Sean Cunningham - Author

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Author: Sean Cunningham (Page 1 of 2)

Servant of Rage by A.Z. Anthony

The Mongol Horde. Warriors armed with rage-powered magic. It’s time for war.

AZ Anthony’s entry into this year’s Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off is Servant of Rage. Set in a fantasy world inspired by Mongol Empire, it follows Subei, hunter for the khan. The heavens open and lightning strikes and Subei hits the cosmic jackpot. The power of the ancestors, magic to make him near-unstoppable – fuelled by a rage that threatens to consume him utterly.

I came to this after reading Conn Iggulden’s mostly non-fictional history of the Mongol Empire. This is a more personal tale of Subei’s struggle with a power that now defines his life, but its set against a familiar backdrop of the conflict between the Mongol-like Ghangerai and the China-like Zhong. Similar to Guy Gavriel Kay, Anthony uses a period from our history to bring a fictional world to life. He does an excellent job capturing the feel of their society and the details of their nomadic existence.

I liked Subei. He has a distinct voice. He’s loyal to his hunter brothers, he does his best, messes up and puts things back together as best he can. I’m curious to see what happens to him next.

SPFBO Book Sale – Books, Many Books, for 99c/p

Fellow SPFBO author and apparently highly organised person Andrea Domanski has marshaled many of this year’s contestants into a sale. About a hundred authors are participating. Until the 5th of August, you can get books, many books, for 99c/99p. Get thee to the sale page, scroll down the list, find a read or three you might enjoy. See how they’re organised by genre? Didn’t I tell you that Andrea is highly organised?

I’m currently reading AZ Anthony’s Servant of Rage. A fantasy world inspired by the Mongol Horde, with rage-powered magic. More on that when I’ve finished it.

The bloggers participating in SPFBO will start publishing their reviews as of this week. I’m looking forward to reading them and I hope my fellow authors all have a great time participating.

Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off

Last week, I entered Ghost Electricity into the fourth Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off.

The idea is simple. Every year, author Mark Lawrence sends out the call for three hundred indie fantasy novels. Ten bloggers – some co-ops, some lone wolves – will spend the better part of a year reviewing and judging them. At the end, one book is crowned the winner and the author is awarded a selfie stick.

I’m not expecting to get far, as it’s more about fantasy than urban fantasy. But so far it’s been a lot of fun. It’s also proven a great way to discover fantasy written by indie authors. You can find the winners and finalists at the above link. I’ve already begun downloading samples and I’m sure you’ll see me post about a few of them here on the blog.

So go take a look. Your next awesome read could be waiting for you there among the contestants.

Shaman, Healer, Heretic by M. Terry Green

What you don’t get a lot in fantasy or urban fantasy, at least in my experience, is a story in which the main character is a healer. Superhuman demon hunter who can shove her fist through a monster’s ribcage? Yes. Snarky warlock who can incinerate all enemies with green fire? Yes, that too. Defenders, protectors – yes. But not often someone who’s priority is to heal.

I played massively multiplayer online games for several years and in the time that I did so, I gravitated towards the healer roles. Some players like to stand toe-to-toe with the giant bellowing ogre and smash it with their swords. Others prefer to stand back and blast away with an assortment of magic and missiles. Me, I liked to keep them all alive while they did so.

So I was interested when I came across the first novel in M. Terry Green’s Techno-Shaman series. Livvy Lawson is a shaman living and working in LA. She scrapes by while travelling into the spirit world to rescue those who are spiritually ill, or who have had a spell of ill intent cast upon them by another shaman. And then someone unleashes an ancient monster from the dawn of time. Livvie, who just wants to help people, has to do something about it.

I didn’t quite connect with it and I had trouble articulating why until I read the author’s notes at the end. The author has made a point of keeping the book young reader-friendly. YA doesn’t really appeal to me and I think this is the main reason I didn’t connect with it more.

I think it’s a well-written book and if the above sounds good to you, you should give it a try. It deserves the good ratings it gets. If you’re looking for an urban fantasy read that veers away from the usual vampires/werewolves etc, take a look at Shaman, Healer, Heretic.

The Mortal Edge – Out Now on Kindle and KU

The Mortal Edge, sequel to Ghost Electricity, is out now on Kindle and KU.

