A few days ago I published ‘Minding Mama and Other Short Stories’ , my second short story collection.
and here’s the back cover, which gives you a little summary of the stories:
Thanks for your time!
A few days ago I published ‘Minding Mama and Other Short Stories’ , my second short story collection.
and here’s the back cover, which gives you a little summary of the stories:
Thanks for your time!
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!
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:
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”.
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…
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.
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).
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. 😉
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.
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…
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.
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!
The trailer is finished – and our campaign to crowdfund production of Issue 1 of our comic book series is now live!
There’s no denying it’s been a long haul – fitting in the creation of a four-minute, part-live action trailer around busy workaday lives has been a constant challenge for everyone on our team, with members living far apart: the Hampshire/Surrey border, the south coast, Nottingham and Oregon (USA) but we finally got there: and the result is even more exciting and spectacular than I could ever have imagined when we began the process!
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may remember that this isn’t my first trailer – back in 2015 with the help of my good friend Sue Turner of www.elephantinscarlet.co.uk , artist Catherine Archer-Wills , composer Matthew Thomason and lots of other very lovely people, I created one for my sci-fi novel, ‘The Methuselah Paradox‘. Whilst that trailer did have real, live people in it (take a bow, Simon Bugg, Richard Oliver and Amelia Wray) there were no costumes, props or special effects to complicate things … just some very nifty video-editing by Sue!
As you’ll see from the finished trailer if you click on this link, the ‘Minding Mama’ team managed to create a small corner of future Earth in a drama studio in Surrey on a very small budget. We used polystyrene packing, old electrical equipment, as well as a prop robot. We had a brilliant Mama in Kate Davies-Speak, and the voice of Cyril the FarmBot (and our narrator) was none other than David Learner, who has played Marvin the Paranoid Android on stage and TV, and was one of our very first celebrity guests when I ran the official appreciation society back in the early 1980’s.
We’ll be running a series of interviews with the team over the duration of the campaign (which ends September 23rd), so please do check out the campaign
Neon Sky Books will also be at Reading Comic-Con on Saturday & Sunday October 13 – 14th, so please drop in and say ‘Hello!’!
… 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!
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?
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 .
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!
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.
In the Beginning…
In August, 2014, I published my first science-fiction book on Amazon, ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories‘. As the title suggests, it is a collection of short stories, and the act of publication was a very exciting moment for me. It represented decades of wanting to be a published author but not having a clue how to go about it; two years of independent study with both Faber Academy and The Writer’s Workshop whilst holding down a stressful, full-time job; and two years (at least) developing and writing a full-length novel (working title ‘All Our Tomorrows‘) which would then only see the light of day in a much-reduced form, as the titular tale in ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories‘.
Keep Only What Serves the Story!
It was a very steep learning curve, and probably one of the most important things I learned during that period was not to be afraid to cut out what doesn’t work. Ditching the best part of sixty thousand words (representing months of writing) and stripping the story down to the core to produce ‘The Journey’ was not an easy decision at all. As it happens, I believe some of that material will probably be used somewhere else, one day… but it just wasn’t right for that particular story arc. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about that… for now.
Keep it Up!
As soon as I finished the anthology, I began writing my first full-length novel, ‘The Methuselah Paradox‘, which funnily enough, was also inspired by ‘The Journey‘. And again, I had to make a major decision during the writing. I didn’t have to lose so many words this time, though! I had been so invested in Tom and Eva’s story (which began in ‘The Journey’ and continues in ‘The Methuselah Paradox’) that I made the mistake of making them the main characters in ‘Methuselah’. I soon realised that it just wasn’t working, and that the main character needed to be the time-traveller, James Moran. Once I accepted that, everything fell into place. So never be afraid to ask yourself – “Is my main character the right one?” Be honest, even if it feels rather like a betrayal to those characters. If you must, tell them that you are saving them for better things…!
Is Your Protagonist The Right Character for the Job?
Tom and Eva’s story had pretty much been told in ‘The Journey’ – and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ takes place almost a quarter of a decade later, when Tom and Eva’s daughter is abducted. Who has taken her – and why? It seems obvious in hindsight, but being emotionally invested in your characters, whilst it is a good thing, can also blind you to their place in the Grand Scheme of Things. So common sense prevailed, Tom and Eva took a back seat, and James and (to a lesser degree) Emma stepped forward. Hurrah!
Another Learning Curve… or two!
‘The Methuselah Paradox’ was published two years (not quite to the day, but the same month!) after ‘The Journey…’, and I was already thinking about the next project. But hold on a minute – that’s not all I did during that time…
Almost a year before ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ was published (and whilst I was still working on it) I decided that I wanted to make a book trailer to promote it. Having taken a short course in screen-writing with The Writer’s Workshop , and because I love TV/Film drama, I wanted to try to bring my characters to the screen.
Incidentally… if someone out there would like to bring ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ to the screen, please do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crowdfunding – the Indie Creator’s Gateway
But how was I ever going to find the money to pay voice-artists/actors, graphic artists, a camera operator and a composer to realise my vision? Crowdfunding worked wonderfully for me, and again that was another steep learning curve, with a whole other level of responsibility. If people are sending you money to help you create something, you had better get your sums right! I used an awesome networking site for the film industry, Stage 32, to find a concept artist, Cat Archer-Wills, and using Patreon and GoFundMe -and some off-line funding from family members – I manage to raise enough, which was a huge relief because I had been working on the script since January 2015… We finally recorded material for several versions of the trailer in March, 2016, and completed several versions of the trailer just in time for the book launch in August 2016. Here’s one of them. Kudos to everyone who helped make the trailer a reality – the teamwork of creative collaboration is just the best thing ever!
