From Daniel Willcocks, The Mark of the Damned!

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Daniel Willcocks is a bestselling author and podcaster of dark fiction. He is one-quarter of digital story studio, Hawk & Cleaver, co-producer of iTunes-busting, and multi-million downloaded, ‘The Other Stories’ podcast, as well as the lead host of the ‘Great Writers Share’ podcast.

Your brand new book, The Mark of the Damned, is coming out 10/25 tell me about it and about your very cool cover!

The Mark of the Damned is a story I’ve had percolating for a while. I love stories in which you can mess with the fabric of reality and call in the forces we don’t understand, and this was a perfect opportunity to do that. Even in the actual creation of the story itself, it took on a life of its own. What had planned to be a 10,000 word novella, ended up demanding that it reach 30,000 words when finished.
The cover art was also something which gave itself to me. In cycling through pre-made horror book art I found the cover and fell in love with it instantly. It speaks perfectly about the book, from the beetle-black eyes, right down to the pentagram hovering around the text (which I didn’t actually notice until I’d paid for the work).

What was the spark that brought about The Mark of the Damned?

It has actually already (technically) been published on The Other Stories podcast. The podcast itself allows for 2,000 word short stories, and after nearly 4 years of the podcast, I’ve personally written 40-50 shorts which have been featured on the feed or on our Patreon page.
The Mark of the Damned was originally a Patreon-exclusive story under our ‘Strange Inheritance’ theme, with a slightly altered title. Something about the story wouldn’t let me go, and I wanted to explore the wider world around what had been written and give it some depth. I also had several listeners asking for an expanded version, so here we are.

What’s your writing routine like?

I try to be as rigid and into a routine as possible. I will primarily write in the mornings, and tend to block out 6-7am for writing, get my kid ready for school, then return to the words around 9.30-midday. Depending on the word counts I’m aiming for, I sometimes go further into the afternoon, but it’s pretty stringent as I know I can procrastinate if I don’t start the day on track.

How did your writing career start?

For fun. I worked as a freelance copy-editor for non-fiction and found myself with some downtime. I’d always wanted to dabble in writing, and after being inspired by Stephen King’s short story collection, ‘Everything’s Eventual,’ I decided to give it a go.

My first novella, ‘Sins of Smoke,’ took around 4 months to write. It was 17,000 words and I edited it myself around 17 times. When I finally published it to Amazon, it was fortunate enough to make it to the #1 spot in the horror charts on Halloween 2015 which, for a horror author, is like the holy grail.

What is Hawk and cleaver and how did it come about?

Hawk & Cleaver is an independent digital story studio. It came about as a way for four creators to create, while also lifting each other up along the way.
Writing can easily be one of the loneliest professions, so having a group of people you can rely on has been invaluable. All of the guys at Hawk & Cleaver are passionate about what they do and love to create. Uniting under one banner was one of the greatest things we could have done for four little-known creators, and now we have a backlist of stories and properties which are being listened to and read the world over.

How do you see British horror fiction being different from the American counterpart?

I don’t tend to differentiate the two all that much. There’s a universality with horror that translates to all countries. I don’t rate Adam Nevill any differently from Stephen King, or conversely, Kealan Patrick Burke from Josh Malerman.

What do you think Brits do very well in horror fiction?

We know how to be miserable. That often helps. I think London and some of the older British towns are perfect locations for some of the scariest horror, and there’s a history here that transcends many places across the globe.

What horror book or movie scared you the most and for the longest time?

My answer for this will be one that might take people by surprise. My earliest memory of being can’t-fucking-sleep-it’ll-get-me scared was The Simpson’s ‘Treehouse of Horror.’ Mr Burns as a vampire scarred my childhood, but I now use that fear to propel my writing. If I can scare 28-year-old me as much as Mr Burns scared 9-year-old me, I’m winning.

What do you do to take a break from writing? I know you recently jumped off an airplane.

Unfortunately the skydive wasn’t an effort to take a break from writing! Taking a break is difficult when you’re a full-time author. Even if you’re not directly putting words on a page, your mind is in your story. Every piece of media you consume is research. The majority of my day is spent in thought or typing on the keyboard so it’s rare I take a break.
Though, when I do, it’s usually because I can sense that I’m burned out and I play several hours of Pokemon on the DS.

What’s one book that you’d wished you’d written?

Adam Nevill’s ‘The Ritual’. It’s been one of the few books that’s engrossed me in a few years, and the horror is beautifully executed. Playing with the hidden beast is one of my favourite things to do. If you can scare someone without physically showing the monster, then you have succeeded, in my opinion.

