‘Grey Skies’ by William Becker- Review

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*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

 

“The crack of the thunder came from the dawning horizon as I dragged her corpse into the shallow hole where she would lie for the rest of eternity. Droplets of rain were beginning to bounce off of the tombstone, spraying against the tatters of the white dress still attached to her decaying grey skin. I had certainly underestimated how difficult it was to dig a proper grave. Unfortunately, the downpour that had begun to spew from the clouds above resulted in a shallow puddle inside of the grave, which turned the walls into mud. 

She was a nun, which went hand in hand with her foulness. On a stormy night in late spring, I was being forced to bury her. All I could remember were vague details about how I had found her and her name, Julie Hagwell. In the back of my mind there were blurry memories of me finding her mangled body resting in the grass outside of the church. Upon discovering the body, I dove into the building, screaming out for help, but everyone had disappeared. Not knowing what else to do, I took a set of bed sheets from inside, and used them to conceal her. I had known her as a friend of my ex-wife, and by the fact that she practically lived at Saint Elizabeth’s Catholic Church. 

Her body had been sliced and cut up with a blade, leaving her covered with deep gashes, the largest of which was on her neck. The woulds were all fresh, sending blood in puddles of rain that covered the lawn. It was clear that someone had murdered her, but who, and why?”

 

GREY SKIES CONTENT ADVISORY:

This story includes frequent swearing, mild blood and gore, body horror, intense imagery, mild sexual imagery, non-sexual nudity, and drug use. (The two bonus stories include the same as well as violence)

Synopsis:

Grey Skies is the novella length story of Roman Toguri and his descent into madness. Discovering the brutally murdered body of a nun in a church yard, he fails at burying the body and decides to take it home – and that is only the beginning of the bizarre events and questionable decisions that befall Roman.

The White Shade is a short story that takes a look at the motivations of a lone shooter, looking at his life before the event and the steps that take him there.

The Black Box is a short story that follows a boy propositioned by a strange man in a limo to cut some grass. Simple right? Maybe not…

 

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Grey Skies at the minute consists of a novella and two bonus short stories. The overall feel of the book is dark and surreal. The imagery is strong but the characters are less so. Plot is not a priority in these stories, it comes on the back foot after grotesque and harrowing images and shocking events.

 

Grey Skies

The first story is the longest and most confusing. It begins with the main character finding a dead nun and deciding to bring her home and if you think that has anything to do with the plot or that you’ll hear about that nun again – you are somehow wrong. Grey Skies describes in first person the descent into madness of a man who is struggling with his own guilt. The descent is not in any way slow, it’s more like a sheer drop off a very tall cliff, glimpses of feral creatures and mutated people in the little caves on the way down but no real explanation of what made him fall. You can piece together the story from reality that the odd events sometimes represent but for a lot of it there is little rhyme or reason to what Roman is experiencing. I think the most frustrating thing is that he seems to at times be aware of his own insanity, and at times not. This leads to absurd events happening and the main character reacting as though it is the only strange thing even after he’s tunneled out of his own bathroom, run from a human-spider hybrid, and inexplicably ended up on a cruise ship? He didn’t go to a cruise ship, he just appears there. I can’t say I enjoyed this story as it was long, random, and just a series of images. I don’t feel I learned anything about Roman’s character really except that he lost his mind – but that’s just not interesting enough to keep me invested in the story. I won’t be reading this again.

 

The White Shade

The first bonus story is the story of a lonely man who decides to take a gun to the store he works at and start shooting. There is an explanation from Becker at the end of the story that he wrote this when he was fourteen and he didn’t release it because he knew the backlash it would get. He states he doesn’t sympathize with mass murderers he just wanted to explore the thinking behind their actions. Unfortunately his qualifiers did not change my feelings about the story and the impression that the story gives stays the same. There isn’t even much of a dive into motivations, the guy seems fine, the isolation he feels is self-inflicted. Even the slights he feels from the people he interacts with could be easily brushed off. So of course he finds videos of the horrific torture of young women and doesn’t really like them, but watches them anyway? The lingering on female mutilation and brutality can’t easily be explained away and though I feel like the motivation was simply to draw shock and disgust from the reader, it felt unnecessary and told me nothing of the main character’s personality. It was too much for me at least, as was the explanation for the character’s own violence.

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The Black Box

The Black Box was again a confusing read. A young boy and his friends start a little lawn mowing business and a mysterious stranger in a limo stops by and asks them to cut his grass. The main characters father drops him off at this random man’s house and he stays there all day working, but when it’s time to get paid, there’s no one in the house to pay him. I don’t want to ruin the story but things go off the rails then, and there’s no explanation for anything. I understand wanting readers to work a little more, not to spoon feed, but there has to be a give and take, there has to be something there for the reader to find.

