Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A year in retrospect

Well it’s not been a bad year overall. I've had two novels published, Fangtooth and the second book in the Prosper Snow series, Killers. My short story collection, Voyeurs of Death was republished with the added bonus of extra stories and I also had a couple of short stories published, one in Holiday of the Dead and another in 13: Tales of Dark Fiction. On top of that I was promoted at work.

As far as sales are concerned they are not as impressive as some peoples, but they are probably better than others. For the year across the whole of my books I sold 1726 copies via Amazon, 326 copies via Smashwords and just over 500 sales from other retailers, such as Barnes and Kobo (this doesn’t include those sold by Dark Regions Press as I haven’t had a sales report from them yet) for a grand total of around 2552 sales for the year.

I’m now working on a new novella, which I hope to finish the first draft of in another week or so. Then I’ll start work on another novella that I had put aside for a while, which will keep me busy into the start of the New Year.

Now I want to say a big thank you to those who have read my work over the year. And an even bigger thank you if you reviewed it, regardless of whether the review was favourable or not. There have also been a number of people who have helped me promote my work this year, and they get an even bigger thank you.

Now I’m all thanked out, so I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas and an even better New Year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UK Goodreads live chat for those who missed it.

For those who missed it, here's a condensed version of the live chat I did on the UK Amazon Kindle forum.

You ready Shaun?
OK, thanks for turning up everyone. Some great questions. Hope you enjoyed it, and I'll see you next time. Night.
Lol. OK. I'm here.

Hi and welcome everyone, thank you all for being here. Some of you will already know Shaun, but for those among us who haven't met you yet, please, Shaun, would you mind introducing yourself?
OK, I’m 46 years old, and I’ve been writing books and stories for probably half that time. I grew up in a house in a cemetery, so I guess I was never going to be writing romance novels. In that respect I’ve had five novels published and one collection. I was also lucky enough that my novel, The Kult was filmed last year by an independent production company. No release details yet, but there is a trailer up on Youtube. I work full time on the railway as a signalling telecommunications engineer. And in my spare time I go jogging, work out at the gym and do Tae Kwon Do.

You seem to always be on the go, how many hours do you sleep on an average night?
Nowhere near enough. If I'm lucky I'll get about 6 hours kip. That's why I look like a zombie most of the time.

Didn't you know a wise man only needs 4 hours sleep a night? You're OD-ing! LOL.
I don't feel like a wise man. Lol

Have you ever had nightmares/were scared as a kid living by a graveyard?
Not really. I was very young at the time, but to be honest, a graveyard is a very serene and quiet place. And if there's any such thing as ghosts and ghouls they'll probably inhabit the area where they died rather than where they're buried!

They do say about weird things going on in graveyards... ever witnessed anything unexplainable?
I have had a couple of weird experiences, and seen a couple of strange things, but not in a graveyard.

Did you ever read the names on the gravestones & then make up little stories of who you thought that person may have been?
I find the epitaphs very sad. It makes you wonder about the person interred beneath, but I've never made up any stories about them.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what had you planned on doing?
Writing is something I just enjoyed doing. As it's not my full time profession I can just enjoy doing it for fun. If I had to do it for a living I'm not sure whether I'd enjoy it as much, mainly because then I would know how important it was, and that my living would depend on it! That would be quite scary I think.

What made you start writing or is it something you have always done?
I suppose I started writing because I just thought it was something I could do. How wrong was I!!! At first you think everything you write is fantastic. The truth is it's not. But I persevered. And here I am, 20 odd years later. I'm not famous and I don't make a living from it, but I still enjoy making stuff up :)

Did your early experiences at school inspire you to write?
To be frank, I hated school. They certainly weren't the best times of my life, and that probably manifests in some of my characters, such as Prosper Snow!

When given the choice, what would you rather do? Read a book or watch a movie? Or do something else...
I guess I’d rather read. It’s harder than watching something on the box as it takes more effort, but you get far more out of it as you're more immersed in the story and the characters. At least I think so anyway. If it was something else, it would stray into adult themes ;)

Have you finished the 'ink' yet?
No. My second full tattoo sleeve is still in progress. Next appointment in December. More pain to look forwards to.

Which genre do you prefer?
I used to read primarily horror, but now I lean more towards thriller, so my own fiction is leaning that way more too.

Which of your books is your personal favourite and why?
The Kult. It took me so long to write that novel, and it went through so many changes, but when it all fell into place it just felt ‘right’ if that makes sense.

Which was easiest to write and why?
I don’t find writing any of them easy. I struggle to find the right words.

Which was most difficult?
See above answer. They were all difficult. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’ll take ages to write a couple of pages.

Which of your characters do you truly dislike? Which would you like to share a pint with?
To be honest I don’t truly dislike any of them. I mean strange as it seems, I created them, so they’re all my children in a way, faults and all. In that respect, I’d share a pint with any of them. Although I may have to watch some of them very carefully, if you know what I mean?

Who is your favourite character of your books and why?
Tough one. I like most of the characters I create. In a strange way they are like my children as I gave birth to them - without all the pain of course. But I guess my two favourites are Prosper and Wolfe as those two characters are based on me more than any others.

Which of your books should I read first and why?
That would depend on what you like. Evilution, Deadfall and Fangtooth are more horror orientated, whereas The Kult and Killers are more psychological thriller.

Have you ever been part of a "Kult"?
I’m not at liberty to answer that one.

Can you tell us how Prosper Snow's name came about? It is most unusual to me…
To be honest, the name just popped into my head. I never know where my character's names come from. They just are who they are. It's pretty hard to explain really. Strange even!

