Welcome to my World

New Dawn will be released on Amazon on the 16th of February, 2016

Hello, and welcome to Work in Progress, my blog about the books I write. If you’re looking for Noah’s Ark, you can get that for free here, and if you want to read Vessel, you can download it from Amazon here. My next book, New Dawn, is due to be released on Amazon on the 16th of February, 2016.

Don’t forget to subscribe for all the latest chapters and updates straight to your email inbox; you can do that on the right, too (or at the bottom on mobile).

Thanks for stopping by!

Andrew

A Thank-You And An Announcement

It feels like an age ago when I posted the first chapter of NEW DAWN. It probably was. And now it’s finished.

 

I want to start this post by saying thank you to everyone who joined me on the journey from the very beginnings of NEW DAWN, for the comments, well-wishes and advice given by all of you to make NEW DAWN what it is today. As much as an experience as it was for Jake on board the Athena, it has been for me in writing it, and it wouldn’t be what it is today without all your input, so thank you.

 

So I guess the big news is that NEW DAWN is going to hit Amazon on the 16th of February, 2016 at a launch price of 99p/99c. With all your comments, plus assistance from a few key people here, NEW DAWN has taken shape from the first draft presented to you on this blog to the final work due to be released shortly. I think you’ll all enjoy where the story has gone—needless to say, it has changed dramatically in some parts—and I hope that it has made the experience all the more rewarding for you as readers.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey from concept to publication as much as I have, and again I want to thank you for joining me on it. When NEW DAWN appears in all its finished glory, I would be immensely grateful if you could grab a copy, leave a review, and tell your friends and family to do the same.

 

Once again, thank you to all of you. Between now and the launch, I’ll be posting updates about the publication process, and from there—who knows. I have a few ideas up my sleeve that I think you’ll like.

 

All the best,

 

Andrew

 

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New Dawn—My Next Novel

Hello all! First of all I’d like to thank you for your overwhelming support of Vessel—it’s doing well thanks to your early purchases and reviews, so thank you very much.

Further to that, I’d like to show you my thanks by inviting you to read the first chapter of my next novel, New Dawn. The premise (as it stands) revolves around a planetary geologist called Jake Brooks who sets off on a long voyage to New Dawn, a planet with possible suitability for terraforming. Everything is by the book, and should go according to plan, except for a last-minute change in crew who’s not who he seems to be.

The first chapter will go live in a moment. As with Vessel, it’s a first draft with a quick proofread, so any comments, suggestions, criticisms or whatever are all welcome. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy New Dawn.

Vessel now available on Amazon

It feels like only yesterday that I wrote the prologue for Vessel, and publication has come around already. That’s right–Vessel is now available to purchase for a limited-time offer of 99c/99p. You can purchase it from Amazon here.

I want to thank everyone for their input and support throughout the journey of bringing Vessel to publication, and I hope you all enjoy the final version. If you’d like to leave a review, I’d be very grateful. Please could I ask that you post it on both Amazon.com and .co.uk.

Thank you again, and I hope you all enjoy Vessel.

One Week Remains…

Argh! Vessel is out in a week and I don’t know what to think. On the one hand, I’m a marching band of jitterbugs on a trampoline in an earthquake, buzzing with more excitement than the queue at Peppa Pig World, and on the other hand I’d rather scrap the whole thing and pretend it never happened. P-day is incoming and, to be frank, I’m bricking it.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to publish work of your own, I’ll try and lay down how I feel right now about it all. This isn’t a ‘woe is me’ type of story; I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me. I’m simply trying to pass each agonising second between now and August the 1st. Writing a book is a journey and a half. There are highs and lows, distant horizons and lights at the end of tunnels that turn out to be high-speed locomotives. You lay your soul out on the floor and pick it apart bit by tedious bit. The resulting composition is more than a collection of words for its creator: it’s a piece of them, a chapter of their own lives laid out in paper and ink (or pixels). Each line carries a memory with it, be it pleasure at its inventiveness or shame at the multitude of times it took to get right. Some chapters sat side by side with the death of a loved one, others with the union of two of the living; it’s as much historical non-fiction as it is fiction—you just have to read between the lines to see it.

