Category Archives: Writing
4 years ago, on the 28th April 2012, I self published my first book, Crimes Against Magic. I sold 28 copies opening day. I was thrilled.
4 years later, and after leaving the self-publishing world for the traditional a few years ago, I’ve had 5 books published, been in the top 10 best-selling books on Amazon US, and and have just handed the 6th in to my publisher after the second round of edits.
I actually only remembered the milestone of 4 years ago, because my wife reminded me. Otherwise I doubt I’d have remembered at all, and not because it wasn’t important, or anything like that, but simply because so much has happened since then.
I’ve had a more traditional publisher for the last 2 ½ years, after 47North asked if they could re-publish the first 2 books and work with me on wherever the Hellequin Chronicles went. I said yes pretty quickly. As much as self publishing was very rewarding, and I’d done well enough through it, it’s also a colossal amount of extra work. Work where otherwise I could be writing another book. I’ve had a great time working with everyone there, and may that continue to be the case.
So, that’s all up to now. 4 years as an author, and about 4 months of that as a full-time author. So, what’s next?
Well, this is going to be a bit of a list, and not everything here will happen within any kind of timeframe that I actually have, but it gives you a rough idea of what I’m working on.
- Promise of Wrath (Hellequin 6). This is the one people are asking me about, and I still don’t have a release date, sorry. I still have copy edits, line edits, and probably something else I’m forgetting, to get through first.
- A new book with new characters and nothing to do with Hellequin. It’s coming along nicely.
- Epic Fantasy book: I plan to start this after Divided. I plan on finishing it too. Best laid plans and all that.
- Warbringer: The big epic sci-fi I was working on needs a lot of work, so I have no idea when it’ll be finished. I promise my agent it will be finished though. Promise.
Both 3 and 4 here, don’t have publishers, so that work gets put behind the stuff that does. Oh, and I forgot book 7 of Hellequin. Gotta write that too.
So, after 4 years of being published, I’m busier than I’ve ever been. Bloodborne remains unfinished, and books remain unread.
Hi, how’s things? I’m sorry to say, but this is going to be a bit of a rant.
You may not know this about me, but despite the fact that my main Hellequin books aren’t self-published anymore, Crimes Against Magic originally started that way. In fact, I’m still self published with my novella.
I know it’s hard work, and getting your name out there is difficult. I know it’s not just about hard work, and long hours, but there’s a lot of luck involved too. On top of actually writing the book, you have to juggle a whole of other stuff lot. But here’s something you should know, and it’s important.
A good one. One you have to pay for, not Bob who works in accounting. Get someone who knows their shit. And if you have a friend who is an editor, then awesome, but otherwise find someone. Pay them. An author needs an editor like everyone needs water: You can manage without for a while, but eventually it’s going to catch up to you and the you’re ballsed. It’s not the best analogy, but it’s been a long day and it’s as good as you’re going to get.
I love seeing people succeed in something they love doing. It’s awesome. But to succeed you need to do it right. So, when you’ve got your awesome cover, and the story is great, and you’re really happy with it. Think to yourself, did I get this professionally edited? If the answer is anything but, “yes, of course I bloody well did” it’s the wrong answer.
Now, I’m not talking to all self-published authors, and hopefully this won’t result in a deluge of pissed off people all thinking I mean them, because the likelihood is, I don’t. There are tons of brilliant self-published works. Right now, I’m reading a self-published work, and it’s fantastic. Because apart from having an awesome cover, and a good story, it’s edited. Professionally edited.
For those of you who this is about, who I am talking to. I really can’t stress how important it is to get your work edited. Yes it costs money, but if you don’t, I can pretty much guarantee you’re not going to be selling a huge amount. And if you were serious enough about writing the book in the first place, be serious enough to act like a professional.
I figured today is probably the time to tell everyone about what I’ll be doing now that my entire working life will centre around writing. That and drinking.
