A New Book!


A few days ago I published ‘Minding Mama and Other Short Stories’ , my second short story collection.

available now on Amazon (worldwide) h

and here’s the back cover, which gives you a little summary of the stories:

If you would like a review copy (free in exchange for an honest review on Amazon) please get in touch via my Facebook or Twitter pages!

Thanks for your time!

How To Create a Program Booklet


With so much informative content available online, it can be hard to sift through it all to find something really useful that won’t take an age to learn to implement (I’ll be writing a seperate post about that quite soon). And having multiple email subscriptions which, let’s be honest, most of us never have time to read, can feel like so much clutter in your inbox – even though you must have thought they’d be useful because you signed up!

But every once in a while, something really, really useful pops up in my inbox, and the latest one from Theaterish has just landed in mine. Thank goodness I didn’t cancel the sub!

Theatreish is primarily aimed at – yes you guessed it – those in theatre production. But they have some really useful stuff for writers and creatives generally, and their blog post on How To Create a Show Program in Google Docs is exactly that. If you are looking to create a program for your book fair, convention, book signing event or even an advertising brochure, look no further! They even have a downloadable, editable template for just $5, bless them.

http://www.theaterish.com

I haven’t tried it out yet, myself, but just glancing through the instructions and at the downloadable content, I can see this would be very useful if you are running a book fair and want to produce a printed program to hand out at the door, or if you want to create a publicity booklet promoting your own work. Trying to create any kind of booklet in Word is a bit of a nightmare (for me, anyway) – I always end up with the pages in the wrong order, or it won’t print in the required size/format. I will try it out (I have a project for which it may be just the thing) and report back. Watch this space.

In the meantime, a big Thank You to Theatreish for being such lovely people!

Elaine, February 2019

How Many Genres do You Write in?


…. and should you write in more than one under the same name?

I don’t know if there is a correct answer to that question – I think it’s pretty much down to personal preference, really.  Certainly JK Rowling writes in different genres, and uses different names for each. Although, since (I believe) most people know they’re both the same author, I’m not sure if it has made any appreciable difference! I was at an event in 2012 where the line of readers clutching Ms Rowling’s first ‘non-Harry Potter’ book and hoping for an autograph, was easily the longest in the building (and it was a BIG building with a very long and windy staircase…) which made getting anywhere in said building quite difficult… I wasn’t in the queue by the way.

I’m best known for writing speculative science fiction (usually, stories which have some basis in known science, and in which I explore themes and consequences and how they might affect people, whilst (hopefully!) entertaining. I do try not to moralise – if my stories get people thinking about where science might be taking us, that’s good enough! ) – ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories’ and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’.  But two years (ish) ago, I released a romance story, ‘New Leaf’. I wrote it because (a) I was curious to see if I could and (b) I had a particular story in my head which was fun and relatively easy to write – it was one of those which almost seemed to write itself and I didn’t spend months/years agonising and editing it. I’ve been told it’s really good by people who wouldn’t fib just because I wrote it, which is lovely! I’m very bad at blowing my own trumpet, however, so you’ll have to take their word for it!

I used my own name (having briefly published it with a different cover under a pen name when I thought I might get into writing erotica – it wasn’t sci-fi and it wasn’t erotica but that’s about as reasoned as I ever got about it!) but for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I haven’t really promoted it very heavily – perhaps because I’d rather be known for writing my first love, sci-fi. So perhaps I should have stuck to a pen name… too late now, though. It’s out there. With my name on it.

If you’re a writer who crosses genres, do you use a pen-name(s)? How has that worked for you? Do you think you made the right decision (to use -or not use-  a pseudonym)?  I’d love to know!

Thank you for reading!

The Questions…


Now I hope I’ve understood this correctly… I just came across a really interesting blog  classicsandcraziness  and a series of questions people could use to introduce themselves. The idea is to tag the last person who answered the questions, and then answer them yourself…. I think.  So here’s my version: 

 

THE QUESTIONS

Appearances!

