The Value of Boredom

I don’t love my smartphone. If you were to take it away from me tomorrow I wouldn’t suffer any separation anxiety. When I meet a friend at the pub my phone stays in my pocket. It absolutely does not sit on the table winking at me like some enraged cyclops. Sometimes I go days without checking Facebook. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate my phone. I do. Waiting for a train or bus is no longer a drag with the internet only a click away. Ditto a delayed appointment at the dentist surgery. I have an endless fountain of information and entertainment at my fingertips whenever I want it. Oh yes, my phone is a ruthlessly efficient boredom killing device. Lately though, I’ve been thinking it might be killing something else as well. My daydreams.

I used to daydream a lot when I was a kid. The internet didn’t exist so if I wanted to entertain myself by reading I’d have to open a book. If I wanted to watch a movie I needed a TV or someone to drive me to the cinema. Walkman’s existed so technically I could carry my music with me but they were clunky, obtrusive things with short battery lives. And so I was bored often. And so I daydreamed.

Sunday mass was especially rich for daydreams. As soon as the priest began the opening blessing my thoughts raced off to be somewhere else infinitely less churchy. Certain classes at school had the same effect. Sometimes I could plot an entire story over the course of a single geometry lesson. I would leave the classroom none the wiser about Pythagoras but elated by my flights of fancy.

The older I’ve grown, the busier my life has become – a demanding job, family and friend commitments. These days the quiet spaces in my life are few and far between. Rarely do I have absolutely nothing to do and when those times arrive – opportunities to simply sit and be alone with my thoughts – I keep myself busy. Play Angry Birds, check my twitter feed, update my Facebook status. Anything to avoid boredom.

This might not seem a big deal. Daydreaming is generally frowned upon in our society. Teachers and bosses alike are usually unwilling to accept it as an excuse for lack of productivity. The world tells us it’s better to be bored and busy than idle and dreaming.

Unless you’re a writer. Or someone likewise who values creative thought. In which case the loss of daydreams is a mortifying prospect indeed. For what are daydreams if not the tilling of the fertile soil where inspiration might take seed? The place where stories are born.

I like my smartphone but I don’t love it. Maybe, I should leave it at home more often. Maybe, we all should? Funny Facebook pictures of cats can wait and those Angry Birds aren’t going to get any less angry. Boredom isn’t something to dread. It’s a natural, perhaps necessary, step on the path towards inspiration. And a small price to pay for the chance to dream.

M.J.

So that was 2013

2013 was the best year I’ve ever had.

Claudette in the Shadows was published and while it isn’t as ambitious as either Winter’s Shadow or Winter’s Light it might be the best thing I’ve ever written. There’s a confidence in the writing that I wasn’t able to manage with the previous books. Mainly, because after two books I kind of know what I’m doing. Not that I didn’t before but well…I felt less like I was winging it this time round. Claudette was also the first time I’ve genuinely had fun writing. As dark as the story gets (and it gets pretty dark) I think that sense of play shines through.

The other big writing achievement of 2013 was I finished the first draft of Lune. It’s still a few re-writes away before I can show it to anyone but I’m very excited about it. I feel like I’ve hit my stride with this book but it remains to be seen if anyone else agrees.

I tried to read more this year. It’s hard to know if I did or not without keeping some kind of book diary. Moving forward I might use this blog for that purpose. It wouldn’t hurt to have somewhere to record my thoughts so when it comes to an end of year post like this one I don’t forget anything crucial. Some of my favourite authors published new novels this year but only one of them really satisfied me. I’ve loved all of Joe Hill’s stuff but found NOS4A2 only periodically compelling. Likewise Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane didn’t live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. Both books were perfectly well written but I don’t feel any urge to re-visit them. I tried Clive Barker’s Abarat series and while his peerless imagination is still in evidence, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I miss the Barker of old. Those early Barker books felt dangerous. Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep  on the other hand was a surprisingly great read – surprising only because who would have thought a sequel to The Shining would have worked? King wisely avoided trying to top the spookhouse scares of his horror classic and wrote something more akin to suspense thriller. Like most suspense thrillers the book features ageless energy vampires and telekinetic pre-teens.