I would only recommend this to anyone looking for the bizarre and the absurd. It is certainly experimental and definitely stands alone, but you’ll have to work on your own to keep your motivation through these stories. In saying that, the creatures and description of images were great, but they alone do not a story make.

About the author:

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William Becker is an experimental horror fiction writer. His works focus on pushing readers to search for deeper meanings in his unfathomable tales. Writing his first novel ‘Weeping of the Caverns’ when he was just 14 years old, Becker is a self-published psychedelic dark fiction writer. You can find him on Instagram and Goodreads.

Links to Grey Skies – 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

Are you a psychedelic horror fan? Do you prefer some order to a story? Or is the writing more important the actual plot? Let me know down below!

Terminal by Michaelbrent Collings – Review

*Disclaimer* I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The terminal.

An appropriate name for the place, which is a squat, concrete box that hunches just this side of Hell and just the other side of Nowhere.

A Shit County Sheriff’s Dept. squad car sits near the terminal. It does not occupy any of the spots closest to the front door, or even to the small exit that leads to the sheriff’s satellite station in the terminal itself. The sign of an officer who wishes others to have the better placing. Or the sign of an officer who wants to get a few extra steps of exercise. Or, last of all, the sign of an officer who is incompetent and who doesn’t want anyone looking when he sneaks out to take a nap during his “rounds”.

The Watcher notes all this. That is the Watcher’s job.

There are other Watchers, of course, but this one is here now. This Watcher has been charged to take note of these things. To prepare the way for what will come next.

As though bidden – for bidden it was, and is, and shall continue to be – a think fog rolls in. It eats the night as it crawls forward, otherworldly and strange.

That is as it should be. That is as it was designed to be.

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Synopsis –

Ten strangers in a bus terminal. A cop who made a mistake and now drinks to dull the pain of a dead end job. A ticket collector who wants her daughter to have the life she never had. Said daughter hiding a dark secret from her mother. A newlywed couple high on love. A makeup saleswoman on the way to meet someone she’s waited far too long to meet. A tattooed man who just wants to finish his book. An autistic man trying his best to function. A nervous man with lots of bags. A beautiful young woman held in a cell who wants to make it to the big screen. An eclectic group that on the surface seem to be holding themselves in check, bowing to social convention, but a fog is rolling in, a fog that happens to have eyes that see much more than light, and for the group and their rational minds, it’s about to get very dark inside that terminal. It doesn’t take long for threads to be pulled and things to unravel. An anonymous source is demanding a unanimous decision – only one can leave, the rest will die. All in favour?

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Thoughts

I’d first like to say that I read the email requesting to review this while I was standing in a recently renovated airport terminal and as I was reading the unsettling synopsis, the lights began to flicker. Well, I wasn’t about to turn down a sign like that. This did lead to me thinking I was going into a story about planes rather than buses – I may have had to read the first passages a few times to get my mind in the right area, but never let it be said that I don’t adapt quickly.

But after my own induced confusion, Terminal turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. The plot arch may be a familiar one to any horror movie fans – a group of strangers terrorized by faceless evil, being forced to give up their humanity to save themselves – but in no way did I feel bored or uninterested with how it was laid out in Terminal. The characters are deftly handled, each one presented in depth and realistic detail to leave the reader with individuals who you certainly won’t find easy to like, but will find impossible to dismiss. There’s a very human, flawed element to the story that only becomes clearer and clearer with each turn of the page, like travelling into the fog itself. Greed, insecurity, shame, arrogance; you can find all of it in this novel with a healthy dose of blood, mystery, and terror as well.

What makes the story so compelling and really what stretches out the short timeline and the plot that only has one driving force behind it, are the characters. What Collings achieves with the multiple character perspective that he gives the reader a reason to care. He gives you a snippet of each diverse characters background and desires, without saturating the current immediate moment, but just enough that you can see past the surface stereotype that the characters are seeing themselves. Maybe the lazy cop has a spark of energy in him, maybe the crazy in love newly weds are hiding more than just romance up their sleeves, maybe the middle aged saleswoman isn’t just a perfectly powdered face. There are layers to these people that make them real, and make them more than the 2D outlines that a lot of stories fall flat on. Whatever you make of Terminal and it’s story line, the people are frighteningly real.

