Let me tell you a story…

It’s the story of my adventure so far in getting my book series to publishing. It has twists and turns, and key moments along my journey. It’s a story I want to tell, because yesterday (Nov 29, 2020) I hit a big checkpoint.

Let’s nip back in time to the first stop on our historical road trip…

BTTF

2006 – The Writing Begins…

If you’ve explored this website, then you might have found the Femme Fatales section. Here you’ll find some of my scribblings dating back to 2006 in a pretty raw form (so take them with a pinch of salt).

These are my GENESIS as a writer.

They were kind of fan-fiction stories based around my characters in the MMORPG ‘City of Heroes’ and over the years I wrote almost four books worth of story. A friend read it and said I should publish, a notion to which I scoffed. It was (and still is) in sore need of an edit, most of the characters are other people’s creations, and all the backstory stuff is copyrighted to NCSoft (the company that made the game).

The same friend said, could I just change the names and places to avoid any trademark/copyright infringement. I thought about it…but changing all that stuff seemed to fundamentally change what the story was somehow.

The adventures of Knightingale and Rogue in the metropolis of Paragon City was where those stories was meant to stay.

But it did make me wonder…

Stop number 2 on out time travel adventure…

I’ve always been a huge Kevin Smith fan.

I love his forthright nature and his bright optimism for creativity. There’s a quote of his that stuck with me…

“If you’re alive, kick into drive. Chase whimsies.
See if you can turn dreams into a way to make a living, if not an entire way of life.”

That quote (and many more like it from him) struck a chord with me.

I WOULD go out there and create. Chase MY whimsy. Tell the story only I can tell.

Right, off we go to stop number 3…

February 2016

Now, the timeline may overlap here with me listening to Kevin Smith. The actual sequence of events is blurry. While I KNOW that it was Kevin’s plea that actually got me to take this seriously, I may have been tinkering with the story beforehand anyway.

The earliest file I can find on my computer dating the origin of the saga is dated for February 2016 but, in reality, the seeds of the idea were formed a long time before that.

The storyline was planned to be pretty much as it is today, but it back then it did include the notion of bringing not only Vampires and Werewolves et al into the narrative, but also a whole bunch of gods to. The likes of Odin and Thor, Isis and Ra, Apollo and Zeus etc.

Hence the title had tentatively been ‘Gods and Monsters’.

Two things changed my course…

First up, I was struggling to find a good narrative story for the gods angle. I was FAR more interested in the ‘monsters’.

Secondly, Tom Cruise starred in a movie called The Mummy in 2017. It was supposed to launch Universals ‘Dark Universe’ and they were bandying the phrase ‘gods and monsters’ around with gay abandon.

So I decided to change my saga.

So, we turn time back to 2017 for stop number 4…

Around April 2017, the working title officially changed and became ‘Songbird’.

I wasn’t totally happy with it, but it was fine for now. The initial planning had the book series at five books in length, and I was getting really happy with the storyline. I started writing.

Boy, did I start writing.

It took me around a year to write book 1. And in that year I went crazy. The final word tally on my first draft was 260k words.

A google search on the Harry Potter series deeply disturbed me…

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 76,944 words
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – 85,141 words
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 107,253 words
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 190,637 words
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 257,045 words
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – 168,923 words
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – 198,227 words

Uh oh!

My first draft BIGGER Than J K Rowlings largest book in her saga.

Clearly, I had a HUGE problem. I didn’t know what to do about it at all, and I started going about culling it down to something more reasonable. But, I didn’t know the first thing about editing.

Enter Judith Tarr.

Forward to stop 5 in 2018…

I’m not a rich man, but I did scrape enough cash together to get some editing advice and tips from Judith back in the tail end of 2018.

It was money well spent.

I wish I could have afforded more of her time, but what I did get from her was absolutely invaluable in helping me finding all the text in my manuscript that was either surplus to requirements or simply offensive.

She taught me to avoid the male gaze when describing female characters, to take out all the description that bogged down the flow, to ‘show don’t’ tell’, where I was falling into far too much exposition.

I took everything I had learned and tried to make my manuscript better.

A year later and the draft was down to around 170k words. What’s more it was much better for it. I’m sure that Judith would still find a million things I’ve done wrong, but I tried my best. Hunters was finally rounding into shape.