First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me over the years, who have purchased and enjoyed my books, who tell their friends and family, who e-mail or message me to say how much the enjoy the books and Nate’s adventures. You’re all awesome and I wouldn’t be able to write full-time without your support. Thank you.
Now, on to what I have coming up. I have several projects I plan to get to in the next 12 months, but as I have a contract for 2 of them, I’ll get to them first.
Hellequin Chronicles Book 6 has a title: Promise of Wrath
And the second book I’ll be writing next year is the first in a new series (it’s set in the Hellequin Universe, but has nothing to do with those books). The book is called: Divided.
I also got a few other things to work on. Basically I’m going to be very busy. Which means I won’t be able to say, “sod it,” and go play Fallout 4. At least not too often.
So, this is it. This is my last day of full-time employment. As of 3pm this evening, I am a full-time author. To be fair, it’s about time, trying to write full-time and working full-time isn’t good long-term.
I’ve worked at Siemens, doing Data Analysis, for 11 ½ years. During that time, I’ve met some incredible people who made coming to work worthwhile. I’ve also met some of the worst people I’ve ever had the displeasure to encounter. But they can fuck off, as I’ll never have to see them ever again.
For the last 3 ½ years I’ve been working at Siemens and being also being a published author, and being able to write full-time is something I’ve dreamed of since I was about 12 years old.
After 3pm this evening, I’m done. I’ve brought in enough cake that I think it quantifies as a ‘shit load’, and I’m going to see Star Wars this evening with my wife and daughter. Then I have a weekend off, before I’m going to be getting on with the business of writing.
So, thank you to all of those people who made coming to work worthwhile and entertaining. To everyone who was a pleasure to work with, who was a friend, thank you for the support you gave me when I started writing, and continue to give me now.
I’m not going to miss my job. I’m going to be doing something most people never get to do. I’m going to be doing my dream job. I’m going to be writing stories. Personally I can’t think of anything better to do for a living.
Because I’m a terrible person, I completely forgot about a question I was asked on Twitter over a month ago. So, to Jack, I’m very sorry.
I figured there’s no time like the present. Jack’s question was about starting to write. Now the following tips will work for me, and they might work for you, but don’t take them as gospel. Each person needs to find their own way of writing, and what works for me might not work for you.
With that said, here are my tips for getting started (for this list, I’m going to assume people already have their story idea and characters, because that’s a whole separate list).
Have An Outline
I know some people don’t like to have a plot worked out before they start writing, they like to wing it. These people are crazy. I’ve done it myself, I’ve sat down with only a barebones idea and started writing, and for me it just means everything takes five times longer to finish.
From about book 3, I realised I need to have an idea of where I’m going. I like to know what I’m going to be doing that particular session of writing. So, I have an outline of the chapter, or chapters, that I’ll be working on.
The outline isn’t overly deep, mostly because I tend to add or remove things as needed, but it gives me something to get started with. I see it sort of like a sandbox Videogame. If someone hands me a game and says, “This is a sandbox game. You can do anything you like.” I’m more likely to just run around and see what I can break, or if I can get that car to jump off that ramp I saw twenty minutes ago. I’m unfocused. But if someone hands me the same game and says, “This is a sandbox game. But here are the story missions.” I’m more likely to at least have a plan what I’m going to do. I might run around blowing stuff up for half hour, but I have an end goal.
I find it similar with writing. My outline for work gives me enough to get on with (usually how the chapter will end, start and anything major that needs to happen), but how I get from the beginning to the end is entirely up to my own imagination.
I know it sounds obvious, but wherever it is you’re going to be writing, make sure you’re comfortable. Make sure you have a drink or some snacks (if needed), because you don’t want to have to get up and leave to get a drink when you’re in the middle of something important.
Personally, I can’t listen to music with words while I’m writing. So, I use soundtracks. I have a collection of movie and videogame soundtracks that I put on when starting, something to get me into the mood of what I’m working on. So, for action scenes, I use the Dredd soundtrack, or Mass Effect. Something like that. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes I just want quiet, but I find music can help set the scene.
