Dec 31, 2012

Looking Back

It's New Year's Eve, and as I write this I'm having a glass of wine and looking at my two little daughters. They're just two and a half weeks old, and I'm utterly in love with them.

To say 2012 was a good year would be an understatement. Not only did my wife delivery two beautiful baby girls, but I got to realise my lifelong dream with the release of my first novel, Locked Within.

2013 will see us raise Amy and Erica through their first year, with all the exhaustion and happiness that brings. It'll also see the release of my second novel, the sequel to Locked Within. I'm looking forward to finding out what's in store for us, and hope everyone else has a great year. If 2012 was kind to you, may 2013 give even more. If it was a hard year, may the new year bring you peace and joy instead.

Happy new year to all my readers, and here's to all the adventures yet to come.

Dec 20, 2012

Light a Candle

It's close to Christmas, and the arrival of my two little girls has me thinking about Christmas traditions. In Ireland we have a number of traditions at this time of year.

Among them is the setting of a lit candle in the window of your house. The idea behind this is one I absolutely love. The lit candle means that your home is open to travelers who need a place to stay, that you're offering shelter from the cold and a hot meal, should anyone need it.

The tradition goes back to the story of the Nativity, how Mary and Joseph wandered Bethlehem looking for somewhere to stay. The lit candle is a sign that you are offering the Holy Family, as well as any other restless spirits wandering the Earth, a safe place for the night.

We will have a candle burning in the window tonight.

Do you have any Christmas traditions you'd like to share?

Dec 18, 2012

My Turtledoves: Erica & Amy

I decided to try and keep some semblance of my usual blog schedule and wait until now to talk about the birth of my beautiful daughters, Erica Grace and Amy Louise. My little turtledoves.

They were born last Thursday, December 13th, by cesarean section, at 1:35pm.

Erica has a lot of Conor's features. She's long and wonderfully chubby.
Amy has long fingers and the biggest eyes I've ever seen!
I was supposed to be on my way to work. But, because I always get into work so early, I often have a lot of time to spare in case of late trains, etc. So on this morning I decided to give myself a half-hour lie-in. I would still be in work by half eight, possibly earlier. Jen had been having what we thought was round-ligament pain and mild cramps from pulled stomach muscles.

I got up at about 7am, and Jen went into the bathroom, still sore but not too bad. I got ready for work and was all set to leave. Instead, I decided to hang on a few minutes and see if the pain went away. It didn't. By 7:30am we were getting Jen, slowly, into the car and were soon on our way to the hospital.

There, the doctors confirmed Jen was having pre-labour contractions. She would be monitored for a couple of hours to see if the contractions progressed into full labour, which they did. We were at 35 weeks and 5 days, over a month ahead of the actual due date, and 3 and a half weeks before the planned c-section date. But the twins decided they had waited long enough.

The procedure wasn't as easy as it had been with Conor last year. The anesthetist, who I'm told was very rough, wasn't able to get the epidural line into Jen's spine, so she had to go under general anesthetic  which meant I had to wait in another room while the doctors worked. I was very nervous; Jen doesn't react well to general anesthetics. But in a few minutes, I heard the first baby cry. It was absolutely one of the most wonderful sounds I've ever heard.

The doctor came in shortly after to tell me I had two little girls. I got to hold them for a moment before they were taken to observation.

Bit of a grump, is our Erica.
Amy's favourite thing is twitching in her sleep.
As I'd expected, Jen reacted badly to the general anesthetic. She had a panic attack going under, and another one coming around. But a few hours later she was feeling better, though it was still the next day before she got to see the girls.

Erica was 7lbs 1 oz and Amy was 5lbs 8oz. Both can breathe on their own and they are very content to sleep soundly when not being fed or changed. Erica was a little fussy to feed, which we think was due to an infection in her intestines. She was taken off all food and put on fluids and antibiotics so she could recover. She responded very well to the treatment and the doctors are hoping to start her back on feeds again today. If she takes a feed and keeps it up for 24 hours, she'll be brought down to Jen, and then once Jen is able, we can all go home, one big family.

My ladies

Dec 14, 2012

Guest Post: Writing.ie

I didn't get a chance to post this link, or any blog post actually, yesterday because, as you may know, my wife went into labour. We are now proud parents of two beautiful baby girls. Once I have some more pictures and things have settled down I'll post about them.

For now, I'm joining Louise Phillips over at Writing.ie to talk about my journey to publication.

Dec 12, 2012

Guest Post: Melissa Ann Goodwin

Today I'm visiting Melissa Ann Goodwin, talking about Christmas wishes.

Dec 11, 2012

School Visit

Last Thursday I had another first. My first school visit.

I was invited back to my old school, St Kilian's Community School in Bray, Co. Wicklow. It was fairly nerve-wracking, because I remember how tough it can be to keep discipline with teenagers, and St Kilian's was often particularly bad for it in my day.

There were a couple of students who couldn't sit still while I spoke. One pretended to snore. But for the most part, actually, it was fine. Plenty of students listened intently and asked good questions afterwards. I'm told that the school has ordered Locked Within for the library and the principal told me they enjoyed the talk.

A few students wanted to know where to buy the book for themselves, and at least one young student is a writer himself, and the principal suggested he stay in touch with me. I gave handouts to all the students with information on writing and the publishing industry, along with a link to this website. So if any of you reading this were at the talks on Thursday, welcome to the blog and feel free to ask me anything you like!

In Ireland students between the ages of 16 and 17 have "transition year," where they get a break from heavy exams and can try new things like film and drama, learning about businesses, art, different languages, etc. I've been invited back in February to do a creative writing class with the transition year students, and one of the teachers wants to put Locked Within on the transition year curriculum next year.

All in all, I call that a very successful visit!

Dec 8, 2012

Interview at A Storybook World

Today I'm being interviewed by Deirdre A Eden on her blog, A Storybook World.

Dec 6, 2012

After the Launch

It's been 4 weeks since the launch of Locked Within and I still find myself grinning when I think back on it. Now as things settle back into my normal routine I have to remind myself that things really aren't going to be "normal" anymore. I'm a published author, and we have twins on the way at the end of the month. My priorities are going to shift so that writing and raising our two babies will be the most important, and rewarding, things in my life.

I spoke before about feeling like I'd reached the end credits of my own movie. But the story isn't over, and really, now is when the hard work begins. After the buzz and elation of the launch, I still have more books to write, and I have to work even harder at promoting myself. I have to arrange giveaways and reviews, and get the book into stores. Of course, I need people to buy it, but at the end of the day I have no control over that. All I can do is get as much exposure as possible and have faith it'll all work out.

I've found it very easy to deal with bookstores in terms of asking if they'll stock Locked Within. The Irish are great at helping to promote their own. We love a good story about local success. I'm very pleased to be able to say that Locked Within is on the shelves right now in Hodges Figgis and on its way to Hughes and Hughes and Dubray Books.

To add to that, I've arranged a couple of appearances. Today I'm going back to my old school to give talks to some of the students about being a writer, and in February I'm giving a workshop with the English Literature Society in UCD on writing urban fantasy and paranormal fiction.

On Saturday I'm going to a Christmas sale where there'll also be copies of Locked Within available. I'll be signing them for anyone who buys one.

If anyone has any ideas for other events I could do, both in person and online, I'd love to hear them!