The ending was an unexpected delight. I gave up trying to figure out who would be left standing with all of the twists and turns thrown at me, and it turned out I had no idea where that left-hook was coming from anyway. I was too caught up in the human elements/stories to see what was being deducted right in front of my eyes. There were twists and elements that were skillfully unraveled about each character, calling everyone’s motives into question. Whoever you choose to root for, whoever you want to be all in favour of, I think you’ll be surprised in the end.

 

I’d recommend this book for anyone looking for a compelling read with rich characters. It hosts a cast of diverse personalities, tells a modern story of isolation in our technologically obsessed world, and will give you heart palpitations the next time you see a fog roll in.

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About the Author

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Michaelbrent Collings is an international bestseller and a multiple Bram Stoker Award Nominee. He writes across multiple genres, including but not limited to, horror, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, and YA. You can find out more about Collings and his work at his website.

 

Links to Buy and Review

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

How do you think you would deal with a vote for death situation? Could you keep your morals? Or do social conventions matter in the end?

‘Screechers’ by Kevin J. Kennedy & Christina Bergling – Review

*Disclaimer* I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

“The brilliant blue flash of the electrical storm lit the old city as the thunder raged overhead. The creature knelt in the shadows, knowing there would be no prey moving around in such conditions. The rain didn’t bother it and neither did the thunder-claps, but the giant electrical spears that sometimes came from the sky and assaulted the buildings raised concern. It had hunted with itsbrothers and sisters for the first years of its life, before returning from a rare solo hunt to watch the jagged spears tear a building apart, sending it crashing to the ground on top of its family. The creature was the only survivor and had been on its own ever since.”

Synopsis

Screechers is a post-apocalyptic fantasy novella with dark elements to it. We’re introduced to the world through the eyes of the last adult ‘Screecher’, a humanoid intelligent predator that strikes out on its own owner to later discover that the last new born of its species has survived. We also meet human twins Austin and Denver and their dependent friend Brooklyn as they strike out from their destroyed community to survive in the hostile landscape they live in. Will either of these groups survive in their new isolation? What happens when inexperienced human meets engineered killing machine?

 

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So, yet AGAIN I did not read the description well enough and AGAIN thought this was a novel and not a novella. That being said, is one of my only complaints. The world is so well set up, the characters so quickly real and three dimensional that I think it’s a shame this isn’t a chunky fantasy novel. While reading it, with the disjointed nature, the bad weather, and the predator species, reminded me of ‘The Shadowleague‘ series from Maggie Furey – always a good thing. I was a little confused as to the era of the story, whether its sometime in the future or a separate universe altogether, but as it is a a short story this doesn’t interrupt the reading experience as it would in a larger novel.

Screechers doesn’t take a deep dive into much, but you can dip your toe into what community means, what makes a family, and the tough decisions that need to made when there are no rules to follow. Bergling and Kennedy work well as co-authors, never feeling like there were conflicting styles in the narrative. I do wish there had been a little more gore/horror involving the humans, there are some great fight scenes sure, but not as much darkness as I’d hoped to see. I still really enjoyed reading Screechers however and would happily read it again.

If you’re a fan of post apocalyptic fantasy and creatures that could disembowel you by accident, you’ll enjoy Screechers and if you like it as much as I did, I’m sure you’ll be checking out the many other works that Kennedy and Bergling have put their name to in the horror genre as well.

About the Authors:

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Kevin J. Kennedy is a Scottish Horror author and editor, and a Bram Stoker Award nominee. You can find him on Twitter and on his website here.

 

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Christina Bergling is a an American horror writer from Colorado. You can find her on Twitter and on her website here.

 

Where to find it:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

Do you want to see more horror in fantasy? Do you have a favourite horror monster? Do you prefer full novels or bitesized novellas to satiate your thirst for darkness?

‘Smitty’s Calling Card (Dark Retribution Book 1)’ by B.R. Stateham – Review

*Disclaimer* I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

“No one could pin anything illegal on this guy. All anyone could say for sure was the guy was an absolute merciless killing machine. He somehow could slip in, silence his victim,  and slip out and no one would know until hours later. And he had connections. Knew everyone who was anyone to be known on the streets. That was the deciding factor. That was single point for him to get this wild idea. Ask Smitty for help. The police department, the entire city, was baffled. Scared. Frozen in indecision. This madman left no traces. He left no evidence behind. He left no DNA material behind. It was like, like he was a ghost who prayed upon those who practiced the oldest profession in the world. No one knew why. 

So maybe it would take a ghost to find a ghost. No one knew why.”