 

Daniel’s Website

Daniel’s Patreon page

Amazon author page

Anthology and Contest Resources Pt.1

Darkness Wired is about the intersection of old monster, even older Gods and mythologies and human innovation in technology and medicine. For you writers who do not normally peruse technical sites, our CEO, Notch has grabbed some handy links that might inspire you.

Technology Resources

Intel
Ars Technica
Wired
Phys.org
Popular Mechanics
Medical Xpress
Tech Xplore

How to get accepted into the anthology, or improve your likelihood of winning the contest

Read the requirements!

The short stories should include or take place during the events in the timeline provided. Modern or future technology should be a part of it, as much as Lovecraftian mythology.

Fiction that has nothing at all to do with the theme and requirements will not be accepted.

Check out tried and true strategies!

Judges tend to know what they’re looking for and we’re no exception. These submissions must match the theme but you can still utilize recommended techniques for all story writing.  You can WOW us by ensuring there are creepy elements/atmosphere, relatable characters and appropriate twists/compelling ending.

Proofread!

Only the best of the best stories will be accepted into the compilation. You can increase your chances with excellent editing strategies. Make sure the time continuum makes sense and has proper grammar.  Minor mistakes that were missed won’t discount all your hard work but if the story requires major editing overhauls, it will be sent back to you first to correct.

 

A chat with Tom Edwards Pt.2

Image of a giant robot, End of Liberty, all images copyright Tom Edwards

What do you use for your work, do you have favorite software? I love Blender for 3D art and it seems a majority of artists use Photoshop, what do you use?
Most of my work is created in Photoshop. I use Zbrush a lot, as well as Keyshot for rendering.

I see that more and more artist are trying to get away from the Adobe “Creative Cloud”, I am playing with the idea changing to ClipStudio, have you tried different applications?
I’ve used lots of programs in the past, but I’ve always come back to these. I don’t mind paying for Photoshop monthly as you get constant updates. I’ve tried Painter in the past, but I found it quite cumbersome, especially when client work requires a streamlined workflow.

If you use 3d models in your art. what do you use to create them?
I use a mixture of Zbrush and 3D Coat. I create the bases for the ships, then apply a lot of paint over the top. This stops them looking too ‘CG’ and allows me to have my own style.

What is your process from the time a client contacts you, until completion?
I normally receive a brief from the client first. From this point, I paint a rough for the cover. After any feedback, I begin to detail the cover. I’m constantly sending progress shots to the client throughout the process, allowing changes and feedback after the rough stage. When the client and I are happy with the finished artwork, I work on the text if it’s needed. I have a background in graphic design, so I feel my skills allow me to compliment my own artwork well.

Free Trader of The Warren Deep, cover.

When I looked at covers for my flagship Free Trader series, I researched the bestsellers in the genre. Most sported Tom’s covers. I was elated when he agreed to do the first three in that series, and then he did six more for that nine-book story arc. I’ve also picked up a bunch of Tom’s pre-made covers and I’m still first in line when new work appears. All potential readers see your cover first. Make it the best you can. Tom is easy to work with and one of the best in the business.

Craig Martelle, Author of many, many, many books.

How much time do you normally allow per project?
I allow 2 weeks (including weekends) for most projects. This gives chance for feedback and changes. If a client needs it done quickly, I can accommodate this too.

What’s your creative process when tackling a new assignment, do you sketch out your ideas first on paper or go directly to digital?
Normally I go straight to digital. It allows me to quickly paint something that will look more like the final cover. I re-read the brief and try to picture the scene in my head for a few minutes. I then try to get my idea down and quickly and accurately as I can. This rough is then sent to the client for approval.

What do you use for your digital art, Wacom tablets? Desktop or another type of tablet for artists?
I use a Wacom Intuos Pro and a windows PC. I used to use a Mac, but I needed extra power for the 3D work I do. I’ve always used Wacom as a brand and would love a Cintiq one day.

Hardest and best part of being your own boss and artist?
For me, it’s being on my own for most of the day. I used to work in a game studio, and I enjoyed then comradery and banter with other artists. Constant feedback from other artists was good too, and I feel I grew a lot as an artist while I was there.

Do you need a degree to become a successful artist?
No. I have a degree, but I wouldn’t say it’s helped me much at all. Constant practice and a love for what you do will have a much bigger impact. It’s all about the artwork you put out, not the level of degree you have written on a piece of paper.

For the writers out there, check this pre-made covers ready for your fiction. What? Sold already? Reach out to Tom and he’ll get  you a fresh one 🙂

All images, copyrighted by Tom Edwards