Let Yourself Start
At some point, you just have to get on with it. The hardest bit of starting is the start. Yes, I know that isn’t helpful, but it’s true. Get over that first sentence, or paragraph and you’ll have a much easier time of it. And you’re never going to get over it, if you don’t sit down and actually start writing. It might be awful, it might be the shittiest writing ever committed to page, it doesn’t matter, because it’s something. It’s something to get those creative thoughts flowing, and it’s something to build on.
STAY AWAY FROM THE INTERNET
Seriously, if you’re going to try writing, going online, “just to check something,” is not going to help you. There are programmes that will remove all connection to anything not the page you’re writing on. If you need them, then go right ahead. I find it helps to have a ten minute break every hour to check FB, Twitter, my email, or whatever. Sometimes, that doesn’t work out, but it all depends how deeply in the moment of writing I am.
So, there are some ideas. Hopefully some of them will help. And if they don’t, hopefully some of them will lead you to those that do.
So, I handed in my notice today. I’ve worked at my job for 11 1/2 years, and been a published writer for 3 1/2 alongside it. It’s become more and more obvious that doing both is a recipe for a lack of sleep and a general disinterest in my full-time work.
My last day here will be the 18th December, after which, I’ll be a full-time writer. I’ll have news of future books in the next few weeks, I hope, but for now, I just wanted to share that I get to do something I’ve been hoping and dreaming about since I was 14.
It’s both incredibly exciting, and utterly terrifying. But a good kind of terrifying.
In a few days the yearly Nanowrimo will start. For those of you who don’t know what that is, basically people try to write 50,000 words in the month of November.
As someone whose job it is to write books, Nano doesn’t really have that special place in my year that it does for some. Every month I’m trying to get as much done as possible, and although I don’t set myself a 50k word limit to beat, I try to at least manage enough to be happy with what I’ve done.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like Nano. I think it’s a good way to meet people in your area, and it’s nice to have that comradery with people who are trying to do the same thing.
I’ve done it every year for the last 5 years, and while I’ve only manage 50k twice, I thought some tips might be a good idea. So here they are.
- Plan everything first.
Sit down and ensure that you know what you’re doing and where you’re going. Getting half way through the month and realising you have it all wrong is a bit crap.
- Don’t edit/edit it’s up to you.
It’s the one piece of advice they give out every year. Never Edit. Personally I edit as I go, and that won’t change. But don’t spend all your time fixing that first chapter or paragraph, editing is fine, polishing can wait.
- Enjoy it.
If you’re not enjoying the writing, then it’s probably not working. The story you’re working on should be something that makes you excited, something that makes you want to sit down and write. No one wants to slog through 50k.
- You may not make it.
As hard as this is to accept, you may not make your 50k. And that’s okay. You need to be happy with what you’ve done, and not everyone makes it to the end. Writing a story isn’t a sprint, so if you’re intending to continue on after the end of Nov, then you’ve got a long road ahead.
And those are my simple tips. This year I’m going to be working on Helleuqin book 6.
Best of luck to everyone taking part.
Prison of Hope is on sale in the Uk for only £1. Now, I know it’s the 4th book in the series, but you don’t need to have read any of the other books to enjoy it.
Long ago, Olympian gods imprisoned the demon Pandora in a human—Hope—creating a creature whose only purpose was chaos and death. Remorseful, the gods locked Pandora away in Tartarus, ruled by Hades.
Now, centuries later, Pandora escapes. Nate Garrett, a 1,600-year-old sorcerer, is sent to recapture her and discovers her plan to disrupt the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, killing thousands in a misplaced quest for vengeance.
Fast forward to modern-day Berlin, where Nate has agreed to act as guardian on a school trip to Germany to visit Hades at the entrance to Tartarus. When Titan King Cronus becomes the second ever to escape Tartarus, Nate is forced to track him down and bring him back, to avert a civil war between those who would use his escape to gain power.
