Nanowrimo is Coming

downloadNovember, that dreaded month between the fun of Halloween and the evil that is Christmas.

November is also National November Writing Month, where thouasnds of writers try and write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The winner is the person who writes the least bad novel.

This year (for the third time) I’m going to give it a shot, but I’m planning on actually finishing it this time. Last year I got off to a good start, but life got in the way (as it does) and I never got back into it.

This time I’m witing a story which is set in a land akin to Ancient Greece. It’s called The Hero Elect and it’s part of a trilogy.

In other news, I finally got round to seeing Bladerunner 2049, and it was fantastic. If dystopian existential drama is your thing (as it is mine), I heartily recommend it. The sets are great and the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a bum-numbing three hours long (pee first), but it rattles along at a good pace and if you like it, you will probably feel the need to watch it again to pick up on all the intricacies you likely missed.

While I’m waiting for Stranger Things season two to hit Netflix, I’ve been filling the gap with Mindhunter, a fictional take on the FBI’s investigation into the mindset of serial killers in the 70s. The basic premise is a couple of agents join forces to look into the rise of the serial killer, and end up investigating some cases along the way. It’s based on true events, but you can take that as you will. It’s as compelling as it sounds, cast is great, and script and sets are excellent. Netflix has been responsible for some of the finest shows doing the rounds lately.

I’m curretly reading Days of Endless Night by Matt Larkin, an advenutre rooted deeply in Viking lore. I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far, it’s well-written, dark and (darkly) humourous, and while I’m not an expert on Viking mythology, it certainly fits what I do know.

Al Versus the Author Profile

So, with the Burkelings (my kids) both in school full-time, it’s time to focus some more on my writing. Providing endless snacks for my son Eoin was great, but time consuming, so it’s time to step up my author game and make a real go of this. First thing on my agenda is to build my author platform. “What the hell is an author platform?” you ask. Consider it your outlet to the real world (something we authors don’t always attune to. After some quick internet searching (not “Googling”, I use another search engine), I came across A Writer’s Life and decided to base it on that (due to not having to buy anything). The good people there (or Brooke Warner in this case), suggest a seven-step approach. Using these parameters, here are my plans for world domination:



  • Expertise: Write an “I am fabulous” statement


I am a writer. Easy to say, I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve published a book, so        I’m also an author. I’m not really into blowing my own trumpet, but I am awesome, so that’s all the bases covered. Next, please.



  • Contacts: Put together a “big mouth list”


Okay, I’ve got some “peeps” out there who actively retweet every occasion of my book being promoted. Thanks to signing up to the right sites for a minimal cash outlay, my book gets retweeted a few times a day. I’ve noticed some spikes in UK sales every once in a while, but what this really equates to is beyond me, but it looks good.



  • Social media: Pick two social channels


Okay, in 2017 there are about 18 million social media outlets (mild exaggeration). If you’re a writer, you can narrow it down to two – Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is actually great. You can set up a separate author profile (I have a “page,” but I’m planning on changing that) and control who’s in it; talk to your beta & ARC readers; chat with your real fans; and there’s even excellent groups for fans of various genres and writing groups. What’s even better is they’re controlled by moderators to keep out pornbots, trolls and other web sociopaths. Then there’s Twitter. Twitter can really spread the word, but it’s like trying to take down a rhinoceros with a blowgun – you can do it, but your timing has to  be P-E-R-F-E-C-T. Your precious tweet could get swept away in a hurry. You could trot out the same “buy my book” tweet every hour, but others will just get bored/annoyed. On a side note, I love Google+ (weird, right?), but I like it for following tech (where the real nerds hang out). It has such awesome potential, but it came too late to the party.



  • Previous media and books: Publish an ebook


Did I mention I had done this? If you’re new here (from that the time I took down the Twitter rhino), you can find details here – Al’s Books.