When you started writing about Prosper Snow did you start the story with him already named? Or did his name pop into your head later as the book progressed?
His name popped into my head.
Do you remember the first idea that started the writing of the Kult?
Yes, it was about a deformed family seeking retribution for their treatment by others! So as you can see, the original novel was nothing like the published book. I had an agent trying to sell that original novel though before we parted ways and I rewrote the novel from scratch.

Before the movie based on The Kult was made, did you ever have in mind any actors you would have liked to play Prosper?
I hadn't thought about it really. I never imagined the book would ever be filmed. Even when it was optioned (which means the company bought the rights to film it) I still didn't think it would progress beyond that. Then when it was filmed, I didn't think the actor asked to play Prosper looked anything like my character, but having seen him in action he was perfect for the role.

Did you write the screenplay for The Kult for the film people?
No, I didn't write the screenplay. I read it and made some suggestions, but that was the only involvement I had.

How does it feel to see your characters on screen? Do you think you will watch the movie with a critical eye, or will you just sit back and enjoy?
I haven’t seen the complete film yet, only the trailer, but as you can imagine I’m looking forwards to seeing it. Who wouldn’t be eager to see a film based on one of their books? I guess I will watch it many times. First time I hope I can just sit back and enjoy the experience. The times after that I’ll probably be more critical. But to be honest, even if the film sucked I am still proud that my novel was turned into a film. Not many people can say that.

How did it all start? Did you have to submit your novel or were you "discovered"?
I submitted. I'm still waiting to be discovered. I'm like an old fossil. Lol
However, Dark Regions Press is an invitation only publisher, and they contacted me to submit to them.

How did Dark regions come across your books then Shaun? Do you know?
No idea really. I guess they'd just heard about me on the grapevine.

You released Killers last month, and it's had excellent reviews, with lots of readers saying it was better than The Kult. Did you expect the novel to be such a hit among your readers?
I was nervous releasing it, mainly because lots of people liked The Kult, so to write another book with the same characters I only hoped that I did them justice. When the reviews started appearing, it seemed that people liked it more than The Kult, which did surprise me, but in a good way.

Were you set on looking for another plot or did you come across and idea and thought it'd be good for novel 2?
I had an idea that I wanted to write about, and it just made sense to use Prosper in the role of the police officer. I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to pull it off though...

I really like the Obituary Man character. So how much of his 'techniques' was based on your research, or was it all your own ideas? It certainly made me have another look at my house on Google Maps!
I can’t recall whether I read about people committing crimes in this way or not, but if I did I probably pieced together various angles. Then I imagined what I would do if I wanted to rob somewhere. And in this day and age, many of the things I’d need during the planning stage are at my disposal from the comfort of my own home.

I've told you several times that I feel very drawn toward Wolfe's character. How do you feel about him?
Of course he's popular. He’s based on me ;)

Did you expect him to be so popular among the ladies? Will he come back in number 3?
I expect he'll make a return. But I won't say any more.

Was Killers self-published and are you looking for another publisher?
I had sold it to a publisher, but I withdrew it. So yes, it was self-published, partly because due to numerous reasons I’m disillusioned with conventional publishing. But it has gone through numerous edits and an editor before being published, so I hope it’s the best that it can be.

Kult#3: any teasers and when will this be available in 2012?
I’ve made a start, but I don’t like to talk too much about a work in progress because it takes away some of the magic of writing it if I discuss it. It can also make me talk myself out of writing it if people say ‘that sounds rubbish’.

Have you planned how many novels Prosper will appear in?
No. I never expected to write another novel with him in. But I had this idea, and it just made sense that if I was using a police officer in the story, that I resurrected Prosper. I think it worked well.
However there were lots of problems that I had to resolve, as he obviously has some baggage from his first story, so it was hard to write about him without giving too much away for those who've never read The Kult.

I like to follow characters through multiple books eg.Rebus, Lincoln Rhyme, Alex Cross; does this make it easier or more difficult for the author working with a well-established character?
It's nice to continue with a character you've used before, as you know all about him so it makes it easier to create the character, but it's also hard as you have to remember everything that's happened to said character so that timelines etc. don't cross, or that one minute he's 35 years old, and then in the next book he's 34 etc.

I can’t wait for the next novel, there will be one won't there?"
I'm working on it, but it's slow going until I get in the groove, so to speak. Hopefully it will all come together soon.

So you'll be doing a straight series, or will you be trying to do other things in between as well?
Well I had started another novel that's unrelated, and I've written a screenplay that I want to turn into a novel. As with most things, it's finding the time to do everything I want!

I loved the female lead in Deadfall. At what point did you decide this and will you be writing another strong female character?
I just liked the concept of a female mercenary pitted against both antagonistic men and zombies. I assumed people were used to male leads in a mercenary sort of role, so I thought it might be different to make it a woman. As for writing another female lead, it depends on the story. Some protagonists suit being female, while others work best with a male lead.

Why the two different endings? How did they come about?"
The book was previously published, but I had rewritten the ending for the original book, so I thought people might be interested in reading the original ending. I’ve seen it done with films before, so I thought why not. I also tweaked parts of the story from the original novel, so hopefully this version is far better.

You have worked on a screenplay, is it much different to writing books?
They both have the same structure, but with a novel you often have internal dialogue and you have to describe each scene, which you don’t have to do with a screenplay. Screenwriting is far more concerned with visuals, movement and speech than with the art of language.

Who was the most supportive about your writing?
My better half, Deb. She is the one who has had to put up with me locking myself away and writing. She also puts up with all the other stuff that comes from the writing, such as me spending time on the computer on message boards etc., promoting. So yes, Deb is my number one fan and my rock.

I'm plotting at the moment and I was just wondering whether you like to plot a story first or just have a rough idea and go with the flow. Some writers have to have it all worked out beforehand and others prefers the character to lead the way as it were.
Which kind are you?
I have worked both ways. Sometimes if I'm stuck I like to plot to know where it's going. But other times I like the free writing approach so that the story surprises me as I write it as I don't know what's going to happen next.

