August 16, 2016

Not Just a Book: a guest post by Duncan P. Bradshaw, author of "Hexagram"

Hexagram by Duncan Bradshaw: Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands.

Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history.
Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome.
We are all made of stars.
When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.

Yet...the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed.

Not Just A Book
By Duncan Bradshaw, author of Hexagram

First up, this is not a post about which format is better than another. Personally, you cannot beat a Kindle for when you go away on holiday, saves so much space, which is then used by my wife for the extra clothing she takes, to cover all bases.

But…I will say, that when I am putting my books together, there is something really cool about creating the files for the physical copies. For that, I have to rewind around thirty years, to when I was a littler version of myself, and absolutely besotted with Roald Dahl. Not only were his books the perfect fodder for me, irreverent, gross, completely OTT and silly, but they also had kickass illustrations inside. Quentin Blake’s work not only complimented the words so well, but they set the tone for what was inside, just by looking at the covers.

Now, the last thing I want to do when I’m putting together a book, is copy what they did, it’s just not possible, plus, it worked well as a kids book, not for adults. Particularly within genre fiction, it would look out of place. It’s not to say that you can’t do something though.

I played it pretty safe with my debut, ‘Class Three’, a few different fonts, some black and white zombie pictures, nothing too much. When I got to the first book in the Class Four trilogy, ‘Those Who Survive’ though, I wanted to up the ante a bit.

There are a couple of parts in there, which lended themselves perfectly to having something a little extra done for them. The main one, is the Trevor Norman’s Penny Gaff section. When our protagonists are ‘treated’ to a show, each travesty of nature has its own poster, turning them into a focal point, and giving them a bigger presence.

Another part of the narrative focused on survivors relaying their tales to others in a support group. These were singular stories, and again, provided the opportunity to give the reader something cool to find, and breaks up the wall of words. There were some other design choices made too, which I feel, added to the story. So much so, that when I created the book, I released it the same size as a graphic novel. It’s those little touches that most people won’t even be aware of, having opted for the digital version.

When I released my first bizarro novella, ‘Celebrity Culture’, a poke at the obsession with vapid people, there are forty three made up diseases. To highlight the extent to which brands invade our lives, each of these diseases have their own font. So, diseases released by the same person will have their own brand and image.

Again, is it needed? No, not at all, but for me, I love these little touches. Writing is fun, reading is fun, I want people who pick up one of my books, to go through it and have a little smile on their face when they do so.

Hexagram though is probably my most serious book, so these touches I wanted to keep at a minimum. There were a number of things I wanted to do though. When I sent the brief to Mike McGee for the cover, I wanted each point of the Hexagram to be each of the main characters. Not just that, but by each, there would be an image, which is part of the story, which makes up the point of the star. For example, Pastor Jim Gimbal gets a drug loaded syringe:

These also adorn each chapter cover, which has a quote, date, location and countdown to the end of the world. Plus, you’ll see that each story has a different font used for the chapter numbers. I just think this helps to frame the story, add a little extra detail in there, it’s not required, but I think it just helps to make a product which stands out as something different.
At the end of the Gimbaltown segment, there is a transcript, an ‘after-action’ report if you will. Given the subject matter, I looked up the Waco reports, and in particular the transcripts of the tapes of David Koresh. At the front of each, a disclaimer was printed, which I thought would be cool to use, just to add a dash of authenticity to the words:

So when you get to the end of that story, you feel like you’re rooting through history, which ultimately is what Hexagram is trying to convey. The final thing was that there is a wraparound story, which I use to bookend the entire narrative with. I wanted something that would just give you a final impression, before you closed the book and put it away on a shelf.

There’s a guy called Neil Baker, who runs April Moon Books, a small press in Canada. He published a novella by Rich Hawkins, called ‘Black Star, Black Sun’, within it, are a number of creepy black and white illustrations. Similar to the cover, I had an idea in mind, and contacted him to see if he would be up for doing something. I received it about a month or so after the last edits were done, and the proof copy has just been ordered, a blank space reserved for his work.
This is what he sent in, and to me, it captured perfectly what I was after. A father and daughter, standing in the heavens, watching a star burst, marvelling in the creation of the universe. It takes up the whole page, in a 5x7 book, chosen instead of the industry standard as it is was the closest I could get to being the same size as a King James’ bible. I believe that every aspect of the physical product should be considered, and if something can be done to help it fit with what you have written, do it.

Duncan P. Bradshaw lives in the county of Wiltshire, nestled around the belly button of southern England, with his wife Debbie, and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe. During the day, he is a mild mannered office goon, doing things which would bore you, if he was forced to tell you. At night, he becomes one with a keyboard, and transforms his weird and wonderful thoughts into words, which people, like you, and me, can read.
Why not pop over to his website, or give him a like over on Facebook, or read his ravings on his blog,

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