  • Personality: Figure out your persona


Oooh – sarcastic anti-social optimist-realist hybrid. Sound good? Sounds a but like a typical writer stereotype, so it might actually work. I’m 45 and I gave up on the whole “fitting in” lark in my late 20s, so I’m not changing back now. It’s funny that we now live in a world where an author personality can affect his sales. I wonder how it would have been fifty years ago  – “Ooh, that Hemingway’s a dick, there’s no way his books are classics.”


I am who I am, and I am not a salesperson. Love me or leave me…



  • Existing readership: Create a sign-up form on your website


Okay, I’ve written one book and a handful of blog posts (and possibly a couple of thousand articles in my other life), but I’m not sure if I’m ready for Mail-Chimp and e-newsletters yet. It’s on my to-do list, but it’s just more stuff to get done that detracts from the actual writing of books. Watch this space.



  • Ability to execute: Stick to a schedule


Okay, save my weak spot for last. I’m pretty flaky around getting stuff down with schedules and the like (ask my wife). Give me a set-in-stone deadline and Chuck Norris and The 300 couldn’t stop me powering through. Say “write a couple of hours a day,” and I’m out to lunch. If you’re a writer who sells well but isn’t Stephen King or Diana Gabaldon, your publisher is going to demand that you meet deadlines and so forth in order to stay with them. I probably could’ve written my novel in a week with a deadline looming. I’m nowhere near that stage and, much as I like my publisher (love you BTP), they’re relatively new and have plenty of other non-flaky authors to worry about (seriously though, if you write speculative fiction, check out Zombie Cupcake Press).


So, that’s it – the Seven Deadly Sins of Author Platforms. Can I come up with the goods? Time will tell, but expect to see some short stories in the near future.


Rock and Roll!



Time for a New Post

IMG_20170621_124537235So, it’s been a while since I posted anything. I have been writing a bit, planning some more, and also dithering over whether I should release my short stories as single entities or a collection. They revolve around Halloween so I should probably get on that.
Anyway, my best buddy Eoin (aka my son), has been ordering me to make up stories for him lately. Here’s the first, it has a mythological vibe. It’s probably a bit dark for your average five-year-old, but as I said, he is my kid. Here goes –



Eoin, Hero of Leinster

Once upon a time there was a warrior named Eoin, who was the greatest hero in all of Leinster. He spent his days roaming the province, protecting the people from bandits and monsters.

One day he came across a village devoid of children. The people of the village had a sad story. There was a monster that lived in a nearby cave who came at night and took their children to eat. Eoin was shocked at this, and promised to slay the beast.

After searching the hills, Eoin finally came across a cave, and sure enough, a hideous monster slept outside, while children played around him. Eoin drew his sword, which was as big as a man and had emeralds in its hilt. He crept up on the creature, but it awoke and readied for battle.

To Eoin’s surprise, the monster spoke. “Who are you, and why do you disturb my slumber?”

“I am Eoin, hero of Leinster,” he replied. “The people of a nearby village have sent me to slay you. They say you steal their children to eat.”

The monster gaped in surprise. “They say I eat the children? Do these children look eaten to you? I rescue the children from the village. Those rogues sell their children into slavery, just so they have more money for themselves.”

Now it was Eoin’s turn to be shocked. “What you say has a ring of truth. These children do look happy. I will return to the village to investigate.”

When Eoin came back to the village, he hid in the woods for some time, watching how the people behaved. Indeed, the people looked less distressed than when they sent him on his quest. In fact, they looked rather pleased with themselves. The town looked plentiful, and the people well fed. Eoin went to the town hall to approach the council again.

“Have you completed our task?” asked the Mayor.

“I have found the monster, and spoken with it,” replied Eoin.

“The monster SPEAKS?” asked the mayor. The other council members glanced at each other nervously.

“It does,” replied Eoin. “It told me what you really do with your children. You are the real monsters here. I will visit your town periodically, and if I hear you have harmed the monster or sold another child, I will slay,” he drew his sword and held it to the mayor’s throat, “YOU!”