Synopsis

Artie is a police detective tasked with finding and apprehending a local serial killer who has been mutilating sex workers in the area for months. But he knows he can’t find them all by himself, he needs help. So, risking his career and possibly his life, Artie enlists the help of local assassin and ‘boogie man’ of the night, Smitty, a legend among the shadows and a man who will stop at nothing to get the job done. But there’s more to just this mystery than the identity of the killer and Smitty wants to know it all.

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So, I was asked to review this book and as I do normally find some sort of morbid enjoyment from books about serial killers, I thought I’d get something out of it. Turns out I didn’t like it for many reasons, the first being that there are spelling and grammar errors constantly, I mean every other page. I stopped making notes of them because there were just too many, so many that they did sort of become background noise by the middle unfortunately. This book needs another run over by an editor.

 

 

Now onto the real issues with the plot and the writing. Right off the bat I was confused as to why a seasoned detective would enlist the help of some sort of freelance assassin – in some ways a serial killer himself – to help with his search of the killer. It all happened very quickly and without much insight leaving me feeling that the police are wholly incompetent in this story, and that’s not entirely unheard of for crime thriller books, but it was a point that took me out of the narrative. But, this could be seen as nit-picking which would be fair.

“A strong woman. A beautiful woman. A woman of taste and refinement. She didn’t look like a hooker. She looked like a successful business executive.”

Character description is a difficult thing to get right but a good general rule is that you only need to describe someone once. The reader then knows what they look like, they keep this in their mind, and their imagination embellishes when needed. If you are fully describing a character every time they walk in like it’s the first time they are introduced, your reader will die of boredom. They will skip forward to when you stop drooling over Charlene’s ‘divine breasts‘ because we know what she looks like and it doesn’t further the plot.

“The same raw sexual attraction which attracted men to them like freshly spilled molasses attracted ants to a picnic.”

 

The basics of the plot are fine, not revolutionary or unique, but fine, which means the story should really be in the execution and handling of the plot. Unfortunately for Smitty’s Calling Card, the cliches are abundant and repetitive. Yet another serial killer cleaning the ‘whores’ off the streets? A man with a caged animal inside that he struggles to control? High class prostitutes who are unimaginably beautiful, classy, confident, and sexy who need a whole host of men looking out for them to keep them safe because they are such fragile creatures? We’ve seen all this before and quite frankly I was bored with it before the novel even began. Stateham spends so much time making the character of Charlene so irresistible and interesting, switching from the P.O.V. of all the men to look at her, but he never gets inside her head to let the reader see what she is really thinking which is insane when you think that she is the driving force of the entire plot.

 

 

Very Important Things you need to know:

Smitty has dark eyes. His eyes are dark. He is a dark eyed killer. Why does he kill? No reason whatsoever, that’s what makes him interesting apparently. With absolutely no backstory he can kill six of the best assassins in the world with just a pen knife and multiple people report that he is a ghost and no one has ever seen him even though he is constantly wandering around town shooting people. Everyone reports that he is faceless, yet he has no qualms showing everyone his face either, so by the end of this book, he isn’t that mysterious anymore is he?

“Beautiful simply did not describe Charlene Hicks. Words would always fail trying to do so. […] Making her one of the most dangerous creatures he had ever encountered.”

Charlene is beautiful. She has divine breasts. She seems to be telepathic at times and despite being a full time medical student and sex worker, never seems tired, irritated, or aware of a murderer disemboweling her closest friends. Did I mention she is an angelic creature whose hips sway with a ‘girlish confidence’ that makes men weak at the knees? Even nuns stop to stare at her in the street – (That is an actual point made in the book).

 

If you are looking for a formulaic serial killer mystery thriller then give this one a go, but don’t expect much from this book. The characters are paper thin, the misogyny is rampant, and the idea that a group of female sex workers would have no reaction or agency whatsoever in the continuous murder of their peers, is frankly disturbing. Smitty’s Calling Card does not pass the Sexy Lamp Test, in my opinion. I think the Author has some skill and if he could only engage more with realistic characters outside his line of experience, he could write a really good book. But this book wasn’t written for women, or with women in mind.

 

About the Author – 

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B. R. Stateham is crime fiction writer hailing from America. You can find him on Amazon, Goodreads, and Twitter.

 

Links to Buy

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

‘Sour Candy’ by Kealan Patrick Burke – Review

*I bought this book of my own volition because the cover looked cool and I want to read more Irish horror*

 

Remembering his first and only encounter with the woman prior to the accident summoned once ore dear for the well being of the child and he looked past the woman to the young man by the car, who looked back at him and gave a shrug and a single shake of his head. 