Other books I read: Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis and while I didn’t fully understand the book I certainly felt a little smarter for reading it. Or a little more pretentious, I’m not sure? I picked up Tim Winton’s Dirt Music for the second time and promptly put it down again. One of these days I’ll finish it. Thanks to a recommendation by my friend Lee, I read the Kurt Vonnegut novel The Sirens of Titan. If everyone read Kurt Vonnegut the world would be an infinitely better place. The most memorable book I read this year was probably Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. I tried to read it when I was twelve and found it dull. As a thirty-four year-old I was never less than captivated by the story. The benefit of age I suppose. Then again, I tried to read Le Guin’s sequel, The Tombs of Atuan and couldn’t make it past the first couple of chapters. Maybe when I’m fifty I’ll appreciate it.

It was another banner year for TV. Breaking Bad ended on a brilliantly heartbreaking note. Eastbound and Down finished as strongly as it started. Though ostensibly a comedy, it was nearly as dark and an effective a character study as Breaking BadGame of Thrones was predictably awesome as was Mad Men. Girls was still great though I don’t like some of the character choices Len Dunham made – specifically the OCD thing. It felt forced. Under the category ‘Late to the Party’, I discovered The Sopranos. Yes, the world was right. It’s a work of genius. Still haven’t really given The Walking Dead a chance but I will in 2014. Ditto Louie and The Wire. I didn’t watch too many new shows in 2013, but of the ones I did the female prison dramedy Orange is the New Black was the best of them.

The worst hour of TV I watched in 2013 was the re-vamped (pun included) Dracula pilot. Just awful.

 

I have nothing of value to say about music in 2013 simply because I didn’t listen to much. I do like Lorde, though I’m so far out of touch that I don’t know if that makes me cool or impossibly lame? Maybe somewhere in the middle.

I didn’t watch anything at the movies this year that resonated except perhaps for Stoker. Pure cinema. After Man of Steel, I am officially sick to death of superhero movies. Surely, we’re reaching the end of this genre’s popularity?

I changed jobs this year. I took a much more demanding role at a different advertising company. I spent the first four months convinced I would be found out as a fraud and fired. As of this date I am still gainfully employed. Hopefully, this time next year I’ll be able to state that 2014 was the year I was able to quit my day job and become a full-time writer. It’s the dream. 

I opened this post by saying 2013 was the best year I’ve ever had but I admit there isn’t much evidence of this in the preceding paragraphs. A good year? Sure. But the best year ever? Why? 

My son, Bailey.

My son, Bailey.

My son, Bailey James Hearle, was born on the 29th of December 2013. I’m now a dad.

Best. Year. Ever.

 M.J.

Claudette in the Shadows: Chapter Three

And so we come to the third and final video I made. This chapter was particularly tricky because of the variety of voices I had to attempt – not only Claudette, but the Malfaerie, too. It’s hard enough trying to sound like a 19th century teenage girl let alone an immortal soul sucker from another dimension. Still, I tried my best, dear reader, honestly I did.

I’m curious to read your thoughts on this whole video experiment. Whether or not you found the clips entertaining, if they made you more (or less) interested in checking out the story. As I stated in an earlier post, I’m not a natural performer and found it pretty difficult (not to mention embarrassing) but if at least some of you found the video readings worthwhile then I’d definitely do it again.

As a marketing tool, I’m not sure I can attest to their value but something worked. Claudette in the Shadows has performed, and is still performing, very well since the release last week. Of course, the real test will be in the coming weeks to see if it holds onto its position in the book charts. I remain hopeful. It’s a good story, the cover is eye-catching and the price point fair. Coming up to the Halloween season readers are more inclined to search for spooky thrills and I’d like to think my Claudette fits the bill.

Readers need to know about the book though and this is when word of mouth really makes a difference. If you’ve enjoyed the story please share it with your friends on social media. If you have a blog, write a review and shoot me a link. These things really do help. Besides, I’d love to read your thoughts.

Until then, here are the videos in sequential order and below them links to download the readings as mp3 files. And, as always, thank you.

M.J.

Claudette in the Shadows: Chapter One

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Claudette in the Shadows: Chapter Two

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Claudette in the Shadows: Chapter Three

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Download Claudette in the Shadows Today!

It’s been a thrilling week watching Claudette in the Shadows yo yo up and down the iTunes paranormal charts. The highest it reached was number 5, the lowest, 120. Right now it’s sitting at 17. I haven’t received any feedback yet on whether or not the story is being enjoyed, but those numbers suggest at least some of you have already bought it. Thank you. I can’t convey how grateful I am. Writing books for myself is perfectly satisfying, but the real pleasure comes from having others read my work. And hopefully enjoying it.

