Friday, 28 November 2008

"Mandrake" Finally Manifests

Been nothing much to post lately, due mainly to working on getting "A Surfeit of Mandrake" polished, uploaded and printed. Problems with PDF creation at my end stopped me from producing the required hi-quality 100MB file, until I downloaded OpenOffice and used it's rather handy instant PDF creator function. Which is all very good, as I've now completely ditched MS Word in favour of the free solution.

The first proof arrived today and the pencil artwork really looks good in the interior. The cover art from Frang also looks sharp and fine, however a flaw in the printing has rendered the copy useless, by throwing a regular greyed out area across the verso throughout the entire copy. This is the first actual printing flaw I've seen from and I'm hoping it will be the last. It has been reported, and despite the time of year I'm feeling less than charitable as I had promised my contributors I'd have copies fully ISBN'd and in the shops before the end of the year. Already a couple of weeks behind schedule thanks to the PDF problems, and this is really the last thing we need. I hope the matter is resolved quickly and satisfactorily, as my next order will be a bulk order for Borders and elsewhere (including the contributors themselves).

Friday, 24 October 2008

"A Surfeit of Mandrake": The Latest

Been having a lot of fun putting together the new Fenriswulf publication, "A Surfeit of Mandrake". The title comes from a strange comic-strip submitted by Frang McHardy, featuring a gruesome humanoid plant-like being who recruits the narrator as his messiah, in what may or may not be a self-induced hallucination. I completed the story in prose, and the Mandrake character intrigued me enough to put him on the back cover as well. Short stories, poetry, little comic strips and artwork proliferate and far from being the random-access hodge-podge that I had originally feared it would become, there are actually several similar threads running through a lot of the works. Kit Marlowe the playwright turns up not only in an old and half-forgotten little play of mine, but also in one of Lesley-Anne's short stories. Celtic and Scottish references abound through all of our work. Dark quirkiness sniggers at every corner, as do some pretty brilliant and beautifully-depicted personalities.

It'll also be interesting to see how Lulu's outsourced printers handle the grayscale tone of a lot of the artwork. Frang and I have a tendency to work in pencil, so fingers are decidedly crossed on that score. I'm expecting to have to re-jig the tones on some of this following the first preview copy, but not too much, I hope. I really don't want to have to take anything out, although I have a few emergency pieces standing by to fill in any gaps that may possibly arise as a result.

Currently the basic .doc file for "Mandrake" is sitting at 150 MB, and that's without the 8-page comic strip "Godz Almighty" (a soap opera of ordinary Old Norse folk). Being drawn on big shiny art boards makes it a beggar to scan, but I reckon the results will be worth it (assuming the printed copies can do justice to our delicate biro pen work). It also happens to feature our old friend the Fenriswulf, he whose dark slobbery chops adorn this very page, and inspired the whole publishing venture in the first place - so the inclusion of this piece really was a no-brainer.

We're still most definitely on for a release of "Mandrake" before Christmas. So it's been a fairly eventful few months for the old wolf. Just keep watching this space!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

It's Not All Gone Pete Tong

Last night saw me back in Borders, dropping off copies of 'Maranatha'. Now on display (and sitting next to Alasdair Gray, of all people) on a nice big table full of interesting books. A happy conclusion to a rather cold Monday.

The unexpected task of the night was in penning (literally – with a big fat felt-tip) a bit of blurb for the nice friendly recommendations that Borders slip around many of their books. Feeling distinctly on the spot, my mind went almost blank before I managed to concoct some lumbering tag line along the tracks of “…a twisted conspiracy of magic, murder, religion and madness!” Well, let’s say I’ll never laugh again at another TV game show contestant who blurts out some ludicrous answer while in the spotlight. I guess this is why so many writers hire PR agents to do their publicity for them…

I didn't know beforehand how Borders' pricing structure worked, so was quite pleasantly surprised when we managed to haggle their commission rate as 15% (normally 30-50%, apparently). That left me in the position of wondering what to charge for copies, but we settled on 6.99 – though I get the impression this was considered to be a bit low. I don't mind breaking even on this project - it should teach me the essential hows and whys of pricing and negotiation for any future releases. (And speaking of future releases...the second release from Fenriswulf, the local writer anthology, ought to be out in Borders, and online, before the end of this year. More info on that in the next post!)