“Okay, this was definitely a five star book. Steve McHugh definitely brought it with this fourth full-length book in the Hellequin series. Nate is definitely going into my top ten of serious badasses!” – Bittenbybooks
“Overall then a really great read, all of them, another strength being that you can read any one on its own, you don’t necessarily have to read in order. A series that I hope will run and run.
Highly Recommended” – Lizlovesbooks
“This series is a must read. The action, adventure and history keeps the reader engaged at all times. It is a story that incorporates the emotional side of the characters, their passion for justice as well as their conflict.” Onebooktwo
So, it’s just under a month away from the launch of Lies Ripped Open, and I thought I’d post the first chapter. if you want to pre-order, the links will be at the bottom.
C h a p t e r 1
New Forest, England. Now.
There are people out in the big wide world who don’t believe in luck. They don’t believe that luck plays any kind of part in our lives. These people are, if I’m brutally honest, fucking idiots.
The idea that luck plays no part in our day-to-day existence on this massive rock ignores the fact that it played a part in us being able to exist in the first place. Luck is evident in our lives wherever you look. Sure, ability, coincidence, and just downright hard work all play a massive role, but luck can sometimes mean the difference between being in the right place at the right time and, well, not.
Case in point, it was clearly a little bit of luck, whether good or bad, that saw me in the living room of my house, turning on the large HDTV and switching to one of the twenty-four-hour news channels at exactly the same moment as they cut to a clean-shaven, young man with short, dark hair, wearing a dark suit and talking in somber tones about a hostage situation that was taking place in the Southampton shopping center, West Quay.
I went to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the fridge and returned, taking a seat on my leather couch and increasing the volume of the TV.
“We’re now entering hour four of the standoff,” the man said.
Hour four? I’d been working out in the forest that surrounded my property, running and practicing various fighting and magical techniques, and had no idea of the crisis that had unfolded during that time.
“What, if anything, can you tell us about the situation?” asked a pretty blonde woman as the picture cut to include those sitting in a studio.
“We know that at approximately 10:30 this morning, an armed man entered Hopkins jewelers and proceeded to take the occupants hostage.” The reporter turned aside to give a better view of the Southampton high street and the entrance to West Quay. Police vans littered the area, along with several ambulances.
The police themselves were either shielded behind their wall of cars, or stood at the cordon not allowing anyone to get close to the situation.
“Has anyone been injured?” the news anchor asked.
The man nodded slowly, showing sadness, although I wasn’t sure it managed to reach his eyes. This was clearly a big news story, and he was front and center. Still, it would have been nice if he wasn’t quite so excited about the possibility of being part of such a big story. “It’s believed that one man was shot as he fought back against the armed attacker. We haven’t been updated as to his status since we learned that information.”
“And is there anything else the police are saying?”
“Not at this time. As you can understand, it’s an incredibly complex and fluid situation, where at least eighteen people’s lives are at risk. The police are planning on giving a press conference in an hour, but it’s believed that the information given out will be slight.”
“Keep us informed,” the anchor said as the camera cut back to her. She quickly started discussing the situation with an expert in the studio, and I switched the TV off. Studio experts being dragged in only meant one thing; they had nothing other than speculation and theory to fill the news with, but didn’t want anyone to change the channel. Just in case something exciting happened.
I stood up and walked back to the kitchen to throw the now empty bottle of water into the recycling bin, before making my way upstairs and having a nice long shower in water that was hot enough to ease any tension from my shoulders.
Once out, and dry, I threw on a pair of dark blue jeans, and a black T-shirt with blue and red lightsabres crossed over the front and Darth Vader’s head behind them. My best friend, Tommy, had picked it up for me a few months back, presumably in the hope that I’d join him in his love of Star Wars.
It didn’t work, but then his level of geekdom for those movies was something few people could possibly hope to match. I’m pretty sure he owns his own storm trooper costume. Which worries me greatly.
I sat back on my bed and breathed out slowly. A year previously I’d been involved in trying to stop Pandora from massacring everyone who’d ever pissed her off, including the woman I loved, Selene. We’d gone our separate ways after it ended—for various reasons—though I was hopeful that one day we’d be able to reconcile. But as Tommy’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Kasey, explained, I couldn’t sit around and mope about it.