They’re strange beasts, second books. In the beginning of the first book, as the writer you’re discovering the characters and the setting. Then the story takes its grip and on you go. A second book is similar. You already know your characters and your world going in. And so the time comes to expand both.

Rob, Julian, Fiona and Jessica, they each have a lot of history bearing down on them. Rob is unaware of it, Fiona and Jessica seek it, Julian is trying to escape it. They’ll each learn or face more of it in this volume of the Hawthorn House series.

And then there’s Mitch Longfield.

In movies they say the first story is about the hero, while the second story is about the villain. Mitch, a figure from Julian’s past, is clever and resourceful and so very damaged. He accepts no limits in achieving his goals. And that’s too bad for anyone in his path.

I hope you enjoy threading Mitch’s deadly labyrinth with the residents of Hawthorn House.

This also seems an appropriate time to mention a change of series name. My old series name was close enough to that of another series to cause some confusion. As such, I’ve renamed the series to Hawthorn House.

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

I tried flintlock fantasy a while ago and didn’t get into it. But I kept seeing Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names crop up and figured I’d give it one more go.

Now I’m hooked.

The Thousand Names is inspired by the Napoleonic Wars. Rather than the usual swords and castles of high fantasy, the soldiers of the Vordanai Colonials are armed with muskets and sabres, backed by the cannons of an artillery team. And while a great deal of the setting is hinted at in this first novel, we begin on the frontier.

The solid Captain Marcus d’Ivoire just wants to keep himself and his Colonials alive. Winter Ihernglass, a runaway, is trying to survive and keep her identity as a woman secret. When the brilliant and enigmatic Colonel Janus arrives and starts the Colonials on a dangerous journey, he challenges both their worlds.

Marcus and Winter are both great characters and a desire to keep reading about them keeps pulling me through the series – I’m onto the fourth book now and I’m definitely on to the end of the series. But the author also does a great job with Janus, slowly creating questions around him that will keep you hooked.

The first half of the book is almost straight-up historical military fiction. Wexler’s wargaming experience shows here, as his battles are crisply and confidently described. I’ve seen comments that sometimes Wexler goes into a touch too much detail at times, but I personally never found this to be the case. It all lent an air of authenticity to what I found to be exciting battles.

And then the magic creeps in: the Thousand Names. A fascinating magic system, well-realised and clearly described. Wexler keeps it small-scale, but when soldiers armed with muskets and sabres go up against those wielding magic, well, things get hectic.

I’ve been recommending these books all over the place. If military fantasy sounds like it might be your thing, if you’d like to try a setting based on a different period of our history, then try The Thousand Names.

One Month of Ghost Electricity

It’s been a month since Ghost Electricity went live on Amazon. And what a month it’s been.

I kept my expectations low. I know that I’m a brand new, unknown author with no established audience and a lot to learn. I knew it would be quiet in the beginning.

My goal was simply to get readers and reviews. I know that for marketing purposes, a few doors open for you once you’ve got 5 to 8 reviews with a good rating. My hope was to hit that mark by the time The Mortal Edge goes live in April. I was hoping to get a little word of mouth from people who liked the book.

And it’s been a heck of a couple of months at the day job, which meant there was a limit to how much time I could spend pushing the book. Ghost Electricity has, I think, been slightly neglected as a result. I would have liked to do more.

But the response has greatly exceeded my expectations.

The reviews I was hoping for, they were good. Really good. I’m very grateful to the people who took time to review the book on Amazon and Goodreads. Fellow authors reached out to me to offer me encouragement and to spread the word on their social media and in their newsletters. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. It was unexpected and it was a gift. And it gives me a standard of generosity to measure myself by as I continue on.

The feedback hasn’t been 100% positive, of course. You can’t write a book that will please anyone and I am still a rookie. So I’ve gone through a few ups and down, like urban fantasy author Holly Evans describes in her post Battling Self-Doubt and Over-Thinking. I expect there will be plenty more.

But for now, though I have much work ahead of me, I feel pleased with where I am. Thank you to those who read and liked Ghost Electricity. In the last month, you’ve put many a smile on my face.

Seven Things You DON’T Need to Worry About When Starting Your Novel

You’re thinking about writing but you can’t seem to start. You’re afraid to start. How do you kick yourself into action? How do you turn yourself into a war machine of wordy output?