Do you ever write in any other genres? If so which ones?
My main genres are horror and thriller. But if I had an idea that was in a genre that I don't write in then it wouldn't stop me writing it. Ideas are too precious to waste, especially if they are good ones.

Have you ever based a character on anyone you know?
The main person that my characters are based on is me. I only have my own experiences to work from, so many of them probably come out in my writing.

Do you base any of your characters on friends, relatives or colleagues and if so do they know?
No. I wouldn't want to offend anyone I know. That's my answer and I'm sticking to it ;)

Do you carry a note book and jot down mad antics of Railway Engineers?
If I wrote about my real job, the truth is people would never believe it. I couldn't make up some of the characters I work with! There was a drama on the TV about 10 years ago based on the railway. It doesn't come half way to the truth!

Have you written any stories based on your job?
I once wrote a short story based on a factory that I worked in that involved a man being hypnotised by a machine, and then going on a killing spree. Aside from that, I don’t think I’ve written anything else based around my job(s).

I was wondering if the area that you live in has ever influenced your wonderful books? :)
My first novel, Evilution was based around a village I used to drive past on the way to work, but I've never based a novel in a real place. I never actually say where they're based, that way I can make it all up without someone saying that place doesn't exist or you can't reach that road by going down there.

Do you prefer to write by hand and then transfer to computer, or straight to computer?
I always write straight to a computer. I'm lazy and it's easier that way.

Do you keep notebooks in various rooms so you can jot down ideas as you think of them?
I used to, but I don't seem to do that as much now. If an idea strikes I just have to use any medium at hand to make a note of it.

How long does it take you to write a book on average? How many hours a night do u lock yourself away writing?
On average it takes me about six months to write a first draft. I'm not the fastest writer in the world. But I suppose if I put my nose to the grind stone, aside from having a sore nose, I could write a novel in a couple of months. After the original draft, I revise it over numerous rewrites. So probably a year from start to finish.
As for how much I write a day, it depends. When I'm in the zone, I try for a minimum of 1k words a day, but I can get anywhere up to 5k if I had all day to work on it.

When do you do most of your writing?
I work shifts, 24/7 so I have to fit in any time I can. I don't have a routine in that respect.

Where do your ideas come from and how do you create them to paper?
My ideas arise from anything that sparks my interest. It might be a news report, a picture, a snippet of conversation. Anything that conjures a 'what if' scenario. Then when I have an idea, I just expand upon it to create a story.

Have any conversations with fans given you a 'eureka' moment?
Not that I recall. Sorry :(

How do you build a story from scratch and create characters.
As I said above, I start with the seed of an idea, and then expand upon it. For example, say I have an idea of a man pulling a suitcase through an airport. Now this is a pretty general scene. But 'what if' there's blood seeping from the case? From that I have to come up with something to explain it. Of course it could be a chopped up body, but then there's the who, what, why and where? Of course it might not be a body. If not, then I would have to imagine something else is in there. Perhaps a dead animal. Again though, why?
For characters, they just arrive on the scene as and when they're needed. It's hard to explain, but if I need a protagonist, I just start writing and they appear as if by magic!

Do you start off knowing what the title of your book is going to be, or do you decide later on or even after you've finished the book???
I know authors who start off with the title and people who wait until the book is finished.
Sometimes the title will come to me as I prepare the story, other times I have to read through after and see if something stands out that I think would make an apt title. Titles are important though, as it's what your book's going to be known by herein after!

Have you ever felt the need to act out scenes from your books?
Lol. I don't think I'd be out in public if I acted them out as I'd be in a prison cell somewhere. But I can't say I've never thought about it...

Do you find that researching is a bit of a chore, or do you enjoy the process?
I always find research interesting as I'm looking into subjects that I know nothing about. It's also hard though because you have to make it seem that you do know what you're talking about when it comes to writing without it seeming like an information dump.

When doing your research for books, what mediums do you use? Do you think the internet has made it easier for writers to research stuff?
My research is basically sourced from books and the internet. But I do ask people in certain professions for advice. For example I have a friends and family in the police force, so I quiz them about certain things. But any inaccuracies or liberties taken with the truth are purely my mistakes or choices.

Do you write from start to finish or sort out the end and work backwards?
I start at the beginning, but sometimes an ending or plot development might arise as I'm writing (if I haven't plotted the story that is), so I make notes and then continue where I was.

Do you prefer writing with men (the Kult) or women (Deadfall) as the main characters?
I don't really have a preference. I guess it's easier for me to write from a male perspective, but I hope I can open up to my feminine side too :)

Do you find it easy to write the gory scenes, or do you really have to think about it?
I don't have any problem writing gory scenes. Is that as wrong as it sounds? Lol

You kill one of your main characters. How does that make you feel? Is it easier or worse depending on whether the character is a good person or a baddie?
Just like the reader, I would hope that if I had to kill a good character it would be a little upsetting. When you’ve spent ages creating a character, you can start to believe they are real in a way. So to kill them can be hard. Even killing a baddie can be hard, especially if it’s a character that in some way you like.

Good vs. Evil: who wins according to you?
Neither. Everyone is a loser to some extent.

Which authors do you look up to? Who inspired you?
My favourite authors are Graham Masterton, Stephen King and Richard Laymon. When I started reading books, I read a lot of the Pan Books of Horror, which were short story anthologies. They probably warped my mind. Lol

You said you were a fan of Richard Laymon. I read some of his books (not all, but most of them) about 12-15 years ago. I've only met 2 other people who were fans of his work. He had a very warped and twisted mind, don't you think?
I think he wrote easily readable stories that flow well. Yes, he was a little gruesome and warped in places, but for the good. My favourites are The Stake and The Travelling Vampire Show.