The End


This Blogging Lark

As some of you who know me (or read my About Me piece) know, I was a sports blogger for about five years before I decided to write a novel. Just like novel writing, sports blogging involves a lot of sitting in front of a computer churning out words. Like novel writing, blogging requires a degree of creativity and individuality to stay separate from the pack (if not ahead). Finally, like novel writing, blogging can be a pain in the pooh chute when you’re not in the zone. This, my friends is probably why I’m so sporadic in my posts.

Excuses, excuses! Blah, blah, blah! Yeah, I know. Suck it up, buttercup, and all that. Anyway, enough with my voyage of self-discovery, I promised you some insight into my next novel. However, I’m not sure which one it will be. My biggest problem when I sit down to write (also a blogging issue) is, whatever I intend to work on, is not what’s buzzing around in my puny brain.

So here’s what is on my to-do list (I think I’ve mentioned it before):

  • A book of short stories based on Irish folklore. These should be next, but I might try and have them published separately in magazines and the like
  • A retelling of the wonderful Second Battle of Moytura, an Irish legend written with the intention of inspiring the Irish people to band together and kick Viking raider butt once and for all
  • A story of a man driven by revenge who finds his humanity through the unlikeliest of ways
  • I’ve got three other ideas in the pipeline that I’m pretty excited about, but I’ll keep these under my hat for now.

I did promise to have finished a book by the end of June, and I intend to keep that, even though I’m at best halfway done on any of them. Setting a deadline works for me, I always cracked my personal whip when I had to get things done in a hurry.

I also intend to write a post every Tuesday night, giving progress updates (boring) and other ramblings.  Basically whatever pops into my twisted brain.

Other News/Random Items

My little girl is eight years old in two weeks. Eight years old! When the hell did that happen?

I don’t know how many of you like Horror or other genres, but I watched Slasher on Netflix and thought it was great. The casting was good and the storyline was first class, keeping the killer a mystery until the very end. Plus there was an end, not a series that will go on forever. Or until it’s cancelled. The show needs to give American Horror Story their opening credits back though.

I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, mainly because they’re free, but some of them are terrific. If you like your horror cosmic, check out Ansible 15717 by Stant Litore. For fantasy, Grimsdalr by Joshua Robertson has a nice Beowulf tone to it. I try to review every book I read nowadays, so if you’re interested, you can find me on Goodreads.

That’s all for now. Until Tuesday,


My Promise to You

Okay readers, followers and so forth,

I have been rather slack recently in my writing adventure. I’ve done a little promotion on-line, but after a solid January where I managed 13,000 words or so, I did next to nothing over the last couple of months, including neglecting my blog.

Now it’s mid-April, and it’s time to get back on the word-wagon again. First on my list of things to do is focus on what to finish first.

That will likely be my short stories. The stories are based on Irish folklore with a horror twist, which most folklore should have. I’m about halfway through at the moment, which is good, as I had intended to have one book finished by June, so I’m off to a good start.

I’ve been enjoying writing these stories so far. I remember hearing them as a kid and as I write, I can feel the same prickle of fear as when I heard them the first time. Sweet! I’ve thrown in some of my own personal experiences to lend a little flavour, but I wonder whether they will scare anyone else.

After that will likely be a novel based on Irish legend – the Second Battle of Moytura to be precise. If you haven’t heard of this before, don’t worry too much, I’ll fill you in as we go along. I’ve put a little twist on it, so don’t feel the need to bone up on it beforehand.

I’ll come back in a few days with a brief look at Moytura – it’s got giants!!