 Name: Elaine Jackson (writing as EJ Jackson)

 Nicknames: I don’t really have one; our parents apparently named us Elaine and Jean because they didn’t want people to give us nicknames (no idea why!) but one of my managers found a great way around that – he used to call me MissElaineious and I loved it! When I married he briefly toyed with MrsElaineious but it didn’t trip off the tongue quite so easily…

 Birthday: 9th October – I do it the other way around because I’m in the UK and we put the day before the month! I’ll be *ahem* 60 this year (eek). Mostly I don’t feel it… if I could find an anti-ageing pill/machine/gene I’d go for it. As the Tenth Doctor famously said, “I don’t want to go”.

scales-vector

Hair colour and length: My hair used to be dark brown, but these days I’m silver/grey. I’ve had it in a chin-length bob for years now – and I try to keep it trimmed, because (a) it looks better and (b) I love the scalp massage you get when you go to the hairdresser’s!

Eye Colour:  hazel.

 Braces/Piercings/tattoos: Nope. I did have my ears pierced in the 1980’s (I was okay until they put the stud in and twisted it, and then I fainted dead away – very embarrassing) but I kept forgetting to put earrings in and the holes closed over. I can’t bear the thought of getting it done again, so…

Righty or lefty: I’m right-handed

Ethnicity: Caucasian.  British – Scottish, Irish and Welsh roots and, according to a DNA test, a link to the Caucuses area of Russia…

First…

 Book Written: a short story collection, that I published on Amazon in 2014. I’d written lots of fan-fiction (mostly Dr Who with some crossover with Torchwood, Sherlock and (don’t ask) Crime & Punishment, some of which will never see the light of day…. But in 2011 I decided to write original fiction and haven’t stopped since.

 Journey Cover

Novel Completed: A time-travelling detective mystery set (mostly) in present day about how gene therapy might go horribly wrong… published it in 2016. It represented about four/five years of writing off and on, and hair-tearing out (time-travel really messes with your head).

 TMP_Cover1awithstrapline_medjpg.jpg

Award for Writing: None. Somehow or other I never get around to entering competitions, even though I know it’s a Good Thing to do.

Publication: Oops, I think I jumped ahead with this one. So, they’re called ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories’ and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ (both sci-fi) and ‘New Leaf’ (a romantic novella, because I felt like it). All available on Amazon and other platforms. 😉

a new leaf.jpg

 Conference: If by that is meant have I been to any writing conferences, then yes!  Went to The Festival of Writing at York in 2013 (where I met a lovely lady I’m still friends with today, although she’s shy & doesn’t do social media so I can’t give her a Shout Out here). She was a huge help with my magnum opus (the time travel/gene therapy story).

 Query/Pitch:  My motto is ‘Imagination is the highest kite one can fly’ and it was said by Lauren Bacall.

 Favourites!

Novel (that you wrote): ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ is very close to my heart, partly because it took so long to write and partly because the core premise (is it okay to tweak genes so people live longer) is of Great Interest to me … but my current project is a post-apocalyptic comic book series which I’m SO excited about because I think it has Potential (and I say that with a cringe because, being a Brit, I’m not good a blowing my own trumpet – at all. It’s like pulling teeth.

Genre: science-fiction – first, last and foremost. I grew up watching Dr Who, Captain Scarlet, Star Trek, Blake’s 7 – the idea that there might be life Out There has always captivated me. Although these days I’m quite likely to run for cover at the first sigh of an alien spaceship. I saw ‘Alien’ and quaked in my boots. I also saw ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ a ridiculous number of times (I was working in a cinema at the time) but it’s sods law they’ll be of the ‘Aliens’ variety!.

Author: Oh goodness, too many to remember. Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan… Philip K Dick… Douglas Adams  (oh yeah, I founded the official HHGTTG appreciation society in 1980 – and it’s still going strong!  One of my proudest achievements) and lots and lots of newer writers. It would take forever to list them all, honest.

 

Writing Music:  I wrote a LOT of my Dr Who fanfic listening to Avantasia, Eryon, Tangerine Dream (still got a vinyl box set somewhere in the loft)… but also love Mike Oldfield, Jean Michael Jarre, Muse, The Moody Blue…. And loads more.  I tend to prefer instrumentals for writing. But I don’t always listen to music when I write, it depends.

Time to write:  Whenever I can get time on my own, so it could be early morning before work or late at night before bed.

