Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Crowdfunding the publishing industry - how the once frowned upon method is gaining in popularity

Today's blog sees the welcome return of the awesome Donna Maria McCarthy to the fold after a little siesta away.

And back she certainly is with the following piece that provides a fascinating insight into how crowd funding your novel is becoming less a begging mechanism to get your book out there and more a revolutionary way to become a published author.

Take it away, Donna!

Kate Bulpitt, a Curtis Brown Creative graduate, gives us the truth behind Crowd funding... how in a world of literary snobbery a book, wanted by the people, is realising success. This story is close to our hearts as with BNBS, crowd funding and fairness in representation is our mantra.
Read, absorb and enjoy!


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

#talkabouttuesday Campaigning with BNBS

We often get quite a few questions from authors curious about BNBS concerning what it's all about and how can they manage their campaigns.

In order to answer some of these questions, we thought it might be beneficial to put out some points that those of you currently in the middle of a campaign or anyone remotely considering using BNBS to get published.

There will be more coming on the website over the next few weeks, but as a starter for ten...

And for those of you already in campaigns, there is some really useful information at the following link - https://goo.gl/ay9YPz

And you all always know if you need anything at all, you only have to ask Kelly and I and we will help as much as we can.

Next week for #talkabouttuesday, a very special guest author!!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

#talkabouttuesday THE HERO'S QUEST

Every story consists, in one form or another, of a selection of specific characters; archetypes interwoven into a specific story arc. And what I’m about to tell you isn’t new… Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler have already covered this, but I think they are amongst some of the most important writing lessons anyone could ever learn and should always bear in mind when constructing their plot. 

In fact, it's probably something you already do and don’t even realise. Don’t believe me? Okay, consider these:

1.) The hero is introduced in his/her ORDINARY WORLD


3.) The hero is reluctant at first. (REFUSAL OF THE CALL.)

4.) The hero is encouraged by the Wise Old Man or Woman. (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.)

5.)  The hero passes the first threshold.  (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.)

6.) The hero encounters tests and helpers. (TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES.)

7.)  The hero reaches the innermost cave.  (APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE.)

8.) The hero endures the supreme ORDEAL. 

9.) The hero seizes the sword. (SEIZING THE SWORD, REWARD)




Don’t think you can fit this around any story? Okay then…
We meet farm boy Luke Skywalker on Tatooine (ordinary world introduction). He meets R2D2, C3PO and Obi Wan Kenobi. Obi Wan tells him of his father who fought in the Clone Wars (call to adventure). Asked to accompany Obi Wan, Luke refuses until he discovers his aunt and uncle murdered which then persuades him otherwise (meeting with the mentor). 
Journeying to Mos Eisley, he meets Han Solo and Chewbacca (crossing the threshold) that leads to an encounter with Princess Leia, the Death Star and Darth Vader (tests, allies, enemies). He journeys deep into the Death Star (approach to the innermost cave) but loses Obi Wan to Darth Vader (ordeal). Returning to join the Rebellion, he joins them in an attack on the Death Star (seizing the sword). Successful in blowing up the gigantic space station, he receives his reward alongside Han and Chewie (the road back). Indeed, in Return of the Jedi, he almost turns to the dark side whilst fighting his father which is the resurrection. The lesson Luke has learned throughout the entire Star Wars saga is about the light and dark sides of the force and how powerful friends and family can be (return with the Elixir).

Everyone knows the old adage of ‘the villain makes the hero’. You need the evil so overwhelming that the most unlikely good can overcome it. Joseph Campbell knew this, which is why his construct for what makes the best stories can be seen in countless tales over countless years.  He also knew you needed specific character types, or archetypes as he called them, to make your stories truly come to life. And they were; heroes, shadows, mentors, heralds, threshold guardians, shape shifters, tricksters and allies. 

Using Sherlock Holmes as an example – Holmes is the hero, Moriarty is the shadow or villain, Watson is the mentor with guiding principles, Irene Adler could be the herald who calls the hero to adventure, Lestrade could be the threshold guardian standing in the way of important points, the shape shifter could be Stapleton in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the trickster, once again Irene Adler/Moriarty and the allies, well Lestrade again and even Adler on some occasions if the circumstances suit her. The character types can be interchangeable, but the fact exists that they are always there in some respect. 

Works with Doctor Who too…
The Doctor – hero. 
Dalek/Cyberman/Sontaran/Weeping Angel – villain. 
The Face of Boe– mentor.
Wilf (Donna’s uncle who ended up being the cause of the 10th Doctor’s regeneration)– threshold guardian
Captain Jack Harkness – shapeshifter
Missy/The Master - trickster
Amy/Sarah-Jane/Clara/Donna/Martha/Rose - allies

Think about it… it works with your story too though granted, as with anything, you may not have rigidly adhered to these guidelines. Stick too closely and your story will be stilted… deviate too far and your story will be lost in a mire of plot holes and inconsistencies. 
But use it as a skeleton framework to build your story around, and you can shuffle them about, retitle them, delete some, add others and discover the true power held within your story. Power to tell the most wonderful of tales that you hadn’t even realised. 