The truly great thing about POD (Print on Demand) is that one need never have to put up with stacks of books cluttering up the house, the toilet, the garden shed, and unlike G P Taylor, doesn't require a home remortgage and the sale of a prized motorbike to cover the print costs (plus, I already sold my old Yamaha XS 650 last year...). So, in the event that Borders sell out and request more, I just hit the appropriate button at and order up another bunch. And if they don't shift, then I don't have to worry about debt collectors kicking my door in next month, and I still have some books I can punt off elsewhere.

Sold a few more copies online too, it seems. This time in the US. Blimey, it hasn’t gone all Pete Tong yet…what’s going on?!

Friday, 26 September 2008

"Aren't Local Bookshops Brilliant?"

Sorry if this post's title is gushed forth in the key of Paul Whitehouse's anoraked fan-of-everything from the classic days of the "Fast Show".

But, that excitement I mentioned a few posts back, at the idea of getting books into bricks-and-mortar stores? Well, it's arrived...

Popped into Dundee Borders tonight after work and finally got a chance to chat to their sales manager there, Neil. A incredibly sound chap who gave plenty of time, and enthusiasm, to me, Fenriswulf Books, 'Maranatha', and - oh yes - my new project...

I've already interested a couple of writer and artist folks I know in contributing to an anthology book. A collection of writings, short stories, poetry, art, whatever by me and anyone else who's up for it. Neil had no problem at all in accepting 'Maranatha' for print sale, as well as the future local showcase book, and 'Maranatha's sequels as and when they arrive.

Probably the biggest buzz yet in this whole venture - the chance to actually see my work on display, in-store. I don't know where Borders get their staff from but their customer service is awesome. Despite my repeated calls in the last few weeks to try to pin down Neil when our works shifts didn't coincide, I've never had the impression that I was being seen as a nuisance. Quite the opposite, even - everyone has had plenty of time for me. Borders seems to be built upon giving new, young, local and untried writers a fair chance - which in this day of pile 'em high/sell 'em cheap bargain blockbusters that appeal to the lowest common commercial denominator, I find staggering. And very, very welcome. After all, they're doing us a great big favour.

Neil was happy to take on half a dozen print copies of 'Maranatha' (we originally discussed 8 - before I realised that actually do a flat rate postage charge of £6.30) on sale or return. So I ordered up a bunch as soon as I got home - no time like the present, and other clich├ęs.

And yes, local bookshops are brilliant. And electric carving knives. They're brilliant, too...

Monday, 15 September 2008

Words of Encouragement Go a Long Way

Popped an email off to Harry Bingham last week (successful novelist, founder of the really rather good editorial agency the Writers Workshop, and all-round good egg). Got a very positive and encouraging response to this very blog, wishing me all the best in this self-publishing endeavour, which gave me quite a good buzz. The Writer's Workshop (check them out under the 'Writer's & Publisher's Resources' link to the left) worked with me through several drafts of 'Maranatha', and helped to turn the book into its present form. If nothing else, the experience taught me the need for judicious editing, not only in the areas of exposition but also in the more indulgent passages, and pointed the finger at a few hitherto unnoticed problem areas.

The greatest thing about their detailed reports and feedback was that I was able to pass a little of that learning back to a few friends of mine on who are starting out in their writing careers too, equally ambitious and serious, and just as in need of a good, solid, honest opinion. I've already had one of those buddies tell me he "couldn't pay for a critique as good as that" after my in-depth analysis of his fantasy tale.

And at this stage in our adventures, we need all the encouragement and help that we can give each other.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


According to Lulu's revenue stats, I sold 3 copies of 'Maranatha' at the end of last month, and I didn't even realise. I had expected some sort of notification to alert me to this fact, but nothing of the sort occurred - perhaps because I wasn't expecting it quite so soon, having only just finalised the ISBN distribution. Although I can't trace the buyer, they were all retail print copies, so my guess is a bricks-and-mortar store somewhere in the UK. Which is quite a nice thought. The internet is all very well and good in its ability to disgorge an entire book, or library of books, onto your hard drive at the touch of a button and the conga-line of data dancing down a telephone line - but you can't beat the feeling of seeing a real book sitting on an actual shelf.

In other good news, despite a torturous wrangling with Amazon Stateside over their baffling and erroneous editorial description, that unwanted piece of paranormal hyperbole has now finally been removed from the site, and my cover blurb posted in its place. In recognition of this, I deleted my own review of the book which drew attention to the fact their product description was wrong. However, the grim impostor was not gone - by some strange electronic osmosis, it had simply migrated across the Atlantic, to the product page!! If I hadn't been using my laptop, my head would have collided with the keyboard. Noisily.