Both Kasey and her mum, Olivia, had tried to set me up with various people over the last few months, but relationships should probably start off with the truth, and I don’t think most people who’ve just met me want to know exactly the types of things I do.
As Tommy had helpfully pointed out, “trained killer” is probably not what most people want in answer to the question, “What do you do for a living?” In the last five months, I’ve been on several dates. So far, I’ve been “ex-military,” “an Avalon specialist,” and on one particularly boring date, “shark trainer,” mostly just to see if she was listening to a word I was saying, or more interested in playing on her mobile.
Dating was a relatively new concept and one I don’t think I was destined to master. I could be charming, I was in good shape, and was what most people would describe as ruggedly handsome, but apparently that didn’t translate to “good at this dating thing.”
So I’d thrown myself into my magic, trying new things and mastering those I could already do. I was able to merge two elements that I could wield—fire and air—into lightning, which now came easily to me.
Two of the six dark blood curse marks that sat on my chest had vanished, bestowing on me an increase in power, and my necromancy, in that order. No one knew what would happen when the remaining marks vanished, nor how long that might take, but I needed to be prepared for whatever their disappearance might bring. Be it good or bad.
I’d just decided that I hadn’t bothered Tommy at work for several days and thought I’d take the drive to the massive building that housed his security firm, when I remembered that he was in Avalon with Olivia and Kasey. While trying to figure out who else I could contact, my mobile rang.
“Nathan Garrett?” a woman asked. Her voice sounded young, but the massive amount of stress in it could be clearly heard.
“That’s me,” I told her.
“My name is Kelly Jensen. I’m an agent with the SOA. Have you seen the news about the hostage situation in Southampton?”
“About twenty minutes ago,” I told her.
“I’m liaising with the police in charge of what’s happening. It’s been escalated to a specialist branch of the armed response teams, Level 2 Cadre.”
The Level 2 Cadre were the people who took over a firearms incident when the situation escalated and required a specialist approach. That’s when a Regional Specialist Ops Unit moved in and took command. They have the authority to come in and take over the situation, no questions asked.
“Okay, what does that have to do with me?”
“Level 2 Cadre’s entire staff are humans who have been placed there by Avalon.”
“That still doesn’t explain why you’re calling me,” I pointed out.
“Because the man who has taken the hostages wants to see you. In fact he’s requested you by name.”
I was a little surprised. It was certainly the first time anyone who’d taken hostages wanted to talk to me. Usually I was pretty far down on the list of people they’d be happy to see.
“What’s his name?” I asked, hoping to jog something loose.
“He won’t give it. He wants to be known as God.”
“That’s what he calls himself ? God?” I asked, making sure I’d heard her right.
“Yep. He says seeing how he decides who lives and dies, it’s a fitting name. I think he’s seven kinds of crazy, but that won’t help get those hostages free. We need you to come down here and see if you can help.”
“You want me to go in?”
“Hell no,” she said derisively. “Olivia told me all about you. I don’t need a dead hostage taker, and with all the media and human police here, I also don’t want the Cadre to be seen sending in a civilian. You come down, you talk to him, find out who he is and what he wants.”
“Why is SOA involved?” The SOA, or Shield of Avalon, was Avalon’s internal security force, sort of a combination of MI5 and the Secret Service. They were usually only involved in crimes that directly involved Avalon members, otherwise the LOA, or Law of Avalon was involved. The LOA was a sort of cross between the FBI and Interpol. They investigated crimes against, or perpetrated by, members of the nonhuman community as a whole.
“There was a hostage injured when the shop was taken. We told the media that he was shot, but he was burned on the leg. The hostage taker is a fire elemental from the sounds of things, possibly a sorcerer. But the victim said the man’s entire arm turned to flame, so I’m leaning toward the former.”
It certainly sounded like an elemental, a being that was one with their element, able to control it with incredible ease and capable of immense power. But this sounded like something for LOA, so why were the human police involved at all?