If you haven’t yet purchased the book from either iTunes or Amazon then today is the day to do it. I know I’ve been harping on about how important it is that we all download the book at roughly the same time to bump it up the sales charts, but it really is. With that in mind, may I suggest a specific time we all aim to download the book?

Noon.

Midnight would probably be more fitting considering the nature of the story but I think noon works as well. Most of us have smartphones these days so this shouldn’t be too problematic. Simply jump on iTunes or Amazon and do a search for Claudette in the Shadows. It’s only $2.99. That’s a pretty decent price I think for a couple of hours of entertainment. Cheaper than a movie ticket anyway.

Here’s the link on iTunes: http://bit.ly/15LnyP8

Here’s the link on Amazon: http://amzn.to/18UeRRa

Oh, and did I mention it was my birthday today?

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M.J.

Tomorrow is the big day

It’s my birthday tomorrow. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a birthday in a very long time. Probably not since I was seven and hoping to get the Castle Greyskull He-Man playset. Like then, my excitement revolves around the thrilling uncertainty of whether or not I’ll be receiving the birthday gift I desire. The gift in question tomorrow is to see Claudette in the Shadows crack the top five on the paid  iTunes books chart. Last night it slipped into the top ten and I was so overjoyed I had trouble getting to sleep. At this time of writing, however the book has fallen back down to the low nineties. Such is the fickle ways of the iTunes ranking system.

If you haven’t seen the youtube videos featuring chapter one and two of Claudette in the Shadows I’ve included them below along with the audio links. I should have Chapter Three up tonight so long as my computer doesn’t expire before it finishes compressing the video file. Now is the time to share these links with your friends and followers and anyone you think might be interested in reading my strange little story.

Thank you to everyone who has already purchased the book. I hope you’re enjoying it. For everyone else, tomorrow morning is the time to download your copy for the low low price of three dollars.

Here is the iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/claudette-in-the-shadows/id711136493?mt=11

And here is the amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Claudette-in-the-Shadows-ebook/dp/B00FAIIHRU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380770372&sr=8-1&keywords=Claudette+in+the+Shadows

If you enjoy the books please consider leaving a review at iTunes or Amazon as these things tend to help with rankings. Or at the very least shoot me a message on Twitter or Facebook. I can’t wait to read your thoughts.

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Claudette in the Shadows: Chapter Two

Yesterday, I uploaded the video of me reading Claudette in the Shadows Chapter One and it was a rousing success. By ‘rousing success’ I mean that nobody has lambasted me too harshly on Twitter, Facebook or this blog. That’s nice. Not that I expected people to be mean, but you never know? It’s a tough old world sometimes. Especially for those of us who open ourselves to public ridicule. I’ve done my fair share of couch potato criticism (you should hear the horrible things I say when I watch Next Top Model) so I was well prepared to take my lumps. Still am.

So far the main criticism I’ve received has been from my wife who complained that I didn’t do the voices of Claudette and Ariman well enough. I can live with that. The truth is if I could accurately sound like a 19th-century sixteen year-old French girl there might be something wrong with me. Or something delightfully right.

And so we come to Chapter Two. Hopefully, your appetites have been wet enough that you’re looking forward to watching this video (or listening to it in iTunes if the mood strikes you). The picture quality is still pretty bad but I think I’m less nervous at this point. As always thank you for taking the time to watch and listen. It’s nice knowing you’re out there.

Here are the audio links (split over two tracks). You can play them by clicking the audio thingy or download the files by right-clicking the hyperlinks.

http://www.mjhearle.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Claudette_Chapter02_Track01.mp3

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And here is the video in all its glitchy glory.

M.J.

October 4th is Download Day

Claudette in the Shadows is available right now. Wherever you are in the world you should be able to jump on iTunes or Amazon and download a copy to your reading device. That could be your smartphone, iPad, Kindle, laptop or desktop computer. All you need is an iTunes account or Amazon account. In Australia, Claudette in the Shadows will set you back $2.99. That’s a little pricier than a Mars bar but infinitely more satisfying as far as treats go. And this book is a treat. A deliciously dark treat I’ve concocted for your reading pleasure.

