Friday, 30 September 2011

Guest Author, Gregory Marshall Smith: To Series or not to Series

Today I'm very happy to welcome fellow Digital Digest author, Gregory Marshall Smith. I've had the pleasure of knowing Gregory for a few months now and he's been very good to read and edit some of my zombie novella, The Body Farm. Gregory's novel, Hunters, is all about old school vamps - where they're the bad guys! He's also got a couple of free reads on Amazon now so you'd be mad not to go and sample some of his writing! Keep reading to the end of the post where Gregory will be giving away an ecopy of his novel! 

Take it away, Gregory....

To Series or Not Series

Series are the “in” thing and have been for a long time.

A quick peek at some of the series out there includes:

Honor Harrington (David Weber), Dragonriders of Pern (Anne McCaffrey), Morgaine (C.J. Cherryh), Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan), Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley), Anita Blake/Merry (Laurell K. Hamilton), John Carter (Edgar Rice Burroughs) and VV Inn (C.J. Ellisson).

Astute readers will note that Marion Zimmer Bradley is dead and is still producing books in her series.

As for Robert Jordan, we might as well nickname him Tupac. There are 14(!) books in his series and new ones are being written every day it seems (though they’re now in the hands of Brandon Sanderson.

By the way, I have left out Ian Fleming’s James Bond for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.

My question for the readers of Marissa Farrar (and I would like to thank her profusely for allowing me time in her space for my book tour) is: “Which is better? Series or stand-alone novels?”

I have been told repeatedly over the past few years that I need to concentrate of creating series to keep readers’ attentions and keep them coming back to the book selling sites for more. The vast majority of the comments I’ve gotten for my short stories and novellas like They Call the Wind Muryah and “Onward” always ask me to write more stories about the characters in those works.

It’s a natural reaction, one wholly missing from movies and television today. How often have we wondered about the survivors of, say, Criminal Minds, about how they get over the trauma and go on with life? Instead, we see the FBI agents arrest or kill the bad guy and then they’re back home to prepare for hot dates or relaxing evenings.

Book series give us the chance to follow characters long past the original adventure or tale. Readers like myself were enamored of Weber’s Honor Harrington after the debut novel On Basilisk Station. She was a very interesting person, standing well over six feet tall, with her ever-present six-limbed treecat named Nimitz.

On the other hand, there is still something to be said for stand-alones. They’re one-and-done. They don’t require extensive background or character development and you don’t have to worry about always coming up with fresh storylines. The universe is filled with classic stand-alones like Dracula, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, A Canticle For Leibowitz, The Man in the High Tower, Nightfall  and I Am Legend (although Hollywood is trying to get Richard Matheson to pen a prequel).

Besides, sometimes we can know too much. Do I really need to read that Honor Harrington is involved in a three-way with her commanding officer and his invalid wife?

Plus, what happens when you hit a brick wall in character development?

I don’t think we’ll ever see the back story of James Bond. So, we’re left with the same old Bond in another familiar plot. One wonders if Fleming’s estate has milked this cash cow into insanity since Ian’s death in 1964. The series has used several guest authors like John Gardner and Kingsley Amis since then, much like the film company keeps changing actors, all in an effort to keep the series fresh (the latest book is Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver in 2011).

That said, maybe we can reach a compromise. What if we limit the number of books in the series?

Good examples: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.

Or maybe we have more than a few books but have a solid conclusion like C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia? Then, maybe it won’t seem as if the series is just going on and on and on...

Of course, one must not bow down to pressure for this option. Case in point, Arthur C. Clarke. Did the Space Oddysey trilogy of 2001, 2010 and 2061, the last being done in 1987. But, in 1997, Clarke revisited that universe with 3001: The Final Odyssey, like he couldn’t quite put resist the temptation to tweak the story one more time.

A final choice might be to keep the series but switch up the characters like David Drake does in Hammer’s Slammers or Fred Saberhagen with his Berserker short stories. Each concerns different characters relating to different situations, such as various military units of Hammer’s Slammers or what different worlds do to stop the seemingly unstoppable Berserker planet destroyers.

As we can see, clearly it’s up to writers and readers to decide series or stand-alones. Each one has its merits and its detractions. I guess it largely depends on what’s in a writer’s heart (or a publisher’s purse).

Right now, my new novel Hunters (about vampire hunters) is a stand-alone. Might it become a series, limited or otherwise? Let me know.

Gregory Marshall Smith, born in Somerville, Massachusetts and raised in historic Medford, is a decorated Navy veteran. Though sports writing is his profession, in his career, he has been, among other things, a national columnist, playwright, engineer, asset protection agent, editor, safety auditor, fingerprinter, training instructor and sometime actor (Heiju trilogy, Life As We Know It, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Hail Mary, Walker, Texas Ranger). He is the author of the novellas Crawl and They Call the Wind Muryah, along with two anthologies (Dark Tidings Vol. I & II). He has had numerous award-winning short stories appear in Farspace 2, Writer’s Bump, Far Side of Midnight, Spectacular Speculations and SFH Dominion, among others. Hunters is his first full-length novel.