No kid here, buddy. 

Phil swallowed and looked up into the terrible face of the wounded woman as she loomed over him. He was too weak to defend himself, too dazed to understand all that had happened in the past few minutes, and was happening still. Somewhere along the line his life had jumped the tracks and he had found himself in a nightmare, and like the worst kind of nightmare, he could not move, the people around him too busy chatting, redirecting traffic, or filming the scene with their iPhone to realize the very real and possibly dangerous drama taking place on the edge of it. 

The woman looked down at him. This close he could see that the side of her face was swelling, darkening, and her lower lip had split almost down to the cleft in her chin, exposing the dots of blood on her gums. Nausea rose in her chest and he prayed he wouldn’t vomit, for surely the violence of her response would further aggravate his own injuries. 

“Don’t,” was all the self-defense he could muster. 

“Yours now,” the woman said.

 

Synopsis

Phil Pendleton is in Walmart buying some candy for his girlfriend. There’s an irritating child and an exhausted mother getting on his nerves so he leaves… and they follow. Soon, Phil finds that he has no girlfriend, a child that isn’t his though no one will believe him, and a new diet that consists entirely of sour candy. Phil has to decide whether he should accept this new bizarre and forced fatherhood, or figure out who or what this child is, and how to get his old life back.

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So the first thing you need to know about this book is that it is a tiny book. Maybe I didn’t read the description properly when I was buying it but I assumed it was a full sized novel, but it is actually a slim novella, clocking in at just seventy-four pages long.

 

Once I got over that however, I found the initial diving into the story to be irresistible. I’m a sucker for catchy taglines and as you can see in the picture above, ‘Four months to the day he first encountered the boy at Walmart, the last of Phil Pendleton’s teeth fell out.’, hooked me immediately. Not to mention the great cover design – it may seem disjointed between a skull and the name ‘Sour Candy’, however it works and gives the book a dark and gritty look.

 

Instantly I was made uncomfortable as soon as the child showed up. The anxiety was instant and ever increasing as myself and Phil realised that his new reality was not something he could simply explain his way out of. ‘Sour Candy’ is a story of altered reality, terrifying and creepy children, and the horror of an all sugar diet. It’s short, sour, and will stay with you long after you’ve closed those pages. It was a story that sounded unique to me, I’d never heard the like of it before and that’s why I bought it. I wanted to try out Burke’s writing and this one grabbed me fully, my money pretty much walking out of my pocket itself.

I found the story to be well paced and enthralling, a little strange and bizarre however Burke works the story well, keeping the surrealism to a minimum for most of the novella but packing a punch with the reveal of what is really happening. Now, the ‘creatures’ that exact their torture on Phil aren’t fully explained so there are a few questions to roll around your skull once you’ve finished the story, but I didn’t feel cheated out of an answer, it much better suits the story keep the mystery intact. ‘Sour Candy’ is an unsettling story that would easily slot into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I can say honestly that I would be happy to purchase another one of Burke’s books in the future.

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I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Sour Candy’ as an anxiety inducing nightmare of the worst proportions. Being stuck with an inter-dimensional child to look after and having no evidence to show they aren’t mine, all with that horrific fuzzy teeth feeling that too much sugar gives you, hits me right where it hurts. Burke manages to keep you enthralled in the story, throwing you right in the deep end with Phil and his inevitable and inescapable new reality. It is a short, sharp read that leaves you feeling incredibly relieved that you are not in fact Phil. An uncomfortable story of insidious and unstoppable creatures outside our realm of imagination. This novella will make you uncomfortable, nauseous, and even claustrophobic. I do recommend.

 

About the Author – 

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Kealan Patrick Burke is an Irish author currently living in Ohio, America. He has many acclaimed works and in 2004 was awarded a Bram Stoker for his novella The Turtle Boy. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Links to Buy:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

Have you been infested by a parasitic child that isn’t yours? Have your teeth fallen out due to excessive sour sweet consumption? Do you know how to get sugar out of the pages of a novella? Let me know down below!

 

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact! And don’t forget to follow for more reviews and musings on writing. 

Beginner Tips for Bookstagram -Features, Followers, and What to Post

A lot of writers have had agents suggesting that they create an author account to market their work and some have been apprehensive. More accounts to keep on top of? More algorithms and rules to follow? Or could it be where your real audience is? Instagram is a great platform for sharing pictures and connecting with an audience in more than a limited character tweet, more than the random algorithm timelines of Facebook, and with much less time and effort than making YouTube videos. But like any social media you choose to put your valuable time into, it takes effort and willingness to ‘make it work’. Learning a new social media is like learning a new language – what are the features, what works and what doesn’t, how does it differ from other platforms? And having one that is an extension of your writing or business is different to having a personal account. Here are some tips and break downs to getting started on Bookstagram and see whether it’s an effort you are willing to make.