“You haven’t told me why the SOA are involved,” I reminded her.
“We think the hostage taker might have been employed by Avalon.”
“What makes you think that?”
“You know I can’t share that kind of information with you. Will you come down here, or not?” she snapped, a little anger in her voice.
I really hated Avalon political bullshit, and I got the impression that Kelly didn’t like me much. I’ve met several Avalon employees who see my leaving Avalon—and the manner in which I left—as a sort of betrayal of the principles they believe in. Personally, I didn’t much care what she thought of me, so long as she could remain professional. “It’s an hour’s drive,” I told her. “I’ll be there as soon as possible.”
My proximity alarm rang, signaling that someone was coming up the drive toward my house.
“Did you send people here?” I asked. “It seems I have visitors.”
“Those would be the two LOA agents I sent to find you. They’re going to escort you to Southampton.”
“You don’t trust me to turn up, Agent Jensen?” I asked.
“Actually I trust you to turn up fine. It’s what you do when you get here that I want to control. See you in forty-five minutes.”
She hung up and I opened the door to reveal two very large men with shaved heads, both wearing black suits. “Wow, you guys are very intimidating,” I said with a smile. “What are you, half troll or something?”
The man-tower closest to me smiled. “You ready to go?”
“Let me get some shoes and a jacket,” I said, grabbing both from beside me, and putting them on before pocketing my keys and wallet from the table next to the door.
“You’re not going shopping,” the second man said, his voice much deeper than his friend’s, and his accent was South African, unlike his friend’s English. There was some animosity in his voice. He was probably unhappy at having to give me a lift, which, considering the circumstances and that people’s lives hung in the balance, was more than a little childish on his part.
“Just in case I see a bargain,” I said. “Or, as is more likely, I have to make my own way back here when everyone is suddenly too busy to drive me home.”
They moved aside and let me pass, walking with me to their black Mercedes SUV.
“Shotgun,” I called.
“Fuck off,” the South African said, and both men laughed as they got in the front of the car, leaving me to sit in the back. Couldn’t blame them for having to babysit me on the way from my house to West Quay, but I could dislike them intensely for being dicks.
“The rules of the road clearly don’t apply to you guys then,” I said and lowered the electric windows, letting in a nice breeze as we sped off to deal with a probably very angry man and his scared hostages.
And there’s chapter 1. Lies Ripped Open is out on 25th August and can be pre-ordered from:
And whichever other Amazon you wish to use.
With Silent Screams is on sale for only £1.
Click here to pick up a copy.
His name is Nathan Garrett, but he’s also known as Hellequin. And murdering one of his friends and trying to blow him up is a good way to get this centuries-old sorcerer’s full attention…
An old friend’s dead body, a cryptic note, and an explosion that almost costs him his own life propel Nate headfirst into a mystery involving a new threat from an old foe. Now he must piece together the connections between a grisly series of tattooed murder victims, an imprisoned madman, a mysterious alchemist, and a deranged plot to usurp the throne of the hidden realm of Shadow Falls, rival to the power of Avalon.
Can Nate avert the coming slaughter, or will he become the latest to fall in this clandestine war?
With the story careening between modern-day New York and Ontario and 1977 Maine, With Silent Screams continues the gritty and action-packed mix of urban fantasy and ancient mythology that mark Steve McHugh’s popular Hellequin Chronicles.
Review by Liz Barnsley:
This is definitely a set of books that has grown in stature since its humble beginnings as Nate and the mythology surrounding him has grown, developed and taken on a life of its own. So, all in all a terrific 3rd book in a series that is now absolutely one of my favourites in the Urban Fantasy stakes alongside Felix Castor and Alex Verus. Possibly not for the faint hearted but if you like your Urban fantasy absolutely Urban and fantastical these will probably bring great satisfaction.
Note: With Silent Screams can easily be read as a standalone book with no problem whatsoever, so if you fancy starting with this one, go right ahead!