Dec 4, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Before I get to today's post, I'm please to announce that the winner of the Q&A draw I held last Saturday is Mary Rella! She'll have a character in my next book named after her. Congratulations Mary!

And now, on to today's post:
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I've been tagged by Allen Stroud as part of the Next Big Thing blog chain.

How it works: An author answers the following ten questions on their blog and then tags other authors to do so the week after.

1) What is the working title of your next book?
Forgotten Cause. It continues Nathan Shepherd's story from Locked Within, showing how his actions have affected New York and how he continues his exploration of the supernatural world and his past-life memories.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
When I wrote Locked Within I knew the book was just the start of a series. The elements which make up Forgotten Cause are actually taken from 3 different book ideas, from when I was planning a 6-book series instead of only 3. Parts of books 2, 3 and 4 have all been woven together to create the story, to not only show Nathan's continuing fight against the Council of Chains, but also further develop the setting and the forces Nathan must confront.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
It's very definitely urban fantasy.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I can't decide between Ewan McGregor and James MacAvoy for Nathan, but Dorian would definitely be played by Michael Wincott, Roland by Steve Buschemi, and Ben by David Borneanaz. Other casting choices for established characters include Rachel McAdams for Laura, Olivia Wilde for Cynthia, and Thandie Newton for Cadence. New characters introduced in Forgotten Cause include Elena and Sam, who would be played by Ayelet Zurer and Chris Hemsworth, respectively.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Nathan Shepherd continues his crusade to free New York from its cruel supernatural masters, gathering new allies, confronting old enemies, and facing consequences of past-life actions he cannot yet understand.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. I don't have an agent, but the book has been submitted to my publisher, WiDo Publishing, for approval.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The very first draft, before I re-wrote the book to combine elements of the other books I had planned, took me about 4 months to write.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It's difficult to say. I've found that there aren't many books out there handling reincarnation quite the way my books do. However in general my work has been compared, favourably, to The Dresden Files, which is great because I'm a big fan of Jim Butcher's work.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Mostly the desire to tell an epic adventure set in the modern day. Epic is so often relegated to fantasy worlds that I've always been drawn to stories that dare to blend genres and adapt the models of epic storytelling to a more contemporary setting.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Where I established a base setting in Locked Within, with Forgotten Cause I delve more into the different types of mythology and how they fit into the world. Celtic, Norse, Greek and Egyptian myth all have their place, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. I play around with tradition and adapt a number of myths and legends.

A high point of the story is that I get into the stark brutal nature of the setting and how Nathan's past lives have been pushed to the limit of their emotional endurance. I think the middle point in a trilogy is vital, not only for developing more of the characters and setting, but to set up the finale in such a way that the reader can't wait to find out how it all ends. Hopefully I'll manage that.

I'm tagging one of my favourite YA authors, Janice Hardy:

Janice Hardy
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, BLUE FIRE, and the final book in the trilogy, DARKFALL. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Nov 30, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Karen Jones Gowen

It's the end of the run. The Locked Within Blog Tour is coming to a close. It's been great to talk about the many influences I've had in my writing, and how I worked though different challenges to create the final book.

I hope everyone's enjoyed these posts, and more importantly that everyone who has read or will read Locked Within, whether you buy it for yourself or receive it as a gift this Christmas, enjoys the book. It was a joy to write and work on over the last several years, and my biggest hope right now is that enough people want to see what happens next, after the final page.

With that in mind, I'm ending the tour at Karen Jones Gowen's blog, Coming Down the Mountain. I'm there to let everyone know that there are still monsters in the world. There are still dark things hiding in the shadows. But don't worry, because Nathan Shepherd will return...

Nov 29, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Ellen J Miller

I'm going to miss having these blog tour posts to look forward to. I wrote them all so long ago that I find I've forgotten what I said in most of them, and it's nice to re-read them now.

Today I'm at the blog of a friend of mine from my online gaming days, Ellen J Miller, talking about how to make the supernatural feel natural.

Nov 28, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Roni Loren

The tour is almost over, but I've still got some stops with some great bloggers before the end.

Today I'm at Roni Loren's blog, talking about romance and reincarnation.

Nov 27, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Audrey Lockwood

The Kindle edition of Locked Within is currently available for free, and I know this tends to cause a spike in downloads, so I figured I'd take a chance and look at its current ranking.

As I write this post, Locked Within is ranked #654 for Free Kindle, #13 for Contemporary Fantasy, and #6 for Occult Horror! I'm dumbstruck. Does this mean I can call myself a bestseller?

On to business. The chat client for Saturday's Q&A is set up. You'll see a new "Chat" page above, and all you need to do is sign in as per the instructions on the page. You can even sign in, then reserve your nickname for yourself for future use, just by entering /msg NickServ REGISTER followed by your password and e-mail address. Then when you want to login with that nickname, you use /msg NickServ IDENTIFY followed by your password.

The Q&A will start at 8pm GMT, and finish up around 11pm. I'll leave the chat client in place afterwards, so it can be used for future online events or if people ever want to get in touch through it.

Also, on today's blog tour stop, I'm with Audrey Lockwood, talking about how to write a book like it's a movie.

Nov 26, 2012

Q&A Name Draw

Hi everyone. This is the final week of the Locked Within Blog Tour. I hope you've enjoyed the posts, and meeting the different bloggers who were kind enough to host me.

I'll have final details about where to go to join Satuday night's Q&A chat this week, but I wanted to announce that every person attending will be eligible to enter a draw on the night.

The winner of this draw will have a minor character in the second book named after them, who will help Nathan out of a tough situation.

To enter, all you have to do, between now and the end of the Q&A session on Saturday night, is send an e-mail to pashortt@gmail.com with the subject "Name Draw" and answer the following question:

What is the name of the park where Nathan meets Roland?

Nov 23, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Amy Saia

The next stop on the Locked Within Blog Tour is an interview with my fellow WiDo author, Amy Saia.

Nov 21, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Louise Phillips

Hey everybody! Today I'm doing some word association with Louise Phillips, author of Red Ribbons.

Nov 19, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour - Elizabeth Craig

On today's blog tour stop, I'm over at Mystery Writing is Murder, talking about planning my trilogy.

Nov 16, 2012

Book Launch

Edit to add: Today's stop on the Locked Within Blog Tour sees me with Talli Roland, talking about myth and inspiration.
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Last week I celebrated the release of Locked Within with a launch party in Hughes and Hughes in Dundrum.

When I was growing up I had all these dreams of what it would be like to become an author. I imagined my friends and family being excited for me, supporting me every step of the way. I imagined a crowd of people gathered around me to hear about my book, all eager to get a signed copy. Going in to the store last week, I was a little worried that it wouldn't live up to my expectations.

I can tell you now, it did not live up to my expectations.

It surpassed them.


The launch was one of the best nights of my life. I haven't smiled so much and so freely since my wedding day. My wife and I arrived early, with the books (there had been a couple of problems meaning the store couldn't get stock in on time so I provided a limited amount and the store was ready to take orders when it ran out), and got settled. Some friends who had agreed to help out arrived shortly after; Ciara, who offered to take pictures of the event, Imogene who I'd asked to act as MC, and Fleur, who provided wine. We also had another friend, Beth, who was over from the UK for the launch and staying with us.


We got set up and my dad arrived with a projector and screen to show the book trailer on a loop during the night. I was given a small table with a few books displayed on it, while the staff set aside pre-ordered copies and put the rest on a larger display table in full view of the entrance.