Do you use character profiles to keep all the information on your characters together in one place for reference or do you just 'wing it'?
I really should, but I don't. I'm my own worst enemy in this respect as I have to keep reading things to check what colour their eyes are etc. I really am going to have to make a profile though, if only to make it easier for me to keep track.

I think Kindles will make it even more difficult for authors re continuity issues as readers can use the search facility to check. Do you have a Kindle Shaun?
Would having one help authors with this problem?
Yes, I have a Kindle. I don't think it would help authors any more than the 'find' facility on my word processor though.

Would you say that the Kindle has opened up new doors for you as an author or if it hadn't been invented would you have been in much the same place as you are now?
I think the Kindle has changed everything. Some people have become bestselling authors in a short period of time. Some of them had tried to be traditionally published but failed, so yes, it's opened more doors. If it hadn't been invented, I'd still be a struggling author I guess. So not much change there.

How do you handle the proof-reading problem Shaun? We hear so many horror stories about Indie authors being torn apart because of the bad proofing.
I have some beta readers who read my work first, then for Killers I hired an editor to go through it. But even my previous edited books have errors, some of them quite jarring/annoying. I only worry about it if someone points it out, but I do try to make it the best it can be. But I do think some people want to find fault for faults sake.

Do you like readers pointing out spelling mistakes / missing words / bad apostrophes?
I appreciate the time someone takes to point things out.

How mean is too mean and how sweet does a writer have to be to their readers? How much PR (online vs. real world) is effective for you?
I respect the thoughts and opinions of all my readers. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Not everyone is going to like what you write, because they don't all have good taste (lol). As for PR, one never knows what's effective and what isn't. I just hope it all has a cumulative effect.

I'm interested that you self-published even when you'd got a publisher. I imagine that's a nervous-making decision. Do you think you'll continue with the self-publishing?
Yes, I had sold Killers, but I withdrew it. I know there's still a stigma about self-publishing, but lots of people are making a success of it. What I like is that all the work I do promoting etc., is purely for my benefit. I put a lot of hard work into it, and I sometimes think that publishers who don't always reciprocate don't appreciate it. As for whether I'll continue to self-publish, I don't see why not - unless I was offered a good deal of course.

I saw that some of your books were printed with luxury cover and trimmings, have you ever sold any? Why did you opt for this kind of books?
I don't sell them myself. They are published by Dark Regions, and yes, they do sell them. There was a very limited deluxe edition of Fangtooth, which had 13 copies printed. They all sold out.

Awesome! So you don't actually get to know how much of your books they sell, do you?
I will when they send me a sales report. Again though, by self-publishing I know instantly when something sells!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an author?
Don't do it. Lol. Seriously though it's hard work with little reward for the most part. You have to really enjoy writing in and of itself above all else, because if you don't then it's going to make it harder. Also read a lot. Then write a lot. Then read some more. Also read books on writing. Then put it all aside and just start writing. Everyone starts somewhere. And don't worry, after the first million or so words, your writing will hopefully improve.
I think I wrote four novels before Evilution, which was my first published one. They will never see the light of day.

Would you not think about maybe re-writing them one day?
In a word, no. There's maybe one that's salvageable, but whether I ever will look at it again I don't know.

Have you ever thought about not writing anymore?
I don't really think about it. Sometimes I don't write for weeks or even months though, but I always start again. When I was commuting to work, a round trip of 110 miles a day, I didn't write a word for five years!

Do you think people thrive on thrill and gore because they are weird? Or do you think we all have a bit of a sick side in ourselves?
Lol. Well I must be weird then. I don’t really know why people like such things. Perhaps it’s as you said, for the thrill. And it’s by far the easiest way to experience such things without getting arrested.

So... writing... is it really sex, drugs and rock'n roll??
No. It's hard work, but meeting great people like those in this forum makes it all worthwhile :)

Well, I guess I'll wrap it up here as I have to go to bed ready for work in the morning. A big thank you to everyone who took time out to turn up and ask me questions. Hope you found my replies worth hanging around for. And thanks to Lorraine for arranging it, and Patti and Simon for such a great forum populated by such great people. XXX

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle forum live chat

I'll be doing a live chat event on Friday 25th November on the Goodreads UK Amazon Kindle forum: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/708286-live-event-with-shaun-jeffrey-friday-november-25th-at-7pm

"Invitation: Our first Live Chat with an Author: Meet Shaun Jeffrey on November 25th. At 7PM UK time, we’re handcuffing Shaun to the interrogation chair, and you will have your chance to grill the suspect on the real life of a writer. Is it really all sex, drugs and rock and roll, or is there time to write too? If you want him to confess, ask the questions that count. Barring that, ask anything you want."

It would be great to see some of you there, at least in the virtual sense as this is an internet event where you type your questions and I get finger ache as I quickly try to respond :) The UK Amazon Kindle group contains a great group of people so you'll be made most welcome and it's a great place to hang out.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The power of the subconscious

Well I’ve started work on the third Prosper Snow novel and I have some interesting ideas.

But the thought process itself is a strange beast as it takes place behind closed doors, in the subconscious. It’s like when you’re trying to think of where you’ve seen someone before, or when you’re trying to think of a word for a crossword puzzle. If you concentrate on it too much, it just becomes frustrating, but then when you stop thinking about it and let your subconscious do the work, that eureka moment strikes when you least expect and the answer comes rushing to the surface. I often have problems with plots where I think ‘How the hell am I going to get my character out of this?’ but then I go and do something else, like go for a jog or do the washing up, anything to stop thinking about the problem, and then that eureka moment will strike like a bullet between the brain and the answer presents itself. Sometimes there even seems to be something else at work as the answer might come from a television program or a newspaper article. These are what I think of as moments of serendipity when something you want to find out about presents itself through another media.