 

What is Bookstagram?

Bookstagram is the name given to Instagram accounts that center mainly around books and writing. These can be accounts from readers, reviewers, bloggers, writers and even people who are just great at taking pictures. These accounts are linked through hashstags and can be entirely based on one subject or whatever takes the persons fancy. My account is a mixture of my writing, reading, blogging, and some personal stuff – mainly pictures of dogs.

 

Why have an author/writing account

Bookstagram is for anyone who loves books, funnily enough. If you are a reader you’ll find places to discuss books and get recommendations, if you are a writer you’ll find all the readers, reviewers, and beta-readers you can handle. Instagram is a great way to get your book out there and in people’s minds. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve bought from seeing them reviewed or even just being read on Instagram posts. Covers do sell books and if you can get that cover in someone’s head – the right someone – they will buy it. Not being a published author (yet!) I use my own account to share my books reviews and blog posts, pictures of my latest reads, snaps of book launches and events I go to, and parts of my own writing process – anything book or writing related.

 

What makes Instagram different?

If you are familiar with Facebook already, you are off to a good start. The ‘story’ option on Facebook was actually taken from Instagram when they bought the app, but it’s far more popular on Instagram. Other than that, the main aim of Instagram is the sharing of pictures. There are some features of the app that confused me at first but don’t have to be the huge obstacles they seem.

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-No Links- You may have noticed that you can’t post links on Instagram. This is because they want to do everything they can to keep you on the app as long as possible. Similarly on Facebook if you put a link in a post, that post will reach significantly less followers and explains why so many people write posts about something they want to link to and  add (LINK IN COMMENTS BELOW) If they didn’t do this, no one would see it in the first place. On Instagram you can’t even add links to comments, you can however, have links in your profile description eg. (LINK IN BIO)

-Caption Formatting- It took me a while to stop being annoyed at the run on lines of Instagram post captions. It wasn’t until someone suggested first writing the comments in my notes app and then copying it over to Instagram. This ensures your post makes sense and doesn’t hurt to read. And on the subject of captions, it seems to be that longer is better. It seems counter productive as we all hate endless Facebook posts, but with a well written long caption people seem more likely to interact.

-Reposting- It confused me in the beginning that you couldn’t share from other people’s accounts, but it turns out you can! You just need another app. The one I use is called ‘Repost‘ and the instructions are simple. It’s an easy way to take part in sharing competitions and follow loops as well, linking back to the original poster. Slightly more complicated than other sites, but not impossible to get the hang of.

 

How to gain followers?

Just like any other platform, followers is something you either care about or you don’t. There’s plenty of tips out there about cheating algorithms and whatnot to get more followers, but I’ve found that these are mostly just incredibly time consuming and fruitless – you don’t want any followers, you want followers that will stay. You can also ignore all the emails telling you if you pay someone twenty quid they can get you ‘real’ followers, it’s not going to work and you will lose your money. Gaining followers is all about attracting the right people, and you do that by putting out the face you want people to see and following accounts that closely resemble yours or use the same hashtags as your account.

But, for those who do want to gain some traction with followers, interaction and regular posting is the best way to go. I’ve had my Instagram for just over a year now and I’m currently at 550 followers. It’s not the thousands I could have had if I spent more time on it, but I’m pretty happy with the ones I do have. If you make your account a business one, you get access to ‘Insights’ that can tell you when, where, and who are liking your posts. I’m sure this will interest some people, but I tend not to look at them too much these days. The golden rules are follow back accounts you like, always reply to comments, and support and share other writers and readers in your circle.

 

What to post?

Post whatever is authentically you. Of course there’s always some sense of performance online but it’s up to you how much performance goes into your profile.

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It may seem like a great idea to post about your book and get it out there, but people follow authors for more than just ads, in fact ads will actually put a lot of followers off, even if they are fans of your work. You need to decide in your description what you want your page to be and for the most part, stick to that. If you want to present as more than an author, pick one or two things in your description and give regular updates on those things. There’s some debate on whether posting on too many separate subjects can make your profile look messy and put followers off, while others say that accounts who post identical pictures with the same filter on each one become too repetitive. Nothing should ever be identical in my opinion, but being too scattered and all over the place can also be a mistake. Curating the right image for you is something that may take a little time at the beginning, but is worth some thought. And no matter how private you want to make it, one or two pictures that include your face help followers to connect better with who they are following.