Then the people began to arrive, and it all gets a little blurry. A line quickly formed with people eager to get their copies signed, more than one commenting on how awesome it was that they had to wait their turn to talk to a friend!


The books sold out in no time, and when nearly everyone's copies had been signed, Imogene called everything to order and introduced Ron Callan, one of my lecturers from UCD. Having never met him, she spoke about how I'd described him to her. A great teacher, brimming with knowledge but so engaging as a speaker he would always leave you eager to hear more. A friend, who always had time for his students even at a moment's notice. The man who handed me by college degree. I'd told Imogene that having him launch the book felt like a rite of passage, and she repeated this. I nearly cried.


Then Ron started speaking. He had read Locked Within and loved it. He talked about how the book crossed genres; a detective story, a mystery, a thriller, horror, and evolving towards epic as Nathan's journey continued. He described the meaning he found in the names of characters, the idea of New York as a city so young, yet so powerful, and how he felt that I was very young to know so much and be able to express it. I couldn't believe it. I was hearing my favourite college teacher give a mini-lecture on a book I had written. I had never felt so honoured. I nearly cried again.


Finally, before I said my thanks to everyone who had helped me and supported me along my way, Imogene said a few more words. She opened with a quote from the song Alive. I've spoken before about how much this song means to me. She said "Let the end of the world come tumbling down, I'll be the last man standing on the ground. And if my shadow's all that survives, I'm still alive," then asked everyone to close their eyes for a moment. In that time, she said, for some people, entire worlds had sprung to life, with people and events never before imagined coming into being. She introduced me as one of those people. For the third time that night, I nearly cried.

I've never been more glad to have made notes of what to say and who to thank, because after all that I could never have managed to speak spontaneously in front of everyone gathered around me. I thanked the store, all the guests who came, my crit partners and beta readers, my other teachers who had guided my creative side and had managed to come to the launch, my parents, and of course, my wife Jen. On the day we met, I told her I wanted to be a writer.


Now I am.

Nov 15, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Landing Interview

I've got a bonus post today! I'm being interviewed over at Tales From The Landing Bookshelves!

Nov 14, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Nenad Ristic

Today I'm with Nenad Ristic, talking about fight scenes!

Nov 12, 2012

Locked Within Blog Tour: Guest Post at Pink Tea and Paper

The launch for Locked Within was a great success! I'll do a post about it this week, but for today, I'm continuing my blog tour with a stop at Ellen Brickley's blog, Pink Tea and Paper.

Nov 8, 2012

Guest Post - Janice Hardy

Today's the day of my book launch, and to help celebrate, I'm over on Janice Hardy's blog, The Other Side of the Story, talking about first steps.

Nov 6, 2012

Release Day!

Today is the official release date for Locked Within! I've wanted this all my life and now it's here I can hardly believe it.

Still can't get enough of this cover, I love it!
Thursday night is the launch party in Hughes and Hughes in Dundrum. The number of people who've said they can come has left me absolutely staggered. I'm so grateful for the support I've had, from my family, friends, my publisher, the online community, and even people who don't know me but know a friend or relative and want to come along.


On Friday I'll be hosting the virtual launch over Twitter, which should be a lot of fun. I'll be broadcasting a reading from the book as part of it. I'm currently torn between using Youtube or Justin.tv for the feed. If anyone has any advice on this, I'd love to hear it.

Today is also the start of the Locked Within Blog Tour! Today I'm over at Writer In Waiting, being interviewed by Dawn Alexander. Stop over and say hi!

Nov 1, 2012

The Credits Roll


Here I am, just 7 days from the launch of my first novel.

Wow. As much as this is the beginning of something new and amazing for me, it's also an ending. In the movies, the struggling artist's story always ends when they make it. They play the big concert. They get a standing ovation for a theater performance. They walk out onto the red carpet of their movie premier.

For most authors, a book launch is the closest we get to that. In a week's time, I'll stand up in front of friends, family, and supporters I haven't even met yet, and thank them. Because without people to appreciate it, art has no meaning.

Sitting on a shelf, a book is just sheets of ink and paper, held together with a chemically-produced adhesive. But when someone opens that book and looks at the words, it comes to life. Whole worlds are created every day, not by the writers, but by the readers. Their imaginations are what make the words live. They are why I now get to do this.

These past few weeks, I've talked about how I developed Locked Within, where Nathan Shepherd came from, and how he has changed and grown, as I have, through this journey. Some people would say I've had a rough time of it. I was a victim of bullying. I've watched people turn on me. I've lost a son. But my god, I have so much to be thankful for.

I was 12 years old when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I had no idea how to do it, or even the slightest clue about how to tell a story. I just knew, more than I've known anything else, that this was what I wanted to do with my life. 20 years later, I've made that dream come true. I have a wife, a happy home with two gorgeous dogs, the love and support of friends and family, and twins on the way. I wouldn't trade my life for anything in the world.

I feel like I've made it to the end credits. I always figured that if my life had a song for that, it would be something like St Elmo's Fire, above. Life's given me some hard lessons. They did break the boy in me, as the song goes, but they won't break the man. Whatever else life has in store for me, I have this. There is a book out there with my name on it. And I hope it's making people happy.

Thank you, everyone who has followed me this far. I hope you'll stick around to follow me to the next chapter.

Oct 30, 2012

My Theme Song

Before I go into today's post, I just wanted to thank Dave O'Brien for putting in the winning bid for the first ever signed copy of Locked Within at this year's Gaelcon charity auction. That's €130 going to children's charities as a result!
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As you've no doubt guessed from the posts I've been making this month, music is integral to my writing. I can't write if I'm not able to imagine what music would go with the scene I'm working on.

Likewise, I find I listen to certain types of music depending on how I'm feeling or, often, how I want to feel.

Sometimes I'll need to let out some painful feelings, so I'll listen to a song that helps bring those out. Other times I'll decide that no, I'm not taking something lying down, so I'll pick a song that inspires me and makes me feel like I can climb a mountain or swim across the ocean.

Since being offered the contract for Locked Within, there has been one song I've come back to, almost every single day. It's the song which makes me think of everything I've gone through, everything I've put up with, run away from, and overcome to get to where I am.

If I have a theme song, it's Meat Loaf's Alive.


Maybe it's fitting that after landing a deal for a book about a man who is reborn, life after life, to fight evil, I was drawn to a song which says, loud and boldly, go head and give me what you've got. Hit me, try to break me. Because no matter what you do to me, I'm still here. I'm still alive.

And this will not be the last the world hears of me.

Oct 25, 2012

Locked Within Soundtrack: Fleur Du Mal (Reprise)


We come to the end of my series of songs from my Locked Within soundtrack.

This is a short piece from the end of Sarah Brightman's album, "Symphony," a reprise of the song "Fleur du Mal," which opens the album.

I love the haunting opening, just a little bit sinister in a fairytale sense, which is interrupted by the triumphant march.

Fittingly enough for the last in my soundtrack posts, this piece belongs at the end of Locked Within, and was what I listened to while writing the very last scene.

I hope you've enjoyed these few samples from my collection, and also that they help you feel the same way reading Locked Within that I did when writing it.

Oct 23, 2012

Locked Within Soundtrack: Europa (Instrumental)


I like a lot of music. I have playlists from my music collection and on Youtube to make sure I have access to everything I want to listen to while writing.