Writing snack/drink: Coffee.  Tea (usually peppertmint) but I can’t eat and write at the same time. Or even drink, really – I’m Queen of the Undrunk Tea.

Movie:  ‘Blade Runner’, ‘I, Robot’, ‘Avatar’ and, perhaps bizarrely you might think, ‘The Remains of the Day’.

 

Writing Memory: My first ever fanfic – a Star Trek story titled ‘The Berengaria Dragon’ when I was in my teens. It was pretty dire, and the illustrations I did to go with it even more so. But I still published it in our local Star Trek group fanzine and nobody threw things at me, so maybe it wasn’t so bad.

 Childhood Book: ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’, various ‘Noddy’ books and ‘Black Beauty’. I still have the ‘Black Beauty’ I was given for my 9th/10th birthday. I drew horses on all the blank pages in it…

 

 

Currently…

Reading:  ‘The Quartet Murders’ by J.R. Ellis. I like detective stories, too!

Writing: My blog, updating my websites and a kickstarter campaign for my current project, ‘Minding Mama’ – the post-apocalyptic comic book. My art isn’t anywhere near good enough, so I’ve got a brilliant artist, Dan Schaefer, who’s illustrating it.

Listening to: nothing, for a change! (well, my son sneezing)

 Watching: Well, not right at this moment, obviously, but currently hooked on ‘Gotham’, and looking forward to the new John Simm drama, ‘Strangers’, which starts on the 10th. Also partway through ‘Sense 8’ on Netflix. Oh, and will get to watch Season 2 of ‘WestWorld’ eventually…

Learning: All the time! Studied creative writing at Faber Academy in The Writer’s Workshop in 2013/2014 and screenwriting and self-editing with The Writer’s Workshop in 2014; I’ve got a couple of Udemy courses I signed up to and can’t find time to complete and I’m learning the art of marketing as an Indie Author the long way round… also taught myself how to make book trailers. And although I’ve got a dear friend who records and edits my live-action trailers for me, I still love learning how to make them using a program called Filmora. I’ve made a couple of book trailers myself and one for a friend, I love it.

 Future!

 Want to be published: well, I’m self-published, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit that the idea of getting traditionally published doesn’t have some appeal (mainly, the advance, so I could maybe give up the day job – I have another 6 years to work before I’m eligible for the State Pension!).

Indie or traditional: Oops, I’ve skipped ahead again! Done the first, would love the second. It’s unlikely I’ll be the next JK Rowling, but it’s useful to have a dream! The idea of my stories reaching that many people is quite mind-blowing.

 Wildest goal: To have one of my books made into a TV series or film. If I can achieve that, I’ll go happy. Well, maybe not happy… fulfilled. I don’t want to go!

 

MM TRAILER END CREDITS 20.7.18.png

Indie Comics – to bravely go….


… Or to go bravely to!  Indie Comics are uncharted territory for this author.  So why would I leave my comfort zone (long-form novels) and venture into the unknown?  The answer is pretty simple: I wanted to see this particular story visualized in glorious colour. Preferably, with moving characters – animation or even (the holy grail for me) live action.  But I also love art – used to dabble a little bit myself many years ago, but didn’t think I was that good and got out of the habit.  Although I came to them late via back issues once I was earning, I do remember the ‘Captain Scarlet’ strips in TV21  – Mike Noble, Ron Embleton, Frank Bellamy…  names familiar to many of you, I’m sure. I would stare at the pages for hours, enjoying the detail and colour. Since we (like most people then) only had a black & white TV, the printed adventures were the only way to see Spectrum and its personnel in colour. On our TV, Captain Scarlet was Captain… well, grey, Captain Blue was also grey… ) I had a Captain Scarlet annual, I remember, and I looked at it so much the front cover came off!

CAPTAIN SCARLET 1967
my Captain Scarlet annual only looked this good for a little while… not my copyright, by the way.