And now I’m going to take that portion of my life, my personality, my growth and my shame, and lay it out for all to see. Some will smile and clap, others will spit and jeer. Each word is sent on a direct expressway to my heart, fresh and raw and ready to tear me in two. Every review, every rating—or indeed the lack of those things—is a slight against me, against who I am, and I accept that. That doesn’t mean I like it. And to make matters worse, for every negative review I take to heart, there’s a positive one that I simply can’t believe. You know, I’d go so far as to say it’s a traumatic experience.

Well, that’s enough bleeding heart nonsense from me. Vessel is out very, very soon, and I couldn’t be more excited. I hope it lives up to the expectations of all you people who have followed my journey (and thank you for joining me along the way) and those who have yet to become a part of it. The next blog post I write will be on the other side—see you there.

If not plot, then what?

Following on from a previous blog post where I jotted down my thoughts on plot versus characterisation, I noted that characterisation has to work far harder in the literary medium than it does in the film. That said, I didn’t explore the hows, wheres, whats, whens and, in particular, the whos of characterisation. Why? Truth be told, it’s because I don’t know the answer. It’s a journey I’m taking, a skill I’m learning, and it remains to be seen whether or not I’m getting any closer to the writer’s holy grail of crafting a believable and relatable protagonist.

What I can do in the meantime is suggest what I think makes a good protagonist. Here lies the disclaimer: what I’m about to say isn’t gospel—in fact it’s as far from it as it can possibly be. It’s amateurish guesswork at best. But that’s not say it’s definitely wrong, because I could guess and guess well. We’ll see.

A good protagonist doesn’t have to be good. By that I mean they don’t have to be fighting for the ‘goodies’. It makes life a whole lot easier if they are, but having readers care for a ‘bad guy’ is so much more of an achievement. That’s because the number one rule, in my amateurish opinion, is that the reader has to identify with them. Doesn’t matter how good the plot is, how badass the protagonist is—if you think they’re a dick, you won’t read on. So if the protagonist is a baddie, the writer needs to be clever in how they take the imagination of a normal law-abiding citizen and turn it to empathise with the actions of someone who’s done wrong.

Bad guys—particularly when they’re secondary characters—have a nasty habit of becoming two-dimensional cut-outs with no structure to them beyond an evil laugh and an inexplicable desire to live in a volcano. But bad guys are people too; they have thoughts and feelings, they wonder what the weather’s going to be like and they take their dogs for walks. As a writer, if you treat them like a person, build them up as someone who lives life as a day-to-day struggle, your readers will connect. The recent TV show Breaking Bad does a wonderful job of cajoling you as a viewer into empathising with protagonist Walter White, who, when given the news that he has cancer and only a few short months to live, uses his chemistry skills to cook meth and build a fund for his family when he’s gone. You see him, a normal guy, get swept into an unknown world, and you’re right there with him, and you care because he cares. It’s emotional blackmail when you think about it: the writers are saying, ‘here’s this nice guy, but things aren’t going too well for him right now. Maybe you should stick around to make sure he’s ok, cos, y’know, you’re a decent human being and that’s what decent human beings do.’

So we, as readers, do. The protagonist becomes our responsibility, and we’ve got to make sure they make it through to the end of the book. You know it’s done well when you finish the story and feel empty, like you’ve just lost a friend. Those manipulative writers forced you care . . .

But I don’t think it’s a simple as making the protagonist the kind of person you’d sit down with for a beer. Oftentimes, the ones you care most about are the ones you wouldn’t want to spend any time with at all, yet you seem obliged to feel bad for them from a distance. The disgruntled alcoholic cop who only ever works alone is a tried-and-tested example that works almost every time. It’s hackneyed, yes, but it works, and people enjoy it. If crime books were about cops with nice families and big houses and perfect lives, readers wouldn’t care less. Social pariahs need care, so they end up as our protagonists. The affliction doesn’t have to be as bare-faced as being a drug-addicted school drop-out that’s only two more hits away from heaven: sometimes the subtleties are all that’s needed. A normal guy with a normal job that gets put in a difficult situation can engender just as much sympathy if it’s done right.