Globus are the commercial front of a group called Immediate Music, who are one of many groups that produce stock music for use in movie trailers and tv promos. The track above is a version of their song, "Europa," with the lead singer's vocals removed.

I can't help but feel my heart race when I listen to it. It really gets my adrenaline going. Some music, when I listen to it, I feel like I need to write or break into a run just to let the energy out, or I'll burst.

This track quickly became my go-to piece for thinking of Nathan in his Big Damn Hero moments. As such, there's a particular moment in the novel where I like to imagine this track would be playing in the background if it were a movie. I think you'll know it when you get to it.

Oct 19, 2012

Authors Against Bullying - Reach Out and Help

I'm taking a break from promoting Locked Within today to join the Twitter campaign #AuthorsAgainstBullying.

I have spoken before about how I was a victim of bullying through almost all of my school days. It left its mark on me and made it difficult for me to break out of my insecurities. I wasn't beaten or subjected to violence. At least, not constantly. Violence was a part of it, but it was one tool among many in the emotional abuse I suffered from a small number of fellow students. I was skinny, not good at sports and I enjoyed reading. I was targetted for these reasons, and for everything else about myself from having different hair to the ranks of identically slicked-forward hairstyles, speaking differently to the standard accept in my town, to the tv shows I watched or the fact I used proper grammar.

Bullying takes so many forms, it's often difficult to identify, even when you're subjected to it. And it affects people in a range of different ways. Some become violent or withdraw into themselves. Others break down right there, while some wait until they're alone to let the pain out.

The one thing common to all cases is that the victim needs someone to turn to. Someone they can trust. Someone who'll listen, won't judge, and can do something to help. Maybe it's just the act of offering comfort. Maybe it's reporting the incident to a teacher or parent. Maybe it's standing between the bully and the victim and saying "no." Or maybe it's as simple as being a friend when no-one else will.

I was lucky enough to find friends like that, who helped bring me out of the protective shell I had constructed to deflect the things those few tormentors would say. It look a long time. Years before I was able to comfortably say "these people do want me around." Please, if you see someone suffering, do something. It doesn't have to be much. The victim doesn't even need to know you did anything.

There are all sorts of opinions on how to prevent bullying or how to even define what bullying is. If someone is suffering, the target of behaviour intended to belittle, humiliate, and intimidate them, they're being bullied. And it needs to stop.

The first step is for those of us who can speak out to make out voices heard. To let bullies know that their behaviour is not acceptable, and it only serves to make them look bad.

To anyone who has been, or is being, bullied, stay strong. There are people who love you. Go to them. Talk to them. The few fools who think they're big and clever by picking on you have no idea what the real world holds for them. In this day and age, where almost anything they say or do can be recorded forever online, they are the ones who'll come out the worse in the end. You just need to remember that no-one has the right to make you feel like you're anything less than incredible. And anyone who would try doesn't deserve to know you.

So turn your back on them and leave them behind, because you are one in a million.

Oct 18, 2012

Locked Within Soundtrack: We Don't Need Another Hero


The second installment in the soundtrack series for Locked Within is a cover of Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero," originally recorded for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

I really like this cover. It adds a visceral rage, even despair, to the song. While Tina's original is a classic, it's rather more tame, more resigned and even accepting.

Northern Kings put a bit more energy into their version, adding a more resentful feel. It's not that they've given up and accepted the way things are, but rather than everything done in the past to change things has failed so horribly they react violently to any attempt to change things again.

I used this song to get me into the mood for the New York in which Nathan Shepherd lives. It's a city beset by supernatural predators, where the weak suffer, abandoned by those who were supposed to protect them. Now, those who can make a difference are gone, or choose to ignore the problem.

The old saying goes that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. In the case of Nathan Shepherd, he decides that things aren't good enough as they are. But if he's going to make a difference, he has to deal with people, good and evil, who would much rather he just kept to himself and forget the strange things he's seen.

Oct 16, 2012

Locked Within Soundtrack: Locked Within The Crystal Ball


Today I've got the first track from the collection of music I used as my soundtrack while writing Locked Within.

This song, "Locked Within The Crystal Ball," is by Blackmore's Night, a folk rock group headed by Ritchie Blackmore, formerly of Deep Purple and Rainbow, and his wife Candice Night. As you may have guessed from the name of the song, this is where I got my inspiration for the title Locked Within.

It was actually the following verse that caused the song to first strike a chord with me:

Fire and water, earth and sky
Mysteries surround us, legends never die

Apart from Candice Night's powerful vocals, the words resonated with me. The invocation of the four classical elements, prominent in most occult beliefs and the use of magic in the book. The suggestion of the unknown, and the immortal nature of the song's subject. The idea that those the singer is telling us about will never die. That fit so well with my idea of Nathan Shepherd as this reborn hero who had fought for good time and again. The more I listened, the more the words matched what I had in mind, not necessarily for the plot of the book itself, but for what it means that Nathan is regaining the memory of who he used to be.

At the time I had this idea that I would take the title of every book in the series from a song, and decided this would be the right one for the first book. The more I wrote, however, the more I realised that the title reflected the story in more ways than I'd first intended.

Of course, you'll have to read the book to know how.

Oct 11, 2012

Why New York?

If you asked an alien to look at the sum of western movies and guess what our most important city was, I'm confident New York would be in the running, if not the outright winner. Few American cities feature so prominently in fiction, to the point where you can almost consider New York a character itself.

I fell in love with New York when I was a kid. Superman was filmed there. So was Ghostbusters. New York was so ingrained into my psyche than unless a show or movie specified another location, I assumed it was set there. It was like New York was the spirit of America.

Of course as I grew up I learned just how incredibly huge America is, and how wonderfully varied are the cultures there.

But New York has retained a special place in my heart. To this day it's one of my favourite places in the world. My wife and I went there on our honeymoon, and we spent a week there earlier this year. We still haven't seen or done all the things we want to.

When I started writing Locked Within, I knew I wanted to set it in America. I was telling a story about a clash between past-life memories and a man's current life, taking the knowledge of the past and combining it with the present to create something more powerful than the mere sum of its parts. I needed a place that felt distanced from ancient myth on the surface, but with roots in ancient lore. I needed a place with almost mythic status. New York was my town.

So I started my research. I learned everything I could about the city. When I reached a point in the book that featured a new location, I stopped to learn I was describing and had determine whether its history could play a role in the story.

Much like the supernatural society which Nathan Shepherd uncovers, New York is a melting pot, a fantastic mixture of ancient cultures, popular trends and long-standing tradition smashed together and thrust into the modern world. The city and its people adapted and evolved over time. New Yorkers are a breed to themselves, protective of their own, welcoming to others. My favourite scenes in the recent Spider-Man movies are the ones where New York stands up and helps Spider-Man. "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!"

In the past, Ellis Island was the gateway to the New World. When other ports closed up and refused immigrants, New York still welcomed them. Sure it wasn't always a pleasant journey, and life wasn't always the dream people expected when they arrived, but that wasn't the point. I can only imagine how it must have felt to leave your home behind, spend weeks or months on a cramped ship, then see the gleaming torch of the Statue of Liberty in the distance. New York meant something to those people.

Hope.

My wife, Jen, commented about New York as a home for the supernatural. She said "when the Old World wanted to hide from itself, where else was it going to go?"