So… A couple of years ago, I penned a short story about a post-apocalyptic vision of Earth in which the ozone layer had been all but destroyed by decades of intense solar flare activity, forcing humanity underground.  This scenario had really captured my imagination because, as I discovered some time later when revisiting my first draft,  there is more than a kernel of scientific fact in the premise. It could happen. Let me explain…

In October 2016, the then-US President Barrack Obama issued a Special Executive Order requiring that the nation be prepared for ‘Space Weather Events‘.  Whether this mass education of  US citizens about the perils of Space Weather ever happened, I don’t know.  But I do know that the release of this Executive Order seemed to be very providential – almost as if it was confirming my decision to write the story.  The premise chilled me to the bone.  What kind of world would any survivors of this mass-extinction scenario inhabit?

OPENING SHOT.png
Looks a bit like Mars, doesn’t it? Not a world I’d like to inhabit – except in my imagination! (I’ll let you into a little secret – it’s Iceland with a pink filter, thanks to videographer Sue Turner’s magic touch. (It was also her holiday footage!)

Well, actually it would be a horrible world. We already know that UV levels are higher than in the past; when I was a child (in the ’60’s and ’70’s), we could stay out and play in the sun (often without any kind of sunscreen, either because it wasn’t available or my parents didn’t think to get any/couldn’t afford it) for hours before getting sunburned. Nowadays,  if you happen to forget to apply sunscreen, it doesn’t take very long at all before you begin to feel that ominous prickling warning you your skin is under attack. Imagine it magnified many times as the ozone layer thins; people, animals and plants would all suffer terribly. Even undersea creatures and plants would not be safe. Incidences of cancer (especially of the skin) would likely rise many times their numbers today. Without crops to feed livestock, humanity would also likely be deficient in the protein derived from meat, as well as green leafy vegetables.

So, I did a lot of research, and began to world-build (one of my favourite parts of the writing process – I can lose myself for days, weeks…).

The result was a tale of  small, fragile communities struggling to grow enough crops to feed themselves; a society splintered and reliant on old technology to grow anything at all underground; a society desperate to find a way to return to the surface without dying from UV-induced cancers;  a society probably deficient in vitamin D, and a society  increasingly reliant on robots (specifically, FarmBots) to create new strains of food crop which could be grown on the surface. Incidentally, the precursor to my FarmBots already exist – check them out here .

MM_MAMA_by_Dan_Schaefer
A sample page from Issue 1, before text is added. Art by Dan Schaefer, colour by Grant Kempster. How much do I want to see the rest of Mama and Cyril’s adventures in page after page of full, glorious colour?  I can’t even begin to tell you…

After almost two years of research, world-building, finding artists who also saw the potential in this post-apocalyptic tale, developing the idea from my initial idea to create a short animated feature into a comic-book series, building a crowdfund campaign to enable us to create a live-action trailer to head up the main campaign to help fund the production of Issue One, we are on our way!  On 27th August, our main campaign went live on Kickstarter,  but we already have an ongoing campaign in place on Patreon, which we’ll use to help fund future issues and (who knows) maybe that animated feature I originally envisaged!

With a week to go on the first Kickstarter campaign (we used Patreon and Go Fund Me to raise funds to make the live-action trailer with Kate Davies-Speak and David Learner as Mama and Cyril) I don’t know if we’ll meet our goal this time… but it has been and continues to be an education and if we don’t make it, we won’t be the first (or the last).  But we won’t stop – one way or another, ‘Minding Mama’ will see the light of day!

mama poster2 internet copy

Our official ‘Minding Mama’ poster by Amanda Fullwood. Not ashamed to admit it brought tears to my eyes. Can I imagine it as a movie? Oh, yes…!

Thanks for reading.

Elaine Jackson, England, September 2018.

Lost for Words? The Passion to Write (and Publish) is Important!


I’m re-blogging this thought-provoking and empathetic post from fellow indie author and ex-pat Annabel, who asks the questions that countless indie writers (including me) have asked ourselves (and will no doubt continue to) – ‘Can I succeed?’ ‘Do I have what it takes?’ ‘How long will it take?’ For the record, I think that what Annabel has achieved so far is amazing – clearly she has the drive and the talent to succeed, even if (as we all do at some point) she sometimes needs a confidence/inspiration boost. Speaking for myself, in those moments of self-doubt, I find it helps me to remember why I wanted to do this in the first place… and what would I do with my spare time if I gave it all up now?