 

Pictures

Instagram is, for better or worse, about great pictures and aesthetic. You don’t need to be a photographer or have fancy equipment – any smart phone will do – but there are also plenty of apps outside of Instagram’s own filters that can help if you need it. Canva is a great app to create promotional material for all social media sites and can give you a professional look with no editing skills needed. With some research you can also find plenty of apps that help with personalized filters as well if you want to create your own unique aesthetic.

A major fail for pictures is blurriness, nothing hurts the eyes more, its worse than bad composition or terrible lighting even. Always make sure that whatever you take a picture of, make sure it is in focus.

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At the end of the day it is up to you how you choose to market your book, blog, or writing. It may seem like a good idea to set up something on every platform but with this you run the risk of spending so much time on social media, you never get any actual work done. Authenticity is what ‘sells’ the most and nothing is more obvious and off putting than someone who clearly dislikes or doesn’t enjoy what they are doing. For some people it’s better to have no online presence at all rather than a negative one. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.

 

 

Choosing Not to Write – Why *Stressful* Procrastination Can Kill Your Writing

Procrastination

Most people have issues with procrastination in one or more areas of their life, some (me) more than others. And in the year of our Lord 2019 there is an unlimited supply of things to distract ourselves with, each one designed to keep our attention at all costs. So, for writers and artists of all kinds, how can we avoid procrastination and get our work done? Especially since more and more of us are doing it after our usual 9-5 jobs, right when your brain is telling you that you need to relax and take a break. What if we chose to procrastinate and feed our creative minds, rather than passively accepting it and punishing ourselves for it?

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I have so many notebooks I really wish I could read my own handwriting.

First, let me tell you a little story. I’ve been writing a novel for, oh, I don’t know, a million years now, and last year just before Christmas I finished my first full draft. I won’t go into exactly how I did this, though I will say I was working a very slow job at the time and was able to write at least a few hundred words every single day at work. My family are from the middle of nowhere Donegal – no internet, no phone service – and I always go up for Christmas so I figured I would get a whole lot of writing done. This time, that did not happen. My sister got internet for the first time ever and seemed to have unlimited movies on her television, so I literally watched 9 hours of movies a day, and I loved it. I don’t think I wrote or edited a single word while I was there, and I made a conscious decision not to write. I’d spent the previous few months hammering out a word count and felt like I needed a break and deserved one.

When I came back to Dublin I was focused more on my burlesque dancing and performing, getting back into singing, and supporting other artists, so editing a second draft fell by the wayside for a while. I’m sure we’ve all heard the tip that you should put your draft away for a while before coming back to it and I definitely did that and did so much better coming back with a fresh mind to edit it for querying. I’m doing that at the moment, but my time spent resting my writing mind taught me so much about how I had been sending my time previously, how much I guilted myself and punished myself for going to the cinema or taking a night off to see a friend. I realised that I’d gone back to my Leaving Cert. days where just sitting down to watch the Simpsons when I knew I should be studying gave me heart palpitation – and I didn’t really give a rats ass about the LC. Procrastination is often, though not always, a sign of underlying anxiety, something I do struggle with, a fear of failing so you don’t even start or leave everything to the last minute. But these days there’s so much more than that, so much more to distract us it’s almost impossible to stay focused on the things we really care about and thus end up feeling like we are failing, even though everything around us is designed to grab and keep our attention. We are living in a world designed to make us passive. 

 

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Why We Can’t Relax Anymore

We are all constantly on our phones, there’s no two ways about it. Even if you profess to hate social media like a lot of the people I follow on Twitter seem to think, you’re still on there, scrolling and like, comparing and judging, and it just isn’t healthy. Most of what we see also isn’t realistic. Think about it, if you follow loads of people but they only post when they’ve done something cool or a product to sell it looks like everyone is constantly doing more than you are and we all think like that! We can’t relax because we can see how much other people are doing with the same time and resources and we feel like we’re wasting our lives because we aren’t building businesses, or ‘brands’, or volunteering, or travelling. To sit and do nothing but scroll is to sit and do nothing but stress. Here’s an article from Moodpath that delves deeper into this.

And even when we aren’t on social media, we are all accessible, ALL the time. Anyone else have family who look their collective shit if you don’t answer the phone immediately? I’ve been trying for a long time to figure out how we made plans and kept them before mobiles and I honestly can’t remember. We are never actually alone anymore, and as an introvert, that sucks.