I think the idea of a place can have power. New York is as much a character in Locked Within as Nathan or his father, Mike, or his best friends, Cynthia and Ben.

I hope to tell a story that's about the city, one that will continue with the rest of the series. New York was once a city of hope. It's still a city of strength. In Nathan Shepherd's world, it's also a city of cruelty, controlled by supernatural predators who view the mundane citizens as chattel. In Nathan's story, we'll see whether he has the power to turn back those masters, and make New York a city of hope again.

Oct 9, 2012

Reincarnation

In this second week of my Locked Within Focus Month, I'm taking a look at two of the major elements of my book.

Reincarnation is a popular trope in all forms of fantasy. Typically the young, untested protagonist is the reincarnation of a legendary hero, destined to save the world from the forced of evil. The idea that a person can be worthy enough that even death cannot keep their soul has been a compelling element of storytelling.

I'm specifically talking about a character dying and their soul returning in a new body. This isn't a character dying and then returning from death. That's resurrection, and a far more common trope in all forms of fiction.

Different belief systems have had differing takes on reincarnation, but most religions throughout human history have either included it as an integral part of their beliefs or had particular groups within them which include it in their teachings. The belief goes as far back as the Iron Age, possibly originating in Greek and Indian philosophy. Deriving from Latin, the word "reincarnation" literally means "entering the flesh again," and the concept survives today in New Age mysticism, druidic teachings, Buddhism and Hinduism, among others.

No two religions or mythologies seem to agree on how reincarnation works. Hindus believe the soul always returns in human form. Jainism teaches that, upon death, the soul travels through four states - animal, hell-being, human, and divine - based on karma. Among the Ancient Greeks, it was believed that the dead drank from the Rive Lethe in the Underworld, which erased their memories. Only after this was done could they be reborn into life. The Celts believed that they would be reborn a set amount of time after dying, and used this belief to instil great courage into their warriors, as they knew death was not an end.

Which such a varied range of sources, it struck me as unusual that the main examples of reincarnation in fiction were so limited. Stories tend to feature either the long lost mythic hero reborn into a new age, or the star-crossed lovers who could not rest after death separated them and return to new life to find each other once again. Tyically, reincarnation is treated as an unusual thing. A sign of the Chosen One in fantasy, or a paranormal element added to a mystery or romance.

Before I knew what form Locked Within would take, I knew I wanted it to be about reincarnation. And not just the Chosen One model. I wanted to create a world where reincarnation was almost the rule, rather than the exception. This created its own challenges, such as finding a way to balance my protagonist's inexperience with the fact he had lifetimes of memories to draw on, or keeping tension in the threat of death.

From this I decided that memories came to people in dreams or brief moments of inspiration. The reborn aren't born with their previous memories intact. They have to wait for them to return. Often the catalyst would be a similar emotional or physical stimulus as they experienced in one of their memories. Even that would not be enough. If they didn't have the strength of will to hang on to the memory, it would pass, and they might be none the wiser about their true nature.

The other element I decided on was how one's past lives would affect a current incarnation. I played with the psychological concepts of nature vs nurture, and decided that someone who was a warrior or an artist in a past life would have an easier time re-learning those skills and find themselves drawn to a lifestyle that allowed them to use that knowledge.

While thinking about this, I realised that, for the sake of tension and a sense of consequence, there needed to be factors which influenced the way a person would be reborn. If a person hurt you in a past life, you would have the impression of that on your soul in this life. If you died in pain or fear, your soul might be thrown into the afterlife unprepared, and take longer to find its way back. These factors would, in essence, scar the soul, requiring time to heal before a person could realise their true potential.

What scars Nathan Shepherd's soul bears, and how they will challenge him in his adventures, I leave you to discover when you read the book.

Next time, I answer, conclusively, the question of why I chose New York as the setting for Locked Within.

Oct 4, 2012

Who Was Nathan Shepherd?

Last time I spoke about my initial decision to become a writer.

Funnily, when I created the character who would eventually become Nathan Shepherd, I didn't have any idea that such a thing as urban fantasy existed. I was certain that what I wanted to write was horror, because, in my innocence, I thought horror needed to have better-written characters than any other genre, otherwise you wouldn't be afraid for them.

But one of the things that always bugged me about horror was how weak the main character often was. If you saw the hero in a horror movie start to really fight back, it wasn't until the very end, and even then they were always afraid. Maybe if the character returned in later sequels, they eventually became stronger, but this was rare. All too often the bravest character, the mentor or the monster-hunter (usually my favorite character) would be killed off before the end.

I knew that I wanted to write stories where monsters got killed. My favourite horror movies as a child were vampire movies like Fright Night and The Lost Boys. So I settled on a vampire novel to start. But I still needed a central character who was different from all the scared, weak protagonists I was used to seeing.

I needed a hero.

His name was not Nathan Shepherd.

Back in those days, he was Nicholas St.Claire, a man who had watched a vampire murder his parents as a child, and now hunted any monster he found. He owned an apartment building in New York, which meant he didn't need to work and could spend his time hunting vampires. 

This would introduce the supporting cast, when the girlfriend of one of his tenants was targeted by a vampire. He would help them, teach them how to fight, and lead them against the vampire, killing it in a dramatic showdown.

The apartment building had a bar on the ground floor where a band would play and patrons could get up to sing. At the end of every book, one of the characters would get up and sing to one of the others.

At the end of the first, the vampire's victim was to get up and sing "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me," to her boyfriend.

At the end of the last book in the series, after Nicholas had finally killed the vampire which murdered his parents, his love interest Linda was going to get up and sing "Simply The Best." 

I was 14. I thought this was ground-breaking stuff.

Thankfully, as time has passed I've matured (honest) and so has my writing. No longer do I want to end my books with cheesy karaoke acts, and I don't want to give them cringe-worthy  trademark-infringing titles like "Bat Out Of Hell." 

Nicholas became Nathan. The apartment building was forgotten. The traumatic past was removed. In fact, little of that character remains. But I have to acknowledge that the hero of Locked Within started out as a 14 year-old's fantasy for the kind of hero he wanted to see, even if he wouldn't have been a very interesting character to read about.

Next week I'll look at reincarnation, how it fits in the world of Locked Within, and how I chose New York as my setting.

Oct 2, 2012

Where It All Began

My first novel is being launched in Hughes and Hughes in Dundrum on November 8th.

People have already bought the Kindle edition and pre-ordered the print edition. Some have even told me they're getting multiple copies, and still showing up to the launch so they can get a signed copy.

This is so far beyond what I dreamed of when I was a 12 year-old boy thinking to himself that he wanted to be a writer.

My mind was made up, that being a writer was the only thing I really wanted to do, when my parents brought me and my sister down to Tramore in Waterford for a long weekend. While there, we went to Celtworld.

Celtworld closed long ago. It was a tacky place where you could go and watch animatronic re-tellings of Celtic mythology, then wander through a small gift shop and speak to a head hanging from a tree. Sure, the puppetry was awkward and everything was highly over-dramatic. But for a 12 year-old boy from Bray, jealous of the amazing things I saw people go and do in movies from America, this was the most amazing thing in the world.

I wrote the background for my first book that night on a sheet of paper, using a blue Bic pen. It was awful, full of cliches and stereotypes. My little fantasy world where the hero was told in the first chapter he was the son of a great hero who died a thousand years ago, and took it in his stride like it happened all the time.