I’m in a slightly different position than Annabel – I have a part-time job which helps ensure that bills are paid. My problem is not having as much time to devote to pursuing my writing career as I would ideally like… both of our situations will be soooo familiar to thousands of indie writers around the world, which is kind of comforting. We Are Not Alone.

Could it be it as simple as “If you want it badly enough.” …? Perhaps it is – certainly those writers who fall by the wayside will never find out one way or the other. Personally, I believe it is a mix of passion and having the commitment to learning new ways of connecting to potential readers. Think of JK Rowling and the pile of rejection slips she collected before one savvy publishing house signed her up!

So for those of us who have the Passion to keep trying – here’s to us. We can do this!

Elaine Jackson August 2017

The Regina Monologue

inspiration

Feeling a bit hopeless right now. I haven’t posted about all the recent politics because I can’t think how to articulate my incredulity in any way that hasn’t been written a thousand times already. Brexit was bad enough… Trump is just unbelievable. Carl and I sat up watching the US election (alternating between BBC, CBC and Twitter, for ‘balance’) until it was clear that Hillary was not going to win; it was about 1am when we finally gave up and went to bed despairing of the world.  At the time I was angry and raging sarcastically online, but the next day I seemed to get a sort of political hangover. I didn’t want to do anything, couldn’t face going online in case there were still Trumpanzees on my Twitter feed, but couldn’t summon the motivation to go out and do anything else. I met up with friends and took the…

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How I created a book trailer


above: artwork for ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ trailer by Catherine Archer-Wills

by EJ Jackson

The Beginning

First of all, I should make it clear that I’m not claiming that this is the only way to create a book trailer, or that you as an indie author should follow my method. Mainly because, when I began the process, I didn’t really know what I was doing!  I only knew that (a) I wanted a book trailer and (b) I couldn’t afford to hire someone to make it for me.  So, just as I did in 1980 (I wanted to join a fan club for ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ – I couldn’t find one, so I set one up myself) I decided to do it myself.

Grand Designs

My original script for the trailer resembled something you might see on prime-time TV – a cast of twelve, jump cuts from scene to scene, and a specially written score. I very quickly realized that I couldn’t afford live action, so I opted for voice-overs with accompanying artwork.

Format –  captions, narration, live action or animation?

I looked at hundreds of book trailers online prior to creating my own, and as already noted, I realized that live action would probably prove too expensive. I couldn’t afford animation either. A combination of narration, captions and stills seemed to be my best bet.

Casting

I found my first two cast members on Twitter, and the remainder by posting job specs on Casting Call Pro , Voices Pro and Casting Now.  A word of appreciation here for casting directors the world over – finding the right actor/voice artist was an education in itself!  I learned to trust my gut feeling – and the opinion of a fellow writer and friend who shares my vision for the trailer, and had been instrumental in helping me to develop the story.  Eventually I had my cast – and realized that I would need to crowdfund if I was going to be able to create the trailer I wanted!  I had already begun announcing each cast member as they were signed, now I began looking into crowdfunding options.

Crowdfunding – the choices

In hindsight, I rushed into this – and signed up with Patreon, which is primarily a monthly patronage set-up, rather than a one-time campaign. Still, I had two lovely people sign up for the top package, which went a long way, and helped reassure me that other people were interested in what I was trying to do.

The sites I looked at were:

Kickstarter – probably the best-known of all crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter requires you to have a pitch video, and if you don’t reach your target, you don’t collect any of the pledges. I decided not to use Kickstarter at the time, because I didn’t feel ready or able to create a credible video pitch.

Patreon – best for ongoing pledges. Patreon worked well for me up to a point, but I believe the site’s stated ‘monthly commitment’ status put a lot of people off who may have preferred to make a one-time payment.

GoFundMe – campaign specific, and can be ongoing. You receive funds as they are pledged. This worked very well for me too – it doesn’t require a video pitch, and is easy to update and for people to donate.

IndieGoGo – project led, and has a ‘flexible funding’ option which allows you to continue collecting once the campaign has ended. You can add videos (it’s advised but not compulsory) as well as images.  IndieGoGo was a total failure for me – quite possibly because I already had Patreon and GoFundMe up and running. A promotional add-on from the Crowdfunding Center failed to make a difference. As it happened, I reached my target with the other campaigns and some off-line donations, so it didn’t impact too badly, and was a useful lesson.

