Working with Chris has been an absolute pleasure, essentially there’s been very little that I’ve had to do other than listen to the finished product and listen out for any audio blips (think we spotted three for the whole story). It helped that Chris really did a lot of research for his narration of Before and After, so this was really just a case of getting out of his way and letting him do his thing.
My biggest question was how he was going to read Bear and I hope you’ll agree that he did a great job of becoming a dog-ruined animatronic bear. You can check it out on the free sample.
I’m hard at work on this year’s book. It’s at an annoying stage where I go back and forth on whether it’s an interesting idea, hate all the characters and get embarrassed about how puerile the story is. The trick at this stage is to not give up and know that it’s just a standard crisis of confidence that everyone gets regardless of what job they do.
Hope your 2023 has got off to a good start and I look forward to giving you something new to read this year.
The End of the World Reading Club (hereafter TEOTWRC) is a great subscription option for anyone who loves post-apocalyptic fiction – and if you don’t, what are you doing here? They send subscribers a new post-apocalyptic book every month and, here’s the genius, they add in themed gifts for each book.
Like, you know when you’re reading a book and someone eats a Twinkie and you think, “Huh, I wonder what a Twinkie tastes like?” Well in the TEOTWRC, one of your gifts might be a pack of Twinkies. The gifts are better than stale cream-filled cakes, but you get the point.
If you needed further incentive to give it a go, they’re offering a very special, limited gift box of Flesh and Blood and the presents are bananas. Not actual bananas, as in mad bananas. I’m not allowed to spoil the surprises that you get when you order a copy, but read through this link and you should be able to guess. Bananas, right?
The Flesh and Blood special offer is nearly sold out, so if you want one of these then you’ll have to be quick. Click this link and throw digital money at them!
I think that Audible do a free listen, so if you’re not signed up as a customer yet then you can register and get Before and After as a free credit. I’m assuming I get paid if that’s the case, if not then make sure you leave me a review!
It’s been a painless process for me, largely because the excellent narrator Chris Devon did it all for me. If you’re in the market for a voice-over or book narration then I highly recommend him.
I wanted to narrate the book myself, largely because I’m a horrible control-freak, but after I recorded a sample it became apparent just how involved the process of getting the audio right is. Plus, when Chris auditioned it was fairly apparent that he was better than me so that made the decision easier.
Hopefully, we’ll have Flesh and Blood recorded and out by the end of the year too.
So Flesh and Blood has been out for a few days now and so far the reviews have been incredible. Thank you so much anyone who has taken the time to share their thoughts on the book. It makes a HUGE difference to Amazon algorithms and, frankly, to my ego, so please keep doing it.
Few bits of related news:
NEWS ITEM ONE: To celebrate Flesh&Blood hitting the top ten (it’s a best-seller/bestseller/best seller!) I’m offering to sign your book. I’ve got some cool Before & After postcards and if you would like me to send you one that you can then stick in your copy of the book/s then I will gladly do so. I’ll even pay the postage (UK readers only, sorry. International readers, I’ll still do it but you’ll have to pay the postage). In return all I ask is that you consider making a donation to the Alzheimer’s Society. Drop me a message including your name and address on email ajshanahan AT gmail DOTCOM and I’ll get it done.
NEWS ITEM TWO: I’m an idiot. When you do a pre-sale book with Amazon, they “lock” the content three days before it goes live. I uploaded the book three days before but it was a very slightly earlier version, I guess that there are about 30 amends that the final version has. It’s nearly all spelling/grammar, but it bugs the hell out of me. Amazon said that if I uploaded the correct version straight away as soon as it went live then they’d send that version out. In short, they lied. It’s taken them two days to get around to finally updating the ebook sales that went out at the stroke of midnight. Consequently, you might have an email that looks like this:
If you do and you’ve not read Flesh and Blood yet, please update the version, if only for my sanity. If you’ve already read it, then please assume that all of those typos that you spotted have already been taken care of.
NEWS ITEM THREE: I’m thinking of doing some merch. Would you be interested in buying a Before and After/Flesh and Blood tshirt/mug/toothbrush?