But there are other ways that you can make your subconscious work, namely by making requests before you go to sleep.

Step 1: Before you go to sleep, close your eyes and take one minute to make a request to your subconscious. It can be anything, but try not to make it something that is unobtainable or virtually impossible. Try small things, such as wanting to get lots of writing done, or winning a race that you are entering.

Step 2: Take two minutes to visualize yourself actually able to do this thing. Say it’s the motivation to write. Imagine yourself getting up the next day and then picture yourself at the computer or with a pen in hand. Then see yourself effortlessly writing words. See the pages flowing down the screen. See yourself in the groove, the prose pouring out of you.

Step 3: Take two minutes to imagine how you will feel when you are able to accomplish this aim. How do you feel when you see how productive you’ve been? Thrilled? Happy? Now imagine that you have already created this emotion inside of yourself. Let it sink in, then go to sleep and let your subconscious do the rest of the work.

You might not sit down the next day and write a masterpiece, but if you are fired up to start writing, then that’s a start. This process can be used for any situation. Entering a race. Going for a job interview etc. Just remember that the mind is a powerful tool, and it wants to help you. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Promotion. How far is too far?

I’ve been blown away to have already received six 5* reviews on Amazon.co.uk for the new Prosper Snow novel, Killers. A couple of said reviews have even said they think it’s better than the first book, The Kult!

Now I know I’ve been blogging and posting about the book’s release, but it still surprises me how many people in certain places, such as on the Amazon forums actively dislike authors promoting their work (Amazon.com even went so far as relegate such posts to a single area titled ‘Meet our authors' forum). I find all this animosity unusual for people who supposedly like reading. I read a comment on a post recently where the person said that they would never buy a book from an author that promoted their work, because if the work was good, then it would speak for itself and people would buy it. I thought WTF. The problem with this theory is that people first have to hear about the book, and one of the best ways to get the word out is to promote. It’s the old catch 22 scenario really. I personally have no problem with people promoting their books. Hell, I know how hard it is to find readers, so anything that helps in this respect is good. I wouldn’t have heard about half the books I purchase if I hadn’t read posts by the authors themselves.

So what do other people think? Can you promote too much? Does it turn potential readers away? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Killers (A Prosper Snow novel)