I popped an email off to customer support and was kindly advised to submit the corrections online. I did so. It wouldn't really have been that big a deal to start with, except that I was unhappy about the possibility of persons buying the book in the belief that it was actually what that description claimed it to be, and not a work of mere fiction.

All in all, a pleasing conclusion to the first chapter in the story of Fenriswulf Books. In the final analysis, I've now done exactly what I set out to do 2 years and 9 months ago - write a book, get it published and sell some copies. So far, so good - mission accomplished and all that. Everything else from now on is simply relative. Now I just need to keep doing it!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

"Achtung! Minen!"

Lulu and I have finally agreed on the (current) finished draft of ‘Maranatha’, after waiting for their ISBN assignation to complete once again. I’m now happy to accept that the thing can be about as good as I can make it at this point in time – without spending any more months on the project. One thing I’ve just thought about would be the addition of the Fenriswulf logo on the front cover, a la Penguin. It would be a visual design element on the otherwise purely typographical layout, but it’s a bit late in the day to start fiddling with details. As any future changes will likely involve a completely redesigned cover anyway, and a new ISBN assigned as a result, I might as well leave it for that.

It’s also been a funny experience reading through the finished book in its printed form. Suddenly tiny little details which went previously unnoticed during the dozens of proof-readings jump out of the page at me. I find myself thinking, “Hm, that comma shouldn’t be there. I should really take out that word…and I could have used a better word there.” What seemed great as a bundle of typescript pages, or a scrolling Word file, has now committed itself to the same level of judgment as Waugh, Burgess, Hemingway, Eco, Joyce, Conrad or, er, Lovecraft (as I glance worriedly across the length of my bookshelf). I’m now expecting to share shelf space with the great and the good, the lucky, the horribly bad, the celebrity cooks and the ex-Big Brother House evictees. Comparisons are pointless, though, as all judgements are subjective, including mine – actually getting some judgments upon the work, good or bad, is now the next goal. And this is where the legwork comes in, the real effort, the potential for disenchantment. While the book remains unknown and unread, it’s easy to imagine anything. Suddenly the idea of it making contact with inscrutable and unbiased members of the professional trade raises the ante. This is the start of the make or break period, where I discover if I really have developed a hard enough skin to be able to take the rough with the smooth, and it’s all a bit daunting, if not intimidating. This is where I pull on my tin hat and begin to tiptoe gently through the minefield. And while it may all just blow up in my face and stop me in my tracks, it's the idea of what may lie beyond which makes it also very exciting. I’ve contacted a few bookstores already, and that excitement will soon be shared within this very page…

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Back to the Future

After a break from serious writing for almost the past year (due in no small part to what you see before you on this very webpage), serious work has now begun on ‘Maranatha’s sequels - and prequel. While ‘Maranatha’ ends with the promise "Tomas de Carranza and Emanuel Khalamanga will return, in ‘The Keys of Heaven, the Ashes of Hell’ ", the next book in the series in fact features Vanessa Descartes, set several years before the events in 'Maranatha', and during her previous career in criminal forensics. The reasoning behind this is that firstly, I needed to tie up some of the loose ends and unanswered questions about Vanessa that were left at the end of the first book, and also set up the rather complex background for what follows chronologically in ‘Keys of Heaven’. These are works in which the smallest details and throwaway references can have great symbolic significance later on, and the story arc is one that ultimately encompasses the past 10,000 years or so of human history, as well as the race's place in the cosmos, and the fate of the Western Church – the merest foundations for which were laid in ‘Maranatha’.

The remaining entries in what has now fallen under the umbrella title of 'The Trinity Chronicles' see a steep escalation in the overt supernatural elements which were, for the most part, tacit in 'Maranatha' or could at least be explained away by rational means. There is no such ambiguity in what is to follow, and that's all I'm going to say on the matter at this stage. (Apart from anything else, I'm still figuring out the full details of the background and the true nature of every character's place in that storyline).

The current working title for the Vanessa book is ‘Venus in Capricorn’ but that will definitely change by the end. Like it’s predecessor it will end up being illustrated, by me, and will most likely be a good deal shorter in length as well – a novella, rather than a novel, according to the current plan, so as not to hold up production of 'Keys' for too long.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Another Step of the Way

Well it took a wee while, but Lulu finally sorted out the problem with the last revisions. I received the proof copy today and now everything is pretty much bang on the money. So finally, the book's exactly as I want it, and a trip to my local Borders bookstores (i.e, 35 miles away) is now on the cards for next week. It'll be interesting to see how that goes...