How Many Campaigns should I have?

At first I made the assumption that you should have just one campaign – any more than one, and people might think I was running a scam! But in fact some creators do run more than one – it helps to spread the word, perhaps to reach different audiences, and some platforms are better suited to smaller goals. So, for instance, had I crowdfunded the music, I could have had one campaign for that on GoFundMe, and have another on a different site to crowdfund the artists or actors’ fees. Or you can put everything in one campaign with different goal stages. At the end of the day, it pays to research each site, check out the other campaigns running on each one, and go with what feels right for you. Kickstarter has an excellent ‘How to…’ manual, free to read/download on their website. The general advice works for any platform.

Crowdfunding – what would I do differently next time?

I would not rush into creating a campaign, as I did with my first. I would take longer over the research and planning stage, and wait until I had as much creative content as possible before launching. If you don’t have any funds without crowdfunding, with which to create any content, then describe what you are hoping to achieve as well as you can – if you know someone who can provide a few pencil sketches, that would be better than nothing. Follow the guidelines to creating an effective pitch and find a friend or family member with a camcorder to record multiple takes. You can edit them in Windows Movie Maker (and if you have Windows 10 and can’t find WMM on your PC, there are ‘know how’ posts all over the web about how to find and download it!) and add music.

Music – isn’t that expensive?

It can be. But if you have an iPad and someone in the family who is at all musical, invest in the GarageBand App – as long as the tune you or your friend create is original, you can use it!  Failing that, there is the brilliant Free Music Archive – but do take care to read the licenses for any track you set your heart on, and contact the creator if you are in any doubt about whether or not you can use it.  I was fortunate enough to have a friend whose son is very gifted, and he wrote and recorded a beautiful track for me at a very reasonable price. I’d use him again, and hopefully will!

 Promotion – where should I share my book trailer?

Set yourself up with a YouTube channel (it’s free). From there, you can embed the video on your website/webpage. If you have an author/book Facebook page, you can display it there – remember to use the relevant tags – mine were sci-fi, book, my name, and so on. If you have a Twitter account (and I believe that every indie author should – Twitter has been beyond helpful to me in terms of making contacts) you can use Google URL shortener to post a link, because YouTube URLs are horrendously long. Don’t forget the #tags – #book, #sci-fi (or #romance, etc.)  About.me, tumblr, Instagram, Google+, Booklaunch.com … if you have a profile on Goodreads, you can add it there, and on Authordb, IMDb…  and if you have an author-specific email address, or website email, you can add a link to it in your signature line… the possibilities are endless.

Team Trailer

As I’ve gone through the process of producing my first ‘proper’ book trailer (I perhaps should but don’t really count my first effort, which was a WMM scrolling caption assemblage of excerpts from my short story collection set to music from the FMA on a black screen – it seems like a very poor relation to my second effort!) I’ve been very fortunate to meet some wonderful people along the way.  It is very difficult to produce something like this on your own – so if you meet people who are as enthusiastic about your creation as you are, and you allow them to have input, it will (usually!) make the finished product better. My advice is to keep your vision in mind at all times, but don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what works best.

Will a book trailer help to sell my book?

This is a difficult one – some people believe not; others are convinced of the opposite. It’s hard to quantify, but it seems logical to assume that something which is eye-catching, doesn’t look amateur, has a memorable score and content, and isn’t too long, should attract people to your page – and hopefully to your buying link. But the truth is, we don’t know for sure. For me, I have to be honest and say that the experience of making the trailer alone made it worth doing – if it helps to sell the book, then that will be a bonus!  If the idea of penning, hiring, and creating a book trailer fills you with horror, then it may not be for you; but for anyone whose creative enthusiasm crosses media types, I’d say ‘go for it’. Good luck, and please do share your story with us!

methusalah paradox portraits 2A final

Has this article been useful? Have I missed anything out? If you have questions, comments, or want to share your own ‘trailer story’, or add to anything I’ve said above, please use the comment box below.  Thank you for reading!

Elaine Jackson, April 2016