Recommended reading - 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

#talkabouttuesday - WHY RESEARCH FOR YOUR NOVEL?

When I began writing Hellbound in 2012, I made one huge, monumental mistake. 
I carried out no research, whatsoever.                                                                                                      
International bestselling author, Steve Alten, had taken me on as a writing coach client where he would act as a mentor of sorts, editing each chapter as I went along and offering narrative suggestions where appropriate. Upon discussion of Hellbound’s general plot, I opted to write 5 pages of the first chapter off the top of my head. You would think I would pay attention to a man who, as I mentioned at the beginning of this sentence is an international and New York Times bestselling author. 
Do I tell you this to boast? Not at all. Steve has taken around 14 clients under his wing since he started his writing coach programme and being a huge fan of his work, I got a huge buzz just out of him teaching me how to write basically... which is what it ultimately amounted to because, of course, I knew better!
These pages were immediately met with justified criticism because, as he rightly said, I was lacking research and perspective. Who was the antagonist? Why was I opening on him? His name didn’t work, it wasn’t creepy enough and sounded more like a rock star's  I had called him Cameron Brett Easton, in homage to the great author of American Psycho) Where was the prison? Was it real or fictitious? Basically, I hadn’t written anything that would hook the reader, which is probably the most important aspect of any book.                                                       
I quickly realised I was writing what I thought I knew about prisons and prisoners, when I actually knew nothing. 
I needed to learn it and then write it.                    
As an example, here is a sample from the opening of Hellbound before and after research being carried out:

Original draft
Blacktower penitentiary currently housed two hundred and eighty-seven prisoners who were awaiting execution for their various crimes, though it had the capacity to hold more than three hundred. It was divided into 3 levels, each self-contained with its own amenities and individual security measures. The upper level housed the murderers and rapists of the country; the middle level catered for those criminals with particularly exotic tastes in crime, such as contract killers and assassins who had had the misfortune of being caught in the act or just after. These criminals were awaiting the death penalty due to the nature of their crimes, which had either been performed for financial motivation or were their actual careers. This differed from those criminals on the first level, as it could be argued that, however repulsive their crimes may well have been, theirs were also crimes of passion and instinctual, and not necessarily premeditated. 
However, it was the lower, third level which held the piesta rĂ©sistance of the criminal world. This was where, in virtual solitude and isolation, the country and possibly the world’s, most dangerous and unrepentant criminals resided as they awaited their day of reckoning. Here you could expect to find the serial paedophiles who took joy in murdering their victims and disposing of their once, innocent bodies in the most abhorrent of fashions. You may also expect to see the serial killers who had used new and unusual methods of taking their victims lives, which ranged from simple dismemberment to more extreme examples of culinary and gastrological cuisine. 
The being that Harrison Maybrick was coming to watch die today was of those people. He was known only as Erebus.

Not great, is it? Nothing of substance about it; dull, unimaginative and completely lacking in perspective for the reader. 
Below is after conducting a month of research into maximum security prisons and visiting Ireland - 
Final draft
ADX Absolom was unofficially referred to as Alcatraz of the Blasket Islands. The maximum security prison was situated on the Dingle Peninsular, an archipelago at the most westerly point of Ireland. Known to the Irish as An Fear Marbh, the land mass resembled a sleeping giant. To the guards who worked behind its stone walls, it was simply called “The Dead Man.”                  
The prison covered thirty-seven acres and contained four hundred and ninety cells, each one reserved for men convicted of the most violent crimes in need of the tightest control. Each inmate would spend their life sentence in their cell – essentially a concrete box with a four-inch wide sliver of window. Furnishings were limited to a concrete bench built into one of the walls, a toilet that stopped working if blocked, a shower that ran on a timer to prevent flooding and a sink missing its plug to prevent it being fashioned into a weapon. In return for good behaviour, the prisoners had the opportunity to have a polished steel mirror bolted to the wall. A radio and a television – all controlled remotely so the inmate did not actually come into contact with them – were additional rewards to be earned. Only recreational, educational and religious programming was permitted by the warden.
The man he was waiting for on this occasion was being prepared in a room adjacent to the death house. He had been transferred from Sector 17 – a group of cells designed to hold the most dangerous of Absolom’s prisoners. It currently held two prisoners. After this day was over, there would only be one.              