Meet John, for example. He works in an office, nine to five, as a structural engineer. He’s nearly sixty, he has a nice house, a comfortable lifestyle, and his three kids have all grown up and left the nest. But recently he feels he’s been growing apart from his Sheila, his wife. Nothing bad’s been said, nothing’s really happened at all, but . . . he doesn’t know why, but the silence left behind when his youngest set off for university just keeps on getting louder. He stays late at work to avoid the twisting awkwardness of the gulf between him and Sheila, working himself into a knot of stress and anxiety. He wants to speak out but his voice won’t let him. There’s nothing he can do—no—nothing he can bear to do. So he sits in the office, watching the minutes tick by one by one, wishing each one was his last.

Now, with any luck you’ll feel a little sympathy towards old John here, even though nothing particularly bad has happened to him. Because the situation is one we all so inherently dread, it should be easy to relate to John’s feelings of confusion and despair. Perhaps you have some suggestions for John, and that’s good because it means you care enough to want to help. As the writer, it is then my job to carry the story forward without then frustrating the reader by making John take the dumb choice at every turn. I see that a lot, and it’s a cheap way to progress a plot that leaves a reader exasperated. Why, John, why didn’t you just step to the side when that boulder rolled down the hill after you? Are you stupid?

My last musing on the topic is the quality of believability. Readers have to believe in what our protagonists are doing, believe the decisions they make are sensible and rational, believe the reactions to their surroundings are genuine. Like a magic eye picture, a reader sinks into a book in a strange zen-state of semi-awareness, and unbelievable behaviour is a poke right in the eye for them, throwing them completely and leaving them with a distorted view of things. And as a subset of believability, its important to have consistency, too: changing behaviour and personality will leave a reader just as sore-eyed.

Well, I suppose that concludes this week’s unstructured ramble. I hope some of it makes sense, and I hope some of it is true. I strongly feel that what I’ve said isn’t far from reality, and with a little bit of luck I can heed my own advice and make something of it.

PS Two weeks today until the launch of Vessel! Exciting times!

‘Meet My Character’ – A Blog Tour

Fellow writer and blogger Dave Farmer recently posted a summary of a character from his up-coming novel The Range. Dave kindly invited me to continue the theme, so I’m going to use this as an opportunity to introduce you all to a character from my next book, the project I’m working on now Vessel is complete. Here are the questions:

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Meet Jake Brooks, a fictional character from my next as yet untitled novel.
2. When and where is the story set?
Future Earth is all you need to know. Oil is a distant memory and space travel is nothing special. Planexus leads the way in interplanetary mining, and the company has begun to set its sights on the possibility of inhabiting a new planet.
3. What should we know about him/her?
Jake Brooks is an ordinary man. He has a degree, a good job that pays well, and enjoys passing the time playing video games. And he has a lot of time to pass, because 99% of his employed life is spent travelling. Jake is an interplanetary geologist, and his job takes him to faraway places in search of valuable natural resources. It isn’t an exciting job, but it gets him by comfortably.
4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Being an inter-planetary geologist isn’t considered a particularly demanding role, however the requirements for long-distance travel are strict. Several shorter missions are necessitated before an astronaut’s license is rated for deep space, so when a fellow geologist is replaced last minute by a young man, Byron Ash, who claims not to have a license at all, Jake has due cause for concern. As the time passes and the mission ticks on, Byron begins to show his darker side. On board a small craft of ten crew, it’s going to be tricky to stay focussed and keep calm.
5. What is the personal goal of the character?
Jake, like most people, wants a simple, quiet life. With the addition of Byron to the crew, that isn’t going to get any easier, but nevertheless it’s a goal that remains the same. The problem is, the rest of the crew start to have different ideas on how to achieve it.
6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The book is as yet untitled, but I will soon be posting a chapter per week right here on andrewjamesmorgan.com as soon as Vessel is published on August the 1st.
7. When can we expect the book to be published?
Once all the chapters are up, the book will be formally edited ready for pitch and publication. Hopefully that will be before the end of the year.