Ever restless, he currently resides somewhere in America.

Hunters is available to buy from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For centuries, vampires have owned the night. And in Fort Worth, Texas, master vampire, Louis Riordan, aims to keep it that way. With the help of Lin Tang, his lethal enforcer, he will unite sixteen of the continent’s top master vampires into the most powerful undead alliance the world has ever seen.

Rumors abound that Lin Tang’s most hated enemy, Cantrell Ryker, has returned from the grave and there are hunters in town, ready to take back the twilight. Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, with dissension in the ranks and a traitor in their midst, these hunters fight for humanity side by side. They now have a weapon that could turn the tide of the age-old war between man and vampire once and for all…


So what do you think everyone? Do you love a series or do you prefer stand alone novels? Got any favorites when its comes to a series? Leave a comment, together with your email addy or website so you can be contacted, and you'll automatically be entered to win. Tweet or f/b the competition (and let me know in your comment) and you'll be given an extra entry!

Good luck everyone!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Why Stephen King has been getting bad reviews for his eBooks...

Stephen King has always been known for writing big bricks of novels. Some people complain about King being too wordy. They don't like the long build ups in his stories. But for many of his fans (myself included) its King's wordiness and his ability to produce five hundred page books that we can get utterly and completely lost in, that make us his fans.

Lately King has been getting in on the eBook market. His recent books UR and Mile 81 are both short stories for the 'cheap buys' Kindle market. Both books are priced at $2.99, relatively cheap for a big author. However, people expect King to produce (and by that I'm talking about volume!) and both of these books are single short stories.

When many Kindle buyers are used to getting short story collections or full novels between $2.99 and $0.99, they simply feel ripped off at paying the top of those prices for a single short story.

Mile 81 currently has 131 reviews averaging 3 stars but the reason for most of the bad reviews isn't because the story is bad, it's simply that people are expecting MORE! They're used to paying $2.99 for a full novel and just getting one short story makes them feel like they've been short changed.

I've been recently asked by another author about the process of e-publishing. She had a short story she wanted to put out. What advice did I give her? I told her to hang onto that story and write some more. No different from the problem Stephen King is having at the moment, she is better off producing something of substance so the readers who try her book out will feel they've got enough for their money.

A good friend of mine recently said to me, 'You only get one chance with readers.' That phrase stuck with me and it's true. A reader who takes a chance on a new author may not always like what they read, but if they do don't let them not want to buy another book simply because they felt they didn't get their money's worth.

My own collection of short stories, Where the Dead Live (please click the link to take you through to the Amazon page), contains six stories and is priced at $0.99. My novel, Alone, is also priced at $0.99. Will everyone like my work? No, of course not, but then I've always believed if everyone likes your work, you're doing something wrong! What I do hope is that they feel they're getting enough content for their cash.

I understand King's eagerness to cash in on the Kindle market, but for someone who has so much money anyway, is there really any need?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Work Hard and be Patient!

This is the motto I've been telling myself this week.

I'm now about two and a half weeks into the relaunch of 'Alone' and sales have been steady. I've worked out that I've sold about 140 copies since the launch, which is pretty good, but could be better. This time last year I would have been thrilled at that number but things have changed.

Last week I received a royalties statement for my M.K. Elliott name (a pen name I write romance and erotica in) and learnt that I'd sold over 10,000 books within the first five months of releasing my first title. That first title hit the #1 spot for Erotica on Barnes & Noble within a week of being launched and no one was more surprised than me! Since then I've had a number of titles hit the bestseller list on Amazon (two of which are still there and have been for several months now).

Because I've seen this success in my other name, it makes things so much more frustrating in my 'real' writing. I so desperately want my novels to see the sorts of sales my other work has but I know its going to be a much slower process. I've still got four titles which will be released between now and next Easter, all of which are written, they just need a final edit on my side and to be professionally edited. I've also got a short story collection, 'Apocalypse Ever After,' which I hope to have out in the new year.

So my marketing strategy is going along the 'flood the market' tactics. Sure, I'm also guest blogging and sending my books out for review, plus running f/b ads. I'm also hoping some clever pricing and free reads will boost sales.

Anyway, here is the cover for 'Buried'. What do you think guys? The image has once again come from the very talented Rebecca Treadway and I'm thrilled with how it turned out. It totally captures the whole feel of the book.

Right! Back to work!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Welcome author, Vincent Hobbes, and win a copy of his book!

 Hi Vincent ! Thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing a little about yourself and your work.  Let’s start with the most important thing: your books. Give us a brief description of the novel you want to talk about today.