Late 2018

I finally put the book in the hands of other people to read and give feedback. This was SCARY!!!!!

My wife and my friends Chell, Sarah and Andy all had copies of the book to read and give their feedback. I wanted to know if the story was engaging, the characters likable, and if they could see any continuity errors or issues.

All of them gave great feedback, which helped me round the book into shape even more. I’ll be eternally grateful to these guys for being my initial guinea pigs!

Okay, last historical stop coming up…

December 2019

I made a move to engage with the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, where I met a huge bunch of people who would become instrumental in getting things done on the book. From cover art to book launch trailers.

But the most important was @Nikki_Twisted.

We hit it off early and became fast twitter-buds. We both needed help with our manuscripts and both of us had expertise to lend. I’m pretty good with story, and she’s great at editing.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT HER WEBSITE!

Nikki is also a wonderful central point of contact for a network of people who have travelled the publishing path before us. Suddenly I’m swimming in a pool of knowledge. And this is where I start to push forward at a rapid pace.

Late 2019

Firstly, the book series got it’s official name.

Back in my youth, I loved the Alan Moore comic series published in 2000AD called ‘The Ballad of Halo Jones’. It’s a wonderful little sci-fi space series following the central character Halo on her travels and adventures.

I really wanted to kind of homage the title. So I did…

The second thing was, I started to Query.

Initially I was determined to go the Traditional route to publishing. This entails Querying for an Agent, then seeing if they can get you into a traditional publishing house.

It’s a painful process. I won’t go into it here, I wrote a bunch of blog-posts on it (HERE and HERE).

Back to 2020

Covid happened.

As I’ve detailed here previously, the ensuing lockdown gave me the gift of time, and I used that time to get shit done!

Here’s a brief synopsis.

  • Book 1 got its final edit thanks to Nikki.
  • I made the decision to get out of the querying (temporarily) and pursue Indie publishing. (If you want to know why, read this blog post by K.C. Julius on Emma Lombards website… it’ll explain all!)
  • I got my cover art thanks to fabulously talented Marlena Mozgawa (and a quick thanks to Sylessae for point us in her direction.
  • I got a launch date penciled in (March 17, 2021 in case you were forgetting!)
  • I got book 2 in the saga, ‘Blood to Earth’, finished in it’s first draft form.
  • AND I got a launch trailer thanks to the amazing Katie Hagamann which you can see below:

Which brings me to this week…

On Sunday November 29, 2020 Hunters got uploaded to IngramSpark and formatted ready for publishing.

I WILL do a whole other blog post to talk about why the decision was made to go with IngramSpark for publishing, but after a bit of a learning curve with their book builder I got the book ready to go.

It’s scary.

Exciting…but scary.

And that brings us up to the present.

Love & Books

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19 Comments

  1. RaeY

    Reply

    I wondered how you got started with all of this. I’ve been following your blog for a bit now. 2006 – wow, I didn’t know it was that long ago.
    Congratulations Jon! I know nothing of InstagramSpark so I can’t wait to see what that is about. March is just around the corner!

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I am DEEP into the formatting stage now, and it’s PAINFUL! LOL

      That countdown clock on my home page seems to be ticking away sooooo fast!

  2. AV Wilder

    Reply

    When your book is ready for sale, you should tweet Kevin Smith and let him know how much he impacted your life. Maybe you could reach out to him (or his agent) and offer him a free copy. Worst case scenario is that you’ll be ignored. Best case scenario is that he’ll retweet your message. Heck, maybe he will even read your novel, fall in love with it, and become a fan.

    • Phili

      Reply

      What a brilliant idea! Wouldn’t it be great if he read it and retweeted or shared your comment. What a great way to get more exposure!
      Kudos on almost getting your first book out! Keep on going!

      • Jon Ford

        Reply

        OMG as a fan of his, that would be amazing! And if he responded? WOW! That would probably be carved onto my headstone as my epitaph! LOL

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I will DEFINITELY do just that.
      I honestly can’t underestimate the influence of his work. I’m sure a lot of people have been inspired to create by the things that he has said (or done) but honestly he made me sit up and think “Yeah, why not? Why couldn’t I do this?”