Aside from that, due to my gross procrastination, I have read a bunch of (adult) books this year. Here’s the list so far, with a one line (or so) review:

  1. Godslayer, by Jacqueline Carey – epic fantasy told from the perspective of the bad guys. One of my favourites – 9/10
  2. The Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks – this was a solid read for dark fantasy enthusiasts in which the heroes are wetboys (assassins) – 8/10
  3. Lovecraft Country, by Matt Ruff – an interesting take on the writings of HP Lovecraft, with the protagonists an African-American family who battle racism as well as dark magic. The splintered narrative lets it down some – 7/10
  4. Vs Reality, by Blake Northcott – not necessarily my kind of thing, with budding superheroes being tracked down by a secret agency (wait, maybe it is my thing). Enjoyable nonetheless – 7/10
  5. Rising, by Brian Rella – a horror prequel about the rise of demonic forces in the world. Short, but a taster for what is to come – 7/10
  6. The Skewed Throne, by Joshua Palmatier – more assassin-fuelled heroism, this time a young girl who questions her orders as she has a knack for seeing people’s moral compass (for want of a better explanation). More grimdark (I sense a trend) – 7/10
  7. Nemesis – by Stephen Michael Fuchs – again, a prequel. Again, not really my thing, with a US special forces team stuck in ground zero of the Zombie Apocalypse. The frenetic pace disguises the stereotypes – 7/10
  8. The Ragged Man, by Tom Lloyd – I love the Twilight Reign series, and the fourth instalment didn’t disappoint. Compelling plots and interesting characters earn it a – 9/10
  9. The Destroyer, by Michael Scott Earle – an interesting fantasy tale that teetered too often between great and mediocre – 6/10
  10. Malice, by John Gwynne – a strong start to an epic fantasy series spanning four books, with some good characters and chin-scratching plots – 8/10
  11. Stormwielder – Aaron D Hodges – another enjoyable fantasy tale, with heroes ho find their own conflicts as troublesome as their opponents – 8/10.

I believe I’ve read a couple more (and a million kids books); if I remember them, I’ll let you all know. Until then,



What Next?

So, the release of The King is Dead ran relatively smoothly, with the minor hiccough of the paperpack release being delayed a couple of days. Apparently this is typical of our friends at Amazon. Also typical is the separation of e-book and paperback into two different entities. This should be fixed soon enough, but it skews the sales a little. Not that I’m all about the sales (don’t mention that to my wife). The big question now is “What next?” Do I rest on my laurels and say “Hey, scratched that one off my bucket list,” or write something else?

Well, here’s the answer. Right now I’m working on three separate projects, any of which could be released next. The most likely candidate for next up is a collection of short stories, roughly fitting into the horror genre, but based on Irish folklore. Some of these tales will be a retelling of stories I heard when I was a kid. Also on the list is a novel loosely based on the Second Battle of Moytura (or Cath Maighe Tuireadh for Gaelic speakers), a famous Irish legend. The third is a novel which veers more into traditional fantasy. Well, it has ogres in it.

When any of these may be released is another matter. Bear in mind it took two years to write the relatively short The King is Dead. I’ve started all three to some degree, so that’s something. I’m planning on getting one out by this summer, so watch this space. I’ll post some insider info on the various different factions in the BoM just for fun.


Two Days to Go

THE KING IS DEAD - AL BURKEIn case you haven’t been paying attention, my debut novel The King is Dead, will be released on December 20th. The e-book has been available for pre-order for some time now, but the paper copy can be purchased on launch day. Here’s the blurb:

“Etruvia has known peace for twenty years. But this time of peace has brought corruption and greed. The nobility has taken control, and the memories of great victories of old have faded. Crime is rife and the once proud people are little more than peasants. As a great evil rises in the desolate north, can a forgotten king and an embittered former war hero wake a nation from its stupor and build an army strong enough to give it a fighting chance?”

You can find the order links below:



Barnes & Noble:


Hope y’all enjoy it!!

An Interview with…Me?


Part of the deal with writing in this new world of online publishing is doing the blog circuit and taking part in interviews etc. So with great pleasure, I would like to interview…myself (questions stolen from here).