I dunno. I’m rubbish at images, let me know if you’ve got a better idea.
There’s too many people to thank for making this one happen but I’d especially like to thank Emma Jones, Craig Morris and Yolander Yeo. If it wasn’t for those three wonderlings, this book wouldn’t exist. If you hate it, blame them.
I’d also like to thank the Shanahaninjas and the ARC reading team, who have all been instrumental in getting this one over the line.
I’ve loved spending time with Ben and Brown again and I hope that you do too. If you get a chance to read it then I’d love you to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads, it makes a massive difference to how many people get to hear about the book. Thank you so much in advance.
Since Before and After was released wayyyy back in January 2020, the cover of the book has provoked strong reactions. One camp say that it’s a non-genre cover and should therefore be burned with other heretical works. Others say that they love it and it made them want to eat biscuits.
I’ve been exceptionally lucky to work with graphic designer Yolander Yeo for over two decades now. We’ve even written a children’s book together (The Bossy Book). So when I needed a book cover, of course, Yo was the one I turned to. I thought it might be nice if I shut up for once and asked Yo to answer some questions about biscuits, criticism and what I’m like to work with (spoiler: she’s really nice so she didn’t tell you about my tantrums and fits of rage). Oh and click on the cover to get your copy of Flesh and Blood, now! (or here).
How many biscuits did you eat making this cover?
I went through two packets of custard creams making the cover, I only ate about two of them, the photographer, Andrew, helped with the rest! I’m not really a biscuit person, could be because I don’t drink tea, I’m told that tea and biscuits go together like gin and tonic.
You also designed Before and After, what were the challenges of doing a sequel?
The second cover was easier than the first. Shan knew he wanted another biscuit cover, which after reading the book I agreed it represented the story perfectly. The custard cream was a great choice as it allowed us to change the text as we did on the first book cover, creating design consistency between the two. The biggest challenge was smashing up the biscuit just the right amount and adding some extra cream.
How do you get the writing on the biscuit to look so good?
I didn’t! Shout out to Emma, the retoucher who worked her magic in photoshop. It looks so good!
What do you think the cover design tells someone about the book?
We wanted the biscuit to reflect the emotional and physical state of Ben, which is why on this cover it looks more cracked and broken than the first.
Did you hide any easter eggs in the design of the cover?
The green colour in the cream hints that something is not quite right, you’ll have to read the book to find out more.
Do you enjoy doing book cover designs?
Yes! I love book covers and I love reading. The challenge of creating a simple concept that represents a whole story and makes the reader want to pick it up is really exciting. I love a challenge!
What is your short review of the book?
I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Ben and Brown and the sequel didn’t disappoint! I couldn’t put the book down, it made me laugh, cry and want to try laughing gas.
What am I like to work with?
Working with Shan is always lots of fun and collaborative. We trust each other which means we can be completely honest about what we think, and we push each other to make the work better. I’m proud of what we’ve created together and excited about the next book. There will be a next book, right Shan? Perhaps a Biscoff for the next cover? [SHAN: No more biscuits, EVER].
Flesh and Blood (Before and After, Book Two) is available to read from 31/12/2021. You can make sure you get your copy (digital only at the moment, Amazon don’t do pre-sale for a physical book) by ordering it now.
I’m really proud of the book and all of the work that has gone into making it appear. Through the pandemic it’s felt like a Herculean task to write stories about hope. But it’s done and I’m so proud to carry on telling you Ben and Brown’s story. In many ways I think that their search for warmth in a world that’s falling apart feels as needed as it’s ever been. I hope you enjoy the book and I hope you’re sat comfortably with a brew and a nice biscuit or two, because you’re about to find that sometimes things only begin at the end of the world.
Music is an essential part of writing for me, but more than providing a suitable ambience to imagine things, sometimes certain songs just seem to force their way into stories. This was absolutely the case with Flesh and Blood, where a few different songs embedded themselves into the text and refused to let go. That’s earworms for you.