Murder makes monsters of people. Prosper Snow knows that better than most.
He stared down at the corpse of the middle aged man and grimaced. The man had been butchered beyond recognition. Flaps of skin hung off his cheeks like they had been sliced with razors and rivers of blood pooled in a congealed puddle in the grassy depression by the corpse’s feet.
Flies buzzed around the body. One alighted on the clear fluid that had oozed out of a punctured eyeball. Part of the man’s entrails protruded from slashes in his khaki shirt, most of the material sodden with blood. He was wearing dark trousers and a pair of sunglasses sat a few feet away, the lenses broken. The man’s style of dress made Prosper think it was some sort of uniform.
The air reeked of death. Prosper wrinkled his nose and tried to hold his breath, but the white mask he wore as part of his crime scene coverall seemed to retain the smell, making it linger inside his nostrils.
Prosper folded his arms, trying to distance himself from the sickening scene. He listened to birdsong emanating from the elm trees about forty feet away. The sound seemed out of place at such a brutal site.
As the Senior Investigation Officer, Prosper was like the conductor of an orchestra, overseeing all parts of the enquiry and coordinating people from various departments on site. But there were so many people lingering around that it looked as though every nosey bugger from within a ten mile radius had descended. Death attracted people like metal to a magnet. The more grotesque, the stronger the pull.
“Look, everyone who’s not vital to the case, can you get the hell out of my crime scene before I kick you out?” he shouted, watching as some of those in attendance slouched away.
Since packing in smoking almost a year ago, Prosper had resorted to chewing gum, but the gory sight made the piece in his mouth tasteless and too chewy, like a lump of flesh.
Gagging, he lowered the mask and turned to spit the gum out when he realised he couldn’t contaminate the area. So he swallowed it instead and turned back to the corpse, the paper suit rustling as he moved. The flash from the crime scene photographer’s camera left a glare on his retina.
“This is just great,” Detective Sergeant Mike Holmes snapped from behind the police cordon. He shook his head and ran a hand through his buzz cut as he stared at the body. “What is it with you and death? No wonder they’ve called it ‘Operation Avalanche’, because this is going to be a fucking disaster.”
Prosper glared at Mike. He knew he was referring to last year’s Oracle case in which a multitude of people were murdered, including a police officer, so the last thing Mike probably wanted was to be partnered with Prosper on another murder investigation.
Hell, in the circumstances, even Prosper wouldn’t want to be partnered with himself, but that didn’t make the snide comment any easier to accept.
After a moment, Prosper turned away and stared around the area. Grey clouds scudded across the sky, threatening rain. A cluster of green prefabricated buildings stood in the distance. Most of them looked like industrial units hundreds of feet in length and width. One was surrounded by a high barbed wire fence, while a lorry belching smoke pulled up outside another. The units looked quite new, and were surrounded by trees and architectural features such as small sculptures comprised of cubes. In the middle of the complex sat a large artificial pond with a fountain spraying water into the air.
The spot where the body had been discovered was a grassy area punctuated with evergreen bushes, one of which was splattered with blood like gory Christmas decorations. A small stream flowed near by, the sound of bubbling water counter-pointed by the bird call. The closest building stood about one hundred feet away.
Prosper turned his attention back to the body. It had been discovered by a woman walking her dog. The pile of vomit nearby was an indication of how much the spectacle had affected her before she was taken away for counselling.
Although he wasn’t immune to the sight of blood and gore, Prosper had been closely associated enough that he was less distressed.
At first glance, the victim looked as though he had been attacked by a wild animal, but of course there were no wild animals in the UK capable of doing something like this – at least not unless something like a bear or a large wild cat had escaped from a zoo. The only domestic creature capable of doing so much damage was something like a large dog, or perhaps a pack of them, but while a dog attack would look nasty, the slashes and puncture marks on the man’s body indicated the use of a knife or a sharp implement. But it was the severity of the cuts that was most disturbing. It indicated a frenzied attack with no concern for the victim.
A police cordon had been erected around the corpse, the yellow tape stencilled with CRIME SCENE – DO NOT CROSS fluttering in the breeze. Prosper saw the flash of a camera, making him grit his teeth.
“Make sure they stay behind the barrier,” Prosper shouted to one of the uniformed officers as he saw a young man lift the tape with the intention of approaching the crime scene for a closer look. “And where’s that blasted tent to cover the body?”
“They’re bringing it from the car now,” someone shouted.
Prosper turned towards Mike. “Any thoughts?”
“Thoughts, I’ll give you my thoughts. You and murder are the last things I need.”
Prosper bit his tongue. Although it had been a year since the Oracle debacle, his colleagues would never let him forget. He just thanked God that they didn’t know the true events of that case.
“Look, Mike, someone’s dead. It’s our job to find out the how, why and who, so let’s cut the sarcasm and get on with the job at hand. If you’re not happy about the situation, I can have you replaced.”
Mike snorted loudly. “Do you really think you’d find anyone willing to replace me? If so, then go ahead.”
Prosper rubbed his brow. “I realise you’re not happy about the situation. Jesus, I’m not over the moon about it either. But it’s our job, so let’s be professional about it. Now I want to start canvassing the area to see whether anyone saw anything. Can you arrange that for me?”
Mike licked his lips, glanced at the corpse and then nodded.
“Good. Then hopefully we can catch the bastard who did this and put it to bed.”
He watched Mike walk away, and then turned back to the crime scene. Less than twenty minutes ago, he had been looking forwards to his lunch of ham sandwiches, but the sight of the dead man quenched any hunger pangs.
The crime scene photographer was packing his stuff away and a forensic pathologist kitted out in a white paper suit crouched down to examine the body. Prosper walked across to see what he could find out.
“So how’s it going?”
The pathologist looked up and shook her head. “You see the way the victim’s gripping that branch? Well it’s probably a result of instant rigor mortis, what’s called a cadaveric spasm. This happens when the person is exerting themselves at the time of death, such as running hard or when a struggle takes place.”
Prosper nodded. Although the mask hid much of her face, he could tell by the sound of her voice and how quickly she spoke that she was excited, that she liked her job.
“Also, the grass around the body was flattened; indicating lots of movement, and judging by the severity of the attack, much of the assault was probably undertaken after the victim was already dead as he wouldn’t have survived for long judging by the wounds.”
“So how long has he been dead?”
“Help me roll him over and I’ll try to find out.”
Prosper knew she was going to push a thermometer up the corpse’s rectum to see how much his temperature had dropped, and although he wasn’t comfortable with it, he stepped forwards to assist when he heard the roar of engines and he turned to see two black, nondescript four by four vehicles slide to a stop behind the group of spectators.
The passenger door of the lead vehicle swung open and a man jumped down and approached the police cordon, talking into a mobile phone. He pulled out a wallet and said something to the officer guarding the perimeter, and then slipped underneath the tape.
Smartly dressed in a dark suit, he stood about 5 feet 10. Of average build, he had a pockmarked face; medium length wavy brown hair, bushy eyebrows and a condescending look that made Prosper want to slap him.
“Prosper Snow,” the man said, lowering the phone from his ear. He withdrew a wallet and flashed a card that showed he worked for a branch of MI5, the domestic intelligence agency. Prosper didn’t have time to study it closely before the man snapped the wallet closed and slipped it back into the inside pocket of his jacket.
Surprised the man knew his name, Prosper nodded. “And you are?”
“Pick a name.”
The man’s arrogant, confident tone matched his look and got Prosper’s back up straight away. He bit his lower lip; took a deep breath and then regretted it when he got a lungful of the dead man’s aroma. “So what are you doing here?”
“I’m taking over the investigation.” He raised his hand and pointed to indicate Prosper should leave.
Prosper felt as though he had been blindsided. How did the man know who he was? He cleared his throat. “This is my case.” He knew it sounded petulant, but he couldn’t help it.
“Not any more.”
Before Prosper could respond, the man passed him his mobile phone. He glared at the man for a moment before accepting it. “Hello?”
“Prosper, this is Chief Superintendent Hargreaves. The case you’re on, drop it, now.”
“Drop it, but sir—”
“No buts, that’s an order. The man in front of you is taking over.”
Prosper heard a sense of urgency in his superiors voice. He stared at the man opposite. “Who is he?”
“That’s none of your concern. Now just do as I say and leave.”
Prosper disconnected the call and handed the phone back. It didn’t escape his notice that although the body had only been reported less than an hour ago, wheels had been set in motion that took him out of the loop.
But why? What was so special about this victim?
“Now, if you don’t mind, I have a job to do.” The man walked past Prosper and stood staring down at the corpse.
Realising there was nothing he could do about it, Prosper turned to walk away when the man said, “Although there is one way you can still be involved in the case, Snow.”
Prosper halted in his tracks and looked back. The man still had his back to him, staring down at the corpse. “And what does that mean?”
“I want someone like you on my team.”
Prosper frowned. “Your team? You mean MI5?”
“We’re a branch of that agency. But let’s just say we take the jobs no one else can crack.”
“And what do you mean someone like me?”
“I know all about you, Snow.” He turned and fixed Prosper with an unwavering stare. “The Oracle case. There were certain, how shall I say, discrepancies with your statement.”
Prosper felt the colour drain from his cheeks and his heart did a little flutter. “There were no discrepancies in my statement.”
The flicker of a grin crossed the man’s lips. “Cards on the table, you and I both know that’s not true. You’re loyal. I like that in my operatives.”
Prosper licked his lips. “Look, I don’t know who the hell you are, or what you think you know, and frankly, I’m not interested. As you said, you’ve got a job to do, so I’d suggest you concentrate on doing that.” Without another word, Prosper spun around and started walking away.
“Well, think it over,” the man shouted after him. “I’ll be in touch soon.”
As he reached the cordon, Prosper tore his mask off and took a couple of deep breaths, trying to clear the stench of death from his nostrils. He turned and looked back at the man as he inspected the crime scene. Did he really know damning details about the Oracle case? Prosper shuddered.
“What’s happening? Who are they?” Mike asked as he jogged over.
“Someone higher up the ladder, that’s who they are. And they’re taking over the case.”
“Really? Well anyone would think you were disappointed by the look on your face.”
Prosper took another stick of gum out of his pocket and stuffed it in his mouth. Disappointed? He was far from disappointed. He was terrified.
The Oracle case was supposed to be dead and buried just like the person Prosper had helped murder. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Killers (A Prosper Snow novel)