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

Good question. I think I always was one. When I was a kid, I used to type out little stories on my father’s typewriter. In school, my essays always got the best grades. I’ve had a couple of articles published in local newspapers, and I had a decent reputation covering American Collegiate Football for some of the bigger websites like SBNation and Fansided. Not impressed? Couldn’t blame you, but writing is in my blood, I just don’t know how it got there.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Ah! How long is a piece of string? I’ve written one book. I’ve been nurturing it in my mind for five years or so, and started writing it two years ago. To be honest, it took me the equivalent of a couple of weeks, but the secret is trying to find distraction-free time. I work four (sometimes five) days a week and, I look after my kids the other days, so it can be hard to find a time to get in the zone.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Schedule? What is this schedule of which you speak? Perhaps I should have one…

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I get up and walk around talking to myself while mulling over key plot points. I bet nearly every writer does that though.

How do books get published?

In this day and age, there are many ways. Self-publishing is relatively easy, and with the competition for traditional publishing spots, is a solid option for many. I was lucky to sign on with a new publisher Bella Tulip Publishing, but I can also see the lure of independent publishing. It’s hard work though.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I research relevant topics. In fantasy for example, the traditional setting is similar to Medieval Europe (thanks Tolkien), so reading up on the era is helpful. I’m in the (slow) process of writing a collection of horror short stories based on Irish folklore, so I’m reading up on that now (and adding my own knowledge).

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

Over the last two years. And 44.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Play with my family, watch TV/movies, read. The stock interview answers.

What does your family think of your writing?

They love it, and they are very proud and supportive.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That I could do it, and that I want to keep doing it.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I’ve written one. It’s called The King is Dead, and it’s my current favourite. I have another in the pipeline that I really like the whole concept of though.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Stick with it. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. Don’t be too proud to accept help/advice, and don’t give up your day job. At least not at first.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I have two five star reviews on Goodreads. The book hasn’t officially been released yet, so one is from my editor, and one from an advance reader. If you think your editor would be biased, you’ve probably never had one…

Do you like to create books for adults?

Absolutely. My kids want me to write some books for them, which I will attempt, but I do prefer adult themes.

What do you think makes a good story?

A strong plot, believable characters and a kick-ass ending.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

When I was really young, I wanted to be Jack the Leopard (who breathes fire), or a petrol-pump attendant (as we call them in the old country), but I never had a desired career (still don’t). To be honest, the one thing I was sure I wanted to be from my teen years on was a father. Mission currently being accomplished.


Review: Horns, by Joe Hill

So, with a to-read list as long as mine, it’s no surprise that it took me a while to get round to reading Joe Hill‘s Horns. In addition, in a bumper reading work, I also got round to reading a couple more books, which I will mention later. On to Horns.

Horns was first published back in 2010, and is considered to be a dark fantasy, which is a fitting category. It follows the tale of Ig, who dwells in small-town New Hampshire. He is the runt of the Perrish litter. Ig’s father had a fine career in the music industry, rubbing shoulders with the stars, while his brother Terry has parlayed his heritage into an equally successful career.

Ig’s life takes a turn for the worse when his girlfriend Merrin is murdered and Ig is never cleared or convicted. As a result, he is a pariah in his own town, and a constant subject of ridicule and harassment.

We first meet Ig the morning after the anniversary of the Merrin’s death, waking to a blinding hangover and sporting a small pair of the titular horns. It soon becomes apparent that the horns are just for show, as everyone he comes into  contact divulges their deepest secrets and desires.

One such encounter with his brother Terry reveals the identity of the killer, and Ig spends the rest of the novel figuring out how to deal with Merrin’s murderer.

The novel jumps back and forth between Ig’s teen years and the modern day, while switching point of view to other characters in the book. This doesn’t confuse, and helps fill in some of the plot gaps. There is a fine streak of dark humour throughout, which is always good in my book, and Ig has some nice iconoclastic rants as he develops as a demon. The main focus of the book is the contrast between the fledgling demon Ig and the soulless human killer. I thoroughly enjoyed Horns.

Rating: 9/10