But it got me started. From then on I spent most of my free time imagining different stories and characters to write about. I daydreamed in class. At dinner. Lying in bed trying to fall asleep. I started to look at everything around me, wondering how I could use different things in my stories. And I wrote. I wrote maybe a chapter or two, then got bored and moved on to something else. I wrote until my fingers were red and my wrist ached. Until my parents told me to turn off the light and go to sleep. I read books and watched movies, thinking to myself "I'm going to do that one day."

20 years later, and "one day" is now.

Welcome to a month of blog posts about Locked Within, the first of a new urban fantasy trilogy, telling the story of Nathan Shepherd. An office worker dissatisfied with his lot in life, Nathan ventures into the darkness he finds all around him, and has no idea what lies in store.

On Thursday, I'll talk about Nathan, and his more humble origins in my early attempts to write a novel.

Sep 27, 2012

The Final Countdown

I got some amazing news yesterday. Locked Within is now available on Kindle through Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. It's on sale at a special low introductory price so if you like your ebooks or just want to get it early, this is the perfect time.

You can also now pre-order the print edition on Amazon.co.uk, though for some reason they're listing it as out of stock instead of not-yet-released.


This is my last blog post before the real work starts on promotion for Locked Within's print release.

So here's how things are going to go for the next several weeks.

I'll start off in October with a series of blog posts about how I've gotten along on my journey to publication, from my earliest daydreams as a child to the long hours of revision and doubt that made me wonder whether I'd make it at all.

Following from that I'll discuss some of the sources of inspiration I've had, including samples of music from the playlists I listened to while writing the book. That should take us up to the end of October.

I'll have a couple of blog posts then in early November, to round things out before the release date, in which I'll talk about how I've felt about this journey and the places it's brought me, the challenges I've faced, and how I feel coming out the other end.

In November, starting November 6th I'll be hitting the virtual road on the Locked Within Blog Tour, sharing thoughts on mythology, history, and the subject of reincarnation, as well as giving a couple of interviews. I've been in touch with my hosts to confirm dates, though I can still fit in some extra dates if anyone would like to have me.

As well as the real-world book launch on the 8th, there'll be a virtual book launch on Twitter on the 9th. I'll come up with a hashtag for that and spread the word. The book launch is looking set to be very well attended but I know there are a lot of people who can't make it and I'd like to do something to give everyone a chance to come together.

The Blog Tour will wrap up on the 30th, and that night I'll host an online chat for people who've read the book to discuss it and ask some questions if they like. There will also be a prize up for grabs, but more on that later.

Things are going to get really busy from here on out. Wish me luck!

Sep 25, 2012

Teachers

A really awesome thing happened while I was making preparations for my book launch.

Well, several really awesome things.

First, one of my favourite college lecturers from the English Department in UCD, has agreed to speak at my book launch to officially launch my book. Second, I've been able to get in touch with some of my old teachers from school and they will hopefully be able to attend the launch.

The idea that people who have been a major part of my education will be at the launch of my first book is amazing. These are people who have watched me grow, who have seen the seeds of my creative spark and desire to tell stories, and nurtured it.

I didn't have the best time in school. I often performed poorly in class, except for the odd occasion where I did well writing a short story. I had a very high reading age, as much as 4 years ahead of my actual age. So I became bored in school and gave in to daydreaming frequently. I was also a victim of bullying throughout pretty much all my time in school. It's kind of strange, then, that I got along better with my teachers than my fellow students.

But, a few teachers stood out and nurtured what good they saw in me. I was a pretty average student, in all. Never really excelled academically. But these people gave me more than good grades. They taught me to believe in my gifts and dare to dream I could be more.

Having them at my launch is like a rite of passage. In front of the people who most constantly worked to help me discover my calling, I get to stand up and enter this new chapter in my life. That's pretty amazing to me.

Did any of you have teachers who helped you get through the drudgery that is school? Have you kept in touch with them at all? Do you think they'd be happy to see how you've turned out?

Sep 20, 2012

Locked Within Book Launch

We're getting closer and closer to the big day. With the official release date of Locked Within set for November 6th, I am having my book launch on November 8th. All going well, it will be held in Hughes and Hughes in Dundrum. It should start at 6:30pm and there'll be plenty of food and drink provided.

This is the perfect time to pick up a copy of the book. Launches are a fun night out in and of themselves as far as I'm concerned, and I'll be there signing books for everyone.

I've got a public Facebook event set up if anyone wants to add themselves that way.

The launch is open to anyone who wants to come along, so please drop in to say hi, and bring some friends!

As well as the launch, there will be a lot of other things going on in October and November to celebrate the release of Locked Within, not least of which is the release of the Kindle edition in October. I'll be posting here on topics like reincarnation, the urban fantasy genre itself, and sharing some of the music I used as inspiration while writing the book.

Beyond that there will be a blog tour throughout the month of November, starting on the 6th and continuing on. I'm still looking for more hosts if anyone would like to have me. I'll also be hosting a virtual book launch on Twitter on the 9th, and towards the end of the month I'll be organising a private chat for people to ask me questions about the book, the setting, the characters, and the rest of the trilogy.

If anyone has any topics they'd like me to discuss on the blog, let me know and I'll see what I can do. It's going to be a busy time for me and I can't wait! I'll publish a schedule for the various posts and online events soon.


Sep 18, 2012

Paid Reviews Scandal

A quick announcement before my main post. The Kindle edition of Locked Within will be available in October, a month before the release of the paperback edition! It will start at the special introductory price of $1.99 so if you prefer your Kindle to a paperback, or want to get the book early, this is the time to get it.
__________________________

I'm a little late talking about this issue. I've been sitting back and taking it all in, because to be honest, I wasn't aware there were businesses out there that offered authors the chance to pay for positive reviews. But I've done my research now and I think it's safe to say it's not something I want to do.

It's a touchy area. I mean, reviewers get perks. They get free product, often before anybody else. Advertising companies always talk-up the product and its manufacturer, so this seems like a natural progression. Okay, so a free copy of a $6 ebook in exchange for writing one review isn't in the same league as $1,000 for 300 positive reviews from a series of dummy Amazon accounts. But it's easy to see how the concept of "I give you this book, you review it for me," escalated to what we've seen.

I know there's a lot of outrage over this. But I don't share it. Not because I condone the activity, but because the Internet is changing the nature of self-promotion so fast that it's easy to make a mistake. That, and I have the utmost respect for anyone who can hold up their hand and admit they slipped up.

Last Thursday I asked for people who could review my book or offer an author endorsement blurb. I'm not asking for anything people are unwilling or unable to give. If someone doesn't like my book, I would never want them to say they did. I mean, really, how can I become a better writer if I don't find out where my weak points are?

That's what it all boils down to, for me. If I get good reviews, that means I've done something right and I've earned them. If I get bad reviews, that means I have something I need to improve. If I get no reviews, it just means I have to make more of an impression next time, one way or the other. No matter what we do in life, we must never stop learning. Once you assume you know everything you need, you close yourself off from the greater world and any hope of reaching something higher than where you are.

In my relatively brief experience with the publishing industry, I've found it to be full of the most supportive and enthusiastic people I've ever met. Not one person has tried to put me down or stop me achieving my goals. That's an amazing thing. So many industries are full of people who want to get ahead by preventing others from competing with them instead of improving their own product. We shouldn't let publishing turn into that. We should embrace the fact that we're in an industry that loves to teach and learn.