Prosper Snow is back in Killers.

Murder makes monsters of people. Prosper Snow knows that better than most. Now he’s back on the trail of another serial killer, only this time there’s far more to the case than meets the eye. Thwarted at every turn, Prosper unwittingly uncovers a human experiment more monstrous than anything he could ever imagine. Now the only way to crack the case is to work from the inside and join a shadowy government agency that operates outside the law. Only he might be too late as the experiment has spiralled out of control.




Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Have I Lost My Mind? – One Writer’s Mantra’s - Guest blog by Hunter Shea

When I set out to become a writer back when grunge music was coming to its inevitable, yet sad end, I was filled with the exuberance and verve that only pure ignorance can fuel. I thought, this will be a piece of cake. I read books all the time. I got pretty good grades in English class. Smush the two together and voila, instant book.

What a sorry fool. My first big attempt at becoming the next Stephen King was a novella filled with vampires in a small, upstate New York town. I tapped away on my keyboard, sure I was spinning gold. Rewrites? Nah, who needs that when it comes out perfect the first time? I even had it bound before giving it the first read through. I dreamt of publishers lining up outside my door, waving fat checks and wearing knee pads so they could beg me for my novella.

Long story short, it was crap. I save everything I write, and I have no clue where that novella is. Hopefully, I dropped it in the trash one night while sleep walking (yeah, I do that from time to time). Undaunted, I wrote short stories, and over time they got a little better, more like a polished, unscented turd. I had, surprise, zero success at publishing a single story. So, what’s the next logical thing to do when you can’t write a decent short story or novella? That’s right, you get to work on a novel.

Now, everything I had tried before was firmly rooted in horror, and my ultimate goal was to be a horror writer. Which is why writing a romantic comedy as my first novel makes perfect sense. The scariest part was, the book actually came out pretty good (and it still holds up 15 years later). Agents and publishers liked it, but no one would take the plunge. Slightly encouraged, I wrote novel number two, a dark comedy set in a fetish club. Even more folks liked that and said it was screamingly funny, but the subject matter was so controversial, no one would touch it with a ten foot pole.

I was getting better at the whole writing thing, learning the craft, reading the market updates, so I went back to stories and started publishing a few. I spent most of my free time locked away in a room tapping away like a man possessed. I felt I was finally ready to write my BIG HORROR NOVEL. I spent 4 years working on it, often muttering, “Have I lost my mind?”

You have to look at it from any struggling writer’s perspective. Here we are, relinquishing time better spent with friends, family, drinking, watching the Mets lose, whatever your thrill. Any successes are small, barely enough to justify the time and energy spent. Why do we do it? Hell, why did I do it? A good friend of mine explained it best. “You have a compulsion to write.” There it was, in one tiny nutshell. Yes, I want to create stories and entertain people. Yes, I want to see my book on a bookshelf. Yes, I’d love to garner fame and fortune. But those are dreams that can fade with the dawn. Something in me compels me to write, to never give up, even if I have to die in a coffin lined with unpublished manuscripts.

Thankfully, that won’t happen. I’ve learned that the adage, never give up, is true. Success comes to those who work, and work hard, constantly learn, and never quit. That horror book that took 4 years to write and 4 more to get a publisher will be out in October with Samhain Publishing. It’s called Forest of Shadows and man, did I have to navigate through a dense forest to get here. I have another coming out next spring. Oh, and a children’s picture book as well, since we all know that horror and children’s books go hand in hand.

So next time you spot someone at the library or Starbucks muttering, “Have I lost my mind?” while staring at their laptop, give them a gentle squeeze on the shoulder and whisper, “Don’t give up.”

To learn more about Hunter Shea and his book, Forest of Shadows, you can visit:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Killers (Coming soon)

Coming next month, the latest Prosper Snow novel, Killers:

Murder makes monsters of people. Prosper Snow knows that better than most. Now he’s back on the trail of another serial killer, only this time there’s far more to the case than meets the eye. Thwarted at every turn, Prosper unwittingly uncovers a human experiment more monstrous than anything he could ever imagine. Now the only way to crack the case is to work from the inside and join a shadowy government agency that operates outside the law. Only he might be too late as the experiment has spiralled out of control.

If you want to catch up by reading the first novel, The Kult remember it's currently available for only 99 cents (86p) on eBook. It will only be available at this low price until the next novel is published, so grab it while it's cheap.