If you’ve never read my stuff then it’s a pretty good place to start. You could probably finish the story in an hour or so. I know how little time most of us have these days but an hour isn’t too bad. I promise it won’t be wasted. If you do intend to grab the book, and I truly hope you do, than I would ask you to hold off downloading until Friday the 4th of October. The reasons for this are a little arcane but it boils down to online sales lists reflecting the frequency of purchases. That means the more of you download the book at the same time, the higher up the bestseller lists Claudette floats and thus becomes more visible to prospective readers.

For those of you out there who are on the fence but are still waiting patiently for the third Winter novel than buying Claudette in the Shadows will make the likelihood of it happening much sooner rather than later. No, I’m not trying to bribe you. Unfortunately, I need to demonstrate to my publisher that there’s an audience out there for these stories and Claudette selling well will do just that. It’s sad, but that’s the way the business works. I don’t want to see these characters fade away into the ether and I hope neither do you. So let’s work together and see if we can introduce Winter and Blake and Claudette to a wider audience.

If you have a blog, I’d love it if you could find the time to do a review (favourable or otherwise. You know what they say about publicity). Shoot me an email or comment below and I’ll make sure you get a copy. I’m also completely available for guest blogs, interviews, whatever you’d like me to do (short of mowing the lawn. I’m allergic to grass. And hard work).

If you have a facebook or twitter account it would be great if you could give the book a shoutout. On twitter use the hashtags #MJHearle or #Claudette_in_the_Shadows

I’m running a Goodreads giveaway of signed copies of Winter’s Light (Lord knows, I have enough of them) which you’re more than welcome to enter or share via twitter/facebook with your friends and followers. You can find it here.

That’s all I can think of for the moment. If any of you out there have suggestions for promoting the book I’d love to hear them. Strike off in the comments section below.

And, as always, thank you for your faith and support.

M.J.

 

Claudette in the Shadows: Chapter One

This is very difficult for me to do. Some authors are incredibly comfortable reading their work aloud. They have deep mellifluous voices that seduce the listener. They are able to adopt character voices and bring a touch of theatricality to the reading. I am not such an author.

Below I have embedded a clip of me reading Claudette in the Shadows chapter one. Why have I done this if I am so uncomfortable with public performance? Well, firstly I’d like to improve and you know what they say about practice. If I’m in this writing game for the long haul then chances are I will be called upon to read my work aloud from time to time. Stands to reason I should try and get used to it. Secondly, and most importantly, I am desperately eager for Claudette to reach the widest possible audience and if putting a couple of clips up on Youtube of me reading the book attracts more readers, then I am more than happy to risk a little embarrassment. There’s nothing wrong with suffering for your art.

So, here’s a clip of me reading Claudette in the Shadows chapter one. The image quality is a bit glitchy but that’s what you get when you choose cheap equipment (and don’t know how to use it). I’ve also included a link to download an audio file if you’d rather just listen to me without the distraction of my ugly mug. If you like it, please share it with your friends. And be sure to check back tomorrow because I’ll be uploading chapter two.

Listen to the audio of Claudette in the Shadows Chapter One part one here:

Right click to download the file here: Claudette_CH01_Track01

And part two here:

Right click to download the file here: Claudette_CH01_Track02

Or watch the movie below.

The Evolution of a Book Cover Design

I was very pleased with the covers for Winter’s Shadow and Winter’s Light. Many readers and reviewers commented on how beautiful they were. My publisher did a bang up job at creating something that would appeal to the books targeted demographic. If I have a criticism, it would only be that they were a little too generic. Certainly, they weren’t the first paranormal covers to depict a girl against a moody backdrop .

I went out of my way to make sure the stories weren’t just generic paranormals – no vampires or werewolves (shirtless or otherwise) – so felt that maybe the covers should have reflected this. Perhaps sport a design that was a little more idiosyncratic. A little strange. Like the stories themselves. I raised my concerns, but in the end, deferred to my publishers judgement. This was the right decision.

Before I set out to write Claudette in the Shadows I decided I would take a more active role in the eventual marketing. I may have even mocked up some cover concepts before typing the first word. Blame my advertising background for this. In our industry we routinely put chickens before the eggs.

When Momentum agreed to publish the novella, I wrote an email outlining my thoughts on Claudette’s cover – specifically the fact I wanted to design it myself. My publisher, to their credit, told me to have a crack at it.

I started with this sketch.

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_01As you can see, I’m no great artist. I’m definitely more comfortable with words than creating pictures. For one thing, I screwed up the clothing on the figure. A long slinky dress is far too contemporary considering the time period of the story (late 1800′s). However, I think I got the posture right. The attitude in her face and body feels like my Claudette.