The first draft was sloppy, rushed and lacking anything that remotely resembled reality, despite the fact the story is fictional. The final draft was tighter, grounded, detailed but not overly so, and most importantly, believable.                            
  If you establish even the most fantastical elements of a story in some reality, the reader will follow you anywhere.                                                                          
Take Jaws for example. Peter Benchley didn’t think that audiences would buy the shark being killed by a gunshot to an oxygen cylinder. Steven Speilberg said that if he could keep them for the first hour and a half, they would buy the last five minutes. And it works. Due to the intricate and detailed nature of Brody, Quint and Hooper’s characters and the idyllic and homely setting of Amity Island, you buy Brody’s heroic last-ditch attempt to kill the shark with a rifle and a combustible oxygen cylinder (not to mention John Williams's epic score!)

Research is where Hellbound, any novel, begins to become something more than you originally envisioned. It is in this process that your story goes from just words on a page to a living, breathing world, populated with characterisation, locations that come alive and scenes that make the reader feel as though they were there with you as you wrote them. After all, you cannot shortchange the reader by ‘telling’ them what it’s like; you have to ‘show’ them. They need smells, terms and atmosphere.                                                                                                                    
They need to feel as though they are there. After all, they are going to hopefully want to spend more time in the worlds you create, so it pays to ensure that your world, the one you wish them to join you in, is as real as the one we live in now (though with all the research on my computer relating to serial killers and executions, Kelly is starting to worry!!)                             

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

#TALK ABOUT TUESDAY - Special guest post by International bestseller author, Steve Alten - July 2017

Hi guys!

For our first #TALKABOUTTUESDAY blog piece, we have a very special guest to kick us off.

Steve Alten is the international bestselling author of 17 novels including Meg, the Domain Trilogy, Grim Reaper;End of Days, The Shell Game, Undisclosed and many more. He was also my writing coach and editor of Hellbound. I learned so much from him about writing, editing, structure, character development and most importantly, the necessity of research. I've never forgotten the lessons he taught me and try to impart as much of his wisdom as I can to budding authors.

However, I could never do justice to his expertise and knowledge, so in that case, I shall leave it up to the man himself!


Steve's new novel, Undisclosed, is available here in the U.K and here in the U.S.A

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Oscar De Muriel Interview - Hosted by Donna Marie McCarthy

Oscar De Muriel’s thoughts on Books, Publishing, Nightmares and Dinosaurs!

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when my new author crush, Oscar de Muriel, agreed to be my first ever interview with Britain’s Next Bestseller!

For an author so obviously destined for great things, he is incredibly down to earth, funny and approachable.

I first noticed him through a literary agent’s blog. I was looking to submit and they had an article on the man himself so naturally I was hooked! Not only because of his unique voice, but because of this…

This is his signature, one of numerous unique doodles he signs his books with (anyone who knows me will get why I like it!đŸ˜‰)

I am sure you are as intrigued as I was, so here are some words from the man himself…

I was born in Mexico City in 1983, in the building that now houses ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not’ museum ( some people claim to see a connection there…) I had a very happy childhood even though I did not try refried beans until I was six (I refused to eat anything brown and gooey).

My first attempt at writing stories, aged seven, was a tale about a Triceratops  and a Stegosaurus battling a very hungry T-Rex. Their three-page, ten-line long adventure was profusely illustrated by the author. Stegosaurus was extinct millions of years before the first T-Rex hatched, but still I consider it a milestone.

When I was ten, Jurassic Park (the novel) scared the Jesus out of me – reminiscent of that Friends episode where Joey Tribiani hides his books in the fridge (I blogged about that)  I'd never thought that written stories could have such a thrilling effect, and as soon as I got JP out of the freezer I decided I wanted to become a writer.

After a few fiascos and blatant steals, I managed to produce a few decent novels in various genres. However, I found myself particularly comfortable writing historical fiction. I came to the U.K. to complete a PhD in Chemistry, working as a free-lance translator to complement my earnings (I was responsible for some cool Johnnie Walker’s ads for Columbia). During this time I produced a handful of academic papers, and the idea of a spooky whodunnit started to take roots in my head.

After several visits to Edinburgh, the city struck me as the perfect setting for a crime mystery. The entire concept of Nine–Nails McGray came to my head while eating pizza with a couple friends (guys, do you remember Cantina Los Perros and the sea monster?)For years I'd been meaning to write a story about the Devil’s sonata (I am a violin player myself, which I should have probably mentioned earlier…) and it fit perfectly as McGray’s first case –  the first of many.
I went through the literary agent hunt (I will definitely blog about that some day!) until Maggie Hanbury rescued me from the slush pile and lent me her very professional hand. I currently live in Lancashire in a lovely house that overlooks Pendle Hill, a field of limping sheep, and a very creepy-looking manor I aspire to own one day.

Wow! As I said, not only are his books fantastic, his life is pretty awesome too and he kindly allowed me to ‘open the floor’ for questions, on Facebook (how cool is that…?)

