audience – a damn sight more than many of us do.

They know that there’s no reason for anybody to buy their books (you see, there was a reason for that title), but they make an audience want to read the damn things anyway and they do it time and time again. In all honesty, how many self-publishers (or even small presses) can say they’ve done anything even remotely similar. Building a brand takes time, money, good contacts, good luck, and most importantly (although not necessarily the case) good material. Big Publishing generally has the best covers, the best marketing brains, the best contacts, can sometimes make their own damn luck and, most importantly, they have that big fucking cachet – most of the best writers want to be published by them. If you are published by Big Publishing you automatically have something that no self-publisher has – reputation. Before you start harrumphing and disagreeing, think about it.

I’m not saying that going through the whole gate-keeping process of agent selection, editing, publisher, more editing routine necessarily means that the books are better but, let’s face it, in the mind of the book buying public at large this is nearly always the case. Instant reputation. What writer wouldn’t want that for their work?

Self-publishers have to deal with an inbuilt prejudice amongst the reading public – their work is automatically inferior because they aren’t well edited, have shite covers, can’t spell, don’t have, like, good grammar, and stuff, like what those proper authors have – in short, we have no reputation. And it remains this way until we can prove otherwise – meaning it is already harder for us.

If you are really persistent, write the kind of novels the public loves well, and have a certain amount of luck, too, you might be able to succeed at this self-publishing lark (Amanda Hocking, John Locke, Joe Konrath, Stephen Leather, Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, Saffina Desforges’ Sugar and Spice, and Bella Andre spring immediately to mind), but, for most of us, this kind of click with the public in order to create some kind of zeitgeist probably won’t happen.

If, like me, you write stuff that might be considered marginal (too violent, too downbeat, too much swearing, too many unpleasant characters etc.) then you’re screwed from the get-go – and unscrewing yourself is a major job in itself. It’s at this point that you’ll realise that the reason that Big Publishing doesn’t want to know is because your stuff just doesn’t have audience appeal. It comes back to the title – there’s no reason for you to read my books. I have to make you want to read them.

I’ve changed covers, thrown money at advertising, tried guerilla advertising techniques (flyers dropped in public places etc.), put up posters, joined forums (communicated with fellow readers and writers), joined social media outlets, given my books away, asked for reviews, slashed prices, and still every tiny sale feels like it has to be hewn out of a large rock of indifference. I’m doing more for less. And it is getting worse all the time.

Does it mean I’m giving up? No. I love writing, I love creating the kind of stuff that I want to read. But what it does mean is that I can’t be bothered trying to force or coerce people to buy my stuff any more. I loathe advertising all the time. I’m not a salesman, have no real feeling for it, and always feel somewhat embarrassed when sending out please buy my book requests. The only way I’m going to sell more than a handful of sales in a year is through the kind of effort I just can’t afford to do, literally. I’m a freelancer. My time is money. If I don’t work I don’t get paid. Every hour I spend trying to get one sale is an hour I spend not getting paid for my profession – and I get paid a helluva lot more for my profession than I do for my writing. So, from this moment on, I am giving up any kind of concerted marketing effort for my books.

When I eventually get round to releasing something in 2013 I will give it an initial push on Facebook, Twitter, my blog (two to three weeks, at most – because that’s when most sales and interest come in, anyway) but after that I’m going to let my books rise or fall on their own merits (or lack of them). There will be no more Kindle freebies, nor any please buy my book tweets several months after release, and I won’t be doing blog tours or anything of that nature. From now on, I’ll be solely about getting on with the business of writing (books, short stories, reviews, the occasional other blog post), but the sales pitches are a thing of the past.

I have found out that there’s no reason for the public to read my books, and I simply don’t have the time or the money at the moment to change that fact. And, do you know something, I’m actually cool with it.

For the next three days The Gamblers is free

That’s right, you heard correctly. Call it my little Valentine’s gift to you readers.

If you can’t give your love the gift of love then give them a little murder, betrayal, and £750k of drug money to play with.

Give them The Gamblers free in the US, the UK, and anywhere else with an Amazon store.

Review: Saturday’s Child by Ray Banks

Drunken ex-con Cal Innes is making his living as a private investigator of sorts. He has somehow built a reputation for finding people who’ve gone missing and now seems to have turned that into a business. Although Innes does deal in divorce cases, he wants nothing to do with a pub landlady who wants to murder her landlord husband. He tells her he isn’t interested in that kind of work, tells her to give it more thought when she’s sobered up and leaves immediately. Then he’s contacted by the man responsible for putting him in prison – crime lord Morris Tiernan – and asked/told to find a croupier who has stolen ten grand from his casino. The trail takes him to Newcastle looking for a gambler with a taste for cash and a barely legal girl who just happens to be Tiernan’s daughter. Innes’ task is made harder by Tiernan’s psychopathic son Mo’ who has his own reasons for wanting the girl back, and by a brutal police officer named ‘Donkey’ Donkin, who wants to question Innes about the stabbing of the landlord. As Innes gets closer to the croupier and the girl things start to go really wrong. And after he’s beaten and left for dead, the detective is forced to take drastic action, including some eye-watering torture with a cricket bat, working his way towards an exciting and bitter climax.

Ray Banks is one of those writers who seems to be unable to write a bad book. His sense of pacing is immaculate and he uses language the way Mo’ Tiernan uses a Stanley knife – cutting through to the meat and bone of the tale, trimming away the excess flab. He uses a technique that I first noticed in the brilliant Wolf Tickets – having two different narrators give their voice to different parts of the tale – and much as it does in that novel it works beautifully. Innes provides a bitter, tragic commentary on his part of the journey (showing a true alcoholic’s eye for self-delusion, along with a lot of submerged fury). Mo’ Tiernan provides a funny, frightening and foul-mouthed counter-point. Both voices are superbly written and utterly unique. The story moves along at an incredible pace, never once dragging, and as first parts of a series go Saturday’s Child is one of the finest. Another absolute cracker from somebody who has become one of my favourite writers over the past year or so. Can’t wait to get started on Sucker Punch.