After scanning the sketch into the computer I brought it into photoshop to see if I could add some texture. It was important that the cover have a very rough, imperfect aspect to it – partly to cover my lack of artistic ability, and partly because perfect art doesn’t interest me. I like my art to be messy. A technically perfect drawing leaves little room for the imagination to flex its muscles and I like to indulge my imagination whenever I can.

This is what I managed to create in photoshop:

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All that was left was to add a type treatment. Normally, I would have liked to spend some time developing the typography, maybe offer a few examples, unfortunately I was facing a deadline so in the end had to just pick a font and run with it. The name of the font is ‘Nosferatu’ which may have had something to do with my selection.

Here’s the the finished cover layout with the type treatment that I sent to my publisher.

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I added the smoke thingy in the background at the last moment. If I spent a bit more time I might a figured out a way to incorporate it more creatively. Regardless, my publisher was very positive about my design and I left it in their hands to tweak or ignore as they saw fit. Secretly, I figured they’d scrap it and go with something like the other Winter covers. I wouldn’t have blamed them. It definitely would have been a safe marketing decision. You can imagine my delight when I received this in my inbox:

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Does that silhouette look familiar? The publisher’s designer took my initial sketch and created something that I think is fantastic. I love the bold use of red and the art deco influenced typography. It’s certainly going to pop on the iTunes/Amazon/Kobo page and by ‘pop’ I mean jump out and grab you by the throat. No matter what the commercial fate of Claudette in the Shadows I feel a great amount of pride when I look at this cover. It feels right. It feels like me. I hope you like it.

M.J.

  • Claudette in the Shadows (mjhearle.com)

Claudette in the Shadows

On October 4th I will be turning the ripe old age of 34. I’m a good deal grayer, wrinklier and softer round the middle than I was last year. That’s biology for you. Maybe this is why birthdays don’t excite me? What are they but an annual reminder of your bodies deterioration. I guess some people dig being the focus of attention and unwrapping presents. Not me. Well…not usually. You see next Fri I will be receiving a very special birthday present. My novella, Claudette in the Shadows,  will be available internationally on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Kobo through Momentum Books and I can’t help but feel excited. Even with the extra chub, wrinkles and gray hairs.

I think I’ve written a pretty cool book. Winter’s Shadow and Winter’s Light taught me plenty about storytelling and style and I’ve taken everything I’ve learned and poured that knowledge into Claudette. It just might be my thesis on the paranormal genre. Or at least until Winter Book 3 rolls around. There’s romance, mystery, magic, a liberal sprinkling of the supernatural and murder. Claudette Duchamp is most definitely not Winter Adams. She is no innocent naif, no lost lamb in the wild woods. She is the wolf in the dark. The monster in the shadows.

The story begins in Amsterdam on the eve of the 20th century. Claudette and her family have been living under an assumed name to avoid notice of Victor Bonnaire and his villainous Bane. Despite this fugitive existence, Claudette is happy or as happy as any sixteen year old girl can be. She has met a young man named Simon Fontellier and is experiencing the rush of first love. And then the nightmares begin…

Here’s the official blurb to wet your appetite:

Claudette Duchamp was born into a life shadowed by fear. Ever since she can remember her family has been running. Running from a man named Victor Bonnaire and the men in his employ, the Devil’s Bane.

Her family has a secret. One her parents refuse to tell Claudette or her twin brother, Blake. It has something to do with why Victor pursues them. And something to do with her dreams…

For Claudette has begun to feel a strange stirring in her heart. A wildness that is both thrilling and frightening. Soon, she will uncover the truth of her family’s haunted legacy. She will discover the world that lies on the other side of midnight. She will take her place in the shadows and embrace the darkness within.

As readers of the Winter novels may have guessed, Claudette in the Shadows is a prequel to Winter’s Shadow. This means you need not have read the other two books first. In fact, I specifically designed Claudette to serve as a standalone story and hopefully entice new readers to the Winter universe. However, fans of the books will recognise the characters Ariman and Madeleine, not to mention Blake. I suspect the large role he plays in Claudette will come as a welcome surprise to those readers who missed him in the sequel.

Over the coming week, I’ll be blogging more frequently – sharing the book cover along with a few cool things like videos and chapter excerpts so be sure to check back regularly. And please circle October 4th. The best birthday present I can think of would be for Claudette to find her readers. And to share with them her nightmares.

M.J.