In this post, I’ll walk you through the steps you need to take. Starting from well before you even put your first word on the page, all the way through to typing The End (or To Be Continued).

You doubt you can do it, but you can.

Don’t Worry about Fancy Software

You’re thinking, “The right tool for the right job.” What quill does JK Rowling use, and which shop in Diagon Alley did she buy it from? Where do George R R Martin’s blood-soaked words first come into the world? Maybe you’ve heard about Scrivener, or you Googled writing tools and up came thirty results all promising you that they’re the future all authors will move towards.

It doesn’t matter. Use Microsoft Word. Use Google Docs. Use a notebook from your local stationery store and a ballpoint pen from a cheap pack of ten. Whatever you have to hand. Whatever you’re comfortable writing in. That’s the right one for you.

I started with a ballpoint pen and loose lined A4 paper attached to a clipboard. It’s what I had available. These days I use Word. I tried Scrivener but it tied me to a single computer. With Word I can move between my desktop computer and a Chromebook, where I use Microsoft’s free online version of Word. I wanted the mobility and this setup does the job for me.

Don’t Worry about the Market

You think you need to write what’s in vogue right now. But that can leave you writing about something you’re not interested in. It can make writing a horrible chore. You’ll hate every minute of it.

Not long before writing this post, I read an interview with the people who run Wattpad. They have, in effect, real time data on what their users are searching for. Werewolves are growing in popularity. You could try to ride that werewolf wave.

But if the idea bouncing around in your head is a story about two tech support guys who purge haunted computers of the poltergeists that drive hapless finance departments insane by fiddling with their numbers in Excel spreadsheets, you should write that.

Because your sheer love of your topic will come through in your writing. And your reader will feel that, and enjoy your story too.

Don’t Worry about the Length

A standard novel from a traditional publisher is between 75 and 160 thousand words long. Some genres allow a little longer, or a little shorter, but that’s the general rule. And while readers do expect that length, it’s really just habit.

Because the length of novels has a lot to do with the economies of paper book manufacture. That word-count range is cost-effective for print.

But ebooks can be any length. You could write a 25 thousand word novella, upload it to Amazon and put a price of 99 cents/pence on it. That’s totally okay.

25K words isn’t so hard. If you’re just starting out, it might be a good target.

Don’t Worry about the Opening

You have to hook your reader from the first sentence, you’ve been told. If you don’t get it right, the reader will drop your book at the first full stop. So you don’t start until you have that perfect first sentence. They make lists of the best first sentences in novels. You want to be on that list.

Don’t do that.

Start with a couple of characters and a scene. That’s it. Ideally, have a conflict between the two characters. You might know these characters well or they might just be silhouettes. You might know how the scene plays out. You might find out as you go.

You’re in the discovery phase when you start. You’re learning about your characters, your setting and your story. So start and discover. You can change it later in the editing stage, if it needs it.

For example, when it came time to edit the first draft of Ghost Electricity, I swapped chapters 1 and 2 around, then rewrote the opening from the other character’s point of view. I needed to see it on the page to know it needed doing.

Don’t Sit Down to Write Without Knowing What’s Next

If you sit down at your computer, open up your work in progress and only then ask yourself, “What’s next?” you’re going to struggle.

That ten minutes you spend sitting there wondering what’s next will be awfully disheartening. You will feel like you’ve got nothing to say, like you’re not going to make it at this writing thing, like you’ll never get to the end of your novel.

Instead, at various times during the day, think about what comes next. Remind yourself why your story excites you. Think about it on your commute or while you’re waiting in line for coffee. If all else fails, jump in the shower right before you start writing and think about it then.

That way when you sit down to write, you’ll hit the ground running.

Don’t Talk Yourself Out of It

At some point when writing a novel you’re going to think, “This is crap. I should give up.”

Every writer thinks this somewhere in their novel. Usually a few times. Just keep going. When you come back to it in the editing stage, you’ll probably find it’s not as bad as you feared. The scene your thought was terrible may work. It may need some tweaking. It may need replacement. None of these things is a reason to give up.

Don’t abandon your novel. Keep going.

Don’t Stop Until the End

You will be tempted to go back and fix or change something as you write your first draft. Maybe you changed your mind on a plot point. Maybe you want to drop a minor character.

Don’t do it. Your job when writing the first draft is to get to the end. If you change your mind on anything at all, just pretend you started that way and keep going. Keep that momentum.