As a way of distracting myself from editing (nearly 50% of the way through. Keep going!) I thought I’d go through the book and pull out any of the songs that are mentioned in the text. Some of these are directly referred to, others are just playing during various scenes. I’ve also included a couple that were mentioned but then lost out to other songs as I edited. It’s an eclectic mix, running from Vengaboys to Aretha Franklin. Hope you enjoy listening!
If you’d like to read the book, then stay tuned to the blog, my Twitter and Facebook and the email list because it’s being released in December, so you’ll at least have something to distract you from your relatives this yuletide season. Plus Flesh and Blood makes for a fine accompaniment to a Rennie or two…
Quick work update: I’m soooooo close to finishing Flesh and Blood I can taste it. We’re now at the point where my amazing friend and designer Yolander has started working on the cover design. She shared a sneak preview of how things were going the other day:
By the way, if you don’t already follow me on Twitter then you should because I’m A Grade hilarious on there. I’m also pretty sweary, so if that’s not your thing then don’t follow me. Whatever.
At this point in time I’m thinking that it will be finished 30/11, off to the editor for a week and then artworking done on it ready to be published round about the 16/12. Publishing that close to Christmas is absolute insanity, clearly, but I don’t really have any options – it has to come out before the end of 2021 so that I can keep to my book per year schedule (Before and After was out Jan 2020, so it’s only just scraping in under the wire).
I’m starting to think about what the next book will be after Flesh and Blood. Got some exciting ideas that have got pretty dusty while I’ve worked out how F&B should come into the world. It’s not been an easy book to write, due in part to the pandemic. I was talking to a friend the other day about how much psychic energy COVID has required of us all and how we shouldn’t be surprised if we just feel a bit exhausted right now. If you feel tired and low at the moment then I’m sorry to hear that. Try and be kind to yourself and appreciate that we’ve all been through some shit. We’re going to make it. We’ll be ok.
The take up on the free ad astra stories and NFTs has been really good and the story is getting good feedback from readers. A lot of them are saying that it feels like the start of a bigger story and I definitely agree with that. If you want to grab one while they’re still available to grab then drop me your ETH address. To get one of those you just need to install Metamask. It’s been really interesting to write something about new and dangerous technology and deliver it in a corresponding way. Feels good man.
Ok, back to it. I’ve got approximately 10,000 amends spotted by the Advanced Reader team to sort out.
I’ve been trying to challenge myself to write more short stories this year. Alongside completing Flesh and Blood, the sequel to Before and After, I’ve also released In the Roomand now I’ve got ad astra ready to roll.
ad astra was written for Jodrell Bank Observatory, a radio telescope that is very close to where I live and close to my heart. In my mind it’s one of the most inspiring places on earth and if you ever want someone to talk at you for 60 minutes then just ask me what I think about JBO. I wanted to give something back and they were kind enough to assist me in answering lots of questions about observing the universe and the destruction of the world. Don’t ask me why everything with me always comes back to the destruction of the world. It just does. So ad astra concerns the very first and very last SETI messages ever received by humans. It very much feels like the first part of something, but I’m wrestling currently with what that might be.
In terms of publishing I’m trying something new for this short story, namely, I’m giving it away for free. Every copy also comes with a unique 1/1 artwork created by me (digitally, because I can’t paint for toffee). This story and artwork is available as an NFT* and the idea is that owners will sell and trade the works and generate a revenue for themselves and me. It could all go to shite, but that’s ok. My friend Jeff Rosenstock taught me that it’s important to keep fucking things up.**
If you would like a copy then you’ll just need to let me know your ETH address. Reply to this email, add a comment below, write it on a rock and throw it through my bedroom window. It’s comically easy to set up an ETH address. Basically, you set up Metamask on Chrome and that’s it. Here’s a really simple link: https://medium.com/…/guide-how-to-setup-metamask… All you need to do is post your ETH address and I’ll send you a copy. It’s free. You’re safe. It’s all good, NFTs are insanely valuable, this is your ticket to retirement.
*It’s minted on the Polygon network, so if you’ve heard that NFTs are about to explode the world with electricity usage then please read up on this first.
**Full disclosure, I don’t know Jeff, but he has chatted to me on Twitter a couple of times and I’m absolutely going to parlay that into a friendship and stalk him at Manchester Punk fest.