  3. Flashyf

    Reply

    So, Jon, some of the inspiration for the title of “The Ballad of the Songbird” came from Alan Moore!
    Are you a fan of his work “V for Vendetta?” I think it is a classic. It always makes me chuckle, though, when I think of what he said when he was asked what inspired him to write it. His reply was “Northampton.”
    I was brought up there. He was born there. It is really not that bad!
    Also, I have just found out about IngramSpark, thanks to you. It looks pretty good, Jon. Best of luck with it.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I should really do a blog post on my favourite comic books and graphic novels. I ABSOLUTELY ADORE Alan Moore’s stuff. V for Vendetta is awesome.
      I never realised it at the time, but being a 2000AD collector back in my youth exposed me to a lot of the great comic book writers even though I had no idea at the time.
      Certainly, they’ve all been a HUGE influence. If I could put a finger on my the biggest influencers of my writing…

      Kevin Smith, Alan Moore, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian K Vaughan, Simon Furman, Greg Rucka and Stjepan Sejic.

      I definitely need to write a blog post on this… LOL

  4. Silvey

    Reply

    You have a launch trailer?! How did I miss that?

    *scrolls back up*

    I had to unblock YouTube in order to watch and boy did it grab my attention! If I ever launch a book I’ll definitely get in touch with Katie Hagamann because she did an excellent job with your material. It’s intriguing and leaves the audience wanting more. That had to be exciting for you to see. Your story is really coming alive. It won’t be long now.

    • MarieE

      Reply

      Don’t feel bad, I missed it too. I had to do the same!
      Jon that is straight up impressive! How exciting for you! I cannot wait to read book 1. I also cannot wait to read a blog post about how successful it is!

  5. Jack Evans

    Reply

    I’ve been following your progress for a while now, and you’re such a good storyteller that it’s impossible not to feel invested in your life story and the book’s progress. Would it be weird to say that I’m proud of you? Because that’s how I’m feeling right now.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      hehe, that’s fine with me.

      I have to say, I’m pretty chuffed with myself to be honest. When I started on this journey way back in the dim and distant past, I had doubts I’d get this far. But there have been little milestones along the way that have kept me going. Like when Wifey first got the manuscript printed so I could hold it in my hand. Or when I saw the book cover Marlena had done (and printed it off and wrapped it around a book, just to see how it would look!). Or meeting Nikki and finding a bookmate who could help me where I was weak in return for me helping her where she needed help. Or when I saw the formatted file ready for print. Or when I got my website up and running…and when I saw that countdown timer to March 17th 2021.

      All of those things have made the dream seem more and more real, and the closer the reality got the more driven I’ve been to actually get there.
      Thank you (all of you!) for joining me on the journey. 🙂

    • AV Wilder

      Reply

      It’s amazing that you commission work. I say that because I keep running into other creative people who are complete strangers to me, who want me to draw them a custom image for free. Kudos to you for treating other professionals, like professionals.

      • Jon Ford

        Reply

        I would NEVER expect a freebie from an artist. For many of them, art is how they make their living. I’ve said it before, multiple times, that I think authors and artists go hand in hand. Our books can’t help but look better with a professionally done cover art, while authors are both a source of income for an artist, and also a way for their work to be spread far and wide.
        If The Ballad of the Songbird series becomes popular, I will make sure that the WORLD knows the name of my cover artist Marlena! EVERYONE should be commissioning her! 😀

  6. Acro

    Reply

    I have a nasty habit of starting so many projects that I never finish. You’ve inspired me to push on and to set a deadline to get it done. For now, I’m happily awaiting your publishing date. I can’t wait until Gayle Knightley comes to life and I can finally read about her epic adventures.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      hehe, I can’t wait either! I really hope everyone enjoys her adventures. I know that you can’t please EVERYONE, but I’m hoping that the feedback I’ve had from my Beta’s holds true. Everyone that’s read it so far has loved it, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed! 🙂

  7. J. Ashburn

    Reply

    Hi, I’m new to your blog. I just found you on Twitter after a colleague shared your profile. I’m a big fan of science fiction and live for stories where humans live amongst other worldly creatures. Your series is right up my alley. Now I just have to be patient for the book to come out.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Not too long!!! March 17th! That’s release day, and it’s not far off now!
      Welcome aboard the Songbird train J. 😀

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