In other news, I had some free time last night and put together a quick illustration slideshow, which is now in place at the bottom of this very home page. Some of Photobucket's 'quick and dirty' slideshow themes are pretty appalling to anyone over the age of thirteen and a half, but I quite liked the grainy movie look - which is in keeping with the dark themes behind the book and the artwork. Another free marketing tool for the collection, in any case, and it makes me wonder if I shouldn't do a few more illustrations or even - shock, tremble - even think about producing a cover art piece at some point? I do have a buddy on who had expressed interest in the job, and I would still want to give him first refusal on that gig. It would be a good bit of practice for me at least, to see how close to "professional" illustration standard I am. As they say, watch this space...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

A Helping Hand

Having pulled together a whole bunch of resources for myself over the past few weeks relating to self-publishing, I thought it might be a nice idea to share some of them on this very site for the benefit of any passing visitors with an interest in "Going it alone" themselves. I'll be adding these links to the left-hand sidebar as I go along.

In other news, the video trailer is now up and running, and is linked at the bottom of this front page. It turned out a little rougher than I had hoped, and I'll be sure to tweak and refine it over the coming days and weeks. The music turned out OK for a bunch of free-form improvised synthesizer fooling about, and despite some annoying clicks on the middle track, it doesn't sound too terrible through my tiny 1-inch laptop speaker. I've had thoughts about turning it into a Flash animation and actually enacting scenes from the book - though that could be a lot of work. Taking things a little bit at a time at the moment. More news (good, I hope) to follow soon...

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Going Global?

While still in the process of getting the front cover finalised with (we're both currently investigating why the new revised cover isn't printing, and reverting to the old. They say it's my fault, effectively. I say it's not. I don't really care who's at fault, I just want things fixed so I can go ahead and finish the distribution), in the meantime, I'm pressing ahead with publicity...

Currently working on a teaser video trailer for purposes of uploading to youtube, a site I've only glanced at since signing up to Broadband and which I'm amazed hasn't yet been sued out of existence for copyright infringement. However, the idea of authors posting promo videos for their books is one I've seen reported on several websites lately, and the whole notion immediately grabbed me. As I spent 2 years training in video editing and production at the end of the '90s, it's always good to keep old skills sharp - even if only through Windows Movie Maker. I expect to have the video online before the end of the weekend, as soon as I've composed a suitable soundtrack to go with it. While my initial thought was to rip off a recording of Verdi's Dies Irae and join the copyright infringement crowd, I didn't see the point in giving anyone a chance to throw bricks at me. This started out as a 100% self-made project, and it'll continue that way...

The big surprise of the day was when I checked on amazon, on a whim, and found the book right there, for sale. In a strange sidenote, the editorial review on the US (.com) site is a bizarre blurb for some paranormal guidebook, which I'll be ripping down and replacing with an accurate review as soon as I finish this post!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Technical Problems?

Not really, no. But I did a very close examination of my proof copy of the book today, and found the 'Fenriswulf' logo very slightly over the edge of the spine - something I didn't notice before. While I was at it, I decided to add a bit of a blurb to the front cover to give some idea of the content - and to dissuade passing innocent souls from thinking it was just an essay on Christian eschatology: “It is the Dawn of the Second Coming…and the Fourth Reich.”

I thought about revising the cover design further to feature a bloody swastika in 3D perspective, growing out the bottom of the 'T' in the title like a shadow. But I was unhappy about the 'first glance' implications of using such a controversial image, and didn't want to to put anybody off unnecessarily. Yes, the image has been used countless times by writers, film-makers and TV shows over the years, but I don't have their high public profile and the benefit of a full marketing department behind me.

So I pushed the updates through Lulu, and after the usual problems with the retail print price bumping itself up, I am back on track. Orders arrive quickly and I've been pretty chuffed with Lulu's services so far. Their technical support staff are helpful too. Looking forward to the updated final version getting out there.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Sold anything yet, then?

No, not yet. But the book's only just become officially available today. It's a slow process, waiting for the details, ISBN, etc. to filter through all the channels - I'm honestly not expecting anything to shift for at least a month or two.