I hope for good reviews. But I'm ready to learn from bad. Of course, I intend to follow the advice of many wiser people than me and not respond to any negative review, but I want people to be honest. So in November, when you're reading Locked Within, whether you love it or hate it, tell the world, and keep reviews honest.

Sep 13, 2012

Galleys, Reviews, Blurbs

Last week I got to see the galley pdf for Locked Within. Seeing the words "Copyright 2012 Paul Anthony Shortt" was incredible. This just gets more and more real!

So now that the galley proof-reading is done, the book can go to print and it looks like everything's really moving ahead.

What I need to do now is get working on finding people to review the book and established authors who'll read an advance copy and give me a short blurb to go on the Amazon page and WiDo's website, as well as my own blog.

So if anyone would like to provide a blurb or a review, whether on your own website or on Amazon or Goodreads following the book's release, please let me know and when I have the ARCs I'll get in touch.

Sep 11, 2012

Rolling With The Punches

With just under two months to go before Locked Within hits the shelves, I've been kept pretty busy with publicity plans and proof-reading. In between the moments of madness, I've had time to reflect on the path which brought me here. If anyone asked, I'd say I've been incredibly lucky and there are people who've had a much harder time than I have.

But yeah, sometimes it's been hard. A lot harder than I've let on. There've been setbacks along the way. And times when I've wondered if I should just pack it in. But I've always believed you've got to take those knocks if you want to get ahead. If you take a step back every time you get hit, you'll never win, you just end up backed into a corner. I try to remind myself of that whenever life throws me a curve ball.

The further mangle this boxing metaphor, here's something from Warren Zevron:


How do you guys get through those rough patches?

Sep 6, 2012

Red Ribbons Book Launch

Last night I went to a book launch with my wife Jen and our friend Ellen Brickley. It was for Red Ribbons, the debut novel by Louise Phillips.


THE SERIAL KILLER
A missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin Mountains, hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair. Twenty-four hours later, a second schoolgirl is found in a shallow grave – her body identically arranged. The hurt for the killer is on.

THE CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGIST
The police call in criminal psychologist, Kate Pearson, to get inside the mind of the murderer before he strikes again. But the more Kate discovers about the killings, the more it all feels terrifyingly familiar.

THE ACCUSED WOMAN
As the pressure to find the killer intensifies there's one vital connection to be made – Ellie Brady, a woman institutionalised fifteen years earlier for the murder of her daughter Amy. She stopped talking when everybody stopped listening.

But what connects the death of Amy Brady to the murdered schoolgirls? As Kate Pearson, begins to unravel the truth, danger is closer than she knows...



Tell me that doesn't grab you!

Great turnout


It was Ellen who invited us along with her, knowing that I needed to see a proper book launch in person to help me prepare for my own.

Ellen and I, waiting to get our books signed
It was a fun night out, despite the fact I've been battling a bug that's been doing the rounds. We got our copy of the book signed and briefly chatted with Louise and a couple of other guests. I think Jen and I may have to fight it out to see who gets to read it first!

Congratulations to Louise, and wishing you every success.


Sep 4, 2012

Octocon

This will be my first year going to Octocon, Ireland's largest sci-fi and fantasy convention. Every year in October, Octocon plays host to a number of authors and other guests, presenting a series of panels and other events.

This year, I've been invited to attend. I'll be starting off with a reading from Locked Within on the Saturday, just before lunch, and following that by being on a number of panels covering a variety of topics from religion in science fiction to LGTB characters.

I'm really excited about this and hope to see plenty of people there!

Aug 30, 2012

Killing My Darlings

We've all heard it. Kill your darlings. When a line you love is standing in the way of making your book better. The solution is always the same. Kill it. It doesn't matter how much you love that line, if you can lose it and the book doesn't suffer, or would even be better for it, you have to lose it.

Well last week I did this on a scale I never imagined.

Talking with the submissions editor at WiDo, we were looking at how my planned sequel to Locked Within fit with the first book. I had planned for Locked Within to be the first of a 6-book series. However after we discussed the new book and what could be done to improve it, I realised that I was hanging on to this idea of 6 books, and it was holding me back.

I suggested that instead, I could make it a trilogy. Combining elements of my plans for books 2 and 3 into one book, then doing the same for books 5 and 6, spreading ideas from book 4 into each, I could completely transform the story. The unnecessary chaff would be cut. Character development would be more focused and center-stage. The stakes and tension could be higher. I could introduce important characters sooner and avoid sub-plots stagnating. Most importantly, I would now be working on a much more marketable series than something as weighty as a 6-parter.

So I've killed three whole books. The funny thing is how quickly I made the decision. Once I thought of doing it, it felt right, like it was the best choice I could make. I can tell you, a month ago, there's no way I would have thought that cutting out so much potential material would be something I could do, let alone something I felt good about!

So I'm now officially working on the re-write of the second part of my trilogy! Once it's ready I'll query it and we'll see where we go from there.

Aug 28, 2012

Tall Ship Festival

We had a great day out on Saturday. My wife and I went to the Tall Ships Festival in Dublin. The weather was mostly good, just some light bouts of rain here and there which were easy to shelter from.


We've both always loved old tall ships. I think we each have the same childhood memory that created our fascination: The end shot of The Goonies where One-Eyed Willie's ship sales across the horizon. It's one of our favourite movies and still fires our imaginations. Since then, we've been fascinated by sail ships.


I was impressed with how well organised the festival was. There were ushers giving information and police keeping everything safe, as well as plenty of loudspeakers in case a child was lost. Despite how many people were there, it didn't feel crowded at all. Perhaps best of all, there were loads of different stalls selling a wide range of food! We gorged ourselves on German sausage and pulled pork.



We also picked up a proper picnic hamper. It came with proper plates, cutlery, and wine glasses. It even has a cooler section. I can't wait to use it, and it's definitely going to see use on trips out with the twins.


After a while we met up with some friends, got some coffee, then brought people back to ours for pizza and a few drinks.

All in all, it was a really good day.

Aug 24, 2012

Locked Within Cover Reveal

I've got a bonus post this morning. Karen over at WiDo e-mailed me last night to let me know my cover was ready! Check this out:


I swear, I have chills just looking at this. That's my name. On my book. I was about 11 or 12 when I first realised I wanted to be a writer. Twenty years on and I'm literally watching my dream come true piece by piece.

I love this cover. The model fits my description of Nathan Shepherd, and he's got such an "I'm going to kick your ass" look on his face! I absolutely love the cityscape along the bottom, too. I've always been a big fan of photo models used on book covers, and the dark, urban landscape sets the scene perfectly, both with Nathan's face sitting over "his city" and the buildings looming threateningly behind him.

Thank you to everyone at WiDo, and to the cover artist. This is the best birthday present I could have received.

Aug 23, 2012

Birthdays and Tall Ships

A few days ago I turned 32. All in all, it's been a much better birthday time than last year, as those who know me or have been reading my blog since then will know. I've got my book launching in about two and a half months, and my wife is pregnant with twins.

It's been a good year. And I figured I'd do something a little different to celebrate my birthday this year.

The Dublin Tall Ships Festival is on this weekend. The Tall Ship Races are held every year and always feature a town along Ireland's coast. It's been a couple of years since they were last in Dublin and after we missed the last one, my wife and I knew we wouldn't want to miss it again.