To purchase the eBook, check out the following link: http://www.shaunjeffrey.com/The%20Kult.html

It's also now available as a new printed book too. It's only available through CreateSpace at the moment, but will be appearing on Amazon and everywhere else soon. For those who want to purchase a copy through CreateSpace there's a $3.00 discount available if you use code: FKP4KTUJ


Saturday, September 10, 2011

eBook Sale

I've reduced the price of my eBooks by a whopping 60% so they're now only 99 cents (or 86p) on Amazon and Smashwords. Any help spreading the word would be very much appreciated.




Thursday, September 08, 2011

Review and interview

I hope to make an announcement very soon about the next Prosper Snow novel (I know it's hard to contain yourselves, but hopefully it will be worth the wait) but in the meantime here's a review of The Kult and a link to an interview I did:



Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Lake District

We arrived home yesterday after a short break in Keswick in the Lake District. No matter how many times I visit the area, it never fails to fill me with awe with its sweeping vistas and majestic mountains.

We’ve camped on the same site a couple of times before, at the edge of Derwentwater (the location of the site means that it can easily flood, but we were lucky enough that it only rained for one day during our stay otherwise the resident ducks would have been swimming around the tent instead of waddling.) We were also field-testing (quite literally) our new tent, an Outwell Colorado 5. I think we now have five tents stashed around the house, but this is by far the best of the bunch. It’s big enough to stand up in, and has a large sitting area.

During our stay, we met up with my brother who is fortunate enough to live just outside Keswick in the village of Borrowdale. He’s lived there for a number of years, and I often wonder if he knows how lucky he is to live in such breathtaking surrounds. Anyway while there we tackled Helvellyn, which is the third highest peak in England at 3118 feet (only 75 feet less than the highest, Scafell Pike).

It took us around 2 hours to climb to the summit, a feat that some people achieve by running, but they are obviously part machine or just plain crazy. The stunning view at the top makes the effort of the climb seem more than worthwhile, but my aching calves and thighs might not agree.

While visiting the Lakes, we also went in search of a couple of Geocaches, which we haven’t done for a while, taking in a route along Walla Crag. This is a short fell walk that gives superb views across Derwentwater. The only problem on the day we went was that the heavens opened and we ended up putting drowned rats to shame. Coupled with a cold wind, it makes you realise how unpredictable and dangerous the weather can be, especially when you’re caught out in the open.

But it’s no wonder the landscape has been the inspiration for countless artists and writers over the years. Majestic, stunning and awe inspiring. That’s the only way to sum it up.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Slaughter House Interview

Here's the link to an interview that I did at The Slaughter House. Hope you find it interesting: http://www.richardgodwin.net/interviews/chin-wag-at-the-slaughterhouse-interview-with-shaun-jeffrey

Saturday, August 06, 2011


The very short story below was originally published in a magazine called Premonitions back in 1992, and I just thought I'd put it up here for anyone interested in my early work to have a read ( I made a couple of changes to update it, such as changing videos to DVDs).



Shaun Jeffrey

The television screen flickered through myriad images that painted the walls of the living room in rainbow patterns.

Tara Stone reclined in the armchair, unblinking as she stared at the screen. Each picture merged with the next in a succession of subliminal images.

The tribal drumbeats that accompanied the images made her heart beat fast, made her unaware of anything but the here and now.

Seconds later, the phantasmagoria of images came to a stop and the screen turned white with static.

Tara blinked and wiped her eyes. She felt as though she was waking from a dream.

She stood up and turned the television off. Then she removed the disc from the DVD player and returned it to its case.

She felt wonderful.


She walked through to the kitchen and stared at the box of matches on the table. Without hesitating, she snatched the box up, removed a match and struck it. The flame flared and she stared at it for a moment, and then blew it out.

Now for the ultimate test.

The wind howled outside, so she plucked a coat from the hook behind the door, dropped the matches into her pocket and left the house.

The sky was clear of clouds, and the setting sun painted an orange band across the horizon.

Inhaling the crisp air, she headed toward the town centre. The box of matches rattled in her pocket with each step.

Up ahead the illuminated windows of a tower block formed a giant crossword puzzle grid.

When she reached the base of the tower, she wandered around until she found a door into the service bay. The lock was broken, the walls either side of the entrance daubed with the modern day hieroglyphics of graffiti artists.

Once inside the building, she waited until her eyes grew accustomed to the lack of light. Shapes materialised from the darkness: old electrical appliances skulked in the corner, opposite which a pile of old newspapers had been stacked in a haphazard mountain. Tins of paint sat atop the electrical appliances, and she walked across and inspected them. As well as the paint, she found a half-full tub of white spirits and a rusty screwdriver. She couldn't have wished for more.

Smiling to herself, Tara prised the lids off the paint, and sloshed the contents over the mountain of paper. When that was done, she poured the white spirits over the pile and then took the matches out of her pocket.

She had a momentary flicker of doubt, but then she looked at the multicoloured rivers of paint that flowed over the paper and it triggered something in her subconscious.

She struck a match, marvelled at the flame for a moment, and then flung it onto the paper. She continued to throw burning matches until the paper mountain was ablaze, the rivers of paint bubbling like molten lava.

The heat warmed her cheeks, and when it became unbearable she retreated outside and walked a safe distance away.

It didn't take long before tongues of flame licked out of the doorway, and it wasn't much longer until the flames began to devour the lower floors.

People appeared at windows, screaming, their clothes and hair alight. Glass exploded as people jumped in an attempt to save themselves.

Tara watched from further along the road, mesmerised by the flames pirouetting around the structure, painting the sky in ribbons of fire. It was only the sound of approaching sirens that broke the spell.

With a final look at her handiwork, she stood up and made her way home.

Once inside her house, she looked out of the window and watched the flames light up the horizon like a living painting. It looked marvellous.

She glimpsed at the disc she had played earlier and read the title: Fire and how to beat the phobia. A self help guide.

Tara smiled to herself and wondered which of her many phobias she should overcome next.