Get to the end of the novel. It’s the most important thing you can do when you’re writing your first draft.

Conclusion

Writing a novel takes time. It takes work. It takes commitment. But like many things, it’s just a matter of getting yourself going. If any of the above fears – or all of them – are stopping you, now you know what you can do about it.

So don’t worry. Get writing and find out where your story is going to take you.

Never Mess with a Robot Rhinoceros

Transformers Beast Wars was a show that surprised me.

It was a show for kids. But the writers went to some trouble to ensure can also be enjoyed by adults. With memorable characters, villainous infighting, clever plots and references to the old 80s cartoon that us now-adult Transformers fans could pick up, it was a show that drew me in.

The graphics have not aged so well.

And the episode that got me was Dark Designs, in which the good guy Rhinox is captured and reprogrammed to be a bad guy.

It sounds like a preachy storyline intended to teach children a lesson in loyalty and being true to yourself, doesn’t it? I certainly thought so the first time I saw the start of it. I switched it off. But the second time it came on I gave it a go and it both surprised and delighted me. Because when Rhinox is captured and his friends find out he’s been reprogrammed, they don’t rush in to save him. Their leader, Optimus Primal, decides to wait.

He knows Rhinox. He thinks Megatron’s bitten off more than he can chew this time.

Rhinox’s Holy Chainguns of Primus +50

The series establishes Rhinox as the engineer, short on words and slow to anger. But when he does let his temper show he does so with his two mighty Chainguns of Doom. When Rhinox is reprogrammed into a Predacon, he really does become a Predacon. He decides he wants to be in charge and starts taking out all the others.

He’s become the worst of the lot. He’s being true to his new self.

The episode ends with Megatron himself turning Rhinox back into one of the good guys. If there’s a lesson for children in the episode it’s “Be careful what you wish for” or maybe “Never mess with a robot rhinoceros.” Disney this is not.

Never mess with a robot rhinoceros

When I first heard about Beast Wars my reaction was “What? Optimus Prime is a gorilla? Ugh!” But Beast Wars was inventive and fun and a wonderful return for me to a childhood hobby I hadn’t realised I still loved. The writers of Beast Wars knew I was out there, a twenty-something computer programmer who was still up for some robot mayhem. They were clever enough to make a show the Transformers fan in me could enjoy. I watched all three seasons.

They turned Rhinox into a bad guy and it worked. I wish I’d been there when they thought that one up.

Ghost Electricity – Out Now on Kindle and KU

 

Ghost Electricity is out now as an eBook on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited, with a special new release price of 99c/99p.

Set in modern-day London, Ghost Electricity is a story blending history, fantasy and epic adventure. Julian, a warlock; Rob, a werewolf; Fiona, a girl with a monster in her shadow; Jessica and her automatons – each of them is just looking to make their way in the world. But the world has other ideas. From getting jumped by vampires on the way home from the pub, for these guys “just trying to get by” gradually escalates into a danger that threatens all of London.

I had the idea for these characters for quite a while before I started writing their story. At first they just sat in my head, doing nothing no matter what I came up with. But then my brother, who came over to the UK a year before me, told me that he was planning to move back to Australia permanently. Having a family connection here in England had become important over the years we were here. I knew I’d miss him once he was gone.

And then I had the story: of four isolated young men and women finding each other. While fighting vampires and other monsters that lurk in the dark.

London is rich in inspiration. The lost rivers that were gradually paved over. The shape of the Roman city of Londinium, still visible in the street layout even today. The companies that built the city’s train network, now remembered, if at all, in the names of the different London Underground lines. The Great Fire – did you know it took days to cross the city?

And the story of what the city has done over the millennia with its dead. The plague pits. The church graveyards packed and re-packed with coffins. The Victorian entrepreneurs who built the city’s circle of vast cemeteries. The London Necropolis Railway.

But a story has to be about its characters. Rob and Julian, Fiona and Jessica, they have rich inner lives and intricate backstories. You’ll get to know them more as you turn the pages and I hope the more you learn, the more you’ll want to know. They are each on an important journey of their own. But, like all journeys, it’s better in good company.

Ghost Electricity is the first book in The Hawthorn Chronicles. I have many more adventures planned for the tenants of Hawthorn House. Those adventures begin here. I hope you’ll come along for the journey.

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