Our fear of missing out leads us to constantly pick up that phone, even when we don’t want to, even when it makes us feel bad, EVEN when we have a project that we are passionate about and want to finish – it’s so hard to stay focused. Eve calling it a project feels somewhat wrong when you’re motivation is coming from the heart, it’s so mechanical. I feel like this is also the reason why I can’t read like I used to. Even in college I could finish books no problem, but since I started using smart phones, I find it very hard to make it through a single chapter even without checking Twitter, which is insane! I even procrastinate procrastinating by watching a movie, then ignoring it and scrolling through Instagram. We can’t relax because there’s always more content to consume, always more to catch up on, ALWAYS more ‘hustling’ to do. No wonder we’re tired all the time.

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The Weight of Guilt

Do you ever sit down to watch a movie or tv show and feel guilty? Does scrolling through your list on Netflix make you feel like you are a failure? You are not the only one.

I have only recently been talking to friends about how we used to LOVE getting to the weekend because you got to just do nothing at all. Absolutely nothing. Can you remember the last time you did that and it wasn’t linked to depression? I feel like these days the only time I do nothing is when I am so overwhelmed I just can’t, instead of purposefully doing nothing and enjoying the freedom of not having a to-do list, not having a schedule, and not feeling like I’ve failed when I don’t get things done. These days, weekends are for doing the things you can’t do during the week, or for some of us, to work on what we really want to do outside of the job we need to pay the bills. For me, Saturdays are for running errands and cleaning things, Sundays are for classes I’ve scheduled, updating social medias and this blog. Every spare minute of every week day is for writing, including lunch at work. I have to schedule in time TO DO NOTHING like it’s a real chore or something, and isn’t that weird?

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Our Self Worth is Tied to Productivity

I believe, and there seem to be some studies that show that people in general these days, are more anxious than previous generations. Obviously there are different types of stress and anxiety, there are different things that make our lives easier and possibly make them worse, but our constant access to everyone around us and to so many types of ‘product’, ie videos, podcasts, photography, music, books, art etc. that other people are making, it shows us that we can do those things to. This can inspire, but it can also crush your soul. Yeah you could have all that too, but you aren’t doing anything to get it. I could have written multiple books and worked hard to get them published by now, but I haven’t. I’ve wasted my time right?

No, just because you aren’t constantly being ‘productive’ it doesn’t mean you are failing. Everything you do when it comes to art is a choice, most of the time there is no one pushing us, no hearts to break if you don’t pant that picture or finish that story, we have put the pressure on ourselves and that is why it’s hard to get things done, because we are the ‘Boss’. Artists of all kinds these days are struggling to keep up with the constant demand for new content and few spend the time that they should creating something that is whole and finished. It takes so much time to write a book, or create a show, or an album, but we demand more stuff, more often. Binge culture is feeding into this and the pressure to get something out as quickly as possible is killing so much creativity.

Blindboy Boatclub from the Irish comedy duo ‘The Rubber Bandits’, has a podcast about art and mental health, and in it he points out that we need conscious relaxation to take in other people’s art in order for your sub-conscious to later create its own art. We are all filters of the world around us and the art and experiences that we consume and have. If we never watched movies, read books, listened to music, put blinkers on and only wrote our own stuff, we would never get the fuel for further art. Eventually our inspiration would run out and we would again feel like failures.

 

Coming Back After a Break

When I came back from my intentional break, did I have anxiety about writing? Of course I did! I freaked out for a bit, thought maybe I’d forgotten how to do it, had fallen out of whatever semblance of a routine I’d made for myself, but I definitely don’t regret taking that break. I watched all the movies I’d been missing because I felt like I wasn’t allowed to do anything but write for so long. I had basically been punishing myself, and though this worked sometimes, more often than not it just wreaked havoc on my mental health and made me feel like a failure no matter what.

And you know what’s really irritating? Constantly complaining that you aren’t writing, or you haven’t written enough. Your friends and family will get real tired of that, real quick, even if they don’t want to admit it.

If you are going to procrastinate and watch Youtube videos or listen to podcasts, or hel make bracelets out of coke can tabs (yes I do this), do it on purpose. Do it consciously. Focus on the things that you are using to distract yourself. Get rid of the stress, get rid of the pressure to get back to writing. Now, when I sit down to watch movies or read books I’ve bought, I focus solely on that one thing, put my own book aside and know that I will get back to it. I know that what I take from the experience of that other piece of art will feed back into mine, maybe even plug up a few plot holes, or teach me how to set a scene better.

 

Do you have a problem with procrastination? Do you feel guilty or anxious when you aren’t writing? Let me know down below.