This Saturday we're heading into the city to check it out, look at the awesome ships and try food from the stalls. We're meeting people there and then heading back home for some chilling out and possibly boardgames in the evening.

I'm really looking forward to it. Just hope the weather holds up! Expect to see pictures next week.

Aug 21, 2012

4 Steps to Publicising a Book Launch

While I've been preparing for my release date, I've spent a lot of time considering various options for building up awareness of my book and publicity for the launch. Below is the general outline I have for publicising my launch, and some advice from what I've learned or realised so far.

1: Book Launch - The big one. This is the thing every aspiring author dreams of when they send off their first manuscript. Or at least, I did, anyway. Mine is being planned for a couple of days after the release date so I can make sure that the book is available and in stock at the venue. This is a lot of work. I've heard a book launch compared to a wedding in terms of its importance to the host and the dedication involved in pulling one off well. I'd believe that. Already I have to consider catering, whether the venue is allowed to play music (in Ireland any business must have a licence to play copyrighted music on its premises, whether it's on the radio or on an mp3 player), how easy will it be for people to get to, etc. And that's not taking into account little touches like free gifts to give away or things like that.

This is probably the most labour-intensive part of my promotion. And I think that's good. This is the night when I get to celebrate a part of my life which has fora very long time been kept very private. Friends and family will see something that means so much to me in a way I've never shown them before. Opening up like that is an intimidating prospect, but this is something I love. This book is the product of love and years of hard work. I want the people I love to be with me when I get to reveal it.

My advice is to start planning this early. As soon as you've got your release date confirmed. If there are things you can get done before then, like getting friends and family together who can help with various tasks, or working out exactly what you want to have at the party in the way of food or what kind of venue to go for, do it as early as you can. Preparation is key for events like this. After that, get in touch with potential venues. Find names of people who deal specifically with this sort of event and contact them directly. If you have friends or family who can out you in contact with the right people, ask them for help. While events like this are part of your venue's business, building a friendly relationship with them can only help you in the long run and make the whole process much more pleasant.

2: Virtual Book Launch -  I've had enormous support from people I've met through my blog, Twitter and Facebook, as well as from friends who live overseas and who I only get to speak with over the internet. I need to show everyone how much that support has meant to me and I'd feel wrong not marking this occassion in a way that people not able to be at the actual launch can join in. So I'm also having a virtual book launch on the Saturday after the launch party. I'll likely come up with a Twitter hashtag for people to use.

This seems like it'll be deceptively easy to organise, which is why I want to make extra certain I'm prepared. Not only do I need to make sure it's publicised enough, but I may want to look into some kind of incentive like a giveaway or different things to talk about related to the book.

3: Blog Tour - Another daunting exercise. Throughout November, I'm going to be doing a blog tour, which means as soon as I know how many people want to host me, I need to pull out the stops and get posts written or answer interview questions.

The best advice I can give with this one is to make sure you don't overdo it. No-one will be impressed if you crash and burn trying to write 30 mediocre blog posts when you could have written 10 really good ones instead. Quality will always trump quantity when it comes to blogging.

Incidentally, I still have plenty of space left if people want to host me for the tour. Just let me know and I'll take note of your details and get in touch closer to November.

4: Local Awareness - The book launch ties into this, since most of us will be doing all this work to boost local sales long before we're worried about international sales. We will always have better odds of increasing exposure in our own local area than any other. Whether it's because you know the right people, the area is smaller, or there's a community sense of supporting local authors. TV and radio stations, newspapers, school or library groups, all can be informed of your launch and invited along, or you can inquire about having them promote your book with a short spot, accouncement, or even an interview.

The advantage of building local awareness is that it's the best way to build a strong word-of-mouth about your book. If one town creates enough of a buzz, nearby towns will pick up on it, and they may pay attention. Then people from that town talk about you as "that new author from X" so word spreads bit by bit. If you can get yourself onto a popular local talk show, or in a well-circulated newspaper, the word spreads even further.

It's not easy, and a lot of it is down to the right combination of knowing people, timing, and chance. But building that professional relationship with local media is still important, even in today's internet-dominated society. You can never know who will mention your name in the right place at the right time.


So there you go, a rough idea of the kinds of things I'm learning and observing as I work towards my launch. If anyone has anything to add, I'm always eager to learn!

Aug 16, 2012

Blog Tour

With my first book out soon, I want to organise a blog tour to celebrate. I'm thinking of the month of November, writing about topics such as mythology, history, modern legends, and reincarnation.

If anyone would be willing to host me, either for a blog post or an interview, I'd be incredibly grateful and would happily return the favour by having you on my blog as well.

If anyone is interested, let me know in a comment here or send me a private Tweet, Facebook message, or e-mail to pashortt (at) gmail (dot) com.

Edited to add: As of now, I can officially reveal that Locked Within's release date is November 6th!

Aug 14, 2012

Book Launch Preparations

The weekend scouting mission went well. I've got a couple of locations that would be perfect if I can get one of them. A lot of factors have come up while making the initial preparations.

1 - Size: I have a lot of friends and family who would like to come, not to mention inviting others who might also be interested. I've been working an estimate of about 50 or so who should be able to make it. Hopefully more. The venue's got to not only fit all the people I want there, with comfortable room to move, and space for a display, somewhere for a possible music act to go, the caterer, and somewhere to speak from.

2 - Location: The place has got to be central and easy to get to. The Dublin area is quite big and not all of it is easy to reach by public transport. I have to take this into account and make sure I get a place that everyone can get to with relative ease, especially given that most are likely to be coming from work.

3 - Catering: Thankfully I've got a great caterer who I'm meeting with on Friday to discuss options. There's got to be a decent spread. People will be coming from work and I don't want them watching the clock waiting for the party to end so they can get something decent to eat. And wine. There will also be wine.

4 - Entertainment: I'd like there to be some music playing, possibly a brief live act to play two or three songs. I could see about getting some people together and writing a song inspired by the book. So some form of PA options will be needed.

5 - Availability: The big one, right? I'm doing a lot of this work very early because regardless of the actual release date, everything from October to about February in Dublin is busy as hell. Venues book out weeks or even months in advance so the more I have prepared now, the easier it'll be to make sure things go smoothly. I'm very hopeful that either of the places I've got in mind can host me.

Aug 9, 2012

Locked Within Update

It's been a while since I had a proper update on my first novel. I'm thrilled to say that the final version of the book is completed and it has moved on to copy edits. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but I'm hoping for a release in about October/November, all going well.

Every day that passes this starts to feel more and more real and I can't decide if that's exciting or terrifying. For the moment I'm going with both. I've got a lot of work to do for promoting Locked Within so expect to see more posts in the coming weeks.

Locked Within will be out at the start of the real Christmas rush here in Ireland. I don't know exactly how it is in other countries, but in Ireland we have our Christmas products on shelves as early as September, with the real rush to get lights up and stocking up on presents and other neccessities starting in November. This is good because it's the perfect time to get the book into people's Christmas lists.

However, it also means that companies are booking out venues for their office Christmas parties. From about late September places will be advertising their deals for Christmas parties and by November the parties will have started. This makes it crunch time for booking a venue for my launch party. My wife and I are going out to scout some bookstores around Dublin, but we're keeping our eyes open for other suitable locations.

I'm all new to this so it's going to be a learning process. I'm taking help wherever I can find it, so if anyone's got any advice I'd love to hear it!