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I’m working on the first draft of a new series at the moment, which mean I’m doing an awful lot of ad-hoc research. Which is to say, I permanently have one tab open to Wikipedia.
It’s often said that you should never look at the search history of a writer, but a quick look over my Wikipedia history alone would have anyone reaching slowly for a panic button. It’s an odd mix of human decomposition rates and mid-90’s alternative band discographies, of articles on the lifespan of petrol vs diesel and the smoking rates of different countries.
I can’t imagine what it was like being a writer before the internet. Imagine walking down to your local library and asking for information on what colour a corpse is after 48 hours one week, and what popular foods for peasants in mid-nineteenth century Yorkshire the next. No wonder we’ve got a reputation as weird, slightly nervous types.
Research in the age of the internet, however is all about the overwhelm. If, like me, you’re a writer who can only spare a few hours a day to the task and you have a daily word count to hit, it’s no good getting a few hundred words in and realising you need some tiny nugget of information on ammunition for UK police weapons if you then fall down a Wikipedia rabbit hole that ends somehow with you reading the history of the police baton for the next two hours. The great enemy of creativity is procrastination, and research is just about the purest form of procrastination there it.
Thankfully, research isn’t just Wikipedia wormholes for me. I can also legitimately sink many hours into watching television, all in the name of research, and I don’t even have to feel remotely guilty about not writing when I do it, as long as I have a pen and paper next to me as I do it. The UK has some great fly-on-the-wall documentaries constantly spying on our various emergency services, and I mainline several of them directly into my corneas in the name of research. The always excellent 24 Hours in Police Custody is a great source of life slices, as well as shining a light into the everyday practices of the UK police department. I became obsessed with it around the same time I was writing Blood on the Motorway’s final drafts, and a lot of the humour and practices of Burnett and Tana were very heavily flavoured by it.
The book I’m writing at the moment has a paramedic at its core. It’s my first time writing a book with a single protagonist, and as a result I’m watching a lot of the show Ambulance – at turns brilliant and heartbreaking and life-affirming and also very, very useful. It’s giving my main character what is I hope a real feel, but at the same time I am becoming acutely aware that this is a profession I am fortunate enough to have had little encounter with over my years.
There is, after all, nothing like the real thing, so I have a favour to ask. If you are reading this and you are a paramedic, or you are close to a paramedic (either emotionally or, I dunno, there’s one next to you on the bus right now as you read this), could I ask you to get in touch, or ask that person if I could get in touch with them directly? The more I write this character, the more I like her, and the more I want to do her heroism, her bravery, and her compassion justice. I’d just like a bit of a chat, see if I’m on the right lines with where I’m going, and make sure I can do justice to what is probably one of the most important jobs in the world.
Writers, what is your favourite research method/procrastination technique?
Paul Stephenson is a writer of horror and science fiction novels. Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores. You can get the first book free by joining the mailing list or reading along at Wattpad. Oh, and he’s got a Patreon. Sign up for free books, a free weekly short story, and much more.
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As we near the period of holiday joy, the nights are closing in around us like a terrible curtain of grim and cold, and everything is going up in price like you’ve just told a florist you’re buying something for a wedding. Dark times, indeed, and that’s before you turn on the news.
I mean, Stan Lee. Fuck. Excelsior, good man, wherever you are.
Anyway, who wouldn’t want a little something for the princely sum of zero down, with zero additional to pay? That might sound too good to be true, but that’s precisely what I stand before you in my snakeskin boots and pearly white smile to offer you. A whopping 42 books, all sci-fi and other genre delights, and they’re all completely free. Hey, 42, that’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything! Maybe if you grab every single one, you might be let into some kind of crazy cosmic secret.
Blood on the Motorway, the first book in the apocalyptic thriller trilogy that readers have called ‘a totally compelling story’ which ‘made my jaw drop’ is one of the books on offer, so if you haven’t already, why not go and grab a copy of that.
Read it already? Well, why not try out the likes of Chased by Fire by DK Holmberg, or City of Shades by PJ Whittlesea? Hell, there’s even something there called Rocket Fuel Pee. Now, a lot of these books do seem to have a lot of topless men on them and titles like ‘Penetrated by a Monster’, so I will just add that I didn’t put this giveaway together myself. But, hey, maybe that’s exactly what you’re looking for. No judgements. Even if it’s not. there’s plenty to be going at.
The offer runs until the end of the week (Nov 18th), so be sure not to miss out.
I am CONSTANTLY being asked by readers who have already bought all my books how they can best support me, their favourite author. Well, okay, one reader asked me, once, ages ago. But it stuck in my head, mainly because I didn’t really have an answer apart from ‘mumble mumble review the books, tell your friends, mumble mumble,’ which is, in fact, my de-facto response to most human-to-human interactions.
Since I was relaunching the books (huge thanks to anyone who’s helped with that effort by the way, hugely hugely thanks) I decided that now’s the time to address this discrepancy between people having money they might like to give me in exchange for goods and services and me not having more goods and services to exchange. So, without further ado, I’d like to tell you about two huge new ways you can support me and my book-making adventure.
Yep, I’ve got me a Patreon, and its all about supporting me as I work on the next series, The Chronicles of Mar. The Chronicles will be a massive dystopian epic, set one hundred years in Earth's future, amidst a backdrop of war, hunger, and plague. But, it'll still have jokes in it, I promise. There'll also be ice moons, telepaths, a truly global cast, and some gripping and thrilling rides. Oh, and did I mention it'll be nine books long?
I'll be sharing work in progress, character and world profiles, exclusive blog posts, and monthly video Q&A's, not to mention first looks at merchandise, discount codes, and lots more. Visit my Patreon page and out the rewards to see more details of what's on offer. Oh, did I mention you'll get all of the books, for free, for as long as you're a supporter?
Having readers join me on the journey will help to provide me with a stable monthly income, which goes straight back into the books. I'm really proud of the Blood on the Motorway series, and I think this is going to be really special. It’s going to allow me to get up close and personal with the whole process with you, dear reader. So I really hope you’ll join me.
Don’t fancy forking out a monthly amount? Find yourself with a serious mug deficiency? Love the new covers enough to put one up on your wall? Well, then you’re in luck! You can now order mercy directly from my store, which you can find if you click on (funnily enough) STORE at the top of the page, or by going here. I’m just playing around with this at the moment, but if there’s something you’d like to see there that isn’t there at the moment, please let me know. All items ship from both the US, and the EU, so no huge shipping costs, either.
You’ll also notice I’m now offering the ebooks directly through my site. This obviously means that I’m sitting out the charges I pay to Amazon et al, so if you are interested in the books, why not get them straight from me, and support me that way? I’ll also be introducing signed print books through the site, soon enough.
So there you have it. Never let it be said that I don’t offer you enough ways to give me money, eh?