V.H.  The book is called The Endlands. It is a short story collection written by twelve different authors (including myself). There are seventeen total stories. Each story is strange—with a twist. A carnival of the bizarre, if you will. So far, it has been well received by fans and critics.

M.F.  So what are you working on at the moment? Have you got any new projects in the pipeline?

V.H.  With the success of volume one of The Endlands, I’m currently working on volume two. We have a whole new batch of stories and the second volume promises to be even better than the first. I’m also currently writing a dystopian novel, and pecking away on a horror story, as well.

M.F. Is writing something you’ve recently got into, or have you been writing for ages?

V.H.  I’ve been writing most my life. In my teenage years, I knew i wanted to be a writer. Over the years I learned the craft, though I’ve only been writing professionally for about six years.

M.F. What do you make of the changes in the industry, with so many more people going ‘indie’?

V.H.  I think the changes are great for authors and readers. Authors are getting to share their work much more easily through eBooks and Indie publishing. This is perfect for the reader, as well. We are seeing so many books on the market that never would have seen the light of day. I have discovered some high-quality authors who are putting their work out there, and receiving great reviews, too.

M.F.  Who is your greatest influence when it comes to your writing?

V.H. Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, John Steinbeck . . . the list goes on and on. I like the diversity of these authors. King writes horror, science fiction, a little fantasy. Bradbury is also unique, and Fahrenheit 451 has always been a favorite of mine.

M.F. Stephen King says when he writes, it is for his wife Tabitha. When you write, is there anyone you are writing for?

V.H.  I’d say I write for my own sanity. It’s my therapy. When a story enters my mind, I must put it on paper or face sheer insanity. I write because I’m supposed to write. If I wrote for someone else, I don’t think it would be all that good.

M.F. What sort of books do you read yourself?

V.H.  Pretty much anything. I love dystopian and horror, and read bits of science fiction. I’ve been on a zombie kick recently.

M.F.  Now for some more abstract questions: If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?

V.H.  Bob Lee Swagger, a character in Stephen Hunter’s novels. He’s a man’s man; he goes out there and he gets the job done. Hunter has created an interesting character with Bob Lee Swagger—a hero with flaws, which makes him so appealing.

M.F.  If aliens landed in front of you and offered you anything you wanted, what would it be?

V.H.  Ten thousand acres in Montana, my idea of freedom.

M.F.  Tell us something quirky/interesting that people probably don’t know about you.

V.H.  If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret any longer.

M.F.  Haha, very well. Your secrets will remain safe!


Vincent has very kindly offered to give away a copy of his book, 'The Endlands' to one lucky commenter. All you need to do is leave Vincent a comment telling him what your favourite horror/supernatural novel is. A random winner will be drawn and announced right here so remember to leave your web or email address so we can get hold of you!

Good luck everyone, and Vincent, thanks for being here! If you'd like to know more about Vincent, you can visit his website

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Free Read Published and an Anthology Acceptance!

I just found out my short story, Adeline, has been accepted by Angelic Knight Press for their latest anthology, Satan's Toybox: Demonic Dolls.

I've always found those old porcelain dolls to be super freaky. As a child, I crept downstairs and read one of my mother's horror books by the light of the fish tank (this was a regular occurrence for me and I wondered why I suffered from night terrors) and one of the books I found had a story about a whole heap of puppets who stuck needles into people until they became a puppet as well. I've no idea what this story was called or who wrote it, but it left a lasting impression. When I had the opportunity to write a doll story myself, I couldn't resist. I'll keep you up-to-date about the publication.

My other piece of news is that my prequel to Alone, The Vengeful Vampire, is now free to download from Smashwords. If you'd like to know how Sebastian was turned, this is the read for you!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Giveaway Winners!

Well, I had four entries to win three copies of my ebook and I couldn't stand the thought of leaving one person out. So the winners are;

  • Chris
  • Jen
  • Sarah
  • and a special, much deserved copy goes to Shontrell!
Congrats all! I'll try to contact you each individually or you can email me at
Hope you all enjoy the book!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Something for the Weekend - Win a copy of my vampire novel, 'Alone'!

After a long week, I'm feeling thankful that the weekend is here so I have decided to celebrate by giving away three e-copies of my novel, 'Alone'. Yep, that's right, THREE!

So, how do you win? Just leave me a comment below telling me who your favourite vamp is (from the movies or books) and I'll randomly choose three winners!

I'm looking forward to reading your comments and maybe even discovering a couple of vamps I haven't heard of! Remember to leave me your blog link or email address so I can contact you to let you know if you won and how to collect your prize!

Good luck everyone!

A Change in Look...

As all you ladies know, there's nothing quite like a make-over to make you feel better, so I figured it was time to do the same thing for my blog!

I used the paperback cover image for Alone to create the banner and had a change of fonts and colours. For some reason I can't get the twitter updates to be visible, but I'm working on it!

What do you think of the new look?!!!