One of my writing buddies (yes, you, MW!) described me as an ‘ideas machine’, and it is certainly true that I have more ideas and notes for new stories than I currently have time to write. I don’t have a full-time day job anymore (or as fellow author Nick Stephenson calls it, the DDJ – ‘dreaded day job’) having graduated to a four-day week, but there are still never enough hours in the day!
Currently I have two novels on the back-burner (one of which is a follow-up to ‘The Methuselah Paradox’), a stage adaption of the same book, another short-story collection, and a Graphic Novel. I do like a challenge! First an anthology, then a novel and a trailer, now a comic book – whatever next?
‘Minding Mama’ – a Tale of Future Earth
‘Minding Mama‘, the Graphic Novel – or comic book, if you prefer – almost became one of the short stories in my next anthology (and still might). Originally written as a competition entry, I didn’t get to the required word-count before deciding that it was fine just as it was. I put it aside. Then I went back to it, and realised that it would work very well in a more visual medium… so back I went to Stage 32, and advertised for a concept artist, then later a storyboard artist/illustrator. Amanda Fullwood (who in addition to being a first class concept artist, is also a talented costumier/production designer) was first to join the ‘Minding Mama’ team, followed by Dan Schaefer . (Dan has worked for Marvel, DC and Dark Horse Comics and the film industry, creates documentaries, does graphic design for the advertising industry and was storyboard artist on NBC’s ‘Grimm’). My long-time friend Sue Turner agreed to do the camera/editing work, and Matthew Thomason is on board to provide a theme. We have cast one of the two performer roles – David Learner (science-fiction readers will recognise David as Marvin the Paranoid Android in Television and stage versions of the late Douglas Adam’s best-selling novel, ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘)
As of August 2017, we have concept art and sample pages (fully coloured, but without text) and are well on the way to creating a trailer/pitch video for the crowdfunding campaign – you can find out more about that here!
I love the process of research, writing, then creating a team to take it all further. Geography is no limiter – our current team uses Skype to link participants in Camberley, Southsea, Norwich and Oregon. Isn’t technology great?
So You Want to Self-Publish?
If you are just starting out on your self-publishing journey, and have doubts about whether you can do it, my advice to you is to keep at it! I’ve learned so much since I started on this journey, and have met some wonderful, very talented people. There’s a commonly-held misconception that writing is a lonely calling, and perhaps some of the time, it is. But I don’t see it that way. When I’m writing, my characters keep me company, and when I’m working with a team of fellow creatives, be it my cover designer (waves to Rachel Lawston and Harry Saxon) illustrators, actors/voice artists (hello to Simon Bugg, Richard Oliver , Amelia Sefton and David Learner), composer (here’s to you, Matthew Thomason) camera operator/video editor (waves to Sue Turner of www.elephantinscarlet.co.uk), stills photographer (thanks to Sue Thomason) and last but not least, all the lovely people whose crowdfunding support made the trailer for TMP a reality, it feels anything but lonely! There is a wealth of online advice to be had (some of it free, but some well worth paying for if you can afford it) and you’ll find that most people are more than willing to share their experience and to help you however they can. Go for it!
Camberley, August 2017
Eminent scientists – among them Professor Stephen Hawking, who may have a brain the size of a planet – have been warning us for some time now that the advances made by AI could turn out to be the writing on the wall for mankind. I mean, extinction. Hoist by our own petard, no less.
Now we learn that Facebook decided to shut down its very own AI program after it created its own language. It wasn’t done with malice aforethought, or because the two Negotiating Bots (apparently named Will and Alice) wanted to take over the planet… they simply found it a more efficient way to communicate than using the English they had been taught.
Will our desperate race to create better and faster ways of doing things using AI (artificial intelligence) really be our undoing, as posited by Professor Hawking and a myriad of movies such as ‘BladeRunner’ (in which a group of artificially engineered and physically superior humans called Replicants returns to Earth to demand a longer lifespan from their creator – before killing him) – or are we all basically just AIs anyway, seeded by aliens who thought it might be interesting to see what happened… Whether we are truly indigenous or not, did the life-forms who were subsumed and/or destroyed by humanity’s rise from the primordial soup have the capacity to worry about it? Or were they blissfully unaware of the ticking time bomb in their midst until it was too late? And would they have been able to do anything to stop it, even if they had realised what was going on? You can read the original article here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’m just going to swim back into the primordial soup and pretend this isn’t happening…
Elaine Jackson, July 2017
P.S. If you’re interested in the topics raised here, you might enjoy my next project, a graphic novel titled ‘Minding Mama’, which my team and I will be crowdfunding very soon. It’s a dark tale which takes place amidst a ruined eco-system. Humanity has fled underground, leaving the surface to wither and die. Only the FarmBots can survive above ground…
Visit www.mindingmama.org to find out how you can help bring the project to life (if you dare) and earn some unique and very cool rewards!