Emma Pullar asked 'Do you believe Storytelling can be taught? Or do you think that Writers have a natural talent and simply hone their tool with experience, like a Singer does their voice?'
Some people train to sing all their life but they will never be Adele.

Great Adele example! I can't sing a note. I do think people are born with different skills, and storytelling is just another skill. Having said that, even if you ‘have it’ you still need to put lots of work into it, polish up your style and technique. The competition is fierce!

Ellen Devenport asked 'How do you find your dark places? Can you open and shut this door freely?'
It is easier to open it than it is to close it!
When I write a spooky or dark scene I usually play some music to get in the right mood, and writing at night also helps. Mind, I wrote the wrapping up chapters of ‘Strings of Murder’ home alone at 3am, and couldn't sleep after that!

Sarah Hodgson asked 'Do dreams, nightmares, influence your work?'
Of course. Part of book 4 will be based on a nightmare I had a few years ago.

Donna Maria McCarthy asked 'Do you believe that getting your book out there is more important than talking verbatim what the industry says about avenues to achieve this?'
That really depends on what you want from writing. I always knew that I wanted to make a career out of it. I think the traditional publishing industry is very exciting, full of creative and talented people that I wouldn't have met otherwise.

Donna Maria McCarthy asked. 'How did you create your fantastic signature? It was how I initially noticed you. Do you think we all need a hook to get noticed, read? The slush pile is a scary place to be!'
I swear this is true:- On a launch party for ‘The Strings of Murder’ someone put a book in my hands and asked me to sign it. Until then I hadn't thought of it so I just scribbled my initials. They looked cool enough so I went on like that! On the other hand I like to draw a doodle on every book I sign, and I come up with a different one for each book in the series. To draw quickly enough I need to practice them a few times, but I think it is worth it, it's my sign of appreciation to the readers.

I absolutely loved this interview, and thank you again to Oscar for taking time out of his busy schedule (he assures me that he is ‘madly writing the climax to book 4’ And I for one cannot wait!

Follow the links for Amazon to dip into this awesome series!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Percy has flown!!!!

Katie Budge has done it!

When Kelly and I took over BNBS last year, we needed to reinvigorate and reintroduce what Murielle and myself had always believed was a innovative concept; not crowd funding per se, but using it as a tool for readers to decide which books get published.

We needed a book to relaunch, for want of a better word, the BNBS brand and it had to be successful. It had to be successful for the sake of the company to show BNBS was still a publishing company with enormous potential and it had to be successful for the sake of the author who had signed with us to confirm their belief that we could help them realise their dream.

It's quite a heady responsibility, having someones' dreams in the palm of your hand. But that said, we actually didn't help Katie achieve her dream...you did. Every single person who donated for a reward or simply supported out of kindness or belief in what Katie was trying to do, you made her dream a reality. BNBS just kind of smooth out the edges, pay a few licensing conversation fees and then send it from here to there and from there to Amazon and bookshops.

Katie's campaign still has a few weeks to go and remains open for donations, but once it is complete then Katie Budge's first published book 'Percy the Pigeon' will be available to purchase and for children and adults alike to enjoy. It is a truly lovely and gentle tale about sharing and why it is important. Interestingly (and this makes Katie's success all the more poignant) , this isn't her first time around with BNBS. Approximately two years Katie had a book with BNBS that failed to hit its target, but instead of taking what is a disappointing blow and letting it destroy her dream, she not  only persevered but returned to us for her next book. For that Kelly and I are forever grateful.

Katie has proven that BNBS still works as a crowd funding mechanism which has led to a large number of manuscripts being submitted to us which our talented and diligent manuscript advisors in the forms of Julie Timlin, Noelle Holten and Lisa Eddom are working their way through.

So, what next? Well, we have Rob Enright's revenge thriller 'One by One' being proof read and copy edited for before being returned to Rob so he can tidy up a few things and we can develop a lovely, new cover, blurb and all that jazz (I loved this book!). This will be our next book aiming to secure a publishing deal which shall be closely followed by Charlotte Teece's 'Toxic City' which is truly one of the best books I have ever read. This young lady is an amazing talent which will be evident when you read it.

We then have more spread out throughout the year along with some really exciting news (which once again I can't share as I haven't quite signed on the dotted line yet, but once I do you shall be the first to know!) and of course we have the book on Charlie Kray by Steve Wraith due towards the end of the year not to mention Stephen Sayers next crime thriller and possibly a few inspirational true life books that I will have the privilege of ghost writing. One of these, if secured, will be a groundbreaking and motivating tale told by one very strong, young lady. And there's a few other bits and pieces going on that keep us occupied (I mean, come on, nursing doesn't keep Kelly and I that busy anyway!!!)

Stay safe, keep reading and writing and know that BNBS wouldn't exist with you.

D, K and the team