It's also a legal obligation for a copy of every new book published in the UK to be sent to the British Library - basically for record keeping. For some reason I thought it was also a requirement to send to the Bodlean in Oxford and Trinity College, but apparently not. As I've got 4 weeks to get that copy off, I'll leave it until I've been paid at the end of the month. That then should be the end of my financial outlay at this point, though I'm wondering if it's worthwhile investing in a few loose copies for myself to hawk around the stores. I'll do some homework in the next few weeks to find out if any bricks 'n mortar shops are even remotely interested. As I live in the middle of nowhere, I'll probably begin with my old home town and nearest city, Dundee.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

What's So Good About Self-Publishing Anyway?

Well, speaking for myself now - Chaz, that is - the main thing is that you have total control over every aspect of the work, end to end. In the past this used to be a difficult or expensive process, and I remember costing a print run for a fantasy role-playing book I was working on with a buddy 11 years ago. Our local printer quoted us a figure I forget per unit, but which would have involved us charging 50 GBP per hard-bound manual in order to see any kind of profit on sales.

These days, that's all changed, with the Internet and POD (Print on Demand) services. was my POD service of choice, recommended by a friend of mine on who recently had his book printed through them. The great thing is that if all you ever wanted was to see one copy of your work bound and produced professionally, that's all you pay - the unit price of 1 copy of your book. For myself, I hope to actually shift the odd copy or two, so picked up a block of ISBNs from lulu - which actually works out cheaper by about 20 GBP than going straight to the supplier. With the cash saved, I invested in this very domain name ( and an email inbox attached to it. ISBNs of course are essential for distributing the book through official sales channels and online, and are available in blocks of 10 for small publishers, or in larger blocks of 100s for the big posh publishing houses with lots of clients and even more profits.

What I didn't realise was that the retail mark-up would either cut sharply into my own chosen revenue on each sale, or bump up the cover price. As I don't want to price myself out of existence, I took a big revenue cut and threw off a bunch of interior illustrations in an attempt to give the reader more content for their money. When the finalised proof arrived last week, I was very impressed with the results.

Of course, writing and publishing the thing is the easy bit. Anyone can throw words on a page and pay someone to put it all together and look beautiful. They big issue is convincing others that your thing is so good that they'll be willing to spend money to own it - and marketing and publicity is where the real work kicks in. For me, I've written and drawn for as long as I can remember, and stapled wads of paper together as a kid to create my own comic books. Nothing's really changed now, 30 years later, except the paper is better quality and the artwork doesn't look like it was done by a 5-year old - so the impulse to create and produce something has always been there. In the blood, in the genes, an urge to 'do' and create that's now reached it's apex.

And that's what's really good about it...seeing something you've spent all that time and effort on, now looking just as good as something you can buy in your local store.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

So, About These Books Then...

So far there's only book in the Fenriswulf catalogue - and that's Chaz's 'Maranatha'. But then the venture is only a few weeks old so far.

'Maranatha', Chaz's first full-length piece of commercial literature, was begun on New Year's Day 2006. The first draft was completed by April, and after failing to set the publishing houses of the UK alight with his manuscripts, he sought the advice of the editorial agency, the Writer's Workshop. They were very helpful and supportive, but after finding the rising cost of fees prohibitive, Chaz decided to try again with his revamped, remodelled text. No literary agencies wanted to know, and by 2008 it had all seemed like a big fat waste of time.

But ever resourceful, and with a history of self-published comics already behind him, it was no great hardship to apply that mentality to his full-length prose. After all, some very famous writers of the past had published their own material. The time had never seemed more right, with the 'do it yourself' ethic of the Internet now in full swing. And so with a little help from, 'Maranatha' was printed, bound, ISBN'd and on its way to being a bona fide publication - under the dark, wolfish banner of Fenriswulf Books...

So Why a Big Scary Wolf as a Mascot?

The name Fenriswulf Books was chosen due to Chaz's long-term enthusiasm for Old Norse mythology, derived from the bound wolf-god who will one day break his chains and usher
in the ‘Twilight of the Gods’. The name and graphic imagery was designed to reflect the content of much of his writing and art - dark, yet powerful, and independent.

He also happens to like wolves a lot, too.

What's the Story, Then?

Fenriswulf Books was founded by writer and illustrator Chaz Wood in the summer of 2008, initially as a means of getting his first prose novel, ‘Maranatha’, released to the public. Tired of chasing after agents and pandering to the demands of mainstream publishing houses, he decided to ‘go it alone’ by himself, and with the help of the printing and distribution services of

This is the unfolding story of that adventure into the big, strange and very crowded world of writing and self-piblishing...

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